Friday, 21 February 2014

Food Friday (Superfoods for 2014)

It seems like every time I turn a page in a magazine or click on a website there is another piece of healthy eating advice to be had.  Often they contradict each other or, even more strangely, contradict what the same source may have advised at another time.

Coffee is good for you!  It's not!!  It is!!!

Drink milk!  Don't!!  Do!!!

Eggs are an excellent source of low cal protein!  They are high in cholesterol!!  Eat Eggs!!!  No don't!!!!

Really ... I can't keep up with all the contradictions and advice.  But I am willing to try new food adventures ... if the advice actually involves REAL food.  So with pictures and text all courtesy of:

In the interest of being current and sharing information (and definitely letting readers make up their own minds) this is the lineup of apparent superfoods for 2014 ...

Exotic spice blends:
Herbs and spices have long played a role in traditional Eastern medicine, but thanks to increased interest in holistic medicine, the fragrant pantry ingredients are beginning to take hold here, too. Expect to see our obsession with fats, oils and salt as flavour-agents fade, replaced by exotic blends of herbs and spices. Shichimi Togarashi, a traditional Japanese seven-spice blend of chile, citrus peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, seaweed and ginger, will likely be making waves in restaurants and food magazines this year. Za’atar (pictured here), a Middle Eastern blend of sumac, thyme and sesame, is already starting to trend.


This blue-green algae was dubbed the “food of the future” in the ‘70s for its extremely high protein and iron content and antiviral and anticancer properties – in fact, just one tablespoon of powdered spirulina a day is thought to be enough to restore health to a malnourished child. Recently though, health fanatics and vegetarians have started picking up the powder to power up their smoothies with protein and minerals. Chlorella, another nutrient-rich algae with similar properties, has been dubbed a possible solution to a worldwide food crisis, as it’s cheap and full of vital nutrients.

Black soybeans:
Dr. Oz dubbed these sexy little beans his favourite new superfood earlier this winter, and health foodies certainly took note. Black soybeans boast more antioxidants and protein than most beans (and less carbs!). They’ve also been shown to help animals lose weight and reduce inflammation; research has yet to prove they have the same effect on humans, but with a nutritional profile like that, it’s worth introducing these beans to your routine.

Full-fat dairy:

Skim milk, we are so over you. Low-fat and skim dairy contains added sugars to make it taste better, which only contributes to weight gain in the end. Plus, it’s been shown that without the fat in dairy, we’re left hungry and more prone to overeat. So be prepared to embrace fat by way of creamy ricotta, creme fraiche and, yes, heavy cream! We’re excited to see how chefs will be using these indulgent products in desserts and savoury dishes.

Anything but quinoa:
There’s no arguing quinoa’s status as a nutritional powerhouse – not only is it a rare plant source of complete proteins, but it’s also incredibly versatile in the kitchen. But it seems chefs and home cooks alike are getting a little tired of the grain, and are beginning to look at other ancient grains to fulfill their carb cravings. Grains such as teff, amaranth and millet are all popping up, and for good reason – these traditional grains boast high amounts of trace minerals and protein. They can also be ground into a fine powder and used as flours.

Super spuds:

Once reserved for Incan kings, purple potatoes truly deserve the royal treatment, considering their antioxidant content is four times higher than regular potatoes. The pretty spuds have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. While we don’t expect them to overtake their yellow or white counterparts anytime soon, purple potatoes will definitely find their time to shine this year.


Why eat tofu when you can have tempeh instead? This firm soy cake is made of soy beans that are fermented, which lends the meat replacement probiotic properties that regular tofu doesn’t have. The good bacteria in the fermented beans promote a healthy gut, which can make you less likely to get sick and may even fight obesity. Use tempeh as you would firm tofu – it’s great marinated and grilled.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Food Friday (Valentine's Day)


Yup – another day to celebrate – whether there’s a loved one involved or not there is bound to be lots of chocolate and treats around.  Chocolate is my personal demon.  Heart shaped treats at the grocery store, candy bowls in the office, chocolate hearts on the bank counter; it seems everywhere you turn there is a small temptation in which to indulge.  Small temptations that add up quickly to big calories!

If you indulge today … forgive yourself and get back on track tomorrow!

If you resist temptation … congratulate yourself!

I found this idea on line and thought it was a great way to remind yourself to love not only those important people in your life but yourself as well.  Imagine a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen or dining room table     with lovely sentiments attached.  I'd love to find this in the morning to go with breakfast and coffee.  It’s a colorful, heartfelt way to celebrate good health AND Valentine’s Day.

And if that special person in your life insists on a gift?  Well, there's always another suggestion ...

Enjoy Valentine’s Day and stay healthy!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Food Friday (Confused Fruit?)

No one is going to dispute that fruit is an important part of a healthy eating plan.  But what happened to the days when the only choices you had to make were from what was in season and how much money you wanted to spend to have those delicious looking peaches in February (they usually weren’t as yummy as they looked).

Now we have all kinds of exotic fruit to choose from.  Don’t get me wrong I love the idea of trying new things and new taste sensations.  I don’t even mind spending a couple of dollars on fruit when I have no idea what it is going to taste like.  I mean, who knew I might enjoy lychee fruit. 

Admittedly, I have no idea as to how one goes about eating some of the fruit I see at the grocers.  Star fruit is still a mystery to me.

But now … now, we have designer fruit to choose from as well.  Yesterday I heard about Grapples (pronounced ‘grape-l’).  They look like apples, crunch like apples and bruise like apples – but they smell and taste of – grapes?  Yes, a Washington based apple grower has started producing Concord grape-flavoured apples.

Todd Snyder, the man behind Grapples assures customers that the unusual fruits contain absolutely no extra sugar or carbs than the fruit that is picked straight from the tree.  The Grapple is made by soaking Fuji or Gala apples in a mixture of water and flavouring agents and is NOT genetically modified in any way.  The natural and artificial taste of the grape is something called methyl anthranilate and is used in grape juices and grape candy.  It simply permeates the apple’s flesh through to the core.

The result … apples that have the distinct flavour of grapes mixed in.

Now I could get my head around something like that.  After all, I do enjoy nectarines which is a combo fruit albeit one that does grow on trees.  I do enjoy mixed fruit juices and Grapples are (sort of) a taste extension of that.  I guess it’s just difficult to get my head around biting into an apple and tasting a grape?


That’s not where this whole thing ends!  Oh no … not by a long shot.  One can also purchase Cotton Candy Grapes.  David Cain, a fruit geneticist and a former researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture has applied his talents to “breeding” experimental fruit for profit.  His latest invention – the Cotton Candy Grape – supposedly delivers a flavour similar to the well-known carnival treat when biting into a grape.

Obviously GMO comes immediately to mind but Mr. Cain assures consumers that what he doing is actually using cross-breeding techniques that have been around for centuries, and actually verges on the old-fashioned to produce the cotton candy grape, pollen from the male plant was brushed onto the female – an agricultural version of in-vitro fertilization. 

Okay – my mother used to use similar techniques on her rose bushes to achieve interesting colours in the blooms, and as I stated above I do enjoy nectarines and tangerines – so I get the whole cross pollination thing.  But where does the cotton candy taste come from.  No matter where I looked, I couldn’t really find a satisfactory answer to that question.

Cain states, “We’re competing against candy bars and cookies and the competition is fierce.  There’s no denying that the sweet tooth of modern man is obscuring most other available flavours.  And while the Clementine and the Honeycrisp apple were novel in their day, the problem with sweetness is that people become habituated to it, and they end up wanting more and more”.

The article I read mentioned the inevitability of someone producing wine from this grape – tailor made wine that tastes like soda pop.  I don’t know?  Zinfandel is pretty sweet for my palette when it comes to wine.  Cotton Candy wine might not be something I would line up to buy!

OH …

The price point of these products, you ask?  Currently the Cotton Candy Grapes sell for in the neighbourhood of $6 per pound and the Grapples, available in stores until May sell for around $5 for a four-pack in stores or on-line one can purchase a gift box of 12 for $26.95 including shipping and handling.

My curiosity is peaked enough that if I see these products in my supermarket I will spend the money to pick them up … at least once … just for my personal edification.  If I find them and try them – stay tuned – I’ll share my thoughts in a future blog post.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Keeping a Group (and myself) Positively Motivated

Being on a weight loss journey is difficult process whether you are doing it yourself or you belong to some sort of support group.  When you are trying to do it on you own you miss the accountability that belonging to a group gives you.  After all, if you indulge in that extra piece of cake or indulge in a week-long binge, who is going to know about it except you and your own scale?  But, I’ve found belonging to a group does not ensure success … sometimes the group as a whole suffers time of “bad attitude”.

For me personally, the last half of 2013 was a struggle.  My head just wasn’t in the right place and those numbers on that scale just kept creeping up instead of down.

You know when your underwear starts to feel too tight that things are just going to hell in a hand basket.  Just sayin’!

The strange thing was … my whole TOPS group was struggling as well.  We are a small group of 15 so it’s pretty easy for all of share the negativity.  Yes, I am the “group leader” but that doesn’t mean I don’t need the support of the group.  The only thing it means is that I prepare a program every week and make sure the meetings have some semblance of order.  I needed help!  Everyone in the group needed help!  What had happened to us?

Towards the end of 2013, due to reasons beyond our control, we lost our meeting space and had to scramble to find another place.  Of course, just as we got settled into our new Monday night home it was Christmas and New Year’s so there were no meetings for two weeks. 

Needless to say our first meeting in January was not a huge success.

BUT … everyone seems to have turned it around and so far in 2014 we have had two “NO GAIN” meetings.  Kudos to my group for turning that bad spell around and hopefully, whether we are trying to maintain or trying to lose, 2014 will be a better year than 2013 was.

While I was looking for some interesting meeting ideas for upcoming weeks I came across a couple of interesting things. The first was an article about an amazing young woman named Lizzie Valasquez.  I always contend that there are two sides to every story and Lizzie’s battle is the opposite of mine and the other members of my TOPS group.  While we are challenged to keep our calorie count down and burn off calories to lose weight, Lizzie must consume 5000 calories a day.  Yes, yes … I thought the same thing as you are probably thinking now … boy, it would be nice to have THAT problem for six months.  Unfortunately, Lizzie has a rare condition shared by only two people in the world.  Her body cannot gain weight or store fat.  She must consume those 5000 calories to stay alive.  I am sure the high caloric intake is as difficult (or more so) than it is for us to maintain a lower caloric intake.

The totally amazing thing about Ms. Valasques is her positive attitude.  If you read the article I’ve pasted here I’m sure you will agree … we can all learn a thing or two from this amazing young woman.

The second item I came across was in an older copy of the TOPSNews magazine that TOPS sends out every six weeks or so.  It arrives regularly in my mailbox, yet I often forget what a wonderful resource it is for information.  Every so often they have a TOP TEN list.  In the back issue I was flipping through the TOP TEN list happened to be about the health benefits of maintaining a positive attitude … not only for weight loss but for life in general.

I hope TOPS doesn’t mind but I would like to share that article here too.

The TOPS Ten Reasons to Cut the Complaining

Whether at work, at home, or at chapter meetings, complaining may cause more problems than we realize.  A complaint is a negative reaction to what is perceived as a problem when what is preferable is a positive response to a challenge.  Her are ten primary dangers we can avoid if we “Cut the Complaining”!

  1. Things appear to be worse than they are.  When we complain, we only focus on what is wrong.  In actuality, things may not be so bad.  If a situation is 90% good and 10% bad, and we spend out time and energy focused on the 10%, we overlook all that is really good.

  1. Bad habits form quickly.  Complaining is like exercise – the more you do it, the easier is gets and the better you get at doing it.  It can become something you actually enjoy.

  1. What you think you see is what you get.  Perception distorts reality in our minds.  Our complaining focuses on the negative and colors everything around us in a bad light.  Then, our subconscious mind tries to make this observation be what we see as real.

  1. Down is the wrong direction.  Complaining is the evil twin of one-upmanship – it becomes one-downmanship.  One person complains, the next person has to top them with his or her complaint, and so on.  Soon everyone is hopping on the bandwagon of counterproductive behaviour.

  1. Despondency is not good for anyone.  Not only does complaining make situations seem worse than they are, it destroys all hope that the situation could possibly improve.

  1. Creativity and innovation disappear.  When people lose hope, they cease to be motivated to achieve their goals.  They think there is no point to coming up with ideas and implementing them, since chronic complainers will just shoot down anything new and say the ideas won’t work anyway.

  1. Negativity grown like a bad weed.  The only way to gain status among complainers is to be the most negative person in the group.  That is not the type of recognition of which you are worthy.

  1. Bad relationships result.  Relationships that form from commiserating by complaining are toxic.  To start being part of such a group, you have to escalate the level of complaining.  The result is everyone in the relationship becomes mired deeper in the complaint mindset.

  1. Cliques form.  Complaining closes people off in exclusive little groups colored by bitterness, criticism, and suspicion.  Being positive, optimistic and appreciative opens us up to others, making it easier to connect and succeed.

  1. Pessimism is counterproductive to a healthy lifestyle.  There is a mistaken idea that complainers have an edge because they see problems sooner.  The truth is that optimists lead better lives.  Believing in themselves and the efforts of those around them is the confidence that results in success.  Studies in positive psychology indicate that people who see the world in a positive light have the following advantages:

    1. They live longer.
    2. They are healthier.
    3. They have more friends and better social lives.
    4. They are more successful at work.
    5. They enjoy life more.

It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes things just seem to appear in tandem when I am thinking about a certain topic or conversation to share with my group.  I guess my mind is focused, so it just picks the pertinent information out of the online and paper litter I manage to accumulate.  See … the mind is a powerful thing.