The Bitter Truth about SUGAR

The Facts

The Recommended consumption of added sugar per day:

  • 6 tsp. (25 g) for women
  • 9 tsp. (37.5 g) for men
  • Average actual consumption: 22.2 tsp. (88.8 g)

The average American consumes about 3 to 4 times the recommended amount added sugar per day! Over the course of the year that comes out to be about 84 lbs. of sugar per person.

THAT’S A LOT OF SUGAR! But since we’re not just sitting around eating spoonfuls of sugar, where is it all coming from? You may be surprised to learn that sugar can be very sneaky and finds many ways to be added to the foods and beverages that we consume daily.

Naturally Occurring Sugar vs. Added Sugar

Appropriately, natural sugars are sugars that are found naturally in foods like fresh fruits, veggies and dairy products. While added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).

For natural sugars there are no specific guidelines or recommendations for amount to consume each day, but USDA does make recommendations for the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dairy that we should consume each day. If you follow those guidelines you will not have to worry about consuming too much natural sugar.

The Not So Sweet News about Sugar

Most of us, if not all of us, love a little sugar now and then. A little sugar here and there is okay but when we get too much it starts to become a problem. Sugar is very high in calories but has little nutritional value. Eating to0 many foods that contain a lot of added sugars can set the stage for potential health problems, such as: 

  • Poor nutrition- filling up on nutrient lacking sweets can cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
  • Weight gain- Sugar sweetened foods are often calorie dense from sugars and fats, making them very appealing and easy to eat more of.
  • Increase triglycerides- Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Tooth decay- All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to proliferate and grow

How to Identify Added Sugars

Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell how much of the sugar listed in the nutrition label of your food is added and how much is natural sugar found in certain ingredients, such as grain, fruit and dairy. The only reliable way to identify added sugar is to look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugar. Here are some of the ways that added sugars will be listed in the ingredients:

  • Fructose
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • Glucose
  • Malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Juice Concentrate  and nectars
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
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Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

Starting about two weeks ago, every Wednesday at work some local farmers come in and set up a table to sell their produce. I love it, I can’t not buy something! Its fresh and its local, how can I turn that down? They are so smart to sell all that beautiful, fresh produce so conveniently at work. It saves me a trip to the store and I feel better supporting local farmers.

IMG_4418This week they had the most gigantic zucchinis I have ever seen. No joke, they were all about 12+ inches long and 2 and a half inches in diameter. So naturally, I bought some then I had to figure out how to use all of the zucchini and of course, zucchini bread is the first thing I think of. Especially since I have been craving it since zucchini season started. There is nothing better in the summer than a good loaf of zucchini bread….okay, maybe that’s pushing it.  Ice cream is pretty awesome, and Lake Michigan better yet beach bonfires on Lake Michigan…So maybe it’s not the best thing about summer but it’s at the top of the list. You get the idea. IMG_4422Well, Since going gluten-free I have not done a ton of baking. This is one of the first gluten-free baked goods I have made and personally I am a little impressed with myself. I took them to work today and if I hadn’t told people they were gluten-free they never would have guessed. I think I will call that a success!

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Michelle’s all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (makes 5 cups) :
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1 cup tapioca starch
2 cups sweet white sorghum

(store extra flour mix in the fridge)

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt
2 cups grated zucchini (skin on)
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
3 tsp vanilla

Combine all the wet ingredient in one bowl –
Combine all the dry ingredient in another bowl

After you mix all the wet ingredient, than add the dry ingredients , mix well, add walnuts if you want

350 degree oven, bake for 40-50 min. Greased 9X13 pan or 2 large loaves

Let cool before cutting and enjoy!!

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Back into action (Greek layer dip)

Oh my, I have been absolutely horrible lately. It’s been so long since I have made a post that I almost don’t know what to do! Life has just been crazy. With my new job and summer traveling I have been a lazy bum. By the time I can sit down, that’s all I want to do. So, starting now I am making a new rule that I will be better about keeping up with my blog.

I wasnt joking about my pictures being horrible.

I wasnt joking about my pictures being horrible.

Along with that train of thought, I am thinking my blog needs an overhaul. But seriously, my photographs are not doing my food justice at all….but I guess that’s what you get when you don’t own a real camera, not to mention It could use some re-organizing.

At least now that I have a camera they will get better...hopefully.

At least now that I have a camera they will get better…hopefully.

To get back into the swing of things I have been collecting a few recipes I have been meaning to post. This first one is one of my favorite dishes to bring to potlucks or to have as an easy, delicious and healthy appetizer anytime of the year. Are you ready for it? It’s a Greek hummus dip and it is SO GOOD, yet so simple. I brought this to a tailgate once and it was gone in about 5 minutes…I’m not joking, I didn’t even get any. Same thing happened when I brought it to a recent work potluck. So, if you make this for a party or potluck make sure you snag a bite before you set it out or you will never get a chance to taste this delicious dip.

Ingredients:

Hummus

1-15 oz can chick peas, rinsed and drained (reserve liquid)

Scant ¼ cup tahini

Two large cloves roasted garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

About a ½ teaspoon of salt, add more or less to taste I find that it can taste a little bitter or bland if you don’t use enough

Pepper to taste

Olive oil and chickpea liquid (see directions below for amounts)

Directions:

In an food processor or blender add drained chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Start with about a tablespoon of olive oil and blend. When it comes to adding the more olive oil or chickpea liquid it becomes personal preference from now on what consistency you like your hummus, it also varies depending on how juicy your lemon is. I personally don’t like to add a ton of olive oil, so if I have already added a good amount and It is not quite the consistency I want I will add the chickpea liquid, but if you don’t want to use the chickpea liquid you don’t have to. Just blend till you get the a good creamy texture.

Layered Dip Ingredients:

Homemade hummus

1 ½ -6oz container plain, non-fat, Chobani Greek yogurt

1 Roma tomato, diced

½ Cucumber, peeled and diced

2-3 Green onions, diced

Feta cheese and pepper to taste

Directions:

Start by spreading the hummus into a glass baking dish. Next, spread the Chobani over top, you may need a little more or less depending on the size of your dish.  I used a 9X12, I have also used and 8X8 and got away with just one container or yogurt.

Sprinkle yogurt layer with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions, then top with some fresh cracked pepper….I told you it was easy. Now pair that with some of crunchy corn chips (I like Trader Joe’s guiltless corn chips) or pita and hurry up and grab a bite before it’s all gone!

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Homemade Egg Drop Soup

Forget the Chinese take-out and make this delicious healthier egg drop soup from home!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 eggs, beaten ( I like my with a lot of eggs so I tend to use more you can even use more or less)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 container extra firm tofu, diced
  • 3-4 green onions diced
  • about 1 cup of broccoli florets
  • add salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat chicken stock just the the point before it starts to boil. Take the beaten eggs and pour them into the stock while stirring. Add tomatoes, tofu, green onions, broccoli and bring to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.

If you like your soup a little thicker you can mix some cornstarch with water and add that to the soup and bring it back up to a boil, and just thicken to your liking.

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Sample grocery list and tips for eating on a budget

Wow I can’t believe how time has flown. It was February the last time I made a post, but things have been pretty crazy for me the last two months. Good news is I finally got a job! I am incredibly excited about it and love it so far. So things have been kind of hectic and It has taken me a little time to get adjusted to my new place and having a working schedule but I think I am finally settled in enough now to start back up with my blog.

One thing that has been very important for me with the move is making sure that I maintain my healthy lifestyle while staying within my budget. Living alone does present some problems when it comes to buying groceries and cooking, when I buy my fruits and veggies I need to make sure that I can use them before they go bad. Cooking can be a challenge too, when I make something its sometimes hard to make enough just for one but I don’t really want to be eating the same thing all week either.  So I have come up with a sample grocery list and a few tips for those of you out there dealing with the same problems. Things that have worked for me so far and hopefully will help you stay healthy on a budget.

Sample list and tips:

Pick hearty veggies that will last well in the fridge:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Red leaf romaine (last the longest if you rip it up, wash it in a salad spinner then just store it in the spinner. It stays fresh and crisp for up to a week and a half, plus it takes some of the work out of making a salad when you want one later!)
  • Lemon/lime- great to keep on hand for seasoning fish or chicken
  • Peppers
  • Unripe avocado- if you buy and avocado at the beginning of the week before it is rip and you don’t plan on using it right away keep in the fridge it will ripen more slowly and that way you can have one around for when you want it later in the week.
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Onion

Hearty, fridge friendly fruits:

  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Bananas- Not for the fridge but I make sure to buy them slightly green, that way they last through the week. If they do get too brown before I eat them I peel them then throw the in the freezer to use later or a smoothie or to dip in dark chocolate 🙂

Canned or frozen:

  • Frozen corn and peas-These are always great to have around. You can throw them into soups stews and stir-fry’s for a little color and sweetness or de-thaw small amounts at a time to add to a salad.
  • Canned un-pickled beets- great for adding to a salad during the week not only are they delicious but packed with vitamins!
  • Canned Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans- Another great addition to salads and a vegetarian source of protein. They can be roasted and turned into a salty snack, mashed into a humus or curried and poured over rice for a vegetarian dinner. The possibilities are endless!
  • Canned black beans (low sodium)- I loved having canned black beans around they are great for adding to salads, or rice or for making vegetarian tacos or burritos.
  • Frozen fruit- Let’s face it we can’t always have fresh fruit on hand. So for them times when we can’t frozen unsweetened fruits are a lifesaver! I love to have a bag around to use for topping my vanilla Chobani yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. Its perfect for a quick snack or breakfast! If you prefer them thawed just take some out the night before and store in a Tupperware in the fridge. If you forget, just zap them in the microwave for a few seconds till they are thawed but not hot.

Protein:

  • Eggs- always a great option, cheap delicious and healthy plus they work great for breakfast lunch or dinner.
  • Fish- of course fresh is always a better fresh, but can get expensive and hard to buy the day you want it. I try and stick with Trader Joe’s frozen uncooked shrimp or frozen cod.
  • Chicken- when I buy a pack of chicken breast I always trim and butterfly them right when I get them home. I then put the two halves into freezer bags and freeze them so they will be ready to use later. That way they are portioned perfectly and I get two meals out of them!
  • Beef/pork/other meats- Personally I don’t buy a lot of other meat, if I do these are things that I buy usually the day of, but you could use the same method for these meat as I do for the chicken.

Dairy:

  • GREEK YOGURT- I LOVE this stuff. Chobani and Fage are definitely the two best kinds in my opinion as far as consistency, flavor, protein and sugar content. I usually buy the big vanilla 32 oz container from Chobani its cheaper than buying the individual flavors and that way I can flavor it with my own fruit. Plain Greek yogurt is also great to have and makes a great substitute for sour cream. Use it to top tacos or baked potatoes you can’t even tell the difference!
  • Low-fat cottage cheese- Makes a great sweet or savory snack. Add fruit or veggies or just eat it plain its delicious and satisfying. For a real treat, top some whole grain crackers with it.
  • Silk almond milk- my favorite non-dairy milk

Grains and snacks:

  • Quinoa- quick delicious and incredibly versatile, not to mention a great source of protein.
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa pasta
  • Old fashioned rolled oats -none of this instant stuff. Old fashioned rolled oats are just as quick. Add some water and put it in the microwave for a minute and its cooked, the instant stuff is just too mushy!
  • Popcorn kernels- Since I started making my own popcorn on the stove top about 7 years ago I can’t go back to the microwave stuff. There are a lot of benefits to buy the kernels, its cheaper, healthier and you can make as much as you want. For three tables spoons of kernels (that’s about a serving) I use 1 tsp of olive oil for popping. Add a little melted butter or margarine when it’s done and a dash of salt or any other seasonings of your choice.
  • Roasted unsalted almonds great snack with some raisins or other dried fruit

So there you have it. A little sample list of the things that I like to make sure I keep on hand week to week. Of course there are other things like cheeses and herbs and seasoning, occasionally breads that you will want to get for certain meals, and then of course things that you will already have at home. But for the most part it’s pretty easy to whip up a weeknight meal with this list whether its just grilled chicken and salad or a shrimp stir fry this list will pretty much cover it.

One other tips I have for you is FREEZE YOUR LEFTOVERS. If you make a meal and have a ton of leftovers don’t make yourself eat the same thing for a whole week. Get some freezable Tupperware or freezer bags and freeze them. Most meals can be frozen, so freezing meals in individual serving sizes is always a great idea. That way if you have a busy day you can just come home and microwave your meal. So instead of buying frozen meals you are just making your own its much healthier and much more economical.

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Quinoa and Kale Salad

I love quinoa, it is such a versatile delicious grain, it’s quick and easy to cook, you can eat it cold or warm and it is full of nutrients, so much so that it is considered a “superfood” Just so you can see for yourself, here are just a few of the benefits of quinoa:

  • Protein rich: Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 amino acids that are essential for our complete nutrition. Complete proteins are rare in the plant world making quinoa a great source of protein for vegetarians.
  • High in fiber: Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains.
  • Good source of Iron: Iron is essential because carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction.
  • Contains lysine: Lysine is mainly essential for tissue repair and growth.
  • Rich in magnesium: Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Now that you know some of great health benefits of quinoa, If you have not already added it to your diet, I highly recommend it. It has a delicious nutty flavor and you can add pretty much anything to it for a great side dish or main meal. So, if you are new to quinoa or are just looking for some different ways to throw it together here is one of my favorite quinoa salad recipes!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup quinoa
  • 2 Cups water
  • 3 Cups raw kale pulled off the stem in bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup almond slivers or pine nuts
  • 3 green onions diced
  • 1/4 Cup dried cranberries
  • Juice of a 1in-1.5 in wedge of lime
  •  Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium sized pot add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water, over med-high heat with lid on until it reaches a boil. Reduce to simmer with lid on and cook till water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking toast almond slivers or pine nuts in a small non-stick pan on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Set aside when done.

Once the quinoa is done add 3 cups raw kale to a large bowl. While quinoa is still hot add it to the kale and stir it up. The heat from the quinoa will help to wilt the kale a little bit.

Add cranberries, almonds/pine nuts, green onions, lime juice and salt and pepper, stir it up till combined, serve, and enjoy!

**Note: you can always add more of less of any ingredient, if you want more nuts and cranberries or lime juice, go for it! It is all up to your individual taste.

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Health Nut

I know some people can sometimes be turned away from nuts because of their reputation as a high calorie and high fat snack but don’t let that scare you away from this delicious treat. As with everything, in moderation nuts are a great on the go snack that will give you energy and help you feel full throughout the day. Now, if that’s not enough reason to eat nuts then here are a few more:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids– Many nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Diets with a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids also help manage irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to heart attack. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish and some greens and seeds, but nuts are the best vegetarian source.
  2. Fiber– All nuts contain fiber, which can help you lower your cholesterol. Fiber also helps you feel fuller longer so it is a great snack in the middle of the day to keep you energized.
  3. Vitamin E– Vitamin E is thought to help stop the development of plaque in the arteries. The development of plaque can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack. Vitamin E is also essential for healthy skin, proper immune function, DNA repair and other metabolic functions.
  4. Plant Sterols– Some nuts contain plant sterols which can help you lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to margarine and orange juice for the extra health benefits but are found naturally in nuts.
  5. L-arginine– L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown to improve blood vessel function. Specifically, by helping the blood vessels relax, allowing for better blood flow and reducing the risk for blood clots. It has also been shown to boost immune function, promote wound healing and manage existing cardiovascular disease. Walnuts, peanuts and almonds are especially high in L-arganine.tumblr_m4y25lJB1B1rs8tfgo2_r4_1280

References:

“Eating nuts for heart health.” Mayo Clinic . N.p., 4 february
2011. Web. 27 Jan 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com
/health/nuts/HB00085>.

Valentine, Jennifer, ed. “Health benefits of nuts .” One Green Planet . N.p., 2 Mar 2011.
Web. 27Jan2013.
of-nuts/>.

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Coconut-Carrot Morning Glory Muffins

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This picture doesn’t come close to doing them justice. They were so good!

Tired these muffins out this weekend, recipe courtesy Eatingwell Magazine, and they were delicious! a definite must try for a healthier version of one of my favorite muffins!

Makes: 1 dozen muffins

Per muffin: 186 Calories; 8 g fat; 31 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbs; 7 g added sugar; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 206 mg sodium; 193 mg potassium.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashion rolled oats, plus 2 tbs for garnish
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey or agave
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, pulse 2 tbs for garnish
1/2 cup raisins

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray
  • Whisk whole-wheat flour. 1/2 cup oats, baking powder, cinnamon. Salt and all spice in a medium bowl.
  • Whisk eggs, applesauce, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in coconut oil. Gently stir in the flour mixture until moistened. Fold in carrots, 1/2 cup coconut, and raisins.
  • Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle with the remaining two tbs each oats and coconut.
  • Bake the muffins until they spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes. Let stand in pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

How to wake up early and workout

Go to bed early: Try not to drink caffeine or do any activities that might get you too hyped up to go to sleep. Its best to be relaxed right before bed, try reading a book and turn off any electronics that might keep you up.

Prepare the night before: Set or your workout cloths out the night before. If you are going to the gym, prepare your gym bag with your ipod, magazines, cloths, water bottle etc. that way you can just wake up and go! And if you really don’t want to mess with anything in the morning, sleep in your workout cloths, this may seem a little extreme but I know some people who do this and if it works, then that’s great!

Put your alarm in the next room (or just across the room): If you really have trouble getting up you can do this. It’ll just force you to get up and out of bed, try putting your workout cloths right next to the alarm for the extra reminder of why you are up.

Keep your playlist updated: Doing this or keeping new reading material for the bike or elliptical are also great ways to keep yourself excited about working out in the morning. Think of it as YOU time to enjoy your music, book or magazine.

Make a date: Planning on meeting a friend at the gym or for a walk or run is a great way to make sure you get your workout in. You are much less likely to cancel if you have someone waiting for you.

Keep things interesting: Make sure you are doing something you like. For example: I do not like biking at all, so I just don’t do it. If you don’t like the activity there is no way you are going to be able to get up early and do it. Go for a walk outside or do a dance/workout video at home, whatever it is make sure you enjoy it and that you are mixing up your workouts so you don’t get bored.

“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.”

Joyce Carol Oates, author

I don’t know about you, but this sure makes me want to go for a run!