Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Praise of Peanut Butter

Well, I have lost another couple pounds and am now the lowest weight I've been in years. All the time I wonder if I can keep it up or will it creep back up again? Especially with the holidays coming up. That will be a challenge. I just read an article (can't remember where!) that said that eating at the same time every day and similar meals for breakfast and lunch helps to keep weight gain in check. I began to do the breakfast and lunch thing more out of convenience and the fact that I don't like to spend a lot of time on those meals while I am working. Breakfast has always bored me and since I am mostly vegetarian there are not a lot of fast, easy options for lunch without making a study of it. I fell into a routine. Every week day I have 2/3 of a cup of my granola (recipe below) for breakfast, and for lunch a half a peanut butter sandwich (open faced) on whole wheat or whole grain bread and some kind of fruit. My favorite fruit is a combination fruit low cal smoothie (recipe later). On the weekends I eat whatever I want including pancakes for breakfast and leftovers for lunch. I just try and watch the calorie count. The grains in my granola hold me until lunch and the peanut butter is very filling. Peanut butter is not low calorie yet the trade-off is in the hunger department. 2 Tablespoons is 190 calories but you don't need more than that to feel pretty full. I don't really get tired of it, it always tastes good and when I change the fruit it is a nice lunch. This has really worked for me. I think the key is to find something you like (if peanut butter is not your thing) that has:
a) reasonable caloric content
b) fairly healthy
c) filling (whole grains really help in departments b and c)
Enjoy it 5 days a week. During hectic weekdays you'll always know how many calories you are eating and that it will keep you satisfied until dinner time. That's nice to know.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Very Illuminating Film: Thank you, Peter.

This is the best film I've ever watched on why our will power is not enough. It is fascinating, discouraging and a call to arms. I highly recommend it:

ABCNewsstore.com: SPECIAL: Peter Jennings Reporting - How To Get Fat without Really Trying...

In this important hour-long special, Peter Jennings reveals how government policies and food industry practices are helping to make Americans fat. 

Obesity is fast on its way to becoming the nation’s largest and most costly public health problem. While much of the public debate about obesity has focused on personal responsibility, PETER JENNINGS REPORTING: HOW TO GET FAT WITHOUT EVEN TRYING reveals how federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices are contributing to America’s growing obesity epidemic.
In this program, Jennings demonstrates for the first time how more federal agricultural subsidies are going to foods Americans should be eating less, while few subsidies go to foods we should be eating more. Jennings investigates the type of food products the packaged food industry introduces each year and finds that the vast majority of new food products are those that dietary guidelines say Americans should be eating least.
Jennings also takes a bold look at the marketing of unhealthy food to children. Studies reveal that young children are not capable of understanding the intent of advertising and Jennings questions the ethics of such marketing, raising the question: should children be protected from junk food marketing—despite the economic impact that might have on food companies and broadcast networks?

This was a special program in 2003 and sadly every bit of it is still true today!
You can buy this film at ABC news or watch it in segments on Youtube.com OR here:


Whole Food and Food Cravings

Talked to my Aunt and Uncle today and they reminded me of something. When I started to really get serious about eating better food, something odd happened. The more whole grains and vegetables I ate the less junk food I wanted. Although this intuitively makes sense, I don't know if it's just me or a medical fact. Whatever the reason it is good to know. To my family I jokingly call our favorite foods (burritos and spaghetti) junk food. When I have those meals though, later on that night, I do feel a lot more like having chocolate, chips or any kind of snack. I blame it on the white flour and cheese but it could be all in my head. The jury is out but the subjects look very guilty and I am suspicious.With that in mind I developed a healthier burrito that is great when the weather is hot because there is very little cooking. It's very satisfying and in spite of the white tortilla- (and you could certainly use whole wheat) no cravings later.

Fresh Burritos   
Makes 2 fairly fat burritos for 3 or 4 people
This recipe is better and easier if you have the rice cooked and frozen ahead of time. It dries out the rice a little, makes it fall apart when cooked and kinda crisp. Cook desired amount of rice. Freeze in 1 pt or 2 pt containers. I usually use 2 pts total in my recipe. If you cook a bunch of pints ahead of time you always have something ready to make a fast (and practically a no cook) delicious dinner!  

2 Pints brown cooked rice, thawed. If you forgot to take out rinse it in hot water, slide them out into Pyrex bowl and thaw in microwave. (It happens.)
2 Tb Veg Oil or more
1 ½ TBL Sp Chili Powder, 1 ½ TBL Sp Paprika, 1 ½  tsp + Seasoning Salt,
½ tsp Cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  

5 tomatoes (approx) Chopped fine
1 Lrg Sweet Onion chopped fine
Red or yellow peppers Chopped fine or specialty green peppers like Banana peppers
1 jalapeno pepper chopped (optional)
½ Lime squeezed
1 Can Kidney Beans
Pkg Flour Tortillas
Guacamole or Avocado sliced
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese, shredded fine (optional, doesn’t need it)
Lt. Sour Cream (optional)
Taco sauce (optional)
Lettuce, shredded (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

Heat Oil in Large fry pan. When hot add the Chili powder, Paprika and Cumin. Fry the spices until you can smell them, about a minute. Add more oil if necessary. Add Rice and fry around until they are coated with spice. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. I am GUESSING on the Chili powder and Paprika amounts. I add a lot. Rice should be rusty color. Set aside. Open Kidney beans and rise, set aside.
Make the Salsa: Add all the chopped vegetables to a big bowl and pour lime juice over. Salt a little. I add a little Tabasco or taco sauce sometimes, Cholula brand, etc. It is not necessary but I like things intensely flavored. Put a couple Flour tortillas on a dinner plate, place a clean linen or flour-sack type dishtowel over the tortillas and mist spray with water a couple times. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to soften.
To make: Take a tortilla and start with rice, put a thick line on one side and add the beans, fresh made salsa, Avocados, Guacamole, and any of the optional ingredients. Enjoy. Note: This burrito does not need cheese, we leave it off.

Et tu Milk Bone?

Over the past few years, I've noticed that my dog's Milk Bones no longer have the green vegetable flavor in the box. How symbolic and pathetic is this? I guess someone decided that since we weren't interested in vegetables anymore our dogs don't want them either.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weekday Routines

I found something that I consistently like to eat for breakfast on the weekdays. It's become my routine. Every morning I have my homemade Granola. Here is another recipe where I deviate from worrying about calories and focus more on health and satisfaction but it seems to be working. Granola is something we are always told to stay away from because it isn't a diet food. Well, I am not on a diet, I don't believe in diets, I believe in eating well, being sensible and reducing my portions. The basic recipe for this granola came from a book but I added spices and every nut/grain that I thought would work. The result is very healthy and really delicious. I have 2/3 of a Cup every morning with 2% milk. That doesn't sound like a lot but the whole grains keep me fine until lunch. The recipe looks overwhelming with all the ingredients but once you have them in the house it's easy to prepare. I just get out a big bowl and start dumping the dry ingredients in. Then I use a glass measuring cup for the honey, heat it up in the microwave to make it easier to mix and add the vanilla and oil. To me, it's worth the time to get these grains and nuts in my diet with something that tastes this good and it isn't adding any weight to me.

Nighthawk's Granola
Basic recipe from Fred Rohe’s book:
“The Complete Book of Natural Foods”, then embellished by me.

6 cups Oatmeal                       ¾ C Flax Seed
1 ¼ C sunflower seeds            ¾ C Oat Bran
¾ C sesame seeds                   1 ¼ C Almonds chopped
¾ C Wheat Germ                    1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
½ C Wheat Bran (opt.)           1 tsp Coriander
½ tsp Nutmeg                          1 tsp Cardamom
½ tsp Allspice                         1tsp Dried Orange Peel (opt.)    
½ C veg oil                              1 ¼ C Honey, Molasses or Maple Syrup
1 tsp Sesame Oil                       or Combo (I use ALL Honey)
3 tsp Vanilla extract

In a big Bowl combine all the dry ingredients and stir well.
Mix the liquids together and pour over dry, mixing well. 
Spread on cookie sheets sprayed with oil, and roast in over 325 degrees
(no hotter) stirring often (about every 10 minutes or so) to
roast evenly. Remove when a golden brown (about 20 to 30 min.)
Allow to cool before storing. May add raisins or
other dried fruit when cool, I don’t.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Weekends are the weak link for any kind of disciplined regime I may have successfully put myself on. I am not overly obsessive about what I eat anyway, not really. I just keep "eating well and a little less" in the forefront of my mind.

I let myself drink alcohol on weekends. My husband and I have what we call "Happy Hour" at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. This consists of a game of Dominoes, a cocktail, wine, or beer, and we might even have a few crackers and cheese with it. As you can see this isn't a very low calorie habit.

Now I used to have a drink every night. It was a great way to relax and start the evening. I soon found that this ritual had to change. I realized after a frustrating few months that that one little drink a night was the contributing factor keeping my scale stuck at 164. I sadly gave up my weekday drink.

Of course I could give it all up and lose even more I suppose, but here is where I draw the line. I think making some sacrifices is a good thing but I also think you have to have some fun too. If life is all focus and discipline then I feel the quality of it suffers. It's all about balance and doing the best we can and then letting the guilt go. As long as I can stay reasonably healthy having a drink once in a while, I'll do it. I'll just try and trim how often I indulge. I think we all have to have our Happy Hours, be it a cocktail or a Sunday sundae, whatever it is that adds a little flavor to our life. I wouldn't cut it out just to cut down. I'll just make it up when the work week starts again!  

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Salad Dressing Switch

On my quest for a lower calorie, whole food diet everything I eat these days has become an experiment. For example, I see how little dressing I can put on my salad and still feel fine about it. Some days I'm okay with a sprinkling and other "what the heck" days I pour it out. Here is something I started doing that helps me on those latter days. If you don't like vinegar, it may not work for you.
I make the "Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing" adding Balsamic Vinegar instead of white AND I reverse the oil and vinegar amounts. Of course oil is the fattening part of the dressing. It ends up being 1/4 Cup of Oil to a 1/2 Cup of Balsamic. I've tried those low cal store-bought dressings and they are awful. I am sorry but salad dressing needs some oil to be good. Today was a good day because my vegetables were so fresh I didn't need a lot of dressing. No one is going to be satisfied with a salad for lunch is the veggies are less than tasty and sweet. It's one of the reasons I grow a garden. I am lucky that I have the place and time (barely) to do it. Still, I don't have that kind of culinary perfection all year. So what to do in the dead of winter? Surprisingly (maybe not), organic vegetables in the supermarket come really close to having that garden fresh taste. Especially carrots, once you tried organic you'll never go back. If we have to eat more veggies it's essential that they be freshest we can find because the flavor will encourage us to go back for more and we won't need a gallon of dressing to cover it up. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I am going to the grocery store today. For me the grocery store is a cross between a mine field and a scavenger hunt. We have four grocery stores in town and they are all nice. I should know, I usually visit at least three of the four on grocery day. I have to, to find everything I need. Grocery stores are the battle zone for our weight problems. The products they stock are there after years of marketing research, taste tests and sales projections. Foods were invented and companies begun because someone found some magical ingredient or ingredients that tickled our taste buds and we had to have it. We are seduced by our own senses every day into eating these manufactured products, engineered to appeal to our cravings. We hardly stand a chance. So much of our weight and health problems start right here. I am the first to admit that I am a total sucker for Sweet Chili Doritos. They have my number there. I like grocery shopping but it takes so long to read the boxes and cans when shopping to see if it is good to eat, to see if there is any food in our food.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tasty Low Calorie Food Alert

Now that that big speech about whole foods out of the way, I am going to sound like I am contradicting myself here, but I am a practical person too. Of course whole foods are the best thing to eat but we don't live by lettuce alone. When I find something at the grocery store that helps me hold the calories down and tastes great I go for it. Here are a couple of items that fit that description. 
The first one is The Laughing Cow Light spreadable cheese wedges. They come in wonderful flavors like Garlic and Herb and Sun Dried Tomato and only 35 calories a Wedge. The Wedges are a generous size and the fat content is also low: 1 gram saturated fat, no trans fats.

The second one is Skinny Cow Low Fat Ice Cream Bars. These are sooo good and only 100 calories per bar. They have several flavors but I highly recommend the Caramel Truffle. Saturated fat only 1.5! These treats will really help with the cravings with a minimum of guilt.
The "cows" have it going on!

Treat Yourself to the Good Stuff

The only way we can reduce the amount of food we eat is to make sure we leave the table feeling on some level, satisfied. If not in quantity than in quality. So taste matters and it matters a lot. We have to eat the foods we love. Favorite foods could include a lot of healthy items that we may not buy because they are expensive or out of season or maybe we just don't think about them anymore because the junk food has taken over our taste buds. A few salted nuts can never stand up to the intense flavor of Doritos, Frito Lay is counting on that. Yet. if we stop buying the Doritos and keep a can of nuts on the pantry shelf instead, the next time the munchies hit we may find that those nuts hit the spot pretty well.  Everyone loves something that is healthy. What is it for you? Strawberries? Popcorn? Avocados? Consider keeping those items around to tempt you into eating right.

If you love to eat something that is unhealthy then take it slow. Wean yourself off of it by offering yourself a healthier replacement of some kind. For example. we all drink a lot of soda pop these days. I loved soda too and drank it a lot. I consumed a lot of empty calories that way as I never could abide diet soda, the taste of those chemicals just made me sick. Soda just isn't good for you not matter what form it takes. I had to give it up. So, the first thing I did was to cut back on the amount of soda I drank. Then I invented substitutes like club soda mixed with fruit juice or even sweetened herb tea. Over time I stopped missing the soda. I sure don't miss the calories. I will still have a soda once in a great while but as a dessert treat only.

Find your favorite whole food and keep it in the kitchen. Treat yourself with it and it will keep the feeling of deprivation from your door. If it's a real food the damage to your body will be minimal. Worry about the calories later. The main thing is to get off the phony, high calorie, processed food. If you keep eating bananas or berries or sunflower seeds, the junk food might start to to taste...well, like junk. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

Acknowledging changes

Today I changed the title of my blog and am ready to begin this conversation with myself that can be overheard by anyone else who is interested. I am going to put my height and weight in a separate column and update it as I can. This way I can see which way the pounds are headed. My goal is not only to lose more weight but continue to eat the best food possible for my body's health. My ongoing philosophy is that: 

Diets don't work - Going on a diet means altering your eating habits temporarily. Yes, you lose weight and then you go back to your previous life and gain it all back.

Fanaticism isn't healthy - I don't want to get obsessive about this, I think that if you want to have an ice cream sundae sometime, you should have it. The trick is to make it a special treat and not have one every night. My personal weakness is potato chips, I could eat the whole bag, so I don't buy them. I save them for parties or holidays and then eat what I want.

Moderation in all things - This is similar to the fanaticism statement but I want to remember to keep balance in my life. An equilibrium of common sense that includes movement (not exercise per say) and rest, food intake variety that includes all the best categories: nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains, emotional tranquility, occasional treats, and a good even split between work and play.

Make less more - This is about portion control and I think it's a big component in keeping us all fat. We just plain eat too much. So, my goal is to make my food so delicious that I feel satisfied eating less. 

Movement - A resolve to get out of the chair (I write a lot) and move. To keep up a certain amount of physical movement every day to help burn calories and improve muscle tone. 


Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Weigh to Eat

I am going in a new direction on this blog. I was never much of a blogger as anyone can see,  I don't have a lot of time for extra writing chores as I am working diligently on an Astrology book with hopes for publication. 

Now I have grown too frustrated not to vent somewhere and a blog seemed to be the right place. What I see everyday and everywhere are the people I love getting fatter and further away from healthy long lives. No one wants to gain weight or be unhealthy but it's become a terrible struggle for all of us to do otherwise. 

I am constantly angry at food manufacturers, restaurants, grocery stores, and even the government! They are the people who present us with food options or make laws that determine how healthy our food will be. At the same time I know it is not all their fault either. Some of the time they only give us what we've asked for, but there are other instances when they have been downright devious at their manipulation of our taste buds and desires. So, in the end, it all comes down to us and what we want: the public. We are the ones that will ultimately dictate what food product stays on the supermarket shelf or how big the portions are at a restaurant. At home we hardly cook anymore because fast food is too easy an answer when we're confused, tired and short on time. In addition we work long hours and money is tighter than ever. 

Now we can't turn on the TV or pick up a magazine today without hearing about the obesity epidemic. What are we supposed to do? Where do we turn for help?  I think we are all between a rock and a hard place.

Last year I got fed up with my constant weight gain and really tried to, once and for all, lose the extra pounds that have been creeping up year after year. The idea was to add more whole foods to my meals and take away as much junk food as I could without feeling deprived. It turned out to be a much greater struggle than I thought it would be, to even lose one pound. I kept thinking, if this is taking up so much of my mental and physical energy to just lose a few pounds (I am about 35 pounds over weight) how the heck do people who find themselves on the other side of obese ever manage? Sometimes it seems completely overwhelming and even useless to try and that can't be because if we give up then we are doomed to lose our quality of life, suffer from debilitating illnesses, and die younger than ever. 
There were (and still are) days of total frustration for me where the scale doesn't seem to make any sense in comparison to what I am consuming. Finally I have made a little progress, having lost about 10 pounds over this last year. I am still far from slim but I have found a few things that have helped me. Some were recipes, some were products and a few lifestyle changes.

This is a very touchy subject to discuss with anyone. What we eat is a very personal choice but I don't want to stand by and watch my friends and family get sick. What can I do? I can share what I have learned and what I am learning and how hard this is for me too and hope that it makes some difference in the world. This problem of constant weight gain and consumption of unhealthy food scares me because I see no sign of a permanent solution yet. I am scared for us all because if we can't fix the way we eat we are all headed for very bad times. So, I will start this blog segment and see if I can find the time for regular postings. I hope to put out here what has worked for me and what hasn't, to try and inspire not only myself but anyone else who might read this to just keep trying to: 
Eat a little less and a little more healthy every day.