Sep 292014
 
Flu shots: All the cool kids have them!

Flu shots: All the cool kids have them!

I was shocked when my Google news alert sent word a week ago that the flu has already arrived in some parts of Virginia! It’s time to think about strategies for staying healthy this winter.

Flu Shots

I immediately packed up the family and took us out to get our flu shots. After a bit of hollering from my two youngest, we were done. A cute mom waiting outside the clinic with her daughter teased, “Mom, was that you making all that noise about your flu shot?” It takes about 2 weeks from the time you get the shot until you are fully protected. We are just hoping to stay healthy for another week!

If you don’t have your flu shot already, make a priority this week to get it. There are so many serious viruses going around this fall. I am keeping an eye on the news about the enterovirus strain that is so frightening.

While I can’t do anything about enterovirus, I can do something about flu risk. Many of us think of the flu as more of an inconvenience than deadly but the flu does kill children every year. Last year, someone here in Virginia lost their child to the flu. Also, if you are in a high risk group, like being pregnant or having a chronic illness, make sure you get that shot as your risk of flu complications is so much higher.

So, we need to all take this seriously. If you can be vaccinated, I hope that you will.

In the United States, how many people receive flu shots? Last year, close to 60% of all children were vaccinated, including 74% of children under age 2. Approximately 42% of all adults were vaccinated, including 65% of those age 65 and older.

Food As Medicine

Chick pea soup from last winter's Goop cleanse.

Chick pea soup from last winter’s Goop cleanse.

As you think about your toolkit for staying healthy this winter, consider some of these nutritional strategies. Science is learning more and more every day about the importance of our gut bacteria in keeping us healthy. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to eat garlic, onions, citrus and ginger!

Cleaning As Prevention

Our flu cleaning arsenal.  We just discovered the Lysol cleaner.  You have to dilute it yourself in your own spray bottle but it smells awesome!

Our flu cleaning arsenal. We just discovered the Lysol cleaner. You have to dilute it yourself in your own spray bottle but it smells awesome!

Two tools we should all have ready are baby wipes and disinfectant spray. Have a large pack of baby wipes or bottle of hand sanitizer in your car and use them after visiting any public place, like the grocery store, gas station, library, children’s sports and after-school activities, etc. Ask your children to remind you to wipe their hands as they buckle their seat belt every time you get in the car. Children are notorious for putting their fingers in their mouths and eyes–the prime way viruses are spread. Also, have a spray bottle of disinfectant cleaner in your home and task your children with helping to spray down surfaces like countertops, doorknobs and light switches as part of their chores. We recently discovered the scented Lysol cleaners that smell wonderful and claim they are just as effective when diluted.

Be well this winter!

*I am not affiliated with any product mentioned here.

 Posted by on September 29, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,
Apr 182014
 
It seems I am not the only Fredericksburg fan of "It's All Good."  Look who is featured prominently on the library cookbook display!

It seems I am not the only Fredericksburg fan of “It’s All Good.” Look who is featured prominently on the library cookbook display!

You would think that with just two days left to go, this would be the easiest part of my Lenten healthy eating plan, but it’s not. This week has been one of the toughest of the whole diet. It may be because I am looking forward to the end of this experiment and all the delicious treats that will come with it. It may be because last week I was fasting and juice fasting for most of the week and my body would like some calories to recover from that shock. It may be because I am just burned out after 40 days of intense cooking. And finally, it may be because I have to prepare for the second biggest holiday of the year with no carbs to help me out.

I gave myself a break from exercise this week as I have just too much else going on. I also have been sneaking a few extra tastes and portions into my meals as I just feel so incredibly hungry.

My husband has also started to express concern over my weight loss. “Do I look anorexic?” I asked. He paused for a while and then said, “I wouldn’t lose any more weight.” So, I seem to have reached a Rachel Frederickson-like point. However, like Rachel Frederickson, I just want to finish this project and then will engage in some chocolate therapy. With just two days to go, I just have to hang in there a little bit longer.

Day 41

Starting the day with the body builder smoothie.

Starting the day with the body builder smoothie.

The spinach muschroom egg white omelet (with black beans because I was hungry).

The spinach muschroom egg white omelet (with black beans because I was hungry).

For a present for a visiting family member, I made  "Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Coconut and Sea Salt."  My husband wants me to make this again for us.

For a present for a visiting family member, I made “Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Coconut and Sea Salt.” My husband wants me to make this again for us.

Spent the afternoon admiring the cherry blossoms near the Potomac.

Spent the afternoon admiring the cherry blossoms near the Potomac.

It was a beautiful day.  Warm but very windy.

It was a beautiful day. Warm but very windy.

Arriving home, I used up some vegetables for a version of the "Sunset Juice" by Joe Cross.

Arriving home, I used up some vegetables for a version of the “Sunset Juice” by Joe Cross.

Sunset juice.

Sunset juice.

Healthy Tuna Salad on greens.

Healthy Tuna Salad on greens.

Chicken and White Bean Chili.

Chicken and White Bean Chili.

Day 42

Another spinach mushroom omelet for breakfast.  Spinach for breakfast is delicious and really does give you a boost of energy.

Another spinach mushroom omelet for breakfast. Spinach for breakfast is delicious and really does give you a boost of energy.

Avocado cacao smoothie.

Avocado cacao smoothie.

Healthy tuna salad over greens.

Healthy tuna salad over greens.

As luck would have it, that afternoon, we had a power outage lasting about 3 hours. It was not until after 6:30 p.m. that I could get into the kitchen to start my dinner. I was starving!

Meanwhile, my husband went out and picked up Little Caesar’s pizza for himself and the children. While they sat enjoying their meal, I was hard at work in the kitchen slicing vegetables and cooking my next meal. This was hard to bear. It made me think about how hard it is for “slow food” to compete with “fast food.” Sure, slow food tastes great and is very good for you but that convenience factor is such a treat. It’s nice to have someone else do the cooking rather than having to do it all yourself.

While waiting for the power to come back on, I treated myself to two apples and an extra generous scoop of almond butter.  One of the apples turned brown immediately after slicing.  If you experience this, throw the apple out.  It was mushy and tasteless (but of course I ate it anyway!).

While waiting for the power to come back on, I treated myself to two apples and an extra generous scoop of almond butter. One of the apples turned brown immediately after slicing. If you experience this, throw the apple out. It was mushy and tasteless (but of course I ate it anyway!).

Lately, my kitchen is not only overrun with produce for my recipes but also plant experiments for our homeschool science curriculum.  We germinated some cucumber seeds.  It is really thrilling to see a small plant emerge from just a seed wrapped in a wet paper towel!  What a miracle of life!

Lately, my kitchen is not only overrun with produce for my recipes but also plant experiments for our homeschool science curriculum. We germinated some cucumber seeds. It is really thrilling to see a small plant emerge from just a seed wrapped in a wet paper towel! What a miracle of life!

I needed some more salad dressing so I made the "Parsley Dressing," (which also helped me to use up leftover parsley from the juice cleanse.

I needed some more salad dressing so I made the “Parsley Dressing,” (which also helped me to use up leftover parsley from the juice cleanse.

Dinner: the imperious "Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili" and greens with parsley dressing.

Dinner: the imperious “Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili” and greens with parsley dressing.

Day 43

Wednesday was a fasting day, which was horrible hunger-wise but a nice rest from cooking.

Fasting salad: salmon, avocado and black bean.

Fasting salad: salmon, avocado and black bean.

Day 44

Resurrecting the huevos rancheros egg white omelet.  I have given up on having my omelets not stick to my pan.  It only works once right after the pan is seasoned.  I try to get them out as complete as I can but sometimes they are a bit like scrambled eggs.  A nonstick omelet pan is probably the solution.

Resurrecting the huevos rancheros egg white omelet. I have given up on having my omelets not stick to my pan. It only works once right after the pan is seasoned. I try to get them out as complete as I can but sometimes they are a bit like scrambled eggs. A nonstick omelet pan is probably the solution.

Turning to the sweet potato shake to curb the hunger pangs.  Strangely, it didn't have the same effect this time.

Turning to the sweet potato shake to curb the hunger pangs. Strangely, it didn’t have the same effect this time.

The imperious sweet potato chili and salad with parsley dressing.

The imperious sweet potato chili and salad with parsley dressing.

My son LOVES the sweet potato chili!  He licked his plate clean and asked for more!

My son LOVES the sweet potato chili! He licked his plate clean and asked for more!

Snack of apples and almond butter.  I went with two apples this time because they were both small.

Snack of apples and almond butter. I went with two apples this time because they were both small.

Dinner: leftover chicken and white bean chili and salad with parsley dressing.  As proof that men do like Gwyneth's food, my husband said that I could make this chili any time!

Dinner: leftover chicken and white bean chili and salad with parsley dressing. As proof that men do like Gwyneth’s food, my husband said that I could make this chili any time!

Nutritional News

  • Is Your Diet Making You Mad? – This article introduced me to the word “hangry” meaning the anger brought on by hunger and lack of carbs. It also quotes Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University “[L]imiting carbs impedes the brain’s ability to synthesize mood-boosting serotonin. Sugar also stimulates areas in the brain that are linked with pleasure and addiction, . . . preliminary research demonstrates that a withdrawal from sugar has similar symptoms to those of an addict withdrawing from heroin.” Boy, doesn’t that feel true!
  • Married couples who diet more likely to argue, study finds – And this article adds scientific proof to the “hangry” pheneomenon, indicating that people are less able to control their anger when their blood sugar is lower. Fortunately, there have been no arguments in my household but this week in particular, everyone has noticed that my typically endless patience is a lot less endless.
  • Simon Schama’s History of the Jews – In the “food for the soul” category, I encourage you to watch Simon Schama’s “The Story of the Jews” on PBS. We are huge fans of Simon Schama and I was thrilled to see he had a new documentary out. In the way only he can do, he effortlessly walks you through centuries of history, highlighting key points and characters in a most fascinating way. I learned a lot from watching this and I liked seeing how personal the subject was to him.
  • And along the same lines some wonderful healthy Passover recipes here.

  • GOOP CEO Quits After Paltrow’s Uncoupling – It continues to be a challenging year for Gwyneth Paltrow who now must find a new CEO for GOOP. I have enjoyed the GOOP newsletter and wonder how it will change when the writers will be based on Los Angeles rather than London.

48 hours and counting!

Mar 062014
 
Time to get cooking!

Time to get cooking!

It’s Day Two of our clean eating journey for Lent. Day One was not difficult for me as it was a regular fasting and salad day.

Day One fasting salad: turkey, carrot, bean.

Day One fasting salad: turkey, carrot, bean.

It was also time to go grocery shopping for day two. We ended up at Wal-Mart and I decided that we would buy whatever we could find on our list and improvise with what they didn’t have. As we entered the store, all of the tempting Easter candy was on display.

“Can we get a treat?” my children asked.

I reminded them that we were going to try to eat healthy until Easter so there would be no candy today. Amazingly, there were no complaints! We had talked about this project before so they decided to focus on finding healthy foods that they liked.

We discovered some fruit and vegetable snack packs in the produce aisle where they had combinations like peanut butter and celery, apples and caramel, carrots and hummus.  My children were interested so we purchased several of them.

We discovered some fruit and vegetable snack packs in the produce aisle where they had combinations like peanut butter and celery, apples and caramel, carrots and hummus. My children were interested so we purchased several of them.

My other daughter requested watermelon.  She also suggested yogurt.

My other daughter requested watermelon. She also suggested yogurt.

My son enjoyed inspecting everything.

My son enjoyed inspecting everything.

In the end, he insisted on fruit snacks (not quite the "fruit" I was going for.)

In the end, he insisted on fruit snacks (not quite the “fruit” I was going for.)

I prepared myself that we might waste a lot of money on foods that the children would not eat but we are dedicated to try.

Even the grocery store is in a Lenten mood.

Even the grocery store is in a Lenten mood.

Another kid-friendly choice: olives!

Another kid-friendly choice: olives!

My pickiest eater picked out corn as a yummy vegetable so we bought it.

My pickiest eater picked out corn as a yummy vegetable so we bought it.

That night for dinner, the children agreed to some healthier choices like whole wheat quesadilla with olives.

That night for dinner, the children agreed to some healthier choices like whole wheat quesadilla with olives.

. . . and salmon and milk!

. . . and salmon and milk!

Today I did not wake up ravenous as I am used to my Wednesday fasts now. However, I did wake up a bit overwhelmed as I am going to be doing a lot of cooking and cooking in ways that are new to me. However, even with a busy schedule and lots of errands to run, I managed to stick to the cooking plan in It’s All Good. I am following the “Body Builder” weekly plan.

Breakfast: egg white omelet huevos rancheros style.  I simplified the recipe by  using bottled egg whites rather than cracking eggs, skipping the canned beans seasonings and just rinsing the beans and nuking them in the microwave a few minutes and using store-bought pickled jalapenos.  Results?  Quite yummy!

Breakfast: egg white omelet huevos rancheros style. I simplified the recipe by using bottled egg whites rather than cracking eggs, skipping the canned beans seasonings and just rinsing the beans and nuking them in the microwave a few minutes and using store-bought pickled jalapenos. Results? Quite yummy!

Lunch: Vietnamese-style salad with salmon.  I skipped the watercress, mint and basil as the store didn't have these.  I also forgot fish sauce for the dressing.  However, it was still a delicious salad even with all these ingredients missing.

Lunch: Vietnamese-style salad with salmon. I skipped the watercress, mint and basil as the store didn’t have these. I also forgot fish sauce for the dressing. However, it was still a delicious salad even with all these ingredients missing.

To reduce cooking time, packing up the extra for lunch tomorrow.

To reduce cooking time, packing up the extra for lunch tomorrow.

Snack: Pumpkin Pie Shake My children thought this looked yummy and asked to taste it.  My daughter took one sip said, "It's kind of OK." and then asked for a glass of water to wash it down.  My son was excited because he thought it was a real milkshake!  He took one sip and made raspberry-like spitting noises indicating his disgust.  As for me, I thought it was rather good--creamy and spicy!

Snack: Pumpkin Pie Shake My children thought this looked yummy and asked to taste it. My daughter took one sip said, “It’s kind of OK.” and then asked for a glass of water to wash it down. My son was excited because he thought it was a real milkshake! He took one sip and made raspberry-like spitting noises indicating his disgust. As for me, I thought it was rather good–creamy and spicy!

Saving time by packing away the other half of the sweet potato for tomorrow's shake.

Saving time by packing away the other half of the sweet potato for tomorrow’s shake.

Dinner: Mediterranean-style turkey burger salad.  The burger has lots and lots of onions and garlic in it.  It was pretty good.  The salad was dressed only in lemon juice and was also good.

Dinner: Mediterranean-style turkey burger salad. The burger has lots and lots of onions and garlic in it. It was pretty good. The salad was dressed only in lemon juice and was also good.

Saving time in future by wrapping up the other 3 burgers for future dinners.  Just grill and add lettuce to finish.

Saving time in future by wrapping up the other 3 burgers for future dinners. Just grill and add lettuce to finish.

My daughter's opinion of the turkey burgers aromatic fragrance and her choice for dinner.

My daughter’s opinion of the turkey burgers aromatic fragrance and her choice for dinner.

Soaked almonds for a snack.  Apparently the soaking makes them easier to digest.

Soaked almonds for a snack. Apparently the soaking makes them easier to digest.

More kid tasting of healthy foods today.  Watermelon gets a thumbs up!

More kid tasting of healthy foods today. Watermelon gets a thumbs up!

Packing the watermelon into easy-to-grab cups for the fridge.

Packing the watermelon into easy-to-grab cups for the fridge.

My son has decided he likes V8 juice!

My son has decided he likes V8 juice!

I am not really feeling hungry at this point. The portions of these clean eating meals are quite generous and filling. My children are doing OK as well. They still eat a lot of carbs but are being great sports about tasting new foods and switching out choices like Nutella for peanut butter. It is only day 2 but so far so good!

If you are joining along (thanks Bertie and Mary!) please share how you are doing.

*I am not affiliated with Wal-Mart or goop.

Feb 032014
 
"Anorexia." Photo by Benjamin Watson.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

“Anorexia.” Photo by Benjamin Watson. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Ruth recently posted a comment on my post reporting the opinions of my doctors on my diet and exercise efforts.

. . . And fyi–here are signs of anorexia:

Do you feel fat even though people tell you you’re not?
Are you terrified of gaining weight?
Do you lie about how much you eat or hide your eating habits from others?
Are your friends or family concerned about your weight loss, eating habits, or appearance?
Do you diet, compulsively exercise, or purge when you’re feeling overwhelmed or bad about yourself?
Do you feel powerful or in control when you go without food, over-exercise, or purge?
Do you base your self-worth on your weight or body size?

I don’t feel personally that I am anorexic or at risk of becoming so. I like to eat too much. I am fully honest with my doctors about my weight and eating habits and while I may diet and exercise to make myself look better and for health benefits, I don’t diet to make myself feel better. If my diet and exercise started to affect my ability to care for my family or my doctors told me to gain a few pounds for health reasons, I would abandon my dieting immediately.

When I learned in The Fast Diet about an eating pattern called calorie restriction, wherein people purposely restrict their calories each day to a low amount and are very careful about what foods they eat (with supposedly great health benefits), I wondered how such an intense eating pattern was any different from anorexia.

I came across this interesting article on the subject by Melissa A. Fabello called, “Five Subtle Differences Between Diets and Anorexia.” It is written by someone who clearly has struggled with anorexia and gives us all a glimpse of what the anorexic mindset looks like.

Even after reading this article, it is still hard for me to draw a clear line between dieting and anorexia. The article points out a couple of behaviors that most people dieting won’t have but those with anorexia do:

  • You don’t have a defined goal weight. There is no weight that can ever be thin enough.
  • When you cheat on your diet you worry for days about it rather than feeling some guilt, resolving to do better next time and quickly moving on.
  • You find that you can’t think about any subject without coming back to the subject of food and eating.
  • Purging. Voluntarily causing yourself to vomit to avoid calorie intake or exercising to extremes to burn off every calorie consumed. (Vomiting is such an unpleasant feeling I can’t imagine ever wanting to do this as a dieting technique.)

One thing that stood out in my anorexia research is that there is no bright line quantitative rule for anorexia. For example, it is a rare situation where a healthy grown woman of average height would weigh less than 100 pounds or a healthy grown man of average height less than 150 pounds. Yet you will never find any definition of anorexia that is based solely on weight or body fat. This article points out that you could even be overweight and still have anorexia and that anorexia is best defined as a mental illness with a disordered perception of food.

Of course, if you suspect you have anorexia, you need to be under professional care. Ideally, you would start with your family doctor or consult a hotline like the one below.

Thanks to Ruth for an insightful comment!

In my next post, continuing the theme of disordered eating with a look at how we are impacted by body images of celebrities.

 Posted by on February 3, 2014 General Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 302014
 
The montage of fasting salads that prompted Bertie's question.

The montage of fasting salads that prompted Bertie’s question.

Devoted reader Bertie recently commented on my 5-2 fasting post:

Bertie says:
Those salads look delicious! Could you post the recipes?

When I first started making calorie-conscious salads, I was careful to write down all the ingredients and track all the calories. I posted my first set of recipes here. Now that I have more experience making salads, I have found that there is really no need for recipes!

So, below is my non-recipe “formula” to building a low-calorie salad, using as an example, the salad I ate yesterday for my fast day.

Step One: Greens

Salad greens are almost no calorie. They are like the diet soda of foods. A generous bowl of salad greens is only about 30 calories. There is no need to measure your salad greens. Even if you go a bit over, you are probably only talking about 10 calories. You could eat a gigantic bag of salad greens for 100 calories. Dump a big amount of salad greens in your bowl, however many you like. Another trick here is to consider cutting up your greens into small pieces. I don’t know why this makes a taste difference but it does. My husband and I did not like eating kale of any kind until I learned to grab a handful of greens and slice them with a knife. Subway restaurants use this trick in their “chopped salads” and Diamond Dallas Page suggests it in his yoga recipes guide.

The heart of any low-calorie salad is its base of greens.

The heart of any low-calorie salad is its base of greens.

Step Two: Determine Your Cravings

When you are dieting or fasting, everything, even vegetables, will become a cravable food. Look in your fridge or pantry and determine what you are craving at that moment. Nuts? Cheese? Meat? Sweet-stuff like apples or dried apricots? Most cravable foods are relatively high calorie per serving. Determine how many calories you need to budget for your craving and build the rest of the salad accordingly.

Step Three: Additional Vegetables

I usually add at least one more vegetable to my salad greens. It might be carrots, green pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, grated zucchini or asparagus. Add these on to the salad. After you have counted calories on these a few times you will learn that most vegetables are essentially calorie-free but a few, like tomatoes, corn and onions, you have to learn how much you can afford to have for your particular calorie budget.

2014-01-30-greenpepper

Step Four: Dressing

One of the highest calorie components in a salad is the dressing. Many salad dressings can be 100 calories or more per tablespoon. You should always measure your salad dressing carefully so you learn how much a tablespoon is. Depending on what else you are putting in the salad (cheese, olives), you might be able to get away without adding any dressing. I usually put the dressing on right on the greens where I need the flavor the most. For my salad, I did a variation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Miso Balsamic dressing. With 1 tablespoon yellow miso and 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, I made a dressing for 40 calories.

My low-calorie dressing clocks in at 40 calories, making the total greens base of my salad about 100 calories.

My low-calorie dressing clocks in at 40 calories, making the total greens base of my salad about 100 calories.

Step Five: Cravings
Next, it is time to add the cravable higher calorie foods. For me, this is usually a lean protein like chicken, turkey, salmon or shrimp. Sometimes it is beans or avocado. Sliced hard boiled egg is another good ingredient at this stage. One egg is about 80 calories, which means you can have quite a few.

Last night's craving from the fridge was a turkey burger patty.  Adding it here for 200 calories.

Last night’s craving from the fridge was a turkey burger patty. Adding it here for 200 calories.

Step Six: Cheese

Cheese is a wonderful ingredient to make a salad feel richer and taste better but it is also another of those salad ingredients that you have to watch carefully for calories. Most cheeses list their calorie counts by weight so using a kitchen scale to measure your cheese is a good idea. Once you see how small one ounce of cheese is, it will entice you to buy extremely flavorful cheeses so that you get more bang for your calories.

Weighing the cheese.  1 ounce = 110 calories

Weighing the cheese. 1 ounce = 110 calories

That’s about it!

The finished salad, coming in at around 400 calories.

The finished salad, coming in at around 400 calories.

At first, the calorie counting takes time and drives you crazy. After you have calorie counted several times you start to get a feel for how many calories are in something and you can get looser with your measurements.

Do you have your own formulas for calorie counting or salads? Please share in the comments.

*In my next post, responding to a reader comment on anorexia vs. dieting.

 Posted by on January 30, 2014 General Tagged with: , , , ,