Archive for June, 2011

Getting REAL on Weight Gain

June 29th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

A pound of weight gained here and a pound of weight gained there – one innocent pound a year is barely noticeable right?? Well, after 20 years it adds up to a few extra clothes sizes, an additional chin, a gradual protrusion to a 6-month-pregnant-looking ponzone over your waistband, and more. Oh for the grace of the gradual gain, hmmmmmm.

When this slow slide down the slippery slope begins it’s easy to come up with a multitude of excuses:

  • “Oh, I’m not working out as much now that I’m working full time.”
  • “Gee, I better change the cleaners I’m bring my clothes to, they’re shrinking my stuff.”
  • “Hmmmm, I think the cut of these trousers have changed. Now I need a bigger size AND cut.”
  • “I better hold my chin up when I look in the mirror so I won’t be able to see that double chin…. a true sign of aging.”

YA right!! Who are you kidding?? Only you, that’s who.

Enough is Enough!! Well folks, our wake up call is sounding and it’s time we stopped kidding ourselves – pronto already. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published key findings on a 20 year long study conducted by Harvard experts. They tracked over 120,000 men and women who were healthy and not obese at the beginning of the study. And somehow they found out what we seemingly already know, so listen up!!

A Gain is a Gain is a Gain Firstly, on average, the participants gained almost 17 pounds over this 20 year duration – that sneaky, unobtrusive 1 pound weight gain per year. Stack up 20 pounds of butter on your kitchen table Bucko for the visual to get real. Do I need to say it a-gain??

Gaining Foodie Fundamentals Here’s the kicker – they found the people most likely to gain weight regularly ate potatoes (in all forms: French fries, potato chips, even boiled, baked or mashed), processed meat, meat, sugary drinks (including 100% fruit juice), sweets (including desserts) and refined grains. How UNsurprising is that??!! NOT very, that’s how.

Get a Lifestyle Here’s more – other lifestyle factors that add to the gain include daily TV watching, daily alcohol consumption and not getting your 6-8 hours of sleep each day. Gee, I think this sounds familiar too….

Broken Record of Goodness They also found people who lost a smidgen of weight over time ate more fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and yoghurt. Even more UNsurprising, right??!! Is this nugget now ready to sink in??

Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Sometimes we need a boomerang in the head to knock us out of our foolish complacency and this study is it. We need to stop kidding ourselves, making excuses and hiding behind hidden truths, especially when the truth isn’t hidden anymore. I still believe anything in moderation is ok, I am living proof of that notion. I’ve written before about defining moderation and perhaps this study is the proverbial exclamation point on that – WE NEED TO DEFINE MODERATION.

Evaluate Your Plate Keep a food record or better yet a food-photo-diary for 4 to 7 days and review some of the details I mentioned above. Because if you see those food items that the study shows to contribute to weight gain in your record every single day then that isn’t moderation, is it?? Now it’s time to face the music and make a few sound goals. After all, reality is bliss.

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Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Francy Rants, Miss Behavin', Nutrition News, Successful Loser Logic, Who's Zoomin' Who?? | No Comments »

Nan’s Toasted Biscotti

June 28th, 2011 1 Comment Tags: , ,

My Mom makes the best biscotti, ever. They’re delish and soft and you won’t break a tooth biting into these puppies. I learned how to make these while living at the family homestead decades ago….which has since been sold out from under our feet!! They are not; however, a low cal treat by any means, being high in fat and sugar and laden with white flour. YES they are certainly a treat!!

When my friend Joan comes over for our regular pow-wow she always looks forward to ending our meal with Nan’s toasted biscotti. Truthfully, I think that’s why she comes!! They are a perfect friendship-magnet.

6 eggs (broken into a bowl and scrambled)
2 cups sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted almonds (crushed or slivered or sliced)
3 Tbsp anisette flavouring (or the real stuff!!)
2 cups oil (canola)
8 cups of flour
6 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Add all raw ingredients into a bowl and combine thoroughly. Divide up your mixture into 4 or 6 parts and with your sanitized hands create long mounds (the length of your cookie sheet making them either 2 or 4 inches wide). Ensure there are no cracks in the dough. Put 2 to 3 mounds lengthwise on each cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

With a sharp knife and deliberate cutting action, cut the mounds into 3/4 to 1 inch wide biscotti and place each carefully on its side. Turn on your oven broiler and place each cookie sheet under watching them brown to your liking on one side. Remove from oven and turn each biscotti over then broil the other side. Repeat until all have been browned on both sides. Enjoy!!

This recipe makes a generously big batch of toasted biscotti. They keep well in a cookie tin lined with waxed paper for months in a cool place. They also freeze well. When I serve these, I always have some nice fruit in season on the side.

You may need to make these a few times to get a feel for the dough when you’re assembling the mounds before baking. If you don’t get it held together well enough they’ll crumble when you cut the mounds. Speaking of crumbling, if you try to cut the mounds when they’re still hot, they’ll crumble as well. So, be patient and wait it out.

Yes you will get a lot of crumbs on your cookie sheet. AND they do taste great. Keep in mind these are calorie- laden biscotti crumbs and nibbling while you’re baking still makes those calories count!!

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Posted in Food Revolution Recipes | 1 Comment »

Weeding Meeting

June 27th, 2011 No Comments Tags: ,

Ahhhh yes, as the temperatures rise while the blossoms and blooms multiply this summer so to does the bounty of Mother Nature’s wild west, the flourishing of the weeds. I try to face this task with an open mind, after all, look at all of those calories are waiting to be burned, different muscle groups to be stretched. The benefits abound, don’t you think? As I often say, “if you don’t use it you’ll use it” – even my own advice grates on me sometimes!!

I use the 80-20 rule and try to leave my “control freak” nature in other parts of my life because the only one who can control the weeds is Mother Nature herself!! It seems I’ve been pulling dandelions out for weeks now. As any good Italian, I could be using these chagodia in my salads and soups. But I am 3rd generation, so I’m “not that good” and I toss them into my recycle bag….good riddance!!

Facing the interlock with weeds seeping through like ghosts emerging from a graveyard is my next challenge. I’m tempted to call any good aesthetician to bring a vat of hot wax and do what she does best – pull baby, pull!! But I face these stones with some vim and vigour until my blood pressure bottoms out leaving me ready to want to fall down and go boom. Oh for the love of the weeding meeting!!

As I complete one part of the yard I decide to pack up and look for 30 minutes here and 50 minutes in the week ahead there to try to get the upper hand of this growing nuisance. Once inside again, I look out my kitchen window after hanging up my gardening gloves after another round of our tussle and notice a few new dandelions peek forth from the ground with a sniggering self righteous sunny glow. I want to shake my fist and shout “I’ll get you, you son of a …., I’ll get you yet at our next meeting.”

Ok, time to get a life and move on to more enjoyable ways to burn those cal’s – golf anyone??

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Food Court Capers – Main Course Mambo

June 26th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Studies are showing that from a food choice perspective, taste is still king yet convenience is queen. It’s one factor on food choice emerging as the time-starved family mealtime hero. Some people hit that snooze buzzer way too often leaving them no time to make a lunch finding many who used to brown-bag-it are now food-courting-it. Trust me on this folks if you’re a regular on this front awareness is certainly bliss, especially if your belt buckle running is out of holes. Take note!

You probably already know that many fast food joints create a fiasco with few food facts of their offerings for we health minded folks. It’s worth doing some food fact surfing and high number turfing. You can find the data on the internet before you go and decide which outlets you’ll be frequenting more often. The old adage “oh my, it’s a treat” doesn’t apply to the frequent flyer of the food court. You know who you are, oh ye court jester??

Ok first off you want to eat economically and still feel satisfied heading back to work in the afternoon. Think balance of the food groups. If you overdo it, you and Dilbert will be caught sleeping at your cubicle. And you won’t want to face the consequences of that scene.

Eyes on the Size
Let’s face it folks we’re not living in the real life “honey I shrunk the kids” with the size of the portions these days. Change your motto from “go big or go home” to “go small or prepare it from home”.

Breakfast Bonzo
First off, consider those breakfast offerings whether on a bagel, biscuit or english muffin plus egg, bacon, cheese a once in a while treat. They range in calories from ~300-500 per serving, but knock the ball out of the park in the fat and sodium departments. They range in fat from ~15gm-30 grams of fat/serving and sodium from ~730-1260mg/serving. No not a good way to start your day whether they have a catchy jingle or show skinny young working gals wearing pencil skirts eating them. Trust me, ask any of those skinny models and it ain’t that fare they’re starting out their day with folks. You already knew that though, right??

When Enough is Enough Already
Next, how many burgers with bacon can any 1 human being actually need at any one meal. The double patties with cheese generally pack on a 650 cal/serving punch with 35 grams of fat and ~1,000 grams of sodium. Err on the side of fewer folks, please, use your head and don’t eat anything the size of it…

NO YOU DON’T Want Fries With That
Repeat after me, when asked “do you want fries with that??” answer “no”, “nada”, “ni”, “niente”. I don’t care if they’re made with sweet potatoes or what. These are not an everyday food. If they become such you will not be seeing the likes of your feet when you stand and look down in the near future. Tried sharing lately?

All Chicken Choices are NOT Created Equal
Ok another one of my pet peeves is the marketing line “these nuggets or deep fried pieces of chicken stuck together contain WHITE meat” as if they have a halo. No, angels are NOT singing when you hear this. Think this through. Lodge this nutritional-chicken-mc-nugget in your memory bank and fast. A typical breaded chicken sandwich packs a 632 calorie punch with 39 grams of fat and 1240 grams of sodium. Give the grilled chicken a try at 335 calories with 12 grams of fat and 330 mgs of sodium.

The Sinking Sub
Now a line about the sinking sub sandwich. I don’t care how much money you’re saving on the 12″ sub you are losing on this special unless you’re splitting it, otherwise you’re going down with the ship on this one. The 6″ veggie sub wins on all fronts here folks at 216 calories/serving, 4 grams of fat and 529mg sodium. All the other 6″ offerings have 420-600 calories/serving 16-28 grams of fat and 722-1651mg sodium – OUCH!! Jarod from the commercial did NOT lose weight on the high fat subs, so don’t fool yourself into thinking they all have a halo here, because the DON’T.

Go East My Friend, Far East
Try some Chinese or Japanese stir fry more often. Many of these meal servings range from 200-300 calories/serving with 9-13 grams of fat and ask them to ease up on the soya sauce use during the prep. Keep in mind though the deep fried meal accompaniments like sweet and sour chicken balls – 3 have 200 calories with 10 grams of fat. I don’t know about you I have rarely found the chicken in these balls, have you?? Plus that redder than red “lipstick” sauce is so far from natural it isn’t even funny. It might be ooey-gooey-good, but it’s not funny. Your fortune cookie will give you a double noogie on this choice. Hmmmm I’m not sure why L’Oreal hasn’t come out with that lipstick colour “Bobo Ball Red” yet!!! Ahhhh I digress……

Mama Mia – Eyes on those Pies
As for pizza pies you are choosing from a 12″ or something much larger? My numbers here is for a sixth of a twelve inch. Keep in mind size matters and we’re erring on the side of smaller. Calories range from 200-250 fully loaded and range from 7-12 grams of fat plus 340-630 mg of sodium.

So there you have it folks, some facts about food from the Food Court to keep in mind before you blow the button of your trousers choosing the super high options. You need to keep your head about you before you go if indeed you did not do like a Girl Guide and “be prepared”. If the old adage “you are what you eat” is true, then what are you made of??

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Prom Queen Dreamin’

June 24th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , ,

This the season of the proms. That special time of life to celebrate the closing of one chapter and the opening of another. The flurry and excitement as the blessed day approaches is almost too much to take – the dress, the tux, the shoes, the accessories, the friends, the foes, the limo, the pre-party, the during party, the after party and the petty stuff in-between….. It has turned into a bit of a marathon run with a changing finish line, don’t you think??

My youngest niece has done her share of prom queen dreamin’ of late and that blessed day is now behind her. It got me thinking of the various ages and stages of life as my current “team sweater” heads into retirement and my next chapter awaits to unfold.

I remember my Dad’s blunt wisdom to me and my seestas when we wanted so badly to grow up lickity split. “Little people have little problems, big people have bigger problems, hmmmmm.” I remember looking on with my blank characteristic look, thinking “what on earth is he talking about??” until I grew up and understood it full well!!

Yes be careful what you wish for – the perfect partner, the perfect marriage, the perfect job, the perfect kids, the perfect holiday, the perfect home, the perfect retirement. I’m all for dreamin’ don’t get me wrong. But your dreams can set you adrift to the past or the future while your present passes you by. And as they say, the “present” is truly a gift.

I remember the day my niece was born, holding that bundle with amazement, like the miracle all new babies are when they arrive into the world. Our little Thumbelina. I feel like I blinked and now she’s going to college. What gives?? Just yesterday it was ice cream and now it’s the prom dream, where has the time gone??

Stay in the moment to enjoy the day, because many blinks later, eons pass without even realizing!!

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Food Revolution Arugula, Feta & Almond Salad

June 22nd, 2011 No Comments Tags: , ,

I served this fab salad to company some time ago. It is a perfect twist on my famous Green Salad posted June 22, 2010. It provides maximal enjoyment with minimal work. My kind of dinner accompaniment, that’s for sure!!

washed arugula
sliced spanish onion
cucumber, peeled and sliced
washed, cored and quartered strawberries
chopped dried cherries
slivered, toasted almonds (non-salt)
crumbled feta cheese
salt, pepper to taste
olive oil
balsamic oil

A few hours before serving prepare all of the ingredients except the last three in a large serving salad bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Before mealtime gingerly season with salt and pepper, then add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stir all ingredients well.

I find I get into a rut when it comes to green salad making and assemble the same kind night after night. It’s great to change it up. This goes well with pretty much any meal or to be served AS a meal. Enjoy!!

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Cracked UP! Benefits of Soy Nuts

June 20th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

I am continuing the “Cracked UP!” theme describing the benefits of various nuts. I’ve written on this theme May 21 and June 11, 2011. Today’s feature is on soy nuts. Nuts have been given a bad wrap in the past when many people became fat phobic. However, nuts in general are so naturally nutrient rich as an excellent source of protein, fat and fibre. It’s great to move your cheese and include new foods to branch out your diet.

If you’re trying to cut back on your meat consumption consider adding nuts to your diet to help fill that protein void. I often have plain toasted soy nuts available in my pantry that I add to salads. I also bring these along as my “travel companion” when I’m on the road if mealtimes flex outside of my hunger zone. They add interest, crunch, nutrition and flavour.

Soy inherently has phytochemicals referred to as isoflavones. Many studies have shown the benefits of these components in the prevention of heart disease and some cancers. So not only are they fab for you, they also taste great. A perfect combination!!

Like any food though watch your amounts. Just because some is good for you it doesn’t mean a truckload is better. Calories still count, even for healthy foods, right?? A quarter cup have 120 calories, 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fibre. I avoid any of the salted nuts because I cannot stop noshing on them. Train your eye by measuring these out because a slip of the wrist can add a lot more than planned which can tip the scale in no time.

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What’s the Buzz on Caffeine?

June 19th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There’s plenty to know about food and nutrition, don’t you think? There’re the macronutrients of protein, fat and carbohydrates. There’s the myriad of vitamins and minerals from A to Z with everything in between. Then there’s the other required stuff like water and fibre. Now there’re other elements that have snuck past the radar into our everyday diets. The spotlight here is on caffeine.

Years ago adults starting the day with a cuppa joe was an innocent way to jumpstart the day. Caffeine was also found in tea, colas and chocolate in amounts that nary raised an eyebrow. Fast forward to the present day. Who would have ever dreamt that this habit would have such a tidal wave into the social fabric of the many members of the family from teenage, upward? Good grief. Caffeine’s addictive jolt has made it into a variety of popular drinks, some marketed to kids. This has left some of the health watch-dogs the need to take a closer look at this issue.

The marketing line for caffeine-laden Red Bull is “it gives you wings”…. For starters, I’ll tell you what it gives you – it gives you insomnia, that’s what it gives you. I’m sure there are many sleepless nights spent in the bedrooms of our kids and adults from sea to sea who drink the likes of this, plus cups of coffee, bottles of cola and the like. I’m feeling palpitations just writing this piece.

Ok so here are some numbers of some drinks that typically contain caffeine:

colas 250 mL                                                26-35 mg/serving
chai latte 250 mL                                               13 mg/serving
Starbuck’s Iced Frap 250 mL                         60 mg/serving
Redbull 250 mL                                                 80 mg/serving
Starbuck’s Grande coffee 500 mL              330 mg/serving

I used to guzzle a few grandes back per day while paying no mind to it. Then I’d have a social cup in the afternoon as a treat. Sometimes when out for dinner, I would end the meal with a dopio espresso. As I’ve aged it’s gotten the better of me keeping me up at night and giving me heart palpitations until I realized I was overdoing it. That’s when I weaned myself down and now limit my consumption to the morning. I drink water from there.

I have a friend of mine who’s a pediatrician who tells me he is finding more and more kids coming into his office reporting sleep problems. When probed further he finds out they’re guzzling this stuff, keeping them from falling asleep. Sadly, some have resorted to talking meds to help them sleep. When I hear this I wish we can hit the proverbial “reset” button and stop the madness because this sort of cycle is really getting out of hand.

Now it’s important to point out that caffeine is NOT a required element in our diet whatsoever. It is highly addictive and can create palpitations or sleep disturbances for some, like it did for me. There is no recommended level of consumption set for caffeine for kids. It is an addictive substance that has become more prevalent in our food system. And yes, beverages are food….

It’s a good idea to take a closer look at how much of this stuff the whole family is consuming, then work on weaning it down for the adults and out for kids altogether. The amount is noted on product labels’ Nutrition Facts Panel and definitely worth taking a closer look at. Cutting this out cold turkey in 1 fell swoop can result in headaches, sweats and more, so weaning down and out is the wiser way to go.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of bevy’s that come in a caffeine free variety. These may help during the transition downward. This is one addictive element that can certainly sneak into your daily repertoire and when taken at higher levels can create problems you might not have realized. Now you know!! If you’re looking for a buzz, rewind the US Open golf and watch Rory McIroy win. Now that’ll give you a buzz!!

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Dad Dad Daddy Ohhhh!

June 16th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ahhh yes this day is approaching, the day we pay homage to our Dads – Father’s Day. Yes those foot soldiers, our providers, those silent partners – mostly due to the fact they can’t get a word in edge-wise deserve being put on a pedestal and spoiling. I have divulged that I have 3 sisters and my mom stacking the teams of 5 gals to 1 guy, the poor sucker. He can’t win for losin’….

When I think of my Dad and how lucky I am because of him, my heart just melts. Little did I know that the big, burly guy, with the deep voice, and the stern disposition was really a puff ball, pussy cat inside. Hmmm, something I learned after growing up. I could have really taken advantage if I found out this gold nugget when I was younger, that’s for sure!!

But when I read the research about the importance of parents’ roles and acting as role models to kids I realize his pivotal place in my healthfulness. My Dad played a pivotal role in being there often, especially at mealtimes, breakfast and dinner. When I reflect on this important aspect of my life, this was definitely a constant when I grew up.

I also remembered how important it was to be active in something, anything. And my Dad practiced what he preached. Even though he had a busy job with ebbs and flows he always kept active whether he jogged, played squash or tennis. One of my seestas and I wanted to take up jogging. I remember his sage advise to support our quest. I also remember that he took us to the store to get proper shoes. Ha, what a funny memory. Back in 1970′s there were 2 brands to choose from – Adidas or Reebok. Hmmmm decisions decisions. Nike, what was Nike?? Ahhhh I digress.

Yes Dads have a more important role than most Mom’s will make on, especially when the teams of gals and guys might be lopsided, like in my bella familia. But don’t ever underestimate the influence you have on your families and your kids, not for one minute. Dads are the foundation of the family, our bedrock, our gut-check, our shoulder to stand to be perched on during the parade or during a crisis. His hearing might be conveniently going, but his love, consistency, resolve and support never ever does. Always, solid as a rock.

Thanks Dad for everything. Half of my genes are from you. I can hear your voice when I get short on the phone when I’m at work. I dig for your resolve when I’m in a bind in life. I never give up and always land on my feet, no matter what. I make sure I make decisions in life with fairness and integrity with a kind and open heart. You have given so much to our bella familia and I hope in my life I can wave the family flag proudly as I carry the baton in my race of life. I love you Dad.

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Spectator Sport Nudging Inertia

June 14th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Have you been caught up in Canucks & Bruins hockey?? All of these play-off games of this winter sport in June makes me just want it to end already, don’t you think? I don’t mean to sound like a kill-joy, but I packed away my winter garb ages ago. Haven’t you?? And the closest I come to ice these days it putting a cube in my drink. Popsicle anyone??

There are so many spectator sports on the boob-tube for the couch-potato athletes on this planet it’s staggering – hockey, basketball, golf, tennis, soccer, cricket, football and more. Isn’t that Nadal a dream whether he loses or wins?? Ok, I’m guilty as charged 40-love.

When I think of all of the reality trash on the tube it’s come down to sports or news, really. And quite frankly the news has turned into drama, so sports squeaks out that decision. Who needs more drama in your life, if indeed you have one??!!

I just came home from taking a long stroll. One where I passed walkers, joggers, runners, bike-riders, roller-bladers, dog walkers, skate-boarders, even saunterers mushing along. My solemn thinking-time during my stroll allowed me to reconsider this hockey-thing or any sports watching for that matter. That if you even got a little spark of inspiration to get off the duff – to swing a club, take a stroll, swing a racket, ride a bike then whether the Canucks win or lose that spark of inspiration has resulted in a victory. Bravo!!

Go Canucks Go!!

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