Archive for April, 2010

Cookin’ w/ myself

Matt has been gone the past few days at a business conference in sunny Palm Beach. I have been home studying, working, and taking care of our “daughter,” Gola. Please Matt, come home soon!

I’m having a quiet Friday evening, typing up some notes and cooking myself dinner. I thought I’d try some new recipes from my favorite cooking/food magazine’s website, Eating Well. Seriously, this website is my g0-to source for checking out some new recipes.

Tonite’s menu: Parmesan Spinach Cakes (made in muffin tins, love it!) and Rice and Lentil Salad. I’ll probably throw in a veggie burger, too (I love the one’s by Sunshine). And you know me…I’m sure a nice chunk of super dark chocolate to finish it off.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Oh, and totally unrelated, but if you want to listen to some very cool, varied music, I highly recommend Pandora Radio’s “Whole Food Earth” station. Quite excellent.

April 30, 2010 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

Resisting the Diet Side

I'll take a cookie, please

And by dark side, I mean…the Dieting Side. Or the Cookie Monster side. Let me explain…

I’m in the middle of finals. One class down (actually, the final was cancelled, so automatic A!) and another one to go. I just finished a big project due today. I’m working full time. Matt is at a business conference in sunny Palm Beach and so I am taking care of the Gola Monster alone. It’s a lot, and I’m stressed. And when I’m stressed, I eat (I eat because I am unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. Movie reference, anyone?) How I wish I was one of those people who lose their appetite during times like this, but alas, not in the cards. Add to that the fact that with my hectic schedule, my workouts have gone from 5-6x/week to about 2x. I’m tired, burnt out, my clothes are tight, and I want a vacation.

So, given all of the above, people handle their stress load in different ways. Some, like many people I know, head to the nearest bar and drink their sorrows away (OK, sometimes nothing quite does it like a glass of wine…or a margarita). Others smoke cigarettes or pot to escape. Or gamble. Well, me? I *used* to exercise, so now…I just eat.

Mind you, I’m not binging like I was like last year. In fact, I haven’t had a binge in several months. But my weight is creeping up, and because I follow the principles of Intuitive Eating, I don’t diet either.

But I hear that Dark Side calling me.

“Come on, Amanda,” it whispers in my ear. “Go back to tracking your calories. You’ll lose the weight fast.”

“Amanda, you know you’re gaining weight and it scares you. How about a little diet to get you back to where you want to me. It won’t hurt, promise.”

People, I’ve been dealing with these inner taunts the past week or so and I’m remaining strong, but I tell you, it’s hard! It would be so simple for me to follow a meal plan, cottage cheese and carrot sticks when I’m told, to ignore my cravings for something warm and cheese-covered.

But NO! Like Luke Skywalker (sorry, lame-o reference) I will remain strong and RESIST the Diet Side!

I am working on accepting that in times of stress, my way of coping is to eat. I might always have this food-mood connection. But what am I doing to manage it? I’m cooking, stocking the fridge with healthy foods, and allowing myself to eat chocolate and soothe myself with food if I need to. I refuse to get angry at myself and my body. We’re a team!

I know this is a rant, but I just wanted to share what I’m going through, because perhaps you, too, eat when you’re stressed. It’s OK if you do. The key is to not get upset with yourself, and at least recognize that you’re doing this. That’s all. Information is power. Perhaps next time a wave of stress hits you, you’ll better manage it with a walk around the block or a bath. But for now, food will have to do. Again, it’s OK. Just be aware.

Nobody’s perfect, certainly not me. Even someone who knows about nutrition struggles with the same things everyone else does (Hello, that’s why we go into nutrition…to help others!)

How do you handle stress?

April 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm 3 comments

Give Your Allergies the Smack-Down!

I don’t know about you, but my allergies have been TERRIBLE lately. I woke up on Sunday with a stuffy nose, uncontrollable sneezing..it seemed to come out of nowhere! Sneezing turned into a head cold, yada yada yada. Luckily with lots of sleep I’m feeling much better, but come on, I’m a busy lady and I don’t have time for this nonsense!

Here are some tips to get control of those allergies (thanks, Mom):

1. Change your environment: Make sure your home is clean, for crying out loud. Pick up the vacuum and get rid of the dust. Or call your cleaning lady and have her do it. Allergens are most concentrated in the air between 5pm-10pm, so while you don’t have to hide indoors, try closing the windows so you don’t allow pollens to enter. Try a HEPA filter, which can remove up to 90% of irritants in the air. And, if you’ve been outside (I know my neighborhood is overflowing with tree pollan, etc) leave your shoes at the door, and try changing your clothes.

2. Modify your diet: Try limiting your dairy intake, as milk products tend to cause mucous (also a good option when you have  a cold). Sugar increases your body’s inflammatory response, which can then increase your system’s allergic reactions. Certain fruits, too, are known to exacerbate allergy symptoms: apples, peaches, pears, and cherries. Weird, right?

3. Try a natural supplement: Quercetin (stinging nettle) can help, as can butterbur. Of course, if you have more serious symptoms or asthma, it’s best to consult your doctor before trying any natural remedies.

4. Try Acupuncture:  It helps, trust me.

How are your allergies this season? Have you tried any of the above?

April 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

Coffee + Milk= ?

In a previous post (like, last year) I told you that putting milk in your tea will block some of the antioxidants that are naturally found in tea (my personal fave is green tea.) To recap that post: Milk and tea= bad. Tea + lemon= good.

But what about coffee and milk? Good question!

In the Journal of Nutrition in February 2010, scientists give the green light to adding some milk to your coffee. The antioxidants in coffee (yes, there are some!) have been linked to some health benefits, such as lowering the risks of diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and colon cancer. For a great read on the benefits of coffee, check out this article.

Anyway, go right ahead and pour in your milk. Keep in mind, however, that adding milk adds calories, and if you have a few cups a day, it can add up.

Let’s talk about the effects of sugar and non-dairy creamer in your coffee, shall we? Yes, let’s do!

According to the study by Nestle, researchers found that adding sugar and non-dairy creamer DID reduce the absorption of coffee antioxidants.

These scientists tested the blood levels of antioxidants after 9 subjects drank black instant coffee, instant coffee plus whole milk, and instant coffee plus nondairy creamer and sugar.

As you might guess, adding milk made no difference, but the creamer plus sugar combination reduced maximum concentrations of the antioxidants tested.

Obviously, a study of 9 people is very small, and I am curious about using non-dairy creamer alone vs. sugar alone, and see what the antioxidant levels are with those consumed on their own (in coffee)

Either way, non-dairy creamer and sugar, and milk, ALL add calories. A little bit in your coffee won’t hurt you, but if you drink a half a pot of coffee a day, it definitely adds up (and that much coffee isn’t good for anyone!)

Drink safe and smart!

April 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

Do Eggs Raise Cholesterol?

Happy Monday, friends! One more post on cholesterol and then we can move on.

I had mentioned that I would answer the question: Do eggs raise my cholesterol? I know we have been told for a long time not to eat too many egg yolks for fear of skyrocketing our cholesterol levels.

I’m here to DEBUNK that MYTH!

So, does dietary cholesterol raise your overall blood cholesterol? Yes…but only minimally. For most of us, eating egg yolks (one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol) will have a very slight affect on our blood cholesterol. So, quite honestly, I wouldn’t be so concerned. However, there are people who are very sensitive to dietary cholesterol (those with a genetic abnormality) and so in those cases, one would need to watch their cholesterol intake.

Please note that dietary cholesterol raises BOTH HDL (good) and LDL (lousy) cholesterol levels. So even though these levels will increase a bit, the ratio, which we learned was the most important indicator for healthy cholesterol levels, will not be impacted.

So, while this is not carte blanche to go out and eat a 5 yolk omlette every morning, don’t fret, my pets, when eating egg yolks. There are so many other things in our lives to get crazy over. This shouldn’t be one of them.

April 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

Hug a Tree–It’s Earth Day!

I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.  They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far! 

~John Muir

Taking a break from cholesterol today. While it’s important–very important–today we celebrate the beautiful earth we live on.

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

People who know me understand that I enjoy nature, and feel an enormous “pull” to big, beautiful trees. The Berkshires of Massachussetts is my move favoritist place in the world (besides Rancho La Puerta spa in Baja California). I got married under a huge tree and a glorious, cloudless blue sky. Matt gets tired of me pointing out the beautiful blooming trees around our neighborhood, but at least now he can tell the difference between a dogwood and a cherry blossom.

Anyway, since I’ve started walking my puppy, Gola, a few times a day, I’ve gotten to know these trees very well. I won’t lie and say that I’ve never teared up admiring their beauty, but it’s true. An overwheming sense of–“omg the world is SO magical” just floods through me.

So while I am not celebrating Earth Day by drinking eco-friendly drinks out of my Sigg bottle, per say,  I am using this day to remind me, once again, to take any opportunity to experience the calm that being in nature brings me. If you live in a big city, look up at notice the trees, and look down and see the tulips and lilacs planted.  In our hurry to get through the day, we plow right on past. Today, stop and smell the roses–literally.

Also, if you can, try watching a nature series like Planet Earth or the more recent Life…it gives you an amazing appreciation for our Mother Earth, and makes you feel teeny tiny.

And last, but certainly not least, try cutting out the processed foods today and eat only what our earth provides us. Score one more point for eating local produce. If that’s not an option today, make a plan to hit the farmer’s market this weekend to drool over the brilliant colors, tastes, and textures that come directly from the ground we walk on. And savor every minute of it.

So, friends, Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

High-Sugar Diet and Cholesterol–Linked!

I wanted to share some recent findings with you now that you all have your PhD in cholesterol. This came across my screen yesterday, so it’s perfect timing.

If you’ve read the news or my blog, you know that Americans are eating too much sugar. In fact, the average American is eating 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day…which is almost 3x more than heart disease prevention guidelines suggest. That’s HUGE.

Excess sugar can contribute to diabetes, obesity, and other conditions linked to heart disease. However, new findings are showing that excess sugar in the diet is linked to unhealthy cholesterol, as well.

Appearing in this weeks’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, people in the study who ate the most added sugar had the lowest HDL (“good” cholesterol) and the highest blood triglyceride levels.  Conversely, people with the lowest sugar consumption had the highest HDL and lowely triglyceride levels.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 100 calories from sugar for women, and 150 calories for men (The equals out to about 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men) . The average can of regular soda has about 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. Certain breakfast cereals with 16 grams of sugar has about 4 teaspoons. So you see, sugar can add up VERY quickly.  For a list of popular foods and their amounts of sugar, check out this website.

When looking at the ingredients of foods, watch out for a label that has the word “syrup,” or words that end in “ose” (sucrose, fructose, and dextrose). These are all sugars, just as “evaporated cane juice” is as well. Keep in mind that agave nectar, honey, and maple syrup, while touted as “healthier,” are still just sugar.

Experts suggest that the first place to look to cut sugars is beverages, as they have become the top source of sugars in our diet. This also includes fruit and sports drinks. Ever take a look at the sugar content in a vitamin water? It’s just sugar water with clever packaging.

This week, pay attention to labels and find all the hidden sugars you can…it can be a fun, yet startling and eye-opening, game! They’re everywhere!

April 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

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