My Week in Food

Well, folks, I have finished the first week of my diet, which is kind of a low glycemic/Perfect Health Diet/Nourishing Traditions hybrid.  I did well, and enjoyed a burrito from Chipotle for my once-a-week cheat day.

What surprised me is that I haven’t felt hungry at all.  In fact, I’ve slightly reduced the portions from what the Perfect Health Diet requires.  I had to eat 4 fist-sized servings of allowed starches, and in the end, I ate 2-3 a day.  Actually eating carbs did a lot for keeping me full, and for my energy level.

The next requirement for the Perfect Health Diet (I am adding one requirement per week) is to eat “up to 3 servings” of sugary vegetables (carrots and beets) and fruit.  Since I’m not feeling hungry, and I want to keep the sugar level low, I am having one serving of either a sugary vegetable or fruit per day.  I am also adding the requirement of eating seaweed. I eat nori quite often, but I will begin eating it everyday.

What has made the diet fun, is the large variety of vegetables available in Houston.  I have made it my rule to buy any vegetable that I see at the store, that I haven’t eaten before.

Here are some new foods I’ve experienced this week:

Green Cactus Leaves - csp8222094

I’ve already told you about the cactus leaves that I found at Kroger.  To eat them, you scrub the spines off, then slice them into sticks.  You can fry or boil them.  I fried them up in coconut oil, with some onions, and they were quite good.  I think I will make cactus casserole (like green bean casserole, only with cactus leaves) for Christmas!

jicama

This is a jicama root.  They are a lot like potatoes.  I diced them, and threw them in the pressure cooker with a chicken.  The leftovers went very well in a chicken soup!

Daikon radishes isolated on white background Stock Photo - 17743792

These are daikon radishes.  They are huge, and look like elephants’ tusks.  They are traditionally used as garnishes in Asian food, but I’ve found that they also work well as potatoes.  Their texture is stringy, so they don’t mash well, though.

Close up view of the cassava root isolated on a white background. Stock Photo - 9942765

This is a yucca root.  They must be cooked, as they are toxic if eaten raw.  I thought this was quite delicious steamed in the pressure cooker–don’t forget to peel the bark off, after it’s cooked!

In addition to these great veggies, I have had the opportunity to try a number of varieties of sushi, which of course is my favorite food on the planet!  (And it is allowed on my diet).

So, after all this healthy eating, what’s the bottom line?  There are now 10 pounds less of me, and I am a quarter of the way to my goal!

The New Life – New Diet Challenge

I am once again speaking to you as an expert in failing at losing weight.  I’ve dieted frequently, often with limited success.

However, I do have to say that my most recent failure was probably inevitable.  With my brain bathed in cortisol for so long, and with us being in survival mode during the two months we were packing, and then with all the family visits that involved GREAT, sinfully sugary food, I don’t think there could have been any outcome other than me gaining a significant amount of weight. 

So, now that we’re settled in and no longer under such a tremendous amount of stress, I thought it would be a great time to focus on eating healthier.  There are plenty of nutritional theories out there, so no two people are going to agree on what “eating healthier” is.  I have spent a lot of time reading, and trying to find the one perfect way to eat.  Of course, involving the word “perfect” invokes perfectionism, so I would immediately give up, if I slipped up and deviated from my “perfect” eating. 

But maybe, no two people’s bodies are exactly alike.  And maybe we would be better off viewing nutrition in the same way we view philosophy and spirituality–that there are multiple roads to good health.  So I am going to pick and choose, from the knowledge I have and from my own experiences, and find the road that works for me.  I will share my ideas and experiences with you each week, but do keep in mind that your road might be slightly different.

So, here is what I am doing:

1.  My blood sugar tends to run high, so I usually feel very good eating a low-carb diet.  I will use my usual low-carb diet as a base, then gradually add to it, to increase nutrition.

2.  Fats affect my mood, in a huge way.  I am avoiding trans fats, as they cause me to have depression symptoms (they are also just horribly unhealthy), and I am choosing oils that are not high in omega-6’s, since those are far too prevalent in the Western diet.  I’ll fry in butter and coconut oil (omelets made in coconut oil are delectible!), use olive oil for salad dressing, and eat lots of nuts and avocados.  Fatty meat is fine too.

3.  We’re going organic as much as possible.  We are fortunate that organic produce and meat is readily available and inexpensive in Houston.  If that is not the case where you live, I would recommend going organic with the “dirty dozen” vegetables and fruit, and not worrying about the rest.  Actually, back in Michigan, lettuce was the only vegetable that I obsessed over getting organically.  I had read about Monsanto’s genetically modified “Round-Up Ready Lettuce,” and that grossed me out enough to only buy organic leaves.  My biggest priority, however, is meat and eggs.  Not only is organic healthier, but animals in factory farms are treated so cruelly. 

4.  I friend of mine recommended the Perfect Health Diet, and I would like to incorporate more of that into my diet.  It is more sustainable than a low-carb diet, since it includes the nutrients that are missing, when carbs are reduced significantly.  I plan on introducing one “rule” from the Perfect Health Diet, each week.  I will deviate from it only in my number of servings (since I would be forcing myself to eat more than what is comfortable, if I followed it to the letter) and my handling of grains (PHD bans all cereal grains, beans, and brown rice, but soaking or fermenting them eliminates the toxins that are the reason for their banishment.  We will avoid gluten though, when we get to that “rule”).  For more information on soaking and fermenting, I would recommend the book Nourishing Traditions.

5.  I will not adhere strictly to the “rules.”  One “cheating” meal will be allowed, per week. 

So how are we beginning?  The first rule for the Perfect Health Diet is to eat four fist-sized servings of “safe starches” (ie root vegetables, rice, and squash).  When I tried to eat four servings, I found that all I had room to eat were starches.  So I’ve reduced it to 2-3 servings.  For the higher glycemic veggies, such as potatoes, the book recommends boiling them with vinegar.  I have found that this does get rid of that “sugary” feeling after eating them.

So far, I have been eating this way for three days.  I am feeling more energetic, and my mood has been improving.  Add to it the fact that I have lost two pounds already, and I would say things are going well!

healthy food cartoon characters

Eating Less Poison, Not Going Broke, and Having a Life–It’s a Balancing Act!

We’re coming up on the holidays, so it’s time to take a look at my New Year’s Resolutions. Once a week, I will update you on the progress I have made on one of them.

Food is a major budget-killer for me. I love eating, and I love stocking up on healthy, organic goodness. When I am organized, I can make more food from scratch, which does allow me to buy healthy food on a budget. But, when things get hectic, it’s easy to overspend.

Last year, things really fell apart when I returned to work. My efforts to regain control of the situation were only minimally successful.

So, what is the plan for this fall? Well, I’m starting out with the menu plan that we used on the boat over the summer. The only nutritional pitfalls of this plan were its reliance on Crystal Light, the use of lunch meat, and the lack of non-organic meats. There was also a lack of variety.

In order to improve these menus, I changed on thing at a time. I started by simply cutting down on meat dishes. At home, we can eat pasta again, since we have no lack of fuel for boiling water. With pasta added back in, as well as stir fries and the like, we were able to eat more veggies and less meat.

Next, I started looking for organic (or at least hormone- and antibiotic-free) meats on Manager’s Special. I would aim for at least 2 meat dishes per week (depending on what was on special). If there weren’t enough specials, I would buy boneless/skinless chicken thighs, which are always inexpensive, even when organic.

After that, it was time to attack lunch. I began by stocking up on beans, rice, salsa, sour cream, and cheese, for buddha bowls. These are easy to do, when we’re at home.

For weekdays, it was time to transition to old fashioned PBJ’s. If we can live off of bologna sandwiches, we can definitely live off of those. I use natural peanut butter and all-fruit jelly. When we get sick of those, we can switch to cheese sandwiches, with lettuce and mayo. Egg or chicken salad would also work really well on sandwiches.

So, what remains are two steps: eliminating the Crystal Light and making more from scratch.

To accomplish the first step, I plan to keep hot tea on hand, since it always tastes so good in the fall and winter. That alone will solve most of our problem. I also would like to keep more milk available for Beanie. She got a little spoiled over the summer. (Next summer, we’ll probably stock up on milk boxes, even though I can’t stand the amount of waste they produce…Or we could bring kefir, which can handle inconsistent refrigeration).

Surprisingly, I don’t plan to eliminate Crystal Light entirely. I happen to have a crazy addiction to their mojito and margarita, and I don’t see a lot of harm in enjoying those in the evening. Much better for me than the real thing!

Finally, we need to add more homemade foods. I was good at this when I first started blogging! But now I need to get back into a routine. I think a great place to start would be by making some sour dough starter. That makes it easy to get back into the habit of soaking grains. And when grains are soaking and ready, it’s easy to whip up homemade bread and noodles!

Avoiding Poison at Work

Well, midway through January, we’ve done a good job of avoiding poison at home. We’ve stocked up on organic food, and enjoyed lots of fruits, vegetables, and iced tea.

It’s a different story at work though.

In the mornings, I rush around and often forget eat breakfast or pack lunch. I’ll just eat when I get home, I tell myself. That doesn’t work. I end up rushing out to Subway, or getting a Hot and Ready pizza. And don’t get me started on the delicious treats that are often sitting in the teachers’ lounge!

One of my co-workers told me that she keeps salad supplies for the week at work. I made up some cashew salad, with the dressing in a separate container, and that took care of lunch for a week. Snacks were still a weakness, so this week I’ll make up some granola and yogurt to much on.

Preparing enough food for the whole week is important, because it prevents the stress of having to prepare something everyday. Also, I bring foods that we can eat cold. They have a microwave at work, but I prefer not to use it. Salads are great ideas for lunch, or any of these whole convenience foods.

For a beverage, I brought in some organic coffee. I also plan to start filling my water bottle with iced tea.

So, here’s to a healthy week!

Sunday Supper: Homemade Pudding

Here’s a secret: pudding isn’t a magical food that can only be made in factories and put in boxes. Homemade pudding is surprisingly easy to make, and it can be used in other recipes. This pudding would make a nice breakfast, or it would go nicely as a dessert with the soft taco bake or homemade pizza.
You need:

Sweetener equivalent to 3/4 cups sugar (I used Stevia in the Raw)
1/4 cup cornstarch (use organic–corn is often genetically modified!)
3 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar and cornstarch, in a saucepan. Add milk and stir until smooth. Gradually heat, until thick and bubbly. Heat one more minute. Remove from heat.

2. Beat egg yolks. Add 1 cup of milk mixture and stir. Pour into saucepan with the rest of the milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and coconut. (You can use other extracts, or cocoa, if you want to make a different flavor). Allow to cook until lukewarm.

3. You may chill it in the refrigerator at this point. Or, you may pour it into a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sweetener until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pudding and bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.

Happy eating!

Kicking the Sugar Habit

We’re coming up on the New Year, and many of us have made resolutions to lose weight, or to eat healthier. A great step toward accomplishing both of these goals is the elimination of refined sugars.

That being said, we did not give up the sweet stuff over night.

These are some good steps to follow if you want to cut down (and eventually give it up!):

1. Get started on your beverages first. We switched to diet soda (which really isn’t great–it didn’t raise my blood sugar or upset my stomach, but who know what it WAS doing). Then, it was onto powdered drinks, sweetened with Stevia in the Raw, which is better. Then seltzer, and finally unsweetened iced tea. Make your end goal something unsweetened (or just water!), but be prepared to take some steps on the way.

2. Start reading labels. They sneak sugar into the most unlikely places. For example, fancy tomato sauces usually have it (often as HFCS), but the cheaper, canned brands often do not. Most canned soups have sugar added, so we make our own soup. If you substitute no-sugar-added products, you probably won’t even notice the difference.

3. Then, start making as much as you can from scratch. Even if you do add sugar, you’re probably not adding as much as the commercially-made products contain.

4. Only after you’ve gotten used to consuming less sweetness, switch to the natural sweetener of your choice. I use stevia, but you’ll want to research your options and choose what is best for your family. Just remember that none of these sweeteners were meant to be consumed in that quantities that sugar is consumed in our culture. Cut down first, then substitute.

5. If you find success, work on replacing all the refined carbs (white flour, processed oats, etc.) in your diet with whole grains. Eventually, you won’t even like the taste of processed carbs!

Good luck! Your body will thank you!

My Journey Into Nutritional Theories

Nutrition is my soapbox. I am very fussy about what we eat, and there are certain ingredients I avoid at all costs.

How did I come to be this way? It started with my family history, my fussy stomach, and lots of reading into different dietary theories–both “mainstream” and “alternative.” I don’t claim to be an expert. But I will share with you the fruits of my research.

I began with the food pyramid. And you know what? It’s a fun website and a great starting point! You can play around and create your own food plan.

Some of the pros:

–It encourages eating a balanced diet.

–They do encourage eating whole grains, if you read the articles.

–Lots of fruits and veggies!

However, there are some areas in which the food pyramid is lacking:

Sugar gets little mention.

–They encourage too many omega-6 oils.

Trans fats are not actively discouraged or discussed at any length.

–Whole grains are not encouraged nearly enough.

So, when I put on some weight after a few years of marriage, a doctor recommended the South Beach Diet. I ate and ate and ate and met my weight goal in no time. I also found that I felt better, had more energy, and my blood sugar level (which had been borderline) stabilized. Diabetes runs in my family, so I take low-glycemic eating seriously.

Some of the pros of South Beach:

High-fructose corn syrup and trans fats are banned.

Sugar is strictly limited.

–It recognizes that not all fats are bad.

Refined carbs are limited or banned.

–Still lots of veggies.

Some cons of South Beach:

–Still high on the omega 6’s.

Artificial sweeteners are encouraged.

So, on I went in my journey. Eventually I met some followers of the Weston A Price diet. Their advice flies in the face of the modern “healthy” diet, but, after learning about whole grains, good fats, and the like, much of their advice did make sense. It’s possible to spend days reading the articles on their website.

Some of the pros:

–My other research has supported the health benefits of bone broths.

–There is a strong emphasis on organic foods, especially animal products.

–They encourage soaking grains.

Some of the cons:

–Eating that much organic meat is not cost effective.

–Not much mention of fruits and vegetables.

–I really feel like I need more information regarding saturated fats.

So, in the end, I borrowed a little bit from everybody. Can any of us be positive that we are doing it right? Probably not. Is diet a one-size-fits-all thing? Maybe not. But I do know that we have gotten sick much less, had more energy, and lost weight since we have started eating this way.