Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eat Dessert, Not Too Often, and Mostly Homemade

Nutrition blog posts are nice, but photos of food and kids are better, right? April and May are fun months at our house. We've rehearsed the list of birthdays many times with Louisa. First Cora, then Georgia. Next is Louisa and Belle Mere. After that is Dad and Grandpa Jack, followed by Oma!

Birthdays definitely present a reason to bake/make, and so we have! Of course you all saw Cora's chocolate pie mess. Louisa's birthday is tomorrow, but already she celebrated with her "church friends" with these oatmeal creme pies that Nate meticulously created yesterday afternoon.

Tomorrow we'll continue the feast with a peanut butter pie that I can't wait to eat. Here's the description in Joy of Cooking: This may sound like kids stuff, but it's not. The filling is mousse-like and surprisingly subtle in flavor, and the chocolate glaze gives the pie a finished, elegant look. 

Tonight after dinner we went to Safeway to buy some ingredients for the pie. Because she's three (tomorrow), Louisa is always interested in helping. She saw the box of chocolate graham crackers and after I explained that they were for the crust, she said, oh! can I have one crust? We made the crust but had to pause at that point in the recipe because the toys strewn about the floor and the dishes piled up next to the sink went to my head. Bath time! I declared, which was a good call because it filled the remaining time until Nate got home.

Louisa's birthday noshing won't end with the peanut butter pie though. On Saturday, we're throwing a kid birthday party and bringing in the pros: fresh strawberry cupcakes from my friend Heather Lee, who has a little cupcake business: Cake. Simply.

But don't fret! I'm balancing out all these sweets with some tasty, fiber-packed meals to prevent sugar highs and crashes. I found tonight's dinner, black bean and chicken tostadas with sautéed chard from our neighbor, pleasing to the eye, so I snapped a picture:

I'll leave you with a sweet image of the most recent birthday girl, enjoying the wrapping as much as the presents themselves, and a photo that depicts how our dining room has looked since April 11. Nate suggested taking it all down in between the girls' birthdays, but I told him I considered leaving it up until May 23. Check back for pictures of peanut butter pie and strawberry cupcakes!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You've Got a Friend in Fiber

The post-requests are rolling in! Today's question:

An experienced journalist (columnist?) would probably set up an interview with Ms. Intrigued to hear more about what exactly intrigued her, but we'll just let her post her comments if I miss the mark.

Last month, I attended a training in Annapolis on weight management. The most provocative lecture was basically a myth-busters episode, challenging everything I hold true about what's helpful for weight-loss. The reason I bring this up is that the speaker, Richard D. Mattes of Purdue University, left me feeling as though high-fiber diets were not helpful in weight loss. Reviewing my notes, the only evidence he had for this viewpoint was that over the past 30 years, while we expected that fiber intake would go down, it's actually gone up slightly, but obesity is at an all-time high. Hopefully he had more evidence, but I don't see it in my slides nor do I remember anything more.

He tried to convince us of the same thing for fruit and vegetable intake. So basically for fiber, fruit and vegetable intake, he showed that people who eat more of both don't weigh less or lose weight more quickly than those who eat less. My explanation of this is that calories still matter! If a person eats more fiber, fruits and vegetables but still eats to many calories, they won't lose weight regardless.

Although the professional me tends to specialize in weight loss, I am most passionate about health and well-being, and for that: FIBER, FRUITS & VEGETABLES are where it's at! Why? Here are some reasons:
  1. Lowers cholesterol, promoting heart health
  2. Promotes healthy digestion (the right types of fiber can help with both constipation and diarrhea)
  3. Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  4. People who follow vegetarian diets tend to live longer (because of the fiber? who knows!)
  5. Fiber tends to help you feel fuller longer, in theory helping you to control calories and therefore weight (of course we already discussed one opposing viewpoint, above)
  6. Processed foods are very low in fiber and we're all in agreement that processed foods are generally not beneficial, right?
So it's not the what or the why that's most interesting, but the how. Here are some ideas on how to boost your fiber:
  • If you're a cereal person, choose one that has at least 5 grams per serving and add fruit (this one is good)
  • Try whole grains like bulgar, wheat berries, brown or wild rice, Barilla Plus pasta (better than whole wheat pasta in my opinion), and quinoa, spelt, 100% whole wheat bread and corn tortillas
  • Experiment with whole wheat pastry flour when baking. Try using a 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 white flour to help your taste buds adjust. I just learned this trick: Add an extra teaspoon of baking powder for every 3 cups of whole wheat flour and use extra yeast and/or let yeast breads rise longer than with regular flour.
  • Make Ariyl's amazing cookies (with extra fiber from almond meal and oats) instead of classic chocolate chip cookies
  • Enjoy fiber-filled snacks: popcorn, fruits (fresh or dried), nuts, veggies with hummus 
  • Eat your beans! Red or black beans and rice is a staple on our weekly menus. Love it with cilantro, lime and sour cream or plain yogurt and it's great without the sausage, too. Beans are a great addition to soups, salads and salsas.
  • Sign up for a CSA share so you are forced to include lots of produce in your meals
What did I miss, Ms. Intrigued? I'm happy to answer more questions you might have!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Low-Carb Wisdom

A friend texted the other day with a request for a blog post. She was curious to hear what I thought about low-carbohydrate diets and excited to share that she has recently lost weight following one. Kudos! Nice work! I am always excited to hear about people's "AHA" moments and renewed motivation to work towards health. Was I surprised that she's been successful losing weight following a low carb diet? Nope. And here's why:

The bottom line is that people lose weight when they restrict calories. You've heard that before, right? It's so boring though! And hard! But eliminating a short list of foods, such as carbohydrates, offers a structured way to restrict calories. When a low-carb diet works, it's probably because before starting the diet, the dieter was getting the typical 50% of their calories from carbohydrates. By reducing or eliminating carbs, they create a deficit that is hard to totally negate even if you eat more protein and fat. For example, if you were eating a diet of 50% carb, 20% protein and 30% fat but decided to stop eating all carbs, you would likely partially replace those calories with protein and fat, but it would be pretty difficult to double your intake, right? So you'd be left with a calorie deficit, which if sustained, would cause you to lose weight. We've agreed that restricting calories is hard, right? Well, sustaining a "low-carb" diet is even harder. Which is my bone to pick with low-carb diets: they aren't sustainable in the long term.

So, the question still remains: do I endorse low-carb diets? I do, sort-of, but with many caveats. It is smart and healthy to:
  1. Eliminate refined grains & simple carbohydrates (white bread, enriched pasta, store-bought desserts/cookies/snacks, juice)
  2. Continue eating 100% whole wheat products (unless you're gluten intolerant or celiac)
  3. Continue eating ALL fruits or vegetables (even potatoes and bananas)
  4. Eat beans & legumes. Yes, they have carbohydrate, but they also have protein and fiber
  5. Remember that all of these foods have calories and that to lose weight you must create a deficit
So in summary, I'm all for people reducing the JUNK carbs that are everywhere in our food system, grocery stores and diets. But fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are so healthy and beneficial, in large part because of the fiber they contain. If you're interested in losing weight and think you eat too many refined carbs and simple sugars, create a deficit by reducing or eliminating these foods. Heck, even if you don't have weight to lose, your body will be thrilled if you stop feeding it refined grains and simple sugars!

The very, very bottom line: FIBER is your friend. Aim for 25-35 grams per day (and use this website to figure out how much fiber your favorite foods contain).

So what about my friend who inspired this post? I think/hope my response to her question was in line with what I finally typed up today, but you be the judge...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Birthday Bean

There's nothing like a one-year-old birthday to make you feel like life is flying by. Even to me, the only person who has seen Cora every single day since the day she was born, she has changed so much in her first year. Her face looks so different than in those first few months, her blue-grey eyes have turned brown, her monk's cap hair has grown in nicely, and her inconsolable crying has turned to sweet and happy. She's even racked up a few nicknames: Bean, Schmooks, CoraBean, CoraBeaner.

Cora has taught me how to slow down and prioritize naps; she's taught Louisa how to share and be gentle; she's taught Ries how to sleep with one eye open and she's taught Nate that one parenting technique does not fit all.

After a fun morning with friends at Deer Hollow Farm today, we came home to prepare for a birthday feast. Just like we did for Lou's first birthday, I had planned to make a French silk pie. As I was looking at recipes online today, I remembered a small glitch during prep two years ago. I think it had something to do with a runny filling. To avoid glitches, I decided to go with a classic Chocolate Pie from the Joy of Cooking. It didn't get a chance to set for 3 hours, so it was a bit runny (go figure!), but it tasted great and Cora seemed to enjoy her first sugar overload. The candle was a bit mysterious and the pie itself something foreign at first, but she quickly warmed up to it, although apparently took it all very seriously:

Friday, April 4, 2014

A day at the Spa

Thank goodness for those little stickers they put in the upper-right corner of your windshield when they change your oil. Without them, I would probably go two years between changes, always thinking, it was just last month that I took the car in, right? Right. Yesterday while out running errands with Cora and Lou, I happened to glance up and notice we were about 2,000 miles overdue. Whoops.

So this morning I drove to Jiffy Lube and sat in the concrete waiting room drinking coffee with CoffeeMate while reading Parenting Magazine. I read a blurb about a woman who went to the dentist by herself and for most of the appointment, she really thought (imagined? wished? hoped?) she was at a spa. At first I rolled my eyes, but then I realized that I could totally relate. I was at Jiffy Lube drinking bad coffee without frothed milk, yet thankful to be alone. I might begin to worry that something is wrong with me if I find comfort in such situations, lest the mom at the dentist story which gave me comfort. These exhausting-yet-boring days of motherhood are often enough interspersed with relaxing-yet-stimiluating days. Here's to balance! Here's to stumbling upon other moms who admit that going to the dentist is a treat!

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