Sometimes you learn something unexpected.

MargarineVsButter
(click photo to enlarge)

Take a close look at this picture. On the left is a margarine tub. Canola Harvest. From a Canadian company based in Alberta. On the right is a tub of whipped butter, Challenge brand, from a California dairy. Read the ingredients. Read the calorie count. Read the amount of sodium. Now, whipped butter includes a fair amount of air whipped into it to make it more spreadable and give it more volume. I grew up on margarine instead of stick butter, so something spreadable in a tub is sort of personal preference.

So yeah…science is now saying that the move away from butter to margarine was not a good idea, and that the hydrogenation process used to make liquid oils solid made something far worse than saturated fat for our cardiovascular health. The Canola/Palm oil margarine on the left does not have hydrogenated oils in it, but it has way more sodium than the butter, and more calories when you compare the volume of margarine vs. the volume of whipped butter. Yes, if you go by weight, the margarine serving is heavier than the whipped butter. But our eyes see volume instead of weight, so ultimately the amount that fills a tablespoon is the same. That tablespoon’s worth of the whipped butter looks, to our eyes, like that tablespoon of margarine.

And where the difference really becomes clear is when you look at the ingredients list on the margarine vs. the butter. Butter: cream and salt. Margarine: a long list of substances that are hard to pronounce and go halfway down the package. And then there’s also the fact that the butter came from a dairy in California, and the margarine is from thousands upon thousands of miles away. Local food is better than non-local food for the Planet.

Moderation is key in all things. You don’t want to be eating out of that tub of whipped butter with a spoon. But the occasional bit of it on a potato or on a whole wheat English Muffin is fine. And probably better for you than those mystery ingredients in that tub of margarine.

1200 Calories

Great stuff.

Sophieologie

I don’t know why “1200” managed to be the magic number of calories women should consume if they want to lose weight.

I don’t even know how I know of this number. Only that I know it, and my friends know it, and my mom knows it. Somehow, somewhere along the road, I was taught that if I want to have a flat stomach and tight tushy, I need to limit my calories to 1200 a day and do cardio. I don’t know how it got in to all of our collective brains, but somehow it did (if any ladies remember how or when they first heard the 1200-calorie rule-of-thumb for losing weight, please let me know via comment box).

What I do know is that 1200 is the general number of calories health professionals say women cannot drop below without suffering negative health consequences.

Interesting, isn’t it? 1200 calories. The…

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Applying SCIENCE to the problem.

SCIENCE! What causes obesity…is it a simple matter of calories in, calories out, or is it what we eat rather than how much we eat?

Scientists are finally going to do some serious study on the matter. I am looking forward to what comes of this experiment. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for it…the study is estimated to finish in 5 years.

Read about it here:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-makes-you-fat-too-many-calories-or-the-wrong-carbohydrates

Emphasis and de-emphasis

image

OK, I have been thinking about a whole new way of looking at food. Instead of saying “I can’t eat this,” or that I’ve given up a food or a category of foods, I am going to say “I have de-emphasized this food and I will emphasize other foods in what I eat on a day-to-day basis.”

For example, instead of saying “I have given up dairy,” it would be more like, “I have de-emphasized dairy in favor of non-dairy sources of calcium.” Yes it’s a semantic game. But semantics are important: that’s how we program ourselves mentally.

It means complete liberation from the idea of “forbidden foods.” The legends of Adam and Eve, and of Pandora, all have to do with “the one forbidden thing” that creates an uncontrollable urge to indulge in that same “one forbidden thing.” In terms of healthy eating, forbidden foods set us up for binging on those forbidden foods.

Some people can do the diet game. Some people do it very well, Ali Vincent is a good example. However, there are a lot of people who cannot. I will venture to say that most people do not have the mental makeup to diet healthily. For most people, it becomes a cycle of going on a diet, falling off the wagon, and then getting back on after a period of self-recrimination. For some, it means adopting unhealthy behaviors, my mom being one of those.

So yeah, instead of being on that particular merry go round, I will simply say that there are no forbidden foods for me, that I will be emphasizing certain foods in my daily intake, and de-emphasizing others. I will also be paying closer attention to hunger and fullness signals from my body, eating only when hungry and no more than is necessary.

I already know from experience that there are foods that make me feel less than healthy after eating them. Those are foods from which I will stay away,  not because they are “forbidden” but because I know they have negative effects on my wellness. I know how I feel after eating pizza from most places. I know how I feel after eating one of those greasy, butter-drenched pretzels from the mall.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at regarding food philosophy. But how does that fit in with that picture of my wrist with my Fitbit Flex? OK, second subject. I have pretty much figured out that my activity measurement device of choice is the Flex.

I have tried standard and motion- sensing pedometers in the past. I have tried GPS units, both on my mobile phone and a wristwatch unit. But nothing compares to the simplicity and relative accuracy of Fitbit in general and Flex in particular.

Simplicity: it’s on your non-dominant wrist all the time. I only take it off when showering, but that’s unnecessary caution. Theoretically you can swim with it on.

Relative accuracy: it’s accurate enough, although not as accurate as my Garmin. It is also accurate in far more places than any GPS that you can get. GPS requires being out of doors. Fitbit keeps measuring activity indoors and out. It doesn’t pick up everything you do, which is a double-edged sword. This means that it’s good at rejecting things like typing on a computer, but it’s not good at measuring walking in place or on a rebounder.

So yeah, Fitbit Flex is a bit more expensive than a pedometer or the GPS that comes with your phone, but it’s worth it. And it is certainly less expensive than most wrist GPS units. The little Garmin I have is about the same price. However, it’s worth it.

ChewBakas, an attempted Paleo remix (UPDATED)

This version is good for a lot of people who eat Paleo. Oats have been replaced with Quinoa. However, this recipe is not Vegan…there is an egg in the mix to help the Quinoa bind together. Like the oat version, this has no added sugar save for the sweetness of the applesauce, bananas, and the dried fruit.

Quinoa, however, is an ingredient that is actually controversial with people who eat Paleo. A friend of mine who does eat Paleo no longer eats Quinoa. “Yeah, it’s a seed, not a grain, however, it has been found to behave like grain in your body.”

So yeah, back to the drawing board on this. If you want to try this, go right ahead. However, I really do prefer the Oat version of the bars to the Quinoa version, and I am not interested in personally going Paleo. It engenders too much of a “dieting” mindset, and because of my family history of eating disorders I can’t allow myself to fall into that mindset.

Ingredients
Coconut Oil Spray
3 cups cooked Quinoa
1/2 cup nut mix (any nuts you like, just 1/2 cup of them)
1/2 cup fruit mix (any fruits you like, just 1/2 cup of them)
1/4 cup seed mix (by seeds I mean seeds like poppy, sesame, flax or hemp, just 1/4 cup total)
(optional) 1/4 cup each roasted unsweetened cocoa nibs and unsweetened coconut.
(Just the unsweetened coconut is fine too…unsweetened cocoa nibs are hard to find.)
1 egg
3 ripe bananas
1/3 + 1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Prep
Preheat oven to 350F.

Dry mixture: add oats, oat bran, nut mix, fruit mix, seed mix, cocoa nibs, and coconut to a large bowl.

Wet mixture: in a food processor or a blender, liquify the three bananas and the applesauce together. Add the extracts, the egg and the cinnamon. Whisk until combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until well-combined.

This time I made them in two 12 x 8 x 1.33 baking pans, and it yielded 24 bars. This yields a more crumbly bar. It also needs more time to set up…45 minutes to cook.

ChewBakas: the next step in the evolution of my Genki Bars.

ChewBakas

Om nom nom nom

Ingredients
Coconut Oil Spray
1 2/3 cup oats
1/3 cup oat bran meal
1/2 cup nut mix
1/2 cup fruit mix
1/4 cup each roasted unsweetened cocoa nibs and unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup seed mix (flax, sesame and roasted salted hemp seeds)
3 ripe bananas
1/3 + 1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Prep
Preheat oven to 350F.

Dry mixture: add oats, oat bran, nut mix, fruit mix, seed mix, cocoa nibs, and coconut to a large bowl.

Wet mixture: in a food processor or a blender, liquify the three bananas and the applesauce together. Add the extracts and the cinnamon. Stir or whisk until combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until well-combined.

Get out a 8×8 square pan and a 6 cup muffin tin. Put muffin cups in the muffin tin and spray them a little with Coconut Oil Spray. Spray the square pan thoroughly with Coconut Oil Spray.

Bake for 20 minutes, 15 for the muffin tin version. This batch yielded 9 bars and 6 round discs.

Nota bene: no sugar added. The only sweetness comes from the banana applesauce mixture. There are also no eggs. This is actually a Vegan recipe for those who care about that.

Almost everything for this can be found at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts except for the roasted unsweetened cocoa nibs. You can get cocoa nibs enrobed in dark chocolate at TJs, but for the unsweetened stuff you have to go to Whole Paycheck. (Boo!)

Why do I specify a nut mix, a dried fruit mix and a seed mix? My new best practice is to maintain a mixture of healthy nuts, healthy dried fruit and healthy seeds in jars in the fridge. My nut mix jar includes roasted unsalted almonds, roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, roasted unsalted pepitas, toasted chopped walnuts, and roasted unsalted pecan pieces. It could be enhanced with the addition of roasted unsalted pistachio meats…want to try adding that. The dried fruit pieces include raisins, apricots, apples, cherries, cranberries, pineapple, mango, all cut to about raisin size. I already mentioned what’s in the seed jar. I love variety and that’s a way to add variety.

You do not need salt if one of the nuts or one of the seeds is roasted/salted. In my case, they’re hemp seeds…Sprouts doesn’t sell roasted unsalted hemp seeds. There is NO THC in these seeds, so calm yourself. They provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

These are not meant for casual snacking…they are meant for taking along on distance walks, distance hikes or distance runs, or for recovery snacks after a WOD or other gym workout.

The name change suggests the difference between the texture of my original recipe and this one. These are chewy bars rather than crunchy. As such, they will not likely be a crumb/crumble problem like my old recipe was.