I am not a doctor. This blog should not in any way be used as a substitute for the opinion of a medical professional.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kiss that Sweet Tooth Goodbye!

How many times has a piece of chocolate cake ruined your diet?  Or a sudden craving for cookie dough ice cream?  Chocolate?  Candy?  Pastries?  Soda?  Most people realize that these things are not good for us, but still we eat them.  When was the last time you went to the movies and didn't get a popcorn and soda, or a big bag of Twizzlers? How often have you taken "just a little" of a birthday cake, only to go back for "just a little more?"  

The problem with sugary foods is not necessarily the calories in them.  Which is not to say they are low in calories, but rather that like any high calorie food, you can budget them into your diet if you are disciplined.  The real problem with sugary foods is that they are addicting.  I don't mean that metaphorically.  There is a real, true addictive quality to sugar that once there is some in your body, your brain craves more.  This is all due to your blood sugar levels and how your body creates and processes insulin.  While it is true that some people do this better than others, this is not and should not be a concern only for diabetics.  We would all do ourselves a lot of good to pay much closer attention to the sugar in our diets.  

Sugar is what gives us belly fat and belly fat is the worst kind of fat for your health.  It can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.  It can also lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  

Most of of are getting way more sugar than we even realize.  It's in everything we eat.  Even if you aren't eating lots of candy and ice cream every day I bet you are eating some of these things:  fruit juice, bread, ketchup, BBQ sauce, cereal, tomato sauce, low-fat foods of all kinds, and many, many others that we don't think of as necessarily sugary foods.  

So, what can we do about it?  For one thing, start reading the labels when you go shopping.  You'll be stunned by the amount of sugar that gets hidden in the foods you are eating.  You'll also be amazed by the number of different names sugar has.  Here are some of the most common:

  • barley malt
  • beet sugar
  • brown sugar
  • cane-juice crystals
  • cane sugar
  • caramel
  • carob syrup
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • date sugar
  • dextran
  • dextrose
  • diatase
  • diastatic malt
  • ethyl maltol
  • fructose
  • fruit juice
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • glucose
  • glucose solids
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltodextrin
  • maltose
  • mannitol
  • molasses
  • raw sugar
  • refiner's syrup
  • sorbitol
  • sorghum syrup
  • sucrose
  • turbinado sugar
  • xylitol      

Now, I'm not saying that you should never eat any food with any of these ingredients.  Some of these sugars (i.e. honey) are more natural than others (i.e. high fructose corn syrup) and might even contain some health benefits.  The idea is to start to really learn about how much sugar there is in your diet and what you can do to cut that amount down.  If any of these sugars are listed in the top 3 ingredients in a food, you might want to reconsider.  If they are lower down on the list but there are many different types, you may want to reconsider.  Be especially careful with low-fat and diet foods- they often add sugar in place of the fat in order to keep the flavor.

Reading the labels can seem time consuming at first and it might be frustrating when you realize how many of the foods you eat are high in sugar.  Be persistent.  Over time you'll find good replacements and know which brands are better than others without having to read the labels.  You don't even have to spend more money than you are now to get something a little better for you.  I don't think everyone should have to shop in the health-food section of your grocery store and pay 3 times the price for things.  What I'm talking about can be as simple as changing from your regular tomato sauce to the "no sugar added" variety.  With a little persistence, you'll kick the sugar habit in no time!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weighing in: Week 3

This morning's weight: 172.2- a loss of 4.6 pounds in the past 4 weeks.  Yay, I'm on track and doing well!

I've really been doing great with planning my meals ahead of time and reducing the amount of times I find myself just eating on a whim.  I think this has made the biggest difference so far.  I've also been pretty good about getting in lots of extra fruits and veggies.  Exercising regularly has been an on and off thing, mostly due to the constant rain this week, but I do find myself more active in general- spending less time in front of the TV and more time actually getting stuff done.

Check back tomorrow for my new goal.  It's a really good one and very important for everyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Take a Hike

This is my favorite time of year.  The air is brisk and energizing, the smell of autumn is in the air and the beauty of the changing leaves never fails to take my breath away!  I can almost hear the mountains beckoning me.  I've been hiking more in the last two weeks than I did in all of August and September.  The weather is perfect- not too hot, not too cold.  Plus, it's great exercise.  You burn about as many calories as from jogging and it never feels like much work.  So, pack a light backpack with some water and a granola bar and maybe an extra layer and get out there and hike!  You'll thank me for it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

This recipe is taken from a book simple titled Vegetarian which I bought off the Bargain Books shelf at Borders for $3.99 several years ago.  It was an incredible investment, as I've not made a recipe from it that I haven't loved.  This is one of my all time favorite soup recipes and that's saying a lot, because soup is one of my favorite foods.  This is satisfying and filling all on it's own, no need to cook anything else to go with it.  It's perfect for this time of year, everything is in season.  Enjoy!

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 carrots, cut into thick rounds
1 large parsnip, cubed
1 small, yellow turnip, cubed
2 leeks, thickly sliced
1 onion, quartered
3 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
3 rosemary sprigs
5 cups vegetable stock (I always find that I need more than this.)
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Put the olive oil into a large bowl.  Add the prepared vegetables and toss until coated in the oil.

2.  Spread out the vegetables in a single layer on one large or two small baking sheets.  Tuck the bay leaves and thyme and rosemary sprigs among the vegetables.

3.  Roast for 50 minutes until tender, turning the vegetables occasionally to make sure they brown evenly all over.  Remove from the oven, discard the herbs and transfer to a large saucepan.

4.  Pour the stock into the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, season to taste, then simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender (or use a hand blender) and process for a few minutes until thick and smooth.

5.  Return soup to the pan to heat through.  Season and serve.

The recipe also suggests serving with a swirl of sour cream, but I never do.  Why add extra calories to an already great tasting meal?

The book also offers this note:
This nutritious soup is paced with health-giving vegetables.  Butternut squash is particularly high in beta carotene and potassium, which is essential for the functioning of the cells, nerves, and muscles.  Carrots also contain a high level of beta carotene and are effective detoxifiers.


Frittatas are similar to omelets and are quick and easy to make.  Don't worry that it's too big if you are cooking only for yourself.  They are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner and keep well in the fridge.  You can eat it hot or cold. Substitute egg white or Egg Beaters if you are concerned about cholesterol.  


1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 ears of corn
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
12 eggs
splash of milk
olive oil


1.  Boil the sweet potato in a pot of water until just slightly soft, 3-5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Dry and set aside.  In the meantime, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the corn cobs.  Preheat the broiler on your oven.

2.  In an extra large skillet over a medium heat, add just enough oil to over the bottom of the pan.  Add onions and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook for one minute more.  Add sweet potato, corn, red peppers and cook until just warm.  Spread ingredients evenly over the skillet.  

3.  Whisk together eggs and milk.  The more you beat them, the fluffier your frittata will be.  Season to suit your tastes with salt and pepper.

4.  Pour egg mixture over the vegetables in the pan.  Cook over medium heat until the bottom of the eggs have set and just start to pull away from the edges of the pan.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top sets.  

5.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Slide the frittata out of the skillet and cut into wedges.  Tastes great with crusty whole-grain bread.

Slacking Off

Loyal Reader, you may have noticed some slacking off on my part over the last week.  It is due in part to being ill and in part to being very, very busy.  I have been continuing with my previous 3 weeks' goals: sticking to a planned eating schedule, exercising at least 3 times a week and trying to eat 1/2 fruits and veggies at every meal. As of yesterday, my weight was 173.8, which is a loss of .8 lbs from my last weigh in.  I am not setting a new goal for this week, but will continue with the three I just mentioned until next week.  I will, as promised last week, post some great recipes for you right now!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seasonal Food

Have you ever visited your local farmer's market?  I shop for about 90% of my produce at the one near my house.  There are tons of benefits to it.  For one thing, you can get things a lot cheaper than you would at the supermarket.  I bought a quart of apples last week for $4.  It would have been $2 per pound had I got the same ones at the grocery store- probably $6-7 for the same amount.

Not only is the food cheaper, it's also fresher because it's all local and hasn't been sprayed with preservatives like the produce at the supermarket.  It won't always be organic, but it will have less chemicals than at the market.  If there is a down side to this at all, it's that the food will go bad a little faster than the stuff you buy at the store- but that's just all the more reason to eat your fruits and veggies!

Lastly, supporting small local farmers is great for the local economy and the environment!  Not a health tip per se but knowing you are doing something good for yourself and others goes along with living a more positive lifestyle.

Pumpkins, apples and sweet potatoes are all in season right now and there are lots of great things you can do with them besides making pie.  I'll put up a few recipes later in the week for you, for now, grab your self an apple- it will keep the doctor away!