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Stress-Free Tips to Throw an Outdoor Party

Written on April 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm , by

A themed cocktail is a must for Katie Lee's parties. (Photo courtesy of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!)

Springtime is the perfect time to bust out the lawn furniture and host an outdoor gathering. But with warm weather come humidity, bugs and some unpredictable elements. We tapped back into the hostess with the mostess Katie Lee to get some rules on how to handle seasonal surprises when throwing an outdoor party.

1. Keep it simple! You want to be able to enjoy your guests rather than get stuck in the kitchen and miss all the action. If your outdoor area is partially covered set the table and decorate the night before, so  it’s never a rush the day of the party. The day of, give yourself an hour to get ready before guests arrive.

2. Get creative with decor. I’m a girl who loves a theme. Pick a country and go from there, it will give you direction when deciding on a menu, wine, decor and even music. Lighting is also incredibly important for anything outside. I like to hang paper lanterns from a tree, and a well-placed string of white Christmas tree lights goes a long way to set the ambiance.

3. Be prepared for unwanted guests. I avoid decorating with scented candles, which attract bugs and can overpower the smell of your delicious food. If you have some lingering critters, protect your dishes by covering plates with an overturned wire mesh colander before serving.

4. Serve lighter bites. An array of finger foods means your guests can mingle without trying to balance a big plate. Sliders, chicken skewers and mini sandwiches are always great options.

Read on for the recipe to one of Katie Lee’s favorite finger foods.

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Fit Links: The Best Partner Workouts and a Super Spring Recipe

Written on March 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm , by

How about we go for a hike after this slice? (Photo by Laura Doss)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Endurance Athlete Brendan Brazier on How to Fuel an Active Lifestyle the Vegan Way

Written on March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am , by

Brazier still runs and bikes for fun nearly everyday. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Brazier)

Ironman triathlete and ultramarathoner Brendan Brazier realized early on is his career that diet would play a big role in his overall performance. “Longer events really level the athletic playing field. It becomes more about training and the speed of recovery than about natural ability,” Brazier says. “Nutrition allows you to train harder and recover faster.”

The refined white starches he had added to his diet to make up for the carbohydrates he was burning weren’t increasing his energy levels as much as he had hoped. After extensive research, Brazier found that about 80 percent of recovery is linked to good nutrition. “Eating more doesn’t always mean more energy. You can be overfed while being undernourished,” he says.

Brazier eased into a whole food-based, vegan diet heavy on healthy whole grains (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat), plant proteins (hemp, pea, rice) and dark leafy greans. Besides increasing his rate of recovery, he discovered that this eating plan with frequent, small meals helped him be more productive and sleep better.

“Look at Google. They were trying to decrease the amount of sick days their staff members were taking, so they put in cafes with healthy food. Since everything was free, employees would graze throughout the day. There was no mid-afternoon crash and many people were more productive and took fewer sick days,” Brazier explains.

Today, Brazier enjoys fitness recreationally and advises professional athletes about nutrition (Montell Owens, a Jacksonville Jaguar Pro Bowler and Simon Whitfield, an Olympic triathlete, among others). He guest lectures at Cornell University, has written three books, most recently Thrive Foods, and just launched Thrive Foods Direct meal delivery service.

We couldn’t wait for the meals to hit our doorstep, so we asked Brendan to share one of his favorite recipes. Keep reading to learn how to make his superpowered pizza.

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Eating Tips and a Recipe from Cheryl Forberg, The Bigger Loser’s Former Nutritionist

Written on February 23, 2012 at 9:26 am , by

This “mayo” is a healthy alternative to creamy rich spreads on sandwiches. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Forberg)

When Cheryl Forberg, registered dietitian, James Beard award-winning chef and creator of The Biggest Loser meal plan signed on to the show for its first season, she was shocked at the contestant’s state of health. “Most of what I did was not on camera;  at the beginning of every season the applicant pool was huge. Season 5 alone had 220,000 applicants. Once we weeded applicants out down to about 75, we could start doing physical tests while I met with them to talk about eating habits and their weight loss and weight gain tendencies,” she said. “The first season was shocking to hear their eating habits, but after a few seasons I realized I was hearing the same thing over and over again.”

Read below as Forberg shares her experiences with The Biggest Loser, the nutrition factors she used to make the meal plan and a healthy spread you can make easily at home.

What were you most surprised to discover about with the diets of the past contestants on The Biggest Loser?

I found all the contestants had things in common, like the belief that skipping meals promotes weight loss, drinking too many calories, having too much processed fast food, not eating very many fruits and vegetables, little to no water consumption, not eating enough whole grains and forgetting to plan ahead. Everybody had a different combination of one these things, but what they all had in common was prioritizing their family, work or something else over themselves. They needed to put their head in the game and get healthy so that they could be around to take care of the people and things they loved. They needed to start taking care of themselves.

For someone looking to make their own meal plan for weight loss, what foods should be on their list?

To start, steer clear from the white stuff. That includes flour, rice, sugar and pasta. Try to focus on whole grains instead. Also be careful of how many carbs you are eating, since they are often the biggest culprit for people who are looking to shed major weight. People feel like they need them at every meal and snack, but that’s just not true. Kick up the amount of fruits and veggies you normally eat, with a majority of that being on the vegetable side. They have high water content and little starch. Things like tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant and bell peppers are great to stock up on and low in calories, so it is OK to munch away. Make sure you are eating some lean protein such as egg whites, beans, edamame and vegetables (are you sensing a theme here?). Lean beef and pork work great for dinner, along with chicken, turkey and plenty of fish. And don’t assume fat is bad, we all need good fats which you can find in things like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

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Fit Blogger We Love: Happy Herbivore

Written on December 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm , by

Come January, nutritious, wholesome and low-fat recipes will be all the rage. But why wait? Lindsay Nixon is sharing guilt-free recipes today on her blog Happy Herbivore and in her just-released cookbook Everyday Happy Herbivore. No wacky, expensive ingredients, Nixon promises, and she says that we can create all of the dishes in less time than it takes to watch an episode of 30-Minute Meals. Sold!

We asked Nixon to share more about her favorite hobbies and snacks, then were lucky enough to snag a recipe from her new cookbook. It’s perfect as part of a delicious breakfast or dessert!

Lindsay's vegan cookbook is available now.

My favorite way to work out: Snowboarding. I actually moved to Colorado for the winter so I could ride every day!

I’m happiest when I’m: In motion. I get ants in my pants if I sit too long.

My fave fit snack: Jicama slices with lime juice.

My fitness mantra: “Be better today than you were yesterday.”

My “I Did It” moment: I climbed Mount Washington a few years ago, and because I’m crazy, I did the most aggressive trail. It was wonderful to get to the top and say “I did this! Yeah, I rock!”

Muffin cups make perfect portions. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Nixon)

Apple Fritter Cups

Serves 12

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped apple (skin optional)
  • 1 cup nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light brown or raw sugar
  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • nutmeg or ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
    Toss 1 cup apples with a few dashes of cinnamon and a little brown sugar until well coated and set aside. (This is your topping.)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk nondairy milk with vinegar and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (your choice) plus a dash of nutmeg or ginger, and stir to combine.
  4. Whisk in sugar, then pour in milk mixture. Add vanilla to remaining 1/2 cup apples and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon into muffin cups just a tad more than halfway full. Add topping on each.
  6. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tip: Once the fritters completely cool, the liners will peel off. If you plan to eat them warm, lightly spray the inside of the liner with oil-spray to prevent stick or forgo the liners and grease your muffin tin or use a nonstick pan.

Nutrition information per serving: 102 calories, <1 g fat

5 Entertaining Secrets the Stars (Like Oprah!) Adore

Written on December 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm , by

Your table can look like this in just minutes! Use the time you save for an extra stress-busting trip to the gym. (Photo courtesy of Safeway)

Throwing a holiday bash can be a huge undertaking. From the cleaning to the food, the decorations to the guest list, a big celebration has enough details to keep you up at night. (Not good—especially during this time of year!)

“It’s about turning the holidays from hectic to happy,” says Debi Lilly, celebrity event planner and Safeway’s entertaining and design expert. “Sixty percent of women don’t even enjoy the holidays because they’re so busy.”  So Lilly, who has designed parties for Oprah, Brooke Shields, Debra Messing, Cindy Crawford and more, passed along five tricks to turn your party prep from “Ahh!” to “Ooh!”

1. Plan ahead. “Preset the buffet before guests arrive so you can truly enjoy their company,” Lilly suggests.

2. Try Oprah’s flashy fave. Miss Winfrey loves the chic, corset details seen on the vases above. Here’s how to do it:

    • Start with 36 inches of satin ribbon. Wrap the middle of the ribbon around the back of the vase and bring ends to front.
    • When the ends meet in the front, twist them around each other and bring them to the back. Twist them again and bring back to front.
    • Repeat the twists on the back and the front sides until you reach the top of the vase; knot the ends together and finish with a single loop.

3. Reuse. After the party has wrapped, don’t toss that ribbon! It’s perfectly good to use for other holidays with similar color schemes. And the branches from your tree that hang too low? Gather them up around the bases of the vases for an additional festive touch (and aroma).

4. Outsource when necessary. Shh…Your secret’s safe with us! “Buy snacks from the frozen food aisle and garnish with fresh herbs. It will look like find catering,” Lilly says.

5. Serve appropriate apps. And if you have a little more time, try assembling these no-oven-necessary treats from Safeway’s Executive Chef Jeff Anderson.

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Fit Blogger We Love: Skinny Taste

Written on December 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm , by

Gina can help you whip up a tasty, celebration-worthy meal.

All year long, Gina from SkinnyTaste creates and shares low-fat recipes for the whole family. But we really turn to her blog for inspiration as the holidays approach, since she is a pro at designing festive dishes that make us wish we could reach through the screen and set them on our party tables (skinny eggnog or vanilla snowman cupcakes, anyone?).

Here are some quick facts about this kitchen all-star and one of her favorite recipes for any holiday table!

My favorite way to work out: With a friend.

My fave fit snack: Fresh fruit and nuts.

5 things I can’t live without: Friends, family, coffee, camera and my laptop.

My biggest indulgence: Coffee!

I’m happiest when I’m: Enjoying a home cooked meal with family and friends.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Serves 9

  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
  • 15 ounces fat-free cottage cheese (Gina prefers Polly-O)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 32 ounces tomato sauce
  • 9 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish.
  2. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry. Take 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.
  3. Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tablespoon mozzarella cheese. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  4. To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.

Nutrition information per serving: 225 calories, 5 g fat

Do you have a favorite fit blogger you want us to highlight? Leave a comment below or email blog@fitnessmagazine.com

Face of FITNESS Winner Spotlight: Caroline Seymour

Written on November 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm , by

Our November/December cover girl makes sleep a priority. (Photo by Amy Postle)

You’ve seen her gracing our November/ December cover and hosting our Facebook page last month, now get to know our inspiring Face of FITNESS winner, Caroline, a bit better! This fit inspiration kicked off her healthy habits early, playing soccer, softball, basketball, dancing and running track as a youngster.

Caroline Seymour, Atlanta

This has been a busy year for Caroline, who graduated an MBA program, got engaged and moved to a new city. Luckily, the 26-year-old’s exercise habits keep her sane: “My favorite way to clear my head is to hit the golf course,” she says.

My gym-free routine “Mixing up outdoor activities, like swimming and tennis, with Jillian Michaels workout DVDs inspires me to sweat five days a week.”

Nightly stress buster “I sleep at least eight hours a night. I make a to-do list for the next day before I hit the sheets so I can doze off with a clear head.”

Go-to snack “I make smoothies for an afternoon energy boost by blending 3/4 cup Trop50 orange juice, 1/2 cup V8 Diet Splash Berry Blend, a banana, 1/2 cup frozen fruit and a handful of ice.”

In case you missed any of the four finalists and their top tips, find them all here:

  • Lauren Lopez, a multitasking military mom with a sweet tooth
  • Melanie Millan, a gluten-free boot camp lover with Bieber fever
  • Jordan Fish, a dancing queen with a taste for country
  • Maria Pontillo, a personal trainer and physical therapist who loves her Sundays

A Festive, Low-Cal Dip for Thanksgiving

Written on November 17, 2011 at 11:00 am , by

Serve dip with these yummy chips for a seasonal treat! (Photo courtesy of Food Should Taste Good)

Looking for a quick side dish to whip up and bring to your Thanksgiving feast next week? We snagged the perfect recipe from Food Should Taste Good‘s chef Ryan Leker. It might not be appropriate next to the turkey, but it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser as an appetizer to hold you over until dinner. Check it out below:

Food Should Taste Good Ginger Snap Dip

Makes: 2 cups

Serves: 5-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound mascarpone
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Place mascarpone in mixing bowl to soften. Combine remaining ingredients in small saucepan and place on low heat. Heat gently, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and all ingredients are combined, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. When the mixture is cool, whisk into softened mascarpone. Serve with Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato tortilla chips.

Fitting Dessert Into Diet, with Top Chef Megan Ketover

Written on October 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm , by

Megan Ketover Top Chef Just Desserts

Photo Courtesy of SparkPeople

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant Megan Ketover, who helped with The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight, revealed to SparkPeople how she stays so petite while whipping up pastries and other yummy goodies…

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Q: You’re surrounded by pastries and treats all day, every day. How do you resist eating them all? 

MK: I am very lucky because I take so many little bites throughout the day to make sure flavors are balanced, that I am very satisfied by sweets when the day is done. There are certain things that are so amazing when they come out of the oven, I do have to have some willpower to resist eating them all.  I just make sure if I am going to eat something decadent, it is going to be really good, and not waste my calories on junk.

Q: Do you have any tips for those who might be intimidated by baking? 

MK: With savory cooking, you can improvise and adjust amounts in a recipe, but baking is an exact science; so I always recommend that bakers get a scale to measure ingredients. Scales can also help to see what a real portion size is.

Q: For “The SparkPeople Cookbook,” you created recipes that were packed with flavor but low in fat? What are some ways that you make your favorite desserts healthier? 

MK: I have always liked the rich flavor of whole wheat flour, so switching out regular flour to whole wheat is an easy way to add fiber and nutrients. Flax seed is also an amazing ingredient to add that packs a nutrient punch without a huge quality difference. I have always enjoyed nutritional baking, but it is important to know what role the baking ingredients play in a recipe in order to substitute it well. It is always important to me that “healthier” desserts still taste amazing. There is just no point if it does not taste good!

Q: People tend to think of desserts as very high in calories–a food that they should rarely eat. How do you incorporate desserts into everyday life? 

MK: Sweets make people happy, they are satisfying at the end of a meal, so I encourage small portion sizes into a healthy diet. Fruits are great because they also pack vitamins, and dairy based desserts are a delicious way to add calcium and protein to a diet plan. Moderation is key; what works for me is to have a small portion of something really delicious and satisfying.

Continued: More Q&A’s with Top Chef Megan Ketover!


More from SparkPeople:

Habits of Healthy Eaters

Cook Once, Eat for Days

The Web’s Best Free Weight-Loss Plan