Category Archives: Self Care

How to Enjoy the Holidays without Gaining (Much) Weight

Holiday parties and dinners present all kinds of options.  I think all foods are fine in moderation.  The trick is moderation!  Here are some tips for enjoying food in moderation, if, like me, you tend to over-indulge and pack on pounds…

Don’t skip meals on the day of the party. You know what a beast stored hunger is. You’ll be far better off if you eat a good breakfast and lunch and stay hydrated before dinner or cocktail parties.  If you usually eat cereal or toast for breakfast, maybe try oatmeal that day, or eggs and canadian bacon, for more staying power throughout the day.

Eat before you go out. If you can manage to grab a snack before you go out, you’ll be less likely to eat too much at the party (or before shopping!).  Eat something substantial, like greek yogurt with honey, and a small handful of almonds.  That will line your tummy, too, in case you eat something spicy or drink alcohol.

Keep a camera handy. Why? If you get attacks of shyness at social gatherings (like I do), you can always take pictures of people, or holiday decorations, or the food.  That way, you won’t eat or drink just to keep busy or to feel less conspicuous if no one is talking to you. Taking pictures keeps you busy and can be a great ice-breaker.

Look out for the holiday blues. Everyone I know gets depressed a little bit at some point during the holidays. It’s really common.  Before you snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or just bored, lonely, disappointed, tired or even thirsty.  If you’re hungry, eat. Otherwise, have a cup of peppermint tea (hot beverages are great for curbing appetite and peppermint has been shown to lessen depression). Another blues-buster is to take a walk outside to rev up your mood (and your metabolism).

Skip (or reduce) the alcohol. It’s true for many people that alcohol tends to lower their inhibitions, which can lead to eating more. One healthy, non-alcoholic drink option that looks and tastes festive is to order cranberry spritzers (cranberry juice and club soda with lime).

You can also order white wine spritzers, or ask the bartender to make a drink with half the alcohol.

If you choose to drink, alternate imbibing cocktails or glasses of bubbly champagne (100 calories) with glasses of water, mineral water, or seltzer.  (This will also help prevent a hangover!)

Try the lower fat versions in recipes. In some cases, the low-fat options are really good. I like light versions of sour cream, mayonnaise and salad dressing and use them in my recipes for veggie dip, etc.

A great way to cut fat in mashed potatoes is to mash them with buttermilk.  It’s delicious! But pass on the homemade gravy — too much fat.  Try canned gravy or jarred gravy instead; we’re talking a 300 calorie-plus difference!

I love stuffing with lots of onion and celery.  Try replacing all or some of the butter in stuffing recipes with canned, fat-free chicken stock or vegetable stock.  Also, don’t cook it inside the turkey.  It will absorb fat and calories from the bird.

Dress hot vegetables like green beans, broccoli or brussel sprouts with olive oil and herbs to avoid the less healthy fat in butter.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Just don’t go there.  I know, it’s delicious but if I told you how many calories, you wouldn’t believe me.  Try this version of sweet potato casserole instead, which has only 3 g of fat and at least half the calories.

It’s amazing the calories you can save just by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan pie.  And that spray whipped cream only has 30 calories a serving!  If you ate just the top of your pie, along with the canned whipped cream, you’d save all kinds of calories by skipping the fat-laden crust. I do that, sometimes.

Lean meats and fish are good bets on the buffet table. Just a little cheese has a lot of calories. But, shrimp has few calories (as long as it isn’t fried), as does smoked salmon. Beef tenderloin is a luscious 165 calories a serving.

Olives, raw veggies, and mushrooms have practically no calories at all.

I was surprised at how many calories are in fruit cake. It seems so benign! But 1/4 of a Claxton fruit cake will set you back 390 calories and it has a lot of fat. If you indulge in fruit cake, take just a nibble.

Did you know a lot of those holiday coffee drinks are packed with calories and fat? As much as or more than candy bars!  Make your own coffee at home and add purchased flavored creamers (30 calories per serving) like White Chocolate Peppermint or Pumpkin and top with canned whipped cream (another 30 calories) and you’ll save money and more than 500 calories in some instances!

The holidays are about having fun, and food is part of that. If weight loss is personal goal, I hope some of these options work well for you.

Winter driving tips from AAA

It’s going to snow in the Washington, DC area, and there may be ice.  If you, like me, are inexperienced with driving in snow and ice, and you don’t have anywhere you must be, consider not driving in the winter weather.  I’m getting milk and doing a laundry run tonight!  🙂

If you are planning to drive some place in the Washington, DC area, expect trips to be longer (tip: go to the bathroom before you get on the Beltway!)  You may be a good driver, with a weather-hardy car, but you can be sure there will be plenty of accidents out there.  However, if you must drive in the snow, here are some winter driving tips from AAA…

In addition to common sense (wear your seat belt! and routine car maintenance…

  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.  (Also check your washer fluids.)
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Watch/listen to weather reports before driving. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Good to have in your car: a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication.  (I would add road maps, a GPS, first aid kit, car emergency kit, battery or hand-crank operated radio, change of clothing, umbrellas, and flashlight, and possibly a bag of non-clumping kitty litter for traction if your wheels get stuck).

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds.  (This is my emphasis because I think it’s so important!)  This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

If you are traveling in a remote area and become snow-bound…

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.