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Host a Healthy New Year’s Eve Without Wrecking the Party

Written on December 30, 2013 at 10:13 am , by

Enjoy your party and your waistline, too.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Tonight is the night—a time for us to remember all of the great things that 2013 brought us, and to celebrate the fresh start that begins at the stroke of midnight! However, these fiestas oftentimes don’t factor in all of the hard work we put into maintaining our healthy diets (even through the holiday season!). With help from celebrity nutritionist Heather Wilson, we have the perfect solution to this party diet dilemma: a delicious (and surprisingly healthy) menu for your table, tips for indulging in alcohol without the caloric consequences, and ways to snack smart and stress-free at a friend’s soiree. So slide into that LBD, add a little extra shimmer to your makeup and get ready to shake it into the New Year!

First things first: the last thing you want is for your guests to feel like they have to eat before your party because of an over-the-top healthy menu. Focus on revising the classics with good-for-you ingredients so they won’t even notice the difference, and introduce a few new recipes that are loaded with flavor, along with incredible health benefits.

Appetizers:

  • Devilled eggs are a must, but swap the traditional mayo for an olive-oil based version to cut calories and fat.
  • Class up your chip-and-dip display by adding a few health benefits: trade chips and pretzels for rice crackers, which work with a wide variety of dips and give a nice, satisfying crunch. Swap sour cream for Greek yogurt in any classic dip recipe for an extra protein boost.
  • Bring on the healthy fat spreads. Guacamole is one of Wilson’s go-to spreads at holiday parties due its hefty dose of monounsaturated fats and satiety power. She also makes a chopped olive tapenade that is loaded with flavor and omega-3s (recipe below).

Dessert:

  • Fruit platters are the way to go! If you want to upgrade your spread, trade apples for Asian pears. They are in season this time of year, taste great and provide twice the amount of fiber that apples do.
  • Bust out those Asian pears again and turn them into a dessert of their own by slicing them into bite-size wedges and sprinkling them with cacau powder. So easy but so yummy!

Drinks:

  • Start with red wine—we all know about its heart-healthy benefits by now. If possible, go organic to avoid any preservatives or pesticides that could cause unintentional bloating.
  • When drinking hard liquor, go for top-shelf vodka and infuse with fruit. Flavoring it yourself ramps up the taste and removes any artificial flavoring or sweetener from the equation. Wilson serves her watermelon and pineapple-infused vodkas on ice with fresh blueberries.

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Cheer Up! How to Nix Holiday Stress and Diet Disasters

Written on December 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm , by

Keep those spirits bright! Co-author of Hijacked by Your Brain, Dr. Julian Ford has the de-stress dos and don’ts to keep you from overindulging during the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Sara Forrest)

‘Tis the season to be jolly—right? With last-minute presents to purchase, cookies to bake and traveling woes up the wazoo, the holidays can be just plain stressful. And when we’re stressed, we eat. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

“We overeat because the alarm center in our brain hijacks the thinking center—it’s an ancient mechanism, built to protect us from danger when food was scarce,” says Dr. Julian Ford, professor of psychiatry and director of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine traumatic stress center. “It tells us we have to keep eating even if we know we shouldn’t or no longer feel hungry.”

The external “joyful” holiday pressures, in addition to those we put on ourselves, cause our noggin to go into over-drive, explains Ford. “It’s a perfect storm for putting our brain’s alarms on high alert, leading to a feeling of constant pressure, exhaustion and ultimately disappointment when we can’t duplicate the Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed wonderful life.”

Eating can be a break from the hullabaloo hassle, as well as a source of more stress. As we all know, indulging in our favorite sweets and savories can lead to a downward spiral and the residual guilt always outweighs the joy we get from that temporary fix. To make matters worse, colder temps play into these mental games, setting us up for a diet disaster. “Our bodies may need more calories to keep us warm in the cold weather,” says Ford. ”Eating more in the winter is also often a way to cope with feeling bored when cooped up inside or depressed with the long, dark nights and short days.”

So how can we stop all the stress? Follow Ford’s top tips to tackling holiday H-E-double hockey sticks and the overeating that seemingly comes with the territory:

Make Your List, Check It Twice. Write down all of the foods you enjoy—those that give you that warm and fuzzy feeling with every bite, says Ford. Include both naughty foods and nice options so that you have a complete menu of what hits your pleasure zone. Keep the “good” ones handy in times of trouble (a low-cal granola bar is the perfect munchie for those long, winding checkout lines!) and prioritize those items at your seasonal soirée.
Want vs. Need. When you find yourself about to eat as a reflex reaction, take a few seconds to get off auto pilot and focus your mind by asking yourself, “Is eating this, right at this moment, going to really satisfy me and give me a sense of personal control?” If the answer is no, don’t eat it. “Remember that it’s your choice, based on valuing yourself,” says Ford.
Silent Flight. What’s the best way to avoid temptation? Distraction. “Look for ways to free yourself from the holiday (and day-to-day) pressures and demands,” suggests Ford. Carve an hour out of your busy schedule to find your center in your fave yoga class or sweat it out with some cardio. “Besides burning calories and reducing the feeling of hunger, exercise can help focus our minds by providing the quiet time we all need to think carefully about the choices we’re making,” says Ford. It’s all about seeking enjoyment and having a sense of self control.

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A New Year’s Pre-solution? Genius, Flywheel!

Written on November 28, 2013 at 10:07 am , by

Cycle off that holiday weight!

Here it is. The homestretch to 2014. What lies between now and next year are potentially weeks of unbridled eating and holiday abandon. But in the spirit of “the best defense is a good offense,” Flywheel studios may just yet give your year, ahem, a tight end.

The hip indoor cycling chain is kicking off what it calls a Holiday Express Challenge on Monday, December 2 (Yes, this coming Monday, after you’ve polished off the last slice of pie). Your mission for the following 21 days, if you choose to accept it: Take five classes per week. At  Flywheel studios that also offer sculpting classes, the split will be three FlyBarre classes and two Flywheel classes.

The Holiday Express Challenge will also include a special workshop on techniques and a nutrition seminar for surviving all that party food. Check out Flywheel’s website to sign up or get more scoop.

So, who’s joining the challenge? We’re ready to get our rears in gear!

More from FITNESS:

Everything You Need to Know About Bicycling and Spinning

Your Post-Thanksgiving Tune-Up

9 Steps to Reach Any Goal

Happy Holidays from FITNESS!

Written on December 24, 2012 at 9:28 am , by

We’re wishing our lovely readers a happy, healthy holiday season. We hope you’re spending time with the ones you love and enjoying good food, good drinks and good company.

To add extra cheer as you get ready for your celebrations, we’re taking a cue from DailyBurn.com trainer Keaira LaShae and moving along to the holiday hits. “Dancing is the best way to stay fit while taking the time to celebrate with your family and friends at this time of year,” she says. Hey, dancing along while you tidy up or get dinner ready counts as a workout!

Fit Links: An Equipment-Free Home Workout Challenge and 2012′s Top Fitness Findings

Written on December 21, 2012 at 11:02 am , by

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Save those dumbbells for another day. You won’t even need them for this workout! (Photo by Jason Todd)

Fit Links: 2013′s Top Food Trends and Fit Gift Picks

Written on December 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm , by

Beat the crowd! Start cooking with these foods now to wrap up 2012 in a healthy way. (Photo by Sarah Kehoe)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Fit Links: Thanksgiving Treats and Fit Ways to Still Help Sandy Victims

Written on November 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm , by

Run off those Thanksgiving calories, help Sandy victims and possibly win fitness gear? Triple win. (Photo by Alexa Miller)

This week’s fit links from around the web: