Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Beating the Winter Blues


The holiday’s are over. I know for many people it was a season full of too much eating, partying, shopping, spending, sugar, worry, and stress at the same time getting too little sleep, relaxation, healthy foods and exercise. And the results? Pants that are too tight, nights that are too long, and feelings of the winter blahs and blues. 
           Whether it's the after holiday crash, the lack of light, or realizing all of January, February and March are ahead of us,  these winter blahs and down feelings need to be nipped in the bud. Too many of us simply let ourselves feel down, curl up on the sofa under a blanket, grab the channel changer, and a bag of chips, and become one with the furniture. Let's take a look at other ways to beat those winter blues without packing on the pounds...
  1. Smile even if you don't feel like it.  Get off the sofa, put a smile on your face and try to pretend that you are happy. Research supports that facial expressions can change the way you feel inside; fake it 'til you make it.
  2. Don’t skip meals and be sure to start your day with a good breakfast. When your blood sugar level goes down, it's easy for your mood to go down, too.
  3. Reach for healthy carbohydrate (carb) sources.  Carbs promote serotonin release, a "feel- good," opiate-like neurotransmitter in the brain. Reach for the carbs in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains every day. A low carbohydrate intake (such as one slice of bread or 20-40 grams/day) has been shown to increase depression, anxiety and anger feelings.
  4. Minimize the sugar.  Sugar digests so quickly that it brings down your blood sugar, and with that, can bring down your mood. 
  5. Eat a Little Dark Chocolate. The antioxidants present may in fact lower the stress hormone cortisol. People under high levels of stress who ate 1.4 oz. dark chocolate daily, experienced a reduction in stress hormones, including cortisol. Chocolate lovers, beware: this serving comes with 230 calories attached!
  6. Saffron, the most expensive herb on the market, has been shown to have an antidepressive effect by making serotonin more available to brain. I'm not suggesting to rush out and buy a bunch of saffron and to make tea to lift your mood, however. With any herb, you have to consider possible interactions with other medications you are taking, or the fact that some herbs do act as medications themselves. Before taking any herbal supplements, discuss possible use with your physician. 
  7.   Omega-3’s help brain cells communicate and enhance the way two neurotransmitters--dopamine and serotonin--work to regulate mood. Omega 3's can be found in salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, herring, walnuts, and flaxseed.  People with lower blood levels of omega-3’s seem to have higher incidents of mild to moderate symptoms of depression
  8.  Set a date to walk with a friend; if it’s not too cold, there is nothing better than a little fresh air and time to talk with a good friend and burn off all those extra cookie calories you may have over indulged in.
  9. Exercise, just do it! When you get your body in motion it gets the blood flowing to every cell in your body, bringing fresh oxygen, which helps increase mental alertness.
  10. Hugs. Human touch releases uplifting endorphins such as serotonin, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, increases relaxation and contentment.
  11. Volunteer. There's a wonderful, uplifting feeling that comes from helping someone else.
  12. Declutter and organize. This one is a tough one for me, but a great one for positive mind and spirit.  Don't tackle too much at a time, or you may feel even more down. Organize one small area at a time, and feel the positiveness grow one drawer at a time!
  13. Shop for yourself. Grab all the cash, checks and gift cards you were given and give yourself an afternoon to spend them all on yourself. Be sure to treat yourself to your favorite skinny holiday latte flavor before it’s gone for the year!
  14.  Sleep. 7-8 hours each night if you can.  Too little sleep can certainly bring those blahs on.
  15. Pet your pet; increases serotonin. See Hugs!
  16.  Change your routine. Sometimes, just a new arrangement to your day brightens your outlook.
  17. Find some light. Eat with a lighter touch, sit in more light, have a lighter attitude, have a lighter heart...
  18. Laugh. Pop in a comedy movie, read a humor book, call a friend and laugh over great memories.  Laughter actually brings about positive changes in those brain chemicals!
  19. Music can change your mood. Put on your favorite, uplifting music.
  20. Get Support. Call someone who you know cares about you; a friend, family member or reach out to your support group. 
  21. Wear something bright and happy and ditch those dark colors! Studies have shown that colors do impact your mood. Try colors that make you feel, yellow, pink?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Slow Cooked Steel Cut Oats

What's the best breakfast to wake up to on a cold, blustery winter's day? A bowl of steamy, hot already made steel cut oats! With just a little prep time the night before, you can wake up to the warm scents of hot cooked oats coming your way as you get your morning coffee on.  Not only are these oats wonderfully healthy and full of soluble fiber, but they're also quite inexpensive---a perfect food all around.

Slow-Cooked Steel Cut Oats
      -makes 4 servings

Coat the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray.
Put into the cooker:
      1 cup of Steel Cut Oats (do not use other types of oats)
      4 cups of water
      1/4 tsp salt
Plug in when you go to bed and turn on the lowest setting for about 7 hours.
A crust may appear on the sides in the morning. Don't worry; just scrape it down and stir it all in.

Top it off with your favorite dried fruit, a little brown sugar, honey, sweetener, wheat germ, nuts, or whatever your heart desires in the morning. Enjoy!

Nutritional Data: 1/4 batch: 76 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 147 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein. 
1 1/2 Units.

Pumpkin Bread Makes A Great Gift

Several people have asked me for my pumpkin bread recipe recently. Even though I put it up on the blog last year, I decided to post it again, adding the nutritional data and unit information at the end. If you are looking for a recipe you've seen on the blog before, simply find the "Search" bar at the upper left side of the Mind-full Motivator homepage. Write the words best describing what you are looking for, and it should pop right up!  

Enjoy this easy, healthier version of a seasonal favorite...

Pumpkin Bread
      -Makes 2 loaves
In a large bowl, whisk together until well mixed:
     2 cups sugar
     2 cups all-purpose flour
     1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
     2 tsp. baking soda
     2 tsp. baking powder
     1 tsp. salt
     1 tsp. cinnamon
     1 tsp. nutmeg
     1/2 tsp. allspice or 1/4 tsp. cloves
 In a separate bowl, blend together:
     3/4 cup low fat buttermilk*
     1/4 cup canola oil
     4 eggs
     1-15 oz. can pumpkin

Add liquids to dry ingredients, and mix with a whisk until just blended, being careful not to over stir (it will get tougher the more you mix it.)

Pour into 2 loaf pans (9" X 5") that have been coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a dry spaghetti noodle into the middle of the loaf, making sure it comes out clean.

Let rest five minutes in the pan, then turn out to cool on a rack.
       1) Put 2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup, and add non-fat milk until it gets to the 3/4
       2) 3/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt
Nutrition data:
      1 slice (55 g.)= 1/16th of a loaf, 124 calories,3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 27 g carbohydrate, 195 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.  2 1/2 Units.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Healthy Is Santa?

Consider Santa. (Set aside for a minute what holidays you do or don't celebrate.) What do you identify as his physical characteristics? What about his lifestyle? We had a great time with this in classes this week, and came up with quite a list...

Besides being a jolly old elf, Santa: 
  • Carries a significant amount of extra fat around his middle that tends to shake like jelly 
  • Has a red nose (outdoor lifestyle at the North Pole or too much spiked eggnog?)
  • White beard, indicating he's an older guy
  • Smokes a pipe
  • Eats a high sugar, high fat diet with all those cookies and candy canes and drinks lots of hot cocoa and eggnog
  • Certainly appears to be sedentary, riding everywhere in a sleigh and having the elves do all the hard work of making toys. Though, as Marcia, one of our MM Groupies, pointed out, he probably helps with the reindeer care since he has such a good relationship with them.  And that would require physical work on his part. 
I'm a bit concerned about Santa's health. He's an obese, sedentary, older guy with a high sugar/high saturated fat diet, who smokes and may or may not drink to excess.  Think about it...

Santa could have Metabolic Syndrome; a group of conditions that occur together that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. And I, for one, do not want Santa to have a stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or peripheral artery disease. Not SANTA!!

A diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome is given if 3 out of 6 of these conditions are present:
  1.  Increased abdominal fat (apple shaped)
    • Men, waist 40" or more
    • Women, waist 35" or more
  2. Insulin resistance
  3. High blood pressure
  4. High fasting blood glucose, 100 mg/dL or more
  5. Low HDL
    • Men, less than 40 mg/dL
    • Women, less than 50 mg/dL
  6. Elevated Triglycerides, 150 mg/dL or more
Santa certainly has the tummy fat, but we can only guess at the rest. His diet and lack of exercise put him at high risk for insulin resistance, high glucose, and triglycerides. I know, I know. Santa has lived a LONG, long time, so he just may have great genes which do play a role. Not so great genes, aging, hormones, lack of exercise and poor diet all can cause metabolic syndrome.

We came up with a few things that we'd like to encourage Santa to do to improve his health, if not for him, for the sake of the children!

Dear Santa,

Because we care, our MM Groupies got together and spent an evening thinking about you. Our letter is not a list of what we want for ourselves, but rather a list of ways you could help yourself reduce your chances of developing metabolic syndrome or reversing it if it hasn't gone too far...
  1. Talk with your doc in the North Pole
  2. Lose weight. Every 1/4" you lose, or 1/4# you take off that waist improves your health profile. Aim for losing 7-10% of your weight as your first goal. And we think you'll look much better in that red suit with the black belt! Janels thinks you'll do best if you decide to join us in our MM groups for support! Open invitation.
  3. Eat lots of different colorful fruits and veggies.  Can you have the elves build a greenhouse in the North Pole to grow oranges, kale and red pepper?
  4. Go for those whole grains! Try a bowl of popcorn instead of cookies with a glass of non-fat milk for a great grain snack.
  5. Eat fish at least 2 times each week.  Focus on fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, and herring, sardines. Your heart will love it.
  6. Move it, Santa! Work up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 - 7 days each week. How about giving yourself the gift of a treadmill or a bike? Or help swing a hammer in the toy shop and ride those reindeer.
  7. Work with your doc to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure if they are up.
  8. Quit smoking. Try a bubble pipe, Santa!
And if you need motivation, Santa, think about all the millions of children who love you. It's time to start giving them a healthier, more fit vision of Santa to look up to. You're worth it! 

Your "On The Way to Wellness" Friends

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baking A Bit Healthier

 "There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy when they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie..."

 "Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding... and bring some out here!"

The holiday baking season is upon us, and with it come all of those lovely grams of not-so-healthy fat. Many of us have been working on eating healthier, so let's try to attack that unhealthy fat where we can.

Consuming too many saturated fats, or just eating a higher ratio of saturated fats than the healthier unsaturated ones, can increase your LDL (I refer to these as dump trucks, the carriers of cholesterol) which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Newer research indicates that the risk for type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer may also be increased. Clearly, we need to minimize our consumption of saturated fats.

Consuming more unsaturated fats tends to lower LDL which decreases the risk of CVD. Eating more monounsaturated fats found in olives, peanuts, olives,  olive oil, avocado, canola oil, can actually increase HDL (street sweepers!) which help to lower the risk for CVD, and perhaps type 2 diabetes.

One of the easiest changes to make is to switch to heart healthy oil in recipes calling the less healthy lard, solid shortening, margarine or butter, if you can. Lard and butter are naturally high in saturated fats. For example, if a recipe for pancakes calls for 4 tablespoons of melted margarine or butter, simply use 4 tablespoons of canola oil. Canola is a neutral tasting monounsaturated fat perfect for baking.

Some people try to take all the fat out of a recipe when they try to make it healthier. I don't recommend it.  Fat is used as a tenderizer in baked goods, so even if you reduce the amount, leaving some it will keep it tender.

Quick breads, pancakes, muffins, scones, biscuits: reduce the fat by up to 1/2 and replace the remainder with plain yogurt, applesauce or baby food or pureed fruits (apricots, prunes, etc.)

Pie crusts: I do not recommend reducing the fat if you want a traditional flaky crust. Fat is what creates this flaky texture. Instead, try an oil pastry recipe to incorporate heart healthy fats, and use canola oil for its monounsaturated fat content.

Cookies: I think substitutions are futile here if you want most true cookie textures. Using butter adds the naturally saturated fats, and margarine or shortening adds artificially saturated trans fats. However, trying to switch to oil ends up changing the end product characteristic so much, that most people are not happy with the result. I recommend simply sitting down to eat a small amount of cookies mindfully, along with a glass of non-fat milk, or something else healthy to balance it out.  Enjoy one or two, but don't overdo! Remember: If You Give Yourself A Cookie, Don't Forget the Milk!!

I'll share a few oil based recipes in the next few days.
Here's a great pie crust recipe to try for those favorite holiday pies:

Oil Pastry Crust
     Makes One Double Crust Pie

In a large bowl, whisk together:
     1 c. flour
     1 c. whole grain pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
     1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, whisk together
     1/2 c. canola oil (chilled in refrigerator for several hours)
     5 Tbsp icy cold water
Give the liquids another quick whisk, and then dump into dry mixture.
Stir in gently with a fork until it just comes together. Do not over mix.
Shape into ball and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Divide into 2 balls.
Roll each ball between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin into 12" circles to form crusts.

Bake as directed for pie.
One serving for double crusted pie is 1/8 of pie.

Nutritional Data: 228 calories, 14 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein. 4 1/2 Units.

Better Biscuits 
     Heat oven to 450
     Makes 12 biscuits

Whisk together in large bowl until well blended:
     1 cup whole grain pastry flour
     1 cup flour
     1 Tbsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, whisk together:
     1/4 cup canola oil
     3/4 cup non-fat milk
Give liquids one more whisk, then quickly add to dry ingredients.
Stir until just blended. Do not over mix.
Roll or pat out onto lightly floured counter until 1/2" thick.
Cut into 16 rounds.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Nutritional Data: 118 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 225 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 3 g. protein. 2 Units.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Poem for Perseverance

I've always loved the message in this poem, and it just may be a perfect time of year to share this one with all of you. Food for thought...

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lemon Sweet Potatoes

Janel wants to know if I have a recipe for the light colored yellow sweet potatoes she found in the grocery store. Absolutely! I found this recipe for Lemon Sweet Potatoes in a Gourmet Magazine over 30 years ago, and have lightened it up and tweaked it a bit over the years.  Our family loves them so much that we make it for every Thanksgiving and Easter. It's sometimes hard to find these Jersey White sweet potatoes, and they tend to be a bit more pricey than their more orange-y cousins...but well worth it!  Since I couldn't find them anywhere last spring, I had my son who lives in Pennsylvania buy them at his Wegman's grocery store and drive them all the way to Michigan for Thanksgiving! I think that says it all...

Lemon Sweet Potatoes

Scrub 4 pounds yellow sweet potatoes (Jersey Whites or other light
colored variety)
      Place in a pan with just enough water to cover them.
      Bring to a boil, then cook on low until tender, about 30 minutes.
      Drain well.
      Peel and place in mixing bowl.
      4 Tbsp. lemon juice (or to taste)
      1/2 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. white or black pepper 
      1 Tbsp. butter
      2 egg yolks
Whip until light and fluffy.
Lightly coat 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
Place sweet potatoes into dish.
Decorate with thin slices of fresh lemon.
Bake at 325 for 45 minutes, or until steamy hot.

Nutrition info:
Makes 12 servings (about 2/3 cup)
144 calories, 3 mg cholesterol, 62 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 1 g fat, 3 g protein. 3 units.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanks-giving or Thanks-gobbling?

Thanksgiving.  Does anyone remember what this holiday is really all about? I'm afraid that many Americans have forgotten the origin of the day and instead have ended up obsessed about food, food and more food. We start the day gobbling and never seem quit---Thanks-gobbling?

This year, it's time to change the focus. Thanksgiving. What does the base word "thanks" actually mean to you? Once you define it, try to keep that idea of thanks in mind as you proceed through your week.

Now for a little reality check.  Many people I know just let loose when it comes to eating the entire week of Thanksgiving.  They take the attitude that it's so hard to control themselves around such an array of good food that they don't even try. And guess what happens? The food feast keeping going, and going and going...right through the next holiday. And when New Year's day arrives and they are another 5 pounds heavier. Think. Is that what you really want this holiday season?

How many times have you gone shopping for new jeans, sweaters, coats or shirts without looking at the price tag? If you are like me, that is one of the first things I check out.  Why?  If it's too expensive and I can't afford to buy it, I don't want to waste my time looking at it. I have to stay within my budget.  Yes, I could put it on a credit card.  But, I still have to pay for it at a later date.  Buying clothes isn't free,  unfortunately.  I did raise a daughter after all!

The same is true for the food you'll see this week at your Thanksgiving gatherings.  Every item has a price tag. Just because you eat it quickly, standing up, or with no one seeing you, doesn't mean you don't have to pay for it, one way or another.

Thanksgiving Food "Price Tags" 
Turkey, white meat, 3 oz     134 calories    3 units     3 protein
Turkey, dark meat, 3 oz       168 calories    3  units    3 protein
Stuffing, 1/2 cup                  177 calories    3 1/2 units
Mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup    120 calories    2 units
Gravy, 1/4 cup                      30 calories     1 unit
Butter, 1/2 Tbsp                    50 calories     1 unit
Roll                                     120 calories     2 1/2 units
Cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup     110 calories    2 units
Winter squash, 1/2 cup          40 calories    1 unit        1 vegetable
Sweet potato, baked, 1        102 calories    2 units       2 vegetables
Mixed green salad, 1 cup      10 calories    0 units       1 vegetable
Green beans, 1/2 cup             20 calories    0 units      1 vegetable
Vinaigrette, 2 Tbsp                80 calories    2 units      2 healthy fats
Wine, 4 oz                             88 calories    2 units
Pecan Pie, 1/8                      460 calories    9 units
Cherry Pie, 1/8                    304 calories    6 units
Apple Pie, 1/8                      277 calories    6 units
Pumpkin Pie, 1/8                 265 calories     5 units
Whipped cream, 3 Tbsp        30 calories     1 unit
     I am going to challenge you this week to be aware of the price tags. When it's meal time, choose what you want to eat, and put it on your plate.  Sit down. Eat slowly and mindfully.  Enjoy what you choose. And, be thankful...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reflections On A Walk In the Park

Things are looking brighter today. Both literally and figuratively. We certainly had crummy weather last week. Gray and dreary with lots of wind and rain. And then the first snowfall of the year came along with 2 days of temps that didn't get out of the low 40's. Fun. Unfortunately, I have one of those heads that works like a barometer and senses all those atmospheric pressure changes, better known to me as migraines. Gotta love Michigan.

But, back to today. Early this morning, I taught my 3rd "Lose the Fat; Find the Fit" nutrition class at the Y, which was really fun. On the way home, I decided to stop at the park and take advantage of the nice weather. Seriously: sunshine, warmth, light breeze, and blue sky...yes.

I turned my Endomondo app on, and started to walk. With no headphones. Just my own thoughts.  I started observing lots of wonderful, healthy things going on. It's a great park with a paved 1 1/2 mile loop, going around a lake, through some woods---just really beautiful.

I smiled and said hello to people as they passed by.  You know, every single one smiled back and responded. Not one person failed to smile back.  Maybe the world is better than it seems some times. It felt that way today.

And people were really out there exercising. A woman in her 50's had her mother out for a very slow walk.  She was holding onto her mom's one good arm, the other held in place with a sling.  I was thinking how wonderful it was that they were out there together, strolling as they were able, and not just sitting at home eating donuts.

There was a dad jogging and a girl on a little pink bike pedaling and weaving along as they held a constant conversation. Well, she was doing most of the talking. Daddy/daughter time and learning the value of exercise at a young age.

A very tall male Spartan fan was all decked out in his team sweatshirt and green shorts, sporting ear phones as he ran at a good pace. The away football game was going on, and decided he must be listening to the game while he was running. He ran past me 3 times, so I went with that idea.  I was proud of him!

And then there was an extended family of 5, all walking along at their different paces, talking and enjoying the natural areas along the way. Some able to walk better than others, but all out there moving.

I passed a couple in their 20's walking arm in arm. I decided they must be on a date (that's the beauty of being alone with my thoughts...I was free to create my own story line!) I was able to pass quite easily, since they were not out there for speed.  I really liked that they chose going for a walk in the park over sitting at a movie or going out for ice cream.

There were 2 dogs and their owners, one walker and one jogger who went by.  Interesting that neither pet nor owner was overweight. Did you know that vets are having a hard time convincing some of us as dog owners to keep our pet's weight down?  I guess the human obesity rate is spilling over onto our pets.  Bravo to those pet exercisers!

And, of course, the 2 men who were biking.  One was really pushing it and the other obviously had trouble with his knees.  A perfect alternative for them both.

When I finished my 3 miles, I was in a really good mood. And why wouldn't I be? At least these people, around this small lake, in this park, in this area of our country, are exercising, taking care of themselves, and striving toward better health. And I am downright proud of them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stop, Drop, and Roll

First it was the weeks leading up to Halloween.  Aisle after aisle in every store were bulging with fun size black and orange wrapped sweet treats. Some of you shared remorseful tales of having to "re-buy" Halloween candy since it never made it to Trick or Treat night. Alas. I remember those days.

And now, these same stores have diminishing displays of discounted Halloween candy at the back of the aisle while the bright green and red candies of Christmas and a sprinkling of Hanuka blue sweets take center stage at the end cap displays.  Is there no hope for our pursuit of healthy eating?

Those of you in the work place have been struggling with decorative dishes galore of all things candy and weekly food feasts that start in November and don't end until January. Food, food, food.  It's as if we can't walk, drive, talk or turn without seeing foods that tempt us into the dark side.  Does the evil Chocolate Devil show up before Halloween and follow us around prodding up with his sharp little brown pitch fork  until we slide down that slippery, gooey, sweet slide into the endless chocolate pit where souls are apt to be lost until January 2nd?  Sometimes I wonder.

Whatever is going on with these overeating spells, we can get back on the path to wellness! It just takes an ACTION Plan.

All I can think of is a phrase my kids learned in case of fire: Stop, Drop, Roll!

  1. Stop.
  2. Drop. 
    1. Write everything down that just went wrong with your eating and exercise plan for the last hour, the last day, the last week or last month.  Get it all down.  Then look at it.  Now, crumble it all up into a little ball and throw it away.  Just like that. Gone.  Let it go. It's over.
    2. Perform one simple physical action. Snap your fingers, clap your hands, roll your wrists back and forth, whistle, stomp your right foot or breathe in and out forcefully. While you do this, think about bringing yourself back under control.  Repeat whenever you need to get control back.  Research has shown this type of sensory training can help in developing behavior changes like these. Keep practicing this one.
  3. Roll.
    1. Take one positive step. Go out for a walk. Drink a glass of water. Go to the gym. Cut up an orange, put it on a plate, sit down at the table and eat it mindfully with a fork. Once you do this, you are going to feel so much better. It's almost as if the power starts filling you up once again. Your own power of self control.
    2. Take another positive step forward.
    3. And another step. 
    4. Repeat...

Fire UP!!  You CAN Do This!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pasta e Fagiloi

Anne, one of our long time MM follower's, mentioned our version of Pasta e Fagioli  is one of her very favorites.  Unfortunately, in my original post, I didn't have the nutritional data listed.  So, just in time for a chilly weekend here in the mid-west, here it is, Anne, complete with all the nutritional info and units!

Pull out your crock-pot or simply put this one together in a big pot on top of your stove. For variety, you may want to try this soup with lean turkey, turkey sausage, or even skinless chicken chunks.  Enjoy a bowl this weekend!

Pasta e Fagioli

Place into slow cooker:
1# extra lean ground beef or turkey, cooked and drained (optional)
1 c. onion, diced
1 c. carrots, julienned
2 c. zucchini, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 - 15 oz. can light red kidney beans
1 – 15 oz can white beans
1 – 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 12 oz. vegetable juice
1 tbsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. thyme           
Cook on low for 6 -8 hours.
Stir In:
            3 oz. cooked small whole wheat pasta
Heat through and enjoy!

Makes 16 cups
1 cup = 169 calories, 4 g, fat, 19 mg, cholesterol, 176 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g protein. 2 1/2 Units.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Struggling with Stress

It's been a tough month. My husband's brother, died 2 weeks ago at age 47.  He was in the hospital---3 states away---for almost 3 weeks. We made 2 long weekend trips to see him.  Then, last week, we went to  his memorial service, driving 9 hours, then 4 hours, then 5 hours, then another 9.  All to reconnect with family. Important miles to travel. But hard ones.

Things like this happen.  They just do. It's part of life. And it's tough on the family. Emotional stress, physical stress, exhaustion. All sorts of mental and physical responses all rolled up inside of each one of us as we deal with loss.  

I know a few things that went well for me as I struggled to continue to take care of myself during this past month:
  • We made sure to to take fruit, whole grain crackers, little packages of nuts, a case of water, and V-8 juice cans with us as we traveled.  This did make a big difference in making sure both my husband and I had nutritious things to nibble on when we didn't feel like eating a big meal, or needed a little snack.  I grabbed water quite frequently between the cups of coffee I was consuming along the road, which helped me keep well hydrated.  
  • I forgot to take my own pillow with me on the first trip. Between that and having a cup of tea too late in the evening,  I didn't sleep very well at all.  I made sure to take that pillow on the next two trips!  I also took my lumbar pillow for my back and little neck roll pillow to help me with driving comfort.  
  • I provided the memorial service luncheon (ordering most of it from a local grocery store!) I made sure there were big trays of fresh fruit and veggies available and big pitchers of water for everyone.  That was appreciated by a number of people, I noticed.
  • I grabbed non-fat, sugar free lattes when I needed a little pick me up, which provided an extra milk for me...only once forgetting to ask for decaf!
What I know I need to manage better in the future:
  • Sleep.  I need to learn to stop processing things, relax and sleep. That's really hard for me. It has taken me a full week to recover from each trip out west.
  • Breathe. Frequently. Relax. Roll shoulders and stretch...I didn't even think about this!
  • Chocolate.  Normally, my husband would have just bought one little candy bar and we would share it when we decided to have something chocolate.  This time, he came back with 2 when the chocolate decision came. We both just simply ate our own. I was tired enough that I didn't exercise control over a decision to stop when I was full.  Next time, one candy bar, split. Eat slowly. Enjoy. Done.
  • Exercise.  Walk everyday, even if only for 15 minutes.
  • Alone time.  Go into my own space for 10 minutes or so, just because I need to.
If you ever have occasion to send something to a grieving family, think healthy. My mom's been known to send a fruit basket which I think is great.  Or you could make up a veggie platter, or a low-fat cheese and whole grain cracker tray. Or just care enough to give someone a hug or talk awhile. Many times, too many cookies and cakes eaten under stressful times just add more stress when you gain weight and your jeans get too tight.

With more rest, sleep, water, and healthy foods, I'm back on my path to greater wellness...


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Treats and Tricks

They're so little. One won't count. So tiny, cute in fun size and mini size. Maybe two. How much can one little handful of candy really matter? I can't really gain weight from something that small. And, candy corn only comes out once a year, plus it's in the shape of a vegetable!

It's that time of year, when all things candy come in unique shapes, itsy-bitsy sizes, and are wrapped in  festive orange, yellow, and black wrappers.  

Our MM On The Way To Wellness Groups were challenged this week to an active game of "Calorie Match." The goal of the game was to match 30 calorie cards to 30 different foods, including a number of seasonal Halloween treats. This was a team project, which opened itself up for lots of great discussion.

Among some of the interesting observations:
  • A handful of M&M's (3 mini-packages) is a whopping 270 calories, while a handful of almonds (1 oz) has 160 calories.  Laying on a dinner plate, those M&M's looked so small and harmless.  Some people guessed they only had 50 calories! When comparing nutritional value, the almonds are the big winner in nutrient density, providing a great source of healthy fat, fiber and protein.(Nutrient density is the amount of healthy vitamins, minerals, grams of protein, etc. per calorie.)
  • Mini and fun sizes are only fun in name and mini in how few you actually get!  (By the way, the words mini and fun don't provide a regulated, accepted size by weight.)  It's a game of marketing. Who wouldn't want to have fun and be mini? 
  • Most of these treats cost between 50 - 90 calories for each little package. You can find a mini box of Junior Mints or fun size Twix bar for 50 calories, but you'll be spending 80 calories on a fun size Snickers or Milky Way and 90 for your M&M's.
  • Vegetables came in at only 25 - 37 calories per half cup serving. These were the most nutrient dense group of all. They are so healthy, with so few calories, that you really don't have to count how many calories are in them..just make sure you get them in!
  • A handful of dried cherries came in at 120 calories.  But a 1/4 cup of these little sweet gems are so rich in nutrients that they count as 2 fruits! 
  • A bowl full of my chili has fewer calories than 2 Halloween frosted Loft House Cookies.  One cup of chili, 210;  2 cookies: 320 calories, which is typical for a homemade-type cookie. 
  • Which would you rather have for 100 calories: a medium size apple, large grapefruit, or 4 mini Smarties packs?  
  • Drinking a 24 oz regular soda delivers 300 calories . Drinking 12 oz. apple cider gives you 180.  Both are loaded with sugar. The soda in the real failure in nutrient density: all calories and no other nutritive value.  The apple cider does have 60 calories in each 1/2 cup serving, along with potassium and a fair amount of vitamin C--enough to count the 12 oz glass as 3 fruits!!
The goal of "Calorie Match" was to increase the awareness and mindfulness of the real cost and value of different food choices at this time of year. Yes, one mini-pack of candy may taste good.  That's just fine if you only eat one and don't go overboard. But if one mini bar leads to 6, you may need to fully aware of the consequence of overeating sugary, non-nutrient dense foods.  You may need to decide not to take the first one and reach for a big carrot or apple instead.

This week, be mindful of what different types of food do inside your body. If you choose to eat candy, be aware of how you feel after you eat.  Are you fully energized, tired, bloated, feeling rotten?  How about when you eat the carrot?  How do you feel after that?

It's really OK to chose an occasional candy.  Just don't make them half your day's food intake!  I heard from one woman this week who ate an entire bag of candy in one day. She felt life and total failure. I know some of you can certainly relate to her.  Try to be in control of your treat choices this week. If you do lose it, like our MM groupie and end up sliding down into the deep, dark chocolate pit of despair, let it go.  Shake it off.   Then, grab onto your healthy goals and remember:

"Whenever you make a mistake or get knocked down by life, don't look back at it too long. Mistakes are life's way of teaching you. Your capacity for occasional blunders is inseparable from your capacity to reach your goals. No one wins them all, and your failures,when they happen, are just part of your growth. Shake off your blunders. How will you know your limits without an occasional failure? Never quit. Your turn will come. "Og Mandino

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Quest for Wellness

Most people think wellness is simply the absence of illness.  It makes sense.  If you aren't sick, you must be well. While there is truth in that, there is really much more to it...

Seeking wellness is the process of striving for better health. It's accepting responsibility for your own health and taking action as described in the Illness-Wellness Continuum developed by Dr. John Travis. It's not your doctor's responsibility to keep you healthy; it's yours. Of course, your doctor does help.

If you want to be healthier, you start by assessing your level of wellness. You learn to recognize when something is amiss. You learn about your body, how it works, and gain knowledge in areas that help improve your health.  You work to improve your wellness level by exercising, eating nutritious food, and getting supportive help.  All of these facilitate your quest to become as healthy as you can be at every stage of your life.

Part of working toward wellness is reducing your individual risk factors for developing different diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. For you, this may or may not include weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, reducing alcohol intake, improving nutritional balance, or following your doctor's advice to manage an illness. As these risk factors diminish, you may become happier, more social, and find you function at a higher level:  your level of wellness increases!

To help in quest for wellness, it helps to work on mindfulness.  Be mindful of what you eat, where you eat, and perhaps even that you are eating in the first place.  Be mindful of how your body feels and what it really needs at any given moment in time. Does your body need food, water, sleep, a friend, quiet time, or exercise?  Learn to listen and respond.

  1. Keep your eye on your prize: a healthier, happier YOU!
  2. Reach for a good dose of support: friends, like-minded group, family
  3. Let go of perfection, it's highly overrated: forgive, learn, move on
  4. Perseverance is Power! Take one step forward at a time. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pondering Plastic

OK. I'll admit it.  I'm that old. I remember my dad bringing home quarts of milk in glass bottles with cardboard tops, fit neatly into a metal carrier. The washed out empty bottles went back and were traded in for freshly filled brown or clear glass bottles. Love that memory!

Before the mid 1960's, not many things came in plastic containers; it was just too costly.  As soon as they developed a cheaper way,  the packaging world changed quickly. No more shattered infant bottles when they dropped on the floor. (I remember my mother-in-law telling me she decided her little boy, my future husband, was ready for a cup when he threw his third bottle that shattered on the hardwood floor.)  Plastics offered a win-win situation, right?  Light-weight, lower shipping costs. But is there another cost?

Of particular concern is bisphenol A (BPA) which has been used for over 40 years to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, making baby bottles, reusable cups, linings for metal cans and food containers, canned infant formula, and even some dental sealants.

In 2008, the FDA reviewed research and the BPA-containing food containers on the market and declared them safe.  Since then, studies have shown subtle effects on lab animals from low amounts of BPA exposure that is bringing up alarm. Some studies have shown that it possible that some chemicals may seep from the plastic into the food, and into the body via food or touching the plastic. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) declared that BPA poses no risk to human health. No doubt, the danger of BPA remains controversial.

At this point, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the Department of Health an Human Services has expressed moderate concern with BPA and it's possible effect on fetal, infant and child development, including brain and behavior development. The FDA has now shared their concern and has started taking steps to reduced human exposure to BPA and help find alternatives to using such containers.

To reduce chemical exposure:
  1. Choose BPA free products. Some are labeled as such, others are not. Most BPA polycarbonate bottles are #7 on the recycling symbol on the bottom of the container. Most aluminum cans or bottles have linings that contain BPA, so look for stainless steel cans that are BPA free. 
  2. Do not microwave BPA containing plastics. It's possible the plastics can break down over time, allowing BPA to leach into the food. The NTP advises against microwaving while the ACC says this is safe. (Just a note here...I'm totally siding with the Nat'l Toxicology Program!)
  3. Wash safely.  The NTP advises not to put hard plastics in the dishwasher. The heat and harsh detergents may unleash PBA. (The ACC says it's OK.)
  4. Find other containers to store hot foods in: glass, ceramic, stainless steel, porcelain. 
  5. Cover food in microwave with waxed paper, parchment paper, or white paper towels: not plastic wrap.  Do not let plastic wrap touch hot food.
  6. Buy fewer canned goods unless labeled BPA free.
  7. Don't microwave in grocery bags or any plastic that produce or meats come wrapped in.
  8. If using plastics, make sure labels clearly read "Microwave-safe." 
  9. Frozen meals containers are meant to be used for ONE TIME only, then discard; recycle. After that, safety cannot be guaranteed. 
  10. If plastic is warped or scratched, do not use for food. The chance for BPA seeping out increases.
  11. Avoid #3, #6, #7. There is concern over foods being stored in plastics with the recyling #3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and #6 polystyrene. Though there is some disagreement,  PVC and polystyrene appear to be endocrine disruptors (not good,) and are likely carcinogenic (even worse.)
  12. Do not save empty butter, cottage cheese, whipped topping, etc, containers for reuse.  They have only been FDA approved for one-time use. I know this is hard for some of us, but the fact is,  they scratch, warp, and bend easier, thus enabling the seeping of chemicals (such as BPA) into foods much more readily. 
  13. Take-home containers are one-use containers.  They are meant to transport in. They are not to be reheated in, unless specifically stated on the package.  Even so, some people may decide to remove the leftovers and place them on their own glass dishes to reheat. 
And now what? Should we throw away all our plastic? I don't think so... We've all been living most of our lives with plenty of food in plastic containers and most of us are doing just fine so far. Relax. You decide how far you'd like to go with this one. But, there is one group I'd like to really sit up and take note: the mothers-to-be, infants, and children.

To Your Health!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Linda's Squash Soup

Linda, one of our MM Groupies, sent this recipe my way, along with rave reviews. This colorful soup is perfect for a cool fall evening, and cooks up relatively quickly. The squash provides a bundle of beta-carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A as needed. It’s also a super-star anti-oxidant. This soup is also loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and is a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and manganese.  And, it's really low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This recipe looks like a winner!

Squash Soup
Makes 10 cups
In a large pot, combine:
       6 c. cubed, peeled, seeded butternut squash
       5 c. water
       3 med. potatoes, peeled, cubed
       1 large onion, diced
       2 cloves garlic, minced
       2 chicken bouillon cubes
Bring to a boil.
Stir, turn down heat to just simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Blend until smooth, either with an immersion blender right in the pot or in small batches in the blender or food processor.
Reheat if necessary.

Optional: serve with a little dollop of Greek yogurt and chopped chives.
Nutritional Data:
1 cup = 91 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 236 g sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 2 protein
1 cup = 2 Units