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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Great Low-Carb Bread Company

Great Low Carb Everything Bread
If there is one food people tend to be passionate about, besides chocolate, its bread.

I know, I live with a man - that would be my wonderful husband - who adores bread.  He is happy to just grab a piece from a loaf...even that dreaded end piece, and gobble it down without even putting anything on it!

Big A also loves bread, although she favours it slathered with peanut butter and honey or PB&J.

When people have to cut down on carbs, giving up bread is often the most difficult sacrifice for them.  Its hard to find a good low-carb bread!

The Great Low Carb Bread Company makes a whole line of low-carb bread products and we were lucky enough to receive a whole bunch of them to sample.  We got their:

  • Plain bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Cinnamon bagels
  • Pumpkin spice bagels
The products do not contain any refined flour or sugar, and are high in fibre and protein.  They do, however, contain gluten.

A slice of bread is only 60 calories, however, they are very small.  I use 4 slices and make 2 sandwiches for lunch, which gives you the general calorie equivalent of using 2 larger slices of most conventional breads.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Servings per Container 16
Serving Size 1oz = 1 Slice

Amount per Serving:
Calories 60
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 140mg
Total Carbohydrates 8g
Dietary Fiber 7g
Net Carbs 1g
Protein 7g

Ingredients:
Water, Vital Wheat Gluten, Almond Flour, Flax Seed Meal, Oat Fiber, Wheat Protein Isolate, Modified Wheat Starch, Virgin Olive Oil, Yeast, Calcium Propionate, Vinegar, Salt , Stevia
I was hoping that Big A would take to them because getting protein into her is a big challenge, but she wasn't a fan for some reason.  That kid is picky!

Little A, however, loved them.  I think she ate 3 bagels in one meal!  My mom said the bagels tasted like real bagels, not 'bread with holes', which is a huge compliment coming from a native New Yorker!

Although the consistency is different from regular bread, I was pleased with these products.  They are soft enough, but sturdy to make some hefty sandwiches and are good both toasted and untoasted.

They contain almond flour, so unfortunately, cannot go in a lunchbox, but I am very happy to hoard them at home for us to chow down on here.

The company also makes buns, pizza crust, muffins and squares.

The products are available on their website, and in stores across the U.S.  In Canada, they can also be purchased online at ontarionutrition.ca .

As I've said many times before, most low-carb eating plans are expensive.  These products will cost you a premium ($6.99 U.S., $9.99 CAN per loaf!), but if you are trying to lower your carb intake but don't want to give up your favorite bakery products, than it may just be worth it to you.

Disclosure: The company sent us these products for free but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Ketogenic Diet

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As you know, if you've been following this blog for a while, I don't really believe in super restrictive diets.  Not because they can't help you lose weight, but because most people can't stay on them for very long.  Oh, if only I had a dollar for every client that has come to me for assistance losing weight, who has lost a significant amount of weight on one or another restrictive diet, only to gain it back, and then some, because it was unsustainable.

But they continue to grow in popularity: Low-Carb, Paleo, Gluten-Free...

I've noticed that many of the health bloggers I follow who spent a period of time swearing by these diets and what a cure-all they are, eventually go off them and admit they weren't all they hoped they would be and were too difficult to maintain long-term.

So I really wasn't expecting much when I was sent The Ketogenic Diet to read.  What is it, you ask?

A ketogenic diet is essentially a super low carbohydrate diet, like below 50g per day...I probably get more than that at breakfast alone! It was originally created as a way to treat epilepsy, and is still sometimes used for that purpose today, as well as for other therapeutic uses. It basically puts your body into a state of ketosis, where it is burning fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel.

The author, Kristen Mancinelli is a registered dietician who put herself on the diet for a few months to get first hand knowledge of the experience, and she outlines her experience.  She apparently lost weight, even though she was already thin, and felt great, yet she doesn't explain why she didn't stay on it.  Perhaps its because there is relatively little data on its long-term safety.

The book is not a diet plan, in fact, while it includes a few recipes, it has no menu plan at all.  It mostly focuses on the science behind the diet and on strategies to begin the diet and stick with it.

Thankfully, it departs from diets like Atkins by encouraging the majority of your fat intake to be healthy fats, rather than saturated animal fats.

The diet is primarily proteins and non-starchy vegetables, along with some nuts and seeds. 

Forbidden on the ketogenic diet are all grains, fruit (except limited amounts of berries), low-fat dairy, starchy vegetables, and sugars of any kind.

The only legume allowed is soy in the form of tofu and tempeh.

So its safe to say if you are vegan, and don't want to get almost all your protein from soy products, this diet probably isn't for you.

Because of the large quantity of animal products and non-starchy veggies, which are expensive, this diet is not going to be feasible for anyone on a tight budget.

I'll be honest, when the whole low-carb thing re-gained popularity after the 1990s low-fat craze, I was outraged.  It went against much of what we were told about nutrition, but more importantly, I couldn't imagine giving up all the carbohydrate foods I ate.  Just thinking about it got me depressed.

Over the years of carefully tracking the research though, I've realized that a diet too high in carbs is no good either.  Although I didn't really set out to change how I ate, I have, mostly because what I desire has changed. I chalk it up to less cardio and more strength training, but who knows.  For whatever reason, I am not as stuck on carbs and very happy to eat a diet more focused on protein and veggies.

But here's the thing, I still like some grains in my diet (you'll have to pry the spoon out of my cold, dead hand before I give up my morning oatmeal), and I don't want to be too restricted.  I don't count calories or carbs or anything else for that matter.  I eat what I want and, fortunately, what I want is usually pretty good for me.

With the ketogenic diet, it is very important to know the carbohydrate content of everything you eat and keep track of what you consume.  It is very, very strict.  For example, broccoli has a lot more carbs than cauliflower, so you'd actually have to watch how much broccoli you eat, and try to eat more cauliflower instead.  Now seriously, I like both, but limit broccoli? 

The other thing is the lack of fruit.  I don't eat that much, but don't even try to get between me and my apples!  But apples are forbidden.  While I avoid sitting down and pigging out on dried fruit, I do enjoy throwing them into savoury dishes to add some sweetness. 

You can eat a lot of fat on this diet, but even Mancinelli warns that you can't eat unlimited amounts, as excess calories from anything will prevent weight loss.

So why bother with this diet anyways?

Well, it seems the key benefit is that you can lose a lot of weight quickly.  I don't think, however, that losing weight quickly should be one's goal, unless its a matter of life or death.  Losing weight and being able to maintain that weight loss should be the goal.  And believe you me, if you do the ketogenic diet, lose weight, but then return to your usual eating habits, you will gain the weight back!

There is no specific recommendation of how long to be on this diet, but essentially I think the idea is that you do it for some weeks or months until you reach your goal weight. Then you switch to a regular low-carb diet.  So remember, if the weight loss is going to last, you have to maintain some degree of lifestyle change for the rest of your life.  You can't just go back to your regular way of eating.

Is this diet 'healthy'?

I checked the peer-reviewed literature and it is used, on occasion, by the medical community, as I stated before, to treat various conditions.  If weight loss occurs, it can have a positive effect on heart health, although, long-term data isn't available.

The book mentions that it has been hypothesized that it could help prevent cancer.  Now I have read a bit about the potential role of sugar in the development of cancer - one of the reasons I now believe in limiting carbs in ones diet - but there is little evidence of this in the literature at this point.

Mancinelli warns that this diet is not appropriate for everyone, and should only be attempted by healthy individuals.  Researchers go further than that and suggest it likely shouldn't be done by anyone without the supervision of a physician.

So my conclusion is, if you think this diet may be useful to you for some reason, pick up the book, but speak to your doctor first before attempting it, and remember, long-term health relies on consistency and healthy habits, not short-term, drastic measures that you can't sustain.  I say, develop the healthiest lifestyle you can love and keep it up for your whole life.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me this book, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

I have shared this post with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Veggie Fries

Chickpea & Red Pepper Veggie Fries

Hello!  It might be Monday, but at least we're finally into March!!

I apologize for the lack of recipes lately...I've been very busy cooking and baking, but almost everything has been for my new website.  Its up, but I need to get the email working before you can place orders.

Although I love cooking, believe me, I am not putting gourmet meals on the table 7 days a week!  For one, there isn't time, and two, my kids are super picky.  On nights during the week when Big A has activities (right now its Brownies on Tuesday and dance on Wednesday), I still look for healthy, but quick and easy options that won't lead to dinnertime squabbles.  I am still happy to let the kids to go bed without dinner, if need be, but ideally, I want them to eat some wholesome food and there to be some peace in the house.

I am happy to admit I resort to 'kid' food quite often, like Life Choices' chicken nuggets, organic mac&cheese, etc.

The girls generally despise legumes (aside from edamame and green peas), so when I spied these Veggie Fries at a food store in our 'hood, with chickpeas and red peppers (they do like bell peppers), I was curious to see if they'd go for them.

They've got a pretty decent ingredient list, and more fibre and protein than you'd find in regular fries.

Chickpea & Red Pepper Veggie Fries Nutritional Info


They have several other varieties too.

This week on one of our busy evenings I served them up.  They get very crispy and taste pretty much like regular fries.  Unfortunately, Little A was not a fan, but she doesn't love fries as much as Big A does anyways.  Big A, who challenges me to find anything with protein - besides hot dogs and yogurt - that she will eat, actually really liked them, as did Adam and I.

Not health food, but not a bad quick side dish in a pinch!

Friday, February 27, 2015

International Women's Day: March 8th


 
International Women's Day

I grew up with a mom who is a feminist.  I was taught that gender equality is extremely important and that culture, not biology sets limits on women's capabilities.  My mother always told me to be financially self-sufficient.  I never remember her telling me to get married and have kids.  She wanted me to use my mind and have a positive influence on the world. 

Ironically, when I was studying sociology as an undergrad, I became far more interested in socioeconomic status and how that influences individual freedom and choices.  Of course, socioeconomic status and gender are inextricably intertwined.

Later on, in my studies the impact of gender roles and cultural stereotypes returned as central players in many of the psychological and sociocultural issues I was examining.  There is no doubt that inequality and antiquated gender stereotypes are still hanging on, far more than I would have expected in 2015.

Sure a lot has changed - women have now entered what were once traditionally male-dominated areas of the workforce, for example - but there is a lot that still needs to be changed.

Women are still valued as objects to be owned and controlled by men, and in Western culture, there are absurd expectations for us in terms of how we should look. Violence against women is still rampant.  These, and other issues, will be addressed on International Women's Day on March 8th.

If you want to learn more about how you can participate in this important day in your community, please visit this site.

Perhaps because I have two daughters, I have never felt a greater desire to see positive change continue for women.  Please get involved! 

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Club

The Boston Girl

I started a book club!

Given what an avid reader I am, I can't believe it took me so long to do so.

My friend suggested The Boston Girl as our first read.  Although we don't meet until the end of March, I already finished it.  It's very good. It basically tells the life story of Addie, a Jewish woman, born in 1900 and growing up in Boston.  It is narrated by Addie as an 85-year-old woman sharing the details with her granddaughter.

It was a timely read for me because Adam and I are taking a trip to Boston in May - it will be my first time there ever - and I always love learning about the history of the place I am visiting.  There isn't tons of historical info about the city, but it certainly gives the story context.

While I enjoyed this book, I wouldn't say I LOVED it, but I don't know why.  Perhaps once we discuss it as a group the reason for my reticence will be illuminated.

Oh, but Anita Diamant's previous novel, The Red Tent, which I read years ago, is absolutely fabulous!!  Happy reading.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Grain Brain...Insane!

low carb funny

I am the first to admit that I used to be a total carb addict.  Oatmeal, brown rice, pasta...I couldn't live without it...and probably ate way more than I should have...at every sitting.  If a proper serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup, then I probably ate 5 servings in a single meal!  I never saw this as a problem since I was firmly entrenched in the 90s low-fat trend.  I kinda laugh at my diet back then, which was not only really high in carbs, but also refined sugar. I used to bake a ton of fat-free baked goods that had tons and tons of sugar.  They were delicious!  But now I realize, they were not really that healthy.

I probably got away with this without any repercussions because I was young, I always ate whole grains, and because I have always been so physically active.  But, interestingly, as I have increasingly shifted away from endurance exercise towards strength training, I've started craving carbs less and protein more.  I have also followed the research very carefully and while there is no evidence we need to completely ELIMINATE grains and carbs from our diet, there is growing evidence that we should limit them.  Both quality and quantity count.

My carb-iest meal is always breakfast, because I can't live without my massive bowl of oatmeal, but then I try not to overdo carbs as much as I used to.  I adore shirataki noodles, sweet potatoes and squash, and am happy to switch out rice for cauliflower 'rice' most of the time.  Surprisingly, I don't miss all the carbs.  But when I want bread, tortillas or regular pasta or brown rice, I eat it.  There is still plenty of research linking the consumption of WHOLE grains to positive health outcomes.

Aside from Dr. Mercola, the other guy I think is a hack is David Perlmutter, who wrote Grain Brain, which garnered so much attention a few years ago.  Perlmutter, who at least is an actual MD, claims that blood sugar is linked with dementia, and while this is true, its not solely carbs that are to blame.  Carrying around extra body fat causes high blood sugar levels, regardless of what foods were consuming to create the excess pounds.  Any diet, regardless of ratio of carbs to fat to protein, that leads to weight loss, will help decrease blood sugar levels.  And science disputes Perlmutter's recommendations of replacing carbs with saturated fat.  In fact, saturated fat is bad for your brain too!  In addition, Perlmutter's claims that gluten is bad for your brain, is also full of shit.  Some celiacs can sometimes experience related neurological problems, but this is rare and individuals not sensitive to gluten do not need to worry.

If you are still buying into Perlmutter's bullshit, feel free to pick up The Centre for Science in the Public Interest's Health Action Newsletter for Jan/Feb 2015, where they explain the way he has misconstrued all the data on the grain-brain link.

In sum, I would say the only foods that can be eaten without limit are non-starchy veggies.  Go ahead, eat all you want!  But pretty much everything else can be overdone...even the healthiest, whole grain carbs, so make sure you are eating an appropriate amount of servings for your individual needs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook


If you are at all nutrition-conscious, then you are probably familiar with Bob's Red Mill products.

They carry a wide array of whole grains, flours, baking mixes and cereals. I've been buying them for years and am a big fan.

When I was approached about reviewing this cookbook, I eagerly agreed.

I actually thought all the recipes would be using their all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, which I have not purchased before, but it actually does not.  It contains a wide array of recipes from salads to mains, to desserts, using many different gluten-free flour and grains from their product line, including millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, sorghum, etc.

This impressed me because I often find gluten-free recipes are anything but healthy and nutritious since they often use nothing but white rice flour, tapioca and potato starch to replace other flours.  These are low nutrition, low fibre products which I try to avoid.

The book begins with a section introducing the various types of grains and flours, and how best to use and store them.

It then has the following recipe chapters:

Breakfasts
Soups, Stews and Chilis
Salads and Sides
Meatless Main Dishes
Seafood, Poultry and Meat Main Dishes
Breads, Muffins and Snacks
Desserts

The recipes sound amazing and are interesting and inventive like, Cardamom Amaranth Granola, Mushroom and Sorghum Frittata, Avocado, Orange and Millet Salad, Edamame and Ginger Stir-Fried Quinoa, Chocolate Snowball Cookies, and (vegan) Chocolate Truffle Pie.

The author, Camilla V. Saulsbury, does use potato starch in some recipes, but mostly good quality, whole grains and flours are used.  She also has cane sugar in a lot of the recipes, which I would swap out for coconut sugar, stevia, xylitol or erythritol (i.e. sweeteners that don't spike blood sugar). 

Recipe pages do not have photos, but there are several sections of pictures featuring particular recipes, that are colourful and attractive.

Although the book is not strictly vegetarian or vegan, there is the Meatless Main Dishes chapter, and many of the baked goods, desserts and salads are vegan.  The main dishes with seafood, poultry and meat, could be modified to be vegetarian or vegan if need be.

Overall, I think this is a great book for someone who needs to avoid gluten and is looking to create  delicious and diverse meals that won't leave you feeling deprived.  Remember, gluten-free is not inherently healthy, refined sugar and flours are still unhealthy, even if they are gluten-free.  But eating a healthy, delicious and satisfying gluten-free diet is possible, this book is proof!

Disclosure: The publisher sent me this book, but all the opinions on this blog are my own.