Argh….a headache.  Again.  It happens.  To me it seems to happen a lot.  I get really dehydrated when it’s warm out, and especially when it’s warm out and I have to teach for 2.5 hrs straight, which basically means talk-nagging-talk-begging, talk-listening (yes, I do that too) without stopping in a class of 28 eager undergrads.  And yes, they really are eager.  Hence all the questions.  Plus it’s a lab so they have to pay attention because they actually have to DO something in order to get out that day.  No skating by with your head in your hand, cocked to the side like you are looking intently when really you are asleep.

I also get headaches when I eat garlic.  I don’t mean to eat garlic, but let’s face it, garlic is pretty hard to avoid.  I went to Delta of Venus in Davis last night for dinner. Fabulous food, and I would go back.  The food was so good I wish that I had a camera handy to take a pic.  It was Caribbean food and even came with a sautee banana atop the rice.  Double YUM!  But I am pretty sure it had garlic.

Of all my food issues garlic is what gives me immediate trouble.  Within 2-3 hrs I feel literally like I’m on fire on the insides.  I also feel like I’m trying to pass 1,000 tiny razor blades through my GI tract but they won’t budge.  Good times.  The worst effect of all, however, is the bizarre and very unique headache I get.  It makes me feel like my eyes are on fire and that little laser beams are having a shooting match in my brain.  No wonder yogis and monks don’t include garlic in a meditative diet.  The way I feel right now is far from at peace.

But, before you go and feel too sorry for me, there is a remedy and that remedy is cool, crisp peppermint tea. Oh yeah.  I can’t live without it.  Hot or chilled, it’s the cooling effect of peppermint that I need  to quench the fire and blunt the GI razor blades and call a cease-fire in my brain.  It works, along with some Naproxyn (hey, I wish I could go all natural here too but a girl has got to live!).  The Naproxyn alone is pretty good, but the soothing nature of the peppermint tea actually does the most good in the GI.

Yogi teas, Stash, and Trader Joe’s are my favs, probably because they are the least expensive and just make a solid product.  Peppermint works best for me but I prefer spearmint or a mint mix if I can find it.

To me, this little garlic quandry-solved-by-peppermint-tea is just yet another example of mother nature’s balance.  Garlic is know for it’s heating, dispursing nature (like dispursing heat to my body and brain) and peppermint has a downward and cooling nature.  Yin and Yang going on right inside me at the moment.

I am in balance 🙂

Cake or pie?

WordPress just wouldn’t let me be after my last post.  There is this ‘back of the house’ feature where they prompt you with suggestions, like “Cake or pie”.

I will answer this debate with one word:  CAKE.

Anybody who knows me will not be surprised.  But what you may not know is that the only reason I say cake is because of one other magical word:  Frosting.  Without frosting this is no purpose to cake and in my opinion, most cakes are just a socially acceptable vehicle to consume frosting.  I know that it’s not very ‘off white’ of me to say this, but it’s my truth.  So there.  You’ll just have to deal with, as I do.

What do you prefer?

Purge your words and avoid emotional eating

Well all know journaling is good for us, right?  Well if you don’t – hear this:  Journaling can help you to release stressors and emotions and be a safe place to vent.  IT can also be a place to work out ideas or dilemmas you’re experience.  As an emotional carb eater, journaling has helped me tremendously in the past ‘purge my words’ so I don’t try and stuff them down with sweets.

However, lately I don’t journal much.  Not sure why, I just don’t feel like it- that is, until I found this site: 750 words.  The premise is simple.  It’s based on a technique from the “Artist’s Way” which includes writing 3-pages daily called morning pages.  It just so happens that 750 words is about 3 pages.  This website is a virtual journal that challenges you in a fun way to write 750 words/day in an uncensored, private, daily fashion and it will help you keep track of how often you do it.  There is something charming about the approach to the site and I like the design.  It’s very simple.

All I’m sayin’ is that in the past few days I’ve journaled every day and feel a lot better.  I have been stressing about some upcoming decisions and been home alone a lot.  This is a recipe for eating in the absence of hunger, particularly for wanting refined carb goodies for me.  Writing it out and not worrying about perfection has helped me tremendously.  Maybe it will help you too.  Check it out!

On resiliancy

Last week I participated in the UC Davis Entrepreneur Academy.  In a word: FANTASTIC!  One of the many benefits it gave me was a clear awareness that I want to have a successful career in health coaching and create coaching-based solutions for health and wellness challenges.

But, that isn’t what this post is about.  However, reigniting my fire for coaching led me to peruse some of the coaching literature I’d been neglecting since starting grad school.
I was reminded of the many benefits of coaching and all the great techniques and tools.  One concept specifically stood out to me: RESILIANCY.

To be resilient, in my book, is to be able to weather the storms of life while still keeping your head and heart rooted in your values and your wellbeing.  Resiliency was not a skill I developed as a young child.  It just wasn’t a trait my parents exemplified, as they were not very resilient themselves.  I believe much of my emotional sugar eating was born out of this lack of resilience.  I grew up having fear of everything I couldn’t control (which is everything) and thus turned to easy distractions to soothe my discomfort.  Candy.  Ice Cream.  Homemade cookies.  I think it’s no coincidence that sweet baked goods were my go-to binge food, as they represented a home-like comfort that I was seeking within myself and  couldn’t find.

In the past year I’ve been working hard at becoming more resilient.  I had no idea what this would look like 1 year ago but here is what it looks like today.  It means that when something changes suddenly in my life, I don’t have to ‘react’.  I can evaluate what is going on and I can ask questions.  I don’t say ‘yes’ as much as I used to, and when I start saying yest right away to every request guess what….I start wanting and eating sugar.    When my husband and I have a fight I don’t immediately force a solution (which never worked).  I can let things settle.  I guess you can say that I’m getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I can hang in the tough emotional spaces a bit longer than I could before.

It has been amazing to me to see what cultivating emotional resilience has done.  I’m not hardened and cold – quite the opposite.  I’m more loving, compassionate and easy going (ask my husband!).  I don’t try and manipulate the environment to create an outcome I’m comfortable with.  I find myself saying “hmm…we’ll see what happens” or ‘I don’t have an answer to that problem yet but I’m open to finding a solution’.  These are new phrases for me.

A lot of women I’ve worked with as a coach also struggle with resiliency.  It’s scary to feel uncomfortable, unloved, confused, stressed, dismissed, angry and all the other myriad of unpleasantries that live brings us.  Sugar is a very seductive yet ineffective coping tool.  It never works for more than 10 minutes, does it?  While I don’t have a magic answer as to how resiliency begins, I can say that two things helped me:  journaling, journaling, journaling!!  Professional help, professional help, professional help!!  You are worth the time and resources it takes for both if this is an area of life you struggle with.

By no means am I suddenly the most resilient well-adapted human around.  Ha!  Don’t I wish.  But the fact that I’m aware of what it feels like when I lose my center and want to break instead of bend to the pressures of life is a HUGE improvement…and my sugar consumption has improved along with it!

Caught eating too much sugar…and how to avoid it

Really, do we need to go over this again? Yes.  We do.  Added sugar is still sneaking in everywhere and it’s time to revisit (or visit for the first time) some of the sneaky places sugar hides out.  I’m just going to go with what I’ve noticed in my diet and my shopping adventures lately.

Recently I mindlessly grabbed the first applesauce I saw and thought it was the brand I usually use.  Well, it was but it’s wasn’t the “No added sugar” version.  The result: The version I bought had 100 calories/half cup serving (my normal one only has 50) and it had 19g of sugar per serving. YIKES!  You don’t need to add sugar to an already sweet fruit like apples.  I use applesauce to bake with, to top oatmeal and yogurt and in smoothies.  Since I hate throwing things away I’ve been using it sparingly to bake with or to replace any honey that I might add to oats/yogurt.

Frozen Entrees
Yes, I admit that from time to time I turn to frozen entrees to grab a bite.  Usually I’m satisfied by looking at the front label to get my nutrition needs met, thinking that I’m smart enough to know when I might see something high in sugar.  Nope.  Recently I purchased a Lean Cuisine that had 23GRAMS OF SUGAR!!!  I forget what it was, but I was so frustrated.  Why is there that much sugar in a savory chicken/veggie dish?  And no, it wasn’t sweet and sour chicken.  Yuck.

Organic Cereals, hot or cold
God bless “organic”, but unfortunately it is sometimes translated into “Free Pass” to assume it’s the superior choice.  ORGANIC SUGAR IS STILL SUGAR AND METABOLIZED AS SUCH!   The organic frosted-mini-wheat style cereal I saw the other day (cleverly packaged in it’s ‘low impact’ packaging) had 17g sugar per 3/4 cup serving.  I’ve seen some organic flavored oatmeals that follow the same vein.  Look on the back and be savvy!!

Flavored beverages, especially those that will ‘refuel or energize’ you
Expensive and gimmicky, these beverages (like Gluekoes (sp??)) are much higher in sugar than the average weekend warrior needs.  Just drink water.  Hansen’s natural soda is the same.  Sugar is natural, but not necessarily healthy.  There are tons of other drinks out there that I don’t even know about, but again – look at the container.  If it’s got more than 10g of sugar/serving that is A LOT.  By comparison water (also known as skinny water these days??) has ZERO GRAMS OF SUGAR!!

Trail Mix

Question: What is the difference bewteen a Reese’s PB cup and a chocolate  candy and peanut trail mix?  Answer – not much really.  So, don’t be fooled.  Look at the label and see how much sugar is in a tiny 1/4 cup serving (not to mention fat and overall calories).  Unless you’re backpacking the John Muir trail those mixes may not be a good idea unless you treat them like a dessert.


Okay, that is my two cents on the matter these days – I’d love to hear yours!

As prompted by WordPress: Family Dinners

When I published the last post WordPress, in all of its cleverness, promoted me to think about posting on a few topics.  Family dinners was one of them, and being in a writing sort of mood I took the bait.

This may be of no interest to anybody but me, but oh well!  I think instead of posting about dinners at my house with Matt, I’ll post about the real ‘family dinners’, which involve nothing short of a 3-ring circus of events.

So here’s the low down.  I have dinner with my family of origin about every month or so, always at my Mom and Dad’s place in Grass Valley.  In summer these are eaten outdoors, and in the winter at the trusty kitchen table that my mom purchased from my 5th grade teacher oh so long ago (it’s an antique – about 150 yrs old, no kidding!).  No matter the venue and no matter how old I am they go a little something like this:

They are usually on a Sunday, about 5pm.  They start out intending to be about 4pm, so that is when I mentally plan to be ready, but like most things in the family, the don’t go off on time.
They almost always involved bbqing some kind of meat – I can’t remember a vegetarian dinner of this nature yet.  Tri-tip, Salmon, Chicken breasts and Tenderloin are favorites.
Given that my little sis lives just next door, her and my nephew are players at the table as well.  There is usually a lot of going back and forth between their two houses as we prep for the meal.  This is facilitated by my nephew who runs like the wind yelling about orders from one house to the other like the town crier.
I always seem to get roped into setting the table, and helping with clean up while my sister gets off scott-free from all these duties.  Of late she’s offered to help, which I think sent the universe off it’s axis (my sis is great, but not so much in the kitchen clean up arena).
We always have a large garden salad (if sis contributes anything it’s the salad, but typically I have to actually put it together, but not always).  There is usually 2 types of side dishes, which I am now allowed to contribute to.  I’ve yet to be allowed to provide the meat.  Once a parent, always a parent I suppose.
Once the food is set, and we are all seated in our typical configuration the circus begins.  It’s a mix of clanging glasses and forks, requests for passing this or that, and my mom harping on my dad about taking too big of bites or food on his moustache or chin (Dad had a stroke some years back and has trouble with fork-eye coordination at times).
Mom usually sits down last and is getting up constantly to get things for us, despite our pleas that we can, in fact, get up ourselves to get the mustard or whatever.
I often take seconds of everything but the meat.  Dad always takes seconds of the meat.   We are lucky if my nephew eats anything (it’s all ‘dirty’ if it’s not chicken nuggets, but that too is evolving), and my sister will eat anything she thinks has been cooked without added fats or sugars.  Matt and my sis’s boyfriend gratefully eat a balanced meal of all the options.
Conversation is usually light and centered a lot around getting my nephew to settle down and we NEVER bring up politics, for fear of sending dad into a tirade that goes off like a cannon if we are not careful.  There are awkward undertones to some extent, but in general its pleasant.  Matt is lucky to get a word in edgewise and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the ever-shifting topics.

After dinner we clear plates and mom insists…really insists, on cleaning everything RIGHT THEN AND THERE – throwback from her days of serious cleaning OCD.  Dad asks for dessert about 3.2 seconds after his plate has left the table.  The reason is two fold: first, he knows she made something a-mazing like homemade lemon cheesecake or Magnolia pie.  Second, he (like me) really values the dessert portion of the meal far more than the meal itself.  Why eat at all if not to earn your dessert?
Reluctantly we bring out dessert and serve it up do Dad.  I nibble at it while I dish it out, constantly debating whether or not to actually have a formal piece of whatever it is or just nibble and pretend I didn’t have any.  The former usually wins out as my strategy.  Nobody else has dessert right then, but a few of us may linger at the table a little longer, helping ourselves to a second glass of wine, water, or maybe even some hot tea.
I help mom in the kitchen, Matt tries to help put things away to no avail because mom has her system and by God, you better not mess with it.  There is joking and banter about how we ‘break all the rules’ of clean up when we come over.
I usually walk away feeling like I’m 12 again, despite the fact that I’m celebrating my 35th birthday next month.
In short, it’s a full catastrophe and I wouldn’t miss any of them for the world!

Okay, your turn – what are your family dinners like?

Life on an $80/week grocery budget: How we do it

A long time ago I posted about buying groceries for $100.  Good stuff.  But since then out lives have changed.  Dramatically.  We are now both grad students with a very unforgiving grocery budget.  So, what does one do when the budget is tight and the expectations are high.  Here is how we eat well, mostly wheat-free, and very flavorfully for $82/week no matter what (and sometimes even less).


  • Look at the sale ads.  Before I even set foot in a grocery store I look at the sale ad for 3 stores:  Safeway, Nugget Market, and Savemart.   I usually choose 1-2 of these stores/week to go to based on what I need most and what has the most sale items of things we use.
  • Buy foods in bulk.  I do most of this at the Davis Food Coop and the foods I get include:
    • Oat bran
    • Oatmeal
    • Spelt, Oat, Rye and even Whole Wheat (sometimes) flour
    • Cocoa powder
    • All spices in bulk
    • Sea Salt
    • Unrefined sugar, as needed
    • Honey
    • Peanut Butter (sometimes)
    • Popcorn (unpopped, so I can cook it on the stove)
    • Gluten-free/Wheat-free pasta
  • Be willing to freeze things that are on sale for future use.  I do this mostly for:
    • Flaxmeal (recently got 1lb bags of organic Spectrum Flaxmeal for $.91/each – I bought 3 and freeze them)
    • All meats
    • Seasonal fruit like peaches and berries
    • Tomatoes (either frozen as puree or sauces)
    • Bread (when I buy it we freeze it and just take out 1-2 slices as needed, this is especially true of sprouted grain breads, which I only buy on sale)
  • Shop local fruit stands (I go to the Yolo Fruit stand bimonthly).   Seasonal, local and perhaps even organic produces is inexpensive there
  • CLip coupons.  It’s not always fun, but save 2-5$/week with coupons. Things I never buy without a coupon or on sale are;
    • Almond milk ( I refuse to pay more than $3/half gallon).  Coupons are plentiful in the paper or even at the store
    • Any boxed good like granola bars or FiberOne bars, which I buy when I have a coupon
    • Paper towels and TP (BTW this stuff fits into our $82/week budget)
    • Hair coloring (this is not from grocery budget but I buy it about every 6 weeks so it’s worth mentioning since the good stuff is spendy)
  • Don’t buy all the expensive stuff at once.  For instance I buy extra virgin olive oil about once/month or 6 weeks.  I even get Organic stuff for about $8-9/liter sometimes if I look at the ads or go to the Grocery Outlet.  Same goes for meats.  I buy organic beef about 1x/month because it’s expensive and then we have it for 2 meals/month.  Look at your most expensive items and see how you can spread the cost around.
    • On this note, don’t pass up a smokin’ deal of something you need but is pricey.  I don’t always wait until I really ‘need’ certain things to buy them.  Instead I buy when they are a really good deal so it’s already in stock
  • Avoid last minute ‘have to’ purchases.  THings like eggs, cheese, and even certain vegetables can be very expensive if you buy them last minute and they aren’t on sale.  I grocery shop 1 day/week so we don’t run out of things and have to make quick (and expensive) trips to the store.
  • Live without some things.  I don’t buy nearly as many Gluten-free products because of price.  I also buy my whole grains in bulk more often than in a package due to price.  Premade desserts, alcohol, and out of season/sale fruits and veggies aren’t an option any more.   Same goes for nuts, trail mixes, or frozen entrees (which I didn’t eat a lot of but sometimes for lunch at work).   We have a flexible list of the things we eat regularly  and sometimes we substitute our first preference for something else.  For instance, when mixed greens are on sale, we eat them as our bulk green for the week.  If next week it’s spinach and not mixed greens – we have spinach all week.  Same goes for the type of cheese and yogurt we consume (which we do in small quantities anyway) and even meats.
    • This means a lot more meal planning, using recipes, and thinking about how foods are going to pair together in meals when I’m shopping.  It’s like mixing and matching your wardrobe…only for your stomach!
  • Look at your beverage spending habits.  Coffee, flavored waters, teas, juice – all of that can add up.  Water should be the basis of your beverage diet.  Sometimes we buy flavored bubbly water and it can get pricey if we rely too much on them.  We also don’t go to the store mid-week and get more.  Whatever we have, that is what we eat.
  • Don’t be wasteful.  It should go without saying, but I used to throw away a lot more food than I do now.  I also don’t overbuy.  When I hit the stores every Sunday it’s because I need to go; we are running out of food!

I hope this may help some of you.  I love grocery shopping and figuring out how to get our needs/wants met without breaking the bank.  It’s like a puzzle for me.  I’d also love to hear any of your tips, faithful readers.

Inspiration from a good friend and fantastic food

no white flour/sugar in this tasty meal!

What a delight my day was.  Sharing a delicious, Off-White friendly meal with a dear friend and her 7 month old baby.  It’s not that she necessarily tried to do Off-White per se, it’s just that she’s a healthy cook with a creative flair and look what I got to enjoy as a result.  Both recipes are insiprations from the Food Networks success Giadia, but with some lighter twists.  We had an artichoke dish with spices, Parmersan cheese and a little olive oil, and an amazing tomato soup with lemon zest.  Fantastico!

The palate pleasure did not stop there.  No Ma’am.  She topped it off with HOMEMADE berry frozen yogurt and grilled peaches.  And she had the nerve to say that she doesn’t know how busy mom’s have time to cook amazing food and blog about it. As far as I saw, she was 90% there (no blog..YET!)

divine on a hot day in Sacramento!

I guess what I loved the most about day with this dear friend was that she inspired me to get more creative with my cooking.  I’ve never made anything like what we had, and that was fantastic.  I loved the joy I felt when the soup hit my tongue and I sense sweet, sour, spicy and cool flavors all at the same time.  I loved the way the artichokes smelled coming out of the oven and the fact that she even pulled out the cloth place mats to complete our meal.  It was awesome to see her whip out a frozen tub of homemade berry yogurt.  It had that texture which brought me back to childhood when my mom used to make peach ice cream.  Nothing, I mean nothing, is like homemade creameries.
So, now I’m cooking up ideas.  What do I want to make?  There is a challenge going on at the Coop right now where we can enter pics of food made with local ingredients to win tix to a foodie event.  I’m SOO there.  But what to cook?  I tried some carrot muffins but…err…that didn’t turn out so well.  So it’s back to the drawing board but now I have some new inspiration.




cool websites you might enjoy

Where do I get some of my inspiration?  Well, from bloggers and website contributors too, of course!  I definitely have website envy about some of the cool stuff I see out there.  Here are two that I go back to regularly for pics, ideas and just to see the latest and greatest.  I really appreciate when people get creative and innovative with perspectives on food and eating well.  Drudgery around food be GONE!

Fit Bottomed Girls – the name ROCKS and so do some of their posts and ideas for living a wellness based lifestyle

Food52 – I like their challenges/contests, food pics and the breadth of topics around cooking.


A tale of two plates

New Plate symbol replaces the Pyramid

It was the best of meals…it was the worst of meals .

Last week the Federal Government debuted the new MyPlate as a replacement to MyPyramid, which was deemed confusing and irrelevant to most busy people who didn’t have time to decipher it.  According to the first lady, “..This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country…… ” As long as they’re half full (the plates) of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”

Hmm…is that so?  I challenge that the new MyPlate, while being an improvement on MyPyramid, is still not going to be the Country’s solution to unhealthy eating.

Let’s examine two potential meals that would both technically fall into the parameters of the MyPlate program and see what meal is better nutritionally.

Meal 1:  The budget-friendly, kid-friendly dinner
Vegetable: French Fries, cooked at home but from a frozen bag + 1 cup of “Iceberg Garden” salad from Fresh Express + 1 Tbsp of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
Fruit: Canned Peaches, in lite syrup
Protein:  A breaded chicken breast, such as these boneless, breaded popcorn chicken bites by Tyson
Grain:  1 slice of Orowheat Honey Wheat Family  bread with a small pat of butter
Dairy:  Low-fat chocolate milk……it’s like having dessert with your dinner

Meal 2: A Foodie’s delight
Vegetable:  Local, organic asparagus, sauteed in clarified butter, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and slivered almonds
Fruit + Dairy: a sliced  organic apples paired with an assortment of imported soft cheeses
Grain:  1 slice of  whole grain Artesian French bread, with Olive oil and vinegar for dipping
Protein:  Pine nut encrusted Halibut with roasted onions

Are these two meals really that different?  I think the answer is “yes” and “no”.
First, how are they different.  Obviously one is made of predominately processed foods, and likely contains a slough of food additives, nitrates and poor quality base ingredients.  Can you guess which one?? Obvious, hopefully!  Also, meal #2 includes organic items, thus is likely to include less pesticide than meal #1.  The veggie in meal #1 isn’t likely to provide much in the way of nutritional value, and the bread probably doesn’t have a ton of whole grains.   There is more sugar in meal #1, some of which comes from added sugars versus just the sugars naturally occurring in fruits.  Also, in my opinion meal #2 seems a lot more delicious than meal #1, but of course I am biased since I made these two meals up.  You can probably think of your own differences too.

But, how are they the same – that is what is really interesting to me!
I would argue that neither one are exceptionally nutritious without some downfalls.  The downfalls in meal #1 seem obvious: processed food, lack of fiber, lack of “color”.  But meal #2 has probably the same amount of fiber and has a lot more fat than #1.  Yes, the fat may be from healthier (and more expensive) sources, but the caloric implications are not to be overlooked.  Also, both contain significant sources of saturated fats.   Both are heavy in animal products (by design, but this isn’t so uncommon for an American meal), and light in plant-based sources of nutrient dense food.  They are also void of variety in the vegetables included.  I’d argue that potatoes and onions have similar nutritional benefits (surprise, potatoes do have SOME nutritional value!), but of course asparagus, being ‘green’ and all, must have a lot more to offer than iceberg salad, right?  Yes, from a vitamin perspective, but not enough to necessarily offset the high volume of animal fat sources, and just the overall fat content in that dish.  I’d also argue that both meals contain a significant amount of sodium too.  Both grain sources are more refined than whole, despite what might be stated on the front of the package or in their respective names., this is usually the case with bread.

Still, in all I’d rather have meal #2 from a taste AND nutrition perspective.  And this is something that I would eat.  However, the point I’m trying to make is that there is still a lot to be considered when following the new MyPlate approach to balanced eating.  The nuances between types of protein, vegetables and grains can make significant differences in diet quality, weight and food behaviors.   I don’t think the average person can necessarily accurately evaluate the overall pros/cons of their meal JUST based on the proportions of each food type or just based on the cost of ingredients or regionality of their food.

Also, are we talking about a 12″ plate, a 10″ plate, or a platter?  This makes a HUGE difference in portion size!!
Oh, and my other ‘beef’ with this new system is the implication that we need to consume dairy at every meal.  Thanks Dairy Council………