Off White Living

More food. Less sugar. It's that simple

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Today I will….

Fill in the blank.  What will you do today to take on your own relationship to health and wellness?  It doesn’t have to be big to be significant.

Want an idea – visit Today I will online – a tool for individuals and professionals who are committed to healthy living at all stages of changed. Pretty cool stuff.

It never ceases to amaze me how big the ripple effect of one positive thought can be on my life.  I live the concept of “today I will” because it keeps things in the moment ( we aren’t talking about forever here, just today), it’s simple, and it’s positive.  

Today I will prioritize water throughout the day.  It’s getting warmer here in Davis and I’m workout out a lot to train for my half-iron man.  I need water.  That is my commitment for today.

What will you do today?

Nurture or Nature – why do we keep eating so much sugar???

Based on national survey data analyses, grainbased
desserts account for a greater proportion of
daily calories than any other food group in people
age 2 and older - USDA’s National “What we eat in America” Survey results; just published

I am still baffled when I read statements like the one above.  It just doesn’t compute.  We are still eating far too much sugar, refined grain, and just ‘too much’ in general despite the major public health, private diet industry, personal advocate, and other efforts being made to stop us from eating the foods that make us sick.

Why does this great paradox exist whereby we may *know* that eating certain foods can have ill effects later on, but we do it anyway?

The Nature argument:
Some hints as to our biological drive to eat sweets might come from the latest 60-minutes broadcasts, which highlights the impact of sugar on our brains and bodies.  http://www.dietdoctor.com/must-see-toxic-sugar-on-60-minutes.

Further, my husband (who studies stress and eating via fMRI and other tools), has learned through is work and the work of others, that for some people the following scenario occurs (also seen in people who smoke a lot of pot, do other drugs, or otherwise have impaired frontal lobe executive function)

Even when an individual can indicate on a survey or interview that they know a behavior is “bad” for them and know the consequences, they are incapable of choosing otherwise when actually in the midst of the choice.  This may explain some of the compulsion behind binge eating.

Biologically, we are wired to seek and hunt sugar, as it is a concentrated energy source that is rare in nature.  The same is true for fat.

But, can you think of ONE food that is naturally occurring which is both high is sugar and fat, like most sweet treats can be?  How about one (aside from honey) that is just pure sugar? Even sugar cane has to be processed to get the sugar out from the fiberous cane plant.  Even both honey and pure sugar cane have trace minerals in them in addition to calories.

We have created “superfoods” that are so potent they go right to the pleasure centers of the brain in ways that our biology just cannot handle.  They have the ability to make us override our sense of fullness/hunger, long-term goals (if I eat this today, I might gain weight/have  diabetes later), and they may have long term impact on our brain’s ability to make good food decisions in the future.

The Nurture argument:
We are a produce of our environment.  Think about your commute to work.  Between commercials on TV/Radio, billboards, magazines, internet ads, seeing fast-food or other food establishment signs…how many cues to eat do you see every day just by doing what you do?  

How about the food environment around gatherings/celebrations.  Would you have a birthday dinner that served just a simple, low-calorie meal?  Maybe, but probably not.  How many times a day/month/year are we encouraged to ‘treat ourselves’?

How about the fact that, in many cases, we are not taught how to cook from our families and certainly not from our schools.  When the norm is to get drive-through food on a busy day, how habituated are we to those familiar habits?

Again  I am going to advocate for each and every one of you to take a mindful, honest look at your food behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes.  Do they work for your goals?  Would you rather spend 10% more of your income on better food today or MUCH MORE in the future on health care?   Does your personal food environment match your desired food values?  Have you had a conversation about such matters with those in your life that you eat with regularly?

We can’t begin to change the “big”Environment if we don’t start with the personal environment.  We can’t change the personal environment if we aren’t willing to look at ourselves honestly and find willingness to explore a healthier, saner way want navigate our food journey.

Quiche, revisited the off-white way

 

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all the makings of an off-white quiche

Next week is Matt’s birthday (it will be the 10th anniversary of his 29th birthday), and we are heading to his folks house for a weekend celebration.  I’ve got some travel and long meeting scheduled this week, which means my contributions to the weekend must be done tonight and tomorrow and frozen for the occasion.

Matt loves quiche.  Who doesn’t love quiche.  He especially loves it with bacon and cream, but he is willing to compromise.  Thankfully, if I put enough cheese on top of anything he won’t really miss the bacon or the cream in this quiche.

The inspiration for Matt’s birthday quiche was from this recipe.  I wanted to modify it because his parents are on the Oxygen diet, so my goal was to satisfy everybody’s needs.  Tough job, I tell ya. Luckily I am a good improviser and here’s what I came up with:

4 egg whites and 1 whole egg: beat for 2 minutes
3/4 cup original Almond Milk
2 cups of roasted veggies: asparagus, mushroom, orange pepper and yellow onion (I roasted them with an Herb d’ Provence spice mix @ 350 for 10 minutes).  SAVE 7-8 ASPARAGUS TIPS FOR THE TOP.
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese
salt, pepper, to taste
1 whole wheat organic pie crust (what a racket – it only has 2g of fiber and cost twice as much as the other….but 2g of fiber is better than nothing, I suppose!)

Baste the crust with egg white and bake for 5 min @ 350.  This will keep it from getting soggy
Once the veggies are roasted, add them in the following way to the crust:

Veggies first, covering the pie crust dish evenly
Add the cheese, spreading evenly
Pour the egg white mix over and make sure it also evenly spreads

Take the 7-8 asparagus tips you saved and place them in a circle, evenly spread apart on top of the quiche so that every ‘slice’ will have an asparagus tip’.

Bake at 350 until golden brown on top (about 40-minutes).

What does it take to change a nation?

I read something quite sad today.  According to this link at the CDC, obesity rates in the US have not changed in the last few years, despite what appears to be a lot of effort to make change.

This really gets me thinking, especially because my new job (which I love!) has me working on grants to design programs aimed at changing food and physical activity environments for groups of people.  It makes me wonder why, despite so much effort toward education, awareness, and encouragement to make good choices, we as a nation are not ‘gettin’ it done’.

Why is that?  I don’t think there is a silver bullet answer, but here’s my 2-cents on it, for what its worth:

1. People are not personally engaged with their own wellness policies to govern their own life.  We talk a lot about wellness policies for schools, companies and private organizations, and even for the nation, but what about your guidelines that rule your own life?  

Have you ever sat down with just yourself or your family and discussed what your health/nutrition/fitness values are?  No?  You’re not alone.  I hear from my clients ALL THE TIME that until they seek support from coaches like myself, it doesn’t cross their mind to have a conversation about it.

What is that saying…”if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.  Spend some time mapping out what is ‘in’ an what is ‘out’ in your home in terms of food choices, fitness, stress management, etc.

An example:  One client has a rule that if her kids are hungry before dinner, they are offered fruit first.  No matter what.  Even if they pull out a Cliff bar or Goldfish crackers and start eating them.

Another example:  One client had a conversation with her family about her and her hubby’s fitness needs. The older kids agreed to watch the younger kids on Sat and Sun so the couple do do a 1-hour walk together each day of the weekend.  It was just policy in that house!

And the reason you need to determine your own wellness policies is because…

#2 reason I think obesity hasn’t changed: the default environment is obesegenic.  That means it is aligned to encourage weight gain if you just follow the status quo.

Here’s an example:  You drive to work in the AM (no activity there) because the bus system is sketchy or non-existent.  You get to work where, in the break room, are an array of treats at any given moment that you constantly have to resist (how many times can you say ‘no’ in your mind to the banana bread that your colleague made before you break down and have some).  Then you sit some more, and maybe work through lunch.  Maybe you packed your lunch, maybe you are at the Mercy of a restaurant, cafeteria, or (sigh) a vending machine…and let’s not even mention the office Starbuck’s run.

If you just do this every day and top that off with a few dinners out, eating your meals on the gargantuan dinner plates most stores sell, and fall prey to constant food advertising, you are going to eat too much.  And then you are going to gain weight.

So, what can you do:  BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE!!  BE A CHANGE-AGENT IN YOUR OWN LIFE, OR EVEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU.  Ask the people who have lost weight, kept it off, or maintained a healthy weight what they do, and I promise they will tell you that THEY DON’T LEAVE THEIR HEALTH IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S HANDS.  They prioritize themselves, their wellness, and their food and fitness values.

 

Your are worth it!  Change is possible, and it’s okay to need help!  Just ask – your friends, family, co-workers, or me!

Eat more kale…and here’s how (RECIPE)

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Am I the poster child for kale or what?  If you too want to wear your love of kale on your chest, support a good cause and go here to buy one of these babies.

So, the next question is…HOW do I eat more kake?

Answer: It’s so easy!  Kale goes with everything, even chocolate.  Yep, I’ve downed my share of chocolate protein shakes with kale included and I swear, you don’t even taste it. Promise.

My favorite kind of kale is Lacinato kale, AKA Dino kale.  It’s easy to work with because the leaves are soft and less ‘wrinkly’, but in general I’m an equal opportunity kale consumer.

Tonight, to celebrate the arrival of my new shirt, I made this fabulous and very easy kale-inspired recipe

 

Quinoa, black bean and kale salad
2 cups cooked quinoa, slightly cooled (I cooked mine in the rice cooker with broth)
1 can each: corn and Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans
1.5 cups of finely chopped kale (also from Trader Joe’s in my case)
2 tbsp each: EVOO and fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1-2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
spices (about 1 tsp each)  cumin, sea salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Mix the spices, cilantro, scallions with the oil and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside.  Toss the corn and beans with the quinoa.  Add the oil/lemon and mix half-way. Add kale and mix in thoroughly but try not to ‘mush’ the salad – toss lightly.

Chill and let the spices sink in! Enjoy.

This makes about 5-6 cups of salad, and I think it pairs nicely with white fish, such as Tilapia.

Great advice for better, fresher eggs!

Check out this link from Organic Authorityt hat helps you tell how fresh your eggs are. Too bad you can’t do this BEFORE you buy!

http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/how-do-you-know-if-your-eggs-have-gone-bad.html

My thought on ‘old’ eggs: put them in your hair. I put eggs in my hair about 4 times in January and saw major improvements in shine and thickness.
Waste not, want not

It’s not easy being green…but it’s so worth it!

Remember this little ditty from Kermit the Frog:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpiIWMWWVco

Yes, Kermie- being green is not so easy…  I feel the same way about eating “green” – green foods like kale, collard greens, sprouts, etc that.

This was evidenced in my life yesterday when, amidst all the work I had to do packing up for our trip this weekend to Yosemite (yeah, poor me!), I decided to squeeze in a little Brussel sprout braising?

Why did I decide to do this despite having to prepare a turkey chili, hard boil 12 eggs, go buy motor oil, and pack for a weekend of hiking and playing?

Because, like Kermit says:  It’s not easy, but it is magnificent and it is important!  I think that in this modern world you have to purposely find time and energy to make healthy foods, particularly green vegetables, a priority.

And when it comes down to it, if I don’t have 10-minutes to feed myself food that my body loves, how can I expect my body to do great things for me?  

Hate green veggies?  Don’t give up hope.  I did too…it’s taken years but now I’m so looking forward to my braised Brussel sprouts over a bed of lettuce with two hard boiled eggs for lunch.  10 years ago I would have maybe fathomed I would eat Brussel sprouts for lunch with a smile….15 years ago – no way.  20 years ago I would have fought mom tooth and nail about this meal.

Progress, not perfection -right?

 

When chard meets dough

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Today I had a culinary epiphany.  Why not blend a simple Spanish-inspired Swiss chard recipe with the equally simple recipe for soudough rye pizza dough?  Why not, indeed.  The combo was divine and oh so very easy to achieve, assuming you have a sourdough starter.  Don’t have a starter?  Check out Wild Fermentation.  I’ve had my starter about 2.5 years, thanks to a grad school friend.

The dough:

1.5 cups flour (1/2 whole grain rye, 1/2 either wheat or spelt)
1.5 cups of unfed starter
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil

Mix the flour, salt and starter in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Add the water until the dough is somewhat sticky but not too moist.  Mix well.  Add the olive oil and knead for about 4-5 minutes.  The dough will get a bit plastic-like in texture.  You may need to add in more flour.  Roll into a ball, cover with oil (lightly) and then put in a bowl, covered with plastic or cloth.  let it rest 30-minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chard.
Slice the leaf away from the rib of about 1 lb of chard
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Blanch in boiling water for 30-seconds
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Chop into 1″ squares.  Now you will need:

1/2 cup chopped almonds
3 oz raisins
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the butter in a large, wide skillet.  Add the remaining ingredients, cooking and mixing well on med heat for about 5 minutes.

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Now, once the dough has rested, pinch off 2″ segments and spread, making a mini-pizza dough shape:

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Then add about 1 Tbsp of the chard mix to each mini-pizza and wrap it together, pinching the ends

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Next, bake for about 6-minutes at 375, careful not to over cook.  And finally…ENJOY!

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the sweet seduction of half-off Valentine’s day candy

Any self-respecting sugar addict (like myself) loves the day after a major holiday. It’s not just trinkets and cards and useless gifts imprinted with holiday logos that go on sale. It’s the candy too. It’s cheap, and if you get in early, the getting is good.

I’m going to tell you a little story. I used to have the market cornered on half-off post-holiday candy. Not only do I love sugar, but I also love a sale, so I was pretty much blissed out when I’d score a bag of conversation hearts for $.50 or a box of Russel Stover chocolates for 2 bucks. Guess how long my low-cost loot usually lasted me? If you said anything over an hour or two you seriously underestimate the power of my sugar addiction!

It didn’t dawn on me that this was abnormal or even potentially harmful (to my health) behavior until 2004. I guess you could say I was growing up. On February 28th, 2004 I did something totally obscene: I vowed to give up all candy for Lent (PS: I”m not even Catholic, I just liked the idea of the challenge). Maybe I was coming down from my post V-day candy bender and realized that if I didn’t count the candy corn and tropical fruit skittles, my diet was a little shy I the veggies. Maybe I was just sick of shamelessly throwing away the empty cellophane reminants of a pound of licorice that was consumed in the time it took to watch a re-run of “Beverly Hills 90210″.

I can tell you exactly what made that day the last day I ever had a piece of candy, but it was. I entered my Lenten fast still digesting the belly full of gummy candied orange slices, mind you, and that was my proverbial last candy meal.

Whenever I see the post-holiday sales for candy, I still think about buying a bag. The lizard brain in me, still hard-wired to love, love, love all things sugary and sweet, still responds. Sometimes I even go look at it. Seriously. I know it’s lame, but there is at times a feeling of loss. Candy was my righ-hand-man for most of my life. It was the little joy that I could pop in my mouth when I was angry, bored, happy, bored, frustrated, bored, lonely, busy, bored…..you get the idea!

I guess I’m writing this in part to share a little more of myself with you, but also to offer hope to those of who I might have rubbed elbows with in the discount candy aisle. If you are still in the throws of the candy addiction (or whatever sugar addiction), I feel for you in a big way, and I am your compadre. I understand that sometimes you just need to eat a giant box of Mike and Ike’s to get through your afternoon. I hear you. I love you. I am you, just another version.

Maybe this year will be the year that you decide ‘enough is enough’ and you release the grip the white stuff has on you, in one way or another. I can’t say that candy was it for me. I’m still a work in progress (currently working on releasing artificially sweetened beverages like Coke Zero and sweetened bubbly water), but I keep focusing on “progress” as the operative word.

PS: for those who are wondering – dark chocolate does NOT count as candy to me. It was never my addiction. I like it, but can’t mow through a bar of dark chocolate like I can the pure sugar based candy. I was probably the only kid who eagerly traded her Halloween Snicker’s bars and Reeses for a Dum-Dum lollipop or a pack of Smarties. Oh, and no matter how many years go by, I can still recall the taste of every one of my favorite candies. Lizard brain….lizard brain

Americans don’t eat enough vegetables….so here’s a way to bridge the gap (recipe)

It’s no surprise to you that we, on average, are a little light on the vegetable side.  According to the 2011 statistics, the majority of us are either overweight or obese.  Off-white eating alone won’t necessarily prevent weight gain.  Whole grain flours, natural sweeteners and unrefined foods are just as calorie-dense as the white stuff (but they have fiber, are more filling, and have valuable nutrients so don’t you dare stop eating them!).

But, let’s get real.  You gotta each some veggies too.  Not just some, but actually a lot of veggies – like 2-4 cups/day of veggies.  Like veggies at every meal every day.  Yeah, it’s no easy feat. But we can do this together, I promise.

Oh, and they say that the #1 vegetable consumed is….wait for it….POTATOES!  Yep, you probably knew that.  French fries are the #1 vegetable consumed, if you can even really count that as a vegetable.  With things like French fries and ketchup counting as vegetables we are going to be in a sad state unless we change our approach to vegetables.

So, I have a solution.  Since we apparently love potatoes, but need to eat more veggies, why not find foods that bridge the gap.  For instance, this potato-sneak-a-peek-leek soup.  Not only does it have potatoes, but you get a peek of asparagus, kale, parsley, and onions also.  But just a peek, because they are almost all pureed in with the potato, so you won’t even know it’s there.  Trust me.  This soup is so dang tasty and is especially nice with Aidell’s Chicken Sausages.  Yum.

2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 large leeks, the dark end trimmed off and the white part cut in half and cleaned thoroughly.
1 medium onion, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups chopped asparagus, discard ends
2 tsp sea salt, pepper, coriander
5 potatoes – something like Yukon gold – a bit creamier than a Russet or Idaho
1 1/2 cups  chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cups finely chopped kale

In a large stockpot, heat the oil on medium heat.  Finely chop the leeks.  Mix the leeks, onions, parsley and spices into the stockpot.  Cook on med for about 5 minutes, stirring about every 30-seconds.
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Cook until the onions are translucent.  Next, add the chopped asparagus
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Once added, mix in the stock and water.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the chopped potatoes and stir.  Cook, covered, for about 20-minutes.  Check to ensure the potatoes are soft but not mushy. 

Next, use an immersion blender to puree.  If you don’t have one – get one.   I have the Food Network imimmersion blender.  It’s okay, but I’d rather have the Cuisinart.  If you can’t get one, they you can put the soup in the blender and pulse for a few seconds.

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And finally, add the kale.  I prefer the texture of the soup with the kale unblended, but it’s up to you.

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And, lst but not least…ENJOY!

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