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Saturday, April 22, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Superfoods vs Sugar

Welcome back to A - Z, we're already at S!


S is for sleep (get plenty), stress (try to reduce), smoking (it's a no-no), sweets (I'm not saying anything. I know that you know...), and much more!

I'd like to start with superfoods.


It is a controversial term because it implies that the particular food is not only nutrient-rich but is even supposed to prevent or combat certain medical conditions.





Photo Source

Sceptics critizise that there is no real proof that those foods are really that superior and powerful, and they claim the term "superfood" is misleading consumers. In Europe it's even forbidden to use it for marketing purposes.


Now I think that's a bit hypocritical. 


Just look at many, many processed food items out there that imply how good they are for you, and while they're not - because they contain lots of sugar and fat - companies are allowed to market them on and on.


Think granola bars, cereal, hazelnut spread, fruit punch, milkshakes, heck, even Coca-Cola makes you think it's actually a sports beverage!


So whether you just want to do something good for your body or you are sick and hope "even if it won't help, at least it won't do any harm", go for the strawberries rather than the french fries. Makes sense, no?


And don't get me started on misleading advertising in general. Winkle cream? Slimming drinks and deodorants that attract pretty girls? Do they have to prove that their products actually work wonders?


The only thing that bugs me - not specifically about "superfoods" but fruit and veggies in general - is that we can't really know if they're as healthy as we think. As long as you don't grow them yourself you don't know all that much about the sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, transporting and storing practices that were being applied. 


Here's an example:


Did you know that the apples you buy at your supermarket may be anything but fresh? It is common (and legal) practice to keep them in cold storage warehouses for a year or longer. 


They are picked slightly unripe and treated with a chemical synthetic plant growth regulator called methylcyclopropene
Obviously it is supposed to be harmless. However the nutrients that the apples originally contained are fading over time. 

You keep hearing about antioxidants that help prevent free radical cell damage which usually occurs in cancer. 


So what if blueberries - that are considered some of the most fabulous antioxidant sources - spend a long time in cold storage and have almost no antioxidants left? There goes your superfood. Booo!


So what can you do?

  • Buy from your trusted local farmer
  • Consume what is in season - which is increasingly tough to know because these days everything is available to us pretty much all year round. Here's a link.
  • Consider taking Juice Plus, I talked about it here
I wanted to talk about organic produce, but to be honest I'm not sure what to believe. 

The labels and the leaflets do sound awfully nice and sustainable, and I do purchase a lot of organic products like milk and meat from (formerly) happy cows, eggs from cheerful, outdoorsy hens, veggies and fruit - as long as they look nice. 


I know, it's irrational!





Once upon a time, when Colin just started to eat solids, I shopped at a die-hard organic store. I wanted him to get the best mashed carrots and potatoes. The ones I bought were super dirty and looked ugly. I spent an hour washing and peeling them. Too much trouble for this exhausted Mama! The next time she went back to the organic veggies aisle at the 
supermarket.

In the tree huggers' defence: obviously the dirt is a natural preservative!


On to the sugars


Photo Credit

Are you aware of your daily sugar intake? 

There are the obvious, refined sugars like granulated or powdered ones, fructose (contained in honey, fruit (especially figs, cherries, grapes and mangoes), berries and veggies, as healthy as they are otherwise), lactose (in your dairy products) and then there are the hidden ones!

They are everywhere, even in products you wouldn't expect them: Chinese takeout, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, granola bars, even most plain greek yogurts! 

The label doesn't necessarily mention "sugar", it may say:


Source: Women's Health Magazine

How much is the recommended daily sugar intake anyway? (6 teaspoons? That feels like nothing! If you're into baking you know that every cake recipe calls for 1 or 1.5 cups of sugar.) 


Source: American Heart Association

Added sugars = any sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation.

How about those low sugar, less sugar or sugar-free products? They must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Here's what I found out:
  • No added sugar = no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
  • Sugar-free = there is less than 0.5g of sugar per serving
  • Low Sugar = not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
  • Less sugar = at least 25% less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
Enough said. We need to try and limit our sugar intake, at least cut the added sugar!

I have come to realise that just like any other addiction, you have to go through sugar withdrawal symptoms. The first few days I was irritable and grumpy. 

Now? During hockey playoff season we used to eat a chocolate candy every time our team scored. This season they made it to the finals (that's a lot of goals!), and I had zero sweets. In fact I brushed my teeth right after dinner, and it didn't even bother me that hubby & son were munching on their chocolate Easter eggs. I was secretly applauding myself for saving those calories!!

Here's an article taking you through the necessary steps in order to limit / quit your sugar consumption. 


Before I'm done I also wanted to say a word or two about salads.




What's there to talk about? Salads are good, full stop!?

They are. There's just a pitfall: the dressing, the croutons and the cheese. While they're yummy, they're definitely thwarting your calorie budget plans. Especially if you're like me and love your Chipotle Southwest!!


Ouch!

Yogurt Dressing it is!!!


That was a lot to take in. Thank you for hanging in there - you deserve a snack! If you're looking for inspiration, here's an article with lots of suggestions on snacks with 100 calories. As for me I think I'll go back to A is for Avocado Brownie!

Now I'm curious: Are you a sugar addict? What's your favourite salad, and do you believe in superfoods? Let me know in comments down below and please come back tomorrow for T is for Time.

Until then there are tons of cool letter S posts for you to check out!

Friday, April 21, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Relax and Rehab my Recipes!

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge. 

Letter R today is all about relaxing and recharging because we've earned a break from all the hard work we've been doing!



So let's grab a raspberry smoothie and sit back!

Recovering and refueling after working out is just as important as exercising. 

Whatever you do or don't do: remember to breathe!!


Before you work out:
  • Eat some high-quality protein and complex carbs like a greek yogurt with berries and oats or almonds.
  • Wait an hour or so before you hit the gym, don't work out on a full stomach.
  • There are some studies that claim caffeine intake 30 minutes before exercising helps to burn fat.

After you work out:
  • Stretch and relieve those sore muscles from lactic acid.
  • Re-hydrate! Replace lost fluids as you probably have been sweating a great deal! It goes without saying that your beverage should be plain water, not soda or beer.
  • Enjoy your shower - if you can, alternate between hot and cold water to constrict and dilate bloods vessels which helps your system to get rid of waste products.
  • If you have time, go for a swim and / or a massage.
  • Have a snack that is high in protein and potassium (I like some wild salmon and edamame, but if you're into bananas, eggs and (lean) meat, go for it!)
  • Don't go into hibernation, keep moving lightly, walk your dog / to the store, take the stairs, play soccer with the kids, it's called active recovery.

In general:

  • Avoid alcohol because it forces your body to deal with getting rid of toxins instead of helping your muscles heal and grow.
  • Reduce stress in your life to help your body (and mind) to bounce back faster. 
  • Sleep and give your body time to restore itself.

On a completely different note, I'd like to give a shout-out to Recipe Rehab! 

It's a cool cooking show that "rehabs" people's favourite, yet unhealthy meals. My son and my favourite episodes are the following (spoiler alert, they are using some surprising ingredients like pumpkin, beetroot and cauliflower):


Alright. What do you think? Were any of the tips helpful for you? Would you make a rehabbed chocolate cake version?

Here's the link to the other Letter R Posts, and I am looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow for S is for Superfoods vs Sugar!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Quads & Quizzes

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge. The big day has arrived. It's Q Day.




I know, right? Q is hard. 

Do you like Quark? I don't particularly. 

So I've been going easy on you in terms of working out; today it is time to do some leg work.

There are three major muscles in the anterior thigh: the pectinous, sartorial and quadriceps femoris aka Quads = musculus quadriceps femoris = four-headed muscle of the femur.

Typical exercises to train your Quads include Squats and Leg Presses:

Squats



Leg Press



If you don't want to do the exercises you may print out the illustrations and color them ;-)))

Here's a video including the top ten (of course, right?) leg exercises. Unfortunately there is a great view, but no instructions and no music:




If you want some guidance and sound, here are ten minutes of leg and butt workouts:



Whoa, are your legs sore yet?

Let's train a completely different muscle to cool down: your brain! 

Here's a Quiz for you. If you've been following me this shouldn't be hard:

  1. What health benefits does a cup of coffee a day have?
  2. In what aspect does spinach change after being cooked?
  3. What is a low-carb alternative to regular pizza dough?
  4. Name a food that contains monounsaturated fats.
  5. What unexpected ingredient do I use to make brownies?
  6. Name a factor that is considered relevant for a successful weight loss journey.
  7. What do you need to be careful about when eating salads? (In terms of calories)
  8. What are the two main ingredients I did not use to make "healthy" Nutella?
  9. Name a fruit that contains a surprising amount of sugar.
  10. Magical Oil - what kind of oil was I talking about?

What have you done for your Quads today? How many answers do you think you've scored? 

Now go over here to find out what other bloggers came up with for the letter Q.

Come back tomorrow for R is for Relaxing, how does that sound?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Plan & Prep

Welcome back to A - Z, today's letter is P, and we're talking about the planning aspect of getting into shape.
One thing that is key for me is to have a plan and be prepared. Now I'm not talking about a super strict schedule, I just need to have everything in place. Let me give you an example.

Like I mentioned many times I like to have a mise-en-place for Colin's and my clothes that we are going to wear for school or work. I choose them the night before, so there is no "where are my lucky socks, and could you get my sweater from the dryer?" early in the morning. 

I noticed that things go much smoother for me, if the same is true for my gym clothes, my gym bag plus the clothes I am going to wear after a well deserved shower. Extra points if they are sweatpants and fluffy socks!

I also put my workouts that I'm supposed to do at home in my calendar. So on Saturday and / or Sunday at 10 am there will be an alarm, and an appointment with a YouTube link will pop up. Vicky, my fitness instructor told me to find a new one as I shouldn't repeat Kathy Smith's Fat burning workout (1988) too many times. I almost died in a recent HIIT session. Who knew jumping jacks could be so strenuous!

Now on to the food. 
I need to think ahead and grocery shop for fresh produce regularly. We have an average (=small) European fridge, so I keep running out of this and that. Not only do I have to stock up on lettuce, I need to think about what to make for the guys who want "something yummy, not pet food."

Then the snacks! Since junk or convenience food is out of question for me, I also need to have healthy snacks ready. Cherry tomatoes, miniature cucumbers, miniature mozzarella balls, carrot sticks, apple slices, grapes, you name it.

That's a lot of prep work, and if I don't do it, as soon as hunger strikes, the temptation to give in to sugar-loaded granola bars or crackers is enormous.

If everything is ready, all I have to do is grab and snack! 




Now we only have so many snack boxes, and sometimes they get forgotten at school, or they're in the dishwasher, so I put the goodies in ziploc bags.

From then on let's just hope that my Mommy Brain is doing its job.

How many times have I left the house only to notice an hour later that I left everything in the fridge, and I have nothing to eat!

Happened just the other day when we went to the mall. I had promised Colin some screen time at Starbucks. I reloaded my loyalty card, and the barista told me to pick a pastry for free. 

A slice of cheesecake was calling my name: "Tamara, what's the matter with you?"


Why they're still selling Valentine's Day Cake in April is beyond me!


I asked for a donut for Colin and purchased a tiny (50g) package of trail mix for me.


Photo Source
The nutrition facts label was hidden very well, but I did find out that this tiny little portion that I wouldn't even call "snack size" has 233 calories!

It was tough to let down the cheesecake and the cinnamon rolls, I hope they forgive me.


Also I did better the next time I was on the road.


Purse, check
Notebook Case, check
Bell Peppers, check

What do you do in terms of planning and preparing when it comes to your food and fitness routine? Let me know down below, and please check back in tomorrow for the letter Q!

For more reading pleasure head over to this link-up.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Oils

Welcome back to another episode of A - Z! Today it's O is for Oils.




As we've already covered "oils" in edible fats, let's do something different today. 

The other day I was interviewing my friend Angela @ Warm Wellness who is a distributor for doTERRA  essential oils.




What are essential oils, how are they obtained, how can they be applied..? Watch this 2:30 minutes video:




"Hi Angela, as you know I've been trying to get into shape and lose some weight - do you think your magic oils can help me in any way?"

"Absolutely! There actually is a metabolic blend, called Slim & Sassy, that helps boosting your metabolism, breaks down petrochemicals, lifts your mood and manages hunger cravings."

"Petro-what??? Sounds scary, as if I was drinking kerosene which I don't, I swear! Not even back when I was working for the airline!"

"Oh, they're everywhere! In your food (think pesticides, artificial colors and wax coating), your personal care, household cleaning products, you name it."

"And I can get rid of them just by applying this oil to my wrists?"

"You're supposed to add a few drops to your drinking water prior to a workout and / or a meal. You may also use it with your room diffuser."

"Excellent! Well, the food part is one thing - however, getting off my butt in the morning to go to the gym  is a whole entire different story. I'd rather lounge and write."

"I hear you! Motivate may be interesting for you. It's another blend containing peppermint, basil and rosemary. These substances make you feel confident and brave and chase off doubt and pessimism. I like to apply some when I don't feel like cleaning the house!"

"I'm sold. Got a vial for me to try?"




That's how far we came. I cut the interview short and ran off to the gym. 

Just kidding. We played soccer with her son until they had to get his sister from Kindergarten. I went home to write this post, and let me tell you, I am smelling really nicely, and I'm completely motivated!


Couch Potato Barbie guarding my "Motivation" oil vial

Other popular oils are 

  • Lemon cleansing and invigorating effects, 
  • Peppermint for a stuffy nose, headaches or if you're feeling nauseous
  • Deep blue for your sore muscles
  • Lavender to relax. Not a fan of lavender myself I prefer chamomile 

I find scents to be a very interesting subject. In German there's an expression about people you can't stand, you say you can't smell them. It doesn't necessarily mean they haven't showered in days, you just don't like them for some reason. Now if you don't like them plus they are smelly or use a fragrance you don't like, they're doomed.

On the other hand a rather boring person may attract you because they use an eau de toilette that you love! For me "Cool Water" is one of them!




Smells influence us in so many ways. I did an olfactory post as part of last year's A-Z: unique smells, and again for Top Ten Thursday, check them out, there's coffee and cinnamon rolls waiting for you!

Our memories are also strongly linked to smells. If I tell you "elementary school" I'm pretty sure your mind can take you right back to the polished floor or whatever it was that made your classroom unique and unforgettable. Hospital smell is a reason why people don't like to go there, not even to visit someone - it's associated with traumatic experiences, sickness and maybe even death.

Scents are also used for marketing purposes. Room fragrance in retail spaces make you feel comfortable and generous, so be aware! Other businesses don't need any diffusers, candles or sprays, they have freshly ground coffee brewing, yummy croissants in the oven or pretty flowers for sale!


This is an old picture. I haven't had a cinnamon roll in ages!

How did you like this (exercise free) post? 

Have you at some point used essential oils? What for? 

Either way, what is your favourite smell?

Are you wondering what other bloggers did about the letter O? Head over there and check them out!

Make sure to come back here tomorrow for P is for Planning and Preparing, unfortunately a necessity if you're a busy part-time working hockey mom on a roll!


Monday, April 17, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Nutella that is actually guilt free. Almost

Welcome back to A - Z, today's letter is N, and I have been looking forward to that one!





Do you have a sweet tooth?
Then you probably like Nutella. I know I do. 


Photo Credit 

Now this yummy treat is not exactly on the list of superfoods, although it's not the hazelnut's fault because it brings a lot of benefits to the table!

As I mentioned earlier, in our first workout session back in January, my fitness instructor talked to me about my diet. She said the easiest way to lose weight is to say no to bad carbohydrates. 

We did negotiate one slice of whole wheat toast with my beloved Nutella. 

Now Nutella has a bad reputation, and rightly so for several reasons:

It contains palm oil. The production causes a massive destruction of rainforest, crazy carbon pollution, the near extinction of species like orang utan, Indonesian tigers and rhino and an abuse of indigenous rights. 



Recently there have been (unconfirmed) reports about palm oil being cancerous.
Not only does Nutella contain palm oil (even if it is being sustainably grown as Ferrero claims) it's still a highly saturated fat and therefore bad for your cholesterol, plus they're putting a sh**load of sugar in it!




I have never paid too much attention to nutrition facts labels, but now that I'm taking this weight loss thing seriously, I feel like I can't eat that every single day. So I went on a Google quest for "healthy Nutella" (hahaha, I know. How healthy can a hazelnut / chocolate spread be?) 

Let's just say "less unhealthy" and move on.

I found a Max Havelaar certified locally produced spread that is made of sunflower oil. The downside is they only sell miniature jars. The picture below is about life-sized!!!
Their main customers are caf├ęs and hotels. 



Via a friend's wonderful blog FB page I came across Deliciously Ella's recipe for a less unhealthy, homemade hazelnut / chocolate spread. Three ingredients: roasted hazelnut, cocoa powder, maple syrup!



I had to adapt the measurement to the quantities I had on hand:
  • 200g hazelnuts (roast at 180°C for 10 minutes, let cool and remove skins)
  • 2 (heaped) tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 100g maple syrup 
First blend the hazelnuts, then add cocoa and syrup, mix well, add water gradually as needed.

Sounded good to me. My only worry was the following: I got a new kitchen machine for Christmas, and I haven't even unpacked everything. (This was back in January!)

So many parts! 

Which one should I use to grind my nuts?



While I was still trying to figure it out, I put my minion to work. It couldn't hurt to give the roasted hazelnuts a head start. 

Using a kitchen towel remove the skins.



Put the nuts into a ziploc bag and pound away with your rolling pin!!!



How did I bring my boy to help me in the kitchen? 
I asked him how he'd like to make some noise early in the morning!!!




Now making your own Nutella is a time consuming and messy job, especially if you have not  assembled the food processor properly!



The amount of spread you'll get in the end is kind of small. Also it tastes nothing like Nutella! In fact I have come to like it better! You can actually taste the roasted hazelnuts, they're not overpowered by sugar!



The consistency turned out nicer than I expected, and the taste is best described as dark, rich and mysterious. It is sweet, even though we didn't add any granulated sugar, it's spreadable without oil other than the one from the hazelnuts. Goes well with dark roasted coffee, too.


Now a few words to the nutritional facts. I spent a long while looking up stuff and calculating  my ingredients. 






Those figures are per 100 grams:



The good news is I reduced carbs / sugars by over 50%. Calories are still high, but that's hazelnuts to you! Mind you, they've got a lot of health benefits! I used organically grown ones from Turkey, and I am OK with the calories (still less than in regular Nutella), and my percentage of unsaturated (better) fats. Also I'm confident my ingredients aren't chasing away any rainforest animals.


Photo Credit 

How about you? Do you like Nutella? Are you intrigued by the idea of making your own? Let me know down below!

I'll see you back here tomorrow when it's time for O is for (Essential) Oils! In the meantimes why don't you check out some of today's N posts.