Is the New Year the Best Time to Start a “Healthy Diet”?

Why is it that the majority of “healthy diets” started on January 1st fail?

Well, first off, winter seasonal food choices are limited. Yes, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and other root veggies are yummy, but are they exciting enough to keep someone motivated to continue eating healthier foods?

Then there’s the fact that winter weather is brrr cold, with more time hibernating in our homes. Days are shorter; by the time we arrive home to start cooking dinner, it’s dark. Some of us even feel a touch of winter depression. Physically and emotionally, it’s not always a “happy” time of year.

Wouldn’t it wiser to start a new lifestyle change when our bodies and minds are happier, say, during the spring or summer?

Springtime represents a fresh beginning; our gardens are renewed with fresh flowers and fresh produce choices starting to pop up.

summer veggies

By the time summer hits, we’re plentiful with berries, tomatoes, stone fruits, green lettuces, summer squash, eggplant, green beans, peppers, and melons.

The days are longer, the sun is shining and it’s easier to be more active outdoors. We just feel better in the warmer months!

You Can Still Make a Healthy New Years Resolution

No, I am not trying to discourage anyone from making a healthy New Years resolution, but perhaps concentrate on something specific that you can easily accomplish.

Instead of a general all-encompassing promise to “live healthier”, start small with a promise to reduce the sugar and cream in your coffee. Or perhaps a promise to eat home cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. How about making homemade lunches or eating oats for breakfast every morning?

Take tiny steps, and your goals will be easier to achieve. Once you have a few smaller successes under your belt, deepen your commitment to lower your calories and lose weight.

Hmm, I wonder if New Years Day was celebrated in the spring, would those healthy resolutions be easier to keep?

I am 49 Years Old!

This week I celebrate my 49th birthday! I can’t believe it! This is the LAST year in my 40’s and you’d think I’d be depressed or sad. Nope, I’m looking forward to 50!

I remember being very sad when I hit 40. But back then, I was unhealthy, out of shape, and didn’t eat right.

I’m now eating healthier than I’ve ever ate in my whole life, and my weight is about the same (maybe even lower) than it was in my 20’s! I feel wonderful! Who could ask for a better 49th year than that!?

I’m 49 and life is good!

October Unprocessed 2011 Some Considerations

october unprocessed 2011

I’ve been reading the Eating Rules blog trying to organize my pantry and fridge for the upcoming challenge to give up all processed foods for the month of October.

So here are a few of my challenges and concessions.

Chocolate

So many natural brands contain either soy lecithin, sugar or both. I’ve been working on finding an alternative. We enjoy a small bit of chocolate as a snack a few times a week, so I don’t want to spend a fortune on a $10 bar of chocolate that won’t last very long.

I found a homemade powerballs recipe on the 100 Days of Real Food web site and I just made a batch this afternoon. I pressed them into a square glass baking dish and they’re in the fridge now. I figure I can get 16 servings/pieces, and then we can add more nuts on top when we’re eating them.

We’ll see how it goes. If it’s not acceptable, I will cut back but will not compromise our chocolate needs. I will just find a brand that doesn’t use soy lecithin, and doesn’t cost a fortune, but we’ll have to make an exception for any added cane sugar.

Fruit jelly or jam

I’m a big fan of Crofters. It’s really low in sugar and the ingredients are organic. I buy the premium spreads which contain fruit as the first ingredient as opposed to their Just Fruit product which contains grape juice as the first ingredient. The problem is “sugar” as in processed white sugar isn’t allowed according to the “rules” and the “premium spread” jellies contain organic cane sugar. Since this brand is not inexpensive to buy, I don’t want to pay for fruit juice, so I will not be giving up my Crofters spread for October. Note: As I’ve been reading more and more comments over on the Eating Rules blog, I’m getting the feeling that some participants are a bit over the top. I’m don’t plan to be as strict & rigid, and that’s okay.

So Delicious Coconut Milk

I have an opened carton of the unsweetened milk in the fridge. It doesn’t pass the test for unprocessed because it contains guar gum and carrageenan, ingredients I wouldn’t expect to see in my own kitchen. Plus they enrich with vitamins and minerals. But since I opened the carton before I took the pledge, I will continue to use the coconut milk until it’s finished, and I won’t use it again until after October, if at all. I use So Delicious for baking and a tiny bit for my oatmeal, but I might consider a permanent switch to another kind of milk instead. Or maybe even a fresh non-homogenized dairy milk.

White Flour

I will still continue to use white flour – unbleached and un-enriched from King Arthur, but I will make a conscious effort to use more whole grain flours when baking bread, the way I used to when I first started baking. I’ve become a bit lax on that lately, adding up to half white flour. I’ll keep experimenting with barley, corn and rye flours as well as whole wheat. Oh and I’ll be also using vital wheat gluten.

Restaurants

I don’t think many of the big chain restaurants will qualify for unprocessed, even Chipotle Mexican Grill probably has something that breaks the rules by using sugar, soy, etc.

It was suggested on the blog to try local restaurants instead, but I’m not that sure they would be any better. Even if a restaurant boasts homemade food, how truly homemade is it. I’m sure there is some sort of processed ingredient, like soy sauce (not naturally made) or refined sugar.

So, I have to decide. Do I give myself one day a week to treat myself to a restaurant meal, as long as the meal is presumed to be fairly unprocessed? For instance, steamed chicken and veggies at the Asian restaurant or meat skewers & pork ribs at the Greek restaurant. Yes, I will add this to my list of concessions as well. One day a week, a healthy restaurant meal. NO chain restaurants.

Well I think that is all the issues I’ve encountered. I’m going to try to stick to the rules, but I refuse to spend a ton of extra money or waste food. Part of my challenge will be to stick to our budget!

New Cooking Food TV Shows for Summer – Rants!

Wow, there has been a bunch of new cooking/food TV series….not very impressed though.

I watched Rocco’s Dinner Party on Bravo the other night and wow, when did Rocco DiSpirito become so narcissistic and arrogant? Very disappointing. His attitude (down to facial expressions) was incredibly pretentious and snotty – I’ve never watched his “Restaurant” series, but I have heard that he was pompous and arrogant on that show as well. How sad. He was so down-to-earth and unassuming on the old “Melting Pot” cooking show (currently seen on The Cooking Channel) – what a shame he takes himself all too seriously!

Just finished watching the first episode of Extreme Chef (Food Network) on my DVR. Lord, how boring was this show! It’s kind of a cross between Chopped and The Amazing Race, but not as interesting. Why do producers feel that the public wants to watch judges that think they are better than everyone else? It’s getting so old!

I am enjoying the “Next Food Network Star” on Food Network though. Even though the judges are also arrogant and impossible to please. I enjoy most of the contestants, except for bitchy Penny. I can’t imagine who would want to watch a new cooking show hosted by someone so mean spirited. She has a permanent scowl on her face, and is always putting down the other contestants. You know if Giada was a contestant, she’d hate her too! Ha! Yes, I’m sure there are a lot of TV chefs that have bad attitudes behind the scenes, but their actions aren’t usually broadcast on a reality TV series. I just don’t understand her game plan. Be the biggest bitch possible and hope that they will give you a cooking show? She can’t be that stupid, there must be ulterior motives. Perhaps her idol is Tabatha from Tabatha’s Takeover.

I did start watching the 2nd season of Gordan Ramsey’s Master Chef, but I sort of lost interest. We didn’t watch this week, but hopefully maybe next week, we’ll get back into it. Again, pompous arrogant judges that expect perfect outcomes from impossible situations. It’s just frustrating! But I haven’t given up on this show just yet. We’ll see.

Barilla Plus Pasta – Review

Tonight I made a delicious (and healthy) pasta sauce with tomatoes, along with some chopped tatsoi and garlic scapes from the CSA share this week. I usually make higher quality Italian white pasta, even though it’s made with white flour, I find that since we only eat pasta once or twice a week, it’s worth it to eat the “good stuff”!

But tonight, I was filling my salt bowl from the kosher salt box and noticed the almost empty box of Barilla Plus farfalle that’s been sitting in the cupboard for months (probably almost a year). I told myself okay, just cook up what’s left in the box, so I could finally be done with it!

Barilla Plus Pasta review

Yep, so I cooked it (al dente) and I tasted a test piece. At first bite, I thought, okay, maybe not as bad as I thought, but then I immediately changed my mind! The texture is horrible! It’s got a tiny bit of waxy coating of some sort, and it breaks apart easily with a texture of cooked beans. No toothsome-ness like my favorite Dececco pasta!

Barilla Plus Ingredients:
Semolina, grain and legume flour blend, [grains and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, spelt, barley, oats), egg whites, oat fiber], durum flour, niacin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

As you can see, there’s nutritious high fiber ingredients, but when I want to eat beans and grains, I’ll cook them myself. I suppose this type of pasta can be helpful to families that do not get enough daily fiber, and may be an easy way to sneak beans and grains into fussy childrens’ diets.

I’ve tasted so many different types of pastas: quinoa pasta, corn pasta, whole wheat pasta (which isn’t that bad once in awhile), and brown rice pasta. None of them come close to the taste and texture of high quality white semolina pasta!

Yes, white flour is not the most healthy choice, but ya know what, I’m not eating it every day, and when I want pasta, it’s got to be a delicious treat! It’s got to be worth the calories!

Besides Dececco, I’ve actually had good luck with the Whole Foods 365 brand as well, but Dececco is definitely my favorite! And I’ll never buy Barilla Plus again! Glad that box is finally gone. I should have just dumped it in the trash instead of wasting calories and taste buds! LOL

Whole Foods Scallops $9.99/lb Sale Friday

This Friday, June 10th, Whole Foods Market is having a one-day sale on wild-caught sea scallops! At 9.99/lb it’s a great deal!

I’ve been told that the scallops have been caught just off the coast of Eastern Canada, and are frozen at sea to lock in their flavor. And they’re from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fishery, which can be a plus, although personally, I don’t always trust their judgement. :(

I’ll be shopping for scallops on Friday for sure. I do love scallops, although I don’t eat them very often. I know organizations like the MSC suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, but I don’t believe any seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! So restraint is needed; scallops are lovely, but should be considered as a wonderful treat, not to be taken for granted.

Scallop Recipe links from Whole Foods:

UPDATE 2011-06-10:
Went to the local Whole Foods market today, and bought about 2.5 pounds of frozen scallops on sale. I loved that they offered them frozen! And they weren’t in a big frozen clump, they were each individually frozen, so you could thaw as little as needed. I transferred them to a freezer bag. Yum! Hopefully if we savor them, they will last all summer long! YUM!

whole foods one day only scallops on sale

Life Insurance – I’m Preferred Plus!

Whoo hoo! I’m preferred plus!

I applied for a level term life insurance policy and as stated on the info:

Underwriting classes: based on current estimates, less than 30% of our applicants are likely to qualify for “Preferred Plus Non-Nicotine” rates…and guess what! I qualified! Granted, it’s only a $15 difference from Preferred to Preferred Plus, but hey, it’s the idea that I am at the best level possible!

Life is good!

Maine Mahogany Littleneck Clams

Just checked out the new sales flier from Whole Foods for the week, and I’m excited to see Moosabec Mahogany Littleneck clams are on sale for $1.49.

I’m adding them to my shopping list this week for sure. I’ve never made fresh clams EVER, but it’s a great opportunity to try something new and be adventurous!

I might even buy a larger quantity so I can freeze them to make clam chowder later.

Obviously I do not have personal experience cooking clams, but I’ve seen them prepared many times on various cooking shows and videos. I’m thinking about steaming them, removing the meat, chopping, then adding them to pasta with a ricotta cheese garlic oil sauce. Could be delicious! (Hmm, I realized afterward that it’s an old cooking rule never to mix cheese with seafood!!! But ricotta cheese is more like cream than cheese, so I don’t know if it counts!)

According to wikipedia, the smallest clams are called countnecks, then next size up are littlenecks. I’m not a big fan of big clam bellies, so hopefully, they’ll be just right. Can’t wait!

UPDATE: Friday night, I bought 9 clams (little over a pound). Made pasta with garlic clam sauce. DELICIOUS!!!! I’m going back for more!

Making Some Spring Adjustments – Diet, Fitness, Food, Mental Outlook

I’m making this post public for complete personal accountability. It’s the only way I’m going to be able to get through this rough patch and stick to my healthy lifestyle plan! I can’t allow this to discourage me or set me back into old habits!

So, I’ve lowered my calories by 30 over at MyFitnessPal. I’m going by what they suggested for my calories, but I manually adjust some nutrients:

Calories: 1770
Carbs: 50% 221g
Protein: 20% 89g
Fat: 30% 59g
Sat Fat: 15g
Poly: 20g
Monounsat: 24g
Cholesterol: 300mg
Sodium: 2500mg
Potassium: 3500mg
Fiber: 30g
Sugar: 30g

No, 30 calories isn’t a big daily change, but it’ll total 210 calories per week, and that might help.

I’m not not sure that I’m gaining weight, but I’ve been feeling *heavier*, and I’ve noticed my body shape is changing. My upper body is fine, in fact, I’m very happy with my arms! I feel like my lower body is getting a bit flabby. I noticed my ankles this morning, and they seemed cankle-ish. Ugh. Please no! No more cankles! And my stomach area isn’t as flat as it was a couple of months ago.

I’ve been neglecting exercise, and I know that is a big part of my problem! I was sticking to my 2 days of fitness per week until last week. sigh. Only one day last week. Not good!

I haven’t really weighed myself in the last couple of days, I think I’m avoiding it. Hopefully I’m still about 140ish, but I think I feel better when I’m down to 138-139 pounds.

transitional spring flowers

I am also in another food “transition” period. I went through last October as well, after blueberries were long gone, and before California navel oranges were in season. Now that it’s spring, the Washington organic apples are becoming a bit soft, they’re not as crisp, so I haven’t been buying as many. and my beloved oranges are going to be out of season very soon.

It’ll be awhile until local seasonal summer fruit is available, like peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, watermelon.

I always have a harder time with satiety in between seasons. I’m bored with food and I’m having a difficult time with it. I’ve been noticing that I’m eating, even though I’m not necessarily hungry. Like right this minute, I have a few calories left, but I’m necessarily hungry, but my body doesn’t feel satisfied. I want to eat more, but I really don’t NEED to eat more. Compulsive compulsive compulsive! It probably doesn’t help that I’m constantly reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV!

I suppose it’s also not helping that I’m trying to detox off dairy and eggs for at least 2 weeks, maybe a month.

So, I am glad spring is here though, and it should be easier psychologically with the warmer weather. I’ll want to walk or bike outside more! I know I’ll be back on track soon. I just need to get beyond this little bump in the road! But in the meantime, I think I’ll get a teenie tiny snack. I wish I could have a chunk o’ cheese, but I’ll just get an orange.

:) Life is good!

Bob Harper Biggest Loser TV Commercial for Quaker Oatmeal Squares Cereal

What’s up with Bob Harper endorsing processed cereal? He’s in a new TV ad for Quaker Oatmeal Squares, trying to convince America how wonderful this processed cereal is. I understand that a person needs to make a living, but it’s very disappointing that he would choose such a poor food product to promote. Shame on Bob Harper!

Take a closer look at Quaker Oatmeal Squares and how outright deceiving the advertising is (including Bob Harper’s enthusiast endorsement!)

The ad proudly states ONE serving has “96% of your minimum whole grain needs” – the small print on their web page states:

**Experts recommend eating at least three one-ounce equivalents of whole grains, or 48 grams daily, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Quaker Oatmeal Squares has 46 grams per serving.

What does 48 grams of whole grain exactly mean? Well, the total weight of one cup of Quaker Oat Squares is 55 grams. So, minus the sugar, sodium, and other assorted preservatives and chemicals, and you’ll find a net of 46 grams of whole grain.

But Bob Harper doesn’t mention that a bowl of this crap also provides 10 grams of sugar, which is about a third of the suggested refined sugar consumption (Did somebody say Fruit Loops?), along with some lovely BHT and fake food coloring. Don’tcha just love all those wonderful ingredients that you can’t pronounce!

Quaker Oatmeal Squares Ingredients:

WHOLE OAT FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, BROWN SUGAR, SUGAR, MALTODEXTRIN, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT, MOLASSES, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, REDUCED IRON, SODIUM ASCORBATE, YELLOW 5, NIACINAMIDE*, ZINC OXIDE, BHT (A PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, YELLOW 6, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, FOLIC ACID*.
*ONE OF THE B VITAMINS.

Compare Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal to REAL old fashioned steel cut oats from Bob’s Red Mill, which contains, hmm, say it with me… OATS!

One 1/4 cup (dry) of gives you just about the same amount of “whole grain” goodness @ 44 grams. Even when you add a tsp of sweetener and a pinch of salt, you still come up healthier with less calories, less sugar, and less sodium, compared to the Quaker Oatmeal Squares. And the bonus is you leave out the chemicals, preservatives, and other assorted ickyness that Bob Harper endorses.

Too bad Bob Harper didn’t choose a company like Bob’s Red Mill to support, but then again, they don’t have a huge marketing budget like Quaker and their parent company Pepsico!

Bob Harper is raking in the big bucks but, to me, he’s looking like the Biggest Loser!