Sugar is the Devil, as I like to say

Can you stop eating sugar? Here’s my experience and my rules for making it easier.

Have you ever tried to stop eating sugar… for only 10 days? It is nearly impossible unless you plan, purchase, and prepare your food in advance for the full 10 days.  Perhaps someone with more time could be significantly more successful at it.  I, however, was not.       😦

Despite that sad fact, I looked at what I was eating a little closer (somehow that is possible for me).  I’ve been a label reader for many many years, and I know what most of the junk actually is that’s written on them.  Sugar is something I pay attention to and avoid most of the time.  Or I know it’s going to be there and I just look for the food with the least amount.  So why is removing it completely impossible?

Because it is in EVERYTHING!

I’m not exaggerating, food manufacturers add sugar to just about everything.  Things you wouldn’t even expect to have sugar in them will have it creeping on the label adding an extra teaspoon.  That’s 4 more grams that I’m trying to remove!

Added sugar can be found in:

yogurt, milk, milk alternatives (almond, soy, rice), cereal, ready to eat oatmeal, deli meat, bacon, frozen packaged meats, cheese, canned veggies, canned beans, canned fruit, applesauce, juice, soda, pre-made drinks (coffee, tea), mustard, ketchup, relish, peanut butter, jelly, jam, salad dressing, granola bars, protein bars, protein powder, supplements.

I didn’t even cover the sweets!  Baked goods, such as breads and rolls, will almost always have some sugar in them.  The yeast needs the sugar, but these will have the least amount, only about a teaspoon.  Just the other day a friend was looking at the Starbucks pre-packaged frappachinos.  One 16 oz bottle had 43g of sugar, that’s almost 11 teaspoons!  Would you put that many teaspoons of sugar in your coffee at home?  I hope not.

Sugar is a buzzword right now for many reasons.  The connection between eating large amounts of sugar and many common health problems are becoming clearer each year.  Not just the sugar anymore, but all of the artificial substitutes are causing great harm as well.  Research has shown that the extremely sweet taste of artificial sweeteners is wreaking havoc on our hormones that regulate hunger and satiation.  Also, the fake stuff kills the good bacteria in our gut!  Not only are we making ourselves sick, but we are making ourselves sick trying to fix it.

Most of us consume 75 times more sugar than we did 200 years ago.  That’s crazy!  I am a firm believer that it is not necessary, and it’s killing us.  However, let me point out that I love sweets.  Not candy; but yummy homemade cakes, cookies, pies, and desserts of all kinds.  It can become a bit of a problem if I let myself get crazy or forget my very strict rules on purchasing and eating sweets.

Hearken back to a time when I followed my strict rules:

  • Homemade sweets (not from a package) are okay.
  • Anything purchased from Whole Foods Market is okay.
  • Conventional sweets from common grocery stores are not okay.
  • Seasonal candy (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) is not okay
  • Just because someone brought it does not mean I need to eat it.

In addition to these rules, I generally only craved sweets about 1 week out of every month or so (can you guess why?) except during the holidays.  By following my own rules I imposed upon myself nothing was over the top or too much.  If I had time to make something at home I was pleased to enjoy it with my family over the next few days until it was gone.  If I was willing to drive to the Whole Foods Market to purchase a $5 slice of cake, I would eat a few bites each evening after dinner for a few days.  I would never eat cheap crappy candy, and if I did I would almost certainly be disappointed.

My high standards maintained my sophisticated palate.

Then one day, I broke a rule and it all went downhill…and fast.  I found myself eating half a pan (the big throw away kind) of rice crispie treats my boss brought into work.  I was by myself and every time I stopped working for a second I would break off a piece.  Over the course of the next month I was snacking on Christmas candy when I felt a little hungry during the day, eating 5-10 reese’s peanut butter cups during work, buying 4 packs of doughnuts and eating all of them in a single day, and sneaking my kid’s candy from the candy jar when she wasn’t home or in bed.

When I would buy snacks I wasn’t even sharing with my family.  I would hide the treats and eat them after bedtime or take them to work.  What was going on?  What happened to my strict rules?!  Not only was I consuming huge amounts of junk and not following my strict rules, but I wasn’t really enjoying most of it.  I’ll admit the doughnuts from Orland Park Bakery were delicious, but the candy was sugary crap.  It didn’t even taste that good.  The chocolate didn’t taste chocolaty, the caramel wasn’t rich and buttery, everything just had a bland sweet sugar taste.

Fast forward to now, only a mere 3 months later.  I’m going back to my rules, although I have amended them somewhat.  I’m not sure about Whole Foods Market ingredient standards since they were purchased by Amazon.  I still buy things from there, including birthday cakes and other party desserts.  However, I will no longer drive there for a $5 slice of cake.  I try to make my own desserts every time I crave them.  If I don’t have time to make it then I don’t get to have it.  I’m also working on making treats without adding sugar.  I use fruit, dark chocolate, whipped cream, or coconut added to whatever I’m making.  These additions, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla give my treats the illusion of being sweet without all the added sugar.

Someday soon I hope to be able to cut out sugar for 10 days.  Although I don’t think I can cut out the honey I put in my morning coffee unless I’m ready to give up coffee too!  The planning process is going to take a little longer for me.  I can plan meals and snacks for 10 days but I’ll need some back up meals that don’t contain sugar or it will be another bust.

Everything is a work in progress.

 

 

 

Spring Is Finally Here!

There is so much to love about springtime.

It took quite awhile for spring to show up this year.  Spring is my favorite season, however that is beginning to change since we don’t seem to get much of a springtime anymore.  It seems to go from the cold winter right into the hot summer.  Whether it’s my favorite or not, I still enjoy spring and everything it has to offer.  This includes some of the delicious early summer harvests that can be found at specialty grocery stores, farmers markets, and local farm stands.  Oh and I can’t forget flowers, especially tulips.   This link opens an article showing millions of tulips in the Netherlands, beautiful!

Some of my favorites include:

 Click on the links for more information or locations for “u-pick” berries.

Another great reason to love springtime is knowing it’s the beginning of another growing season.  I like to grow some of my own food and enjoy starting plants indoors in spring.  Although usually a little late to start, eventually there are food producing plants outside by summer.  This year I am focusing on food producing plants that will stay indoors during winter, and maintaining nutrient levels and proper soil drainage for the potted plants.

Don’t let all this talk about food, plants, and flowers mislead you.  I love the warmer weather that comes with spring.  It’s wonderful walking outside wearing only a long sleeved shirt.  I am quite sure I can finally pack away all of my family’s outdoor winter gear.  What a great feeling!

A few other reasons why I love spring:

-Spring cleaning

-Out with the old, in with the new

-Warm air

-After dinner walks

-Baseball

-Open patio door

-Grilling

-Forest preserve walking

-Greenery

-Park sitting

 

Feel free to share what you love about springtime.

I Finally Broke Down And Bought Matcha Tea Powder

A larger package of Matcha for a decent price, who could say no.

My father told me about Matcha green tea years ago, before you could find it everywhere.  He sent me pamphlets and brochures from places touting the wonderful benefits and delicious flavor of powdered green tea called “Matcha”.  I almost wish I had bought stock in it seeing how it has grown so popular.  Too late to worry about that now.

Since I consider myself a frugal person I have been waiting to purchase Matcha tea powder Aiya Matcha Powder 20171023_194412because I have been unable to justify the price, even for the good stuff.  Not too many people can tell the difference between good, high quality green tea and cheap junk.  Tea is tea right?  Well, not really, despite me still drinking some of the cheaper stuff.  I’m sorry but $20 an ounce just isn’t in the budget.  Although generic store brands may be cheap they aren’t even worth it in my opinion.  But a little over $20 for 3.5 ounces of Matcha green tea, now that’s a deal!

In some instances cooking grade doesn’t really mean anything, however in this case it means I get more for my money, and I’m not getting ceremonial grade (which I don’t really need).

For my personal use, I plan to make matcha green tea smoothies and matcha green tea lattes, as well as experiment with cooking meals with matcha green tea.  Although I haven’t tried it yet I’m excited about my future adventures.

You can purchase the same matcha green tea powder on amazon and through most local markets.I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Organic Cooking Grade Matcha 100 Grams

What do you do with your matcha green tea powder?  Comment, share, or contact me. I always love to share and receive new recipes.

A Cactus Pear Compearison

The prickly pear is native to the U.S., so let’s try it.

While shopping at my local grocery store I noticed a sale on Cactus Pear, or as others call it, prickly pear.  I see them at the store often, but having never tried one I decided 3/$1 was a good price for an adventure.  Once the decision was made to make the purchase I had to figure out how to choose which ones to buy, and how to tell if they were ripe.  Red, yellow, green, and hard, a little give when squeezed, and downright soft.

A quick google search on my phone in the middle of the store (don’t worry I pulled my cart to the side) and I learned green are not ripe and not too hard or too soft.  So yellow and red are both ready to eat, possibly different varieties, let’s have a comparison!  I purchased two red and one yellow even though I could have just bought two and paid $0.66.

 

While cutting, the red had a vibrant colored juice, similar to beets but didn’t seem to stain my hands as much.  The yellow also quite juicy, but no staining, although the color too was vibrant.  I plated the cactus pears and presented them to the family for a fun comparison event.  My adventure began when I started to cut, the family’s adventure began when they picked them up for the first time.

Our goal not only was to try something new, but also to compare which color was sweeter, and to have fun.  Here is what we came up with:

Red Cactus Pear:

  • Lots of small seeds throughout
  • Tasted similar to a watermelon
  • Relatively sweet

Yellow Cactus Pear:

  • Lots of small seeds throughout
  • A general melon flavor, not as strong of a watermelon flavor
  • Sweeter than the red

A little bit of info about the Cactus Pear…

The prickly pear cactus goes by the plant name Opuntia spp. and is native to the American Southwest and Mexico.  The actual prickly pear fruit, sometimes called “tuna” in stores, is the part eaten, although all parts of the cactus can be eaten.  The pads of the cactus are called “nopal” or “nopalitos” when chopped up, and are eaten regularly in Mexican cuisine.  You can find the nopal cactus pads at most grocery stores that have a wide array of produce available.  I have used the nopalitos in the jar in some dishes to avoid worrying about the spines, ouch!  Many of the resources I used mentioned using the prickly pears diced or in smoothies, as well as other ways, however I found the many seeds to be a nuisance.  If adding to smoothies the seeds could easily be ground up with less worry, but other applications are much trickier.

I ended up pushing the fruit through a sieve to extract as much of the pulp and juice as possible without the seeds.  This was not an easy task and in the future I will just put it in my Nutribullet.  The extracted pulp and juice can be added to plain yogurt, smoothies, top pancakes or waffles, and anything else you can think of.  According to the USDA national nutrient database one piece of fruit contains almost 4g of fiber, 58mg of calcium, 227mg of potassium, and 14mg of vitamin C.  You can also purchase the juice and pulp already extracted for convenience.  I would beware of some products, however as they may have additional unwanted ingredients.  Enjoy your prickly pear adventure, I know we did!

Prickly Pear Juice 20170925_211114

Resources

https://www.desertusa.com/cactus/prickly-pear-cactus.html

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/cactus-pear-nutrition-selection-storage

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2360?manu=&fgcd=&ds=

http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/The_Kitchen_Garden/Feature_Vegetables/Prickly_Pear_Cactus/

A New Kitchen Gadget

Sometimes a new kitchen gadget can be a wise family purchase.

I decided to purchase a new toy for my kitchen.  This doesn’t happen often as I’m generally very frugal, however it was a good deal and it’s something I’ve been wanting. 

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The reviews were pretty good and I took into account random comments about the product not heating up quickly enough or not working properly.  Sometimes you get a bad one and need to return it!  I also decided the Instant Pot was not something I was ready to purchase and chose a product kinder to my pocket book.

More on wanting:

I am not a fan of wanting.  When I find myself walking around the store thinking of all the great things I can use in the kitchen or the house it’s paramount that I pull back. Take a figurative step back and really think about why I am wanting these things.  Are they really going to make my life easier?  Are they going to give me more time?  Are they going to make my family healthier and happier just by making the purchase?

The answer is most likely no in every situation.  But, when I take the time to think about a purchase sometimes my wanting  is justified.  This is such an example.  Recently we have become more busy than normal with a few evening classes beginning for a few family members.  There is also more evening work that will be done in the next few months.  Therefore, being able to cook a chicken dinner in 20 minutes instead of an hour is a huge help.  Not only will it decrease cook time, but it will provide us with the opportunity to eat healthier.  Any excuse to make pizza when we are short on time is taken advantage of in our household.

So I’d like to end by saying I am happy with my new purchase, and I feel it was a wise decision.

More to come on what we start making with our new pressure cooker…

How to Get the Little Ones to Eat Their Vegetables

These helpful tidbits can get even the pickiest of kids eating their rainbow in no time.

A looming question that is often on the tongue.  How can parents get their children to eat their vegetables?  Well, like everything else, it’s a process.  There are no miracles, or magic, and it doesn’t need to be especially forceful.  I’ll break it down into individual topics which have come from both research and my experience, as well as the experience of other parents I’ve spoken with.  There is no particular order in which these topics should be introduced.  However it’s best to include all of them throughout childhood to produce the best outcome.

  • Create a positive attitude around eating vegetables

If the kids see you making faces and yelling out “gross” at the table they are much less likely to enjoy eating vegetables, or even be willing to try them.  Put on the grown-up hat and be the positive example the kids need.  The Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research explains the various ways parents, adults, and siblings can influence young children’s eating habits, both positive and negative.

  • Keep trying!

This one is tough to stick with, but it will pay off if you do.  It takes time and effort to develop a taste for vegetables, especially in their natural state.  Unfortunately many parents give a vegetable once and if they receive a negative reaction they never try again, assuming the child doesn’t like it.  Just about every child rearing book, infant feeding book, and research article about feeding toddlers will tell you it takes 6-10 attempts before a child may eat something willingly.  Maintain your patience and use variety when preparing the veggies.

  • Have kids help in the kitchen

This one comes with its own set of difficulties, especially if you have more than two children.  Even though it may seem impossible at times, the kids will benefit from helping in the kitchen regularly.  Choose tasks that are age appropriate and give each child a job.  They can increase their fine motor skills, general cooking skills, and perhaps begin to understand some aspects of science by joining you in the kitchen.  I have a 7 year old who can make me breakfast all by herself (using the stove and toaster oven).  This is after years of helping me in the kitchen of course, but it’s possible and completely within reach!

  • Have kids help in the garden

Over quite a few years research has shown when children grow vegetables, they are more likely to try them.  Seeing where the food comes from helps children understand what real food means.  When children are involved in the whole process and can see their hard work pay off they feel a sense of accomplishment.  Not only that, homegrown food tastes better.  Young children can help by scooping dirt, planting seeds, and watering.  Older children can help with pruning, maintaining pest control (naturally), and harvesting.  Go to usda.gov and search kids and gardening for an enormous list of resources.

  • Create conversations around food

When kids are having trouble with math, spelling, or reading do we allow them to push it away and simply say they don’t like it?  That doesn’t go over very well in our house and probably not yours either.  Everybody is not going to like everything, and that’s okay.  What we need to figure out is what we don’t like and how we can change it.  I personally don’t like raw onions, except on rare occasions in certain recipes.  However, I love cooked and caramelized onions.  After sharing this information with my daughter she decided she liked the sweet taste of cooked onions too.  She hasn’t picked out an onion from a meal since.  When someone in the family says they don’t like something I ask what it is they don’t like.  Is it too salty, sour, spicy?  Then we talk about what to do to change the taste.  We make it again with the changes and discuss.  These discussions are best for slightly older children (6 and up), but create a deep relationship with food and how to enjoy it, even the healthy stuff.

 

With some planning and a little effort we can have kids eating healthy in no time.  The most important things to remember are to make these learning experiences tasty and fun!  I wish you all the best on your healthy eating adventures.

Good Nutrition Is A Lifestyle 

For so many of us, the road to good health and good nutrition is much less traveled than our foodie counterparts. When it comes to food we need fast, easy, and tasty all in one . Unfortunately, with daily life moving so quickly that usually means less healthy.

The foundation of good nutrition includes those who actively engage in making good food choices and participate in food preparation. I , like many people, have a family and we are busy! I am also not a professional chef. But, there are many ways to make changes that can actually make a difference. And there is so much information available to make things work for busy people. Speak with a health coach to determine your roadblocks, talk with your family about their food and health choices, and of course, be adventurous!

Small changes can add up to big rewards in the long run. Although without both realizing, and accepting the fact that your lifestyle will need to change, it can make rewards difficult to maintain.  How often do we hear about an individual achieving significant weight loss just to gain most, if not all of it back within a couple years?  Why do these things happen?  How about that familiar buzzword…diet.  Going on a diet is only temporary and despite evoking change, it rarely lasts.  Diets impose tight restrictions, are not conducive for the common household, and often do not take into account physical activity (State of Michigan, 2017).

See change as a lifestyle, see good health and good food as an adventure.  Small steps can lead to big changes, and big changes can lead to a better lifestyle.  You just have to make the jump!

 

State of Michigan (2017).  Why diets fail. Retrieved from http://www.michigan.gov/healthymichigan/0,4675,7-216-33084_33092_33097—,00.html