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


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gimmie A Snack!

Yep. I did it. And I should not have.  I let myself get way too hungry. I'm not perfect.  I know that it's really important to keep my blood sugar level steady all day long, even though I'm not diabetic. When it drops, it's harder for me to make rational food decisions (can you say, "bring on the cookies?")  It's hard for me to think clearly and to keep up with any physically demanding activity. And, I get crabby and a bit short tempered.  Are any of you like that?

I'm sure you are, since that's the way the human body works.  A steady flow of energy is important for your brain and body to function their best and it also impacts mood and emotions. It's all impacted by what we did or didn't eat.

I had eaten a typical breakfast for me: yogurt, dry oatmeal, a few walnut halves and a peach.  But, I forgot to have a snack before my hour long massage at 11:30 in the morning and didn't have any ready in the car like I usually do. So, at 12:45,  I had errands to run at Sam's Club and Target.  I had water in the car, and drank lots of that. Good for hydration, but it didn't do much for my physical hunger. First, I had to zip by the food pushers at Sam's, which was a bit tough. Some of those aromas had my mouth watering like crazy.  Good thing I have this firm visual implanted in my mind of all the possible viruses and bacteria swirling around that publicly offered food! I know, it's pretty disgusting, but it works for me.

By the time I got to Target, I couldn't even remember what I needed in there.  I headed right over to the food aisles. Let's see. Chips, cookies, snack crackers, granola bars, M&M's... those didn't even sound good to me! My body needed real fuel. Then I saw the string cheese in the cooler. Perfect!  I grabbed 2 individual 1 ounce low fat mozzarella sticks and a mini bag of 100% whole grain Sun Chips. My body seemed to approve of what I was picking up. I continue to work on being mindful of listening to what my body needs whether it is sleep, water or certain type of food.  Many times, I hear it asking for rest, veggies or protein. It really is amazing. Mindful...

Once I had my nutritious food in hand, I remembered what I had gone into Target for, bought it, and headed to the car. I sat there and ate my snack. I started to feel much, much better as the energy level came back my body. Thanks, Target, for having a few healthier options for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can Smart Help?

At first,  it wasn't too bad.  I'd just call the person back and I'd usually be able to finish the call before the phone cut out.  Then, when then phone rang, the call would immediately end.  Repeatedly. I was trying to  chat with my sister who had just come back from vacation to her home in Virginia surveying the damage from hurricane Irene. I was in a traffic jam after moving my daughter back to college and thought it was a perfect time to talk. Right.  I think we called each other back 8 times before we quit trying.

I guess dropping the hand-me-down phone into water wasn't the best idea, even though I did get it out immediately. A well seasoned phone should be able to withstand a little abuse. After advice from one son, I stuck it in a bag of rice, but that almost seemed to make it worse.  It was time...

I got on line.  I researched.  I try not to spend much extra money.  I mean, we are trying to put our 3rd kid through college and and 4 years now cost more than the original price tag on our home. It's unreal. But, I digress...

I decided to get a smart phone. It's time I connect with all these weight loss and fitness apps that my MM groupies, followers and clients are using!  Of course, it doesn't hurt that they are selling older models for so little money.

So, my new quest is to learn all about the heath apps that are available, and I need your help! My action plan this week is to start digging and find out what diet, fitness and health apps are rated the highest and most user friendly.

Two MM clients love their LoseIt! apps and another finds the Weight Watchers app perfect for her.  The Endomondo Sports Tracker gets rave reviews from one of our MM Followers.  It includes a GPS to track her walking and it really helps motivate her to keep up the mileage. What about you?

If you are a smart phone user, what apps do you use?  What do you like about them?  How easy are they to use?  Together, let's develop a list of apps that are MM Approved!

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm Craving Pumpkin Muffins!

It was perfect weather for a walk in the park today.  It was actually cool enough to wear my new UConn Husky sweatshirt and shorts, which is what I've always considered the perfect walking attire.  I have absolutely no idea why.  It just feels great to me. Walking along and crunching on a few leaves makes me happy. (For those of you who don't know, I grew up around the University of Connecticut:)

When I got home, it was time to create a new pumpkin recipe. With a few little tweaks here and there, here's what I made today.  These came out nice, big, tender and oh, so good. Just what I was looking for on an early fall day!

Pumpkin Muffins
-Makes 12 muffins.
-Preheat oven to 400.
-Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. If using paper liners, coat the liners with spray.
-Put in a blender and process until the consistency of flour:
         1/2 cup dry oatmeal
-Put oats into big mixing bowl and whisk together well:
        1/2 cup whole wheat flour
        1 cup flour
        2/3 c. brown sugar
        1 tsp baking soda
        1 tsp baking powder
        1/2 tsp salt
        2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg)
-In another bowl whisk together:
        2 eggs
        2 Tbsp canola oil
        1/3 cup non-fat milk
        3/4 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
        1 cup pumpkin puree
-Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Don't over stir!
-Divide into 12 muffin tins.
-Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Nutritional Data:
Serving Size: 1 muffin
164 calories, 4 g fat, 36 g cholesterol, 271 g sodium, 29 g. carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 14 g sugar,
5 g protein. Counts as 3 Units.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lesson Learned from Mowing


My back was doing so much better.  My physical therapy had been done for awhile.  I was still doing the exercises and stretches I had learned.  And, I was up to walking an hour at a time at a pretty good pace with no pain. I had no visions of trying to run again.  I wasn't even thinking about that.  I just want to keep getting stronger. And then, I lost ground. Big time.

You see, I decided to mow the lawn last Saturday.  I always used to mow before the discs in my neck were bulging onto nerves last summer and those in back protested this spring.  I used to enjoy mowing. Really.  It always made me feel like I was accomplishing something quickly, plus I gained the immediate gratification of having the lawn look much better.  And, I got a good workout.

So, last Saturday afternoon, it was a go. I  knelt down by the mower to pour the gas in, taking care not to stress my back. The mower started easily, so that was OK. As I walked behind the mower, everything felt great. Maybe half way through, I started to notice that when I came to the end of a row, I could feel my back just a little as I stopped and turned to go the other way. No real pain, just a little twinge or something. It just kept going like that and didn't get worse, so I just finished up the lawn.  When I was done, I was exhausted but proud that I had actually done it.

I did it alright.  As I showered, I started to realize my back was mad at me. Pain. It was telling me how it truly felt about mowing, and it wasn't positive.  After getting dressed, it was time for lots of stretching.  Then ibuprofen and rest.

 It's a week later now. I feel like a lost few weeks of progress with the mowing episode, but I will persevere. Still some pain now and then. I'm working on the stretching doing all the back strengthening exercises faithfully. I'm being very carefully not to twist, bend or distort my back. And, I'm choosing my activities wisely. Time and patience.

OK.  I've got it. I need to LISTEN TO BY BODY! Lesson learned. I hope.

By the husband mowed the lawn today!