Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Produce of the Week

So in the quest to bring ever more variety to our diets, Ed and I purchased minneolas this week. This is a tangerine/grapefruit combination. It's also called the Honeybell because of the stem-like end. You peel it like an orange and eat it. I'm going to give it a try with lunch today. Last night, one of my cats -- Abe-- gave the fruit the once over.

Another Point of View

Not everyone is completely on board with Michael Pollan's "Unhappy Meals" that was in New York Times Sunday Magazine (see yesterday's post). There's an article on Scientific American.com that pokes some holes in Pollan's theories. The author, John Rennie, points out that some vegetables contain levels of carcinogens; something I've never heard before. In the interest of fairness and increased knowledge, it's worth taking a look.

Yet overall, the advice is the same -- less junk, reasonable portions, more fruits and veggies.

If only fat didn't taste so good!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Everyone's Getting Healthy

Thanks to Prof. Matson for a great article in the New York Times, "Unhappy Meals." Here, Michael Pollan explores what's wrong with the American Diet. It's definitely worth a read if you want to take a hard, critical look at your diet. In a word: processed foods, processed foods, processed foods are evil, evil, evil. Here's an excerpt:

From Complexity to Simplicity. If there is one word that covers nearly all the changes industrialization has made to the food chain, it would be simplification. Chemical fertilizers simplify the chemistry of the soil, which in turn appears to simplify the chemistry of the food grown in that soil. Since the widespread adoption of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in the 1950s, the nutritional quality of produce in America has, according to U.S.D.A. figures, declined significantly. Some researchers blame the quality of the soil for the decline; others cite the tendency of modern plant breeding to select for industrial qualities like yield rather than nutritional quality. Whichever it is, the trend toward simplification of our food continues on up the chain. Processing foods depletes them of many nutrients, a few of which are then added back in through “fortification”: folic acid in refined flour, vitamins and minerals in breakfast cereal. But food scientists can add back only the nutrients food scientists recognize as important. What are they overlooking?

Again, I'm loving Trader Joe's. They provide great natural foods at a much better price than many of the upscale grocery stores, which often offer organic and natural foods. Also, check out your local grocery store. Shaw's, Hannaford's and Stop and Shop all have their own brand of organic and all natural foods.

On another blog, Diet Fat Tips, there are some great tips and basic guidelines for healthy aging -- and healthy living. Check it out.

It's also worth noting, West Virginia is offering to send its citizens to Weight Watchers for free. More and more, we're realizing the need for losing weight and getting in shape if we all want to be living large at 80.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Today was not a good day. I went to a baby shower today and I made the mistake of going hungry.

I had spent last night cooking for the big day and this morning I got up and started cleaning the house, so by the time I arrived at the baby shower -- 4 p.m. -- I hadn't eaten anything all day.

Needless to say, while the booties and bibs were flying, I was parked at the buffet table. I won't go into the gory details. Let's just say, I wish it were tomorrow.

The good news is I actually feel a little icky from putting too much junk into my body. So my body is getting used to healthier food.

Rather than get too down, I'm just going to start fresh tomorrow. The next time I go to a party, I'll make sure I eat an apple or some other healthy snack so good sense isn't kicked to the curb by hunger.

I did find a neat article about real people who lost real weight and got healthy. It's worth a look.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Yippee! Chocolate and Wine!!!

First the Endive Report: Not bad. Not good, either. Actually it tastes a lot like cabbage. I like cabbage raw, so I'm thinking endive might be a good addition to salads. Ed just flat out hated it.

I've heard about a new diet: The non-diet. Again going on the premise of Europeans eat well and stay slim, Dr. Philip Tirman has written a book, "The Wine and Food Lover's Diet: 28 Days of Delicious Weight Loss." It sounds promising. Delicious food and reasonable portions. It also offers up an idea we've heard before -- eating food in the right combinations. According to Dr. Tirman, he lost 35 pounds over the course of two years; the first 20 in a few months, the last 15 more slowly.

I'm intrigued and thinking about picking up the book. According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Dr. Tirman has done a lot of scientific research before putting this book together. While I'm not sure I buy into the idea of combining foods, I think a diet that offers up recipes that taste good and keeps you from feeling deprived has a better chance of success. Here's a look at one of the recipes:

Flourless Chocolate Cakes
(Serves 5)
Tirman notes that the original recipe for this dessert (from Marin restaurant Marché aux Fleurs) uses a little flour. He substitutes almond meal for nutrition, texture and flavor.

¼ cup whole hazelnuts
½ lb. dark chocolate (at least 60 percent cacao), coarsely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup Splenda
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup almond meal
3 eggs
¼ cup heavy cream (plus optional pinch of Splenda to sweeten)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts, stirring constantly, until they just begin to turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Immediately enclose the nuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the dark brown skins. Do not worry if tiny pieces of skin remain. Pour the nuts into a colander and shake to separate skins from nuts. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl suspended over, but not touching, barely simmering water in a saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside; cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, whisk together the ¼ cup Splenda, sugar and almond meal. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture. Divide the mixture among five 1-cup ramekins, filling them three-fourths full. Bake until the cakes begin to crack slightly on top, 18 to 22 minutes.

While cakes are baking, in a small bowl, whip the cream with the vanilla and a pinch of Splenda (if using) until soft peaks form. Run a small, sharp knife around the sides of each cake and invert onto a dessert plate. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a scattering of hazelnuts. Serve warm.

Yum!! After I check out the book I'll let you know what I think.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How Cool is This?

I have just found a new Web site -- well new to me. It's called fitsugar.com. It covers everything, even offering romantic advice, but it also offers healthy snack ideas and fitness news. One of the biggies is that Target Workout is going to offer downloadable fitness videos online. It's only $9.95 a month. Perfect for people who want to try new workouts or just get bored with the same old, same old. Check it out!

I'm planning on starting my exercise routine next week. First I had to ease into this healthy eating thing. Right now I'm aiming for some physical activity three times a week -- and I can't count my weekly stint as a waitress. It doesn't sound like much, but some days I'm up at 7 and don't even make it back to the house until 7 p.m. Then, there's homework to do. So I'm committing to three times a week.

As far as the healthy eating goes, I'm not doing too bad. The protein at each meal is essential. The first day I didn't plan for snacks and by 11:30 a.m. I was ready to gnaw on my own hand. Now I'm packing plenty of food. Usually fruit and carrot sticks for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Then a Pria bar as a just-in-case.

Tonight I'm trying the vegetable of the week -- Belgian Endive. Apparently it can be served in salads or cooked. It looks kind of like lettuce, but I'm going to try braising it. I've never had braised lettuce before. It's rich in Vitamin A, which is always good for the skin and eyes. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, if you want to braise some of your own Belgian Endive, here's a recipe, thanks to about.com. I'm going to try substituting olive oil for the butter.

4 whole heads of Belgian Endive, trimmed and cored*
1 tablespoon butter
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 teaspoon

*To core the endive, slice about 1/8 to 1/4-inch of the end off and cut out the small core with a sharp paring knife. In a saucepan over medium heat, saute endive in butter, turning several times. Add remaining ingredients.

Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. Serves 2.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why not adopt a healthy lifestyle?

The weight-loss-powers-that-be are holding a weight loss surgery summit in Belleville, Ill., on Thursday.

It horrifies me that we continue to look for a quick-fix to all of our weight problems, rather than working on a change of culture -- slowing down, enjoying our meals so we can eat less, and steering clear of fast food joints.

It's long been documented that Europeans are healthier simply because they eat a wider variety of foods, eat less and savor their meals so they feel more satisfied. But rather than moving in that direction, we head to the surgeon's.

What I find particularly concerning about this trend is that many people say they've tried diets and have failed, but the surgery has worked for them. Yet no one seems to realize the overall premise is the same -- you're eating less. Then, people often take up some form of exercise.

Why not do this without the surgery? How long before surgery becomes the primary form of weight loss?

I have no issue with weight loss surgery if you're in immediate danger, but younger people seem to be looking at the surgery as their best option. It's a concern.

It's also worth noting that many of the healthy eating articles I have found online have come from Europe, not the States.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Here We Go

Thankfully, I have the support of my boyfriend in my new healthy lifestyle. He also wants to lose some weight and get in shape, so we'll be doing this together.

So we cleaned out the fridge and the cabinets yesterday. Actually Ed (yes, the boyfriend has a name) did. I made the grocery list. And off we went to Trader Joe's. They offer up reasonable prices on healthy and organic food. This is a great deal since you can even buy quick-fix frozen meals that aren't loaded down with fat and preservatives, so even when you're busy you can eat healthy.

The idea here isn't to go on a diet. I've been on many diets. I spend most of my time on diets thinking about my next meal and feeling deprived and hungry. When I'm just eating normally, I think about food a lot less. Bizarre, but true.

So I'm hoping to eat normally, just better. This morning for breakfast I had a crumpet with a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter. The crumpet's only about 60 calories and the peanut butter about 100. I find eating protein at each meal is a big help. I feel a lot less hungry.

I'm also working on increasing my calcium intake, not easy for someone who is a known milk-hater. My mom still has PSTD from our family dinners. Again, I'm not forcing myself to drink milk (ugh!) or eat yogurt (too sweet), I'm just trying to find ways to get the same nutrients in a tasty way. I've taken to drinking lattes instead of coffee with cream in the morning. A large skim latte will give me two servings of milk for less calories than the cream in the coffee. Another good source of calcium is Cracker Barrel's cheddar cheese made of 2% milk. One ounce has about 90 calories, plenty of protein and a serving of calcium.

We also bought some whole grains and plenty of veggies yesterday. We're going to try Belgian endive. The goal is one new vegetable each week. Hopefully, we'll keep from getting bored and add some new tastes to our meals.

We're off to a good start!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Workout?

It's yesterday's news but I feel it deserves some comment. Nintendo's Wii may function as a workout. Check out this article on Reuters:

Video gamers who'd rather battle virtual villains than fight the flab can take heart. Use of the new Nintendo Wii can lead to
weight loss.

After six weeks and 21 hours of total game play on Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s (7974.OS: Quote, NEWS , Research) new game console, Philadelphia resident Mickey DeLorenzo is nine pounds (4 kgs) lighter and making a splash with his new svelte self.

I think this could be a neat way to get in shape. I imagine it'd be like a workout -- you'd have to play video games a few times a week, but it's certainly less boring than running on the treadmill. The best part is you can get friends involved and it doesn't have to be the dreaded workout group. I'm excited about the possibilities for this alternative workout.

Check out this guy's blog of the experiment and the before and after photos.


My dad told me last night he's going on dialysis next month. He's had Type II Diabetes since he was 40. He never took it seriously and didn't begin managing his diet until he landed himself in the hospital for a week last year at 68.

At 40, he was told his diabetes was mild and could be managed by diet alone. The doctor offered to send him to a nutritionist. He responded by telling the doctor to go to hell. No one was going to tell him how to eat.

By 60, he was on insulin shots. By 65, he nearly lost his big toe from an infection that wouldn't heal. By 67, he was nearly completely blind.

Now, by his 69th birthday he'll be on dialysis.

All because he wouldn't change his lifestyle.

I don't want my children and husband to have to go through this.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Slow and Steady

As I continue my research in preparation for my new lifestyle (launch date: Monday!), I'm finding more and more articles that confirm what I've suspected-- a fad diet isn't going to cut it. I'm going to have to make real lifestyle changes to both my diet and my exercise routine. I found these articles especially helpful:

International Herald Tribune

The Eastern Progress Online

So I'm making my grocery list, including plenty of fruits and veggies and whole grains and making sure I have breakfast before I go!

If anyone has any tasty, healthy recipes or product recommendations, feel free to share. As I become more knowledgeable, I'll do the same.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Hard Look

I admit it. I have a morbid fear of diabetes. My father -- and most of his side of the family -- are all diabetics, and I'd like to ward it off as long as I can. So I've been taking a good hard look at my diet and exercise habits as I'm getting ready to embark on my healthy lifestyle:

Exercise -- It's nonexistent. The starting goal is to get in a half hour of exercise three times a week.

Diet -- I was horrified to discover that when I make a meal, I often divide it between me and my boyfriend. As in half each. Since I require fewer calories than he does, he stays slim while I pack on the pounds. And of course, I love just about anything that's fried. I once (actually twice) ate fried Oreos. So my starting goals is to cut fried food to just once a week (Sunday is going to be my weekly cheat day) and cut my portions to something less than an amount required to feed a family of five.

My target start date is this Monday. This weekend I'm cleaning house and going shopping. I'm hoping to work on lifestyle changes that I'll be able to stick with rather than going on a diet, so don't be too disappointed if I don't lose 5 pounds by next week. I'm sort of a turtle in the get-healthy race.

And this is about being healthy. I'm not into negative body weight. Fittingly enough, I'm going to start my healthy lifestyle during healthy weight week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting Started

Grad school is the worst thing you can do for your health. Since starting a year ago, I have collected an additional 20 pounds, a serious chocolate addiction and lots of dust on my treadmill. It's time to get it together.

Join my on my journey as I research healthy eating habits, attempt to find my free weights and take a stab at getting moving again. The goal: To drop those extra 20 pounds by May 5 -- Graduation Day.

So feel free to post comments, share suggestions and shop the produce aisle with me.