Is Milk Good Food?

Posted: 648 days ago in Wellness

milkgoodfoodLet’s just get back to the basics. We’re mammals.

We may be more highly evolved mammals than most, but nevertheless, we’re mammals. All mammals nurse, which puts us in the same category as dogs, cats, horses – you get my point.

Now here’s the thing; no other mammals nurse past toddler-hood, nor do they drink the milk of other mammal species (unless in extreme circumstances when a baby is left motherless). Don’t get me wrong, breast milk is clearly nature’s first good food but nowhere else in nature do these behaviors occur, except with humans?

That alone should make you stop and go, ‘hmm’. Now, I’m not arguing that cow’s milk is a decent source of protein and other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D – FOR COWS, but it’s not all that the American Dairy Association would have us think it’s cracked up to be, for us humans. Yes, calcium and vitamin D are necessary for healthy teeth and bones – but there are many other more appropriate sources of those nutrients. Cue list:

calcium fortified foods

Many of us lose the ability to digest milk after infancy. This is because the lactase enzymes that help us to break down lactose (a.k.a. milk sugar) tend to decrease as we age. So if you’ve ever gotten that bloated feeling after having indulged in dairy, chances are, you’re one of those people. Then there is the issue of milk allergies. Some of us are definitely allergic to milk but I believe that many more of us have sensitivities to milk.

The best way to determine if you have an issue with milk or dairy products is through an elimination diet. To do this means to eliminate all dairy products from your diet for a few weeks, noting any changes in your health, and changes in how you feel. Afterwards, challenge your system by reintroducing dairy and see what happens. If you don’t have a sensitivity or allergy, and you enjoy dairy products, then by all means, feel free to indulge. You’re on what I call “the winning team.” However, if you suspect or find that milk is an issue for you, then it would behoove you to eliminate dairy products from your diet. — “Did she just suggest what I think she suggested?” Yes. Yes, I did.

For those who want to forgo dairy products, there are some alternatives for your coffee/cereal, and whatever else you would typically put milk in.

  • My favorite is unsweetened almond milk. It has a nice, rich consistency and makes a great coffee creamer or cereal base.
  • A lot of other people prefer soy or rice milk, but because of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) – I would stick to organic on those.
  • Coconut milk is also a good alternative.

Now, I can’t write an article about milk and not mention the raw milk craze, so here is what I have to say about that: I think raw milk is probably more digestible than pasteurized milk because it has more enzymes to aid in digestion. On the other hand, it’s not widely available, and sometimes it’s just flat out illegal. So, if you have access to raw milk and feel comfortable, it might be a good option for you as well.

So there you have it. Remember the list above for food-based calcium sources. If your ultimate concern and reason for drinking milk is to derive the calcium for bone health, then I have a couple more recommendations for you. One is to do more weight-bearing exercises which can have a huge positive affect on bone density. My second recommendation is to avoid carbonated beverages (that aren’t fortified), which can negatively affect bone mineral density. In my opinion, you’d be much better served doing weight-bearing exercises and avoiding carbonated beverages than drinking milk. If you’re drinking milk for its vitamin D content, then I have good news for you. Supplementation for vitamin D is affordable and easy! Hello, sun exposure! Just 15-minutes a day without sunscreen and you can consider yourself supplemented during the summer months. Supplementation is necessary in the colder months, but again, cheap and easy.

“Pre-You, Post-Baby”

Posted: 1032 days ago in Parenting Pregnancy

preyoupostbaby

All women gain weight during pregnancy; it’s a fact of life.

Whether it’s 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 100 lbs heavier than before you were pregnant; now is the time for acceptance and understanding. You’ve just delivered a baby into this world!

If you’re lucky, you might lose all of that ‘extra stuff’ immediately, or as a cruel joke, you may leave the hospital weighing as much as you did when you came in.

This post is meant for those women who want to get back to their pre-baby body and I’m here to tell you… let your body be your guide and balance be your goal.

I always suggest that women attempt to go back to pre-baby weight, if it was healthy weight for you to begin with. I’m not talking about how much you weighed after starving yourself for your wedding. I’m saying, look back over the years when you weren’t fanatically dieting and/or gorging yourself; what did you look and feel like? The emphasis here is on finding your natural balance.

For those of you who look at my pictures, and go, “oh yeah, whatever,” I want you to know that I’ve been everything from a size 2 to a size 16 as an adult. I have lived all the issues that surround food, weight, and body image, and it has taken me 45 years to find my balance point. I hope you get the lesson sooner.


First of all, let’s talk about what “baby weight” actually consists of:

  • the baby – average of 7.5 lbs.
  • placenta – around 1.5 lbs.
  • amniotic fluid – around 2 lbs.
  • uterine enlargement – around 2 lbs.
  • increased breast tissue – around 2 lbs.
  • increased blood volume – around 4 lbs.
  • fluid retention – around 4 lbs.
(source: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting“)

Add all of that up and you’re looking at 20+ lbs. of “baby weight”, which means a lot of what you’re looking at isn’t even fat. So be kind to yourself.

My philosophy is nine months on, nine months off.

I don’t think there should be any significant attempts to truly lose weight until after the “4th trimester” (I know, I know. There are only three trimesters of pregnancy, but I like to count the 3-4 months after baby comes as the fourth). Without this buffer zone of continued self-care, mama’s well-being can fall by the wayside, with all attention focused on baby only. During those very early months, your body will naturally find it’s new balance point as you shed all the extra fluids your body has held onto. Not to mention, nursing will burn many of those additional pounds away as you settle into a new routine, feeding yourself and your baby.

After the 4th trimester, reassess.

If you’ve made reasonable choices regarding food during pregnancy and in the 4th trimester, you will likely find that you’re pretty close to where you started, pre-baby. At this point, I recommend stepping up your exercise, making more significantly wise food choices, and setting a goal for weight loss (or gain, for those lucky few of you who are too skinny to begin. I say “lucky” because I know it’s just as much of a problem for those of you who are too thin, but it’s just more socially acceptable to be thin).

Ultimately, the one-year mark is pivotal. If you don’t lose your extra baby weight by the first year, or before you get pregnant again, those extra lbs. tend to become permanent and/or extremely hard to lose.

Full Disclosure: Even if and when you get back to pre-baby weight, your body will likely be very different. I got back to my pre-baby size, but none of my pants fit! Your hips may be wider or narrower, your butt flatter or rounder. You get the point? Your body will be different. Your life will be different.

Embrace the change!

Gluten Free Me (Part II)

Posted: 1041 days ago in Health Lifestyle

gluten-free-me-p2Gluten is not my friend. 

I am grateful that I don’t have Celiac disease, but I do have a wicked intolerance for the stuff. What does that look like? Well to start, if you haven’t already read Part 1 of ‘Gluten Free Me’, please do.

When I eat gluten, I feel like I have a big ball of dough in my belly – which, I guess is true. I feel poofy and gassy, topped off with a dose of sluggishness and dopiness.

Snow White’s dwarves have nothing on me! 

Worse, since gluten is found in so many products, I end up feeling like that most of the time, and not just after eating pizza or Italian bread. A lot of people complain of feeling like I do after eating gluten, so I thought I was, ya know, ‘normal’. Then a nutritionist friend suggested I do a gluten elimination diet, and so I rose to the challenge.

Holy gluten free transformation, Batgirl! I felt like a new woman!

I committed to eliminating all sources of gluten for one full month. In addition to the obvious sources such as breads, crackers, cereals, cookies and pasta made with wheat, barley or rye — I was careful to avoid the hidden sources as well. Can you believe that there can be gluten in:

  • Deli meats
  • Sausage
  • Dressings and sauces
  • Beer. Sigh, beer
  • Flavored coffee and tea

It was tough for the first few days, but I started feeling great fairly quickly, which motivated me to keep it up. I had much more energy, less brain fog, more regular bathroom habits and a tummy that was no longer feeling like the Michelin man’s twin sister.

The kicker at the end of an elimination diet is to do a ‘challenge’ – eat some gluten and see how you feel. Well, it was like someone stuck an air hose in me with sleepy gas. The bloat and fatigue came back with a vengeance.

My take on eating gluten-free is fairly simple. Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, I make a list of what I can eat, and find, easily.


Here’s what I had to eat for the last 2 days of living gluten free:

Day 1:

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt, blueberries, gluten-free (GF)d granola.
  • Cashews and an apple
  • Kale salad with chicken, oil and vinegar
  • Clementines
  • Peanut butter and a banana
  • Grilled fish and asparagus
  • Ice cream…oh yes you can, but only the good stuff!

Day 2:

  • Omelet with spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Salad with walnuts and feta
  • GF protein bar
  • Clementines
  • GF sausage with cauliflower and potatoes
  • More ice cream

For a more comprehensive list of foods containing gluten, check out this article by WebMD.

I do try to make the best of available food choices always, but I also try to balance that with living a full life – and for me that sometimes includes an amazing loaf of Italian bread slathered in butter, a big slice of pizza from a New York City street corner, or ice cream two nights in a row (it’s summertime people!).

Life is so damn short, and I want to eat it all up, literally!

To keep that balance in check, I try to go gluten-free for a month a couple of times a year, and that really works for me. But remember, if you have Celiac disease, you MUST avoid gluten at all times.  

Best of luck, let me know how it goes!

Gluten Free Me (Part I)

Posted: 1042 days ago in Health Lifestyle

gluten-free-me-p1What’s all the to-do about gluten free, anyway?

Gluten is a protein that is found primarily in wheat products, though it sneaks in to some other grains like barley and rye, and products like soy-sauce.

Soy sauce? Yup.  

A small segment of the population has an autoimmune disorder called Celiac disease. Celiacs suffer damage to the lining of the small intestine with the ingestion of gluten. Think of gluten as ‘glue’, which is how it acts on the hair-like cilia of the intestine, interfering with the absorption of food.

Though only 1 in 100 people have Celiac disease, it is theorized that many more of us have a gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

What are some indications of gluten sensitivity, you say?

  • Chronic digestive issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Musculoskeletal pain liken to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Laboratory tests can rule out Celiac disease, but the only way to determine if you have a gluten sensitivity is via an elimination diet. I did one for grins and giggles many years ago, and was happily shocked by how much better I felt without gluten in my life – and I felt pretty damn good with gluten in my life, so that’s saying something!

Since life is short and pizza is so, so good, I don’t practice living gluten free all the time. There is a price to pay for indulging though, so I try to do a gluten-free month once or twice a year. Mainly to give my body a break, but also to hit the ‘reset’ button on my diet so I’m less inclined to eat the stuff.

So, alas it’s time for another little gluten free cleanse in my life.

Interested in doing a gluten elimination diet yourself? I’ll talk more about that later this week, and give you an idea of what I’ve been eating in lieu of bagels, pasta and bread.

Currently eating gluten-free? Let me know what your go-to meals and snacks are!

xo.

The Dirty Dozen

Posted: 1067 days ago in Wellness

dirtydozendivider2Every time I’m in the grocery store, my hand wavers between the organic strawberries and conventionally grown (a.k.a. full of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers = poison).

I know we’ve all been reminded a million+one times that organic is better, but all this talk about organic can stress a frugal girl out! I’ll try to make it easy for you. If your budget only allows for certain things, try to buy these “dirty dozen” foods organically, and then do the best that you can with the rest. These “dirty dozen” produce items are found to have the highest levels of harmful chemicals and should be avoided if not purchased organically.

These “dirty dozen” produce items are found to have the highest levels of harmful chemicals and should be avoided if not purchased organically.First and foremost – in my house, the happy medium for produce not purchased organically, is what I grow in my garden. Growing your own produce is by far the cheapest source of organic dirty dozen foods. If you’re in an apartment or don’t have land, there’s always container-gardening. You typically won’t have as big of a garden as if you planted one in your back yard, but it will do the trick. My advice is to choose a few things you will eat a lot of, i.e. tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers – and focus on those. This will help keep your back deck from turning into an Amazonia.

Second, there are co-ops where you can “rent” land for a small fee to plant your own garden. These can be difficult to locate, so search online and ask around in your local community.

Third, you can stake out local farmers markets. These usually happen once or twice a week, so stock up on your favorites, clean, and freeze if need be.

Fourth, there is something called Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). With a CSA, individuals can invest upfront in local farms and farmers, and in return, they get a box of fruits/veggies every week. It’s a great way to try produce that you wouldn’t normally try because it shows up on your doorstep (and most of the time, it comes with recipes!). Depending on the CSA you join, there are ¼ share, ½ share, or whole share options (each varying by investment cost).

Lastly, but certainly not least, there are good frozen options out there. Certain brands are better than others, but typically, the produce is ‘fresh frozen’. This option is great in the non-growing season so you don’t have to go without your favorite foods if you don’t want to. Plus, frozen organic is really reasonably priced.

Good luck to you all in your journey to stay ‘clean’!

Old MacDonald Has a Farm

Posted: 1069 days ago in Lifestyle Wellness

old-macdonald-has-a-farmdivider2E-I-E-I-Yum!

One of the things I love best about summer are all of the farm stands and markets that abound. As people say, ‘farmers markets are a bunch of healthy people buying healthy food from happy farmers who care for the earth.’

It’s just a big farm-love-fest, right?

Even though most every veggie or fruit is available year-round, there is nothing quite like eating locally grown produce that’s in-season, and supporting the local farms that make this possible. That tomato that is imported from Chile in the winter? It might work in a recipe, but it truly pales in comparison to a locally vine-ripened, deep red piece of fruit.

And yeah, I said fruit.

There are several ways to distinguish fruits from veggies, but my favorite is that veggies can be eaten no matter how small they are, and fruits need to ripen. But getting back to the produce… a fruit that has to be transported across the country (or even the world!) often has to be picked while still unripe. The produce doesn’t get to benefit from those last few days or weeks of nutrients that are delivered when it gets to ripen on the vine.

That’s where Ol’ Mr. MacDonald (the farm owner) comes in.

piggyA surefire way to get your kids (or husband!) excited about vegetables is to bring them to the Farmer’s market. Somehow meeting the farmer, getting to know him/her, and seeing the piles of veggies in all their colorful glory makes them much more appetizing than if they just show up on their dinner plates. If you’re not sure where your closest farmer’s market is, or what hours it’s open, check out localharvest.org. I’ll typically ask the farmer how to prepare what they are selling. Their recommendations are often simple, yet the most delicious – no recipe required! But if you are interested in some great market fresh recipes – see this list on eatingwell.com where everything looks divine.

Happy summer cooking and eating, my friends.

It’s a Donut Kind of Day

Posted: 1150 days ago in Everything Else

donut-kind-day
As I write this, I’m week into a vacation, and the breakfast buffet has kept me fueled with delicious, healthy foods: veggie omelets, Greek yogurt, and fruits galore; none of which I had to shop for or prepare myself, which is a real treat for this ‘grocery-getting’ mom!

But Oh, sweet Mama. After a late night out with tequila-fueled dancing, it’s quite clear my friends, that it’s a donut kind of day. In particular, a freshly-fried, chocolate-topped donut kind of day.

Or two. It’s exactly what this girl needed – and desperately wanted!

My 80-20 rule has blissfully morphed into 90-10 on this trip, thanks to the plethora of fresh fish, fruits and veggies available around the clock. When you find that you’ve been super, uber good – well then the doctor orders you to GO – FOR – IT. And trust me, debauchery never tasted so good!

Have you ever heard the saying, “the sweet ain’t as sweet without the bitter.” Well, how do you enjoy the healthy without an occasional splurge in the eating department?! What are you working toward if you don’t let yourself have your most deepest desires, every once in a while?donut

Life is short. Go for it. I did, and I loved every bite!

Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

Posted: 1153 days ago in Wellness

eating-fat

Did you know that?  

I bet you didn’t, because every time I go to the grocery store, I see your carts just filled with “low fat” garbage. Yup – I am calling you out!

And I called it ‘garbage’ because it is garbage. Just do a side-by-side comparison on the ingredients in a traditional food item with its “low or no fat” counterpart.   You’ll find that it often has twice as much sugar, salt and fillers. If they take the fat out, they’ve got to put a bunch of other stuff in to keep it edible.  The additional sugar has led to a whole host of other problems, which is a topic for another day.

Don’t buy it. Ever.

Do you want to know what makes you fat? Consuming more calories than you burn. Ostensibly, if you ate 2000 calories of kale every day (which would be really hard to do, BTW!), but only burned 1500 calorie a day, you would still get fat. So in terms of weight, then, it doesn’t really matter what you eat, but how much you eat.

BUT LET ME BE CLEAR: In terms of being HEALTHY – what you eat matters the MOST.

But back to the point at hand – if you burn more than you eat, you lose weight.   If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight. Period.


My best recommendations:

  1. Eat real food – preferably those that don’t have a label (i.e. veggies, nuts, fruits, proteins).
  2. If you must buy packaged foods, they should have 5 ingredients or less, all of which you can actually comprehend.
  3. Eat slowly, and only when you are truly hungry (not bored, or stressed, or tired).
  4. Never eat in front of the TV. One study reported that people ate up to EIGHT times more when watching television. Ouch!

You’ll find that if you eat the way we’re all supposed to – which is eating to live, and not living to eat – your body will likely self-regulate to the weight you are supposed to be. And for Pete’s sake, if you are going to occasionally indulge in ice cream or something equally delicious, please go for the full-fat, real-ingredient version!

And don’t forget to enjoy it, either.

Pomegranates

Posted: 1164 days ago in Wellness

I love pomegranates.

The moment these antioxidant-packed fruits hit my grocery store produce aisle, I’ve already stocked up on them. I’ve found that a lot of people find this fruit intimidating, as they don’t know how to choose the right pomegranate, let alone how to eat them. The video above details all you need to know about these beautifully red fruits, so you need not be intimidated ever again.

According to Pomegranate.org (yes, the fruit has its own dot org), “The name “pomegranate” derives from the Middle French “pomme garnete” – literally “seeded apple.” It is also sometimes referred to as a Chinese apple. Many scholars believe that the forbidden – yet irresistible – fruit in which Eve indulged within the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate (and not an apple).” They go on to say, “Pomegranates are a new superfood:  They are high in vitamin C and potassium, a great source of fiber, and low in calories. Not only delicious, pomegranates are one of the healthiest foods you can eat!”

And you thought you were just picking out a fruit. Perhaps we should re-word the whole, ‘apple-a-day’ saying to ‘pomegrante-a-day’. Just a thought. As for the pomegranate-loving rest of you….

A few Pomegranate facts for your afternoon pleasure.


Did you know…

  1. Each pomegrante contains hundreds of edible seeds – that makes for one hefty snack.
  2. Pomegranates will stay fresh in your fridge for up to two months. Holy cannoli.
  3. A 1/2-cup serving contains 205 milligrams of potassium – which makes Pomegranates a great snack for kids.
  4. In the Hindu religion, pomegranates symbolizes prosperity and fertility. Ooo la la..
  5. The original name for the red-skinned fruit was the “apple of Grenada.
  6. For my weight-watching readers – an entire pomegranate has about 100 calories. TOTAL!
  7. 7 tablespoons of pomegranate juice contains 2x as many antioxidants as blackberries, 3x as many as blueberries, and 4x as many as oranges.

Bon Appetit, mes amis!

Disco Is Dead, Why Not Crisco?

Posted: 1182 days ago in Everything Else

crisco

I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would use Crisco.

What is Crisco, you say?

Crisco is oil (aka vegetable shortening) that undergoes a process in order to become solid at room temperature. It’s a process that was initially attempted to make soap, but in 1911, someone decided to give it a try on Crisco. Who was the genius that decided to make the leap from soap to food, I wonder? Anyhow, this process (called hydrogenation) creates random fatty acids, some of which are not found in nature.

Not to mention, it tastes like crap.

We bake a LOT of cookies in our house. Like 150 dozen every holiday season for my husband’s clients. We go through many, many pounds of butter, and it’s not unusual for one of our little helpers to lick a little butter off of their fingers. Delicious, right? Have you EVER had the desire, or the poor judgement, to taste Crisco by itself? Blech!

Why would you put that crap in ANYTHING for human consumption? Oh… because it increases the shelf life of whatever you put it in? And it’s cheaper? Great reasons to put something created in a chemical lab in your body. Not.

You know what else Crisco is good for? It’s great for removing those tough to get out tar stains, it can shine your shoes, and it will last as a candle for 45 days straight when lit with a wick. Does anything I just mentioned make you want to put Crisco in your body? I sure hope not! For those of you who use Crisco to fry, you can use plain old oil instead. But what are you really frying these days??? That is a subject for another day!boogieshoes

As for baking, get with the program people, butter is better!

Ya dig it?