Healthy Family Challenge 2012

Challenge #2: Drink More Water: The Winners Are…

healthy family challenge

It’s a tie!

This month we peered into the Lehmans’ and Avaglianos’ cups, mugs and glasses. What we found was a health mistake your crew can probably relate to: Drinking sweetened beverages was expanding their waistlines. “So many drinks are loaded with sugar, which adds excess calories to your diet,” explains Elizabeth Fassberg, R.D., the Avaglianos’ nutritionist. Because liquid calories are much less satisfying than those from food, they can lead to overindulging. Avoid downing the wrong beverages—which may pack on pounds, trigger energy slumps and even increase your blood pressure—with these tips from the families.

The Lehmans’ Tips

At first glance, the Lehmans seem to sip right. Tiffany and Andy avoid soda and juice and whip up healthy smoothies at home rather than buying the pre-made kind, which can be high in calories and sugar. They’re also big water drinkers, gulping down one to two gallons a day as a family. But mom and dad were drinking major calories when it came to the beer, Merlot and Cabernet they paired with meals three or four times a weekend. Now they drink beer or wine just once a week. As a result, Tiffany’s blood pressure is back to normal and she’s lost 3 pounds. Here, their better beverage plan.

★ Portion control your cup. “Four big glasses of wine or three 20-ounce beers can add up to 800 calories,” explains Stephanie, the Lehmans’ nutritionist. Even one 8-ounce glass of wine can have the same calorie count as a 4-ounce rib-eye steak. Using Wine-Trax glasses helped the Lehmans pace themselves. “Once my mind was made up to do this, cutting back on the beer wasn’t difficult,” says Andy. “Plus, I had more energy, slept better and the weight came off easily.”

★ Know the impact. “We learned your liver stores fat cells from alcohol,” says Tiffany. “Since we want to slim down, that was a motivator.”

★ Mix your drinks. The Lehmans had a glass of water between each glass of wine or beer. “This gives your hand and mouth something to do and keeps you satisfied,” says Tiffany. Plus, it helps you cut back on the amount of alcohol consumed.

★ Make mocktails. The Lehmans treat their kids, Jack and Anna, to juice or soda once a week. But even that adds excess sugar and calories. Since Anna likes soda and lemonade, Tiffany prepared healthier versions with a SodaStream carbonated beverage maker. “Both our kids loved this,” says Tiffany. As for cocktails, check out the great nonalcoholic recipes here.


The Avaglianos

Before this month’s  challenge,  no one in the Avagliano clan was getting the recommended amount of water his or her body needed to function efficiently, feel satisfied and slim down. The New Jersey family was drinking a combined total of just four to six glasses a day. Peggy and Peter were dependent on rich coffee drinks, diet beverages and caffeinated tea. Amanda and Michael favored apple juice and sweet iced tea. But one month of thinking before drinking led Peter to drop 7 pounds, Peggy to lose 2 and Michael to shed 3. Here’s how they did it.

★ Know what’s in your cup. “Every workday morning for five years, I had a 16-ounce low-fat French vanilla cappuccino from a local convenience store,” says Peter. That was until he checked its nutritional information online and saw it had 250 calories, 56 grams of carbs, 37 grams of sugar and 2 grams of saturated fat—none of which is good for Peter’s type 2 diabetes. “I was shocked, especially because I thought it was healthy to order the low-fat option instead of the full-fat one. Now I realize that regular coffee is a better choice and haven’t had a French vanilla cappuccino since,” he says.

★ Make simple substitutions. Peggy was drinking 12 to 15 cups of black tea daily. Although she didn’t fill them with sugar and milk, they added up to a lot of caffeine. “Some caffeine is fine, but this was too much,” says Elizabeth, Peggy was also missing the greater cancer-fighting benefits offered by green teas and the potential weight-loss benefits from white tea. “I cut back by alternating tea with water and replacing at least one mug a day with green tea,” says Peggy, who pared down to six to eight cups. Peter, who spends a lot of time on the road for work, also started choosing water over diet soda, and that cut his cravings for snacks such as M&M’s and chips.

★ Sweeten up your water. Before the challenge, Michael drank one glass of water a day at most. But once the family followed Fassberg’s tips to liven up their H2O with things like lemon wedges, raspberries and strawberries, he (and the rest of the family) started toting water bottles everywhere. The result? He upped his water intake to a gallon a day.

What Both Families Won: Passes to Six Flags for the ultimate thrill rides, including a chance to splash around in water (instead of focusing on drinking it). The Avaglianos got a season pass to the Six Flags Great Adventure near them in Jackson, New Jersey. The Lehmans won a weekend hotel stay and day passes to Six Flags St. Louis.

How have you started drinking more water? Share your success in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: The Art of Making A Cup of Tea


photo via

By Maria Masters

You’ve probably heard that wine is best when it’s allowed to breathe for ten or fifteen minutes before serving. Or perhaps you have your own tricks for making the perfect cup of coffee, like scrubbing that coffee maker down so residue doesn’t muddy up your brew. But did you know there are secrets for pouring the perfect cup of tea as well?

As Peggy and Tiffany mentioned, they received Lipton teas to help them stay hydrated. (Not only is tea delicious and calorie-free, but studies also suggest that it can speed up weight-loss and lower a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.) So we asked Lipton for the inside scoop on preparing the perfect cup.  Follow their tips:

Get Fresh. Bottled is best for making tea. But if you’re going to the faucet, run the water for a few minutes. Doing so ensures that the water is as fresh as possible.

Watch The Clock. Green tea only needs about 1 to 4 minutes, but black tea generally takes about 3 to 5 minutes. For a stronger brew, let the tea steep longer.

Keep It Warm. If you tend to sip your tea slowly, use a tea cozy. Some of the brew’s flavor is lost when you reheat the drink.

What’s your favorite tea? Share in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: 3 Amazing Mocktails to Try

By Maria Masters

Summery drinks like pina coladas and margaritas can top 250 calories or more. Part of the problem is that alcohol itself can be caloric—and that’s before we start adding mixers into the glass!

But like Tiffany and Peggy have reported, you don’t have to limit yourself to water if you want to slim down. We’ve rounded up three lighter, alcohol-free indulgences for you to stir up at home. These delicious drinks replace booze with juice, seltzer or tea instead of a heaping cup of sugar. Plus they all come in at under 130 calories a serving. Cheers!

Velvet Sienna
From Cristian Molina, head bartender of Rouge Tomate in New York City

(Serves 1)
3 sage leaves
4 oz fresh pineapple juice
3 oz carrot juice
1/2 oz cranberry juice

Muddle and shake with ice. Strain in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with sage leaf.


Peach Spritzer
From Family Circle
(Serves 2)

½ cup peach nectar
½ cup ruby red grapefruit juice
½ cup seltzer

Blend peach nectar, grapefruit juice and seltzer. Serve over ice.


Black Tea Sangria
From Lipton’s
(Serves 6)

2 bottles Lipton 100% Natural Iced Tea with Lemon
1 cup unsweetened grape juice
¼ cup orange juice
1 small orange, sliced
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced
1 lime, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve.

Visit Lipton’s Tea Recipes for even more great summer drinks.

What’s your favorite mocktail recipe? Share in the comments below.

Challenge #2: Drink More Water

Measuring cup

The new liquid diet: We challenge the Lehmans and Avaglianos to decrease their intake of sugar-sweetened, calorie-laden, caffeine-pumped beverages and increase the amount of water they consume.

Who will be crowned the victors this time? Check in each day for Tiffany and Peggy‘s updates, as well as advice from their nutritionists Stephanie and Elizabeth.

Challenge #1, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables: The Winners Are…

Avagliano family

The Avaglianos!

Apples. Bananas. Broccoli. Carrots. Chances are you know you need to branch out from these usual suspects—not to mention eat more produce in general—but you don’t know where to start. So this month’s mission was to see which Challenge family, the Avaglianos or the Lehmans, could make the greatest improvement by adding nature’s bounty to their lives. Each week they received a shipment from Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S. By the end of the challenge, they’d been introduced to 49 types of fruits and veggies, dropped pounds and boosted their energy. Here’s how they gave their meals a makeover and how you can too!

How the Avaglianos Won

Pre-challenge: “Planning was our biggest obstacle in terms of eating more produce,” says Peggy. With both Peggy and Peter working long hours and Michael and Amanda being busy teens, the Avaglianos often eats on the go. As a result, fruits and veggies aren’t top of mind. But in their best week, the Avaglianos quintupled their fruit consumption and quadrupled their veggie intake to win the challenge. Peggy lost 8 pounds and Peter, a diabetic, stabilized his blood sugar. “My levels were less like a roller coaster,” he says. Michael began eating breakfast (like a mango or strawberry smoothie) and bringing his lunch rather than grabbing pizza.

Their Top Quick Tips
Pack It Up. “It only required a little thought in the morning to put carrots, grapes or sliced apples in a cooler,” says Peter, who doesn’t have a fridge at work. The key, explains their nutritionist, Elizabeth, is to make fruits and vegetables easy to eat without much prep. “Fruits like melon should be seeded, sliced and stored in a lidded container,” she says. “With crisp veggies such as jicama, wash and store them in resealable bags.”
★ Shop Smarter. The Avaglianos were surprised to find you can buy healthy foods in quickie marts. “I’ve been eating chicken Caesar wraps and subs from the same convenience stores for years,” says Peter. “But it wasn’t until this challenge that I realized these places sold options like celery or carrots with peanut butter.”
★ Redefine Dessert. “I missed that indulgence less when I had sweet alternatives like berries or yogurt-covered raisins,” says Peggy. Amanda found out how delicious chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas could be, and Michael  discovered a love of blackberries. “It was just as satisfying and still felt like a treat to have grapes while watching TV instead of a bag of chips,” adds Peter.

What They Won: The Avaglianos received a $250 gift certificate from T-fal to go on a cookware  shopping spree.


the Lehmans

How Did the Lehmans Do?

Pre-challenge: The Lehmans were in a produce rut. “I really thought we were being healthy with, say, an orange at lunch and green beans with dinner,” says Tiffany. But their food journals, which revealed they were eating less than half the number of servings needed per day, also confirmed that they needed to shake up their intake.

Then Melissa’s Produce introduced some new food favorites, including jicama, sliced peppers and lentils. In their best week, the Lehmans ate four times the amount of fruit and three times the amount of vegetables they usually do. Both Tiffany and her husband, Andy, felt stronger during their workouts and no longer experienced a late-afternoon energy nosedive. Even more impressive: Tiffany has trimmed 4 inches from her waist, her BMI went down nearly 7% and she shed 8 pounds. Andy lost 11 pounds and buckles his belt on a tighter notch. And Anna has more energy for exercise.

Secrets To Their Success
★ Get Grid-Locked. “If you don’t make a plan for eating fruits and vegetables, you tend to buy fewer, use less and waste some,” explains Stephanie, the Lehmans’ nutritionist. She had the family make a one-page grid showing each day of the week and write down where they would include fruits and vegetables.
★ Go Meatless. Save cash and calories by cooking a weekly vegetarian dinner. “A stir-fry helps you eat a lot of different veggies at once and is a great way to use up leftovers,” says Stephanie. The Lehmans’ favorite meatless meal was quinoa tacos, which combine this rich source of protein with black beans, taco seasoning, baby spinach, salsa and shredded cheddar cheese.
★ Snack Smarter. “I felt full on less when I ate red peppers with Greek yogurt dip rather than granola or other ‘healthy’ bars,” says Tiffany. “Plus, the crunch factor helped me mentally wake up.”

How did you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet? Share your success in the comments below.