GS cooks : Skinny potato salad!

I don’t know about you but summer just makes me want to barbeque and grill everything!  Eating outside, with friends, and having some good old clean American fun is what it’s all about.  But, there are some definite fat traps that lie lurking at every barbeque.  One of the BIGGEST offenders is the classic potato salad.  It may have “salad” in the name, but this side dish is a calorie BOMB.  While potatoes aren’t bad for you at all, its the gloppy mayo that is thrown into the dish that makes it so pudge-inducing.  The average cup of potato salad contains about 358 calories, 20.5 grams of Fat, 170 mg of Cholesterol (57% of your daily value — how much cholesterol you CAN eat in a day), and a whopping 1323 mg of sodium (also more than half the recommended daily value for sodium).  That’s just gross.

So I did a little research, and found the most delicious, amazingly yummy, healthy potato salad out there.  And the best part?  No mayo whatsoever (the recipe uses a vinaigrette made with rice vinegar — a delicious sub!).  And how do I know it’s that amazing?  Besides having enjoyed it for the past 4 days now  – my mom and dad devoured it the last time I made it, and D asked to eat the last bit left at 11 pm last night.  So you know it’s THAT good.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of Cooking Light (takes about 45 minutes to do — a lot of chopping, but makes a HUGE batch so it will last for a while!):

DRESSING:
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:
5 cups cubed red potato (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
3/4 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 (2 1/4-ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1. To prepare dressing, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

2. To prepare salad, place potato and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until tender; drain.

3. Add potato to dressing in bowl, tossing gently to coat; let stand 15 minutes. Stir in cucumber and remaining ingredients; toss well. Cover and chill.

CALORIES 90 (28% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.2g,mono 1.6g,poly 0.8g); IRON 0.9mg; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 19mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g; SODIUM 295mg; PROTEIN 1.8g; FIBER 2g

Cooking Light, APRIL 2008

ENJOY!!

Can sitting kill you? I hope not because I’m sitting right now….

I, like many of you, spend a lot of my day sitting.  Between class, the subway, going out to restaurants, watching tv etc…I get a lot of time in on my tush.  So I found this article about the effects of sitting for long hours in the New York Times Health section to be a little frightening…http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/phys-ed-the-men-who-stare-at-screens/?ref=health.  Here is a little excerpt:

In a study published in May in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, they reported that, to no one’s surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.

Most of us have heard that sitting is unhealthy. But many of us also have discounted the warnings, since we spend our lunch hours conscientiously visiting the gym. We consider ourselves sufficiently active. But then we drive back to the office, settle at our desks and sit for the rest of the day. We are, in a phrase adopted by physiologists, ‘‘active couch potatoes.’’

Like you…I started to freak out a little.  So exercising will do nothing to counteract sitting on the couch!  What!  That’s so NOT FAIR.  But wait a sec…I continued to read the article and found that it isn’t just the exercise that counts but also the accumulation of “light intensity activities” that is supremely important.  This can be anything from household chores – mopping, cooking, changing light bulbs, to simply walking city blocks.  While exercise does not fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting, “You can…ameliorate the dangers of inactivity with several easy steps — actual steps.”  That means taking the stairs instead of the escalator, doing crunches while watching “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, and walking a few extra blocks every day instead of taking the subway.  It’s the little things that add up to a healthier lifestyle.  Luckily, living in New York, which is the ultimate walking city, we have plenty of opportunities to be active every day.  It’s a matter of being more conscious of how these little things can add up, and choosing to go against the gravitational pull towards the couch…and going for a walk around the neighborhood instead.

Got no time?? Try intervals…

It’s getting to be that time of the summer where it literally feels like THERE IS NO TIME.  Literally.  For anything.  And the weeks are just flying by like crazy.  All those summer trips, cookouts, and cocktails have added a little extra cushion for the pushin…and not in a good way.  I don’t know about you…but when it gets gross out my energy levels go way down…and doing an hourlong workout sounds like the seventh circle of hell.  What do I turn to when I’m in a midsummer rut?  INTERVALS.

What is interval training anyways?  Interval training is basically doing the same amount of work that you would get out of a longer workout, in a shorter amount of time.  However, the trick to interval training is upping the intensity in your workout.  Instead of doing moderate to hard activity for the entire workout, you add short energy “spurts”, where you up the intensity of the activity you are doing for a couple of minutes, and then recover.  So pretty much you get a break every two minutes AND you burn more calories.  Sound good?

So here’s how it works (30-35 minute workout depending on your activity level/amount of time you take to warmup):

  • Warm-up with 5-10 minutes of light-moderate cardio.
  • 4 minutes at baseline (what pace you’ll work from).  The baseline should be medium intensity, with your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), at a 5.  The RPE is a scale from  1-10 of exertion during exercise, with 1 being “i could do this all day” and 10 being “if I do anymore I will puke my guts out all over the gym floor”.
  • 1 minute of “work set” at RPE of 7 or 8 (depending on workout level)
  • 2 minutes baseline
  • 1 minute work set
  • Keep repeating between baseline and work sets five more times.
  • 5 minutes COOLDOWN

That’s it!  Now throw on some Lady Gaga, and get your butt in gear!

Summer drinks that don’t stink

Hello folks!  After a nice little vacay…I’m back and starting to get caught up with schoolwork, emails, and most importantly…friends.  One of my favorite parts of summer in the city is how much more social everyone is, but not in a crazed New Yorker kind of way.  The pace is slower (especially in this heat!).  There is really nothing better than sitting outside on a lazy weekend evening, having a nice glass of wine and just plain old hanging out.  But as many a college freshman knows…drinking can be not so great for your diet.  A 6 -oz pina colada, for example, is, on average,  378 calories!  And an 8 oz margarita is 280!  And that definitely won’t get you into your skinny jeans come October.

My best advice for drinking and staying healthy and fit is this: K-I-S.  Keep it simple!  The simpler your drink — the less calories there are in it.  The more sugary, caloric add-ins in a drink, the worse it is for your waistline.  That’s simple enough right!  But, you can still have a pretty fabulous cocktail or alcoholic beverage by knowing how to add flavor and not fat.  Here are my picks for top Summer drinks that won’t break the calorie bank.

Wine:

Wine is by far my favorite drink any time of year.  Especially in the summer, a nice cold glass of Chardonnay or Riesling can quench any thirst.  Most wines go for about 120 calories for 6 oz (a generously-poured drink).  White wines are definitely a preference during the summer, but rosés have also been making a comeback as of late and many restaurants/bars serve some good ones.

Champagne

If you’re feeling fancy…champagne is always a good, low-calorie choice for celebrating!  A 5 oz glass of champagne ranges from 100-120 calories.  You can jazz it up a little by putting a splash (just a splash!) of grapefruit or pineapple juice in it.

Hard Alcohol

Hard alcohol has much more calories per oz than wine or beer, due to its higher alcohol content, which is why it is often mixed with a nonalcoholic beverage.  1.5 oz of most hard alcohols (tequila, vodka, whiskey, gin) is about 104 calories.  So, the best thing to do is either order is straight up (not my personal favorite), or with noncaloric mixers such as soda.  Many vodkas are now infused with different flavors, which can help make a boring vodka soda a lot more exciting.  My personal favorites are blueberry vodka and grapefruit or ruby red vodka.  Another great cocktail (which sounds incredibly stupid to say to a bartender…but is actually quite delicious) is the “skinnygirl margarita” made famous by Bethenny Frankel of the Real Housewives of New York.  Basically, you ask a bartender to give you tequila, lime juice, and a splash of grand marnier (or other orange liqueur).  It’s only 100 calories and tastes great — just make sure the bartender doesn’t roll his eyes at you.

Light Beer

What would summer be without a cold brewsky??  But, be careful!  Light beers can add up quick because they are much easier to drink than a glass of wine or a cocktail.  Hands down, Amstel light is my favorite light beer (and the healthiest at about 95 calories a bottle).  I also like a Corona Light with a lime in it — very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.  Light beers usually range from 95-120 calories.

As long as alcohol is enjoyed (in MODERATION), it won’t ruin your health and well-being and can definitely be a regular part of your diet.  My best advice is to KNOW THYSELF.  If you are a super lightweight when it comes to drinking (i’m not mentioning any names here but the author may or may not be one), nurse your drink.  Don’t be like a kid in a candy store and take it down with one gulp.  You don’t want to be a sloppy mess at any party — it’s really unattractive and not good for you either!  Most women should only be having one or two drinks in a sitting, and men can have three if you’re drinking moderately.  We are all human of course and there are definitely times when you will drink more than that.  But as a regular guide for good health – drink slowly and proceed with caution!  And remember…going out for a drink isn’t just about the drink — it’s about the best parts of summer: relaxing and spending time with friends and family.

Vegetarian Finals Feast!

So between finals (aaahh) and packing up to leave for France for a week on a bike trip/wine trip with my family, I have been dissapointingly MIA on the blogfront.  However, between all that craziness I did have time for a little vegetarian feast with my little sister, R, the family vegetarian/sustainable farming guru/all around awesome chica.  I come bearing the most unbelievably delicious, perfect summer recipe!  CORN PANCAKES!  Yes…you heard right.  Fresh summer corn in a delicious pancake.  What could be better??  Oh yea…and three pancakes are 110 calories and 4 g of fat.  We ate them with a little greek yogurt and scallion on top, and then I had them the next morning with some honey, although maple syrup would be great too.  And I honestly would eat them every day for the rest of my life if I could (they are THAT good).

Here is the recipe, courtesy of Vegetarian Times Magazine:

MAKES 12 4-INCH PANCAKES

  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and cook corn kernels 1 minute. Drain well.  (You can also use two cups of frozen corn)
  2. Combine milk, eggs and butter in bowl, and beat well. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; fold into egg mixture. Fold in corn kernels. Let batter rest 20 minutes.
  3. Spray griddle or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Pour batter onto cooking surface in 1/4-cup amounts. Cook until bottoms of pancakes are set and golden; flip over, and cook other side of pancakes until golden. Repeat until all batter is used up. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts:

Per SERVING (3 pancakes):

Calories 110
Protein 4g
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 2g
Carbs 16g
Cholesterol 40mg
Sodium 370mg
Fiber 1g
Sugar 2g

Biggest loser…biggest winner?

So the other day I was doing a little channel surfing in between bouts of studying for FINALS (aka please kill me now!) and I happened upon a new show that I had been wanting to check out…”Losing it with Jillian Michaels”.  Some of you may have heard of Jillian Michaels from her other famous show, “The Biggest Loser”.

The premise of this show, is slightly different from Biggest Loser.  Jillian basically is making housecalls.  One “lucky” family gets her to stay in her house for a week.  Usually one (or all) of the family members are extremely overweight and often facing serious problems that come with being overweight (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension..etc).  The family members of course evaluated by a doctor, and then Jillian arrives, guns blazing, ready to turn the family around in a week.  After a week of grueling workouts (with typical Jillian Michaels behavior — yelling in your face, berating you, and being a drill sergeant), “lifestyle” changes — such as cleaning out an entire house of one of the contestants who was a hoarder, and lessons on nutrition and healthy eating, Jillian departs to return 6 weeks later and check on the family’s progess…AND award them with money from www.JillianMichaels.com.

Certainly, the idea of making life changes and moving towards being healthy is great.  But I have to say, I think the message that this show ultimately sends is this “Lose weight fast!  And make money too!”  What happens to these families a year later…when they no longer are getting daily guidance from Jillian and no longer have the monetary incentive to stay healthy?  In my own personal life, when I finally lost weight, it wasn’t because I hadn’t tried before…it was because being healthy became a way of life.  Waking up in the morning, going for a run, and eating healthy the rest of the day (for the most part!) became a part of my ROUTINE.  The incentive was getting my life back and having control of MY DESTINY.  Certainly the families that opted to participate in the show wanted to lose weight.  But I think the overall message that this sends is that losing weight is quick and easy, whereas the healthy way to lose weight and keep it off is much more gradual — making small, healthy changes that really count.  Losing weight isn’t quick or easy, there isn’t some magic pill or procedure that will make it come off.  Losing weight is a frustrating.  It’s a struggle.  It’s hard work.  I’m not gonna sugar-coat that one.  But once you establish healthy habits and make them routine, maintaining that lifestyle is easy in comparison.  It’s just a matter of getting off your butt and making a change — and you don’t need Jillian Michaels to do that, you just need to believe in yourself.

Pass the Peas Please

After an interesting weekend, I’m finally at home and working on a paper for class all day.  In my need to procrastinate from said paper and with a refrigerator full of leftover peas from a risotto I made last week (yea I’m fancy like that) I decided to make some pea soup.  Peas are super awesome, especially this time of year when you can get some really yummy fresh ones.  I’ve always thought that peas got a bad rap.  They are really great sources of plenty of nutrients, including Vitamin K, Folic acid, and B6 (all vitamins that are good for your bones), Iron (good for energy, immunity), and Vitamin C (fights cancer!).  Talk about nutritional rockstars!

So here is my recipe for Pea soup, and really, an idiot couldn’t mess this one up:

3 cups fresh peas

2 cups vegetable stock/broth

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Combine peas and vegetable stock in a food processor/blender/magic bullet until smooth — I like a little pea chunks in the mix, but the consistency is up to you.

Put pea/stock mix in a saucepan and heat.  While heating, add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Put in a bowl.  If you want to be fancy top with a dollop of greek yogurt, pesto, or parmesan cheese.

Voila…summer in a bowl.

Just don’t eat too much or you might look like this:

Amtrak is a culinary wasteland

I am blogging to you all from the comfort of the freezing cold, air-conditioned Acela car en route to our nation’s lovely capital (and my hometown) of Washington, D.C.  Though I am shivering now, I know that the minute I step outside it will be 90 degrees and wiltingly hot.  This morning, I think my brain was somewhere else.  I awoke in a total haze, made some coffee, started to pack up my stuff and make a salad to bring on the train.  I was so excited because the salad I made was absolutely delicious and totally healthy – spinach with red peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, some apple slices and lentils and a low-fat wasabi-miso dressing to top it off.  Mmmmm I am still dreaming about it now.

I guess it was just one of those days where it wasn’t really in the cards for anything to go my way.  The elevator took FOREVER and when it finally arrived it was totally full and I got pushed up next to some people with bikes.  Then, the cabdriver was literally the slowest, most unagrressive cabbie in New York and I wanted to tear my hair out (or offer to take over the driving…).   I finally make it to my seat on the train with a woman sitting next to me who thought it was a super idea to use my space as well as hers…  I can feel my stomach grumbling, and I reach down into my bag to find…NOTHING.  NOTHING!!!  I left my salad on the counter at home!  And I didn’t even realize this soon enough to grab something at Penn Station.  I am close to crying or having a conniption fit.  I try to calm down and think about a game plan.  I could try to wait until I get home at 2:30…but I only had coffee this morning in my rush (I know…not a good idea) and I don’t think I can make it that long without my hunger morphing me into the Hulk (you won’t like me when I’m angry!).

I decide that the best plan of action is to check out the Acela car to see what the options are.  Of course, they have the normal things – hot dogs, hamburgers, some sort of cheese breakfast sandwich, and a turkey sandwich on honey wheat with swiss.  I thank my lucky stars that there is something remotely appealing on the menu and grab the sandwich and a bunch of mustard packets – my favorite/and surprisingly low-cal condiment.  The sandwich was the size of my face…so I took off the top slices of bread, spread a tiny bit of mayo and a huge amount of mustard on it all and had an OK lunch – nothing great, the turkey was super dry but at least the bread was kind of yummy.  And of course they had bananas and apples and other decent fare if I needed something extra (I decided I would wait until I got home).  The moral of the story?  You always have healthy options even when you think you don’t – don’t freak out if you’re somewhere and STARVING and you don’t know what to pick.  Regroup, and think of a game plan and you’ll be just fine!

Saving America’s kids…one salad at a time

While I’m usually not a big fan of The Economist…D suggested yesterday that I peruse if for an article on “nutrition stuff…in schools”.  So, I warily opened it up and found a particularly interesting article on the National School Lunch Program and the recent passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  This bill provides $4.5 billion for children’s nutrition — allowing more poor children to enroll in the School Lunch program as well as making lunches healthier (see ya later trans fat french fries..).  But perhaps the most alarming aspect of the entire article was this little segment:

“One in three American children is overweight or obese.  Obesity is even affecting national security: a recent report estimates that 27% of Americans of recruitment age are “too fat to fight”.”

Excuse me??  TOO FAT TO FIGHT?!  I mean that has got to be some sort of joke right?  That is just downright embarassing as an American to hear.

But the article also got me to thinking a little bit about childhood obesity and school lunches.  Is it really enough to provide healthier school lunches if kids are going home to be served up places of fried chicken for dinner?  What about breakfast?  Some of these children will not even get a breakfast in the morning, or if they do it will be some sort of sugar-coated cereal with barely any nutrients to speak of.  Not only does this harm children’s mental and physical development, it sets these kids up for a lifetime of health problems — and not just obesity.

It’s easy for those of us who can afford to buy fresh produce and healthy products to say that those living in inner cities need to start doing that too.  But the honest truth is that fresh produce is expensive.  Fast food is cheap and quick.  So if you had five bucks for dinner…would you spend it on a couple of different veggies or a full meal at McDonalds?  I think it is a great thing that the Obama administration has asked corporations such as Kellogg’s, Mars and PepsiCo to cut calories from their products, and that this bill has been passed to give more money to the National School Lunch program.  But I think there is a much larger issue at play here: How do we as a nation change a culture of fat into a culture of fit?

What do you think?

We all scream for ice cream!

Happy Friday and Happy Beginning of Summer!  Summer is definitely the best time of year in the city.  With tons of fun events, outdoor dining, fairs, and rooftop bars to enjoy, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate this season!

Last weekend, I went with D, my sister, R, and some other friends to Central Park to soak up some sun, read some good old gossip mags, and get some last minute relaxing in before the coming week.  And of course D, who is really a little boy at heart…had to consume three different ice cream bars from the park vendors.  When he brought back a neon green colored ice pop, I was more than a little alarmed at the color — I don’t recall anything that is neon green in nature.  This “key lime” flavor is probably filled with tons of chemical, sugars, and preservatives…not exactly a cool treat that is sweet for your health!

So what are some really healthy, and delicious choices for icy treats when the weather gets hot?  Here are my picks to satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking the calorie bank!

Fruity:

D swears by Haagen Daaz Fat Free sorbets.  You can’t go wrong with their mango or strawberry flavors.  Both are incredibly fruity and rich – not too icy tasty, which can be a problem with sorbets.  Both only have 120 calories per 1/2 cup!

Vanilla:

Stonyfield Farm “Gotta Have Vanilla” Frozen Yogurt is DA BOMB.  Creamy and delicious, this frozen yogurt is super satisfying and a great addition to smoothies as well!  And the most unbelievable part?  It’s only 100 calories per 1/2 cup.

Chocolate:

Breyer’s Fat Free Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  Much lower sugar than most ice creams that I looked at, but still a great, chocolatey flavor.  I’m drooling just thinking about it!

Sandwich:

Hands down, Skinny Cow Vanilla ice cream sandwiches are the best thing since sliced bread.  Each individual sandwich is 140 calories and 2 g of Fat, and is a great way to practice portion control.  And the taste?  I actually think it’s better than those bricks of ice cream sandwiches they used to hand out at summer camp!

“Fun” Flavor:

Last but not least is Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Frozen Yogurt.  It’s a little bit more caloric than the rest of the ice creams at 180 per 1/2 cup.  But it is so creamy, rich, and delicious that it really is a treat.  The mixture of caramel swirls and vanilla frozen yogurt are to die for, and a little goes a long way towards satisfying any sweet tooth.

Those are my picks!  What are your fave low-cal icy treats??