Archive for Healthy Living

Sugar Glum: How to eat less sugar during the Holidays


So it is inevitable, you are going to eat sweets. It’s the holidays, right?  Sugar is how we celebrate, how we show love, how we indulge.  Fortunes have been made on sugar. Our culture is so inescapably sugar coated, that it is often hard to pass on the sweets without being seen as rude.  Sugar is just what we do.  We love our sweets.

 

So how can you navigate the neighbor gifts, the holiday parties, the sweet gifts given with sweet intentions?  Well, quite simply, you can’t.  I would just encourage you to indulge mindfully. Here are 5 tips to help you survive the frosted fun of holiday indulgences.

sugardevil1. Know your enemy.

For me, it is easier to pass on something when I know exactly what it does in my body, when I can weigh the detriment against the pleasure and make an informed decision.  Generalities won’t do it.  You can tell yourself “a second serving of pie and I won’t be able to button my pants in the morning.”  It might stop you. Or you can stare down a brownie and tell yourself, “the sugar in that will spike my blood sugar, tax my liver, fertilize cancer cells, leach nutrients from my body, impair my immune system, and, oh yeah, I won’t be able to button my pants in the morning.”  That may sound extreme, but the more you look into it, the more and more sugar begins to look like a poison.  Consider this:

Nancy Appleton, PhD, clinical nutritionist, has compiled a list of 146 reasons on ‘how sugar is ruining your health’ in her book Lick the Sugar Habit. Here are some of them:

* Sugar can decrease growth hormone (the key to staying youthful and lean)

* Sugar feeds cancer

* Sugar increases cholesterol

* Sugar can weaken eyesight

* Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children

* Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein

* Sugar causes food allergies

* Sugar contributes to diabetes

* Sugar can contribute to eczema in children

* Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease

* Sugar can impair the structure of DNA

* Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children

* Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases)

* Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)* Sugar contributes to osteoporosis”

(Taken from this article on Mike Adam’s “the Health Ranger” site, NaturalNews.com

Now, while thinking these facts and staring at that brownie, I might still have a bite…but it would have to be one hell of a brownie!

sugardrink2. Don’t drink your sugar.

While browsing the holiday spread, you might consider drinking water and bypassing the sodas, the ciders, the sparklies.  It is easier to overdo the sugar consumption when consuming beverages because you don’t have the fiber, the bulk, to signal you with satiation cues.  In addition, fructose–the sugar typically most abundant in beverages like sodas and juices–does not suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin, leaving you still looking for something to satisfy that sweet tooth.   Once again, be mindful. If you have decided to celebrate with some sweets, would you rather drink your “allowance” in once glass of bubbly, or opt instead to sample the munchables?

3.  Know your alternatives.

I love my sweets, like anyone else.  I am a recovering sugar addict. Seriously, I used to “shoot” sugar packets at restaurants while waiting for my meal.  Now, when the need for sweet hits, I don’t deny myself. I just use different tools to get the job done.  In fact, when I am required to cook with sugar, I run to the store…I don’t even have it on my shelves.  I am friends with enough other options, I can almost always get by with a healthy alternative.  Try them out, find your favorites, keep them on hand.  Make yourself some healthy snacks or desserts so you can indulge without crashing your diet.

click here to meet some sugar substitutes.

As a side note, do not substitute Bad with Worse.  The diet soda full of chemical sweeteners is not a sound substitute for sugar!

4.  Watch your portions.

Taste if you will. Oftentimes, I have a bite of my husband’s dessert, or a tiny slice of this or that. I just need the taste. When you get that bite in your mouth, don’t swallow right away….savor.  Put your fork down and experience the flavor.  Stretch out the experience.  Enjoy it.

Green smoothie dreaming5.  Use my penance program

It may sound silly or simple, but I tell you…it works. If you indulge, do penance the next morning with a big so-healthy-its-nasty smoothie.  It will make you think before you indulge, “it is worth it?” And if it is worth it, so be it! You can just help your body recover with a mega dose of good-for-you greens.

I encourage you to do your homework. Try not to use the holidays as justification to tank your health.  Check out the chart below. Be mindful of how much sugar you consume daily. Also, I recommend the movie Hungry for Change.  And if you have an hour and a half to burn on a heavy lecture, listen to “Sugar, the Bitter Truth” by Robert H.Lustig, M.D. of the UCSF Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth
Created by: www.OnlineNursingPrograms.com

The Secret to Storing Soulful Tomatoes

Off season, store bought toms scare me!

Say goodbye to bland tomato sauce and store bought zombie toms…Tomatoes that have no soul.  Now you can have year round tomato taste with maximum nutrition with minimal space.  

Tomato Powder: the super space-saving, nutrient dense method of preserving the tide of tomato abundance

 

Garden Tomatoes

I didn’t edit this photo at all…you just can’t capture the brightness of homegrown tomatoes!

I grow lots of tomatoes.  Why? Because there is nothing like biting into a garden fresh, vine ripened tomato.  You can’t buy that taste in any store. Okay that is part of it. The other reason? They are easy to grow.  I have so many failed garden attempts withering in my garden beds, that I cover my blunders with gnarly unstoppable vines of tomatoes. If you think I am exaggerating, ask me how many I planted this last year. Go ahead, ask……28.  Yes, twenty-eight plants for a family of six.  Considering each plant yields roughly one bzillion toms, that left me with a few leftover to store.

I used to can tomatoes. They are perhaps the easiest fruit to can and can be used in so many ways; you can’t go wrong with a shelf of home canned tomatoes. Then I embarked on my raw food adventure.  Though I am not close to a 100% raw foodist, it did wake me up to the nutrient value of raw foods. Suddenly I found myself unable to plunge my beautiful, fresh lovelies into boiling water.  Processing, even on a home level, seemed so tragic.  What’s a raw loving girl to do in a crimson tide of toms?  After my first growing season on our “farm” I froze a lot of tomato puree.  But let’s face it, how often do I plan a meal far enough in advance to thaw out a tub of tomato goop? Not often. Not to mention I only have a finite amount of freezer space.

You know what they say about necessity mothering invention? Well, I “invented” something amazing.  Out of desperation, I began stuffing tomatoes into my dehydrator.  Then to save space, I began powdering them in my blender.  Turns out, almost a bushel of tomatoes will fit in one mason jar!  I did it! I found the space saver secret to tomato storage!  Evil laughter filled my kitchen.  And what a bonus it was not to be stuck in a hot, steamy kitchen!  But….what to do with powdered tomatoes?

tompowderThat is the beautiful genius of it all…it is delicious!  Tomato powder can go in pretty much everything short of a cheesecake.  Need more specifics?

 

  • Tomato paste
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato sauce
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • Chili

 

Use it as a thickener. (I especially like this feature when making my raw marinara!)

Create illusions: a spoonful of tom powder in canned soup or sauce just brightens it up, making it taste fresher and, dare I say it, homemade!  (I am all for easy dishes that get you homemade credit!!)

Summer-ize: during the sad winter season when tomatoes only come in pale pink frankenfruit varieties at the grocery store, use this powder to pack a REAL punch of summer into whatever you are serving. For a tasty twist of irony, sprinkle it on your winter-shipped-pathetic-store-bought-frankenmaters!

As for inventing it, I totally did.  The people who market it in stores on the Internet surely gleaned it from my consciousness magically, you know, before I found it in there myself.  Yes, you can buy it.  But I figure I saved myself the cost of a new minivan by making it myself.

Note: it does clump a bit.  You could add cornstarch or something like that to declump, but I would rather use a fork to break it up than defile my lovelies with additives.  Shaking and patting the jar is usually enough to do the job. If you do live somewhere with humidity, try storing with a little pouch of dry rice.  Rice is an excellent natural moisture absorber!

Store in a cool, dry place.  You know, the usual food storage advice.  How long you ask? Well, I had one pint jar leftover from my first season and, one full year later, it still tasted bright and tommy.   I am sure you could add an oxygen absorber to extend its shelf life, but really it is so versatile, you will rotate through it quickly.

 Did I mention it is easy?

dry tomsWash and de-core your tomatoes.  Then, simply slice thin and arrange in your dehydrator. If you have a temperature control feature, keep the heat low, under 118 degrees to preserve the enzymes and “raw” quality.  Dry overnight or until crisp.  Then simply blend in your food processor or high powered blender until you have a fine powder.  Fill your jars and there you go!

 

blend tomsEXPRESS method:

After my first 5 million tomatoes, I was so sick of slicing I moved to this method…puree.  Wash and de-core your tomatoes.  Then toss into your high powered blender and puree.  Pour on teflex sheets (or whatever mats you use to make fruit leathers in your dehydrator).   Dry until brittle…dryer than fruit leather but not burned!  Then break off pieces and powder.

tomatoe powder jarstomatoe powder

 

That is all there is to it!

My food philosophy: 12 Foodisms

food appleI have hesitated to put into words what my food philosophy is for two reasons: 1.) to declare your ideals means you better stand by them and I fear the first time one of my “readers” recognizes my van at a drive thru window and 2.) food is a matter that ignites debate, defensiveness and detriment faster than anything save religion and politics. Then again maybe it is the fastest; I think it is easier to say “I am Mormon and unaffiliated” than it is to tell you what I eat and won’t eat! Gulp, here I go…

I’m sharing my ideals. I am striving to elevate my actions to match. Hopefully, putting this in words will help me!

I believe our bodies are divinely designed to do miraculous things, that they are built with healing mechanisms and can withstand, heal and/or defend from illness, injury, abuse, or deterioration IF we give them the fuel they need. Likewise, if we spare our bodies the barrage of toxins so abundant in today’s culture, we free ourselves to perform rather than suffer. I believe few of us fully cash in on the potential powers our bodies have to offer.  I, for one, am insatiably curious to see what my body can do if I stop getting in the way!!

This book is inspiring. Truly one of the unsung and most tragic heroes of our time!

This book is inspiring. Truly one of the unsung and most tragic heroes of our time!

We are–feel, think, act, and live–what we eat (and what we eat eats). Figure that one out! I think that statement comes with enormous responsibility to unravel the food riddle.

Some of my greatest influences are the great folks at Food Matters and Nourishing Traditions. I also consider Max Gerson to be a hero and recommend this book: Dr Max Gerson Healing the Hopeless. It’s the story of a humble physician who essentially cured cancer by courageously and compassionately treating people with real foods, essentially performing miracles against the greatest of odds.

Excuse me if I ramble, but here I go: 12 of my foodisms:

1.  Eat Food

I believe Michael Pollan stated it simply and beautifully when he sfoodrules (1)aid:

Eat Food, Not too much. Mostly plants.

I would first eleborate on Food to say CLEAN food.

Clean for me means raised sustainably and humanely, free of harmful chemicals, and local if possible.

2. Know your No’s:

the more I learn, the more foods fall off my plate.  To be fair, the general “whole foods” rule takes the guesswork out of eating, but I find it easier to stick to my guns if I know WHY a food is bad. Here are some I try to avoid altogether:

  • High fructose corn syrup (or any corn syrup, really)
  • Artificial sugar substitutes, especially aspartame!
  • Artificial colors and flavors
  • Monosodium Glutamate by any other name
  • Processed wheat, soy and corn
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Refined Carbohydrates and overly processed anything

food apple3. Eat Local but Remember: It’s a Small World After All

I love eating from farmers markets and even better, my own yard.  Local is by far the best thing you can do for your body and your community. BUT there are times you can’t source locally and then, I try to eat mindfully. For example, sustainably raised cacao is one of my most supreme pleasures!  I love coconut anything.  I “collect” superfoods and most of them just don’t grow here in our lovely Deseret.  But if it is sustainably farmed, there is joy in knowing you are connecting with someone on the other side of the planet, even if it’s just through your seaweed!

4. If it’s Alive, you will be too!

  • Enzymes: Green Smoothie Girl identified the #1 nutritional deficiency in our day as enzymes. Live, active enzymes.  These are practically the fountain of youth because if you aid digestion, you aid your entire body!  They are found most abundantly in raw foods. Green smoothies and raw, fresh juices are an awesome way to get yours in!water-kefir-10
  • Probiotics: experiment with yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented foods.  I struggle with the flavor of some, but keep going back for more! To date my most successful venture is water kefir–the kids think it is better than soda pop!–and yogurt. (Not made with goat milk because Goatgurt has a weird taste to us.)

5. Cleansing

I believe in juice cleanses.  I try to do at least 2 consecutive days a month. True, your body is equipped with filters and cleansing processes. But with the horrific barrage of environmental and dietary toxins we take in and the stress of modern life, I believe helping out is a huge benefit. Gold Water can be used to increase the effectiveness of a cleanse and for an even bigger boost, try a coffee enema. *gasp!* what did she say?  You heard me!

6.  Grain on the Brain:

I haven’t entirely figured out what grains I am friends with and which to forgo.  I do believe soaked and sprouted grains are best and try to do that when possible.  My kids have helped me make sprouted flours. Ideally ancient grains are best, as wheat, soy and corn are so hybridized and mutated your body doesn’t recognize them anymore.  I realize those aren’t all grains, but you get the idea.  I try to be mindful of what grains we eat and how they are prepared.

gmo-gentically-modified-organism7. GMO’s scare me.

8. Dairy: RAWmilk jars

Once milk is pasteurized it is a different substance entirely!  We have loved our raw, fresh milk. We even had it tested in a lab and found it had less than 1% of the contaminates legally allowed in milk sold at the grocery store. ew!

yeah, this is homemade tacos in every way! We'll call it "Chevon"

yeah, these are homemade tacos in every way! We’ll call it “Chevon”

9. Meat:

Clean and ethical. I’m opposed to factory farming in every way. It is disgusting, exploitative and a gross violation of nature. People think we are horrible for butchering our own meat, but I find it far more responsible and humane. Not to get all Avatar on you, but if you are going to take a life to sustain your own, at least make sure it had a meaningful, fulfilling life first! Joel Salatin is my champion in this field, “honor the chickenness of the chicken!”

10. Vegan/Vegetarian:

given point #8, some would wonder why I am not vegan.  In concert with the tenants taught by the Weston Price Foundation, I believe meat has a place in our diet.  I do believe eating meat is a privilege that comes with great responsibility and is meant to be done with respect and gratitude.  This is detailed in Pollan’s book “the Omnivore’s dilemma.” I do enjoy vegan and vegetarian cuisine and cooking. The more diversity, the better!

listen11. Listen to your body:

I loved reading an article about how a public vegan health coach came out to her audience and bravely admitted “I am not a vegan anymore.” She was met with fierce backlash but she detailed how her body deeply craved meat and eggs and functioned so much better when she honored that.  I am not advocating her choice, I am advocating her method. LISTEN.

It’s okay to change: my dietary regimen is constantly evolving as I learn more. Five years ago, I thought lean cuisines and slim fasts were healthy eating! I learn and try new techniques all the time.

Food for thought; I just finished a book called Intuitive Eating that was eye-opening and essentially about trusting yourself to know what and how much to eat. Worth a read!

true diets12. One way is not the way:

Although I believe there are some choices that should be universally applied (e.g. Industrial Ag has got to go, and nothing good for you starts with Mc) I don’t think any one regimen is for everyone. Some people absolutely thrive on a vegan diet, while others struggle to maintain energy levels. My mom can’t tolerate green smoothies because of a vitamin K sensitivity, go figure!

There is a lot of conflicting information out there. Deciphering it can be the quest of a lifetime. Considering that food is one of the few universal constants we share with everyone, everyday…it seems worth it, right?

The Brilliance of Bone Broth

DIY bone brothLet’s talk about a nutritional powerhouse that costs mere pennies per serving, that tastes great and that is so versatile you can use it daily. Did I mention it is nearly fool-proof to make, takes little effort, and stores well?  Interested?  Meet Bone Broth, a pantry staple at my house.

The definitive link to learn about bone broth comes from one of my favorite sites, Nourished Kitchen.  I am just giving a general overview here. But trust me…all the good stuff, none of the bad, and minimal effort…you will want to jump on this train!

cup of bone brothBenefits of Broth

It is hard to overstate the benefits of bone broth.  It is an incredible source of minerals and amino acids that absorb easily into the body.

Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation says: Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Bone broth (also called stock) is nutritive, boosts the immune system, lubricates joints, reduces inflammation, and contains gelatin, which has healing and soothing properties.

Cooking BrothMy Method

I am not much of a recipe person so much as a “throw it together” person.  You can google broth recipe and come up with hundreds of variations if you prefer specifics.  I will just list some of the basic components.

Ingredients

  • Filtered Water
  • Bones: Grass fed and free range!  They can have meat or no meat on them. Roast them briefly in the oven for maximum flavor, but I often skip this step.  I like to mix different varieties.  This last week, I had chicken, rabbit, goat, and duck all brewing in the same pot. Though I am usually not so exotic, I like the flavor complexity of different varieties. Plus, it is more cost efficient to save up bones and bits and throw them in a big pot all at once.
  • apple cider vinegarAdd a little vinegar. I like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.  Vinegar helps break down the bones more completely, making minerals such as calcium more available. I add roughly a Tablespoon for every gallon or so of water.
  • Veggies/Herbs: Whatever you have.  I always add onion. You can even throw the skin in! If I have celery I will throw a couple of stalks in.  Carrots* are good, I often rotate through my food storage and add dehydrated carrots.  Garlic, minced or whole heads work.  Add any of your favorite herbs, dried or fresh.
  • Salt.  This is totally optional. I like to leave it relatively bland knowing I will salt the finished product in whatever dish I use the broth in.

*Tips: If you are going for a clear broth, you need to be pickier about the veggies you add.  Carrots, for example, will cause the color to darken significantly.

Big Batches of Broth

For big batches, I use my roaster oven like a crock pot and set it on low, about 250.

Guidelines:

Again, this is not an exact science. I am just sharing the easy way to get tasty broth.

  1. Put water, bones, and vinegar in a crock pot.  I like to use my 22 qt roaster oven once every month or so.  I am all about making giant batches. Use whatever size you want, the method is the same. Cover the bones/meat in cold water. Put your cooker on a low setting and then walk away. It’s that easy.
  2. Add veggies/herbs. You can add them at the beginning, but I find the flavor is a little cleaner if I add the veggies a couple of hours before I unplug the crock pot.
  3. Monitor your water. Make sure your water level never goes so low you can dry out.  Add a pitcher of water when you notice it getting low. Check on it when you happen to pass through the kitchen, right before bed, and right when you wake up.  You do NOT want to run out of water!
  4. Be Patient. This can also be read as “low maintenance.” You want to give your broth at least overnight to cook.  Broth is so forgiving though, I have left it on for as long as 3 days, until I had time to deal with it.
  5. Test doneness.  Easiest way is to taste it! When you like the flavor, drain the broth through a fine sieve. (Picky chefs will use a coffee filter for a clear broth, but I don’t mind a rougher product.)  DO NOT THROW AWAY the bones and stuff!  There is

    Test for doneness with a bone

    If you can crush bone with your fingers, the broth is done.

    a test you can do to see if the bones are done “giving.”  Pick up a piece of bone and apply pressure. If it easily crumbles inbetween your thumb and forefingers, you have leached all the minerals out and they are done. If the bones are still strong, fill your crock up with water and start all over again!  You may want to add fresh veggies.

  6. Skim and Store.  Some people like a low-fat broth. If this is you, simply chill your strained broth for a couple of hours and you will see the fat all float to the surface and harden.  If your broth cooked long enough, it will probably gel over in the fridge (if it was over diluted, you may get less of a gel, but it will at least thicken.)  With a simple spoon, skim the fat off the top and discard or use in other ways.  I like the fat and don’t bother with this step.  Store as desired (see below.)

In my experience there are only a couple of things you can do to ruin broth.

  1. Let the water cook out. Sounds like a no brainer but I have left the broth on too long and been welcomed by the smell of scorch.  You have to virtually leave town or completely forget you are brewing broth for this to happen. Luckily, the smell permeating through your kitchen is usually enough to keep you from forgetting about it.  If your broth has boiled down considerably and you are heading to bed, top it off with fresh water!
  2. Undercooking your bones.  You want to extract as much of the nutrition and flavor as possible.  Cook your pot overnight at least. A simple broth cooks for 2-3 hours with lots of meaty pieces, but we are going for an economical, nutritive bone broth. That takes time.  If it tastes weak, keep it simmering!

Culinary uses

Oh the fun of always having broth on hand! Most often, I use it for the liquid when cooking grains. Check out any of these uses for broth…

  • Rice, Quinoa, Couscous
  • Sauces, Gravies
  • Soup base
  • Braising veggies
  • Basting meat
  • Mashed potatoes/root vegetables
  • Sip straight on a cold day

Savings: Buying it vs Making it

 

spend money

$ Buy IT $ For organic broth, you can pay anywhere from $1.99 to $4.99 for 32 oz.  Sometimes it includes the taste of tin can for free.  They are often over processed, and even organic brands can contain additives or undesirable ingredients.

For example, here are the ingredients right off the label of Swanson’s certified organic chicken broth.  Which of these would not appear in your home cooked version?

INGREDIENTS

ORGANIC CHICKEN BROTH (WATER, ORGANIC FREE RANGE CHICKEN), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 % OF THE FOLLOWING: SEA SALT, ORGANIC CHICKEN FLAVOR (NATURAL FLAVOR*, SEA SALT, XANTHAN GUM), CHICKEN FAT*, COOKED ORGANIC VEGETABLES (CARROT*, ONION*, CELERY*), VEGETABLE FLAVOR (SPINACH PUREE, CARROT PUREE, CELERY PUREE, SALT, ONION PUREE, CITRIC ACID), ORGANIC YEAST EXTRACT (ORGANIC YEAST EXTRACT, SALT, WHEAT*), ONION POWDER*, SUGAR*, CANE JUICE*, MOLASSES*, YEAST EXTRACT*, CANOLA OIL*, FLAVORING, CARROT POWDER*, POTATO FLOUR*, SPICE EXTRACT*, TURMERIC*, BLACK PEPPER*. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC

You can make it yourself!* Make It * You make gallons of broth using scraps you would have thrown away! (incidentally, I also believe you honor the animal by making the most use of it as possible, rather than being wasteful with it.) Theoretically, you could save on supplements, like the ever expensive glucosamine and chondroitin, by making bone broth a daily addition to your diet.

Here are a few tips for pinching more pennies:

Be Resourceful

I claim the carcasses of turkeys and chickens I eat at family parties.  I may be weird, but even my dad knows to bag those bones rather than throw them away.

Ask.

Ask your local butcher if he will sell you bones at a low price.  Most people are paying to have bones removed from their cuts. He may thank you for taking them off his hands! I love my local meat source, Utah Natural Meat.  They sell bundles of beef, goat, pork, and chicken bones.

Chicken feet

Chicken feet are the best for broth and can be purchased cheaply.

Happy feet

I used to be repulsed by the thought of chicken feet, but now I love them.  They are the highest source you can find for collagen, which any woman with a drop of vanity knows is the secret to youthful skin!  I suppose you could rub collagen on your face, but I prefer to drink the benefits in broth.  Try it before you dis, it adds a great flavor and quality to your bone broth.  Here is a link on how to clean chicken feet yourself.  Or you can buy them cheap at oriental markets, or local meat markets.

On a related note, necks are also great for brothing.

Save your scraps
  • When you eat meat, save the bones in a bag in the freezer until you are ready to broth.  After a significant meal, like roast chicken or turkey, I just plan on brothing that night. It is so easy, why not?
  • The same goes for veggie scraps. Onion skins? Celery bulbs? Carrot peels? Throw them all in a scrap bag!

Storing Broth

Chill: Keep sealed in the fridge for about a week.

Freeze: Pour into an airtight container or a ziplock bag and store in your freezer indefinitely. Freeze in ice-cube trays for small portions you can use for liquid in sauteing or to add a little flavor to dishes.

can can dancersCan Can: You can also pressure can and store for about a year.  I’ve included a link on how to can broth.

I like to keep some of all methods on hand.  I rotate through pretty quickly.

There is something supremely satisfying about starting a recipe with homemade broth.  The flavor is better, the nutritional value higher, you know what’s in it and you did it yourself!

Go ahead, Turn your house into a Brothel.

Hmmm…you know what I mean.  You can’t beat the cost, taste, versatility, and nutrition of homemade broth.

 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies with perfect texture!

gluten free cookies with soft texture, easy to makeWhat is missing from so many gluten-free cookies? The soft texture. And taste. And ease.  Finally, I found the gooey right-out-of-the-oven goodness I thought forever destined to be on my no-no list.

I am not gluten-intolerant (no more so than the average human, anyway) but am coming around more and more to the idea of cutting out wheat, especially white flour.  I lamented the memories of cookie-making as a kid with my sweet grandma. Eating the dough. Smelling the wafting warm scent of heaven filling the kitchen.  Eating cookies before they were cool.  Here we go…Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies that deliver so I can make new tasty memories with my kids.

My undying thanks goes to the “Just Eat Real Food” Facebook page who posted a link to this blog post, “paleo chocolate chip cookies.” The picture didn’t snag me so much as the ingredient list. She boasted 6 simple ingredients (not exotic, hard-to-find, expensive items like so many other “healthy” desserts.)  She hit me on a day I was desperate for dessert so I bit.

Upon investigating, there are lots of versions of these recipes, so I apologize for posting yet another one, but I had to share the love. I made some notable changes, and doubled the recipe, because who only makes one pan of cookies? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Love

almonds, star ingredient

Almonds star in this dish. You can make your own nut butter if, like me, you don’t have any on hand when the craving hits.

(titled because there isn’t anything in there that doesn’t love you back!*)
  • 2 1/2 cups almonds (preferably raw, unpasteurized, but use what you have.)
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil (or oil of preference. Add a bit more as needed to blend the almonds)

OR Substitute 2 cups almond butter for the first 2 ingredients (cuts on time and won’t need a blender if you go this route!)

  • 1/2 cup raw honey or agave (add more or less to your sweetness preference)
  • 2 eggs (free range, if you can!)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan is my preference)
  • chocolate chips* I never measure these. Just put in as many as you’re craving.

*Obviously, chocolate chips contain sugar and fats, depending on the kind you buy.  I for one feel okay eating a few of these when the rest of the cookie is healthy. This time around, I used a handful of dark chocolate chips. In the future I plan on using cacao nibs for a completely guilt free cookie.

Preheat oven to 350°
  1. In a Blendtec or high-powered blender (a food processor would probably also work), grind the almonds as fine as possible.  Melt the coconut oil and drizzle in (or just add, the Blendtec will heat it enough to melt.)  It may take a few rounds to get it creamy like nut butter. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, it will smooth out more with the other liquids, and a few chunks are actually tasty in the final cookie!
  2. Pour in the sweet stuff and pulse a bit. Then add the eggs and vanilla and pulse until combined.
  3. Add the salt and baking soda. With a spoon or spatula, stir until the dough is uniform. It will be pretty wet compared to regular cookie dough.  Throw in the chocolate chips. Stir.
  4. Scoop onto a greased cookie sheet.  About 2 Tbs each cookie, slightly flattened. They don’t spread much so you don’t want them piled too high.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes. You want them just starting to brown on edges and dry to the touch on the outside.  Carefully remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes, 10 preferably. They set up more as they cool.

before and after baking cookiesThe verdict?

Passed the hubby test. Shea stole one off the cooling rack. I don’t think he realized I was cooking “healthy.” He was soon back for more.  He ate more cookies than he has fingers!

Passed the kid check. They all scarfed. Even Zaida ate one, my four-year-old who won’t touch anything that doesn’t look processed without a fight.

And me? 2 thumbs way up! I loved them! True, I am hard up for healthy treats, but I don’t just pledge my allegiance to any old cookie that claims to kill me slower than the traditional goody. These chocolate chippers are cakier than traditional cookies, but still hit the spot.  These are not just “good for gluten-free” or “good for healthy snacks”…they are plain good! An instant classic welcomed with wide arms, and wider mouths!

Everyone clamored for seconds, thirds, eighths…even the cookie dough was tasty! So glad to have the homemade cookie experience back at my house!

VARIATIONS:

  • If you have almond butter, all the better. These will mix up much faster. I was thrilled to find I didn’t need to abandon my cookie dreams just because I was missing the main ingredient.  You could also use peanut butter, sun butter, or a blend of any other nuts and seeds you have on hand.
  • For a completely guiltless version, use cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips. I plan on trying nibs with dried cherries in my next version. You could also get your chocolate fix by blending cocoa powder in the dough and omitting the chips altogether.
  • I plan on playing with mashed banana in place of some of the nut butter. I also think coconut flakes would be fun. Oh, my mind is spinning with cookie dreams!

Let me know what you do with these.  Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Share it on our Facebook page! Wishing you cookie dreams! mmmmm…..

Gluten free cookies worth making

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sugar Challenge for Kids

The last in my series of sugar posts (at least for a while) this one targets where change might be needed most…a sugar challenge for kids!

Seems these days kids are made of more sugar than spice. This MSN article says that average Americans eat 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and teens eat 34! This article on child sugar addiction cites an AHA study that children as young as 1 exceed daily recommendations, typically consuming 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. What?!

Where are they getting it?

sugary snacksSome of the most common sources of sugar for kids:

  • beverages (sodas, sports drinks, juices that aren’t 100% fruit)
  • breakfast cereal (for fun, check this slide show for the worst offenders.)
  • Fruit snacks, Candy (yes, I lumped those together!)
  • Desserts, Cookies, Ice cream, etc.

Keep an eye out for hidden sugars in other favorite “kid foods”:

applesauce, dried fruit, popcorn, yogurt, instant oatmeal, trail mix, pasta sauce, canned fruit, jams, etc.

reboot a sugar mouthWhat to do?

Most parents, would agree it is our job to feed our kids healthy foods. By extension, have we failed them if we raise them to crave artificial levels of sweet? What if you could take your child’s name of the long roster of sugar addicts? Training kids to like natural flavors, subtle sweetness, and a variety of whole foods might be one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

If you have done a sugar fast of your own, you know what withdrawals can feel like. How on earth do you get your kids on board?

  1. Talk openly about how harmful sugar is in our bodies. Don’t sugar coat it.
  2. Ask them for ideas. Kids are creative. They will think of ways to cut down or what to replace sugar with.
  3. Issue a challenge….a double dare, if you will. What kid won’t rise to a dare? Here is what we did in my home.

double dare your family to take the sugar challenge!Family Challenge: No Sugar for One Week.

I know I advocate 2 weeks in an adult sugar fast, but one week is a great length of time for kids. It feels long to them, but is easy enough to visualize. You can always extend if you think your kids are up for it.

The idea is simple, no sweets for a week.  With four kids ages 2-8 (the first time), we did a formal challenge, with rules and incentives.  See if it gives you any ideas…

Psych Up

Any mom who has survived potty training can tell you it is all about enthusiasm. Just like you may have cheered in a public restroom when your toddler finally did the deed, be prepared to be your kids’ biggest fan.  If they hear you complaining about missing sugar, will they stay on board?  Get your head into the game before you pitch this at the kids.  Be prepared to celebrate the successes! Pour on the praises! Be the sweet they are missing.

Prepare

Prep is much the same as for an adult sugar fast. See my 12 tips for sugar fasting. With kids, you want to be even more proactive, leaving less to willpower.  Have healthy snacks ready after school.  Be ready to pack healthy home lunches for school. Focus on variety, make sure they don’t feel like they are “missing out.”

no sugar? Eat broccoli

We didn’t even know Zaida would eat broccoli until she chose it as part of her healthy meal.

Try new things. The day before we kicked off our sugar fast, I pulled out all my healthy cookbooks and magazines and spread them on the floor and let each kid pick a meal they wanted to try. It was fun to see the variety they chose on their own.  I scheduled the week’s meals incorporating their recipes, and let them help make it. Instead of bemoaning the sugar they missed out on, they were bragging about the meal “they” cooked for the family (as if I had nothing to do with it.)  This served a two-fold purpose: distracting them from the changes we were experiencing, and helping them (and me) see that healthy food can be fun.

Set the Rules.

If they can memorize all the rules of Monopoly, complete with the homemade free parking clause, they can keep track of some simple rules (and even help make them!):

No sugar, No soda, no sweet cereals, no candy. No chocolate milk at school.

Establish Incentives:

The Big Prize:

Nickel Arcades...gold!Here in Utah we have nickel arcades—Nickelmania or Nickelcade. Depending on where you live, you may have to adjust and choose another arcade.  I suggest you pre-purchase the booty. For example, if Chuck E Cheese (I hate that place) is your destination, go there and purchase a load of tokens ahead of time. Use coupons, pull out all the mommy tricks; you want to dazzle them! I loaded on rolls of nickels beforehand and put them out so the kids could see them.

Along the way:

nickels...sugarless currencyWe hung a bag with each kids name on it on the fire place (stocking style!) and put 20 nickels in it to get them drooling. As the week goes on, they report their progress. They earn nickels for sticking to the plan. I even purchased candy off them for nickels. The kids would bring home fun size candy bars or tootsie rolls, even cupcakes from school and eagerly cash them in for Thomas Jeffersons.
If they cheat, you remove nickels from their bag. I would say one nickel for each infraction. As it was, we didn’t have to use this feature!

Bonus: Enjoy Inflation!
Suddenly nickels were the hot item in the house. I am not kidding. My kids aren’t the most motivated at times. There are days you could light their back pockets on fire and they may or may not get up to put the flames out; but attach a nickel to any deed, and suddenly they are unstoppable. Shea came home to a super clean house one day (shocker!) and I had to confess I hired help. “Really? How much did you spend?” “Well,” I explained, “the bathrooms cost me a nickel each. The laundry, a nickel per kid per load. The dishes….” you get the idea. My house sparkled for about 85 cents in cold hard 5-pieces. (Please don’t report me.) Sigh, I miss the nickel days.

facebook like signTake it over the top with social media:

Use Facebook! The first time we did this sugar challenge, it was such a ground breaking concept (wait mom, is that even possible?) that I wanted to do something really big. I posted on Facebook about our upcoming challenge and invited any of our friends to sponsor the kids…put a buck in the pot for each kid who didn’t cheat at all NOT EVEN ONCE. We ended up with an extra 12 bucks per kid, a fortune to them! It was also fun for them to see the support come in from aunts across the country, and even friends from Down Under. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to make this a habit, but I can’t think of a better bonus to kick off a sugar challenge…support and cash? Any kids dream come true!

Here is my FB post from January 30, 2012:

For family night tonight, we are kicking off a 7 day no sugar challenge. The kids are excited, as of now. (But then they are still high from their last fix.) Grandpa is kicking in 1 big buck for each kid who makes it. Anyone else want to sponsor this impossible task? I am doubting you will have to pay up, but the prospect is exciting!!!

 I posted periodic updates like this one on January 31:
Day one of no sugar with kids 2, 6, 7,and 8 years old is over. They are all wearing their reminder bracelets.  No cheats yet but some close calls. Zaida emphatically tried to convince me that there is no sugar in Airheads at the store today. Tayler almost sold her soul for a snickers but hung on. I love seeing them try hard!
and this final post made me laugh. Shea is never ornery, so seeing the sugar challenge irritate DAD of everyone was pretty funny….
Feb 6: Last day of the no sugar challenge. Seriously amazed that my kids have endured! The most surprising aspect of this challenge were the sugar withdrawals that made someone grumpy. And I don’t mean me. And I don’t mean the kids.

Just Do it!

All aboard! This is a team sport. Mom, dad, everyone.  Pick your dates. Get prepped. Do it.  Stay engaged and have a good time!  Try to laugh off the hard moments, and keep spirits up!

Sugar challenge gets 2 thumbs upSo how did it go?

The kids surprised me with their dedication to the cause. They would come home from school and triumphantly tell me about turning down a jolly rancher or choosing “white” instead of chocolate milk. Some of them earned accolades from their teachers who were amazed any kid would refuse a sugary handout. Some of them were a little high on the attention they got from friends dumbfounded by their bravery: “I can’t believe you are doing this, I would DIE!”
Even Zaida, who was only 2 1/2 at the time, would wake up and say “Is we eating sugah today mommy?” “No honey.” “Oh, okay.”

They loved our sugarless treats and snacks.  Watermelon was a huge hit.  Oranges tasted like candy.  They still ask me to make my homemade trail mix and ants on a log…never before heard of!
There were hard moments. On the day before our big finish, a kind and unknowing neighbor brought us over a homemade blueberry cobbler. Shea came home from a meeting to find his wife and kids circled around a pyrex dish staring, possibly drooling, intently. We agreed to save it for our end celebration, but no fruit dish was ever so ogled since Chiquita banana first donned ruffles.

Pay Day: KaChing!

The day we went to Nickelcade was so, well, sweet. The kids were triumphantly holding their bulging bags of nickels and swapping war stories. I can’t remember having more fun at a dirty low-end arcade in all my life. They pooled tickets and bought prizes together. They laughed and there was no fighting! It was miraculous! After, they made plans for the jackpots they had earned from their sponsors. The enthusiasm was electric. We spent all in all maybe 25 dollars in admissions and nickels. That was the best 25 ever spent!

kids eating watermelon after a successful sugar challengeThe Aftermath

Are we a sugar free family now? No. But the week challenge did a lot to raise awareness and overall we consume much less. Even the kids decided they liked how they felt off sugar and will pass on candy unless it is an absolute favorite. I noticed their moods were more stable and their attitudes were sweeter. The very next day after eating cobbler and a few celebratory confections they were bouncing off the walls and squabbling once again. It was pronounced enough for me to wish we were sugar free 100%!
On occasion, the kids will actually ask me if we can do another sugar free week challenge. We did one by request a couple weeks after Halloween. They even asked to extend it to a two week challenge! Can’t argue with that! The week sugar fast was worth it in so many ways. We give it 2 thumbs up and wish you sweet success!

Modifying for older kids:

If arcades with mom and dad aren’t floating their boats anymore, ditch the tokens and go for an all or nothing. An Amusement park? A new skateboard? Take your budget into a pass for 3 cheatsaccount and get creative. I did a week long no sugar challenge with my youth group at church. 14-15 year old young women: it was easy to pick an incentive….homemade spa night complete with eye brow waxing, mani/pedis and chick flicks!

I offered each girl 3 cheats. Because it was associated with a church lesson, I handed them out 3 “sweet forgiveness” cards.  The challenge was totally voluntary.  Most of the girls at least tried it.  About 50% of the girls completed it.  That is pretty impressive!  Overall, it was a great way to open up discussion and awareness.

Teaching kids to choose the apple over the chocolate barWhatever you do, it is worth the time to promote consciousness and educate your kids food choices. Imagine the advantages they will have in life if they learn early on to curb the sugar habit! I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage fast food working self to sever the line to the Dr Pepper tap and make eat healthy instead!

Kids are surprising. They can do it. They may even help you do it.

Sweet!

Don’t forget to share your ideas and stories with us!

Healthy Chocolate Syrup Recipe Perfected

Homemade Hershey's syrupOur transition to healthy, whole foods has been grand, but hard. We went from fruit snack and pop tart noshers to whole fruit and quinoa consumers. Most of the bad habits are rarely missed but one threatened to tear our house apart at the seams…Chocolate Milk.
Our kids are such chocolate-milk-aholics that I seriously bought “chocolate milk colored sheets” for my bed, to camouflage their morning chocolate-milk-on-mom’s-bed-with-PBS-kids drinking habit. Not kidding. Our youngest, Zaida, is so insistent (to put it nicely) on her chocolate milk that we live in fear of running out. What is a whole food mama to do? We needed a chocolate syrup recipe that wouldn’t derail us.

Have you looked at the labels on chocolate syrup or powder? We used to drink Nesquik and thought we were doing okay because at least it doesn’t contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. Check it out:

Nesquik Ingredients

Regular Nesquik. Don’t be fooled and by their “No Sugar added” brand, it has artificial sweeteners in it that are much worse!

According to the whole food test, how many of those do you keep in your kitchen? Do you know what they all do in your body? Are all those ingredients really necessary?

So it was time to find a solution.  Hope came when I ran across a chocolate syrup recipe post on Deliciously Organic, one of my favorite blogs. She is a genius! And her food pictures are beautiful (one reason I will never be a food blog!)

Her syrup is great, but it still wasn’t exactly right for our tastes (we like less sweet, and richer!) After tweaking it a bit (most notably increasing the chocolate, switching sweeteners, and decreasing the use of heat) we came up with our chocolate syrup standard.  Everyone I have tested it on has conceded its tastiness and sworn allegiance.  It takes me less than 5 minutes to make, and I have to stop myself from sucking down the entire bottle! Check out our chocolate syrup recipe…

Chocolate Syrup Perfection

Healthy Chocolate SyrupIngredients

  • 1 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup agave*
  • 2 cup cocoa**
  • 1 Tbs vanilla
  • dash salt (I use Himalayan)

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a simmer and remove from heat.
  2. Whisk in the agave.
  3. Vigorously whisk in the cocoa, vanilla and salt.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a bottle for storage in the fridge. (you can skip this step, but your bottle might get clogged on occasion)
  5. Enjoy! Use over desserts, or stir into milk (dairy, almond, coconut, rice, soy…whatever you prefer!) for guilt free chocolate milk.

*You can also use maple syrup (like in the original recipe) or honey but I find the flavor overpowering.  If you are using a reputable brand that is minimally processed, I think agave is a great substitute. See my post on healthy sugar substitutes for more info.

healthy chocolate syrup, express recipe**I used raw cocoa powder in this picture because I happened to have some.  Use what you have, I’ve even tried Hersey’s Special Dark. You don’t have to break the bank for this recipe (especially if you plan on consuming mass quantities!)

Express Method

While water is coming to a simmer in the stove, measure agave into your high powered blender.  Pour hot water in and blend until smooth. Then add remaining ingredients and blend for about 60 seconds. Pour directly into a bottle.  No straining needed, and only 1 dirty dish!

Healthy Chocolate Syrup

Finally, Chocolate Syrup has earned a place on my healthy shelf in the fridge (and it tastes so much better than flax oil!!)

Hershey syrup knock off

Finally, a chocolate syrup kid tested and mother approved!

The Ultimate Taste Test

A healthy chocolate syrup recipe sounds too good to be true.  Did it pass the kids’ test? It took a few rounds of testing before I got it right but now even our pickiest palette prefers it!  Two thumbs up from our whole household.  Alas, Zaida sips serenely and one more whole food battle is won.

So Raise your glass!

Today’s Query: We are seriously pining for our farm fresh goat milk in the off season, but still like to use raw dairy to make our mix.  I also like it in almond milk.  What kind of milk do you take your chocolate in?

 

12 Tips for Sugar Fasting: Parting with Sweet Sorrow

Breaking up with sugarDid you take the plunge? Are you doing a sugar challenge?  If you read my last post, you might find occasion to curse my name as you pass by the caramel corn or hot chocolate, but hang in there.  Sugar fasting gets easier.  I commend you for breaking up with sugar (or at least committing to a trial separation.)  I have twelve simple tips to help you survive a sugar fast…

Some Sweet Advice:

What you can eat1.  Focus on what you CAN have

It is tempting to bemoan the long list of “forbidden fruits.”  Instead, look at what you can still feast on!  You can still eat fruits, veggies, and other WHOLE foods.  Even cheese and dairy are still on the list! Use this experiment to expand your repertoire, try new things! Don’t focus on what you can’t eat, look at life with a “plate is half full” attitude.

calendar2. Timing is Everything

This may sound like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised. Check your calendar before you start. DO NOT sugar fast over your birthday, between Christmas and New Year, or the same week you have a cruise planned. (I know people who have tried all of these!) You are setting yourself up to fail.  Pick a time where social engagements are at a minimum and holidays won’t tempt you.  Ladies, you may even want to take cycles into account…and I aint talking lunar. Take a minute to look ahead and plan the smoothest sailing possible.

3.  Arm yourself with some splurges

Usually “treat” equates with “sugar.”  It doesn’t have to be so. I like to buy out of the ordinary fruits…like passion fruit!…or a high end snack such as pistachios to pamper myself with.  Almond butter is a serious splurge for me. Explore your favorite SAVORY flavors.  Explore cacao nibs or gourmet popcorn. Try kale chips or parmesan crisps.  Try unsweetened trail mixes.  Stock your treat drawer with foods that make you smile.  There are still “sweet escapes” to be found.

Journal4.  Journal

Write down your goals and the reasons you are taking the challenge.  As time passes, write down how you are feeling. Analyze your moods. Record your struggles and your victories.  Tell yourself the downs are temporary and expect the highs to hit anytime. Record the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It will help you hang in there when you look at the hurdles already overcome.  If nothing else, it helps you realize “If I eat this brownie, all that awfulness behind me was for nothing!”  A journal is a great way to vent frustration, but it is an even better way to muster motivation. Hard to wonder why you did this in the first place when your own words are there to remind you!

5. Know Your Triggers

If you can’t resist the smell of cinnamon rolls, don’t do your grocery shopping in the morning when the bakery is pumping them out. If you can’t handle making brownies for your kid’s scout troop without licking the batter, buy something already made or swap treat day with someone else.  I know if I am doing a sugar fast I need to clear the dark chocolate out of the house because it will trip me up every time.  I also know my cravings hit hardest late at night. There have been times I have simply surrendered and gone to bed, because I knew staying up would lead to my face in the fridge. You know your kryptonite…avoid it!

Thanks but no thanks6.  Stick to a Script:

When you are faced with social pressure to indulge, know what to say or how to avoid it.  When faced with social eating, I either tell people about my challenge, act full, or just politely decline.  Where appropriate, I bring my own snacks (always enough to share!) If you are going out, just try to anticipate; it is harder to decline sweets when you aren’t expecting them and awkwardly trip over the words to say no. Usually a simple no thanks is enough.  Occasionally, you run into people who try to sabotage your efforts, talk you out of giving up sugar, tempt you or even guilt you into eating their treats.  Stick to your guns, you are the one who has to live in your body!

Measure up7.  Weigh in, Measure Up

Write down your measurements and weight before your sugar fast and after. You will almost certainly drop some weight as your body begins detoxing.  Though weight loss is not the primary focus, it can be a happy bonus!  I discourage daily weigh-ins. If you can’t handle the suspense of waiting until the end of your challenge, try limiting your steps on the scale to once a week.  It can be disheartening if the numbers don’t fall the way you want right away.  Better to keep your head high and look forward to the day you don’t have to negotiate with the zipper on your skinny jeans.

8.  Bribe Yourself

A shopping spree?  A girls/boys night out? A couple’s massage?  That new book you’ve been eyeing? Whatever it is, pick something you can look forward to as a reward. Remind yourself often that your prize is sweeter than the cupcake someone is offering you.  Hint: a visit to Baskin Robbins might not be the best bribe. :)

Help from your friends9.  Support Group

Sometimes it is easier to get by with a little help from your friends. Find someone to do the challenge with.  At the very least, find someone you can report to who will show enthusiasm and celebrate your victories.  Hey, I would love to hear about the bowl of grapes you ate during the big game or the apple you sneaked into the movie theater.  (Been there, done that.)  Another bonus of advertising your challenge…it may cut down on temptation.  Heaven help you if your neighbor decides to bring by a plate of her world-famous fudge while you are on day 3 of a fast! The more people know, the more help you can enlist!

10.  Educate Yourself

It is so much easier for me to bypass the dessert bar when I know WHY I am better off without it.  For example, I couldn’t give up my beloved Dr. Pepper until I knew exactly what was in it and why I didn’t want it in my body.  (Still, the Good Doctor occasionally beckons; why do we love the bad boys?)  During the most restrictive diet I’ve ever done (read about my adventures with HCG here) I became obsessed with food literature, trying to figure out “which of all the diets were true.”  Use your spare time to learn more about your quest.  An understanding of what you should and shouldn’t put in your body simply makes it easier to say to yourself  “just drop the Captain Crunch and no one gets hurt.”

drink water11.  Drink water

Sounds simple, yet it works. Drinking water is essential to detoxification; aiding this process will dramatically cut cravings and get you through adverse effects faster.  Water will help keep you satiated, decreasing the likelihood that you will cave to the call of simple carbs.  Establishing the habit of drinking water now will help you refrain from picking up the sugary drinks again when your fast ends. Finally, hydration promotes mental clarity, helping you to feel good and stay focused on your goals.

Get Active!12.  Get Active

For some reason, when you finish a sweaty spin class or an hour of getting your butt kicked at  Cross Fit, you don’t want to junk your system up with a Snickers bar.  After working so hard to  fine tune your body, you just can’t dump sugar in the gas tank.  Not to mention simple mathematics: after 45 minutes burning 595 calories on an elliptical, do you really want to take down a Danish with OJ and put it all back on in under 2 minutes?  The more active you are, the more apt you are to appreciate the cues your body gives you….it wants the good stuff, not the white stuff!

 

On to Sweet Success!

I hope these tips help.  I know it is hard.    I also know a sugar fast will pay back so much more than in costs. Hang in there. Email or Facebook me if you need some cheerleading.  My hurkeys aren’t so hot, but I make up for it with enthusiasm!  Finally, keep a sense of humor about you, and you’ll be fine.

When all else fails, know you are worth it.

You can do this.  You deserve to feel good. You deserve to live in your best body; with energy and vitality!  Kick the sugar, reboot your taste buds and find out how sweet life can be!

You are worth it!

 

Why Kicking the Sweets is Worth a Try: Sugar Fasting

Quitting sugarIs a sugar fast for you?

By now you’ve heard the buzz. It’s all over the place. Sugar has a bad rap.  You may have heard these lines: Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. (you scoff, but how long can you go without it?) Sugar makes you fat (despite the fact that Twizzlers are labelled “a fat free food.”)  Sugar contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and insulin resistance.  Sugar compromises your immune systemSugar feeds cancer.  Sugar is sweet…and so are you.

With such sensational, scary claims, it is almost hard to believe.  Can the sweet stuff really be so bad? The more you read, the more you wonder.

If you want more info on the detriments of sugar, check out this concise, informative article published in Forbes magazine: What Sugar Does to your Brain. I for one, had always focused on what sugar does to my thighs, not my brain, so this was eye-opening. The fact that a chronic sugar habit can cause depression, not to mention obesity, diabetes, and even dementia, caught my attention.  So many of us are waiting for a big diagnosis before we change our eating habits, but knowing that eliminating/reducing my sugar intake can just plain make me feel better about myself is enough for me to kick the habit and shelter my kids.  The habits I start now will prevent the heartache of degenerative illnesses later, but immediate effects are available for the taking TODAY.  Life is hard enough without sugar coating my brain!

Hungry for Change

Hungry for Change will Inspire you to kick the sugar habit.

I urge you to research the effects of sugar if you aren’t already familiar.  I highly recommend the movie Hungry for Change (available on Netflix now!) as a way to have a candid discussion with your family about sugar.  Learn all you can.  But more than that, try it out. You can argue with scientific studies and stats all you want, but you can’t deny how your body functions (or doesn’t) when you test it yourself.

Be brave, be bold…embark on a sugar fast.  You can do it.  I recommend at least 2 weeks.   It can take that long to get the white stuff out of your system and “reset” your tastes.  Also, if your sugar fast is too short, you will experience the withdrawal symptoms and not the benefits. Hate to resume your sweets on a sour note! Think about it, what are you willing to try?  My friend Tori, from the blog Tori’s Tasty Treats, is embarking on a 9 month fast!  Set a goal that will be challenging, but doable.

Not only will the sugar fast reboot your sweet tooth and show you how your body functions without it, it will also draw attention to how much sugar you–and your family by association–consume.  This info will help you make powerful decisions at the end of your experiment!

Hang in there

Sugar fasting can be frustrating at first; be strong and hang in there!

Just know you have to be strong, expect it.  I find Days 3-4 are usually the hardest. You will battle cravings, but also withdrawal symptoms. Intensity depends on how much sugar you are used to. Watch for headaches, irritability (maybe warn your neighbors) and fatigue.  In extreme circumstances, you can feel like you were hit with the flu!  It is easier to get through the yucks when you realize what they are.  In fact, knowing that sugar causes such mayhem in my body only strengthens my resolve to see it thoroughly purged! By day 6, symptoms will be mild and by day 7 you should have smooth(er) sailing. Check out tomorrow’s post to see some tips to help with your sugar fast.

If you can wrap your brain around that, you are ready to go.  So what will you knock out during your sugar fast? That depends on how far you are willing to go.  I am suggesting 3 levels of sugar fasting, see which one you are willing to try:

Three Levels of Sugar Fasting

Sugar Baby1. Sugar Baby: This is the most basic challenge.

No sugar (white, brown, powdered, the works), no corn syrup (especially HFCS), no artificial sweeteners. Remember, that means DIET sodas are off limits. Aspartame especially is more dangerous than sugar! There are plenty of healthy alternatives to these ingredients for you to choose from.  Read my article on sugar substitutes to help you navigate these. Giving up sugar sounds simple enough, until you realize sugar is hiding EVERYWHERE. Do yourself a favor and be as diligent as you can in cutting sugar from your diet, you will reap the rewards!

Sugar Daddy2.  Sugar Daddy: This challenge takes you one step further.

Besides the harmful sweeteners, try temporarily forsaking all added or concentrated sweeteners, healthy or otherwise. The concept is simple: you are reprogramming your taste buds.  The average American is overloaded with flavor, accustomed to super sweet and amped up ingredients. Think of all the times you see adjectives like “Bold, Max, Super, Xtra” or other words that suggest some sort of dare involved in eating the product.  When you eat that way, you miss the more subtle but savory array of tastes in natural foods.  If you can step off the sweet wagon altogether and just enjoy food in a simple state, your buds will acclimate. After 2 weeks, a glazed donut won’t just be sweet to you, it could cross into repulsive.  A candy bar will make you run to the produce aisle.  You will notice that greens are sweet, and a strawberry will taste like candy! You can go back to natural sweeteners if you wish, but you won’t need or crave as much.

sweet heart3.  Sweet Heart: A Sugar Challenge for the Resolute!

If you are willing to go the extra mile and truly experience the benefits of a sugar detox, try eliminating all white flour from your diet too. That’s right, fight the white.  White flour is metabolized in the body the same way white sugar is, causing insulin spikes and other problems.  If you can’t cut it out, reduce refined flour as much as possible.  During your sugar challenge, learn to equate (white) flour with sugar when you see it on labels.

Whichever level you choose to start with, know that you will have to read labels. You will be shocked to see where sugar is hiding! Please be diligent, give your body a fair chance.

Healthy SmileWhen it’s over

Back to candy-coated reality. Back to the frosted everyday goodness. Before you jump headfirst into a pool of syrup, think carefully about your wellness and see if you notice any changes.  Be thorough as you consider the following:

  • How would you rate your energy level?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your focus and clarity?
  • How is your sleep quality?
  • How is your general mood?
  • Are your cravings for “junk food” stronger or weaker?
  • Describe your appetite? Is it steady and controlled or fluctuating?
  • What other differences, if any, have you noticed?

sugar cubes

Time to square things away with your old friend, Sugar.

 

Inevitably (maybe even immediately) you will once again succumb to that white temptress, sugar. When you take your first bite of something sweetened, take note. Is it sweeter than you remember? Maybe a little too sweet? Your tolerance for sweet will be lower, your tastes have changed.  Try to keep it that way!

In my experience, you will feel like a clearer, cleaner, stronger you after a detox like this. You may even look at the root beer float in front of you and think “you know, I really don’t want that in my body!” You might find your love affair with the sweet stuff has been downgraded to a crush, or maybe even annoying ex status!

You may not decide to abstain forevermore, but odds are you will have a new awareness of how much sugar you actually consume, where you can cut back, and why you should.

It can be done.  This coming from the girl who used to eat sugar packets as an appetizer while waiting for a meal.  (And I don’t just mean as a kid!)  It can be done, and it is worth it.

If you do the sugar fast, let me know! I would love to hear your experiences. You can even Facebook yell at me during your frustrating moments, as long as you promise to share the love when you’re buttoning up your skinny jeans too!

Good luck!

 

Question: Do you think the detriments of sugar are exaggerated? Do you think sugar should be eliminated, reduced, or be eaten freely?

 

Sweet Spot: Healthy Sugar Alternatives

Give and Take

Sweeteners are like boyfriends, you want one that gives more than they take.

One of the major issues with sugar is that it is a nutrient ZERO. It offers nothing nourishing, only fleeting pleasure. How shallow! Without addressing the adverse effects (not the least of which is the addictive qualities), I encourage you to try sweeteners that nourish your body! Below, I’ve listed healthy sugar alternatives and a few substitutes that are marketed as healthy but that may not be so. I try to stock as many healthy sweeteners as I can. When the sweet tooth demands attention, it is good to have options!  Try them out and find your favorites. I would love to hear what they are!

Sweet leafStevia:

Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. It is 30 times sweeter than sugar. I have been trying to grow it at home and it does well as a house plant, but I always kill it when I move it outside.  Try it, you put one of the little green leaves in your mouth and chew and suddenly it goes from a green flavor to an explosion of sweet on your tongue!

Processed Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar, and yet Stevia contains no calories or actual sugars. It will not spike your blood sugar.  It boasts a spectrum of micronutrients and is even thought to help with blood pressure and digestion. Stevia is helpful in weightless because it cuts cravings and sends signals to the brain that you are satiated (sugar, on the other hand, tells your brain you want more and more!)

Most of you are familiar with granular stevia, like Truvia. I am suspicious because they are mostly fillers and who knows what they are filled with! You can buy liquid stevia at health food stores that are less processed, but beware. Some have bitter aftertastes and some are okay when added to things. I like the Sweet Leaf brand.  They are expensive, but take heart, a little goes a long way so it is a better value than it seems.

I have not baked with stevia, although I have read it is more heat stable than most herbs, retaining its nutrient properties even when cooked.  I have used it in liquids, like drinks, salad dressings or whole fruit slushes. As far as I am aware, Stevia is the more highly recommended in the whole food world.

HoneyHoney:

the original sweetener! Honey is so much better than sugar! From a diabetic standpoint, sugar and honey aren’t too much different; honey still impacts your blood sugar, causing spikes and drops just as sugar, so it should still be used in moderation. But from a nutritional standpoint, honey has a variety of benefits including trace minerals, vitamins, live enzymes, antibacterial properties, and it boosts immunity and builds resistance to local allergies. Studies show that bee keepers live longer because honey (and other bee products) fosters longevity.  The more you read about honey, the more amazed you will be, it is liquid gold and one of Mother Nature’s miracles.  I hope one day to get my own hive!  Buy local raw honey if at all possible.

Read more about honey benefits.

Black Strap MolassesBlack Strap Molasses:

If you can handle the strong flavor of it, black strap has a myriad of health benefits to offer. Chief among them is its high iron content, making it ideal for anemics, pregnant and nursing mommies, and anyone experiencing fatigue associated with iron deficiency. It can also be helpful during your period. It is a highly absorbable iron that won’t plug you up. In addition to iron, it is an excellent source of calcium (more than dairy!), magnesium, manganese, chromium and other trace minerals, a range of B vitamins, and vitamin E. It is inexpensive and a little goes a long way. I like to add black strap molasses to a quart jar of fresh milk and shake to blend. Then I have a caramelly tasting healthy drink that is great before a workout! And by the way, caramelly is now a word.

Coconut Sugar or coconut palm sugar:

I know people bake with this because it substitutes 1 to 1 for white sugar. It has a light taste, more complex than sugar but with no aftertaste, just the sweet you expect. It looks like brown sugar but has a texture more like white, as it doesn’t clump or compact like brown sugar does. Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index and has lots of trace minerals in it. It also includes 16 of 20 amino acids and 12 B vitamins. Besides being nutrient dense, coconut sugar is good for the environment as it is highly sustainable, easier and faster to grow than sugar cane. Coconut sugar is relatively expensive, but can be purchased at reasonable prices if you keep your eyes open for sales and specials. Hopefully the price will go down as demands go up!

Note: not all Palm sugar is coconut sugar, make sure the ingredients list 100% coconut palm or coconut sap!

Agave nectarAgave:

Agave is sweeter than sugar, mild tasting, and easy to use in recipes. It comes as a syrup and can be used as such. Here at the purple barn, we put it straight on pancakes and oatmeal, or we might mix a little real maple syrup in it for flavor. I have used it in preserves and baking. Agave has a bad rap lately because it has caught on commercially and gone the way of corn syrup….becoming highly processed. Once cooked and refined, it has none of the health benefits originally credited to the cactus. BUT I still firmly stand by it! Do your homework, I found a brand independently tested to show it has no effect on blood glucose and processes the whole cactus at less than 118 degrees so it still retains trace nutrients and enzymes. Try it yourself. I haven’t noticed any detrimental effects. Some people may disagree, but I think it is good stuff!!

Here is the agave I like to order. For a bonus, check my post on agave chocolate syrup.

Real SyrupMaple Syrup:

You can’t beat the full flavor of maple syrup.  Keep in mind I mean the real deal, not the nasty artificially flavored High Fructose Corn Syrup you find at the store! Like honey and sugar, it has a high GI but has nutrients in it, like zinc, manganese, iron, calcium and potassium. Maple contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  It has a settling effect on the stomach.  Real maple syrup is even thought to support reproductive health in men. In addition, it doesn’t have the allergen concerns that some people encounter with honey.  Buy it the least refined you can and use it sparingly. Look for 100% real maple syrup and remember to refrigerate after opening. As an alternative, you can buy maple sugar, simply a crystallized form of the syrup.  It is usually higher priced, but really tasty…especially on oatmeal!

Xylitol:

The jury is still out on this one for me.  I like the taste of xylitol a lot, but I have read about as many reports for it as against it, with credible experts on both sides. For example, Robyn Openshaw the “Green Smoothie Girl” pans it because it is a highly refined corn product, but the dental community hails it as the best thing on the planet! If you look on Mike Adam’s website, naturalnews.com, and search xylitol, you can find articles about its medicinal value and articles condemning it as toxic.  Confusing!  In my own home, I use a toothpaste that contains xylitol, but stopped buying it to cook with.

Sucanat:

This is a name for dehydrated cane juice. A lot of organic food companies are using it in products they call all natural. It really is sugar, just less refined. There are traces of nutrients, but nothing compared to coconut sugar or honey.

Turbinado Sugar:

aka raw sugar. Similar to sucanat, it is made from sugar cane, but from the first pressing so it is less refined. It tastes and feels similar to brown sugar, and is low on the list of healthy options.

Did you know brown sugar is just processed white sugar that had molasses added back into it? It isn’t any healthier than white and has slightly more calories!

Fruit standFruit:

Does it strike you as funny that now when you buy dried fruit or canned fruit they have sweeteners in them?  Once upon a time fruit was considered sweet by itself! Start thinking of fruit as a sweetener.  Use it on pancakes or toast; you don’t need jam if you slice fruit thin or mash some berries. Use berries to cut the tart in your smoothies. I blend raisins or dates into batters, breads, or smoothies to sweeten them up. I shred apples or mash bananas into my oatmeal. Eat a slice of fruit when a sweet craving hits.  At the grocery store, when the kids hit me up for candy, I often times will go to the produce aisle and let them pick a fruit instead. There are ways to get nutritious sweets…they’re called fruit! :)

A note on fruit juice: while they can be used sparingly as sweeteners, refrain from drinking them straight wherever possible.  Fructose in concentrated doses is harmful to the body. Fiber negates the effects, but is completely removed in the form of juices.  

 

Life is sweet. Play with these sweeteners, and you will find you don’t have to live without your favorite desserts.  What do you crave when your sweet tooth calls?

Facebook login by WP-FB-AutoConnect