Tag Archives: diet

Our Disconnect with Digestion

All my life I have had digestive issues. For some unknown reason this is the weakest link in my body and I am prone to all sorts of miserable maladies. Since this blog is more about eating than the results of it, I won’t go too far into the gory details, but those who share these problems know what I mean: constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, flatulence, irritable bowel, you name it, I’ve had it. To make matters even worse I have food allergies/sensitivities and hypothyroidism. Even if these problems only plague you once in a while they are a sign that food isn’t being processed the way it should and that is not a good thing for your overall health. Our digestive system is comprised of some of the largest organs in the body, the intestines alone are, on average, 25 feet long or ten times the length of the body. When they aren’t working right it’s going to be pretty noticeable. Right up there with the heart and brain, the digestive system is what keeps the body running. It must take all the food and drink that we consume and turn it into something our bodies can use. Not just energy giving fuel but nutrients to renew and replace every cell in our bodies. Think about this for a moment, really think about it. Whatever you eat or drink is ALL your body has to accomplish the monumental task of  making all new cells, nourishing all the organs, provide internal heat, growing nails, hair, etc.and having enough left over to give you the energy to get out of bed every morning and think about your day. That’s a pretty tall order. This is the thing that stops me dead every time I start to eat a donut or a bag of chips. I ask myself: “Is this going to help my body with it’s goal of keeping me going and feeling good about it? What am I providing for the processes it must get done today?” We’ve got to have some sympathy for this vehicle of ours, working so hard to keep us moving so we can live our lives the way we want to. When I hear people say things like: “I don’t eat much I just live on diet soda” or “The only vegetable I’ll eat is potato” I cringe. How can their bodies work without the variety of foods it so desperately needs? We hear a lot about eating right to prevent disease but there isn’t much discussion about eating for the daily regulation of the body. This is the most basic and supremely important thing to eat for; to help your body thrive. If you do this you don’t have to worry about diseases.    
Although it doesn’t feel like it, maybe I’ve been lucky to have had digestive problems since age 4 because without them I may not have found the will power to change my 50’s era diet into something healthier. When you collapse on the bathroom floor in pain you don’t run back to the table to have another slice of pizza. When the digestive system revolts you can’t fight it you have to work with it. My system certainly has made me aware of it, what it needed and where I was going wrong. For everyone else not on the bathroom floor there’s a difficulty in comprehending what the body needs or is asking for. When it ain’t broke we don’t fix it. Except that it is broke. The incidence of diseases rising every day are telling us that we are doing things wrong, but as long as we are able to get up and get going we won’t think about it until we get that life changing diagnosis. Then it’s too late. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a saint. I love pizza and cookies and chips just as much as the next guy. I just do my darndest to cram my diet as much as possible with fresh veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Then I have a cookie or two or a handful of chips (putting them in a small bowl so I don’t pig out, because I will if I am not careful!) I just try and remember that my body needs me as much as I need it. I want to feel good every day, I want to have a lot of energy to accomplish my goals. To have quality of life, that’s what we all want. So please think of your body, of all it’s doing for you every day of your life and give it something good to go on today and always. You’ll be glad you did.          

Here is a sample recipe for an easy, healthy, and delicious smoothie but remember: just use the fruit, water and vanilla extract for the lowest calorie count. They are still very good!

Strawberry Mango Smoothie
1 Cup of strawberries
½ C Mango
1 small or a half banana
Vanilla yogurt or soymilk or just water for low calorie
1 tsp Vanilla extract or more
Blend

Thinking about drinks

When it comes to calories, ‘drinking counts’ and it’s so easy to forget the calories in liquids. Sometimes it hardly seems fair that something so innocuous can pile up the pounds. The worst offender is soda pop. I got in the habit of drinking it with meals and snacks when I was young. It was a relatively new concept in the late 50s and 60s and what a treat it was. Of course back then I was thin, I was active, and portions of everything were a heck of a lot smaller. Soda sneaks calories into your day. Soda and fruit-flavored drinks can rack up to 250 calories per 12 ounces. Ginger ale and dark cola are the lowest in calorie at about 120 calories per 12 ounces, and cream soda is the highest with about 200 calories per 12 ounces. Portion size does really say it all! When these sugary liquids are sold in 20 ounce, 48 ounce, 1 liter and 2 liter bottles, it would be easy to work up to 800 calories in drinks a day if you’re not being conscious of your choices. (Big) gulp!

From http://www.sparkpeople.com
Juice” drinks (flavored, sugar-sweetened juice) can rack up more calories per ounce than soda! Orange, grape and cranberry juice drinks have about 216 calories per 12 ounces. But they seem so healthy! Don’t let the fact that a portion of the ingredients in those bottles come from fruit fool you. The calories in these beverages should not be overlooked. Thankfully, food labels make it easy to check out the calorie content prior to purchasing a drink. Flip over labels before buying anything, and, of course, check the portion size!

Even 100% fruit juice, be it orange, apple, grape, pomegranate, cranberry or another flavor, can contribute calories to your diet. It’s great that all the sugar in fruit juice is natural and direct from the fruit, but unlike a whole piece of fruit, fruit juice is very concentrated in sugar, which makes it high in calories. Juice can also count as a serving of fruit if you’re getting about 6 ounces, but if you’re filling a big 24 ounce cup, you could be pouring about 320 calories of OJ with your breakfast. Go for grape juice or pineapple juice and the numbers are even higher. The key here is to stick to a 4 to 6 ounce serving of juice with your breakfast, and enjoy a large glass of water to hydrate yourself! If you’re worried about getting in your vitamins, grab a whole piece of fruit for a snack or add some berries or sliced fruit to your yogurt or cereal in the morning. Anytime you can eat fruit or vegetables rather than drinking them, you’ll be better off. Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives, is often overlooked when it comes to calories. Although the beverage tastes great and is great for you, it does still contribute calories. A single serving of milk is 8 ounces, which is probably less than what many people pour at meals or on a big bowl of cereal in the morning. A tall dinner glass is about 12 to 16 ounces, which provides 132-168 calories if you choose skim. Fill your glass with 2% milk and that number jumps to 240 calories. These facts don’t discount the key nutrients found in milk that are healthful, but they hopefully encourage a proper serving size.

Many of us can’t function before 11 a.m. without our coffee. The brewed beverage is, by itself, calorie free, which makes it seem innocent. But with all the enticing additives offered by java joints, the numbers rise sharply. An 8 ounce latte made with whole milk is about 130 calories, but add flavored syrup, sugar and whipped cream on top and your drink now tops 200 calories. But when was the last time you ordered a latte that small? Once we bring up the tall, grande and venti sizes it’s a whole new ball game. A venti gingerbread latte with whole milk and whipped cream packs 440 calories into the cup. Granted, this is a large size, fully loaded, but it does a fine job of painting the picture of how many calories you could be drinking if you don’t look up the facts beforehand. 
 Those who don’t drink coffee may turn to energy drinks to put pep in their step. Exercisers may also tend to favor energy drinks and sports drinks pre- or post-workout. These drinks may look tiny and taste light, but they can have up to 112 calories per cup. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade come in at about half that, around 60 calories per cup. But watch out: the bottles they come in can contain up to 32 ounces—not 8 ounces—which adds up to 240 calories per bottle.

Considering how cheap, accessible and delicious sweetened and caloric beverages are, it’s easy to see how the average person consumes hundreds of calories per day from drinks alone. Those liquid calories add up fast for another reason, too: It’s so easy to mindlessly drink beverages. If you’re sitting at your desk, driving your car, or watching a movie, it’s not hard to suck down a supersize beverage in 5 minutes without even feeling full or satisfied. Couple this with free refills, and you’ve completed an equation for calorie over-consumption!

Now as previously stated I enjoy an alcoholic drink from time to time. Here is a handy chart from 
http://www.weightlossforall.com/calories-alcohol.htm to help keep track of that damage:

                    Alcoholic Drink
Size
Calories
Beer half Liter 184
Lager half Liter 180
Cider half Liter 200
Whisky 100ml 220
Gin 100ml 220
Brandy 100ml 220
Rum 100ml 220
Wine red 100ml 70
Wine white dry 100ml 65
Wine white medium 100ml 70
Wine white sweet 100ml 90
Wine white sparkling 100ml 74
Rose 100ml 62
Champagne 100ml 126
Pernod 100ml 140
Tia Maria 100ml 155
Southern Comfort 100ml 184
Drambuie 100ml 184
Sherry dry 100ml 110
Sherry medium 100ml 112
Sherry sweet 100ml 130
Port 100ml 160
Martini 100ml 175
Malibu 100ml 204
Baileys Cream 1 glass 120
Bacardi 1 glass 118

In Praise of Peanut Butter

Lunch

Well, I have lost another couple pounds and am now the lowest weight I’ve been in years. All the time I wonder if I can keep it up or will it creep back up again? Especially with the holidays coming up. That will be a challenge. I just read an article (can’t remember where!) that said that eating at the same time every day and similar meals for breakfast and lunch helps to keep weight gain in check. I began to do the breakfast and lunch thing more out of convenience and the fact that I don’t like to spend a lot of time on those meals while I am working. Breakfast has always bored me and since I am mostly vegetarian there are not a lot of fast, easy options for lunch without making a study of it. I fell into a routine. Every week day I have 2/3 of a cup of my granola (recipe below) for breakfast, and for lunch a half a peanut butter sandwich (open faced) on whole wheat or whole grain bread and some kind of fruit. My favorite fruit is a combination fruit low cal smoothie (recipe later). On the weekends I eat whatever I want including pancakes for breakfast and leftovers for lunch. I just try and watch the calorie count. The grains in my granola hold me until lunch and the peanut butter is very filling. Peanut butter is not low calorie yet the trade-off is in the hunger department. 2 Tablespoons is 190 calories but you don’t need more than that to feel pretty full. I don’t really get tired of it, it always tastes good and when I change the fruit it is a nice lunch. This has really worked for me. I think the key is to find something you like (if peanut butter is not your thing) that has:
a) reasonable caloric content
b) fairly healthy
c) filling (whole grains really help in departments b and c)
Enjoy it 5 days a week. During hectic weekdays you’ll always know how many calories you are eating and that it will keep you satisfied until dinner time. That’s nice to know.

A Very Illuminating Film: Thank you, Peter.

This is the best film I’ve ever watched on why our will power is not enough. It is fascinating, discouraging and a call to arms. I highly recommend it:

ABCNewsstore.com: SPECIAL: Peter Jennings Reporting – How To Get Fat without Really Trying…

In this important hour-long special, Peter Jennings reveals how government policies and food industry practices are helping to make Americans fat. 

Obesity is fast on its way to becoming the nation’s largest and most costly public health problem. While much of the public debate about obesity has focused on personal responsibility, PETER JENNINGS REPORTING: HOW TO GET FAT WITHOUT EVEN TRYING reveals how federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices are contributing to America’s growing obesity epidemic.
In this program, Jennings demonstrates for the first time how more federal agricultural subsidies are going to foods Americans should be eating less, while few subsidies go to foods we should be eating more. Jennings investigates the type of food products the packaged food industry introduces each year and finds that the vast majority of new food products are those that dietary guidelines say Americans should be eating least.
Jennings also takes a bold look at the marketing of unhealthy food to children. Studies reveal that young children are not capable of understanding the intent of advertising and Jennings questions the ethics of such marketing, raising the question: should children be protected from junk food marketing—despite the economic impact that might have on food companies and broadcast networks?

This was a special program in 2003 and sadly every bit of it is still true today!
You can buy this film at ABC news or watch it in segments on Youtube.com OR here:

http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/peter_jennings_reporting_how_to_get_fat_without_really_trying/

Whole Food and Food Cravings

Talked to my Aunt and Uncle today and they reminded me of something. When I started to really get serious about eating better food, something odd happened. The more whole grains and vegetables I ate the less junk food I wanted. Although this intuitively makes sense, I don’t know if it’s just me or a medical fact. Whatever the reason it is good to know. To my family I jokingly call our favorite foods (burritos and spaghetti) junk food. When I have those meals though, later on that night, I do feel a lot more like having chocolate, chips or any kind of snack. I blame it on the white flour and cheese but it could be all in my head. The jury is out but the subjects look very guilty and I am suspicious.With that in mind I developed a healthier burrito that is great when the weather is hot because there is very little cooking. It’s very satisfying and in spite of the white tortilla- (and you could certainly use whole wheat) no cravings later.

Fresh Burritos   
Makes 2 fairly fat burritos for 3 or 4 people
This recipe is better and easier if you have the rice cooked and frozen ahead of time. It dries out the rice a little, makes it fall apart when cooked and kinda crisp. Cook desired amount of rice. Freeze in 1 pt or 2 pt containers. I usually use 2 pts total in my recipe. If you cook a bunch of pints ahead of time you always have something ready to make a fast (and practically a no cook) delicious dinner!  
2 Pints brown cooked rice, thawed. If you forgot to take out rinse it in hot water, slide them out into Pyrex bowl and thaw in microwave. (It happens.)
2 Tb Veg Oil or more
1 ½ TBL Sp Chili Powder, 1 ½ TBL Sp Paprika, 1 ½  tsp + Seasoning Salt,
½ tsp Cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  
5 tomatoes (approx) Chopped fine
1 Lrg Sweet Onion chopped fine
Red or yellow peppers Chopped fine or specialty green peppers like Banana peppers
1 jalapeno pepper chopped (optional)
½ Lime squeezed
1 Can Kidney Beans
Pkg Flour Tortillas
Guacamole or Avocado sliced
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese, shredded fine (optional, doesn’t need it)
Lt. Sour Cream (optional)
Taco sauce (optional)
Lettuce, shredded (optional)
Cilantro (optional)
Heat Oil in Large fry pan. When hot add the Chili powder, Paprika and Cumin. Fry the spices until you can smell them, about a minute. Add more oil if necessary. Add Rice and fry around until they are coated with spice. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. I am GUESSING on the Chili powder and Paprika amounts. I add a lot. Rice should be rusty color. Set aside. Open Kidney beans and rise, set aside.
Make the Salsa: Add all the chopped vegetables to a big bowl and pour lime juice over. Salt a little. I add a little Tabasco or taco sauce sometimes, Cholula brand, etc. It is not necessary but I like things intensely flavored. Put a couple Flour tortillas on a dinner plate, place a clean linen or flour-sack type dishtowel over the tortillas and mist spray with water a couple times. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to soften.
To make: Take a tortilla and start with rice, put a thick line on one side and add the beans, fresh made salsa, Avocados, Guacamole, and any of the optional ingredients. Enjoy. Note: This burrito does not need cheese, we leave it off.

Weekday Routines

I found something that I consistently like to eat for breakfast on the weekdays. It’s become my routine. Every morning I have my homemade Granola. Here is another recipe where I deviate from worrying about calories and focus more on health and satisfaction but it seems to be working. Granola is something we are always told to stay away from because it isn’t a diet food. Well, I am not on a diet, I don’t believe in diets, I believe in eating well, being sensible and reducing my portions. The basic recipe for this granola came from a book but I added spices and every nut/grain that I thought would work. The result is very healthy and really delicious. I have 2/3 of a Cup every morning with 2% milk. That doesn’t sound like a lot but the whole grains keep me fine until lunch. The recipe looks overwhelming with all the ingredients but once you have them in the house it’s easy to prepare. I just get out a big bowl and start dumping the dry ingredients in. Then I use a glass measuring cup for the honey, heat it up in the microwave to make it easier to mix and add the vanilla and oil. To me, it’s worth the time to get these grains and nuts in my diet with something that tastes this good and it isn’t adding any weight to me.

Nighthawk’s Granola
Basic recipe from Fred Rohe’s book:
“The Complete Book of Natural Foods”, then embellished by me.
6 cups Oatmeal                       ¾ C Flax Seed
1 ¼ C sunflower seeds            ¾ C Oat Bran
¾ C sesame seeds                   1 ¼ C Almonds chopped
¾ C Wheat Germ                    1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
½ C Wheat Bran (opt.)           1 tsp Coriander
½ tsp Nutmeg                          1 tsp Cardamom
½ tsp Allspice                         1tsp Dried Orange Peel (opt.)    
½ C veg oil                              1 ¼ C Honey, Molasses or Maple Syrup
1 tsp Sesame Oil                       or Combo (I use ALL Honey)
3 tsp Vanilla extract
In a big Bowl combine all the dry ingredients and stir well.
Mix the liquids together and pour over dry, mixing well. 
Spread on cookie sheets sprayed with oil, and roast in over 325 degrees
(no hotter) stirring often (about every 10 minutes or so) to
roast evenly. Remove when a golden brown (about 20 to 30 min.)
Allow to cool before storing. May add raisins or
other dried fruit when cool, I don’t.

Weak-ends

Weekends are the weak link for any kind of disciplined regime I may have successfully put myself on. I am not overly obsessive about what I eat anyway, not really. I just keep “eating well and a little less” in the forefront of my mind.

I let myself drink alcohol on weekends. My husband and I have what we call “Happy Hour” at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. This consists of a game of Dominoes, a cocktail, wine, or beer, and we might even have a few crackers and cheese with it. As you can see this isn’t a very low calorie habit.

Now I used to have a drink every night. It was a great way to relax and start the evening. I soon found that this ritual had to change. I realized after a frustrating few months that that one little drink a night was the contributing factor keeping my scale stuck at 164. I sadly gave up my weekday drink.

Of course I could give it all up and lose even more I suppose, but here is where I draw the line. I think making some sacrifices is a good thing but I also think you have to have some fun too. If life is all focus and discipline then I feel the quality of it suffers. It’s all about balance and doing the best we can and then letting the guilt go. As long as I can stay reasonably healthy having a drink once in a while, I’ll do it. I’ll just try and trim how often I indulge. I think we all have to have our Happy Hours, be it a cocktail or a Sunday sundae, whatever it is that adds a little flavor to our life. I wouldn’t cut it out just to cut down. I’ll just make it up when the work week starts again!  

The Salad Dressing Switch

On my quest for a lower calorie, whole food diet everything I eat these days has become an experiment. For example, I see how little dressing I can put on my salad and still feel fine about it. Some days I’m okay with a sprinkling and other “what the heck” days I pour it out. Here is something I started doing that helps me on those latter days. If you don’t like vinegar, it may not work for you.
I make the “Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing” adding Balsamic Vinegar instead of white AND I reverse the oil and vinegar amounts. Of course oil is the fattening part of the dressing. It ends up being 1/4 Cup of Oil to a 1/2 Cup of Balsamic. I’ve tried those low cal store-bought dressings and they are awful. I am sorry but salad dressing needs some oil to be good. Today was a good day because my vegetables were so fresh I didn’t need a lot of dressing. No one is going to be satisfied with a salad for lunch is the veggies are less than tasty and sweet. It’s one of the reasons I grow a garden. I am lucky that I have the place and time (barely) to do it. Still, I don’t have that kind of culinary perfection all year. So what to do in the dead of winter? Surprisingly (maybe not), organic vegetables in the supermarket come really close to having that garden fresh taste. Especially carrots, once you tried organic you’ll never go back. If we have to eat more veggies it’s essential that they be freshest we can find because the flavor will encourage us to go back for more and we won’t need a gallon of dressing to cover it up.