Holidays Feed

The Go! Go! Gail! last-minute healthy holiday gift guide

(It's only last-minute because I've been spending my free time volunteering at the high school marching band gift wrap booth at the mall and trying to catch up on laundry and Christmas shopping!)

With just a few days before Christmas you may find yourself rushing around to pick up gifts for your loved ones. The good news is if you don't want to brave the crowds, you can still order from Amazon today and it should show up by Christmas Eve. 

(Believe me, I've been at the mall a lot the past couple weeks and it's crazy in there.)

So here are a few stocking stuffers and bigger-ticket gifts that I think are pretty cool.

(Full disclosure: Some of these were provided to me by the companies.)

Nutri ninja system
Nutri ninja single serveNutri Ninja blenders: I had the opportunity to see the Nutri Ninja at this past summer's FitBloggin' but I've been a longtime Ninja fan, going all the way back to the original top-motor version. I bought the first Nutri Ninja single-serve blender and loved how it powered through nuts, seeds, fibrous vegetables, ice and frozen fruit in my smoothies, but then the Ninja folks sent me the new Nutri Ninja Auto iQ kitchen system, which includes single-serve cups, a blender and a food processor. There's also a Nutri Ninja Auto iQ single-serve blender if you're looking for something simpler. 

Here's the big difference between the regular Nutri Ninja and the Auto iQ -- you program the blender with the touch of a button and let the blender do its business while you multitask with something else -- very cool.

This will not win any Oscars but if you want to see how the Auto iQ works, I shot a video of my latest smoothie:



(OMG, embedding Google Plus videos is a pain in the butt.) 


Goody QuickStyle Paddle Brush: This is a great stocking stuffer for any gym-goer who doesn't want to lug a blow dryer in their gym bag. This brush has microfiber bristles that help absorb excess water from your hair and greatly speeds drying time. So you can either use it with or without a dryer. Since I'm too lazy to spend any time on my hair, I brush through my wet hair with this brush and it air dries much faster and less frizzy. 

JambacardJamba Juice or Smoothie King gift cards: Can you tell I love smoothies? I'm not talking about those monstrous 500-calorie sugar-laden concoctions -- I'm talking more reasonable 300-ish whole-food healthy meal replacements, and both Jamba Juice and Smoothie King have been stepping up their games with their latest smoothies. Jamba has been adding Greek yogurt, kale and chia seeds to many of its smoothies (Kale-ribbean Breeze is my fave), and Smoothie King has a whole bunch of really tasty smoothies for 300 calories or less, including a line that features Ghirardelli chocolate. And since a smoothie is hard to wrap, a gift card is a much neater gift.

P90 base kitBeachbody's P90 DVD workout system: Consider this a gift to yourself for the new year (since it's not going to show up for Christmas unless you order it right now from Amazon). I've been waiting for this one to come out because I love Tony Horton but am not at P90X levels of fitness. This new set is a reboot of the Power 90 series that started it all, and includes a meal plan, a 6-day jump start, resistance band and of course the DVD workouts, which include Sculpt, Sweat and Ab Ripper workouts in three levels. They're tough but doable and even a little fun. So spend your Christmas cash on this one for yourself.


Bandi belt: I have tried a slew of waistband gadget holders and this one by far is my favorite. You clip it around your waist so you don't have to step into it or pull it over your head -- much more convenient when you're covered in sweat. You also can give it a quick swish in a sink of soapy water if you want to freshen it up and it comes in a slew of colors and patterns. It doesn't hold a lot but I can get my iPod Nano, headphones and gym locker key in there with no problem. I have also squeezed my phone in it, too, and the stretchy spandex keeps it secure.



Taking stock of Thanksgiving

Turkey stock

(Stock? Get it? Oh, ha-ha.)

This is what I did this morning -- took Mr. Carcass out of the fridge, added carrots, celery and a couple of blobs of Knorr vegetable stock concentrate, and made turkey stock. It's now back in the fridge so I can skim off any fat.

Turkey on the grillOur meal was nowhere near the 4,000-calorie nightmare I keep hearing about. There were no rolls, no potatoes, no creepy creamed vegetables and no appetizers. (Seriously, who feels the need to eat before Thanksgiving dinner?)

We like to focus on the bird, and that was lovingly barbecued by the husband. Cooking the turkey on the grill frees up the oven all day and there's no slimy roasting pan to clean afterwards. Plus, it cooks evenly all the way around.

Usually I follow one of my favorite recipes for stuffing, but I decided to wing it this year. I settled on making gluten-free  Cornbread kale cranberry stuffingcornbread (using cornmeal and Now Foods Living Now rice flour that I won from the Fun and Fit twins -- thanks!) and added in most of a giant bag of precut kale, plus the usual celery and onions. Then I added a cup of dried cranberries. It turned out great. And since the cornbread was soaking up chicken stock like crazy, I figured that my "salt" should be liquid, too, so I used some of San-J's new low-sodium gluten-free tamari sauce, which worked perfectly. (So yeah, family, the stuffing was gluten free.)

Steamed green beans, scalloped corn (I never heard of the stuff until I met my husband) and two kinds of cranberries rounded out the meal, and dessert was a Publix bakery pie (because I can't do pie crust and, hello, $3.99!) a mini pecan pie from Whole Foods (not my fave but others love it) and chef Devin Alexander's Pumped Up Pumpkin Pie Bites from "The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook." I've been making that dish since the cookbook first came out in 2010 and it's a great dessert, especially because it's cut into little squares, so if you're not into a giant slab o' pie, it's perfect.

I hemmed and hawed this morning on weighing myself but I decided that if the number is no big deal, it's no big deal the day after Thanksgiving and it was no big deal -- it was pretty much the same as the day before.

I saved the "Turkey and Pie" breakfast to the teenager, but I did throw in a little leftover cranberry sauce in my afternoon Greek yogurt. (Why doesn't anyone make cranberry Greek yogurt? It's a perfect combo.)

Cranberry yogurt

Like I've done for years and years, I focused on a "healthy Thanksgiving" and everyone enjoyed the meal without falling into a "food coma."

Put your money where my mouth is

Candy cane
Christmas time in a school office is a happy time of year. Kids are taking mid-terms and are off campus before noon.  And good-natured parents are being ever so generous with holiday goodies.  Cookies, candy, fruit (much appreciated!) covered in chocolate (dammit!) and towers of treats. 

But enough already!  I am very glad when Jimmy brings in a box of “Big-Box-Best” chocolate-covered cookies, but so did his friends Steven, Billy and Maria. There is never a shortage of cookies in a school office -- ever.

What you don’t see when we happily accept your child’s gift is us stuffing it into a cabinet crammed with four other boxes of “Big-Box-Best” chocolate-covered cookies

When I go to the gym, I don’t sweat anymore.  I break out in a candy coating.

The best thing that happened yesterday was when a parent came in with a $20 bill and offered it to our school’s fund-raising drive for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that cookie money would go instead to the Sandy Hook Elementary Support Fund?   What a great blessing that would be to the families who are suffering an unimaginable loss.

I am past the sugar saturation point.  Thank you from the bottom of my candy-coated heart for your well-meaning cookies and candies.  Time for a candy detox.

And I’ll leave you with a little video I did a couple of holidays ago:

This is where leftover party food meets its end

Crushed chips
Took my hostility out on a particularly tasty bag of leftover pumpkin tortilla chips this morning.

We had a holiday party at the house and had a lot of leftover snack food. Gave a big bag of it to the husband to take to the office, but the teenager requested that we leave some around for his enjoyment. (He has had portion control ground into his system since birth and actually knows how to enjoy a small dish of potato chips ... I know! Crazy, huh?)

I started doing the "magical eating" thing of only eating broken chips and realized that broken chips have the same damn calories and carbs as grown-up chips. So I exercised the "scorched earth" policy on them with a rolling pin.

Now instead of a tasty bag of chips, I have a chicken coating product. You wouldn't sit down with a spoon and a box of Shake 'n Bake, would you?

Would you?

(Don't worry, kid -- your kettle chips are safe.)

Willpower instinctAnd what's tastier than chips? How about a book on willpower? I'm going to be reviewing the book "The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It" for BlogHer next month and, wow, this book couldn't have come at a better time.

You can read my review next month.

Will Thanksgiving derail my weight loss? No way!

Mmmm … the smell of burning oven debris is in the air. It’s time for Thanksgiving.

That stench that you may actually smell where you are is me running the self-cleaning oven setting. I’m getting ready for Turkey Day by hauling out the knife sharpener and cleaning the oven for the family meal.

Notice I didn’t say family feast, despite the chance at alliteration. This is no belt-buckle-popping orgy. Instead it’s a chance to gather everyone around the table (in our case, the patio table) and give thanks for friends, family and food – real food, not stuff that comes in boxes and cans.

Yeah, there’s a little of that, in my husband’s family recipe for scalloped corn, which requires creamed corn and crackers, but for the most part, you can recognize the vegetables, which are not gasping for air under greasy onion strings or cheese sauce.

I like to have some absolutely unadorned things on the Thanksgiving menu. Want my secret recipe for green beans? Here it is:

Green beans.

Yep – steamed green beans with nothin’ on ‘em. It’s sort of a palate cleanser for the bacon-festooned Brussels sprouts and cornbread dressing. But never fear, those recipes come from places like Cooking Light magazine and the latest Hungry Girl cookbook. (She has really come far in using unprocessed foods in her recipes.)

If everything is cheesy and saucy and bubbly and creamy, isn’t it overkill?

As for the turkey, that’s the husband’s job. We’ve been cooking it on the Weber kettle grill for years, and every year it comes out perfectly. I order a fresh turkey from Whole Foods (much better than those giant frozen bowling balls) and it’s totally worth the extra cost, especially since turkey is pretty inexpensive to begin with.

Our fresh turkey Thanksgivings began when we lived in Delaware. One windy night after work, I drove halfway down the state (it’s not that big!) down a tree-lined, unpaved dark road to a turkey farm and stood in line with others as farmhands walked past us with buckets of bloody turkey guts. We then discovered why fresh is best.

Will Thanksgiving derail my weight loss? No way! Turkey is about the best lean protein there is, and if you keep the sides clean as well as desserts, then it won’t be a problem. Plus, I have this little built-in appetite suppressant – working all day in the kitchen. By the time mealtime rolls around I don’t want to look at food, so I usually pick at my meal and enjoy the leftovers for days to come. I also make sure I do some sort of informal “turkey trot” in the morning – there’s nothing like a brisk 5k to rev you up for a day of sticking your head in and out of the oven.

So, as for my weight loss, I have FINALLY! gotten the scale to move – 3 pounds to be exact. Once again, I am a mere pound away from pre-baby weight.

What has helped? Snapping photos of every meal and snack for Stefan Pinto’s C Diet over on Facebook. I really like the idea of an “impartial jury of my peers” looking over my meal choices. I’m far less likely to eat a bowl of cookie dough ice cream and call it dinner if total strangers are going to see that. I’m also being really consistent with my exercise, averaging five days a week.

This is just some of the supplement stash.
What hasn’t helped? Watching the “Dr. Oz Show.” I literally made myself ill last week, gleefully and dutifully taking all his “miracle supplements” twice a day. Garcinia, raspberry ketones, green coffee extract – you name it, I was taking it until Thursday around lunch when I felt absolutely disgusting. Queasy, dizzy, spacey, headachy – I thought I was getting the flu. Then it hit me – the last time I felt like this it was after I did the same thing with a different bunch of supplements. So I stopped and went back to one multivitamin and one serving of fish oil. And within a few days I was feeling normal again.

I get sucked into the hype every stinking time. I have to keep reminding myself that the only thing that works -- the only “miracle” -- is a balanced diet of the correct calorie level and regular exercise.