Monday, November 28, 2011

Preventing Holiday Weight Gain Part 2 ~ featuring Registered Dietician, Jenny Cooper (including idea for figure friendly fruit dip)

        2. Don’t Drink Your Calories

Calories consumed from beverages can add up quickly and cause unwanted weight gain. Most beverages provide little to no fiber or protein (other than milk) so they do not keep you feeling full for very long. An 8 fl oz. glass of apple juice has an average of 120 calories and 0 grams of fiber, whereas a medium sized 5.5 oz. apple has 70 calories and about 3.5 grams of fiber. The whole apple would keep you full longer and have fewer calories and, therefore, would be a better choice than the glass of apple juice.  If you choose to have juice in the mornings, limit yourself to a 6-8 fl oz. serving of 100% fruit juice. Low fat dairy milk, soy milk or almond milk are acceptable caloric beverages to consume in moderation as these provide good sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein for not too many calories. Limit consumption of dairy including milk, yogurt and cheese to three fat-free or low-fat servings per day.

Rich hot chocolate and specialty coffee drinks can be a major source of excess calories during the colder winter months. The key to cutting calories on your specialty coffee favorites is to ask for a small serving size made with skim milk, no whipped cream and sugar-free syrup, if available. A 12 fl oz. tall Starbucks Gingerbread Latte made with 2% milk and topped with whipped cream has 260 calories. You can save 110 calories by order the “skinny” version of this drink made with skim milk and leaving out the whipped cream. Those small savings in calories can go a long way!  

Alcoholic beverages consumed in excess can also cause unwanted weight gain due to their high caloric content. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, whereas 1 gram of carbohydrates or 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories. One alcoholic beverage is equivalent to 5 fl oz. wine, 12 fl oz. beer, or 1.5 fl oz. (1 shot) of 80 proof liquor. This means a 12 fl oz. can of Bud Light with 12 grams of alcohol and 6.6 grams of carbs has 110 calories (12 grams alcohol x 7 calories per gram and 6.6 grams carbs x 4 calories per gram), a 5 fl oz. glass of red cabernet wine with 5.5 grams carbs and 15.2 grams alcohol has 127 calories, and 1 shot of vodka (minus the sugary mixer) with 14.9 grams alcohol has 103 calories. An 8 fl oz. serving of alcoholic Holiday egg nog can have as much as 400 calories!  As you can imagine, calories will add up fast if you’re consuming a few alcoholic beverages plus the food at that holiday meal.  The recommended limits for alcoholic are no more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day for men and no more than 1 alcoholic beverage per day for women.

Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Most people need 64 fl oz. of water per day. Try meeting your fluid needs through water by keeping a reusable bottle of water on hand to remind you to drink enough water throughout the day, or by placing four individual 16 fl oz. disposable water bottles in your refrigerator each day and drink all four by the end of the day. Be sure to drink water before, during and after exercise.  If you exercise strenuously for 1 hour or longer or exercise in extreme heat like Bikram yoga, you may need to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat by consuming sports drinks during your winter workout.

Stay tuned for part 3...

Jenny Cooper, RD, LDN


Hi! It's Joy!

About 8 years ago I realized that I was consuming a lot of extra calories in my drinks.  I used to love soda (approximately 120 calories in a can) and who doesn't love a cherry slush from Sonic Drive-In (170-620 calories depending on size) or limeade (110-370 calories) or better yet a cream slush (390-600 calories). This realization caused me to change my ways and I began drinking only water and coffee, of course.  When I have coffee I use fat free creamer and a small amount of sugar which has anywhere from 50 to 100 calories depending on the amount. This is my daily indulgence that I do not have to feel guilty about since I am drinking water the rest of the day. Now since moving to Italy I do have wine with dinner on many evenings, but even then try to limit it to one 4 oz. glass. 

Jenny mentioned glorious Starbucks, which I do miss dearly, where my drink of choice is a tall (12 oz.) skinny vanilla latte (90 calories). You can even order drinks in a short size (8 oz.). It is actually the perfect amount for me. It gives me that little boost I need for the day or the afternoon :) You can see a list of Starbucks drinks that are under 200 calories here.

Unfortunately there are no Starbucks here in Italy, but we do have awesome Italian espresso and cappuccinos. The Italians do not do large drinks so I do not feel guilty when ordering a cappuccino which is only about 8 oz. They are really good too and definitely better than Starbucks'.  They do not do flavored coffees though so I will just dream of the day I can once again enjoy my yummy skinny vanilla latte.

Fruit juices are another way that we often consume too many calories and by choosing fruit instead we stay fuller longer and with fewer calories. My sister-in-law introduced me to the most delicious fruit dip ~ low fat vanilla yogurt! That's it, nothing else. Just yogurt and fruit. I like to make fruit salad with chopped fruit of my choice and mix in some low fat vanilla yogurt. It is really good and healthy. Jenny recommends that we get 3 servings of dairy a day and low fat yogurt is a great source. I really like the Yoglait French Vanilla flavor. 

Figure Friendly Fruit Dip/Salad
fruit of your choice
low fat vanilla yogurt (a little goes a long way)
you can also add some granola to give it a nice crunch

If you prefer organic, Stonyfield is a good choice as well.

I hope these tips will help you to avoid weight gain during the holidays. I don't know about you, but extra pounds and debt are two things that I do not want following me into 2012!

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Preventing Holiday Weight Gain Part 1 ~ featuring Registered Dietician, Jenny Cooper (including recipes for Spinach Dip and Baked Balsamic Chicken)

The Holidays are here! With the bustle of decorating, shopping, spending time with friends and family and eating delicious food who wouldn’t agree that this is the most wonderful time of the year? But along with the fun and celebration of the holidays also comes worry and stress around holiday weight gain. The good news is, you can enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods without stretching your waist line.  The key to preventing weight gain during the holidays is the same as preventing weight gain any other time of the year: limit the amount of calories you take in through foods and beverages while also burning extra calories through physical activity. Where most of us get in trouble during the holidays is when we overindulge on holiday goodies for two months straight and we allow the busyness of the holiday season and the colder temperatures to interfere with our usual efforts in staying physically active. To help keep you on track this year in preventing those sneaky pounds from piling on, check out these top three ways to prevent unwanted holiday weight gain:

1.       Avoid Overindulging During the Holidays

It’s perfectly okay during the holidays to enjoy your favorite holiday goodies, but try to limit the amount of high calorie foods you eat by practicing portion control. This can be accomplished by eating from a small salad plate versus a regular sized dinner plate and by filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a fourth of your plate with a lean protein food such as turkey or beans and the other fourth of your plate with a starchy carb food like a dinner roll or mashed sweet potatoes. At that holiday meal, you can also save your calories by choosing to eat only your favorite dishes and fight the urge to “sample” everything. For dessert try to choose your top two favorite desserts offered and cut very small slices of each to enjoy.

Avoid skipping breakfast to “save” calories for the big meal later. This will only cause you to overindulge during the meal. Have a breakfast consisting of protein, a whole grain and a piece of fruit. The protein and fiber from the breakfast meal will curb your appetite and control blood sugar until your next snack or meal. If your holiday meal is later in the day, be sure to have a healthy snack 1-2 hrs before the meal to, again, prevent you from overeating at the meal. Your snack should also contain some type of protein and fiber such as low fat cheese slices and whole grain crackers, unsalted trail mix with nuts and dried fruit or raw veggies and hummus.

Be sure to eat a healthy meal before heading out for that last minute shopping trip or when hitting the major after holiday sales, and carry a healthy snack with you to prevent being tempted by unhealthy fast food and convenient store snacks. White meat turkey on whole grain bread with veggies or tossed into a salad makes a great pre-shopping trip meal!   
Stay tuned for part 2...
                                                                                                           Jenny Cooper, RD, LDN
 Hi! It's Joy.
Jenny was talking about the importance of eating a well balance breakfast. I have a hard time finding something for breakfast that will stick with me all morning.  Recently, a friend told me about Bagel Thins. They are just like a bagel, but thinner (duh, I am sure you could have figured that out) and have about 1/2 the calories of a regular bagel.

I now eat a Bagel Thin sandwich and drink an 8 oz. glass of skim milk every morning for breakfast:
  • 1 whole wheat bagel thin toasted
  • 2 fried egg whites (mix 3/4 tsp. sugar with leftover egg yolks and freeze for later use)
  • 1 slice of lowfat cheese 
    This meal has approximately 300 calories, and it sticks with me until lunchtime even on days when I run 5 miles or more.

Jenny also mentioned eating a healthy snack a couple of hours before a big meal to curb your appetite. One of my favorite snacks is spinach dip with fresh veggies. Just look at these beautiful veggies at the local Italian market.

Spinach Dip
2 cups light or nonfat sour cream
1 pkg. frozen spinach (chopped, thawed, and drained)
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

  • Combine ingredients in a bowl and chill for at least an hour.
  • Serve with raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, zuchinni, squash, snap peas or any veggie of your choice. 
  • Can also be served in a round bread loaf.
  • Also makes a great spread for sandwiches.

Jenny says that we need to include lean meats in our diet. Here is a really easy and juicy chicken dish to help you maintain your weight during the holidays. It is great hot out of the oven with veggies. Leftovers would be perfect tossed in a salad for that preshopping meal!

Balsamic Baked Chicken

4 chicken breast halves, bone-in or skinless
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Arrange the chicken bone side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
  • Pour the vinegar over them and sprinkle evenly with the oil, oregano,  salt, and pepper.
  • Bake the chicken 20 minutes and baste with the vinegar juices.
  • Bake 20 minutes more (depending on size of breast) or until juices run clear.
  • Serve chicken with juices spooned over them.

Servings one breast (94 g.)
calories 170.2
fat 10.1
protein 15.2
fiber <1 g

Buon Appetito!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tortilla De Patata Con Ajo Y Perejil (Spanish Tortilla)

The past couple months my friend Ginny and I have been training for the Palermo, Sicily half marathon which is this coming weekend.  It will be my first half marathon. Eek! I met Ginny in 2007 when our husbands were both stationed at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, SC.  We became fast friends and soon began training for the Cooper River Bridge 10k run.  I had never run a race and at that time could probably only run one mile.  It took me several months to be able to run 4 miles without stopping.  To my credit I WAS pushing a jogging stroller which makes running much more difficult.  Ginny is a natural runner.  She ran the Disney half marathon without training.  I didn't even know that was possible.  Ginny was such a sweetheart and was really patient with me during our training.  She never complained when I asked to walk, which I did often.  We never ran the full 6 miles while training for the run, so I was super excited when I ran the entire race without stopping. Here we are after the race.

Fast forward a few years and our husbands are once again stationed together.  I love how the Navy can bring wonderful people back in your life even half way around the world.  This past September Ginny ran the Dingle Marathon in Ireland along with her husband James, my husband Brandon, and my next door neighbor, Jen. Here is a pic of the runners after the race.

Jen's husband Mike did a half iron man the same weekend in Galway, Ireland.  Here is a pic of him with his darling daughter.

It was Brandon's first full marathon and he did great finishing in 4 hours 15 minutes even though the course was extremely hilly and very tough even for experienced marathon runners.  He is also training for the Palermo half marathon.  Here is a pic of him running in Dingle. It was a beautiful course.

Jen and Mike are rockstars. Even after just racing in Ireland they flew to the states a couple of weekends ago and ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  I am surrounded by running greatness!  They all inspire me to keep going and not give up.

A couple of weeks ago Ginny and I ran an eleven mile long run. It was hard and I will confess I walked a tiny bit.  I don't particularly enjoy long runs but after burning over 1100 calories, I love getting to eat whatever I want.

Needless to say, I am extra hungry on long run days. So mid-afternoon as I was finishing cleaning my house I realized I was getting really hungry. I was just getting ready to find something to eat when  I got a call from Jen saying that Mike, who is a great cook, had just cooked a Spanish Tortilla and wanted to know if I wanted any. I was not familiar with the dish and was excited to try it.  The aroma was wonderful and I knew if it tasted anywhere near as good as it smelled, I would want to blog about it, so I took a picture just in case.

The Spanish Tortilla, or potato omelet, is a typical Spanish dish and one of the most popular tapas. Tapas are little meals or appetizers and are eaten anytime of the day or night. In Spain you will find an abundance of tapas bars/restaurants. We had an opportunity to eat at one while touring Barcelona. We enjoyed some delicious tapas and seafood paella but at a hefty price. That lunch costs us over $100!  Just think how much money I am saving you by sharing this recipe! The restaurant where we ate was on La Rambla a very popular street in Barcelona. There were lots of shops and restaurants. It reminded me a lot of the states.

La Rambla
street performer in Barcelona
and another one

I was very impressed with Mike's cooking skills as the omelet was beautifully browned to perfection. It was absolutely scrumptious! The protein from the eggs and the carbs from the potatoes made it a perfect post-long-run snack.

If you are not familiar with this dish, it may be helpful to check out this link for a step by step pictorial of a similar recipe. This dish makes a perfect breakfast or brunch food.

Tortilla de Patata Con Ajo Y Perejil
(Potato Omelet with Garlic and Parsley)
Source:  Rockstar Runner Mike Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain
Serves 8-12 for tapas, 4 for supper

3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 medium-large baking potatoes, peeled, and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
5 large eggs
Heat the oil in an 8 or 9 inch skillet until just hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, and cook the onion very slowly for about 20 minutes (alternatively, the onion can be sliced and cooked with the potato without discarding). Skim off the onion and discard. Add the potato slices one at a time, making layers and salting each layer lightly. Cook slowly (in effect, "simmering" the potatoes in the oil) until the potatoes are tender (they should not be brown), lifting and turning them as they cook (this may also be done in the basket of a deep-fryer). Drain in a colander and pat with paper towels. Reserve about 2 tablespoons with the oil. Wipe out the skillet and scrape off any stuck particles.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and add salt to taste. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add the drained potatoes, pressing the potatoes with the back of a pancake tuner to completely immerse them in the egg. Let sit 10 to 15 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the reserved oil in the skillet to the smoking point. Add the potato mixture all at once and press with the back of a pancake turner to spread the mixture evenly in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook until the tortilla is lightly brown underneath, shaking constantly.

Slide the tortilla onto a dish, cover with a second dish, and invert. Add another teaspoon or so of reserved oil to the skillet, heat again to the smoking point, slide in the tortilla, and continue to shake the pan until the tortilla has browned on the other side, tucking in any tough edges with the back of the pancake turner. Turn the tortilla, twice more, to perfect its shape and cook it a little more (about 30 seconds on each side). It should remain juicy within. Cut into wedges or 1 1/2 inch squares that can be speared with toothpicks. Serve warm or at room temperature (it can be made several hours in advance).

Nutritional Facts per 1/12 serving
195 calories
15.6 grams of fat
3.7 grams of protein
1 gram of fiber

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I am featured today!!

Today I am featured on Leigh Gray's blog! I am very grateful and excited! Please check out her blog and ministry to women. She is following the Lord's call on her life and is such a blessing to so many women.

Also, I have added a gadget that allows you to follow me by email. Just type in your email address and you will receive an email whenever I add a new post.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

I am being featured!

I am super excited about being featured on my speaker friend's blog She is an fun loving, hilarious, outgoing, wife, mother of four, speaker, minister, gospel sharing woman. She came to Italy in the spring for our PWOC women's retreat and did a great job! We had a wonderful time as she shared with us what the Lord had put on her heart. It was at the retreat that she said, "God is looking for some yes girls. Will you be God's yes girl?". That struck me so hard! To myself, which I talk to alot, I shouted, "YES I WANT TO BE GOD'S YES GIRL". I want to say yes to whatever he asks of me.

She began a speaking ministry that includes several speakers who are available to travel and share God's word. Their mission is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the church to serve as ministers of the gospel.

Don't take my word for it. Check out this video as Leigh explains what her ministry is all about.

Please stay tuned. I will be featured early next week on her blog. Don't worry, I will let you know when it posts.

In the meantime, mosey on over to her blog and ministry site and check it out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

This is one of my favorite fall recipes! I love this desert sooooo much!

photo from

I do not like fall because I know that means winter is coming and I HATE cold weather. But just being able to indulge in this sweet treat makes it a little easier to cope.

This is an "eat for breakfast" kind of dessert meaning it is so yummy I could eat it for breakfast and lunch and dinner. Ok, maybe not lunch. I need one balanced meal during the day to combat the sugar high. right?

Last year at a girlfriend's lunch at my house, one of my friends brought this trifle. I fell in love. I love pumpkin, gingerbread, and ginger snaps and the flavors together are wonderful. It is super easy to make and will serve 20 people so it is great for potlucks or large gatherings.

The pics show this recipe in a trifle bowl. When I made it a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't fit the entire dessert in my trifle bowl so I just used one gingerbread cake and froze the other one for later use (I am thinking gingerbread cake balls. Stay tuned for that recipe!), or you could just use a larger bowl, like a punch bowl. The dessert was good with one cake or two. I have had it both ways and it was delish!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
recipe by Paula Deen


  • 2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
  • 1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional


Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.