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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dressed by Dresslily


I have a hard time finding clothes that fit me well.

You see, I am not only petite (vertically challenged), but I also have, what is diplomatically called by fashion experts, an 'athletic' body shape. This essentially means I have no shape. No waist. No hips. I am shaped like a toilet paper roll. Since losing 3 bra cup sizes to breast feeding, its even worse!

So I really have to be careful what I wear or it just looks all wrong and/or is very uncomfortable. Since I am so cylindrical, things often ride up, or slide down, etc. It's maddening!

I am on a constant quest for dresses. I love dresses because they can be very comfortable, they are an all-in-one outfit, and they look professional. I don't even mind biking in them. But it is always hard for me to find one that will be flattering and suits my tastes (i.e. no bright colours or huge, loud prints). I also don't like to spend tons on clothes. Oh, and because I am always hot, I refuse to buy any long sleeved dresses. In winter, I find my offices so overheated that I am practically melting, so it doesn't matter the season, it can't have long sleeves! So seriously, its been years of unsuccessful looking.

Until I recently discovered Dresslily!

The selection is almost overwhelming! Its also easy to find what you want because you can search by colour, length, sleeve length, size, etc. They have a wide range of styles from 20-something single clubbers (not my thing!) to professional and conservative.  I was able to find several dresses in the few styles that flatter my figure (or lack there of). And...the prices are insanely good. Like so good, that even though they are in U.S. dollars, they are still a bargain.

Though it took a long time for my order to arrive, the 4 dresses I bought are lovely. The quality is good and the fit amazing. I am thrilled.

If you are looking for some new outfits for the holiday season, you might want to check them out!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Hold On to Your Marbles with these Diet Tips


Good morning and welcome to a new week! I am certainly hoping this one is better than the last one. Unfortunately, we are still without a working oven, but I've been able to do quite a lot in our toaster oven including roasting veggies, baking cakes and cookies. I am feeling better but still not 100% but poor little A is still suffering from this cold and has a wet, hacking cough. Anyways...

Let's talk about brain health today.

Taking care of your body is not just about increasing longevity, its about improving and maintaining quality of life.

A good example is dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Some individuals do experience early onset, but most cases happen to to the elderly. If you are thinking that you need not worry about cognitive decline, because, after all, eventually you won't even be aware you are in it, then just think about the devastation that these diseases will cause your loved ones.

If you are thinking that its just an inevitable part of aging, you are wrong. There is increasing evidence that lifestyle plays a big part in our risk of Alzheimer's. Remember, only a very small proportion of cases are genetically related. Moreover, according to a recent article published in Psychology Today, prevention should begin early in life.

The BAD diet (Basic American Diet), high in red meat, fried foods and refined carbohydrates is BAD for your brain. So if you are on a low carb diet, for goodness sakes, get your protein from fish, poultry and eggs, not red meat!

Research has found that just 6 months on a diet that is rich in fresh veggies, fatty fish, and low in carbs can attenuate memory decline, speed up mental processing, and boost executive function.

The key nutrients for brain health are vitamin B12, D, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and fiber. But the benefits only come from getting these from food, not from supplements.

Conversely, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium are bad for your brain. So if you are chowing down on bacon because we no longer have strong evidence these things are associated with heart disease, here's a reason to continue to limit consumption!

So, what's a healthy brain diet? Surprise, its similar to a diet that's good for every other part of your body too:


  • Leafy greens
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Yellow/orange veggies
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  • Berries
  • Legumes and beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish
What may surprise you is that WHEN you eat is also important. This is when supporters of intermittent fasting get to act smug! Fasting for 12 hours is very beneficial for your brain! If this sounds impossible or extreme, remember, this can include the 8 hours your are sleeping and be as simple as quitting eating before 8pm and not having breakfast before 8am,

Of course, physical activity is also extremely important for brain health so don't forget to move!


Friday, November 25, 2016

EMDR


Hello and Happy Friyay! Happy Black Friyay, in fact! Even here in Canada, though we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in November, we do celebrate the retail craziness of Black Friday.

While I've been offline I've been super busy.

When I say busy, I am not even referring to being sick, to Little A getting sick, to still having no working oven, or to the power outage we experienced Wednesday morning. Whew!

Nope, I am referring to the intensive professional training program I was doing...and only part 1 of 2!!

Adding to my repertoire of therapeutic modalities I offer, I am training as an EMDR therapist. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Ever heard of it?

Here is some info:

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of treatment primarily used for PTSD, or other anxiety-related disorders. The theory is that trauma or other experiences that overwhelm normal coping mechanisms cause pathology when they are inadequately processed by the brain and stored as an isolated memory network.

 EMDR can reduce or eliminate the long-lasting effects of distressing memories (or negative cognitions) by engaging the brain's natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, thereby relieving present symptoms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements, auditory beeps or hand pulses.

According to Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR, the official definition of EMDR is:


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes (Source: EMDR Institute, Inc.).

In other words, when disturbing information gets stored in the nervous system, it causes chronic pain, distress or dysfunction, EMDR helps people reprocess the information in a way that eliminates the suffering. It is not hypnosis, it does not involve the client losing awareness or consciousness, and it does not eliminate the actual memory. It simply removes the physical/emotional charge or stimulus that accompanies the memory.

It is used primarily for PTSD, but also for generalized anxiety, grief and loss, phobias, and dysfunctional negative cognitions (I am worthless, I am stupid, I am powerless, I am in danger, etc.).

I first encountered EMDR when doing the practicuum for my counselling degree. I did 2 and one was in a fertility clinic, with my mentor, who has been doing EMDR for years. I'd never heard of it before and frankly, I was skeptical. But only until she had me sit in on a session.

We were working with an infertility patient who, after several years of unsuccessful treatments, was using an acquaintance as a gestational carrier. It was a rare situation where we did not feel the fit was ideal, as our interview with this acquaintance suggested she was offering to carry the pregnancy for self-serving reasons, which might be harmful to the patient. We then found out our client was not opting to use a G.C. due to medical reasons. In other words, she had no medical evidence that she couldn't carry a pregnancy if she were to become pregnant. More work with her revealed that she had been raped years earlier and lasting trauma from the rape made her feel her body was damaged and that's why she was unable to carry a baby. She agreed to try EMDR to address the trauma from the rape, and I have to tell you that what I witnessed in that session was nothing short of a miracle. She literally made peace with the experience in one session! An experience she had never told anyone except her husband about before this time and caused her enormous suffering. 

Now, I should add that it is not always the case that breakthroughs like this happen in a single session, but even for the most severe PTSD, results occur usually in less than a year.

Since then, when I have clients with severe trauma or phobias, I have been referring them to my mentor for EMDR. They almost always contact me afterwards and tell me it was 'miraculous'. Now, I am so excited that I can work with my clients doing EMDR myself!

I wish this weekend was quiet, but I work both tomorrow and Sunday, and there are lots of errands to do. At least I am feeling better. Aside from a very runny nose, I've kicked this cold and I have my voice back. Thank goodness. I like to talk!

Have a happy and healthy weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Temporary Radio Silence


Hello and happy Friday!

I am glad its the end of the week, it felt like a tough one. I came down with a cold which has left me with a headache and tons of mucus. I get sick so much less often than I used to that when I do catch something, I feel even more frustrated. But obviously expecting to never get sick isn't realistic!

On top of that, its been a crazy busy week between work and the girls' and their activities and our related commitments (last night was parent-teacher night at their school).

To make matters even more complicated, our brand new oven died. I know, like WTF? Our research suggests that it needs its electronic panel replaced AND that this is a common problem with this model. Unfortunately, the company we bought it from is offering servicing, not a replacement. If this becomes an ongoing problem with this oven, I am going to lose my shit.

Oh and if you think that's bad, last night our downstairs toilet overflowed. Oh yes it did! We had to call the plumber for an emergency visit. So $250 later (took him 5 minutes to fix it) and a very long and disgusting cleaning process and that mess is thankfully over.

On the bright side,  I have never been more proud of my kids. Their teachers spoke so highly of them both. They are both very strong in math, as well as most other areas, but more importantly, they are good people. Wow, somehow we seem to be doing something right!

This weekend isn't going to be any slower. Tonight I am going to a friend's party. Not my usual Friday night plan (usually I work late and then go to bed early). But I am sure it will be fun.

Tomorrow I have to work. A lot.

Sunday I start the first part of an intensive professional training program. I promise I will tell you all about it when its done!

I have not managed to write any blog posts ahead of time, so this will be the last you hear from me until next Friday, so have a wonderful week and we'll catch up then.

Stay happy and healthy friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing


Good morning and happy Wednesday! Its rainy here but I'm not letting that make me feel gloomy. Its pretty amazing how gorgeous and mild this fall has been. Like I rode my bike to work on Monday and didn't even need gloves. In fact, I was sweating by the time I got there! I am still enjoying salads and have not needed to transition to entirely hot foods yet. I am sure that time is coming, it always does here in Toronto! As my brother says, where else does the temperature range from +30 Celsius to -30 Celsius on a regular basis??

Speaking of salad, I have a great recipe for you today.

I know fat is all the rage right now, and while long gone are the days where any health experts recommend a fat-free diet, the researchers I trust agree that fat should still be eaten sparingly.  Why? no matter how healthy the fat you eat, it is extremely calorically dense and most North Americans don't burn enough calories to justify eating much of it.  Sorry, there is no evidence that you can eat even the most 'miraculous' oil in unlimited amounts without packing on weight!

Also, despite what many high fat diet proponents preach, the research I have read indicates that protein and fibre help you feel full, not fat.  Certainly I have found that to be the case for me.  If I dress a green salad with a fat free dressing or a high fat dressing, there is no difference in how long it will keep me full (not long unless there is a big fat serving of protein in it!).  Besides, I prefer to get my fats from food (nuts, nut butters, fish, avocado, cheese, etc.) instead of from oils.  I just find that solid food always makes me feel more satisfied than liquids, including oils (which are often highly processed, by the way!). They also tend to add more flavour.  The only oil I use for flavour is toasted sesame oil, which, because it is so potent, has to be used in small quantities anyways.

So I generally prefer to make oil-free dressings and then add a healthy fat to my salad like nuts or avocado, or as my protein.  Caesar dressings are usually calorie bombs full of olive oil.  This one is super low in calories but also really flavourful.  When I make Caesar salad, I skip the croutons - I hate them - and often add some extra veggies in like grape tomatoes and cucumbers.  You can add a few tbsp. of parmesan cheese into the dressing, but I just sprinkle it on top before serving.

You can veganize this recipe by using non-dairy yogurt and umeboshi plum paste in lieu of the anchovy paste.

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing

1 cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together yogurt, mustard, anchovy paste and garlic.  Add vinegar, lemon juice and whisk again until smooth.  Season to taste.  If you find it too thick for your liking, thin out with a few extra tbsp. of vinegar.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Aladdin Beverage Bottle


Good morning and welcome to the beginning of a new week. I can't say I am feeling more optimistic about the state of the world right now, but talking it out with friends and family does help.

Alright, lets move on to talking water bottles.

After smashing my Lululemon water bottle, I was all set to buy another one and try again.  But on my way to the store, on a trip we took to Yorkdale Mall a few months ago, I made a detour into Home Outfitters.  I decided to just see what my other options were, as I suddenly started having doubts I can handle another glass water bottle.  So far I'm 0/2 in keeping them longer than a few weeks before I break them.

After perusing all the options, I decided stainless steel was a better choice for me.  I chose an Aladdin Flip and Seal, though it looks like its for hot drinks, it can be used for both, and it promises to be leak proof.  Not that many of my past water bottles haven't broken that promise! Well, so far so good! No leaks, even when I've filled it with bubbly water from our Soda Stream, and its turned upside down in my lunch bag on the way to work!  It also keeps my cold drinks super cold. When I open it hours later, often there are still a few ice cubes at the bottom.  Even months later, it doesn't leak!! It also hasn't warped like the stainless steel bottles I bought the girls did after several weeks. I have also used it for hot drinks and its great for that too. I am very happy and confident I will have this bottle for a long time...unless I lose it. I definitely recommend!!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fear for the Future


Since Wednesday I have been stumbling through life feeling like I keep waking up into a nightmare that is not going to end. I could write 8,000 posts all about my thoughts and feelings relating to the U.S. election results, but this isn't a political blog, so I won't.

I have a list of posts I plan to write, but right now my mind is blank, I can't really focus. One thing that troubles me is explaining what's going on to my children, and I know many parents who are going through the same thing. So here are a few resources to help.

This one is serious. And this one is for a laugh (because I don't know about you, but I need one!).

I have a busy work day today and tomorrow, but Sunday I am having coffee with a good friend I haven't seen in a while. She is coming to see our new renos, and I will be seeing her for the first time during her current pregnancy (she also has a toddler). For me, there is almost nothing more therapeutic than hanging out with good friends!

Have a happy, healthy weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Body Punishment: Book Review


Are you like so OCD, that you have to arrange all your clothes by colour?

Just because you like things organized or tidy, does not mean you have OCD, which, by the way, is not an adjective, its a mental illness.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and its nothing to laugh at.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around the condition, and a lot of silly misrepresentations in the media. Its not something cute and quirky, it is potentially very serious and disruptive to a person's life.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted, uncontrollable and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. OCD is often associated with eating disorders, depression and generalized anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks.

Note, however, that OCD is distinct from OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). OCPD is is a personality disorder characterized by an overconcern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness to experience, and efficiency. There is some overlap with OCD, however, those with OCD see their symptoms as unwanted and shameful whereas those with OCPD see their behaviour as rational and advantageous.

There are also many people who do have some obsessive compulsive 'traits' or tendencies, but would not meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of OCD. But just because you are a perfectionist does not mean you have OCD traits.

Now that we've got that all out of the way, I will review Body Punishment, a memoir by writer Maggie Lamond Simone which details her life long suffering from OCD that wasn't diagnosed into late adulthood.

Her tragic story - which fortunately ends well - is a perfect example of the harm caused by the shame and stigma associated with mental illness. This talented, intelligent woman had no idea she was suffering from a mental illness, suffered by many others like her, for most of her life to-date. Why? Because we don't talk about it enough!

Recently, many initiatives, like Bell's Let's Talk campaign, have started to bring attention and awareness to mental illness, but much of the focus has been on depression.  Very seldom does OCD get mentioned. This is despite the fact that OCD and other anxiety disorders are often associated with depression.

I applaud Simone for her courage to not only admit her struggles with OCD, but to detail the symptoms, which seem odd to others, and are a great source of embarrassment and shame.

You probably think of excessive hand washing when you think of OCD, and that can be the way it manifests, but it can also manifest in a wide variety of behaviours. For Simone, it was through pulling out her eyelashes and eyebrows, and self-starvation (hence the title of her book). Though there are pharmacological treatments for OCD, along with counselling strategies that can help, Simone just thought she was broken and self-medicated with alcohol.

Here is an excerpt from Body Punishment:

Its a vicious circle: I have obsessive thoughts and uncontrollable urges that seemingly no one else has, which cause my self-esteem to plummet; since I have such a low opinion of myself, I feel I don't deserve to be with other people, to love other people, or to let other people love me; the loneliness and hatred cause anxiety, which kicks the OCD into high hear, compelling me to do things to myself that will further my isolation because I make myself ugly by scarring my face or plucking out my hair.

...When I'm plucking, or picking at my face, or stepping o and off that scale, or counting, the world is on hold. I'm completely away. My brain shuts down and I'm focused on my task. It's as though I'm able to shut myself off from life entirely for those few minutes. I escape. And nothing hurts.

In fact, it's almost like meditation--a distorted, perverse, self-destructive medication technique...

One of the reasons I have chosen these passages to share is that her description of the mental state while performing the rituals is something I can relate to.

I have always known I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. How? I have no idea. But even as a kid, I was always prone to various mental games and tasks, like counting how many steps I took or bites of food, etc. I also am a compulsive picker. Since childhood I have chewed at my fingers and cuticles (not my fingernails though). It sounds weird but I feel like it helps me think. Unfortunately, it often ends up with me drawing blood and hurting myself and it totally grosses out Adam and the kids.  I've actually much cut down on how much I do it, not even on purpose except maybe perhaps because as I've gotten older, my skin has gotten dryer and chewing on my fingers leads to more cracks in them, especially in cold weather, which are extremely painful. Pain, at least for me, is a good deterrent!

I have also had OCD. After Little A was born, I felt so overwhelmed and incapable of caring for a toddler and an infant that I developed generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I did, in fact, develop the hand washing kind. This fear of contamination I developed was directly linked to my anxiety around taking care of the kids: I feared I'd come into contact with some germs that would make them sick. I also became overly worried about something happening to them. Any time Adam would take one or both girls out without me, I had to tell him to be careful and drive safe, or I would be plagued with extreme anxiety that there would be an accident.

Luckily, I knew things with me were not right and I sought help.  Medication and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped me get over it.

Simone is a good writer and though I am sure she could have filled many more pages full of her experiences and insights, she manages to keep the book focused and concise. There is some jumping back and forth in chronological time, but she manages to prevent the story from getting confusing, despite this.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you think you might have OCD or that a loved one may have it, you will find this book extremely enlightening. If you know so, even more so!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Healthy Hacks to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Good morning, how was your weekend? If you're like many people, the weekend is when you fall of the wagon with your healthy habits. You may not get to the gym, you go out and have a few (or too many) drinks, and you indulge in rich, sugary treats. If this is the case, you may start every Monday with feelings of regret.

Well fear not! I've got you covered, at least in terms of indulging your sweet tooth while staying on track with a healthy eating plan!

Here are a bunch of ideas for you.

For those of you who cannot give up the real thing, find a way to incorporate it into your diet regularly. Most people try to eliminate their weakness altogether, which leads to feelings of deprivation, and usually bingeing. Instead, give yourself permission to have a small amount of said item as often as is necessary to make you feel satisfied (i.e. a small square of the best dark chocolate every day after lunch). Just be aware that not everyone is good at doing this, and are vulnerable to eating excessive amounts or consuming said food due to hunger, boredom, or emotional numbing. If you are one of these people, it may actually be beneficial for you to keep your trigger foods out of your environment and look for healthier options.

Don't fret my friends, there are lots of ways to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to sweet treats.

When you really want to feel like you are indulging your sweet cravings, one strategy is to healthify your favorite goodies. Believe me, you can find a recipe to create a healthy version of just about any treat whether its a brownie, cookie, pie, ice cream or even candy. Moreover, most of them are online and available for free!

Just check out the recipes on this blog! Or, check out my other site www.konjacforlife.com . Believe me, I eliminated sugar from my diet years ago and I never feel deprived!

Like how about some dark chocolate espresso cake???


The caveat is you have to make your own food, but everyone should be cooking and baking at home most of the time anyways. Its never too late to learn!

Just keep in mind that nutritious, and even sugar-free, doesn't necessarily mean low-calorie! Some healthier alternatives can be calorie bombs because they are full of coconut, avocado, and/or nuts.  For low cal options, I really recommend you check out my site .

Making sweet meals is another strategy that can help you satisfy that sweet tooth in a healthier way. Instead of eating a cold salad and chicken breast and then gorging on cookies a few hours later, make a meal (any time of day) of whole grain pancakes, French toast, or waffles with fresh fruit. Or a smoothie, or nice cream (frozen pureed bananas - with other frozen fruit, if desired), Greek yogurt bowl or oatmeal. If you need the additional decadence, throw in a few chocolate chips to any one of these things (preferably stevia sweetened or at least dark chocolate).



Another strategy is to simply capitalize on the natural sweetness in foods like fruits and veggies.

Some fruits are naturally super sweet, like mangos, pineapples, melons and grapes. Some people find these high sugar fruits fuel sugar cravings if eaten alone, in which case just pare them with some protein like Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts, or add them to salads, stir fries, curries, salsas, etc. If you make meals that have a sweet note to them, you may not crave something sweet afterwards.

Other less sweet fruits get much sweeter when cooked, like plums. Many other fruits are also delicious sauteed, roasted or stewed, such as apples, pears, peaches, etc.

Orange veggies are also fantastic substitutes for sugary treats. My favorites are kabocha squash, delicata squash, and sweet potatoes.


Of course, there is also pumpkin and many other squash varieties out there that are also sweet and delicious! Enhance their sweetness with sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and you get something very dessert like. I kid you not, sometimes I actually will eat them as dessert!!

Dried fruits are very sweet too, but higher in calories, so watch your portion size, and be sure to avoid the ones with added sugar (usually berries, pineapple, mango, etc.).

Remember if you are adding sweetener to your recipes, to avoid sugar and all its fancy named friends. You can get a whole variety of alternative sweeteners now, online, at health food stores, and even in many grocery stores. For my suggested choices, see my previous post. You can even healthify many of your favorite recipes, simply by replacing the sugar with an appropriate alternative.

Have a sweet Monday my friends.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ditching Sugar


Though many of us love our salty, fatty foods, it seems that most people have an insatiable sweet tooth.

Unfortunately, while we once thought that avoiding fat was the key to health, we now know that sugar is quite possibly more harmful than are even saturated fats. You may have heard the recent headlines about how the sugar industry manipulated research to exaggerate the health risks of fat consumption to minimize the risks of sugar consumption? This doesn't mean we should start gorging on fatty, fried foods, but it does reinforce the point that low fat diets are not necessarily the ideal, particularly if they are high in sugar.

So if sugar isn't our friend, how do we satisfy that sweet tooth? Is there a way to do it healthfully?

Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The ideal is to wean yourself off of sweetened foods altogether and start just enjoying the natural sweetness from fruits and veggies. Ha, ha, right? I know, this is absolutely something we should all strive for, but it may take a long time to get there, if ever. At the very least, cutting down on consuming anything with unnecessary added sugar (pasta sauce, salad dressing, etc.) is the first step. Switching to healthier alternatives is the next.

Which sweetener should you use to replace sugar? This is a question that gets people up in arms (generally over the whole natural versus artificial debate, which is largely meaningless). Well, here's my perspective on it:

Avoid fancy named sweeteners that are really no better than sugar:

Agave nectar
Barbados sugar
Barley malt
Barley malt syrup
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Caramel
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Date sugar
Dehydrated cane juice
Demerara sugar
Dextrin
Dextrose
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fructose
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
Honey
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maltodextrin
Maltol
Maltose
Mannose
Molasses
Muscovado
Palm sugar
Panocha
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner's syrup
Rice syrup
Saccharose
Sorghum Syrup
Sucrose
Sucanat
Sugar (granulated)
Sweet Sorghum
Syrup
Treacle
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Minimize your use of these 'natural' sweeteners:

Coconut sugar
Raw honey
Maple syrup

Minimize use of these 'artificial' sweeteners:

Sucralose
Aspartame
Saccharin
Acesulfame-K
Neotame

So what should you use to sweeten your food? Here are the products I recommend:

Stevia
Xylitol
Erythritol
Monk Fruit
D-Tagatose
Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO)

People tend to assume that if a sweetener is artificial, it is toxic, and this is not true. While Saccharin and Acesulfame-K are definitely ones to avoid, there is little research (I AM TALKING CREDIBLE RESEARCH FOLKS, NOT THE CRAP YOU FIND ON DR. MERCOLA'S WEBSITE!), that Sucralose or even Aspartame are harmful. On the other hand, there is reams of research showing how harmful 'natural' sugar is.

Is it better to use no sweetener? Of course, but sometimes its just not going to happen (I don't think I will ever be able to drink unsweetened coffee!).

For diabetics, the issue is how it affects blood sugar, which means that natural versus artificial is irrelevant. They also need to watch their consumption of coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup.

Anyone trying to reduce calories should consider nutritive content, and again, natural often loses out here. Xylitol has slightly fewer calories than sugar, while stevia, monk fruit and erythritol are essentially calorie free.

So, it really boils down to this: you should drink plain water. If must have pop/soda, have diet (yes!) and for the love of your body, do not drink sweetened drinks! In terms of other foods, same idea applies: avoid sweetened foods, but when this isn't possible, look for foods using the healthiest sugar alternatives. Yes, this may mean cooking/baking your own food! Well you should be doing that anyways!

Have a sweet weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spinach, Potato and Cheese Scramble


Are you still in a sugar coma from Halloween? The girls are enjoying their daily treat from their Halloween stash, but to my surprise, we didn't have to cull them down after all. The girls volunteered to give Adam and I a huge portion of the candy they collected. After Adam devoured a pile of mini chocolate bars from their donation pile, I took the rest in to the office. Though I hate encouraging unhealthy food consumption, I've found that if you bring anything junky to an office, it always gets consumed in record time.

Now lets talk potatoes.

If you love potatoes but avoid them at all costs because you think they are unhealthy, well I have good news for you...you can (and should!) eat them!

Potatoes, in and of themselves, are not unhealthy, its just that most people prefer to eat them prepared in unhealthy ways (fried or mashed with a ton of butter and cream). They are high in fibre and full of nutrients. They are also very satiating, meaning that relative to their caloric density, they are very filling.

Starchy potatoes (i.e. baking/mashing potatoes) are fairly high on the glycemic index (GI), but when eaten with fat and protein, the effect on blood sugar levels is dampened. Waxy potatoes are lower on the GI, and Canada now grows, Carisma potatoes, grown to be lower GI, which I tried for this recipe. They taste just like any other potato, by the way: yummy!

Eggs are also very satiating, so if you are looking for a very satisfying meal that will keep you going for hours, this is it! Its perfect for any time of day, for either breakfast, lunch or dinner.

So go ahead and have a spud...just make sure its prepared healthfully. Oh, and consider it a starch/carbohydrate, not a vegetable (i.e. don't add another starch or carb to your meal, and watch portion size).

Spinach, Potato and Cheese Scramble

1 cup egg whites

2 cloves garlic
Huge amount of organic, baby spinach (it will cook down to nothing!)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 large potatoes, steamed or boiled, and diced
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste

1/4 cup grated or diced cheese

Saute garlic, spinach and potatoes in vinegar.  Add tomato paste and seasonings and cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside.  In large non-stick pan or skillet, pour egg whites and let cook a few minutes over medium heat.  Add potato-spinach mixture and stir. When eggs are almost set, sprinkle cheese over top and stir again. As soon as cheese melts, remove from heat and serve. Makes 1 serving for me...probably 2 for normal people.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.