Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shopping for labels....

I think two of the worst phrases to hit the food industry are "made with whole grain" and "all-natural". You might think I'm crazy; whole grains and natural are good, right? Of course they are!!! But what you may not realize is, anyone can slap "made with whole grain" on a package (even if it's not the first, or second, or third ingredient), and "all-natural" just means the ingredients came from nature. Neither phrase makes something inherently "healthy". You have to be so careful and actually look at labels, because you can unwittingly pick something up, assume it's healthy, and toss it in the cart.

For example, here is a label from a chocolate brownie muffin from the folks at Aunt Millie. It is "made with whole grain". Sorry, it's a bit fuzzy.

Major concerns? Well, for one, the first ingredient isn't flour, it's sugar. That can't be good. Second, 220 calories for a snack? A snack with 8.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar? What a waste of a snack! It's cut off, but it's labeled as 5 Weight Watchers points. I don't track points, but my mom does. And I'm pretty sure 5 isn't good when snacking on a muffin. This is a dessert, not a "snack".

Moving on to another choice, not "made with whole grain":

Sure, these Hostess mini-cupcakes aren't whole grain. And the first ingredient is *still* sugar. But at least we've a) knocked it down to 100 calories, b) knocked it down to 3 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, c) gone down to 10 grams of sugar, and d) there are 5 grams of fiber in that package! If I were a sugar eating girl, I'd certainly take all this over all that.

Of course, your best bet is probably to make your own damn cupcakes and know exactly what is going into them. Because I can safely say, 9/10 of what you find on any grocery shelf is going to be full of icky preservatives and weird things you can't pronounce. But I know not everyone has time for that, and if you're going to do convenience, I'd like you to be informed!

Another good example is yogurt. Let's look at Greek yogurt. Oikos makes a "chocolate on the bottom" Greek yogurt. Sounds tasty. 110 calories, 16 grams of sugar. And call it what you want, "organic sugar" is still just SUGAR. I buy Stonyfield Oikos nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Yeah, I know, plain, yuck yuck yuck. But 90 calories and 7 grams of just plain dairy sugar. And it has 20% of your daily calcium, vs 10% in the Oikos chocolate one. And I'm sorry, you can do whatever to plain yogurt. It's a blank canvas! Add fruit. Put it in a smoothie. Add protein powder. Swirl in some natural fruit preserves. Or honey. You can pretty much do anything you want with it.

My point is, you have to be careful in the supermarket. Unless you are holding an organic apple or some such thing, chances are good that whatever "all-natural" thing you are holding has been processed in some weird way. Don't be tricked by the marketing departments that are getting trashed by the health nuts. Once word got out that people wanted their food stripped down, they had to re-strategize how best to get consumers to continue to buy their products. Hence the words "all-natural", "made with whole-grain", and "25% less sugar" were born. I'm done ranting, just... read your labels, people.

until later....

"Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special." ~Chris Rock

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hungry Girl's (Gluten-Free!) Practically Fat-Free Fettucine Alfredo

So, I'm trying out a new recipe today, courtesy of "Hungry Girl" (see side bar for a link to all the Hungry Girl website has to offer.) In all of my tofu escapades, I've never tried tofu noodles!! So, I thought I'd give it a shot. When I first opened the bag, I was a little grossed out; the bag had said something about an "authentic smell", but what they really meant was "these noodles smell like f***ing fish". I will assure you though, that if you follow the directions and all, they will not *taste* like fish. So, that's good news.

As usual, I embellished this recipe a bit. Gotta get some veggies in!! The original was just noodles and sauce, with parmesan and salt/pepper.

* 1 package Tofu Shirataki Fettucine-shaped noodle substitute (or regular pasta if you're freaked out by tofu/gluten-free)
* 2-4 tsp of fat free cream cheese
* 2-4 tsp of fat free sour cream
* 2-4 tsp parmesan topping
* 4-5 white organic mushrooms, sliced into fours
* 1/3 cup spinach (I used the frozen stuff)
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* salt and pepper to taste


Drain and rinse the tofu noodles. Microwave them for a minute, it helps dial down the fishy smell. Dry them off. While microwaving the noodles, start sauteeing the mushrooms, spinach, and salt/pepper. When that looks good and cooked, add the noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, and garlic (I softened the cream cheese/sour cream in the microwave for about 30 seconds first). I told you 2-4 tsps because the original recipe called for 2, but I used more given the addition of spinach and mushrooms. Continue to sautee it until everything looks done? =)

I'll say this- this tastes pretty damn good, actually. The noodles are a little weird textured, rubbery a bit? But not bad at all! I would definitely buy them again.

until later...

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it." ~W.C. Fields

Monday, April 5, 2010

Getting back on the horse...

Hello, faithful followers. It's been a while.

I don't have much of an excuse for not blogging, except I've been feeling a little... unmotivated. Yes, even I have fits of non-motivation. Last week I found myself eating more nachos than usual. Drinking pop. Drinking beer. Getting lax on my sleep pattern. And somehow, I managed to run 31 miles last week?!

It's really hard to preach about healthy living when you ate like shit, got no sleep, and probably ran more than any normal person should.

Point being, everyone is prone to a crappy week. Whether it's vacation, illness, or just plain over-doing it and slipping up as a result, shit happens. Nobody's perfect, and to an extent, a crap-tastic week can be a great reminder of what your real goals are. It puts things into perspective.

Today I woke up, an average Monday morning in front of me. Well, not *totally* average, I'm on vacation from Nannydom for the week. But it looked a little dreary and cold out. I felt the familiar pangs of "I don't waaaaaaanna run, it's cold, it's boring, I'm by myself." By the time I ate my Ezekial raisin bread with peanut butter and bananas, and had a little cup of coffee... the sun had come out. The clouds had disappeared. The caffeine was coursing. I was feeling a bit better. I thought, "Ok, Self. 6 miles. That's not so bad. It's sunny, the iTouch is juiced up. Take it steady and easy." I set out on my journey, 6 miles around my neighborhood; Gull to G, G to Nazareth, around the block somewhere around Parchmount, rest of the way up Nazareth, then up Gull. I took a comfortable pace the first few miles, somewhere around a 9:20-30. I didn't feel like I was speeding up, but I noticed my times clipping along for a couple of miles, so I pulled back a bit. Picked it up again for the last couple of miles.

Now, I have to interject something. Part of the reason I keep running this particular route (aside from the fact it's a nice even 6 with only a few light hills) is that I HATE NAZARETH ROAD. It's the very, very end of our half marathon in two and a half weeks. It sucks. It's tiny, gentle rolling hills, and I think most runners would agree, anything resembling rolling hills is not entirely desirable at the tail end of 13.1 miles. It's rude. Especially after three miles in Spring Valley Park- full of very unkind, Voldemort-evil hills. So, I am running Nazareth at least once a week to try and hurdle over this mental block that it's awful. It'll suck, but it needs to suck less.

Today, Nazareth felt almost... good. I don't know if it's because I took it pretty easy leading up to it, or because "Hey Soul Sister" by Train came on my Touch (and that little ukulele intro puts a zip in my step every time), or because the sun was shining, or what- but I kind of kicked its ass today. Or at the very least, didn't let it get the best of me.

If you're having a bad day, or bad week, or bad month- don't be too hard on yourself. Take a day or two off. Recollect your thoughts. Write down how you're feeling. Go for a walk, instead of a run. Spring is here, a time of rebirth and new beginnings! Enjoy the sunshine, the flowers, friends and family. And if you want to enjoy a plate of nachos, oh well. The world will not spin off its axis as a result of nachos and taking a day off.

until later...

"So get the hell up and make the best of this little sequence of feeling upset. It's natural to find the worst in something, but it doesn't make it right. There are things that we are all afraid of, hopes and dreams we've worked so hard for. Cheer up, cheer up! And listen closely- the bad times make the good ones come alive..." ~Lights Out Dancing