Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mix It Up

After our Summer Skinny Competition I got some complaints that we didn't have enough food related challenges so this week is a repeat of a challenge from a previous competition. 
I was inspired the other day by a friend’s story of how she had grown up hating eggplant and was disappointed to have a friend serve it at a meal they shared. Not wanting to appear rude she felt she must choke down at least a little of it, when to her surprise it was delicious! Who would have thought that what had been a slimy ordeal from childhood was actually yummy when prepared with garlic and cooked on the grill?
I had a surprising experience just this evening as I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints just a week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.
Thinking that you too may be in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit I thought I’d challenge your variety for our bonus challenge this week.
In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”
So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.
The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”
Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.
• Dried figs: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular.
• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip.
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week #5 Calm Down!!

         For some of us stress plays a part in waylaying our efforts to live healthily 24/7. Despite our best intentions for creating a lifestyle free of stress, many of us seem to face the stress monster at every turn. Perhaps we are dealing with difficult family or work situations. Or we have personally scheduled way too many things into our busy life. Perhaps we struggle with financial or health problems. Or perhaps it is the adversity of those we love that is pushing our hearts to the limit. The good news is there are practical ways to reduce stress in your life without having to spend a whole lot of money. I have really enjoyed the book pictured above 50 ways to soothe yourself without food by Susan Albers (author of eating mindfully). Here are just a few ideas- some from her book.

1.Choose a mantra/prayer- Something calming that has special meaning to you. Perhaps a favorite scripture phrase or the verse of a hymn. Here’s one recommended in the book Tranquility “Calmness beside me. Stillness around me.  Compassion inside me. “ Repeat to yourself during stressful times.
2.Use humor. Search humor on Pinterest- make a board of pinterest links that make you laugh. Read your favorite comic strip. Listen to a few minutes from your favorite comedian (mine are Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan)
3.Stay away from Zebra thinking (couching everything in severe terms). Be on the look out for “perfect” “disaster” and “Impossible”. If you hear yourself saying these words, try to counter them with a less extreme term, like "sometimes," "occasionally," "good enough" and so on. In the context of eating, typically these words form sentences like "I'm a complete failure," "I've totally ruined everything," and "I will never be able to stop stress eating." Instead, focus on a more realistic statement, such as "I am often able to soothe myself with activities other than eating."
4. Light therapy. Sunlight or bright full-spectrum light on your skin can significantly improve your mood. It's one of the main forms of treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a mild form of depression some people experience during the winter months when there is little sunlight. Sunlight helps reset your internal clock and increases your serotonin levels. When you feel you need comfort, sit by a window in indirect sunlight or go outdoors for thirty minutes—but don't forget to use sunscreen and sunglasses. If there's very little sunlight in the wintertime where you live or if you can't get outdoors, investigate buying a therapy light. These are bright lights you can use indoors that have the same healing effect as sunlight does.
5. Sip hot or cold tea. If there's a pattern to your stress eating, you may want to schedule teatime for yourself at some point in the day when you might be prone to eat for emotional reasons. Tea is chemically complex. It has many different ingredients that affect neurotransmitters and other mood-regulating chemicals. Chamomile is one type of herbal tea well-known for its soothing and calming properties.
6. Apply a warm or cold washcloth. To calm your body, put a damp washcloth over your eyes, feet, or forehead. Choose a warm or cool cloth depending on what sounds the most soothing to you at the moment.
7. Organize a closet or a drawer in your desk. Pick one small project. If you choose too large an area, you might feel overwhelmed and therefore could feel worse. There is something calming about making even one small area totally orderly and neat.
8. There is a well known saying “When all else fails take a bath.” And there does seem to be something magical about soaking in a warm bubbly bath. When patients with Type 2 Diabetes soaked in a hot tub for 30 minutes, 6 days a week after only 10 days they had lost weight, needed smaller doses of insulin, slept better and felt an increased sense of well being.
9. It makes scents! Pure essential oils have many powers including helping to lift your spirits. Seek some out at the health food store and keep a bottle in your purse or desk. Those considered the most soothing: chamomile, rose, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, and lemongrass.
10. Handwork- knitting, cross stitch, crocheting- Knitters talk enthusiastically about the therapeutic nature of knitting. The sound of the clicking needles and the movement of the hands does wonders to clear and sooth the mind. The reaction response received from hand work causes the same bodily reaction as meditation and yoga. So stitch away (note you can learn how to knit and crochet on you tube now)

Your Challenge For Week 4 is to focus on calming yourself without food. I highly recommend reading Susan Alber’s book but I am sure you can come up with many methods of your own. Be creative and try new things not already a part of your daily life. You are welcome to use any method you come up with- you are not restricted to the list above. For every day that you purposefully set aside at least 5 minutes to do an activity that is self-calming you will earn the 5 daily challenge points. So chill out ladies!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week #4 It Ain't Easy Being Green!

I read that it was common for our ancient ancestors to eat up to six pounds of leaves per day. Imagined them walking along from one place to another, just picking and eating leaves as they went. Can you imagine eating a grocery bag full of greens each and every day?

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food.

Although we have only been requiring you to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies (hoping at least 3 of the 5 are veggies) daily you should really be aiming to eat at least five servings of just vegetables daily (that’s about 2 1/2 cups of cooked vegetables). As long as they're prepared in a healthy way, leafy greens, like other nonstarchy vegetables, are a great addition to your diet and offer countless health benefits.

Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are rich in fiber, an important nutrient for weight loss  and maintenance because it keeps you feeling full and helps control your hunger. Fiber can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help to temper blood-sugar swings by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream after meals. This lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens also contain a lot of water, which helps keep you hydrated and contributes to beautiful skin and hair.
Some leafy greens, like collards and kale, are particularly rich in calcium, which helps keep your teeth and bones strong and reduces your overall risk for osteoporosis. Calcium also contributes to muscle function and blood-pressure management. Leafy greens contain potassium as well, which further protects against osteoporosis and helps manage blood-pressure levels. 

The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are contained in leafy greens may help reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen too; collagen is a major component of cartilage that aids in joint flexibility, may reduce your risk of arthritis, and keeps your skin and hair healthy and beautiful. Research shows vitamin C may also slow bone loss and decrease the risk of fractures.

Leafy greens that contain beta-carotene, such as collard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard, contribute to the growth and repair of the body's tissues. Beta-carotene may also protect your skin against sun damage. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and food sources of beta-carotene are the best way to get your vitamin A fix, since extremely high doses of vitamin A in supplements can be toxic and lead to bone, liver, and neural disorders as well as birth defects. Food sources of beta-carotene are entirely safe, though, since the body regulates how much beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A.

Leafy greens are also an excellent source of folate, which can reduce your risk of  cardiovascular disease and memory loss. And since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may help ward off depression and improve mood.

The vitamin E found in green leafy vegetables works with vitamin C to keep skin healthy as you age. This vitamin also helps protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays and may help reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 3 Challenge- Clean Out The Fridge


Do you want to eat healthier? The key can be behind the door of your fridge. When you’re hungry, you grab what you see–the quicker the better. Why not plan for those moments and fill your refrigerator with healthy foods that will satisfy your cravings. Also a decluttered fridge helps you keep track of staples so you never run out of healthy snacks like Greek yogurt or breakfast basics like eggs.
Here are some tips for bringing the Chaos To Order in your refrigerator:
1. Whittle it down-25% of the food we purchase, we don’t even eat!  Is it time for a big clean out of your fridge? If your fridge is overstuffed, you may be tempted to head toward the pantry for cookies rather than spend time sifting through the clutter, so conduct a purge to get rid of any unwanted and expired food. (Generally, cooked leftovers last three to four days and raw poultry and ground meats are good for one to two days.) Your de-cluttering goals: (1) Leave a half-inch space between items, and (2) avoid making stacks whenever possible.
2. Have a “Mustgo” Night-Regularly make a plan to serve leftovers in the fridge &/or freezer by the appropriate date when these items  “must go”.
3. Manage produce wisely-In many cases I find the produce at Sam’s or Costco is a good value even if I can only use half before spoilage. However a little planning can usually help me wisely use it all (although we have only 2 adults in our home). Try freezing produce for use in smoothies (my daughter even uses spinach and lettuce she has frozen for green smoothies). Another idea is serving fresh fruits and veggies to company or taking it as a treat (rather than cookies etc.) to church or other gatherings.
4. Clean regularly-Before doing your regular grocery shopping wipe down the fridge and weed it out. Doing this regularly will help you to know what’s in there, what you need, and what you can use for planning meals.  
5. Snack Center in the Fridge-You might want to gather items in clear plastic bins or colorful plastic baskets so you have a go-to spot to find healthy munchables when hunger strikes. Place the bin in front at eye level, and stock it with premade 150-calorie baggies of popcorn, cheese and crackers, trail mix, cereal, pretzels, fruit and nut bars, fruit leather, and other healthy faves.
6. Precut Veggies. 
Veggies are low in calories and jam-packed with fiber; when you eat them you feel full longer, which keeps hunger at bay and prevents mindless snacking later. But your veggies can't help you lose weight if they sit in the crisper and go moldy before you have a chance to eat them. You're more likely to nosh on veggies if they're ready to eat. After hitting the grocery store, immediately wash, cut, and store carrots, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, celery, and cherry tomatoes in reusable containers. Place the stack of precut veggies next to a tub of hummus, a bottle of low-calorie salad dressing like Annie's Gingerly Vinaigrette. When you're really hungry, you don't want to peel a carrot if you can just open a bag of chips," says Wansink. The trick is to make vegetables and fruit more convenient to eat by cleaning and cutting them up so they're ready to go the next time you raid the fridge.
7. Fruit Bowl-
Fruit is also a perfect snack or dessert because the sweetness satisfies your sugar cravings, but it's much lower in calories than a chocolate bar or cookie. Ensure that you eat those nutritious apples, pears, kiwis, peaches, melons, and citrus fruits by displaying them in a bowl in the middle of your refrigerator, so when you open the fridge door you're inspired to grab a piece. A team of psychologists at the UK's University of Chester found that when subjects are asked to select an item from a group, they tend to choose the item in the center. The rule holds true for food, too, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing that showed that products on middle shelves in grocery stores gain more attention than those on lower shelves.
8. Ditch the Junk-
If unhealthy, nutrition-less food is in your fridge, you'll quickly push the carrot sticks out of the way to reach them. Get rid of everything from cans of soda to the half-eaten jar of nacho cheese sauce. What's that? You buy that stuff for your hubby or kids? Well don't. If it's there to tempt you, it will. If this health kick you're on rubs off on your family, it'll be that much easier to stick with it and drop those pounds; and your loved ones will be healthier too.
9. Store Healthier Alternatives to Your Faves-
You know that ice cream is your weakness, so don't deprive yourself — it'll only lead to cravings. Make sure you have a lower-calorie option, such as sorbet bars, available to satisfy your sweet tooth. The same goes for other high-fat or high-calorie foods. Stock up on healthier alternatives so you can still enjoy the foods you love without derailing your weight loss train.
10. Put Indulgent Snacks in Opaque Storage Containers- Being able to see a food makes you more enticed to eat it, says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. He has found that when study subjects are given chocolates in a clear bowl, they'll eat nearly 70 percent more than when the treats are placed in an opaque bowl.