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Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper (Photo credit: ManyLittleBlessings)

I remember a few years back, on the first Sunday of Lent, the minister at my church made a humorous observation, one that has stayed with me and that I repeat often. He said: “as good Protestants you’ve probably already given up on giving up.” I laughed then, and I laugh whenever I think of it. Up until last year I always gave something up for Lent. Usually it was chocolate, or ice cream, or some other guilty pleasure of which I was starting to feel a little ashamed.

The minister was encouraging us to see Lent as a time to broaden our understanding of spirituality, and to use the Lenten season for self improvement, if not for fasting. Last year, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to give up, I decided that I would instead focus on adding something to my routine, and so I meditated. I meditated every night before bed, and enjoyed it so much that I shared my guided meditations with any friend who expressed an interest. Instead of giving up I decided to add in, to build up my spiritual health, rather than deny myself something I shouldn’t be eating anyhow. I added something to my life to make myself more spiritually aware, help ease my stress, and bring back a sense of calm. In fact, it was the best Lenten season I’d ever had—so good, that I swore I would never give up again.

This year, as we start Lenten anew I’ve changed my tune. I’ve decided to give up diet pop. Diet pop is more than just a guilty pleasure, it’s a daily indulgence that, I worry, is really problematic. So, for that reason, I’ve decided to give up diet pop.

We all have our Achilles heels, those foods that we know are bad for us, but that we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from. Mine is pop. A few years ago I switched to diet pop. I told myself that I needed the carbonation, but I couldn’t justify the sugar in regular pop. So I drank the diet pop, and didn’t give it another thought. But now I’ve reevaluated this indulgence, and I know that it has no place in my life. So I’m choosing to respect my belief that I deserve good health, and that good health is something I can achieve.

Over the summer I made the transition to a mostly plant-based diet. Since that time I’ve been really interested in food: how it’s made, what’s in it, and how it affects us. Then last week, when I was quite sick, I had no energy, so I found myself at home sleeping and watching movies. My second day home, I was flipping through Netflix when I found a documentary called Hungry for Change. I tried not to watch it; I was looking for a good laugh, but as nothing else really appealed to me, I decided to watch it.

Sure, there are lots of things that I took from this movie, but the one that really spoke to me was the information on diet pop. I won’t get into all of the arguments that Hungry for Change makes against diet pop, because frankly there are far too many of them, but there was one argument that really hit home with me. Aside from being full of chemicals, diet pop, the experts argued, is not calorie free. Manufacturers use artificial sweeteners, so that they can make the claim that it is calorie free. And in one sense this is true: no sugar means no calories. But these artificial sweeteners still have a lot of carbs in them, which when you ingest them are converted to sugar in the body. This is all stuff I know. I worked for many years in diabetes education, and so I have a pretty good idea about how this works. (By pretty good, I mean less than a dietician, but perhaps more than the average person.) Still, in spite of the fact that I know this, I continued to drink my stupid diet pop, and think nothing of it. But today it stops. I am giving up my diet pop, and replacing it with water, or other nutrient-rich drinks.

I struggled for a long time with this decision. I hate to “use” a time meant for spiritual reflection and personal betterment for something as base as kicking the pop habit, but I think that this is the right thing to do. I like to think that instead I’m using this time to bring myself back to a more natural diet, which will, hopefully, have other spiritual benefits.

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cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, ...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

As you know, adding Step classes once a week was one of my goals for 2011. That being said, I haven’t had much luck getting to Step Class this month. I had to work late last Tuesday, and this week I had to hurry home because I was worried about Cadie. Originally, the plan had been to take Cadie for a good, long walk, then head out to Body Pump at 7, but I was without food, so instead of going to Body Pump, I decided to do my grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping, it’s kind of like ironing to me; that being said, I love having fresh food waiting for me at home. Here are some of my treasures.

Firstly, I did not buy pizza, french fries and chicken strips. How these items ended up being photographed in my kitchen is inexplicable to me.

Feed me tomatoes! I think I’ve been eating too much comfort food; I want fresh food that makes me feel light and happy. Tomatoes always make me light and happy, plus they are cancer fighters. So they got a big check as I added 2 different varieties to my cart.

I have also been craving zucchini. These zucchini don’t look all that good–in fact, I think you can see just how beaten up they are, even in this picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants zucchini. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Root vegetables–so you can see that I’m not totally over comfort food. I can’t wait to play around with these vegetables. Oh, and wipe the stove. Life is good!

Some necessities. I can’t stand not having milk in the apartment. So yes, I buy 4L, and it’s all for me! I also bought eggs and butter, so now I can bake again.

If I’m going to take my journey for health to the next level I need to start addressing some of my weaknesses. I bought these lovelies to take to work for easy snacking. I have no idea if they are seeded or seedless (though my money is on seeded). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. (I have so many plans to eat so many things tomorrow–this is the upside of grocery shopping:D).

I was so excited to find the Quinoa, oh the things I will do with this…will tomorrow never get here?

A little treat for after dinner. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I don’t believe in depriving myself of the things that I love, and I LOVE ice cream, but I can nudge myself closer to a healthier lifestyle by choosing frozen yogurt.

My colonial mind is addicted to crumpets. So warm and buttery. MMMMMMM.

What goes with crumpets? Tea, of course. I’ve got Lady Grey for the office and lemon ginger for right before bed. A word on Lady Grey, if you haven’t tried it yet you should. It’s a lovely, light black tea with a hint of citrus.

I never buy shrimp, let alone cook with it, so here’s hoping I don’t ruin it. I also bought chicken, but I consider it to be a staple, like milk and eggs.

Oh no, that’s the end. Still, it’s a good haul for one trip to the grocery store.

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As you know I’ve decided to add vegetables to my diet in a systematic way–by using an alphabetic approach to trying new foods. You might also know, because you are literate, that P doesn’t follow A. I’ve decided to vary the order of the alphabet in conducting this experiment, for a couple of reasons:

1) I do not feel like eating broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bok choy this week.

2) I worry that tackling these vegetables in order alphabetically would see me eating parsnips in April or May and turnips in May or June. And since “root” vegetables are one of those vegetables that I do not eat enough of, I intend to play fast and loose with the order of the letters.

So this week is dedicated to the letter P, because I was able to snag some wonderful parsnips root, peppers and potatoes at the grocery store.

Firstly, I intend to make stuffed peppers. Essentially stuffed peppers are just peppers stuffed with pilaf (ha! the Ps just keep coming!). Again, though, I intend to shake it up a bit. I think I will add some parsnip to my pilaf, as well as some beef seasoned with chutney. I have no idea how this is going to taste; but, in the spirit of being adventurous, I will throw caution to the wind, and see what I get.

So I started with the single biggest time eater–making rice. I didn’t do anything fancy, just regular rice.

I had purchased shallots for use in the artichoke soup, and they didn’t look all that good, so I made up my mind that I would use them up as quickly as possible. So I combined them, and some garlic, in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil.

Once the shallots were softened I added the beef and some green onions. I let them sit for a few minutes and then added my chutney.

With a little less than 30 minutes to go still on the rice I added the parsnips, and prepped the pepper for stuffing. I got a little overzealous, and ended up slicing the pepper in half, which is unfortunate, but not the end of the world. From there I set all of my “flavour” to simmer, and waited out the clock on the rice with a glass of pino grigio.

Once the rice was finished I added it to the pan so that it could simmer. And from there I stuffed the pepper and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

The end result was something not entirely pleasant. It was a little too sweet, so I covered it in pepper before putting it in the oven.

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Globe artichoke at the Mercat Central de Valèn...

Image via Wikipedia

and avocado, and artichoke too. I’ve decided to up the health factor on my diet, and I’ve decided to approach this alphabetically. Yesterday for lunch I had some vegetable maki with cucumber and avocado. The only problem with sushi is that I can’t stop eating it.

Saturday I got creative, or rather I stole my mother’s “fix-it” recipe. Here are the ingredients:

4 eggs
4 spears of asparagus
milk (I have no idea how much, I didn’t measure, though I would guess 1/4 to 1/2 of  a cup)
a cup of peas and corn
a cup of cauliflower and broccoli
1 1/2 cups of Bisquick (something no home should be without)

Directions:

Add eggs and milk to pan, and mix together as though you were making scrambled eggs.
Chop vegetables into bit-sized pieces, and add them to the egg mixture, ensuring they are well-distributed
Add Bisquick to mixture evenly
Bake at 350 degrees
Eat and enjoy!

Bonus: put the rest of it away for easy weekday lunches

Alright, so it’s not my recipe; I don’t even think it’s my mum’s recipe. Also, you don’t have to use these vegetables, this is just my preference, but I guess you could use zucchini, or carrots or even, (yuck!) mushrooms.

And, as you can see, I had a ton left over; in fact I had enough for 5 extra meals, so that’s a bonus too. I can tell you that, while this pie is still tasty as a left over, it’s best fresh, so it would be ideal for a brunch where you have a lot of people at the table, maybe a day like Christmas where you don’t usually eat much during the day, but you want to make sure you have something hearty for breakfast.

So avocado (check), asparagus (check), that now brings us to artichoke. I currently have 2 cans of artichoke hearts in my kitchen. I was making a Nicoise salad back in the spring, and I thought I needed them for that. It turns out that the recipe did not call for artichokes, and, a week later I tried a salad with artichokes on it, and, at first bite, I don’t love them. But, I am committed to giving them another chance. I was speaking to my boss this morning, and he suggested piling them on a pizza, along with a number of other vegetables (I’m thinking tomatoes and onions). It just so happens that I have a cheese pizza in my freezer, so I will report back tomorrow on the artichoke experiment.

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Up a tree.

Image by catinatree via Flickr

I am very happy that I have made the commitment to get to the gym often, to make a real effort to change my health status. The problem is that the hardest part of any commitment is dedicating the time, and the gym is only one of my new commitments.

I have also committed myself to going back to church on a regular basis; I am committed to caring for my puppy, and for my brother, who is working at finishing his post secondary education; I am committed to my job; I am committed to socializing with friends and family; and I am [over] committed to blogging (but I love it, so I can’t complain).

With so many commitments is it feasible to take on another one, even if it’s important? I think so, because to quote my student intern from this last summer, “you should be involved in more rather than less.” He was looking so far in the future that he was starting to plan how he would become a Shriner.

Still, in spite of my desire, and commitment, to get to the gym, I did not get to the gym this weekend. I did get to almost all of my social engagements, and to church, and I did some of my household chores (which should have been included in that list, but really, I’m not that committed to a clean house 😉 ). I spent most of yesterday berating myself for not making a better effort to get to the gym, but, in all honesty I simply ran out of time. I’m due to get back on my schedule tomorrow, and I’ll be going straight through until Thursday, when I take my first body pump class, so I’ve decided not to worry too much about it at this point.

Also, and this may be a bigger victory than getting to the gym this weekend, I made an effort and cooked and ate a healthy meal. I made salmon en papillote yesterday. I had forgotten the papers, but I made the veg, and cooked the salmon, and we put it together on the plate. It was delicious and very nutritious.

This was probably the biggest party weekend in Toronto for the whole year; even I was out on Saturday night, and I never go out on Saturday nights. That being said, it’s true, Halloween is now over, and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. It snowed yesterday, I heard Santa on the radio this morning, I’m pretty sure that Tim Horton’s has already got their Christmas cups out, and Penelope and I had a very Christmassy weekend. I am halfway through my Christmas shopping, and some of the stores even wrapped my gifts for me. I hate wrapping.

Oh well, perhaps next weekend will be less busy, and I’ll be able to get to the gym at least once, I am committed to making it work after all.

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I have been off the food log for about a week, and truthfully I don’t feel very good at all. But what I’m struggling with the most is how to talk about my progress or lack thereof.

I have promised myself that I will not use words like “good” and “bad” to describe how I’m doing with my new lifestyle. Why? It might seem like it’s a little too literal, and maybe I need to park my writer/editor mind while I’m working on changing my lifestyle. But the problem is that the words “good” and “bad” are words that are value heavy, and I don’t want to frame this project with these kinds of words, for a couple of reasons:

1) I feel that talking about my lifestyle in terms of “good” and “bad” makes it feel like a temporary effort instead of a conscious effort to change my life.

2) “good” and “bad” doesn’t leave room for special occasions like birthday cake, girls’ nights, and season premieres (all occasions that should be celebrated with something yummy!)

3) I don’t think that the terms “good” and “bad” are really appropriate to use to talk about food consumption and exercise routines, which are not really moral issues, as these words suggest.

The problem is that when people ask me how I’m doing, they’re looking for a quick response. They have no interest in listening to me talk at length about what I ate yesterday, and how much exercise I got in. So how can I talk about this project without using what I consider to be value-laden language.

Honestly I don’t have an answer; right now I just tell people that “I’m on track and trying to stay the course” or something equally cheesy. If I’m not doing so well, I just say something like “ugh!”

I think we have to learn to accept that the language we use can impact the way we think about life, and also, how we act. If we use passive language, then we can start to feel that we are objects that are acted upon, instead of actors who engage in activities. Likewise, when we use language that characterises our eating habits as “good” or “bad” we are speaking into a discourse much larger than food consumption.

Some people would argue that “good” and “bad” is a religious discourse used to describe “good” actions like charity and “bad” actions like adultery. So how then did these words come to describe whether I do or do not eat cheesecake.

This is the tension that I’m struggling with as I am trying to tell you that things are not going that well. The numbers on the scale are going up, not down, and my clothes are getting tighter, not looser. I’m also frustrated that as soon as I get myself into a good routine of getting up and exercising I seem to get sick, which derails me.

At this point I am looking for advice and motivation; does anyone have any tricks that might help?

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