Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sugar. Oh, Honey, Honey.

I'm really excited about this one. I apologize in advance for the length, but I REALLY think it's worth it. And I hope you agree.

In recent years, as I've grown more conscious about my eating habits, I've begun to consider myself lucky that I don't have a natural sweet tooth. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional doughnut, or lemon-crumble made by my best friend. But, overall, I much prefer savory / salty over sugary (we'll save salt for another day). 

So why do I consider myself lucky for my natural aversion to chocolate and other sweet delectable's? Well, because sugar is pure, white, evil. You're thinking, 'okay, Kerry is being dramatic". Seriously though. There is zero (ZERO!) nutritional value in sugar. It makes your skin break out, it makes you fat, and it leads to disease. Oh, and it's in EVERYTHING. So it's really hard to avoid.

Sugar comes in many forms, some of which are played to be the "healthier option" than others. People. No sugar is "healthy". Less processed? Yes. But none of it's healthy. Molasses, maple syrup, honey, raw "turbinado", white granulated, powdered, brown... not to mention those artificial sweeteners (which we'll get to). All are sugar. Here's the low-down on different types of sugar.
Fructose is fruit sugar. In its natural form - in the fruit - it is also accompanied by fiber, which keeps the sugar from over powering your system, as it slows down your digestion. This is why sugar we get in fruit is okay.

Glucose is the most abundant sugar found in foods. It's a source of fuel humans (and all other organisms) use. When we use complex carbohydrates, your body turns (whole foods) into the glucose that you need to live.

Sucrose is that fine, white sugar that we're most familiar with. All those other forms of sugar listed above - are sucrose. Sucrose is a combination of fructose and glucose. It's added calories, and when you ingest it, the sugars bypass the sensors that tell you that you are full. Hence, overeating / being hungry immediately after you eat sugar.

Now that you have some insight, here's why you should avoid it (except fruit, fruit is okay). 

Insulin resistance. Have you heard of it? Well, here's the 411 on this really scary condition. Insulin helps deliver glucose to your cells. As sugar enters your bloodstream from your food, your pancreas secretes insulin, which regulates your blood sugar by transporting the glucose. The more sugar you eat, the more your pancreas works. The harder your pancreas works, the more elevated your level of insulin gets over time, leading to insulin resistance. This means your cells are less responsive to the presence of insulin, and so goes the cycle. This is a precursor to diabetes (below) and heart disease. (source: The Body Book and Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution)

Diabetes. The insanity of this disease, is that SO OFTEN it's avoidable. Not in all cases, but it can be. Type 1 Diabetes is when the body fails to produce enough insulin, and the cause is typically unknown. Type 2 Diabetes begins with insulin resistance. As Type 2 progresses, a lack of insulin production may occur. The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise. Diabetes can lead to blood vessel damage, an increased risk in cardiovascular disease, and diabetic foot-ulcers, resulting in amputation (source: wikipedia). 

As previously mentioned, it has no nutritional value. It serves no purpose (other than when in fruit, as mentioned above). Americans eat more sugar now than ever before. It's in soda, bread, even yogurt - which we see as healthy - is loaded with sugar (especially the FAT FREE crap). 

And, artificial sweeteners are even worse, because they're just that - artificial. They contain aspartame (which we've talked about before) and are just plain processed crap. So, please don't substitute with those, either!

The moral of this story? Just like all others, be more thoughtful and aware of what you put in  your body. Don't be afraid of fruit. Read labels. Be informed. Stay away from milk chocolate and white chocolate (the latter of which isn't even chocolate). Dark chocolate is better, especially with the higher percentage of cacao. I want you all to live a long time!!!!

The Body Book and Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution are two great resources that go in to depth about a lot of things, including our bodies relationship with sugar. I recommend both of these reads, as well as a host of others (for another day). Interested in your thoughts on this topic!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hell No, GMO

I read a many articles this week that stuck with me, but this post includes two that I think are very closely tied to GMO's and other things in food that we don't always know how to look for. I have an incredibly strong opinion on Genetically Modified Organism's (GMO's). And here are a couple reasons why why.

We do not know the long-term effects of GMO's. Plain and simple. We don't know the effect those soy beans from Monsanto that are loaded with ROUND-UP (yes, the weed killer which is highly poisonous) will have on us or future generations, but it probably isn't good.

There is a legislative fight in many states to make sure foods with GMO's can't be labeled that way. Why? Well, profit, duh. But it's still a red flag in my book.

Now, yes, advances have come with science that have helped many countries. For example, flood-resistant rice has helped rice-producing countries from losing an entire crop in one bad typhoon. But, there are so many unnecessary things that are done, and we as consumers should be allowed to know what's in our food.

Here are the articles. First, NPR's The Salt wrote about how Ben & Jerry's is one company to begin ridding their products of GMO's, despite the fight to be able to in their home state of Vermont.

While this second article - Prevention's guest columnist Robyn O'Brien - doesn't specifically mention GMO's, this excerpt stuck out to me: "learning that our food contains ingredients for which no long term human health studies have been conducted can cause heartache....  ...To then learn that other countries have not allowed these new ingredients, introduced into our food supply in the last ten to twenty years, because of this lack of evidence of safety can then trigger more than just an adjustment in what you put into your shopping cart, it can change how you view our system."

So, check your PLU codes at the grocery store. See the cheat sheet below, and inform yourself.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Meatless Monday Inspiration

I found this article disturbing enough to warrant its own "emergency" blog post. And, it happens to be (meatless) Monday, so this is kind of perfect.

If you don't know by now, some major meat suppliers are shipping chicken et al to China for processing, and then back to the U.S. for distribution. Well, this article shows just how disturbing that process is - with China's lax food safety regulations, etc.

Workers at Husi Food factory in Shanghai before authorities suspended the plant.

I think the last paragraph is the best takeaway - it calls out the major food corporations who have plants over in China. Keep in mind - just a few suppliers of beef and chicken own majority of the market. Which means, unless you're eating LOCAL, ORGANIC meat, that can be traced to its roots... well. You know.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Just don't.

You can probably tell by now that I love my lists or slideshows - easy things to read and digest (no pun intended) - without dedicating a lot of time to get to the meat (pun intended) of the article. In a recently read "14 foods nutritionists ever eat", it is stated: "Many nutritionists will tell you that they're big advocates of the 'all foods fit' approach to healthy eating--the idea that even things like cookies, cakes, and candies have a place (albeit in moderation) in an overall healthy diet". 

My mother has ALWAYS preached "moderation", which I think is a generally good rule to follow. What's interesting about the rest of the article, is that there are still foods (14 to be exact) that these folks DO NOT eat.

Here are those foods listed - with my commentary. Click on the link above for their more... scientific commentary.

1. Processed and/or canned meat and cheese

2. Non-dairy creamer: Can I get a "hell yeah"? This is crap.
3. GMO's: Can I get a "no duh"?
4. Pepperoni
5. Diet Soda: Again, duh! Aspartame, people!
6. Maraschino cherries
7 & 8. Cold cereal & fat-free dairy: Yes, loaded with sugar & good fats are stripped. Raisin Bran has almost as much sugar as Lucky Charms!
9. Soda
10. Fluorescent orange crunchy snacks
11. Artificial sweeteners: ASPARTAME KILLS BRAIN CELLS

12. Bacon: I found this sort of surprising. We all know it's bad for you, but it's something everyone likes, right?
13. Hot dogs
14. Sugary beverages: My only disagreement here is that they mention "coffee", but don't differentiate between just plain old black coffee - my choice - or a sugar-laden, non-dairy coffee creamer shit-in-a-cup. Those are very different. 
Just go for a nice cup of black coffee, rather than the high sugar, high calorie stuff.
You get the benefits of the caffeine, without the side effects of high sugar intake (aka, the crash).

In fact, years ago I gradually worked my way towards black coffee. It's something you may have to work towards. If you use cream and sugar, slowly wean yourself to less and less. Try a flavored coffee like hazelnut or snickerdoodle. Then start mixing these flavored kinds with a light roast. Then eventually just go to a light roast... you get it. I brewed at home to make sure I could play with my amounts, before even flavored coffee was too sweet for me, and now I'm a full-time dark roast, black coffee lover. Stauf's or Grandview Grind are two great places to get beans, and they can help you figure out what mixtures work best.

Basically? All the food-like substances they listed here are highly processed, nutritionally devoid, and loaded with chemicals. Even, when eaten in moderation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sloppy Joe, Slop-Sloppy (tofu) Joe

Like most things on this blog, I can't take full credit for what I'm sharing. I can only take credit for liking the idea so much, I want to share it. That, and putting my own spin on it. 

The "it" in this post, is a fantastic Tofu Sloppy Joe. The idea is not new, and the recipe I have for you is a spin on what my beautiful friend and fellow veg Rachel made for me a few months ago. I've since made my own version more than a handful of times. So, here is my Meatless Monday gift to you - tofu even your meat-loving boyfriend (or whomever) - will like (Adam's first reaction to this was, "damn, this is really good!". While you can use any Sloppy Joe recipe, here's my favorite. 

Warning: I don't use exact measurements. The beauty of tofu is that it absorbs flavors, etc. so you start with whatever you think is reasonable, and adjust based on coverage. Picture below has my favorite brands.

  • extra firm Tofu (I highly recommend Twin Oaks, from Whole Foods)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 14-20 oz. jar Diced Tomatoes
  • ketchup
  • onion, chopped
  • pepper, chopped (optional)
  • garlic, minced (2-3 cloves)
  • other spices: cumin, chili powder, salt, cayenne pepper, etc.
  • olive oil


  • Start by heating your olive oil at the bottom of a large skillet on medium heat. Just use enough to lightly cover your garlic, onions, and pepper.
  • Saute your onions, pepper, and garlic until somewhat soft. Add the desired amount of Worcestershire sauce. I usually add about 3/4 C (keep out, because you may add more later).
  • Soon after, add ketchup - approximately 1/4 C, then all of your diced tomatoes. Let that cook through, 3-5 minutes. Season with desired spices.
  • Now comes the tofu. The brand mentioned above doesn't need to be drained or pressed (that's the beauty). Take it out of the package, and begin crumbling into small pieces. Stir occasionally as mixing to make sure it's covered.
  • Once fully crumbled, stir well and heat through. I usually let it cook down 5-10 minutes, and you'll know then if you need to add more sauce, ketchup, etc. Stir occasionally. Season again if needed.

The nice thing about this recipe, is you don't have to make sure your meat is cooked well enough before you eat it. So there's no required time limit to cook - just until you think it's ready to eat!

Throw it on a toasted bun and you're good to go. Adam made a great kale and arugula salad to pair ours with last night. Enjoy!

P.S. This makes GREAT leftovers. In fact, I just received a text from Adam that said "Second day sloppy joe so good!" :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Meatless Monday: the Challenge

You've heard the term Meatless Monday before, but I've seen a few things pop up recently, so it's time to do a blog post. I am officially challenging all of you (non-veggies) to try it this coming Monday, July 14. Below are a few tidbits that should give you some momentum! 

Reason 1 to participate in M.M. (for this challenge, and beyond): a recent study from the U.K. has shown that eating a vegetarian diet - or even just less meat - can reduce your carbon footprint. Now, I'd read about this in books years ago, but I think this study is nice because it compares across diets - heavy meat consumption --> vegan. While this study was just in the U.K. , I think the numbers would be similar if not more drastic, due to the typical "western diet" of heavy meat eaters.

Reason 2: Really, it's just better for you. One of my favorite documentaries and now cookbooks, is Forks over Knives (here is their website). Below is a picture of one of my favorite recipes from the cookbook, which would be perfect to prepare ahead of time and take as your Meatless Monday lunch! Also, check back on Monday, as I'll be posting another great meatless recipe!

Reason 3: Whole Foods offers a deal on Monday's from 4 - 7 p.m. for their hot food bar. If you choose meatless options, you can load up one plate as much as you can (as long as the lid closes) for one set price of $8.00. Umm, done and done.  Not to mention, this is great for Monday because who actually wants to cook on a Monday? Below is the information, borrowed from their website!
Embedded image permalink

So, give Meatless Monday a shot on July 14. Try a new recipe. Share in the comment section below what you made or ate. Remember, it's the WHOLE day, not just dinner. Embrace it, enjoy it, make it a thing. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

That tasty, "all-natural enhanced"... what?

What amazes me is how marketing for foods is such an incredible science and that billions of dollars are pushed at consumers every year through bright colors, product placement, and key terms like "natural" and "enhanced with vitamins". My thought; if it's good for you - then why do we need to be told that it's natural, and why does it need to be enhanced with anything? 

The same goes for beef being labeled "grass-fed" and eggs labeled "free-range, cage-free". How have we gotten to this point?

Well, that may be an argument for another day, but I want to go back to the first two terms in the first paragraph. This first article is about how kids are now getting too many vitamins because the cereals and snacks they're eating have been "enhanced with vitamins". Why? None other than to make their parents not feel guilty about feeding them sugar-laden foods for breakfast (in my humble opinion). If you feed your kids healthy alternatives, like the smoothie recipe below (credit Simple Green Smoothies), then you won't need to worry about them getting added vitamins OR added sugar.

ORANGE JULIUS  |  Serves 2
2 cups spinach, fresh; 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened; 3 oranges, peeled; 1 banana

Secondly, we have the term "natural". This NPR article is short, but eye-opening in the fact that IF IT'S NATURAL, WE DON'T NEED TO BE TOLD. Right? Not so fast. Apparently, there aren't many guidelines about companies using the term "natural" for foods with GMO's and pesticides. It gives the illusion that if something is labeled natural, that it's automatically good for you. Not so much.

So, read your labels to find out what's really in your foods. Stick to items with 5 or fewer ingredients, that you can actually pronounce. Or, better yet, don't buy things with labels. Buy organic, local, fresh foods. And don't get anything that has to tell you what should be obvious... Happy shopping.