Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons from Geese


The poem I'm ending each class this week has been a big hit. Several people asked for a copy, so I decided you all may enjoy it!

Lessons from Geese
Dr Robert McNeish

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an up-lift for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson 1: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson 2: If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
Lesson 3: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each others' skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talent or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honking encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson 4: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson 5: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

The poem says it all:  Group support really works.  Honk, honk!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Busy Day, But Great Dinner Tonight!

It was one of those days when I was on the move all day long. I received my usual wake up call from Toby (our 8 year old dog) at 7 am---he absolutely never sleeps later than that.  Our morning walk was actually 1 1/2 miles,  which was nice for us since he suffers from hip dysplasia and arthritis and will often cut it short.

I taught class at the "Y"on the other side of town at 10:30, then ran a number of errands. I don't think a day goes by without plenty of those on my list. Then driving my daughter back to her college home an hour away. And stopping to load up on groceries, of course.

Luckily, I did teach my husband of 34 years how to cook a long time ago! He presented me with dinner ready when I got back at 6:45. Totally loved it...

He knew we had the extra 2 chicken breasts that I had him cook up when he had the grill going yesterday. Checking out what else we had on hand, he created his own version of Chicken Gyros...

Chicken Gyros

1. Make Tzatziki sauce by blending together:
        8 oz. plain non-fat Greek yogurt
        1/2 cucumber, finely diced (squeeze water out with several paper towels)
        1 clove of garlic, finely minced
        1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
        2 tsp olive oil
        1 Tbsp fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried
2. Warm in the microwave for 30 seconds:
        whole grain pita bread, cut in half
3. Fill each pocket with
        shredded lettuce, darker variety
        grilled chicken breast, thinly sliced
        red onion, thinly sliced
        low-fat feta cheese, very lightly sprinkled
        tomatoes, sliced

...They were so, so delicious!! And, I think I'm going to hang onto my husband!

Unit Cost:
     1 oz chicken = 1 (1 protein unit)
     1/2 pita = 2 (2 smart starch units)
     2 Tbsp Tzatziki sauce = 20 calories
     1 Tbsp low-fat feta cheese = 15 calories

Thursday, April 19, 2012

1-2-3 Cupcake for a Sweet Treat

Sometimes you just want something sweet. Not because you are hungry---that's when nutritious food is what your body wants and needs. But, just because you want a little treat. The trouble is, if you buy that box of a dozen cookies or cupcakes, you may eat too many. The key is to find a way to get just one to help you with portion control.

You can go to a candy store and choose one, extra special chocolate. Or a bakery and select one cookie. But how about a way to make one hot cupcake at a time in your microwave?

Marcia was fired up to share this cupcake recipe with her MM group this week. She loves these easy cakes, but didn't have any idea how many calories to count for each one. Keep in mind, these won't provide anything in the land of nutrition, but I decided to take a look...

1-2-3 Cupcake
Dump into 1 gallon-size plastic food bag and shake until well blended:
  • 1 box Angel Food cake mix
  • 1 box any flavor cake mix
To make one cupcake:
Mix in a coffee mug or custard cup
  • 3 Tbsp mix
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • Microwave for 1 minute
1 cupcake has 101 calories; 2 units

Marcia's favorite is using a chocolate cake mix, and adding a dollop of honey flavored Greek yogurt on top. I tried mine with a little drizzle of fat-free chocolate syrup. It was fun to make and turned out to be a light & spongy little warm chocolate cake. So easy, so quick.

Remember: this is for that occasional urge for a sweet. By adding something healthy to eat with it, you'll add some nutrients and help calm that blood sugar spike. How about a glass of non-fat milk, soy milk, or maybe yogurt with your cake? If You Give Yourself a Cookie, Don't Forget the Milk! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

All A-Buzz About Agave

Agave is the "in" sweetener. Supporters claim agave nectar (or syrup) is natural, diabetic friendly, gluten-free, low on the glycemic index and vegan approved, not to mention containing anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidants. What's not to love?

You've got to admire the marketing behind agave. People are buying agave nectar and syrup like wildfire, convinced its a healthier choice than sugar, even though it comes with a heftier price tag. And, even though the claims are questionable...

Agave comes from the blue agave plant grown primarily in southern Mexico. The plant core is then processed into a sweet syrup that is less viscous than honey but with similar sweetening power. Both honey and agave are 1 1/2 times sweeter than table sugar, which allows you to use less to sweeten your coffee. However, one tablespoon of agave contains 60 calories while sugar has only 45. You may use less agave, but still use similar calories.

Table sugar is a 50:50 blend of fructose and glucose. Agave contains a much higher amount of fructose, with 57 to 90%. That's more than high-fructose corn syrup has at 55%. Most of agave's fructose comes in the form of inulin, a fiber with some health benefits. The trouble is, agave goes through a significant amount of processing to form the syrup, which breaks down the insulin and along with it, removes any slight health benefits.

High sugar consumption has been shown to increase the risk of multiple diseases. Research now points to fructose as the dangerous part of sugar. Fructose increases insulin resistance, triglyceride levels and promotes an increased amount of fat stored around the midsection. These in turn increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. Fructose intake is also linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The once exception is the fructose found in fruits. The whole fruit package brings antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Only 7% of the fruit itself is fructose.

Agave is marketed as "natural," which grabs the attention of many consumers. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not regulate what can be called natural, so that label can be affixed at the manufacturer's whim. It doesn't mean much of anything.

Agave has a low glycemic index, which promoters refer to when they call it, "diabetic friendly." However, this is very misleading. Scientific evidences shows that agave does in fact trigger an insulin response. The American Diabetes Association lists agave on it's "limited use" list along with other sugars.

The bottom line: agave is a highly processed sweetener that is not the wonder item it's promoters would have us believe. It may in fact bring more health questions to the table than sugar itself.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Baskets and Sugar Overdose

The day before Easter and a holiday weekend for many of us.  It's a day to pick up last minute goodies to fill Easter baskets to hide for tomorrow's hunt. Perhaps a busy day of last minute grocery shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning, and decorating eggs.

Cleaning, decorating and running errands definitely get your body in motion and count toward your exercise for the day.  But it's the candy-popping frenzy that can goes along with the weekend that we need to talk about.  One chocolate egg for the basket, one for you. One marshmallow peep for the basket, one for you.  A decorative dish of pastel M&M's on the table for company that needs to be refilled 3 times before they get there... Does this sound familiar?

Sugar consumption is at an all time high in our country. Research has now linked sugar intake to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Younger and younger children are being diagnosed with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes at an alarming rate. It's never been as clear as now: reduce sugar intake.

Added sugars are everywhere. They are hidden in processed foods and blatantly present in beverages. One can of regular soda delivers 10 teaspoons---just under 1/4 cup---of sugar, a 32-ounce fountain drink has 27 teaspoons, and the 64-oz. extra large streams 54 teaspoons of liquid sugar into your body.  Last week, I was checking out at Target around noon and was right behind an obese man wearing a suit and tie, buying a bottle of Mountain Dew and 2 candy bars, which I can only assume was his lunch. A recipe for disease...

It's time to minimize the amount of candy we put in those baskets and into our bodies. I am not talking about abolishing all candy. I encourage an "in moderation" approach for most people instead of a no-to-sugar declaration that can very easily trigger a "deprivation/gotta have it" reaction.

For the baskets:

  • Less candy in smaller packages
  • Add more non-food items
    • Action items like balls, Frisbees, yo-yo's, yard games, bubbles
    • Books, stuffed animals, hair accessories, collector cards, magazine
    • Gift certificates for a manicure, car wash, massage, nail polish
  • Find small packets of nuts or create them yourself, adding a pretty ribbon 
  • Decorated, hard-boiled eggs, of course
  • Mini packages of dried fruits
  • Colorful apple, orange, banana or other fruit
When you do choose to have a high sugar food:
  • Decide ahead of time what you will choose
  • Put your serving an a plate 
  • Sit down before you eat 
  • Have a glass of milk with it, or something else nutritious to balance out the sugar/insulin response
  • Eat it mindfully: taste, experience, and enjoy
Remember my motto: If You Give Yourself a Cookie, Don't Forget the Milk!
In other words, when you eat or drink something high in sugar, don't forget to eat something healthy, too!!