The Making of an Addiction

I have tried a few times in my life to count calories, while seeking skinniness.  But in the end I usually give up on that, because calories are NOT the only things that matter when seeking to truly improve our health.  Take nuts for example…just because they are high in calories and fat doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat them!

These yummy almonds have been shown to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar & blood pressure, fight cancer, reduce risk of heart disease and birth defects, boost energy, and improve brain power.  So why not buy a big bag at Costco, roast em up, give em a whirl and make them into almond butter?  That’s what I do every week.

Making almond butter is actually SUPER easy if you have a food processor or a Vitamix and it tastes a million times better than the Maranatha brand that they also sell at Costco.  I’m not saying this to toot my own horn because really, it’s  all the machines that do the work.

Just take 2 cups of almonds and roast them at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let them cool for a bit, dump them in your food processor for about 10 minutes, and voila!  It will take those almonds from whole to crumbs ready for deliciously unhealthy English toffee, to almond flour ready for gluten free baking, to a huge ball of almond paste bouncing around noisily inside…then finally butter.

Deliciously creamy, fresh, and ready to slather on toast, sandwiches, carrots, celery, apples, basically anywhere you would put peanut butter and wherever else you can imagine.

Or better still, you can use in these “healthy” gluten-free, dairy-free cookies.  Again, certainly not low calorie, but a whole food approach to dessert with no refined flour or sugar.  Like the protein pancakes you will look at the recipe and wonder how it’s possible to be good; you will even shape the dough into cookies and wonder how it will work, but let me tell you it DOES!!

Let me know how it goes if you try it out!

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The Training Begins

Saturday I had my first outdoor ride of the season and the first long ride of training for our century.  I have to say that it started out great…the clouds had parted and the sun came out, which is why I decided to head outdoors instead of riding two hours in the spinning room at the gym (yawn!).

The further I went though, the more I realized that I was less than prepared!  Sunglasses would definitely have been helpful, something I’m obviously not accustomed to at this time of year.  And I didn’t remember until halfway through when the pain started kicking in that I had only taken one short ride during the week because sick kids kept me from the gym so my legs and butt were BURNING last night!!

Then the best part was encountering this, when I was in the home stretch.  SLEET!!  No better motivation for sprinting the last leg, that’s for sure!!

Some other preparation that would have been nice would be to make a playlist.  Messing with the ipod while riding on the street seemed like more of a safety hazard than it was worth and unfortunately Sarah McLachlan came up all too many times on the shuffle I had going while I was out there.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like Sarah, but it’s just not the best to pump you up for a long workout!!!  So I would love your help in making a better playlist for my long ride next Saturday.  What are your favorite songs for working out?  What keeps you going hard and burning those calories?

And of course you can also help by donating to the cause!

While We’re on the Subject…

I thought it interesting that after I did all that reading and posted about sugar that I got an email all about overcoming sugar addictions.  So just in case you were as curious as I was, I thought I’d share it with you.  You can jump to the article here at Spark People.

And once again, if you don’t care to read the whole article, here’s a few pieces I thought were interesting:

According to the USDA, the average American consumed 151 pounds of sugar in 1999—an all time high. Since then, consumption has dropped slightly and in 2010 the average American consumed 132 pounds. (To put that into perspective, consider that the number was just 4 pounds in the year 1700.)

We all know sugar is linked to Type II Diabetes and heart disease, but…

Sugar intake has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight, autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis, and multiple sclerosis), gout and osteoporosis.

If only it didn’t taste so good!  But I have found what the article says to be true, that as you decrease your intake of it, you decrease your tolerance.  I never appreciated raisins and dried figs like I have been these days.  What are some healthy ways that you satisfy your sweet tooth?

Does Syrup Have Sugar in It?

Name that movie!

After my smoothie post, my friend commented that I pay a lot of attention to the amount of sugar in things and it reminded me that I wanted to look into sugar a little bit more.  I doubt I’m the only one who’s noticed all sorts of “healthier” new sweeteners popping up on the market and I wanted to see if there is any weight to their claims.

It seems like confusion is everywhere, not just with me.  I found many conflicting reports, as is probably true on any controversial topic, but this article seemed pretty straightforward.  Here are some highlights:

Regular molasses and pure maple syrup provide small amounts of vitamins and minerals, making them slightly better choices than white sugar (sucrose, or table sugar) and corn syrup, which lack nutrients, other than the carbohydrates they provide. Blackstrap molasses, which is strong-tasting, is the only sweetener with significant levels of nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and manganese.

Dark honey contains more antioxidants to protect cells. Research suggests that honey enhances the growth and activity of the good bacteria found in fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt), which may offer health benefits, such as aiding digestion and supporting the immune system.

While molasses, maple syrup, and honey offer nutritional advantages, they, like table sugar, contain simple carbohydrates, which are quickly metabolized, regardless of the source. The real issue is the total amount of sugar children consume, not the type.

So what about evaporated cane juice?  This article spoke to that.

Advertisers try to make it sound as if these less-refined sugars are also more nutritious than regular white sugar. They claim that they retain more of the nutrients from the original plant. And, technically, that may be true. But sugar cane doesn’t have many nutrients to start out with. Any traces that remain in raw sugar are so trivial, they can barely be measured.

Nutritionally speaking, there really is no meaningful difference between any of these kinds of sugar. Although some are definitely less processed, they all provide the same number of calories, and when it comes to digestion and metabolism, your body cannot tell the difference.

In other words, if you prefer a less-processed product (and you don’t mind the premium price), raw sugar or evaporated cane juice is great. But you’d want to limit your intake of these natural sugars exactly the way you would limit your intake of refined white sugar.

And what about agave, the newest fad sweetener?

Although it’s fast becoming the preferred sweetener for health-conscious consumers and natural cooks, the truth is that agave is processed just like other sugars — and is no better for you than other sugars. And don’t be dazzled by the word “natural”; U.S. food regulators do not legally define the term, so it’s left up to manufacturers.

The bottom line is that refined agave sweeteners are not inherently healthier than sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, or any other sweetener. Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.

What a mess, I tell you what.  Maybe we should just avoid it altogether!  Oh if only I had that kind of willpower.  Today is day #74 of my 90 day dessert fast, but my record is not 100% clean…

Two for One

Well Aaron is out of town again, which usually means salads for dinner, as I don’t feel the need to cook.  But that changed for me today when my sister said she had made up some Body-For-Life Meatloaf and invited us over to share it.  Since this one is a long time favorite of ours, I couldn’t refuse.  When she and I lived together we made a LOT of recipes from that book (and a lot of kettle corn too, which may have been counter productive, but hey it was good!)

Since it’s such a favorite, I felt I had to share it:

HomeStyle Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
4 egg whites
1 cup salsa
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 pkgs. Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup ketchup

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350°F

2) In a large mixing bowl combine ground turkey, onion, egg whites, salsa, oats, soup mix and black pepper. Press mixture into 9 x 5 loaf pan and spread ketchup over top. Bake in a preheated oven until meatloaf is no longer pink in the center and juice is clear – about 60 minutes.

3) Remove meatloaf from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

4) Makes 6 portions – may be frozen after cooked if necessary for up to 2 months.

NUTRITION: Calories 237 / Fat 7.2 g / Carbs 20.7g / Protein 21.7 g / Fiber 2.7 g

Then when I realized that somehow this is the first recipe that I have shared using ground turkey< feel the need to share another while I am on a roll.  Ground turkey is often my meat of choice when I don’t feel like dealing with nasty raw chicken.  Anyone else share my aversion?  It’s almost enough to make me go vegan with my dad, but really not quite!

So the picture above is for my other favorite meatloaf recipe, an Italian meatloaf from cooking light…so yummy!!

Italian Meat Loaf with Fresh Basil and Provolone

Ingredients

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (can substitute tomato or marinara sauce to healthify a bit)
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese (feel free to leave this out if you’re counting calories!)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground round (or turkey, of course)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup ketchup

Preparation

Combine boiling water and tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain tomatoes; finely chop.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/2 cup ketchup, breadcrumbs, and the next 6 ingredients (breadcrumbs through beef) in a large bowl. Add tomatoes to meat mixture. Shape meat mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 cup ketchup over meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into 12 slices.

NUTRITION: Calories 294/ Fat 8.7 g / Carbs 30.8 g / Protein 24.3 g / Fiber 2.75g


The Daily Smoothie

If you are my friend and you read this blog, then you know Aaron and I are very proud Vitamix owners.  If you haven’t heard of these, then perhaps you are not as addicted to Costco (samples) as we are.  We always most looked forward to Costco trips when the Vitamix salesmen were there and always lingered long enough to taste the soup, the smoothie, and the sorbet.  Aaron would always dream about getting one, but could never bring himself to swallow the $400 price tag for a blender.

But last year on his birthday my whole family very generously went in together and got it for him, and let me tell you it’s true what they say at Costco…we wonder how we ever lived without it!!  We have probably used it every single day in that almost a year that it’s been since we got it.  Since people have been asking about our smoothie favorites, I thought I’d share a few here.

My All Time Favorite:

1.5 frozen bananas*
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
3/4 cup soymilk**
(also delicious with 1 TBSP peanut butter added, of course!)

Simple Variations:

1 frozen banana
5 frozen strawberries or 3/4 cup blueberries
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
3/4 cup soy milk

Aaron’s Special:

.75 frozen banana
.5 fuji apple
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 TBSP almond butter
3/4 cup soymilk

Tribute to my Favorite Juice:

.75 frozen banana
.5 naval orange
.5 cup pineapple
small container vanilla Greek yogurt***
If you have a high-powered blender, like the Vitamix, please feel free to add a handful of spinach or baby carrots or both to any smoothie above for a nutrient boost without dramatically altering the taste.

*As mentioned in a previous post, we keep a lot of bananas on hand.  When they get a good shade of brown that makes them nice and sweet, I peel them and freeze them.  Then your smoothie will have a thick milkshake consistency without needing to use any added sugar…my secret to delicious healthy smoothies.  If you hate bananas, then you’re on your own!

**I prefer Unsweetened Silk Soymilk due to my lactose semi-tolerance and my unappreciation for added sugar in unnecessary places, but you can use any kind of milk you prefer.  I do think the soymilk gives it a creamier, less frothy texture than milk, but that’s totally my opinion!

***I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice the influx of Greek Yogurt to the dairy aisle, but be careful to read the labels…they are not all created equal!!  After a lot of reading and tasting, I was surprised to have a preference for the Fred Meyer store brand, which is great because it’s also the cheapest!  It’s vanilla flavor only has 3 more grams of sugar per serving than its plain variety, compared to some which have upwards of 20 grams more!!!  May as well have a cookie.

What are your favorite smoothies to whip up at home?