Archive for ‘Clean Eating’

March 8, 2013

Thinking Paleo?

You’ve heard me talk about Clean Eating on this blog, but if you’re looking for a different angle on healthy eating check out my friend Hilary’s new blog The Healthy Flamingo.  She offers an honest, fresh and fun angle on her journey with the Paleo Diet (including recipes).  Not sure what Paleo is? Don’t worry, she’ll fill in the gaps.
Stop by, say “Hi!” and enjoy!

January 7, 2013

Weightloss Resolutions: Are you in the 38%? (And A Public Service Announcement)

If you’ve been watching TV at all in the past week, weight-loss is a hot topic as it is every year at the beginning of the year.  Today I heard that about 38% of Americans have weight-loss as their New Year’s Resolution this year.  I’m not sure how that compares to previous years or even the validity of that number, but assuming that is correct, that’s a pretty big percentage of our population.

Most years, during the first couple of weeks into the new year, I try to tune out all of the weight-loss commercials, programs and news stories.  Tonight, I could not. I cannot honestly even tell you what show was on because I wasn’t really watching, but was working on other things and was too lazy to shut it off after the news was over, but then there was a story of a woman by the name of Valeria Levitin.  When her picture came onto the screen I happened to look up and my jaw dropped.  I couldn’t stop staring.  Horrified, my eyes were glued to the screen through the duration of her story.  Valeria, like many others, was talking about weight-loss, but not in the way you might think.  Valeria suffers from Anorexia and is speaking out because while she is struggling to stay alive, girls are idolizing her.  At age 39, Valeria is 5′ 8″ and a mere 59 pounds.  She is literally skin and bones, her body is dying and yet she is receiving fan mail from girls asking how to be like her.  Valeria is in the news, speaking out, because she doesn’t want anyone idolizing her.  If you haven’t already seen her story, I recommend you do, however, I will warn you that the pictures and video of her are disturbing.  Horribly disturbing.  And while I feel awful saying that, I’m writing this to help share her message.  She is going public because she is suffering, can no longer digest food and doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.

I wish I could say my “public service announcement” ended here, but it doesn’t.  Almost immediately following Valeria’s story, was a very brief story of Paula Deen’s weight-loss.  Paula Deen  is known for her cooking, but her recipes, until recently, are far from healthy.  With their sugar and butter and fat are they tasty?  Sure.  Healthy?  Absolutely not!  So while I commend Paula Deen for her weight-loss, I think it’s important to remember why she lost weight.  Paula was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which is typically brought on by diet and being overweight.  I’m not going to say I know what it’s like to be her or to have Diabetes, because I don’t.  I have family and friends with the disease and have talked with them about the impact of diet, which leads me to my next point.  I am extremely angry with the message Paula Deen is giving people!  She originally claimed that she lost weight because she cut back on Sweet Tea.  While she may have done this, it wasn’t the full truth, but that wasn’t what angered me.  Tonight, while watching the clip on her weight-loss, Paula Deen said that you can still eat whatever you want, you probably just can’t eat as much of it.  I wanted to scream,  “NO YOU CAN’T!”

We’ve all heard it, “everything is okay in moderation”.  I’ve come to cringe when I hear that.  I used to think that too, and use it when I wanted to justify what I was eating, but in the past year I realized that I used it all of the time.  I could justify nearly anything by using that phrase. But over time I realized that while I may be able to fool myself into thinking that phrase made everything okay, but my body begged to differ.  Sugar is sugar, butter is butter, fat is fat.  Although we may lie to our bodies, our bodies know what we are doing be it too much or too little.

I didn’t want to write anything about Paula Deen based solely on that quick clip, so I surfed the web looking for proof that it had been taken out of context.  It had.  Sort of.  I saw quotes of her saying, “I eat more salad and more vegetables.” But I also saw a quote of her saying her weakness is buttered biscuits and that “you can have two, you just can’t have them three times a day”.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  Please don’t let Paula fool you.  This is NOT moderation!  Moderation is eating healthy every day and having treats once in a while, not going from six buttered biscuits a day to two a day.  Two a day is still fourteen in a week.

I realize that many people have weight-loss goals for their resolutions.  Five pounds by vacation, twenty pounds by my reunion, etc.  and while most people may do better or feel motivated by a goal date, I’d offer that if weight-loss was your resolution that you consider revising it instead to “eating healthy” or “living healthy”, meaning changing your focus from your weight to your health.  While I’ve been fortunate to not have severe weight issues, I have been on both ends of the spectrum.  When I was young, I couldn’t gain weight not matter how I tried and while some people may say “Lucky!”  it wasn’t.  In high school I weighed 110 at just under 5′ 8″ and on more than one occasion people stopped to ask me if I was anorexic or bulimic.  And I was always called “skinny”.  “Skinny” began to burn in my ears.  My weight stayed that way until my early thirties and then after I had my son my weight jumped around.  At one point someone asked me if I was pregnant again when I wasn’t.  For a woman, that’s about the worst thing you can hear.  Devastating.  But at the same time, it was a wake-up call.  I started looking to make changes, healthy changes.  I wanted to get back to when I felt good and felt good about myself.

Some might say I’m sensitive about weight, but honestly, I’m not.  Very rarely do I step on a scale.  These days I go purely by how I feel, what I’m eating and whether I’m getting enough exercise and sleep.  In other words, my focus is on being healthy.  I don’t diet.  I don’t do weight-loss challenges.  I don’t focus on what I can’t do, but what I can.

Last year I did 3 or 4 challenges through the 8 Weeks to a Better You! blog.  These challenges taught me to shift my focus away from just food, diet and weight, to living a healthy life.  I started Clean Eating a few years ago, but found myself still looking for more.  Last year, through conversations with a friend, I found out about the movies The Gerson Miracle, The Engine 2 Diet, and Forks Over Knives, among others.  These movies opened my eyes to the reality of food, the American diet and its connections to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, the list goes on.  This awareness led me to Vegetarian Times and ultimately to The Flexitarian Diet book by Dawn Jackson Blatner.  After years of searching, I finally feel at home with food.

I now eat many plants (fruits, veggies, beans, etc.) and limited grains.  My portions, while not much different in size, are drastically different in proportions.  No longer is meat or pasta a “main dish” and salads and veggies are no longer “sides”.  If I were to eat what we should have as a “serving” of veggies at a party I would clear off nearly half of a veggie tray (etiquette prevents me from doing that)!  Cow milk is no longer in my fridge, and has been replaced by soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.  I’ve experimented with a lot of foods I haven’t eaten before and am very pleasantly surprised at how much my whole family likes them.  (My son asks what we “get” to have at the next meal.)  My husband, who grew up on meat and potatoes and never ate salads or vegetables now eats everything I make.  He has seen changes both physically and on the scale and says that he didn’t know that he didn’t feel good until we made the change.  And while I haven’t weighed myself lately, my body has changed and I feel really good.

So while 40% of the population has New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, I ask you to think less about “losing weight” and more about being healthy because if you eat good food and take care of yourself, your body will figure out the rest.  And if you choose to simply “lose weight”, I beg you to do it for the right reasons, do it to improve your health, not harm it.  And if you know of someone who may be doing it for the wrong reasons, please show them Valeria’s story.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!


August 2, 2012

Minimizing Food Stress – Transitioning Your Kitchen to Clean Eating

Say the word “stress” these days and nobody even reacts, they simply nod their head.  We wake up with stress, go to bed with stress, in fact if you didn’t know better, you’d think everyone was dating someone by the name of Stress.

What bothers me though, as if daily stress isn’t bad enough, is that lately I’ve had so many conversations among friends and even strangers, about food causing stress.  Now, I don’t mean food causing stress as in “eating too many carrots causes stress”, but as in people becoming stressed about food.  Are they eating the right food?  The wrong food?  About growing, purchasing and preparation.  About transitioning their diet to a healthier one.  It really seems like food is stressing people out and that bothers me.

Food should not stress anyone out!  Food is our sustenance, its what nourishes us, keeps us going.  Food should not bring you down.  While I do think that eating healthy food is always a good idea, it shouldn’t feel like a chore.

I have to say though, when I first transitioned to clean eating, I found it challenging for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is not because my house was loaded with junk food (although there was more than I would have liked) but because I knew I needed to take a look at all the food I had in the house to see what was “okay to eat” and what wasn’t.  The second reason I found the clean eating transition a challenge is because once I started reading labels, I realized that the majority of food on the store shelves is packed with high fructose corn syrup, sugar or chemicals and so few products are “clean”.  However, that said, once I found the “clean” brands, I simply began looking for those in each section.

So if you’re looking to change your kitchen over to a clean eating kitchen, I thought I’d share how I made the transition work for me.

Organic food.  Since a large portion of clean eating is eating fresh fruits and veggies, minimizing your exposure to pesticides on produce is really important.  Thankfully I was introduced to organic food, it’s certification standards and growing practices when I worked for an organic certification agency in the mid 1990’s, so I had already been buying as much organic produce as possible.  The same went for milk, eggs and dairy.  But if you’re new to purchasing organic food and not sure where to start or want to get the best value for your dollar, I would recommend a few things to ease into it.

  1. Buy organic for the foods you eat the most, conventional for the foods you eat less frequently. This may sound backwards to some, but the key is to remember that this is about your health and exposure to pesticides, hormones and other not so healthy chemicals, so focus on limiting your exposure.  Not sure whether what you’re eating is organic or not?  There are labeling laws.  Food can only be labeled and sold as “organic” if they fall under specific guidelines.  If it’s not labeled “organic”, it’s not.
  2. Stash the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists in your pocket to help you decide which items produce to buy organic and which items you can continue to buy conventional.
  3. Use the same EWG lists (Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) to buy frozen and packaged foods (i.e. – organic apple sauce and organic apple juice, but conventional frozen corn, dried pineapple and guacamole).

Back to my house.  Prior to clean eating, my pantry contained a hodgepodge of packaged foods, some good, some not so good.  I found the easiest thing for me was to go though one type of food at a time.  Part of clean eating is eliminating sugar, white flour and processed foods.  I started with pastas; I had some white pasta, some whole grain.  I really like pasta, so I decided all the white pastas would have to go or I would be tempted to eat them.  With the exception of open packages, I gave all the white pastas to a friend.  Now I only buy whole wheat/whole grain pasta, brown rice pasta, etc. unless what I’m looking for isn’t available in whole grain.

Cereal, we eat that on a fairly regular basis in our house so that was next to be “cleaned”.  We typically don’t keep sugared cereals on hand, but if you do, one way to transition away from sugared cereal to clean cereal is to move from cereals sweetened by high fructose corn syrup or sugar, to those sweetened by honey or other natural sweeteners (listed above).  After you and your family have gotten used to those, then try to ease your way down to unsweetened or as near as possible.  My son loves puffed corn cereal.  Honestly I think it’s a bit bland, but he loves it because he says it’s like eating popcorn for breakfast.  You won’t find me arguing with that!

Onto bread.  I love bread!  Other than an occasional crusty baguette or loaf of sour dough, we typically eat whole wheat or whole grain bread. But imagine my surprise when upon reading the label, I found the bread we had been eating was loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  I can’t even begin to describe how ticked I was.  My next trip to the store I found a cleaner bread without high fructose corn syrup (and all the other lovely stuff that was with it) and that new bread has now become “our bread”.

I continued the “cleaning” process through the kitchen, fridge, freezer and pantry, but did it in phases.  I recommend doing the same to keep yourself sane.  The things that we had already opened, I made a mental note to check into when they were used up and then put the desired replacement on the grocery list.  For example, instead of “ketchup” I put “org. (organic) ketchup w/o HFC (no sugar or naturally sweetened)” on the list and “chocolate chips with 60%+ cocoa, sweetened with grain or evaporated cane juice”.  Now I know this probably sounds crazy, but my goal was to shop once for this item and have this replacement become “our ketchup” or “our chocolate chips”.  Once I know who made them, it made restocking the pantry easy.  Now it’s as simple as “chocolate chips (x brand)”.  I don’t have to think about it any more.

While most of my kitchen has been “cleaned”, I’m still in transition.  The lesser used items like condiments, etc. with high fructose corn syrup or sugar are still being phased out.  As we finish them, they will be replaced by a healthier option.  In the mean time I figure if I use very little of it or use it infrequently, then there is less of a concern than if it’s an item I eat on a regular basis.  (This also takes a little strain off the wallet.)

Hopefully, if you find yourself among the food stressed folks, this will help ease the stress a little.  If there’s something I missed, by all means let me know!

Take care and enjoy your food.


July 29, 2012

Wholesome Goodness – Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Over the past few years, as I’ve made my journey with clean eating, we’ve had an interesting relationship.  At times it was strong, the food and recipes were totally inspiring and fulfilling and at other times, not so much.  One of the biggest challenges for me has always been sweets.  I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.  Some of the things I’ve eaten in my lifetime would probably make some people sick just thinking about it.

As a kid I remember climbing onto the counter and getting into the cupboard where my Mom stored the little jars of sprinkles, red hots and other candies for decorating cakes and cookies,  I would analyze the stash, sneak an amount that I thought she wouldn’t notice and pop them in my mouth.  The same went for bags of chocolate chips, marshmallows and canned frosting: chocolate chips by the handful, marshmallows by the mouthful and frosting by the fingerful.  Oh, and marshmallow creme by the spoonful.  And while sweets in pretty much any form were a turn-on, my favorite has always been chocolate chip cookies.  Mmm…hot, gooey, chocolate nearly dripping from a cookie hot out of the oven… Yum!  Unless, of course, my Mom got the bright idea to put nuts in the cookies.  Total buzz-kill.

My Mom was actually pretty good about keeping uncontaminated chocolate chip cookies around and for the most part I wasn’t obsessive about them.  If I wanted one I would ask and that would cover the craving.  On occasion I would ask for a second one (or simply sneak another if I thought my parents would say “no” to the request), but that wasn’t too often.  However, on one occasion, I got up in the middle of the night (sleep walking) and dipped into the cookie jar.  Apparently, I enjoyed a few cookies before my parents found me and put me back to bed.  The next day, when they told me what I had done, I was alarmed.  Not only had I just found out that I’ve been sleepwalking, but I also realized I’d eaten multiple cookies and didn’t even recall enjoying them. What a waste!

And so the journey continued.  When I started clean eating a few years ago, sugar was by far the hardest thing for me to ditch.  Part of the problem is simply my sweet tooth, the other part is that sugar is in nearly everything we eat… even places I didn’t suspect it like pizza sauce, pasta sauce, savory dishes.  When I learned to read labels, I realized why so many people have such a bad relationship with food.  Most of the foods we eat are laced with sugar and other stuff we shouldn’t eat.  That’s also when I realized the only way to control what was going into my body was to make it myself.  The good news is, thanks to the many clean eating gurus, I’ve found replacements to traditional sugar: honey, pure maple syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice (a.k.a. Sucanat), etc. and the best part is that they taste good, fulfill the sweet craving, but I don’t get that addictive need for more like I do with sugar.

And now we come to the subject of this post: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  While I’ve found many tasty recipes for breakfasts, lunch, dinner and snacks, most of the desserts were not really doing it for me.  I still had the nostalgic craving for chocolate chip cookies, cakes, frostings, etc.  And while I could live without some of the other things, I still yearned for healthy sweets.  In my mind I thought it was an oxymoron, but at the same time thought someone had to have done it, and if they hadn’t, I was going to start experimenting.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.

A few weeks ago, while cruising one of the local Co-ops with a friend of mine, we ran across a sale rack of recipe books.  One in particular caught my eye, The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook by Dr. Laura Trice, M.D.  When I first spotted it, I thought it was too good to be true.  Then I started flipping through the recipes and reading the first chapter.  I couldn’t contain my excitement,  “I have to get this!  This is it! This is what I’ve been looking for!”  There are recipes for ice cream, frosting, cakes, and even chocolate chip cookies!  And the best part?  The recipes actually look good.

The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook

So I bought it.  The first recipe I made was the barbeque sauce… holy yumminess!  And now, a couple of days ago I made the chocolate chip cookies.  Now, I have to be honest, while mixing them up, I had my doubts.  And because I’ve always been pretty finicky about my chocolate chip cookies I was afraid I wouldn’t love them.  But when they were baking up they smelled… like chocolate chip cookies.  And when they came out of the oven, I tried one. Mmm…  They were as she had promised in the book.  Wonderful!

But the true test had not yet taken place.  My son.  While he’s not a picky eater at all, I was still a little worried he’s snub the cookies.  Instead, he loved them!

So if I’ve got you craving cookies, head to The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook website and there you will find some sample recipes, including Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate Fudge Sauce and Golden-Pineapple Carrot Muffins.

So there you have it, for those of you who have been with me on the search for healthy junk food, you can now have your cake and ice cream and cookies and eat them too!