Back to Basics

Hello again and happy Friday! I am so excited to finally get back to you since microbiology is now done! Let the celebrating begin!

Bancroft cocktail

I don’t know about you, but with the snow, cold, and shorter days, my body has not been acting like itself. I was just about recovered from my holiday metabolic whiplash, when the Super Bowl and my birthday came along, and I was happy to have an excuse to indulge again. Ever since then I feel like I’ve been on one bad roller-coaster of cravings and increased appetite. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the incredibly cold temps, but I’m sure a part also has to do with my higher than usual sugar intake.

Chilly with text

I’m so sick of it that I decided to go back to basics to reboot my system a bit. Nothing crazy, just more accountability. For me, that means logging food in MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal logo

The biggest problem I found after a few days of logging my food? Not eating enough at breakfast and at lunch. No wonder I’d be so hungry once I got home! How did that happen? I think I started playing the comparison game (never a good one to play!) as I looked at other peoples’ breakfasts and lunches on other blogs. The thing I failed to remember, though, is many people graze throughout the day. I don’t–I eat only four times a day (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner) because I only eat every three to four hours, so each meal needs to have a solid 300+ calories.

Breakfast smoothie calories

The other inkling I had that I my eating was a bit more off? I seem to have a little more jiggle in the middle even though I’m more or less the same weight. Perhaps it’s my body’s ancient response to the cold, thinking I need to hold on to body fat to make it through the winter. Perhaps having a bulk of my calories at the end of the day and being so hungry caused me to overeat. Again, it’s most likely a combination of things.

Paleo oatmeal

Paleo oatmeal to help fill me up!

The other part that’s helpful about using MyFitnessPal is being able to see where my macros are going. I thought that I was eating more protein than I actually was, so increasing my protein will also be a focus for me. Protein always does a fabulous job of filling me up, and add in a good dose of fiber and fat? I’m good to go for hours!

Pollock over arugula

Protein and fat-filled dinner with a good dose of fiber

Another tool up my sleeve? I signed up to rent five fitness tracker through Lumoid. I want to see how many calories a day I’m actually burning so I can get a better idea of how much I should be eating. Depending on the calculations out there for my height, weight, age, and activity level, I should be eating anywhere from 1500-2000 calories. That’s a big difference! The service is also a great way to try out fitness trackers if you’re considering buying one. I’m already not digging wearing a tracker visibly on my wrist, so I don’t think the Jawbone UP is for me.

Jawbone UP

As I’ve always said, it’s not about the weight. It’s about feeling good and I just feel off. Tired, a bit stiff and achy (thanks again partially to the cold I think), weirdo appetite, and a bit softer than I’d like to be. I’m not soft by any means, but you know when you just don’t feel right in your skin? Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to make better. And I know that with a few minor tweaks, I’ll be there.

I’m sure the fact that spring is around the corner will help as well. I always find that once the warmer weather hits, the sun is out more, and I’m able to be outside more, my appetite and energy levels naturally regulates itself. Just having the warm sun shine on my face feels so good!

Questions: Do you have problems with your appetite in the winter? Do you usually stay on track? Do you use any tools to keep yourself on track?

Advertisements

I’m Still Here

Hi all! I know it’s been waaaaay too long. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed catching up with some of you on your blogs!

My accelerated A&P II class has been taking up all of my free time. I’m reading at work, when I get home, on the weekends (when I’m not doing my labs or other assignments). It’s been a bit crazy and I’m bummed that WHD has had to take a hit, but I’m halfway through and hope to be back to more regular posting in August! In the meantime, I’ll try to pop by quickly a bit more regularly than the past two weeks.

Studying at Starbucks

I even study at Starbucks before my acupuncture appointments!

I did have a quick break this weekend which was absolutely divine! My brother was home, so I took Friday off and we headed up to our parents’ lake house in New Hampshire. It was a bit chilly (we had to turn the heat on Friday night), but it was still lovely to be up there. How can you not feel relaxed with this view?

Lake and mountain view

Still lots of studying and reading for me, but I managed to squeeze in some quality time with my parents, grandmother, brother, and his girlfriend. Exercise consisted of a nice long walk with my mom one day and kayaking with  my dad the next day. Poor WHH had to work the school’s dance on Friday night, so he wasn’t able to join us, but he’s looking forward to seeing my brother and his girlfriend again later this summer when we visit them in Colorado! So excited for another vacation to look forward to, as well as the company!

Camp mug

Morning conversations over coffee are the best

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my new toy! I had a Macy’s gift card from Christmas and when I saw this was on sale, I jumped at the chance to finally get into juicing. I can’t wait to share some recipes with you! This delicious combo was:

  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green apple
  • ~2″ of ginger

Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain

Questions: What have you been up to? Any fun summer plans? Are you insanely busy right now or are you enjoying the lazy days of summer?

Are You Orthorexic?

(Sorry for the radio silence after last week’s post. Class is taking up a lot of my time, so it looks like some weeks may be one post, some weeks may be two.)

Have you heard of this term? It’s a real one, I promise you, though not an officially recognized diagnosis. It means to have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

Orthorexia origins

But on closer inspection, you can see how being consumed with being too healthy is unhealthy since being consumed by anything isn’t good. Being able to eat only something you would consider a superfood, for example, and unable to enjoy anything that’s not, or worse, having anxiety over the fact you had something that wasn’t on you “only will eat these things” list, is never healthy.

Rainbow of foods

The term was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman. When I visited his website, I discovered he also admitted that the definition sounded like an oxymoron (great minds think alike?). He gives an example of a woman who died from orthorexia (though the lines seem a bit blurred to me as to whether she really had anorexia). Labels aside, anything that causes us to restrict food in an unhealthy way, whether we think it’s unhealthy or not, can be detrimental to our health, both mental and physical.

Salad with egg, legumes, nuts

I’m bringing this up because I have been through stages when I started to head to orthorexia-land. It’s not surprising given my history and you know how open I’ve been with my unintended weight loss last year and subsequent (healthy) gain. I’ve gone through periods, even in those healthier times, of restricting my carbs and/or dairy more than necessary.  While I do know my body benefits from being gluten-free, that doesn’t mean I have to be low-carb. And while I’ve experimented with reducing my dairy due to a potential issue with FODMAP foods, that doesn’t mean I need to eliminate it completely.

Mixed greens salad

Why all the salad pictures? I think I had been having a few too many every week. I came to realize this after recently mixing it up. Having one for lunch and having a lot more raw veggies for dinner was messing with my digestion almost as much as gluten! I shunned or drastically reduced other carbs, such as the gluten-free pasta we would make to go with American Chop Suey and instead put the mixture on top of greens. Don’t get me wrong–veggies are great for you, but anything in excess is not so great for you.

Salad prep for lunch

This makes me wonder if there is also an equivalent exercise term would could apply. That is, an unhealthy obsession with only being able to work out a certain way. Don’t get me wrong–if you find an exercise you love, you should do it. But if that exercise is causing you to become injured, perhaps you need to mix it up.

Jillian Michaels DVDs

You know I love my Jillian-inspired HIIT workouts and though I mixed up my workouts throughout the week (some yoga, some running, some strength), I didn’t mix up the intensity much. I thought the best way to go was to max out every time. I liked feeling like I had worked really hard and given my all. But perhaps I was pushing my body too much. In an effort to rein it in recently, I decided to focus on also varying the intensity and my body has been thankful.

What’s the point of all of this? To admit sometimes we don’t know everything, or what we thought worked may not. To be truthful with ourselves about our aim to be healthy and whether trying so hard is actually unhealthy. Being healthy, like all things that are worth your time, is not effortless, but it also shouldn’t consume you.

Questions: What do you think of the term orthorexia? Do you think it’s a real thing? Could you see yourself going down that path? How do you make sure you keep your healthy choices healthy?

Mixing It Up

Hi all! I know it’s been awhile (or, at least, a little longer than my usual), but last week I said that I’d probably move to two posts a week and that’s where it’s at. I was hoping to do more of a Tuesday/Friday schedule, but that didn’t work out this week. So I’m mixing it up and doing Wednesday/Friday.

I’m also mixing up a lot of other things in my life right now. Or at least it seems like a lot for me being the creature of habit that I am. When I find something that works for me I like to stick with it. That being said, it is good to get some variety in your life and everything in moderation is always what I’m preaching, so I best be practicing it, too!

On the food front, I’m mixing up my breakfasts again. I had been sticking to a yogurt parfait in the morning for nearly a year. Yes, a year. I’d sometimes mix it up on the weekends and have oatmeal or go out for breakfast, but I always missed my parfait. You’d think I would have gotten sick of them, but surprisingly not.

Pumpkin parfait container

Then, a couple of months ago or so, I changed it up and moved to smoothies for breakfast. Except, again, every.single.day. I finally decided this week that I’m having a combination of items for breakfast throughout the week (smoothie one day, yogurt another day) and I should branch out and try a chia pudding or overnight oats. I’ll let you know if (when!) I do how they come out.

Almond Coconut Milk Smoothie

Also something I have nearly every single day? An apple with nut butter for my afternoon snack. Notice that I did say nut butter, which implies a little variety. It used to be peanut butter only, but I had branched out a while ago and have since been using sunflower and almond butter as well. Remember my stash that I keep at work (upside down, of course!)?

Peanut and sunflower butter upside down

I’ve recently started including pears (gasp!), watermelon (no!), and today, an orange (mon Dieu!)! I think I’ll have a handful of nuts with my orange, though. Doesn’t exactly go with peanut butter. Like, the one thing that doesn’t. Probably because nothing rhymes with orange. 😉

Orange with smiley face

I may have drawn on my orange…

That may not sounds like a lot, but for a type-A, sticks-to-a-plan person like me, this pushes me outside my comfort zone a bit. And is if that weren’t enough…

Ron Popeil but wait there's more

I’m also mixing up my workouts! With the week or so hiatus between classes, I made it to the gym a few times. I ran on the treadmill, did some Little-style walking hill intervals, and hit the heavier weights. I definitely missed the variety of the gym.

I’ll be back at home a lot now that I’m in the midst of a really busy 10 week class, so I wanted to be able to mix it up at home as well. I downloaded the Nike Training Club app after reading about it on Courtney’s blog. I did one of the 15 minute butt workouts, combined with the first five minutes of an abs/glute workout, and I’m still sore two days later! I love that you’re coached through each move and everything’s timed for you. The only thing I didn’t like was the inability to skip a certain move.

Nike Training Club app

I’ve also been expanding my yoga practice thanks to YouTube through my TV via our Wii. I’ll generally search for “yoga for runners” or “yoga for hips” and I’ll get some great results from that. I love the variety since my yoga library is limited both in terms of DVDs and what’s available on On Demand (we have the least expensive cable option) and I’m definitely not one to do my own yoga workout.

You know how else I’m mixing it up, but is actually not working in my favor? Being on my feet a lot more at work. With our medical record Go Live, I’ve been in the infusion room for the past week instead of my desk and I’m doing a lot of standing around. For some reason, standing, as opposed to walking, really bothers me and has made my PF flare up a bit. So I’m easing up on the running for right now so as not to aggravate it further. It wouldn’t be a problem except that it was like going from 0-60 MPH. I went from all sitting to all standing. This week’s been a better variety of sitting and standing, so thank goodness for that.

What prompted me being all kinds of wild and mixing it up? I’ve just felt a bit “off” lately. You know what I mean? My body’s been a bit fussy in terms of GI issues and generally feeling tight, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make it better. I’ve also recently discovered the idea that gluten may not be the only issue for me–that FODMAP foods may also be to blame, hence the slight dietary changes. I’m not going all in just yet because that would be a lot of food to change up at once. Plus, it’s ice cream season.

Double fisting ice cream

Questions: Do you tend to stick to certain habits? Do you need to make yourself change things up or do you look forward to it? Is there anything you’ve changed up recently?

What’s Working Lately

Happy Monday! This weekend flew by! The weather was pretty gross here in Massachusetts-back to the 40s, rainy, and just dreary. Though it made staying in and doing homework for most of it a bit easier, I suppose. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in another run in between showers. It threatened the whole time, but I outran the storm clouds!

April showers

As I was running, and feeling so grateful that I had made it to stage 16 relatively uneventfully, I was thinking about what’s been working for me lately to get me to this point. Of course, then I started thinking about all the things in my life that are just kind of geling, which then lead me to think about some things that aren’t. So, in true type-A fashion, I started making some lists when I got home. 🙂

What’s Working 

  • My current workout routine: This consists of running 2-3x a week using the Return to Running program faithfully. I’ve also made sure to incorporate one yoga routine a week, one barre3 workout, and strengthening.
  • Injury prevention: As I’ve been amping up the running, I’m sure to massage and do an ice rub following each outing. In addition to icing on the day of the run, I’ve also been icing my foot nearly every single night when I get in bed to read for about 10-20 min. Foam rolling 1-2 times a week, especially along the IT band and into my glutes, has helped keep my glute injury at bay.

Ice massage for plantar fasciitis

  • Running on varied surfaces: My feet really love me when I run on grass, so I make a point to have a trail run or a run along an area with grass in one of my weekly runs. I can really feel the difference and I think this has helped to keep the plantar fasciitis at bay.
  • Chipping away at homework: For the first half of the semester, I did the bulk of my homework on the weekends. Of course, this left me trying to cram a lot of information into a short time and not getting much else done on the weekends. I’ve been trying to make a point of doing one hour of homework every night. Breaking big jobs into smaller tasks is a concept I need to work on. I let myself get overwhelmed with the big picture, decide to tackle it all at once, and stress myself out unnecessarily.

Proper dissection safety

 Dissection time!

  • Getting to bed earlier: My energy has been so much better lately thanks to making an effort to getting to bed about 15-20 minutes earlier. It makes the evening shorter, but it’s so worth it!

Of course, this list leads me to consider the opposite topic…

What’s Not Working

  • My diet: I seem to be hovering a pound or two higher than my usual range the past few weeks. This wouldn’t bother me except that I feel uncomfortable and have a heaviness in my midsection. Is it true weight gain? Is it because of the time of the month? Is it irregularity? Is it the prednisone? Whatever it is, something needs to change. I’m definitely not my usual self. So I’ve decided to try to cut down my dairy intake a bit. I love my morning yogurt parfaits, but I shouldn’t have them every.single.day. I’m also going to refocus on my fruit and vegetable intake, decrease my sugar, increase my fiber, and double-check my calories as all this running has made me a bit rungry. I also ordered the RawJuvenate’s 2 Week Detox Kit through a Groupon (it includes that supergreens mix I loved from my Greatist box!). I’ll be having this for breakfast every day and am hoping it will help “reset” my system. My goal isn’t to lose weight, but be back to feeling myself.

Pumpkin, kale, and almond butter smoothie

This morning’s pumpkin, kale, & almond butter protein smoothie

  • My tennis elbow: The prednisone worked great for the first few days. I felt like a new woman! But then, even though I was still on it (two more days to go), I started feeling the tightness more and more. I’m not back to where I started, but it’s not near the result I was hoping for based on how I felt the first few days. I’m going to try some ART therapy tomorrow to see if I can loosen up the muscles before it comes back with a vengeance. If that doesn’t work, I’m going for a second opinion. I saw what life could be without the constant pain and tightness and I want that back!

On the Edge of Not Working

  • My current life pace: I feel like I’m right on the edge of being overwhelmed. I’ve been able to work everything in so far with taking class and having it fit into my life (that is, still being able to work out regularly, prepare fresh, healthy meals, keep up with the house, blog, and have a social life). But there are times when I feel like the balance could almost tip. In that case, I will need to assess what can go and what can stay because this path I’m on is important to me. Whatever is in the way of that will have to go, whether it’s changing up blogging to only twice a week, or giving up TV altogether.

That’s that for now. A bit of a mind dump, but I wanted to share what’s working for me in case there’s something there that could help you. I think it’s good to assess our day-to-day life to make sure we’re living a happy, healthy life. We only have this day, this moment, and we need to make the most of it.

Aim High graphic

Questions: What about you? What’s working for you lately? What’s not working?

 

Five Tips for Eating Healthy On The Run (Guest Post)

Happy hump day! Today I am incredibly excited to bring you a guest post from my brother! I knew he’d offer some great insight into how he stays healthy with such a busy life in the city (Washington, DC). I also knew he’d bring his great personality to his writing and I was not disappointed.

Man of honor

This special guy was my man of honor.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. So, take it away, bro…

Hi there! I’m the WholeHealthDork’s Bro and she has been sweet enough to ask me to share some thoughts on crafting a good diet when you’re on the run. For the past ten years that I’ve had a meat-less diet I’ve lived in many different places and held many different types of jobs with varying hours and modes of commuting that have made me become pretty good at eating healthy on the run and on the cheap. So here are some tips I want to share with you for keeping it healthy when you’re always on the go.

#1 Keep It Simple!

It may seem like it’s hard to squeeze in cooking a good meal on a tight schedule. You’ve got to search for a good recipe, get all the ingredients and you know, plan something. For many people that may seem like hours worth of work but cooking healthy does not need to be a lengthy or complicated exercise.

For most of my meals I start with a simple base of either a grain or a hearty vegetable and just color the dish with other ingredients that I find in the kitchen and make sure to work in a couple of sides. Good and simple go-to grains, like quinoa, mixed with sautéed vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or asparagus with a side of healthy greens topped with tomato and cranberries or other dried fruit makes a quick, knock-out healthy plate. If you have more time to spend, turn the oven on 450 throw in virtually any root vegetable with some light oil and garlic, wait and savor. And if anything you cook comes out a bit too flat, just toss a little bit of blue / feta cheese or a light balsamic based dressing on it and BAM! Dinner saved.

Five minute brunch

Weekend brunch. This took 5 minutes. Doobie Do.

A great resource for simple cooking is Mark Bittman’s The Mini Minimalist. Most of the recipes in this book have less than 5 ingredients and take less than 20 minutes to prepare. More importantly though, the recipes demonstrates how cooking does not need to be a major operation. My favorite recipe drives this point home: Mussels Provence – probably better than any mussels you ever had a restaurant, only requires 4 ingredients, and they’re ready in 15 minutes.

Mark Bittman The Mini Minimalist

Also, there’s no law that says you have to follow a recipe exactly. I like to read a recipe as a suggestion; it has the basic ingredients, the general composition and some outline of seasonings but there’s no reason you can’t substitute anything you want. The more you play around with different combinations of flavors, the more confident you will feel about your ability to improvise it in the future and eventually you won’t have to think about planning a meal, it will just happen.

#2 Keep A (Mostly) Empty Fridge!

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the way I see it, fridges are much bigger than they need to be to store all the food I really need. The more cluttered a fridge is, the more likely it is that things are going to go bad before you get to eat them. This is probably why Americans throw out 25% of the food they buy every year. Keeping a mostly empty fridge allows me to see everything in it and see what condition it’s in. When I see some greens wilting or a tomato that’s a little past it’s prime, I don’t think of tossing it, I think that today is the day I’m going to use it. This means that instead of stocking up once a week you may be making more trips to the grocery store, but I guarantee that you are actually going to spend less money because you won’t waste food by letting it quietly die in your fridge. Also, this is a great setup for inspiring you to create new dishes just based on what you have left to cook with.

Empty fridge

This is what my fridge looks like. Pretty stark, but nothing dies here.

 #3 Recycle!

Most of the ingredients I use are on their second go around in my kitchen. Nothing gets thrown out because nothing goes bad and so everything gets used twice. You don’t have to worry about cooking the exact amount of food for one or two people once you realize that your leftovers can become the base of your next dish. Grains are particularly good for this, but so is basically anything else you’ve previously cooked. Instead of just re-heating leftovers (boring!) imagine how they can fit into a new recipe.

Leftovers can be put into a winter soul food stew with black beans and kale, tossed with some spring greens for a nice salad or dropped into a curry to form some new fusion food you didn’t even know you could make. This theory also works well when you make a large batch of something like bean burger mix and then force yourself to find 5 new ways to eat it over the next couple of days because you made so much and you’re really going to be mad at yourself if you throw it out after having spent all the time making it.

Bean burger dinner

Bean burger from something else with quinoa from something with a fresh salad = sweet dinner

#4 Get Smaller Plates and Slow Down!

No joke. A plate the size of a Frisbee is way too big. There’s more room for food on plates these days than we should really be eating. So downsize your dinnerware, then fill it up with less food, take your sweet time eating and then wait about half an hour after you’re done and let me know if you don’t feel just as satisfied as having served yourself the Frisbee portion.

The propagation of fast food, grab-n-go and ready-made meals in our society engenders the idea that you should have to fit eating in to a small window of time. But what’s the rush? People will always eat more when given more food and they will eat it quickly. But we all know by now that your brain lags behind your stomach when it comes to feeling full. Smaller plates means healthier portions and more leftovers which will save you time tomorrow for your next meal. So try eating your food in half-size portions twice as slow and skip that feeling of being full and just feel great.

#5 Eat and drink more (fruits and water)!

There are two exceptions to the “eat less” rule. You should eat MORE fruits. You probably don’t do that. An apple a day…? Nah, try an apple, an orange, a plum, some blueberries in your parfait, mango for dinner and another apple. Try substituting some nice sweet fruits for your other go-to snacks (i.e. chips, crackers, etc) throughout the day and see how much better you feel.

Drinking a lot of water is also critical to eating healthy on the go. For me, staying hydrated keep me energetic and it keeps my internal processes working at maximum efficiency. It helps me digest all the good food I’m eating and keeps my stomach feeling mostly full so I never feel empty between small meals and resort to eating more food than I really need.

My trick for eating more (fruit) and drinking more (water)? Reverse portion control. Instead of setting out one apple and one cup of water, I try to give myself large portions to consume. First I stock my office with a ton of fruity goodies at the beginning of the week and then I never have to worry about grabbing something every day of the week. This gives me a big fruit-u-copia at the ready all day everyday. Also, I try to carry around a 1L water bottle with me wherever I go so there is always water at the ready. “Water tastes boring” you say? Throw in a slice of any citrus or a cucumber to spice it up and voila! water is not longer a drag and your body feels great.

Keep fruit at work

It’s like a fruit buffet! Right there on your desk! Hooray!

So these are just some ideas that I have found work for me, but time has shown that they’re pretty reliable. Over the past decade I’ve felt super healthy year after year and locked in a consistent weight which feels great to me without going on a diet, joining a gym or having to resist foods I don’t love. It’s all about finding your balance. I’ve found mine. I hope you find yours too.

Whole Health Bro

WholeHealthBro

 

Thanks, Whole Health Bro! Does anyone have any questions or comments for him?

“Health” Food That Isn’t

Whole Health Husband requested that I go on a rant about something. I think he requested this because he knows how passionate I can become when certain topics come up. The thing is, just because I feel passionately about something doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I try to keep an open mind and know that everyone has different opinions and that there are two sides to everything.

Plus, I’m not perfect, so I’m not about to point the finger at anyone; I would be a hypocrite and I can’t stand hypocrites. That’s why I’ve steered clear of going on a rant so far and try to maintain a fairly neutral, though still passionate voice. But I think WHH would like me to share more of the real Stephanie, and I have come to the realization that every time I’ve done that, those posts have ended up being my favorites.

So, one thing I can go on a rant about for days on end? “Health” food that isn’t actually healthy. I can’t stand how giant food companies sucker people into thinking they’re doing something good for themselves when they’re just pumping food full of chemicals and artificial things that are quite far from food! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Please know that this is just my opinion and I’m not passing judgement on anyone who thinks otherwise. Without further ado, here are a few examples of products that just chap my hide as well as a healthier alternatives to use instead.

Low Fat/Fat-Free, Low Sugar/Sugar-Free, Low Whatever/Whatever-Free

If they’re taking something out, they’re often replacing it with something else. The question is what are they replacing it with? Often when something is lower fat, they replace it with sugar and salt so that there’s still a lot of flavor. When they’re taking out sugar, they’re replacing it with chemical sweeteners which are kind of okay in (slight) moderation, but no good if eaten often. It’s not real food, so your body doesn’t know what the heck to do with it.

(Note that I’m only talking about food that naturally have fat, sugar, etc., in them. Spinach is naturally fat-free, so no need to worry if the packaging proclaims that, though I’d wonder why a company felt the need to point that out.)

Case in point? Fat free half and half.

Land O Lakes Fat-Free Half and Half

Talk about an oxymoron! The second item on the ingredient list? Corn syrup. AKA sugar. The main three ingredients are skim milk, corn syrup, and cream. Need I say more?

Alternatives: Any nut milk, soy milk, hemp milk, organic regular (cow’s) milk, or cream in moderation.

Another case in point? I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray and equivalents (such as Pam).

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Olive Oil Spray

Yes, I actually can believe it’s not butter. Though the company’s website conveniently doesn’t show the ingredients (things that make you go hmmm…), I was able to find them on Walmart’s website.  Let’s take a look:

Water, Soybean Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Sweet Cream Buttermilk, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid, (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium Edta), Used to Protect Quality, Natural Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (For Color).

My favorite part? There are magically no calories! How is that possible when the second and third ingredients are oil, and the fourth ingredient is buttermilk? Because (1) the serving size is unrealistic and (2) the FDA allows companies to round down, even from 0.9! So there could be 0.9 grams of fat per serving and they’re still allowed to say 0. I kid you not. So think about putting 10 sprays on: all of a sudden, 9g of fat!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 0.20 G
Servings Per Container 1700
Amount
Per Serving
1 Spray 5 Sprays
Calories 0 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0 G 0 0
Sodium 0 Mg 1 1
Total Carbohydrate 0 G 0 0
Protein 0 G

Do your body a favor and skip all of the fake junk this thing is filled with and use real fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even real butter from grass-fed cows. Or see below for something I’ve had in my kitchen for awhile if you want a spray.

Alternative: Misto spray filled with olive oil

Weight Loss Shakes

Whenever I open the fridge at my work and see one of these in there, I cry a little inside. These things are terrible! Look at what you’re potentially drinking in a Slimfast Shake:

Slim Fast Pina Colada

INGREDIENTS: FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, GUM ARABIC, CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM BICARBONATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR (COCONUT), YELLOW 5, CITRIC ACID. VITAMINS AND MINERALS: MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, ZINC GLUCONATE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, NIACINAMIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, MANGANESE SULFATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, BIOTIN, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, POTASSIUM IODIDE, PHYTONADIONE (VITAMIN K1), SODIUM SELENITE, CYANOCOBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12), CHOLECALCIFEROL (VITAMIN D3). SWEETENED WITH NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS AND NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS. CONTAINS MILK, SOY AND COCONUT.

Yum! Sounds delicious! No? I don’t know about you, but I lost count with how many ingredients there are.

Alternative: Make your own smoothie or protein drink! I promise you, they don’t take that long! Find a quality protein powder (I’m a fan of Garden of Life RAW Protein, which is raw, organic, gluten-, soy-, dairy-, and GMO-free). Twenty-eight servings costs $25.48 on Amazon, so that’s less than a dollar per serving if you mix it with water only. Slim Fast runs you $7.19 for only four servings. That’s nearly $2 per serving! Granted, I usually add some peanut butter, spinach, oats, and almond milk to mine, but it’s a small amount and I bet it’s still less than the Slim Fast. Less expensive and better for you!

(Most) Frozen Entrees

Aside from the fact that you’re microwaving your food in flimsy plastic containers (yes, I understand they’re “food grade” plastic, but just think about it…), most of these are loaded with sodium and an abundance of sketchy ingredients not resembling the original recipes. Both of the big daddies, Healthy Choice and Weight Watchers Smart Ones, don’t include the ingredients of their products online, but are plenty happy to tell you how low-calorie and low-fat they are. That’s a big red flag if you ask me.

Red flag clip art

Trust me, I realize these are convenient and they’re fine for every once in a while, but try to stick to real foods that you prepare yourself. Evidence they can be quite easy: I made the salad below in less than 5 minutes last week. I do believe that the microwave meals take 3-5 minutes, so the time is about the same, but the health reward is much larger with the salad.

Quick and easy salad

Plus, meals made from real foods are often less expensive! A quick meal prep at the beginning of every week can do wonders for convenient meal making throughout the week! Check out this link on easy meal planning in a flash.

Alternative: For those times you need the convenience of a frozen meal, try to stick with something more natural whose ingredients you can pronounce, such as Kashi’s or Amy’s frozen items.

(Some) Yogurt

Just because it’s yogurt, doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy! We put a ton of sugar in our yogurt here in the United States because our palates are so messed up with all of the extra flavorings in most of our food. Yogurt in Europe has much less sugar. People actually like the way plain yogurt tastes, as I learned when I was there. It was delicious!

Plus, the sugar used in yogurt is often the worst kind: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And if it’s the “light” variety, lots of yummy chemicals! I’m sorry, but yogurt is not supposed to taste like Boston Cream Pie. Only Boston Cream Pie should taste like that!

Yoplait Boston Cream Pie Yogurt Nutrition

Alternative: Buy plain, organic (if possible–I’m still working on this one myself!) yogurt and add your own fruit, nuts, a little bit of maple syrup or honey, flax, chia seeds, and/or oatmeal. The toppings are endless! You know how much I love my yogurt parfaits! And a quick tip: the full-fat variety tastes much less sour than the fat-free variety! Plus, the added fat keeps you full for longer. Just watch your serving size!

Low Calorie Favored Drinks (Such as Crystal Light)

Listen, I know that water is not the most exciting beverage and you may feel the need to kick it up, but this isn’t the way! Just a quick look at the ingredients is a bit scary:

Crystal Light ingredients

Alternative: Water with pieces of fruit, such as orange, watermelon, cucumber, lemon, or lime. I’m a big fan of cucumber water in the summer! So refreshing! You could also try some herbs, such as mint or basil.

Okay, are you still with me? I haven’t scared you away, have I? Again, I’m not trying to condemn anyone for eating or drinking these; I’m simply trying to show that there are healthier alternatives that can be just as quick and inexpensive. This is the only body we are given for our entire lives, so we need to make sure it’s a place we want to live for the long haul! In other words…

Running shoes with Jim Rohn body quote

 

Questions: Please, honestly, what did you think of me going on a rant? Too much? Right on? Not enough? How do you feel about foods masking as being healthy when they’re really not? Do you try to avoid these foods are or you fine with eating them?

 

Friday Favorite: Food Should Taste Good + Recipes!

I’m so excited to be able to partner with Food Should Taste Good for today’s Friday Favorite.

*Please note that I was not paid for this post, but was given the product to try. All opinions are my own and not influenced by the company.

I would like to start off by saying that while chips are not a health food, I strongly believe there is room in every diet for some treats. I regularly eat a few chips throughout the week as it is. I am happy to support any company that works to make a traditionally unhealthy food into a more healthy version. Food Should Taste Good uses non-GMO ingredients, zero trans fat, and real ingredients, and therefore falls in line with what I look for in a processed food (when I eat them). I am not reviewing these simply because they were free, but because I genuinely like them, have for a while (as you will see), and believe the company is doing good things. With that said, on to the food!

I was first introduced to Food Should Taste Good about five years ago when I worked at Boston Children’s Hospital. I was new to eating gluten-free at that time and didn’t really know how to eat a filling meal. Some days a salad just wouldn’t do it for me and I’d go in search of something else healthy. I often found myself wondering over to the Au Bon Pain instead of the caf…

Au-Bon-Pain-Boston-Children's-Hospital

Au Bon Pain at Boston Children’s Hospital c/o Osama F., Foursquare

One day while looking around Au Bon Pain, I stumbled upon some chips that, lo and behold, proclaimed “Gluten Free” on the front! I took a look at them to see if they were even healthy, and I was happily surprised to see that they were! The Multigrain flavor, which contains corn, brown rice flour, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds, and quinoa, has been my favorite ever since.

Fast forward to last Friday when I came home to find this package from Food Should Taste Good.

Food-Should-Taste-Good-box

To say I was excited by my stash of FSTD chips is a bit of an understatement.

Food-Should-Taste-Good-chips

In case you can’t see the flavors above, they sent me Kettle Corn, Blue Corn, Chocolate, and Cantina.

Food-Should-Taste-Good-chip-flavors

I soon began plotting how I would incorporate all of these delicious chips into my meals and snacks over the next week. First up were the blue corn chips on Saturday night. I had bought some chipotle sweet potato soup from a local farm and wanted to add some texture to the smooth puree, as I often do with soup. It was a delicious combo, especially with a side salad and half a grilled cheese and tomato.

Chipotle-sweet-potato-soup-with-salad-and-grilled-cheese

I didn’t do anything with the Kettle Corn chips besides try them right out of the bag. I personally wasn’t crazy about them–I found the taste a bit confusing when combined with the texture of a chip (I kept expecting popcorn). They were a bit too sweet for me, but WHH really liked them. Within a few days, the bag looked like this:

Food-Should-Taste-Good-Kettle-Corn-Chips

Of course you know I was eyeing those chocolate chips! I’m a fan of just about anything chocolate (except white chocolate, because that’s not really chocolate). I had actually tried them a few months ago when my parents brought us some goodies from their Boston chocolate tour. I didn’t think much of them then, but when I tried them this time, I was pleasantly surprised. They have more of a cocoa taste, with only a slight sweetness. After a stop at Whole Foods on Monday (during which I always need to freshly grind some honey peanut butter–seriously, if you haven’t tried it, you must!), I knew exactly what to do with those chips.

Food-Should-Taste-Good-Chocolate-Chips-with-Whole-Foods-peanut-butter

Because chocolate and peanut butter are always a good idea. A few of those chocolate chips scooped into the peanut butter made for a nice little dessert after dinner a few nights this week.

The Cantina chips were last on the list because we were waiting for some avocados to ripen. But as soon as they were, WHH whipped up his deliciously simple guacamole.

Food-Should-Taste-Good-Cantina-Chips-and-guacamole

The guacamole is incredibly simple to make and I love how the taste of the avocado isn’t masked by a bunch of other ingredients. To make, simply combine:

1 avocado, mashed
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1-2 tsp lemon juice, as desired
1-2 garlic cloves, as desired
Salt, to taste

Easy-homemade-guacomole

I decided to make some homemade hummus last night to go with the rest of our Mediterranean-inspired dinner and you better believe the Cantina chips were yummy with that as well!

Easy-homemade-hummus

In a food processor, combine:

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1 clove garlic
1⁄8-1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste

Once everything is combined, add water as necessary until it reaches your desired consistency.

A little secret: pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds and then stir. It’s really good warm!

Homemade-hummus-with-eggplant

This also made for excellent leftovers today! A new favorite in our household!

All in all, I really enjoyed these chips and can’t wait to try more of their new flavors. We already buy chips every few weeks and these will be sure to remain in the rotation. Next on my list to try? Avocado!

Questions: Have you tried Food Should Taste Good chips? What’s your favorite flavor? Have you tried any new recipes lately?

Have a great weekend!

 

Friday Favorite: Almond Coconut Milk (Updated)

TGIF, amirite? In what has ended up being a week of sickness and recuperation, I’m happy to finally be on the other side! There’s nothing like feeling sick to make you grateful for just feeling normal.

Today’s favorite has made a regular appearance in my some of my food lately. I happened upon this when I was picking up my usual unsweetened almond milk.

Almond Coconut milk

Coconut is all the rage these days, partially thanks to the CrossFit/paleo community who are firm believers in the use of coconut oil even though it’s gotten a bad rap for having so much saturated fat. So why is it suddenly okay? Since about half of its saturated fat content is actually from medium-chain fatty acids, which are easier to digest than longer-chained ones, it’s not as harmful as we first thought. So not all saturated fat is created equal.

Coconut water is also a great source of electrolytes. I personally don’t love the taste of the ones I’ve tried and I don’t require electrolyte replacement right now, so I don’t drink it. I may revisit the idea once I amp up training and the heat and humidity return to Massachusetts, whenever that may be.

This combo contains coconut milk, however. Like coconut oil, it does contain a some fat. Let’s take a look at the label:

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Amond Coconut Milk Unsweetened nutrition

The fat content isn’t that bad, especially considering I use less than the serving size. One of these usually gets me closer to 8 servings. And there’s nothing wrong with fat in moderation! It keeps you full and is necessary for many things to happen in our bodies.

I want to point out that this isn’t the “cleanest” product out there. There are some added vitamins and other, shall we say, stuff. I would be better off buying an organic version. However, the way I look at it is this: I don’t use it that often and when I do, I don’t use that much. My diet is relatively clean most of the time, so I’m okay with using this. If I find a better, cleaner version in my travels I will buy that instead. It’s all about the amount of exposure over time.

Update: While I still stand by my statements above, I no longer purchase this product. I am now particularly wary of carrageenan, a thickener that comes from red seaweed. However, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill seaweed. For some reason our bodies see this as an invader and so mount a response against it, notably in the GI tract. It can cause inflammation, irritation, and possibly even cancer. If I happen to eat one thing once in a while with this, again, I’m not going to freak out. But since I have almond milk 1-2 times a week, I think I’ll stick to the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk.

Almond Coconut Milk Smoothie

Delicious in smoothies

The reason I really like this product is, as I said above, it contains some fat. Regular almond milk doesn’t contain much of anything, so this has more umph to it. Why this and not organic cow’s milk? I feel it mixes better into smoothies and I don’t mind that it has a slightly lower calorie content. Plus, I eat a decent amount of dairy and like to mix it up. I don’t like using water in smoothies because there’s nothing to it, and I don’t like using cow’s milk because, well, mixing milk with raw spinach just doesn’t do it for me. Almond coconut milk has more presence than water, but not so much as cow’s milk.

Why not soy milk? I avoid soy as much as possible because it’s an endocrine disruptor, a goitrogen (and therefore messes with my already underactive thyroid) and most soy in this country is genetically modified (a Frankenfood!) and in a ton of items we don’t even realize (thus, the cleaner you eat, the more you can avoid it). Okay, I’m done with my little lecture.

What else do I use it in? My oatmeal, for a little extra something-something.

Oatmeal with almonds, maple syrup, almond coconut milk

And I also do a 50/50 mix with cow’s milk in my Not Your Sugar Mama’s Be Cozy hot chocolate.

Not Your Sugar Mama's Hot Chocolate with cow and almond coconut milk

 

Questions: What form (if any) of milk do you consume? What’s your feeling on the coconut rage–love it, over it, or don’t really care?

Have a great weekend!

*I apologize for the size of the pictures. It seems that WordPress changed some options and I haven’t yet figured out why I can’t edit them as much as I could before. Perhaps it’s time to change to a self-hosted site so I have more options? Does anyone have a particular one they suggest?

Clean Eating 101

First of all…

Last day of winter 2014

C/o my co-worker. It’s been a loooong winter here in Massachusetts.

In honor of the first day of spring tomorrow, I thought we could think about spring-cleaning our diets! March is also National Nutrition Month, so it seems an appropriate time to revisit our current eating habits, and perhaps tweak them a bit for the changing seasons. I’ve noticed I’m craving fewer warm comfort foods and looking to lighter, cooler foods.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Clean Eating.” It’s become a bit of a buzzword lately, but it’s not a new concept in the least. So what does it mean? Clean eating involves eating foods as close to their original state as possible (minimally processed), and ideally free of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. This is how I try to eat most of the time and incorporating it into your diet isn’t as difficult as it may sound…just take baby steps and little by little all these baby steps will add up to big change!

Here are some main points to clean eating:

-Think outside the box (or bag, package, etc.): Instead of making a box of macaroni and cheese, why not make your own? All you need is some pasta, milk, butter and cheese! Better yet, make that whole grain pasta, and organic milk, butter, and cheese! Be sure to go light on the butter and cheese to avoid a hefty dose of fat. Can’t afford organic? Try doing at least the whole grain pasta and maybe just organic milk. Better yet, throw in some vegetables and have those be the focus of the dish instead of the pasta and dairy!

Some may think I’m weird for doing this, but I like to throw in lentils with my mac & cheese, as well as spinach (not pictured), plus I have some veggies on the side.

Mac and cheese with lentils

-Let produce be the star of the meal: Make sure your meal is at least 50% vegetable and/or fruit, then add in your corresponding protein and grain of choice. Be sure to include enough protein and fiber, as well as a healthy amount of fats, to keep you feeling full longer.

Salad with egg, beans, and nuts

-Watch out for additional fat, salt, and sugar: This will be easier once you’ve cut out more processed food, but many people add these back in to create the same taste as processed food. Enjoy tasting your food the way it should taste, instead of just tasting sugar or salt.

When you do use these, aim for the healthiest, least processed versions of each. For fats, try natural sources such as  such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado.  For salt, aim for sea salt or kosher instead of table salt. The larger granules mean you’ll use less! Finally, in terms of sugar, avoid high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and other processed sugars, and aim for sugars from nature, such as maple syrup or honey. Just don’t add too much!

Maple syrup from Quebec

Maple syrup from family in Quebec

-Be choosy about your beverages: Drink water, tea, and coffee (black or only a small amount of milk/milk substitute and/or sweetener) instead of soda or energy drinks. Limit your alcohol, which is not only a source of additional calories, but promotes fat storage due to the release of estrogen into the bloodstream when you drink it (and when you have excess estrogen, you’re more prone to hold onto weight).

French press coffee with Game of Thrones Targaryen sigil mug

-Portion and timing: Be sure to stick to reasonable portion sizes and to eat about every three to four hours in order to curb hunger before it overtakes you and you overindulge. Need help with what the correct portion size is? Check out this link for more information.

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this information? Here are some easy examples to get you started:

  • Choose fresh, whole fruit instead of fruit cocktail, dried fruit, or fruit leather. Organic is best, but as it can be very expensive, we tend to stick to buying the dirty dozen organic and not worrying about the clean fifteen.
Fruit displayed on DIY industrial shelves

Keep fruit on display and you’re more likely to snack on it.

  • Pick cuts of fresh meat instead of processed chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or bologna. Even better is grass-fed beef, and even better than that is organic meats.
Bison meat on sale

Bison meat on sale = stocked up!

  • Eat whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice instead of white bread, sugared cereals, and potato chips. Again, organic if you can afford it.

Gluten free oatmeal with almonds and maple syrup

Questions: Are you over this winter? Do you consider yourself a “clean” eater most of the time? Do you have any clean eating tips and tricks?