Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Party Time!

Yup, the holiday season is here with parties galore. How are you planning to navigate? Throw caution to the wind and just gobble up everything in sight? (And gain 5-10 pounds by the first of the year!) Or are you searching for a different strategy? Maybe a plan that will allow you to have fun but not pay the price with a ballooning waistline?

Here are my strategies for cruising through those get-togethers without suffering the consequences:

1) Do not arrive at a party starving! Eat a healthy meal before you go. Nothing huge, but make sure you've had some protein, good fats, and plenty of veggies. When you arrive already hungry, there is a much greater chance you'll overeat.

2) Bring a healthy dish to share. If you're worried about the food at the party, this way there will be at least one dish you know you can eat. This is especially important for Paleo people, those with food allergies, and anyone who like a lot of control! (Who could that be???)

3) Load up your plate with the healthiest choices first. Grab those steamed shrimp, deviled eggs, raw veggies, and slices of fresh fruit. Fill your tummy with whole foods and skip the junk. Again, protein is especially key as it will help you deflect sugar cravings and absorb alcohol.

4) Find someone fascinating to chat with. Distract yourself from the buffet by conversing with friends or someone you've just met. Let everyone else polish off the brownies and the cookies while you find better things to do.

5) Stick with low calorie beverages. Of course water is best, but since this is a party, you might want to go for a glass of wine, a wine spritzer, or a sparkling cider. Sip slowly and savor your drink. Avoid all sugary beverages such as eggnog, sodas, punch, and mixed drinks. The calories in alcohol can add up very quickly, so I suggest drinking a glass of water in between your alcoholic drinks. Or enjoy just one glass of wine then switch over to water. Your liver will thank you.

6) Stash a large bottle of water in the car. I am never without my water bottle! After partying, drinking a liter of water on the way home has helped me avoid many a hangover! Remember: your hangover symptoms are largely caused by dehydration.

7) Have fun! That's what these gatherings are for. Don't get so obsessed with your diet that you miss the whole point of the party. If you splurge a tiny bit, don't worry. The new year will be here before you know it and you can join me for a whole month of Whole 30. Nothing will get you back on track quicker!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Prepare your Environment

So you're going to join me for a Whole 30 beginning on January 1st? Excellent! But in order to be successful, you might want to start thinking and planning ahead.

I suggest making your environment Whole 30 friendly. Don't worry, you've still got a few weeks before the first of the year. Plenty of time to scarf down the last couple of cookies in the bottom of the jar. But now is the time to start counting down the days and making some lists.

What are the foods most likely to trip you up? Are there some treats that you simply cannot resist? For me, it is baked goods: cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, anything that combines butter, flour, and sugar is my nemesis. I also have a very hard time throwing anything out. I am not a waster. So if it's in the house, I'm either going to eat it or try to force someone else to eat it. This could get ugly. But planning ahead is very helpful. Don't buy or bake more than your family will consume by New Year's Eve. Plan to have zero leftovers of a sugary nature come January 1st.

Time to clean out those cabinets. Use up the jar of preserves, the honey, the syrup, the peanut butter. Another possibility is to hide the things that are not going to go bad. You could move jars to the very back of the fridge. Or out to the garage. (We have an extra small fridge out there!) However, if these foods might go bad before February, the best choice might be to give them away. (God forbid you throw anything out!)

Besides getting rid of the no-nos, the second half of the equation is to stock your pantry and fridge with the healthy whole foods you will need on the morning of January 1st. Make sure ahead of time that you have done some excellent meal planning and grocery shopping. This is where most people fall down. Even with the very best of intentions, if January rolls around and you don't have the foods you want to eat in the house, you will most certainly go off the plan.

Some staples you will need are: a wide variety of veggies, both fresh and frozen; fresh fruits that are in season; eggs, fish, meats and poultry; coconut, olive, and avocado oils; nuts and seeds of all kinds. Stock up on things that are easy to prepare. You might even want to do some cooking ahead of time so you have prepared foods that are quick to heat up for convenience. Veggies come first on this plan, so expect to eat a boatload of them!

Remember to read labels carefully. No added sugar or sweeteners of any kind is allowed. (Exception: fruit juice as a sweetener.) No additives such as thickeners, preservatives, artificial colors, flavorings, etc.

Another goal of Whole 30 is to eliminate snacking. Eating a snack is not against the rules, but a snack should be more of a mini-meal, a well-balanced small meal which includes protein, fat, and carbs. When most of us snack, we mindlessly stuff our faces with high-carb junk food like chips or cookies. This is the habit we are hoping to transform. So make sure you have prepared foods on hand which will be easy to combine to create a mini-meal, such as hard-boiled eggs, tiny guacamole cups, slices of cooked meats, nuts, apple slices and almond butter, etc.

Today you might want to start making some lists of foods you'd like to have on hand, meals you plan to prepare for your first week on the program, and foods you need to use up or remove from your environment. Don't let a lack of preparation trip you up!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Paleo Vs. Whole 30

If you are new to the whole concept of Whole 30, you may be wondering how this program is different from simply following a Paleo diet. Here's the difference: Whole 30 is Paleo to the max. Paleo on steroids. Paleo squared. See examples below.

Normally a Paleo diet will not include grains. However, some Paleo folks will allow white rice or sprouted grains to be included, as long as there are no ill effects. White rice is apparently the least likely of all the grains to cause allergic reactions. Although I attempt to follow a Paleo diet most of the time, I do eat white rice on occasion (once or twice a week, maybe) as well as sprouted wheat bread which is made with no flour, just organic sprouted wheat berries. For the duration of the Whole 30 (just 30 days, remember!) I'll be eating zero grains.

In terms of sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, and stevia are all considered fine in small amounts on a Paleo diet. However, the Whole 30 program bans all sweeteners, whether they be refined white sugar, all natural, or artificial. This is very important. Allowing even small amounts of sweeteners into your diet will keep your sweet tooth (and your addiciton!) alive and kicking. Remember that sugar (in all forms!) has been shown to be just as addictive as heroine and cocaine. You may experience withdrawal symptoms during the first few days on Whole 30. But by the end of the month, you will have conquered your addiction and will no longer be a slave to the white death.

If you are a Paleo treat lover, a fan of baked goods containing almond or coconut flour instead of wheat flour, Whole 30 will give you the opportunity to kick this habit as well. Because Whole 30 bans all "treats" of every kind. Paleo treats are considered SWYPO (sex with your pants on) and therefore completely wrong. The goal is replace all those calories with REAL FOOD.

Is the main goal of Whole 30 to help people lose weight? No. Losing weight is often a side effect of this program. If you usually eat a lot of junk foods (chips, fries, snack cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, waffles, tater tots, pies, beer, and such) you might lose a significant amount of excess weight. I lost a few pounds the last time I did the program, but nothing earth-shattering.

The goal is to reset your body, your mind, your whole attitude and relationship with food. Whole 30 is similar in this way to a "cleansing" or a "juice fast." However, there is no need to worry about the safety of the program. When you eat whole foods such as vegetables, meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, fruit, nuts and seeds, your body will receive all the proper nutrition it needs, just without the added crap.

Still confused? Visit www.whole30.com for loads of specific information, rules, recipes, and everything you need to be successful!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Whole 30 Begins January 1st


I realized after posting yesterday about gifts at Trader Joe's, almost every selection contained sugar! UGH! I apologize. I had intended to include some of the lovely soaps usually offered at holiday time, but I couldn't find them either in the store or the flyer.

And then I had another realization: the sneaky sugar monster has been creeping back into my home, my cabinets, my fridge, my diet, my mouth.

For example, there was Halloween. My daughter shared a few pieces of candy with me. Then, on Thanksgiving, I made two pies: pumpkin and concord grape. Who ended up eating the lion's share of these pies? You guessed it: moi. Now Hanukkah and Christmas are approaching. I'll probably indulge in more than my fair share of treats.

So I've decided in the new year to recommit to the sugar-free life.

Last January, I completed my first Whole 30: thirty days of whole, healthy foods including no sugar, no refined sweeteners of any kind, no artificial sweeteners, no grains, no legumes, no alcohol, no "treats" of any kind, no processed junk foods. If you'd like to take a look at the program, including all the rules, benefits, goals, etc. please visit www.whole30.com.

I believe January is the best time to take on this type of challenge. Once we put the celebrations of New Year's Eve behind us, there are no more holidays crying out for cakes and cookies. January 1st begins a new year, an auspicious time to start a new venture. And since it is winter, homemade soups and stews will be very appealing and an easy way to fill the belly with whole foods.

So who's with me? Are you ready to change your diet, your health, your outlook, your moods, your whole world? Do you want to drop excess pounds, clear up your skin, improve your teeth and gums, uplift your attitude, lighten your load, and put some spring in your step? Nothing will transform every aspect of your life faster than the food you put into your mouth multiple times per day.

Let's do this!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Trader Joe's for the Holidays

Looking for a place to purchase delicious, interesting, unusual, and fairly-priced gifts? I've got you covered. Look no further than your local Trader Joe's.

Okay, maybe it's just me, but who doesn't love some tasty treats for a gift? Trader Joe's always carries some extra special offerings around the holidays. If you weren't aware, just read on!

1) Triple Ginger Brew. Do you love ginger? Not wimpy ginger, like regular American ginger ale, but ginger with a punch? If so, you MUST sample Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Brew. Everything about this brew is awesome, from its strong ginger flavor to its thick green glass bottle with swing-top, reclosable lid. Give this to your British friends. Or me. Price: $2.99.

2) Candy Cane Joe-Joes. If you're not familiar with Joe-Joes, these are a version of Oreo cookies. The candy cane kind has cruched candy canes sprinkled throughout the filling. Yes. It's true. If you are a chocolate sandwich cookie freak, these will really make you flip. Price: $2.99.

2.5) The Astounding Multi-flavor Joe-Joes. These are Joe-Joes on steroids. Covered in chocolate and sprinkles. If you are looking to impress an Oreo cookie lover with something extra special and out-of-the-ordinary, try one of these boxes which contain four different flavored cookies (peanut-butter enrobed in milk chocolate, ginger enrobed in white chocolate, double chocolate wrapped in dark chocolate, and candy cane wrapped in dark chocolate) and your loved one will soon be swooning. Price: $6.99.

3) A Rated Coffee Selection. This is a gift box of three single origin, estate grown coffees from around the world. A light roast from Peru with vanilla nut notes,  a medium roast from Uganda with fruity notes, and a dark roast from Papua New Guinea. I can attest, as a coffee fanatic, your special someone will go bonkers for this package. Price: $9.99.
(Please note photograph is not the coffee collection mentioned above!)

4) A Collection of Honey. Not your run-of-the-mill honey, these are pure honeys gently harvested from specific locales to preserve the unique flavors of the region. Tupelo honey from Georgia and Florida; Acacia honey from Italian Black Locust trees; and Orange Blossom honey from Mexican orange groves. Great for insect lovers. Price: $8.99.

5) Chocolate passport. I can tell you, Trader Joe's carries some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted. In this 12.8 ounce box, you can offer your loved one eight individually wrapped bars of the finest chocolate from around the world, including Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and many other exotic places, with cacao content ranging from 60% to 73%. What's not to love? Price: $9.99.

There you have it. My recommendations for delicious, unique, and low cost gifts that will bring a smile to every recipient's face.


Monday, November 24, 2014

De-stress Your Thanksgiving

This year I am committing the mortal Thanksgiving sin: I am not roasting an entire turkey. That's right. I confess.

But wait. It gets worse.

I purchased a PRE-COOKED turkey roulade from Costco. This nifty little entree serves 4 (the exact number in my family) and only needs to be heated up in the MICROWAVE. Oh yes. The thin turkey cutlets are wrapped around a stuffing made of quinoa and pine nuts. I haven't tried it yet, so our dinner is a big experiment.

I also purchased a BOX of stuffing mix from Trader Joe's. And instant turkey gravy packets. Just add water!

Okay, I think that might be all I have to confess. I do plan to bake a couple of pies from scratch (I don't even count the frozen pie crust as cheating!) and make cranberry sauce from actual cranberries. I will roast real, whole sweet potatoes in the oven and saute Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans. My hubby will mash the potatoes.

My point is not only that I am a lazy bones. My real point is that your holiday belongs to you. You are in charge. You can make choices based upon what is best for you. Of course you want your family (friends, neighbors, etc.) to be happy. But if you are so stressed out that you're screaming at people, or giving your loved ones the icy cold silent treatment, you might want to rethink that strategy. (Two years ago I was practically in tears over the gravy. No lie.)

Normally I cook from scratch. Normally I avoid additives and preservatives, trans fat, refined sugar, all forms of flour, and loads of other junk. But for this holiday, I decided to give myself a break from normal. I don't want to stress myself, and my loved ones in the process, in order to make sure every morsel we eat is home-cooked. Instead, our Thanksgiving meal will be a mishmash of homemade, store-bought, pre-cooked, instant, and made-ahead.

I hope you will give yourself permission this Thanksgiving to be less-than-perfect. Your family and friends will still love you, maybe even more when you are not so stressed!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kale Chips in the Dehydrator

Ever since my new dehydrator arrived in its gigantic box, I've kept it running practically nonstop. I've dried pears and apples, then sage from my garden, then more pears and apples, and now: kale chips.

I've been a fan of the kale chips from Trader Joe's ever since I did the Whole 30. The kale chips were one of the very few snack foods that were compliant. They are hearty, covered with a delicious mixture of carrot powder, cashews, and nutritional yeast. (Maybe this doesn't sound as good as it tastes...)

I've been growing my own kale in my garden every year for probably at least 20 years now. The bugs love it. Sometimes they share with me. I usually have to pull off a few wriggly green caterpillars, but it's worth it. I always grow Red Russian Kale (soft, tender leaves) and Black Tuscan kale (tall, dark, handsome leaves). Both are yummy and tolerate a bit of frost before keeling over in the late fall, early winter.

So I harvested a large bunch of kale to make these chips. If you don't grow your own, I'm sure you can find kale at your local Whole Foods, Wegman's, or other grocery. Wash your kale leaves before using. Pat dry or use your salad spinner. Then tear the leaves into medium-sized pieces, removing as much stem as possible.


One large bunch kale, washed, dried and torn into pieces
4 TB avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1-2 TB tahini (or tahini sauce from Trader Joe's)
1-2 teas. tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
1-2 teas. balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of granulated garlic
dash of salt and pepper (optional; soy sauce is already salty)

Blend liquids in large mixing bowl. Add seasonings and stir well. Toss in kale leaves and stir until all leaves are evenly coated with mixture. Arrange the leaves on the dehydrator trays without overlapping. (I filled all 8 trays.) Set temperature for 135F and dry for 3 hours. Test to make sure all moisture has evaporated. Store chips in sealed container.