31 December, 2010

MiriahJane's Green Goodness Smoothie

(makes roughly 20 oz)

3/4 cup water
4-6 ice cubes
1 cup frozen fruit chunks (I use the Wawona Tropical blend from CostCo which has pineapple, mango, papaya, & strawberries)
1/2 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1/2 avocado
1/2 large fresh banana (if frozen, use more water and no ice)
1 to 2 oz spinach*, depending on your green taste tolerance
Stevia to taste (I used to use it, but I've stopped in order to train my taste buds to like less sweet smoothies)

*May substitute kale for spinach

Smoothie ingredients read to blend

Blend on high for about 30 seconds, using a tamper to push ingredients down.  If you have a less powerful blender, use only fresh/thawed fruit and add ice cubes once mixture is smooth.


Green Goodness

30 December, 2010

How Green is YOUR Smoothie?

A person can only eat so many salads before getting bored.  And annoyed.  There's the washing, then the drying, the chopping, and all of the chewing.  If I could get my greens intravenously, or in pill form, I'd do that four times a week and eat salad the other three days.

But sadly, the best way to get the nutrients from greens is to go through the hassle of digesting them...and the amount you need for good health would come in much too large a pill to swallow.  So I'm back to the drawing board.  Hmmmm...how do I eat greens easily and so that they taste good?  If you read the title of this post you already know the ingenious solution.  Mix up the nasty stuff with yummy fruit and drink your greens!! 

I know that fruit has sugar, but I've been weaning myself off of the sweet taste and replacing the fruit in my smoothies with more and more greens so that my taste buds gradually become accustomed to that "green" taste (aka chlorophyll).  So far, I've only experimented with red lettuce, butter lettuce, spinach, and kale in my smoothies.  But there are a wide variety greens that you can use:  beet greens, collard greens, swiss chard, parsley, and arugula, to name a few.

My mom enjoying a green smoothie for breakfast

My favorite green to use in my smoothies is kale because you can hardly taste it.  There are actually different varieties of kale, but I've only tried red kale and regular green kale.  To my knowledge, I have never eaten kale prior to putting it into my smoothie a few months ago.  In fact, the way I discovered that you can put kale in a smoothie is via a recipe book.  I had no idea what kale even looked like - I'm ashamed to admit that I had to do a Google image search so that I would know what the hell I was looking for at the grocery store! 

I'm so happy that I found this great way to get more greens into my diet - it's easy, there are a ton of different recipes, it tastes great, and it's very healthy.  While my family was in town, I successfully persuaded my mom (a green smoothie skeptic) to try one of my delicious concoctions.  And she liked it!  Either that or she lied and then poured the stuff down the drain when I wasn't looking.  But I am choosing to believe that she actually drank and enjoyed it.  You can find my own original green smoothie recipe on the recipe page.  Give it a try!


28 December, 2010

Christmas without Chocolate

It's akin to Christmas without presents...it just feels wrong.  But I made it through.  When I told my mom that I was giving up sugar for a year, her response was "what am I going to put in your stocking?"  Well, I got what everyone else got...minus the sweets.

Yes, I successfully managed to stick to my resolution - and it was no easy task, let me tell you!  My family (mom, dad, brother & sister) flew out to celebrate Christmas with us, so they stayed with us for a week.  Now, I love my family, but having guests is stressful.  My family is extremely LOW maintenance but I'm neurotic so of course everything had to be perfect for them. 

For me, sugar is not only pleasurable; it's over-the-counter Xanax.  If I weren't on this no-sugar kick, the day before my family arrived you'd most likely find me sprawled on the couch watching a Hoarders marathon...in a food coma, with a belly-ache and copious amounts of empty chocolate wrappers double-bagged in the garbage so that my husband wouldn't see what a gluttonous mess I was. 

But I digress.

Since Christmas without sweets seems to me so utterly Grinchy (yes, I made that word up myself) I decided that I'd fill my cookie jar with cookies and my candy jars with candies.  Was I taking a risk buying these goodies?  Yes.  But I need to face it - I live in a world filled with my drug of choice. 

Have you ever taken a giant whiff of Oreo cookies?  If you have not, you should.  It's glorious.  Since I was not eating Oreos, I made sure to smell them - often.  It made resisting them a little easier because smelling the delicious Oreo aroma is almost as wonderful as eating them.  Okay, that's a flat-out lie.  It made me realize what I was missing and it pissed me off. 

But one good thing did come of the Oreos in my house.  My brother gave me an idea for a new treat to add to the list of foods I'll eat on Day 366 of no sugar.  He said he took around 6 or 7 Oreos, put them into a bowl, drenched them in milk and ate it like cereal.  Now that is something I'd like to try.


15 December, 2010

I Love 'The Biggest Loser'

Last night I watched the season finale of The Biggest Loser.  The show has its flaws:
  • too many sappy, crying break-downs complete with dramatic psycho-babble pep talks from Jillian
  • too many "game play" opportunities forced upon contestants
  • ridiculously insulting product placement ads.  Seriously, these contestants are regular people so don't make fools out of them - or us - by having them pretend as though they are casually touting the benefits of a Brita water filtration system, or the cravings-curbing qualities of Extra sugar-free gum.  We're onto you, Biggest Loser, and we like our commercials where they belong - with all of the other ones that we can bypass using our DVRs.
BUT, I absolutely love the show because it truly changes peoples' lives!  And it saves peoples' lives by making them healthier.  What other show can claim these things?  It gives me so much joy to see people gaining confidence as they achieve greater endurance at the gym, and as they see the pounds lost on the scale. 

This show starts with people who are literally killing themselves with an unhealthy diet and an inactive lifestyle.  These people are ready to give up on life.  And, for those who stick with the program, even after being sent home, the show ends with people who are strong, exuberant, HAPPY, and ready to take on the world.  The contestants who have gotten down to, or very close to, their goal weights are just as thrilled as the winner of the grand prize ($250,000).  Okay, it's no million dollar prize, but it's still a helluva lot of money.

I actually got to meet the first female winner - Ali - who lives in my hometown.  She said her life is completely different now, for the better.  And it had much more to do with her new, healthy body than the $250k she won.  She enjoys the outdoors more because she's able to be physically active (hiking is big here).  Men are more attracted to her, either because of her looks or because of her confidence, probably both.  She serves as a role model to other people who are trying to get in shape.  She even wrote a book!

If you have never seen the show, be sure to record it so that you skip the boring stuff.  The new season starts January 4, 2011!

This concludes my rant about something that has very little to do with quitting sugar, but has everything to do with health, so I say it makes sense to include it as one of my blog posts.  This is the one place where I get to make the rules, so I'm making the most of it!  You hear that, husband-who-makes-me-put-the-silverware-in-the-dishwasher-a-specific-way?  (my husband is the absolute best and I love him with all of my heart, but he is kinda picky about certain things)


12 December, 2010

40 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health

 It's been three weeks since I've had any sugar - but I'm not celebrating just yet.  I know that getting past the one-month mark means that a habit has been developed, and that I have beat my own "personal best" time for going without the white stuff.

My friend told me that, when trying to quit caffeine, she kept herself motivated by reminding herself that caffeine was bad for her.  If she could reinforce the fact that caffeine was doing her body and her health a disservice, then it was easier for her to pass up the dark cola, coffee, or tea.

Now, this line of thinking will only help those who actually care about their health...and believe it or not, there are plenty of people who just plain don't care.  That's a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around.  Even though I have not been the epitome of health, I've always known it and I've felt bad about it.  I'll save that topic for another post (it will be something along the lines of aligning your actions/lifestyle with your values/beliefs).

So I decided to take my friend's advice and educate myself (and now you!) on various ways that sugar can be a detriment to your body, mind, and overall well-being.  In my research, I found more than the list shown here, but I picked the ones that I thought would resonate the most with people who care about being healthy.

40 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health
  1. Sugar can suppress your immune system, which impairs your defenses against infectious disease.
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  3. Sugar can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children
  4. In juvenile rehabilitation centers, when children were put on low sugar diets, there was a 44 percent drop in antisocial behavior.
  5. Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.  This can lead to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
  6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.
  7. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
  8. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
  9. Eye health - sugar can weaken eyesight and cause cataracts.
  10. Sugar can worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  11. Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  12. Sugar can cause premature aging.  In fact, the single most important factor that accelerates aging is insulin, which is triggered by sugar.
  13. Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.
  14. Sugar contributes to obesity.
  15. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.
  16. Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections) because yeast feeds on sugar.
  17. Sugar can cause gallstones.
  18. Sugar can cause appendicitis.
  19. Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.
  20. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
  21. Sugar can cause a decrease in your insulin sensitivity thereby causing an abnormally high insulin levels and eventually diabetes.
  22. Sugar can lower your Vitamin E levels.
  23. Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure (the top, or higher, number).
  24. Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.
  25. Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
  26. Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
  27. Sugar can make your skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
  28. Sugar lowers the ability of enzymes to function, which inhibits proper digestion (read:  vile & unsatisfactory bowel movements).
  29. Sugar can increase your body's fluid retention.
  30. Sugar can compromise the lining of your capillaries, leading to varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  31. Sugar can make your tendons more brittle.
  32. Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
  33. Sugar can cause depression.
  34. Sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease.
  35. Sugar can cause hormonal imbalances such as: increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone
  36. Decrease in sugar intake can increase emotional stability (I'm still waiting for effects of this one!) 
  37. The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects.
  38. Sugar can impair the function of your adrenal glands (adrenal glands play an important role in the body, producing numerous hormones that impact our development and growth, affect our ability to deal with stress, and help to regulate kidney function)
  39. Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in normal, healthy individuals, thereby promoting chronic degenerative diseases.
  40. Intravenous feedings (IVs) of sugar water and cut off oxygen to the brain.
Source:  Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit and Suicide by Sugar

Kind of makes that ice cream or chocolate souffle look a little less appetizing, doesn't it? 
No, not really?  Eh...actually, I'm with you on that one.  It still looks pretty damn tasty. 
(Must...remind...self...sugar is bad for me, sugar is bad for me, sugar is bad for me...)


05 December, 2010

World-Wide Temptations

Today I'm officially two weeks sugar-free...and it was a little harder than the first week.  Granted, there were no awful headaches, but there were more (it seemed) temptations:
  • Maui Loa Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts - a co-worker brought these in from her trip to Hawaii.  I've eaten these before so I knew what I was missing. And it was painful.  I tried to take routes in the office that didn't pass by them.
  • Chocolate Covered Miscellaneous - another co-worker brought in candy from her trip to Costa Rica (yes...my co-workers take some pretty awesome vacations!).  There were, among others, chocolate covered espresso & coffee beans.  I am a huge fan of those...but I never had any from Costa Rica!  Oh well.  I stayed late in the office and I was tired and a little stressed.  A few of those would have been so nice.  But I resisted.
  • Cookies as Big as My Head - I actually have a pretty small head, but in cookie terms it's big.  I had a day of professional training at a nice hotel.  At lunch they had an entire table of giant cookies.  They were roughly the size of a small salad plate.  I wish I'd remembered to take a photo.  I could have used one of these cookies during the update on tax rules.  Yawn!
  • Sweets Smorgasbord - I went to a choir concert last night and afterwards there was a pot-luck type of reception with all kinds of treats.  Cookies, brownies, toffee, mini muffins, chocolates, & more (you can see for yourself the array of delightful desserts that I passed up).

One thing has made it easier this time - since, as I've noted before, I've tried to quit sweets many many times.  I have a defined amount of time that I am trying to go without sugar - One Year.  It's much easier to work within those constraints.  Before, I would try to quit and then I'd give up because I couldn't imagine going sugar-free for the rest of my life.  But for some reason, the idea that I can have a sugar-filled extravaganza on day 366 keeps me going. 

What's the point of going a whole year without sugar, just to gluttonously return to it as soon as I'm done?  I guess I'm hoping that after living without it for so long, I won't want it back in my life (at least not permanently).  Maybe a once-a-year sugar fest will be good enough.  Maybe it will make me feel so crappy that I am reminded as to why I gave it up.


04 December, 2010

Quinoa with Veggies & Shrimp

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is my new favorite seed.  That's right!  Quinoa is a seed but its consistency is more like couscous.  I've known about quinoa for several years, but I rarely ate it because I never used to cook.  I'm trying to prepare more of my own meals, which is time-consuming, but worth it from a health standpoint. 

If you haven't tried quinoa yet, you should give it a go!  You can find it in most grocery stores nowadays. To save money, I bought a big bag of it from CostCo - don't you just LOVE that place??  But back to this stupendous seed.  Before I write out the recipe for Quinoa w/ Veggies & Shrimp, I want to tell you...

5 Reasons Why YOU Should Be Eating Quinoa:
  1. Protein - one serving contains about 8 grams
  2. Fiber - one serving contains about 5 grams
  3. Vitamins - good source of Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and Folate (folate is great for pregnant women)
  4. Minerals - high in Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper, Zinc, & Manganese
  5. Easy to Prepare - you can use a rice cooker, or just boil it using 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.  One quarter cup uncooked quinoa yields about 1 cup cooked quinoa, so you don't need to use very much!
Quinoa with Veggies & Shrimp
(makes 4 meal-sized servings)

1 cup rinsed quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I use low-sodium)
2 to 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
4 servings shrimp (about 12 oz) - sub tofu or extra veggies to make vegan
1 zucchini OR 1 yellow squash, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, sliced
2 tsp lime juice

Bring quinoa and broth to a boil in a saucepan; reduce heat to a simmer until broth is absorbed, and the white "tail" is visible (about 10 minutes).
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet; cook and stir the garlic and onion until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).  Stir in shrimp and cook until almost done.  Add one more tablespoon of olive oil, and stir in the zucchini and tomato.  Cook until shrimp is done and zucchini is tender. 
Sprinkle with feta cheese, basil, and lime juice.  Serve over hot quinoa.

01 December, 2010

Is There Sugar Hiding in Your Food?

Say you're trying to reduce or eliminate added sugars from your diet.  But wait...what are "added sugars"? 

According to the USDA, "added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation.  This does not include naturally occuring sugars such as those that occur in milk and fruits." 

The best way to determine if there are added sugars in the (packaged) foods you eat is to check out the ingredients on the label.  How many different sugar names can you find in the label shown below?  I count five different sugars, and yet, nowhere on the label does the word "sugar" appear!  Tricky, huh?

  1. Agave nectar
  2. Barley malt
  3. Beet sugar
  4. Brown rice syrup
  5. Can juice crystals
  6. Caramel
  7. Carob syrup
  8. Corn syrup or corn syrup solids
  9. Date sugar
  10. Dextran
  11. Dextrose
  12. Diatase
  13. Ethyl maltol
  14. Evaporated cane juice
  15. Fructose
  16. Fruit juice concentrate
  17. Galactose
  18. Glucose or glucose solids
  19. Golden syrup
  20. High fructose corn syrup
  21. Honey
  22. Lactose
  23. Malt syrup
  24. Maltodextrin
  25. Maltose
  26. Maple syrup
  27. Molasses
  28. Panocha
  29. Raw sugar
  30. Refiner's syrup
  31. Rice syrup
  32. Sorbitol
  33. Sorghum syrup
  34. Sucrose
  35. Turbinado sugar
There are more alternative sugar names than the 35 listed, but I think I got the most common names.  Any ingredient on a package that has the word "sugar" or "syrup" is a red flag for added sugar.  So take advantage of the abundance of information we have these days, and read your labels!

Good luck in your search for hidden sugars.