Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘healthy eating’

Healthy Eating: A Hierarchy of Needs

pexels-photo-949070.jpegDo you eat cereal? I was thinking about having a bowl of cereal for desert, as I was craving sugar. Most commercial cereal is so unhealthy it is a desert, yet it is touted as a healthy choice. But then it occurred to me that in many, many households, it is the healthiest choice they make, and how much boxed cereal improved the nation’s health when it was introduced, simply because it is vitamin fortified. That led me to think of how relative healthy eating is.

While some of us worry about whether our produce is organic, if our food is locally and humanly raised, or if it is the healthiest of competing eating plans, while many people here in the United States don’t even know, or chose not to know, what they should even be worrying about. There is a vast distance between the  “haves and have-nots” of nutritional awareness. Many people think fried chicken and biscuits are suitable to feed a child. Most Americans have no idea how much refined grains and sugar they are consuming, or the correlation between that and type 2 diabetes.

 Don’t romanticize the past.  While I do believe much of our obesity problem is because of the food industry, eating like your ancestors doesn’t guarantee healthy eating. The one thing I disagree with author Michael Pollen about in his book, “In Defense of Food” was his contention that people in the past ate better. Some did, most didn’t. We may be dying from an overabundance of sugar and calories now, but people died from pellagra, beri beri, scurvy and rickets in the past. Poverty and poor availability of food were extremely common. People in the rural south at corn, but, unlike the Native Americans, they didn’t know to soak their corn in alkali to make its niacin content digestible, which caused rampant pellagra. They also liked it “degermed,” taking more of the B vitamins out. People, for some reason, like their food white and mushy. So rice was also degermed, making it “white.” Rich people ate white bread because it cost more and was “finer”,  that made everyone want it. People abandoned whole wheat as being too rural or poor, which we now know was a huge mistake.

Poverty was a driving force. People took advantage of each other, bakers put sawdust, chalk or alum in the bread, spices covered the smell of spoiling meat, they watered down and chalked the milk. People ate what they could afford, which might be good, like collards or beans, or bad, like fat back, white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches. The ultimate hierarchy of good eating for most people in the past was simply getting enough food to not go to bed hungry.

Education was spotty or nonexistent in the past. Who was teaching about food? The local grange or cooperative extension? Home Ec. class in school? What did they teach? Did they just focus on food safety or how to follow recipes? Or did lessons of nutrition get taught? Did you only get this education if you were middle class or higher? I’ve read some grange and home ec. material from the 40’s and 50’s, and most of it was very sound. Even back then they recommended to not eat cake often. However, then, as now, people had to seek out information, and most didn’t.

Cereal was invented as health food. At the time commercial  cereal was invented, rich people ate whatever they liked, without regard for whether it was good for them or not, poor people ate whatever was cheap.  Having read writings from the past, there was a lot of common knowledge that vegetables were good for you. But then, as now, cake tasted better. People went to spas and sanitariums as they do now, to lose weight and feel better. The sanitariums, for the most part, fed them vegetables and whole grains. It was out of these sanitariums that the cereal industry was born. Those early cereals weren’t too bad; they were whole grains that weren’t overly sweetened. Boxed cereal was affordable, so the poorer people bought it too.

The government got involved. The government later demanded fortification in response to widespread health deficiencies. Bread and flour was fortified with B vitamins in response to pellagra and beri beri, milk with A&D against night blindness and rickets, salt with iodine to prevent goiter. The government also passed food safety laws. While I’m no fan of overreaching governmental influence, those things have made a huge difference.  Not every parent can parent, and if you can prevent a child from having a low IQ from serious deficiencies, they at least stand a chance.

You know, but you don’t know. Now we know better. As a society we are being educated to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. That’s why no one eats hot dogs on buns anymore. Fried chicken has been completely taken over by grilled. And when was the last time you saw a french fry? Ok, so my sarcasm is over the top here. But seriously, do we know? Then why is there a whole aisle devoted to soda? Why is sweet tea still the national drink of the south? Why are white flour breads, rolls and cookies still out there in abundance? Judging by the success of the fast food industry, the amount of donuts brought into work, the aisles of junk in the supermarket, we still have a very, very long way to go.

Getting back to my cereal. For me, it’s desert, for someone else, the healthiest choice of the day. If the choice is between cereal and a donut, cereal doesn’t look so bad. For those of us who worry about our diets and try to eat for health more than taste, try to remember “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. Many people will not give up what tastes good, in spite of being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorder or the host of other ailments that can be prevented or mitigated with diet. If we can make some of those foods healthier, or steer people away from the worst offenders, we’ll have still made a difference.

Advertisements

Scrooged

man shaking his finger at you.

You are hereby absolved from your Christmas baking. Yup, you don’t have to do it. I know what you are thinking, “I was enjoying this lady’s blogs, but now I’m wondering if I’m reading stuff from a nut job. I mean, here it is August, why are you talking about Christmas now?” Well, I figure if I say it now, you’ll have time to let it digest. Plus, if I say it any closer to Christmas, I’ll probably get hate mail.

So back to the Christmas baking. Either you are the Nana, MeeMaw, Gigi, Grandma, Granny, Mom, Aunt or other producer of the family Christmas goodies, or you are the recipient. If you are the recipient, pass this on to the producer. You know who they are! They are the martyrs who tell you, “I was up till midnight last night making three dozen pfefferneuse, two dozen chocolate chip and two batches of kringles.” They are the ones who bring the huge plates of cookies to the office parties or give them as gifts. They strive to outdo each other as the preeminent cookie supplier. Points are given for both quantity and quality. They wouldn’t dare have less than three kinds of cookies on hand for any occasion from November 30 to the end of January.

They are also the ones who complain that they can’t lose weight, or they gained x number of pounds over the holidays. So stop it. Just stop.

I can hear the screams of outrage now. “I can’t, my family expects it.” “What fun are the holidays without goodies?” “Lighten up, you have to live.”

So how serious are you about your health? Do you really want to lose weight, or do you want to just complain without really doing anything? How about that family? Do you really want to set your children and grandchildren up to be overweight as well? Do you seriously want to train them to be unhealthy? It scares me how we have this mindset to give our children food that is bad for them, simply because it is not making them fat at the moment. What do you think happens when they stop growing? Also, if that food is unhealthy for you, why do you think it is any less so for children? While it is a topic for its own blog post, we are training our children to be unhealthy by giving them the white flour, sugar, salt, processed meats, and fats that we know we shouldn’t eat. Our society is a bit schizoid as well in its competing beliefs that we should party for two months and not gain weight. Generally, people gain 1-5 lbs over the holidays, and never lose it. Half of that is alcohol, so there is another part of the equation, but telling people to not drinking is even less popular than telling them to lay off the baked goods!

If you can’t stop, may I suggest modifying. Instead of baking two or three kinds of cookies, bake one batch of one kind. Do not bake another till the first is gone. When you have multiple kinds, people feel obligated to take one of each, encouraging over-consumption.

Think about it. All the time you save not baking all that stuff will give you time to go for a walk or to the gym. If all this is causing you to have a glassy eyed look of horror pasted on your face, well, you have a few months to adjust to the idea. And when you come out of hibernation in the spring a few pounds lighter instead of heavier, you’ll thank me. Really, you will.

Your Weekly Pep Talk

I know some of you out there are really struggling with your weight. I don’t like to make weight the main issue, health is far more important, and while there is a correlation between the two, most people focus on weight for appearances. I like to refer to it as healthy eating. Healthy eating usually leads to weight loss, since most people don’t get too overweight on eggplant and okra, even if it is fried.

I’m here to give you a pep talk.

All the right information is already out there, it’s just so much easier to succumb to the “lose weight fast” garbage. So I’m just going to give you another reinforcement of the good stuff so you can renew your efforts this week.

Reassess

What are the sticking points for you? Quantity? Feeling hungry? Favorite foods you don’t want to give up? Psychological need to treat yourself? Everyone is different. Take a piece of paper and write down your problem areas. Be specific. Write “Every night I REALLY want a bowl of cereal. I can’t go to sleep without it”. Or, “Going out to eat makes me so happy, I can’t give it up.” “I won’t or can’t cook.”

Make a plan

When it comes to food, planning is everything. Like spending, it is the impulse items that get you every time. Even if you don’t count calories, you need to control portions, and decide  what you are going to eat when you are hungry ahead of time. Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus any snacks you need. If you need a good quantity of food, plan to add a large salad to each meal- yes, you can eat greens for breakfast. Really clamp down on the starch and fatty foods, and decide how you can increase your vegetable and fruit intake. Swap hot dogs for fat free ham or turkey, add 2x as much lettuce, tomato and onions to your sandwich.

Some things are a given, if you are still eating white bread or pasta, swap it out for whole wheat immediately. No one should be eating white bread any more. Make sure your pasta and potato servings are 1/2 cup. Put that potato in your one half measuring cup. If it won’t fit, eat half. Buy one box of “white wheat pasta”, whole wheat or Barilla’s protein plus. Cook your pasta, rice and potatoes ahead of time and reheat- it makes more of the starch resistant, meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar as high. A lot of starches are empty calories, and cause bouncing blood sugar that makes you hungrier sooner. Empty calories mean they don’t have any nutritional value other than calories.

If you can’t or won’t cook, read menus and labels carefully. All restaurants are supposed to have their calorie counts available. Choose carefully and stick with it. Be ready to ask for a “to-go” box early in the meal and place 1/2 in it, or split it, if the meal is over your calorie limit. Remember the 1/2 cup for starches? Most restaurant potatoes are double that, so don’t eat the whole thing. Many supermarkets have salad bars and take out items, again, choose carefully. Cheese should be a condiment. Olives are high in fat, hence calories, so go sparingly on them. Treat breaded and fried things like the plague.

Address your needs.

If you are a sweets lover, don’t sit here and say “I just won’t eat them.” You can try that, but it won’t work for long. Instead, find healthier sweets by making or baking your own, or buying less harmful ones. Portion control on sweets is hard for people. My husband and I will cut a Klondike bar in half to make it more reasonable. Make sure you are eating till full of the good food, so you aren’t eating sweets when you are hungry. Don’t keep “trigger” foods in your house. I can’t have trail mix in my house. Every time I do, I eat 2-3 portions a day. Find a sweet that satisfies you without causing binging.

I hope something I’ve said here resonates with you, and that you will feel empowered to make some constructive changes or get back on track. Eating isn’t black and white, it is a continuum. Don’t get discouraged, at any point you can improve, and that’s all you need to do.

Everyday Loaded Oats

I am not a food blogger.

I just wanted to get that out there right away. I don’t have lots of pretty pictures, this isn’t going to be like going to epicurious.com or anything. However, I do think about food in a way that I think others might not, so once in awhile, I have to talk about it. I have mentioned my oatmeal to others, and have gotten requests for the recipe, so I thought I’d put it out there. It isn’t just a recipe for a meal, so it takes some explanation.

Food is more than taste, but taste is important.

I eat based on health, for the most part. I am not an ascetic, I will indulge in a variety of deserts from time to time. I try to plan my meals ahead of time, and pick healthy and tasty items. Breakfast for me is a no brainer. Partially because thinking before coffee in the morning is almost impossible. (Insert laughing emoticon here.) I started with oatmeal. I didn’t want to add a lot of sugar, but unsweetened was unappealing. I started with molasses, so I’d get some good things in my sweetener. I added cranberries for sweetness and texture, and a drop of fiber. Walnuts for taste and omega three. After reading about green smoothies I started blending kale and cooking my oatmeal in that. I like to lift weights, and don’t eat much meat, so I started adding plain, unflavored protein powder.

You can see where this was going. My quick and easy breakfast was turning into a twenty minute project every morning. Not to mention the calorie creep as more and more ingredients kept being added. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I believe in front loading your calories: a big breakfast, smaller lunch and a snack like dinner, but I also want to be in control of how much and when.

Voilà!

So this went on for awhile, then at some point I got the idea to dehydrate my blended greens, turning them into green powder. Adding that was easier than blending them up fresh every morning. My latest epiphany came after I bought another batch of protein powder. They had a deal on getting oatmeal with add ins already mixed in. Eureka! MIX ALL THE INGREDIENTS AHEAD OF TIME! Then all I would have to do is scoop out a serving and add the liquid. I could also measure and be consistent.

It took some experimentation. I started by selecting a quantity of oats, figuring out how many servings that was and multiplying all the other ingredients by that number. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. When you make one serving the old way, you measure a half cup of oats, then add 1 tablespoon of this, and one of that. With the all in one method, if your serving is going to be 1/2 cup, you have everything together in that 1/2 cup, so you have less oats and more everything else. This means your consistency, no matter what, is not going to be quite the same. Having said that, I like it, especially as overnight oats, where you don’t cook it, you just let it soak in milk or water overnight.

Here’s the recipe that I am currently using. This is such an elastic recipe, play with it to your taste. If you don’t like the first serving, add something to change the taste. The rest will be better.

IMG_3883[1]

I told you I wasn’t a food blogger!

Loaded Oats

  • 6 C. Old fashioned oats
  • 2 C. Protein powder- unflavored, unsweetened
  • 1 C. Cranberries
  • 1 C. Hemp seeds
  • 3/4 C. ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 C. chia seeds
  • 1 C. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1/3 C dried, unsweetened coconut (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 C. dried greens
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 1 t. nutmeg

Mix all the ingredients and store in a moisture proof container.

To make: scoop ½ cup, add water or milk ( just use enough to cover, I don’t measure, sorry.) You can cook it right away, or let it soak overnight for a cold dish. I prefer it soaked right now.

Makes 26-28 servings, approximately 270 calories each. Substitute and change as you like. Use raisins instead of cranberries, add sunflower seeds, dried peanut butter, whatever floats your boat. Make sure you use ground flax seed, whole ones can make you quite gassy.

I Keep Saying it, but Maybe Hearing From Someone Else?

Hi everybody! Did you think I fell off  the face of the earth? I know, I did too. Seriously, I moved. I know there are all you 20 somethings out there, moving all the time and still keeping up on your blogs, your kids, and making it all look easy, but I’m not 20 anymore. In fact, this was my first move in almost 20 years! I’ll fill you in on some details at the end- that’s a hint, if you don’t care, don’t finish the article. But in the meantime, I have an article to comment on.

Most of what I write about is prompted by articles on the web, both good and bad. This is a good one, it is a first person testimonial by Jason Nixon. “Battling the Insanity of Fad Diets.” He writes about his weight gain, the silly things he tried to do to lose weight. He tried several popular ways to lose weight. He tried a “nutrition counselor” who did have him keep a log, and gave him supplements. I’m not against either of those things, I think a log is the best way to get honest about what you are eating, and supplements can help, but aren’t necessary. Whatever he did with her was not self sustaining, and apparently did not involve exercise. I put “nutrition counselor” in quotes, as the only true nutrition counselors are registered dietitians, which is a 4 year degree or above. I have run into so many self-styled nutrition experts, that don’t have a degree in anything. I have studied nutrition my entire adult life, but I don’t have a degree in it, and don’t pretend to. It is hard work making meal plans. You have to do a lot of math and a lot of planning. Most advice you get is either based on micronutrients or calories. Those will work, and there are a lot of ways to cut corners, but that isn’t true nutrition counseling from a registered dietician.

The next thing he tried was the HCG diet. I have written about that before, see here. I won’t go into the whole rant, but we eat food for a reason. It is what our bodies are made of. The molecules get broken down by enzymes, shipped all over our body and used as fuel or as building material. Starvation is something people have worked very hard to avoid. All you paleo people out there, there’s a reason we all went to agriculture. Starvation is bad. HCG makes it possible for you to starve yourself. Which brings me to my next rant, not eating will always make you lose weight. I don’t want to hear lower set points, starvation mode, etc. There were no fat concentration camp victims. If I lock you up and don’t feed you, you will lose weight. HOWEVER, this is NOT the correct way to lose weight in a world where you aren’t locked up and have choices. Not to mention what I just said about eating for a reason. It isn’t all about weight loss, it’s about health.

*Whew*. Sorry about that. My mother was anorexic, I get passionate about HEALTHY weight loss. Back to topic. So after yo-yoing around, Jason went to the gym and lost the weight the right way. Before you start whining “but I don’t like to exercise, can’t I just eat less?” Yes, you can. See the last paragraph. There are plenty of skinny desk jockeys. However, if you need to lose weight, you’ve already proven that what you are doing is not working. I always say that it almost impossible to be fat if all you eat is vegetables. Most of us are not going to just eat vegetables. Diet is more important than exercise because you can always out eat your work out. But together, they work magic. The diet takes care of giving you what you need to build that beautiful body, and the exercise builds it.

Beyond the scale, as Jason notes, there is the overall health benefits. Even if you never get your diet to the point where you are a size 8, you can be sooo much healthier. Right now, can you run to the end of your road? Can you lift 45 lbs? Can you walk two miles easily? Are stairs daunting? Those things aren’t simply a function of age. We were visiting the first black schoolhouse in South Carolina, and the woman showing it to us was 73. She walked to a nearby graveyard in hardly more time than it took us to drive it. So don’t blame your age.

my home gym, showing a bowflex, swiss ball and weights

My happy little gym.

All right, here’s my personal update. I went from NY to SC. I now have hills to run, even steeper than before, and warmth and sunshine beyond a few short months. I’m only doing a little private training for the moment, I’d like to associate with a gym shortly, but I had the luxury of not working while I moved, so I took it. We got a house big enough for me to have a really nice home gym, upstairs this time, instead of the basement. I have a big enough yard to garden like mad, which I’m doing. I even planted my greens, although they aren’t doing well. I got a bunch from the neighbor, so I’m enjoying my green oatmeal. I’m really enjoying the weather, even though I miss my friends like crazy. I had a lot of hiking buddies up north, and haven’t made any as of yet. I did join some meet up groups. If you don’t know about meetup.com, it’s a great way to meet people who have like interests.

It’s Not 99%, That’s for Sure

close up of a cows nose

mmm, nummy.

Have you heard about “nose to tail”? That is another movement to change how we eat. It is really simple, in theory. If you are going to eat meat, you should eat all of it, and not waste it. In our modern culture, this is rather silly, in that few of us will butcher and process our own meat.  In light of what we now know about good nutrition, it isn’t even sound, since that is why our forebearers made all that yummy, yet unhealthy sausage, to use up the less appetizing bits. The idea behind this is the idea that there are so many of us, and it takes so much land to raise meat, that getting us to use every bit is better ecologically.

Learning about this made me think about all the different movements out there to get us to eat healthier, help the earth, prevent global warming, or in some way live a more mindful life. I don’t think we need to go to the extremes that some movements promote.

We don’t even agree on what we need to do. I do think we all agree on recycling, unless the energy it takes to recycle creates to much carbon. We agree on using less, unless the economy suffers. We agree on using renewable resources, unless that renewable resource is controversal, like ethanol. Oh, but we do agree on green energy, unless they are putting a wind farm in your neighborhood. Sigh.

I have a friend who is convinced if she can get us all to go vegan, the world would be a better place. I don’t know that she’s wrong, We’ll never try it to find out. I won’t even do it. Do I think that eating less meat is a good thing? Of course. Meat should be the side dish, not the veggies. I had some shrimp tacos at Red Lobster that were out of this world. I gorged myself and probably ate 10 shrimp. The rest was veggies and bread. However, I live with a raving carnivore. I have gotten him to eat smaller portions, and occasionally have chicken, fish,soup or something other than straight red meat at a meal, but he still thinks two hamburgers is a serving. The funny thing is, there is a significant portion of the health community that would see bread as the problem, not meat.

My chiropractor just gave my husband some info on the paleo diet. I have a bunch of clients going gluten free.  I applaud people for taking steps to control their health, I just wonder why everything has to be so extreme. Just eating healthy is extreme enough. Put down the crueller and have fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Have the Southwest Salad instead of the Big Mac. Have a small coffee with one cream and sugar instead of the latte, frappe whatever. Have pudding for desert instead of ice cream. Better yet, have a yogurt parfait, with homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce. Ok, that’s it, I’m outta here. There’s some of that in the fridge calling my name. I put some in my salad this morning and it was really good.

And Now, For the Rest of the Story

Paul Harvey used to say that every week. “The rest of the story” was often an amazing twist, or possibly a subtle one, giving us a different perspective on things. Well, here is “the rest of the story” on a few articles I ran across this morning.

“Don’t use aspirin to prevent heart disease, FDA warns”

This story sounds ominous, and makes it sound like the research has changed, but it’s very misleading. First, Bayer wanted to change its packaging to say it prevents heart attacks, and the FDA nixed that. Second, according to the article, it was their regular strength aspirin, which isn’t what you would use preventively anyway. Third, the FDA stated the risk of bleeding was too great, which is a captain obvious moment for anyone who knows how aspirin prevents heart attacks. No, we don’t want the general public scarfing down aspirin to prevent heart attacks. Self medication is often a bad idea, especially if people have no idea about dosages and side effects. However, a baby aspirin taken on a daily basis, which is less than a third of the amount in regular aspirin, is often prescribed to prevent heart disease.

“The One Diet that Just Keeps Proving Itself”

This article isn’t bad, just incomplete. I’d be a  fan of the mediterranean diet, if you could tell me what it was. My problem with it is that it is difficult to pin down. In this article from the AHA, they point out the obvious, that mediterranean cultures vary, and many don’t eat the “mediterranian diet” that is often espoused here in America. Oldways, an American entity. is actually the source for the diet as we know it.

“Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the classic Mediterranean Diet in 1993 at a conference in Cambridge, MA, along with a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid graphic to represent it visually.”

I have no problem with the Oldways version. I don’t think it’s any different than any other diet that emphasises eating whole, unprocessed food, heavy on the fruits and veggies, which is how we should all be eating. The Dash diet is just as good, and I like South Beach as well. They all say the same things, lots of vegetables and fruit, lesser amounts of whole grains, still smaller amounts of protein, with an emphasis on fish, chicken and plant sources of protein, and still less of anything else.

“Struggling to Eat Healthy? Keep These Low-Cal, Heavy-Value Options Around”

This one is just another “list article“, which I have to admit, I do enjoy. I included it to make the point that healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Most of the healthiest foods are very cheap. I eat beans and rice every week, and dried beans are still about $1.20 a pound. Cooked, that would make three weeks of meals for me. Before you say “oh, that’s too much work”, while you are cooking dinner, put some beans in a microwave safe dish, with plenty of water, so they are well covered. Nuke them for about three minutes. Leave them while you eat and clean up. Before bed, drain them, put them in your crock pot with more water to cover, and cook them on low overnight. In the morning, you are set. You can add spices and seasonings to the beans if you know what you want them to taste like. The last batch I did, I was cooking soup bones, I added the beans, cooked them for about four hours, fished them and some of the meat out, added vegetables and barley, cooked that for another two hours and got two different meals from the same soup bones. Very little meat, yet both dishes have a great meaty flavor. Get a rice cooker and you are all set. Especially if you are like me and get distracted so you burn the rice.

So that’s my take on the news this week. Remember, most news articles have a “rest of the story”, so don’t take what you read at face value. Ask yourself, “How does this fit in with what I already know? What aren’t they telling me?”

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: