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  • Poll: Do You Struggle with Social Eating?

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    Whenever I spend time with friends, the gathering almost always revolves around eating. "Want to meet for dinner?" "How about coming over and we'll order a pizza?" It's rare that my friends and I do something together where food is not involved. I find it pretty easy to stay on track with a healthy diet when I'm eating at home. But when I get around other people, if they are ordering dessert I feel more of a reason to do it, too. If they finish their food, it gives me more of a reason to clean my plate even if I'm not hungry. Even though it's not direct peer pressure, social eating has a strong influence on the choices many of us make.

    Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they are with others than if they are alone. They are also more likely to order dessert if their friends are getting something. It's easy to feel better about ordering the large plate of onion rings if three other people at the table are doing the same thing. It's also

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  • 4 Trim Thanksgiving Recipes

    By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at

    Are you ready for some new, healthy recipes to liven up your Thanksgiving Day table? I've created four new recipes that celebrate the season of giving thanks.

    Whole Wheat Cous Cous with Spinach and Squash

    228 calories

    2 g fat

    Each one cup portion has a serving each of whole grains and vegetables.

    Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

    88 calories

    4 g fat

    Sipping on soup at the start of a meal reminds you to slow down and savor each bite.

    'Seedy' Pumpkin Pie
    168 calories

    7 g fat

    The crust has a secret ingredient. Any guesses?

    Petite Pecan Tarts
    103 calories

    5 g fat

    A Southern favorite gets a boost of nutrition and fiber.

    Are you trying any new Thanksgiving recipes this year?

    Related links:
    How Well Do You Know Your Thanksgiving Portions?
    Healthy Family Fun for Thanksgiving
    Freeze Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

    SparkPeople Healthy

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  • Overcome Your Fear of Flying (with Kids)

    By Hillary Copsey, for BabyFit

    My oldest son's first flight was at 4 months. My youngest son, at not quite 8 months, has four flights under his onesie. We live 1,000 miles away from our parents and extended families. Air travel is a fact of life for our kids. Still, I am a nervous traveler, always half-convinced I'm at the wrong gate, so assumed traveling with babies and children would be misery for us and for the other passengers. It is not. It is traveling, for sure, with all its bad food and close quarters and hurry up-and-wait tedium, but overall, I have been surprised by how helpful everyone is when they see parents--especially a mom alone--trying to haul kids and all their supplies through an airport. Really, our aerial adventures have bolstered my faith in human kindness.

    Still, every time we travel I prepare and research and over pack. I hem and haw over the same questions. Here are the answers that have worked best.

    Lap babies
    Infants up to age 2 can travel as a lap baby, a

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  • Put Yourself First

    By Rebecca Pratt, for BabyFit

    You're a parent, school volunteer, Little League coach, and trusted assistant to your boss. You've been up since 6 a.m., made breakfast, packed lunches, cleaned the house, chauffeured the neighborhood kids, helped with homework, read bedtime stories, and finished extra work from the office. It's 11:30. You're exhausted. And, in about six-and-a-half hours you'll begin the whole 24-hour cycle again.

    If you find yourself saying "Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off!" you're not alone. Most of us-especially women-have at some time found ourselves at the bottom of the heap when it comes to taking care of our needs.

    The problem with that is that if we don't take care of ourselves, sooner or later we won't be of much use to anyone else-or to ourselves. Just as the airline attendant tells you to put on your own oxygen mask in an emergency before helping a child with theirs, you must take care of your own basic needs before you can attend to the

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  • Sneak in Exercise on Thanksgiving with the Turkey Burner Workout!

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    I created this simple, five-exercise workout circuit to get your heart pumping and your muscles moving so you can torch some serious post-Thanksgiving calories. It doesn't use any equipment, and it can be done anywhere, even in a small hotel/guest room! The quicker you move and the more times you repeat the circuit, the higher your calorie burn will be.

    Are you up for the challenge? Try it today and then comment below to tell us how you did!
    The basic workout circuit consists of five equipment-free exercises. Perform the number of reps listed with each, and do them in this order:

    Related links:
    Quick Tips for a Trimmer Thanksgiving
    Thanksgiving Survival Guide
    Burn Off Holiday Calories

    SparkPeople Fitness Expert Nicole Nichols is an ACE-certified personal trainer and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor. You can learn more about Nicole and her workout DVDs here.

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  • Healthy Party Foods

    By Leanne Beattie, for SparkPeople

    Everyone loves a party. There's something about getting together with your friends that really helps you shed the stress of always trying to balance work and family. But with so many people trying to live healthier these days, finding tasty, diet-friendly food and beverages can be a challenge.

    Deciding what you'll serve your guests can be confusing. And with more variety comes more temptation-scientists have proven that we eat more at a buffet. So it's up to you to find healthy recipes for your guests that won't add to their waistlines.

    If you are cooking for the party, here are some tips for healthier food choices:

    Reduce the fat in creamy dressings or dips by using low-fat or fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise. Offer hummus as a low-fat spread for crackers and vegetables.

    Use non-stick cookware so you can cook with a minimum amount of oil or use a low-calorie vegetable spray.

    Use flavored vinegars or lemon juice

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  • Pumpkin: Fresh Vs. Canned

    By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"

    This time of year, pumpkins are aplenty. In lattes, breads, bagels, and even cream cheese, that globular orange squash makes an appearance. As soon as the first cool wind blows away the memories of summer, people race to the supermarkets for cans of pumpkin purée and hit the pumpkin patch for the real deal. In many homes, the fresh pumpkins are relegated to decoration, but not in mine.

    Despite the extra work, I usually prefer the taste of fresh over canned pumpkin. Each fall, I buy a few sugar pumpkins and roast, purée and cook down the flesh to use throughout the winter. (Note: With squash--and that goes for pumpkins, zucchini, and others--bigger doesn't mean better. The larger most squash get, the less flavor and more stringy fiber they have. Large pumpkins are great for winning state fair ribbons and decorating your front porch; small sugar or pie variety pumpkins are the ones you Read More »from Pumpkin: Fresh Vs. Canned
  • Baking Without Butter

    By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"

    In all recipes, fat adds moisture and richness. But per cup, butter adds 1,627 calories and 184g of fat, shortening packs 1,845 calories and 205g of fat, and even heart-healthy oil boasts 1,927 calories and 218g of fat. Divided among a batch of four dozen cookies, that's at least 34 calories and 4g fat per cookie attributed to the oil (or butter) alone. But who eats just one? Thankfully, you can cut some of the fat when you bake, but you should only swap half the fat a recipe calls for. (Cookies made with fruit purée will not get crispy and will have a cakelike texture; low-fat muffins tend to be dense.)

    Try one of these 4 substitutes:

    Unsweetened applesauce has a neutral flavor that works well in almost every baked good. It adds moisture and fiber to recipes while cutting fat.
    How much: Replace half the butter, oil or shortening called for with an equal amount of
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  • Do You Really Need a Flu Shot?

    By Hillary Copsey, for SparkPeople

    Fall is here. Apples are in season. Leaves are falling. Pumpkin just begs to be baked into a pie.

    But with all of those good things comes at least one not-so-good thing: the flu.

    Flu season can begin in October and end as late as May, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza is caused by viruses and because these can change, each flu season is a different. Individuals also are affected differently by the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea or respiratory distress. Typically the worst cases are in people 65 or older. CDC estimates of flu-related deaths between 1976 and 2007 range from 3,000 to 49,000, and in a normal year, about 90 percent of deaths are in people older than 65.

    Several years ago, swine flu - the H1N1 virus - hit the U.S. and caused a great deal of concern because it seemed to strike pregnant women and younger adults much harder than the typical flu virus. Odd flu seasons

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  • Healthy Flying Tips for Families

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and many people will take to the sky to visit family and friends. Despite appearances-a plethora of fast foods, snacks and lots of sitting around-flights and airports offer plenty of nutritious food and opportunity for activity, if you know where to look.

    • Make sure everyone eats a healthy meal before you arrive. You'll be less likely to munch on high-calorie snacks just because they're around or you're bored.

    • If eating in an airport, it's worth it to spend the time seeking out healthy foods. Look for salads, fresh fruit, vegetable-based soups, and baked or grilled chicken.

    • While trekking through the airport, take every opportunity for extra movement. Use the stairs, pass on the people movers and carry your own luggage.

    • Instead of sitting around before boarding the plane, use the time to walk. You'll arrive early enough to fit in 15-20 minutes of walking, so take
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