Friday, May 30, 2014

Fed Up With Sugar

I recently watched a trailer for the new "Fed Up" movie that is out in select theaters.  I haven't had a chance to see the movie just yet, but just the trailer alone is mind-blowing.  
Some of the statements that really caught my attention:
  • There are 600,000 foods items in America, and eighty percent of them have added sugar.
  • Your brain lights up with sugar just like it does with cocaine or heroine. 
  • Over 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese in two decades.
  • By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.
  • Junk food companies are acting very much like tobacco companies did 30 years ago.
While naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods are a necessary part of our diet, it is really the added sugar that is the problem.  Added sugar can be found EVERYWHERE (especially in processed foods), it offers absolutely nothing nutritionally, and it's majorly addictive.  Too much of it can lead to all sorts of problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, cognitive decline and cancer.

The American Heart Association estimates the maximum amount of added sugars a person should eat in a day to be: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men, and 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women.  However, it is SO easy to consume double, triple, or even ten times that amount on a daily basis. 

My new (lofty) goal is to try and limit my added sugar to 10 grams or less per day.  I always stay away from the obvious culprits (like soda - 33 grams in a 12 oz. can!!), but there is literally sugar hidden in everything.  Here are a few products I found in my own kitchen with surprisingly high sugar totals.
1. Gatorade: 20 oz. = 34 grams

2. Simply Orange Juice: 8 oz. = 23 grams

3. Clif Energy Bar: 23 grams

4. Raisin Bran: 1 cup = 18 grams

5. Bottled Spaghetti Sauce: 1/2 cup = 11 grams

6. KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce: 2 tablespoons = 12 grams

7. Organic Wild Blueberry Jelly: 1 tablespoon = 8 grams

8. Hunt's 100% Natural Ketchup: 1 tablespoon = 4 grams

As you can see, it's really the beverages that are the biggest offenders.  I read somewhere recently that "soda is the cigarette of the 21st century."  In fact, sugary beverages are the source of HALF of the added sugar in the American diet.

Fruit juices without added sugar (like Simply Orange juice) may seem like a better choice, but even those contain a whole lot of sugar without any fiber to limit it's absorption.  It's much better to stick to eating whole fruits and just drink water!

When it comes packaged foods, always be sure to check the labels and ingredient lists. Keep an eye out for ingredients that end in -ose, like dextrose, glucose, maltose and sucrose, as well as any types of syrup, such as rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup or malt syrup.  Cook your own food as much as possible so you will know exactly what's in it!  Pretty much any amount of sugar that you add to your own food or drink will be less than a pre-sweetened, packaged version.  
I've noticed over time that my taste buds have really changed.  Things that used to taste good, like soda, now seem disgustingly sweet.  It is always going to be hard to completely avoid added sugar, but being mindful of it is a good start!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spotlight on: Millet

Good morning and happy Memorial Day!  I hope you are having a fun and relaxing long weekend.

I wanted to take a minute to talk about one of my very favorite grains: millet!

You may be familiar with millet as a birdseed ingredient, but it is a tasty, nutritious whole grain for humans, too!  It is fast and easy to prepare and full of important nutrients like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus and manganese + protein and fiber.  Millet is also naturally gluten-free, so it is a great option for those who are sensitive.

I always keep a canister of millet on hand to use as an alternative to brown rice, quinoa, or freekeh.  It has a mild nutty flavor and works well in just about any dish that you would use rice in.  You can find it in the bulk bin section of most health food stores, and it is super cheap!
To make rice-style millet, you will need 1 cup of millet plus 2 cups water or broth (use about 2.5 cups if you want a creamier texture).

First, place a saucepan on the stove and turn the heat up to medium.  Add the millet into the pot dry, and allow it to toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.  This step really brings out the nutty flavor of the millet and will keep it from turning into a big pot of mush.
Once the millet is fragrant and a touch brown, add in your liquid and turn up the heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit, covered, for a few more minutes.  Then, fluff and serve.

You can add in a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of butter/coconut oil/olive oil while the millet is cooking to give it a little extra flavor. I also sometimes stir in a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to make it "cheesy".

Here is some "cheesy" millet with fresh dill from the other night served alongside roasted tofu and sauteed kale.
I almost always make millet this way and use it as a rice substitute, but I've read that you can even include raw millet in baked goods or granola to add crunch.  Alternatively, if you use 3 cups of water instead of 2 and stir the millet as it simmers, it can be made into a breakfast porridge.  What a versatile little grain!

Here's a great article that goes into more detail on the history of millet and the different ways it can be used.

I'm off to enjoy the rest of what has already been a great weekend.  See you soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recent Eats

Hi everyone.  Things have been busy around here as school wraps up for the year.  We have a lot of fun events going on, plus lots to do to get ready for three upcoming back-to-back trips.  (Las Vegas, Alaska, and Indianapolis!)

It definitely feels like summer is right around the corner.  It's so sunny and warm outside, and everyone seems in the mood to get out and about.

Wendy sure loves the sunshine!
I haven't made any exciting new recipes lately, but we have had some really delicious meals. Here are a few pics.

1. Ginormous salad with roasted Brussels sprouts, okra, black beans, and fresh dill, green onions, jalapeno, and carrots from our garden!  I feel like we have already gotten more out of our garden in the last few weeks than we did all of last summer.
Check out these beautiful greens!
Let's just hope everything doesn't die when the temperatures climb into the 100s.  Gardening blog post coming soon!

2. Another batch of black bean tempeh burgers.  Jay declared these to be the best veggie burgers he's ever had, and I'm not sure I can argue.  They are pretty amazing.

3. Mexican quinoa with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, avocado, green onions from our garden, and my favorite no-cheese cheese sauce.

4. Vegan pizza - my new favorite easy dinner.  Sprouts sells a frozen whole-wheat dough that you just thaw and roll out on a baking sheet.  I top it with pizza sauce, fresh herbs, Daiya mozzarella, and tons of veggies.  It is seriously good.
On the menu for tonight: roasted tofu, sauteed kale, and millet.  Yum!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Subscription Box Mania

Subscription boxes are all the rage right now.  There's one for just about every interest you can imagine, from food to beauty to fitness, and everything in between.  They make for a great gift that keeps on giving, or a fun treat for yourself!  Here are a few of my faves:

Birchbox was one of the first subscription boxes I ever heard about, and I've been getting them for close to a year now. For only ten bucks a month, I always look forward to my next box of fun beauty samples.  I've received high-end makeup, hair products, lotions, nail polishes, and even the occasional accessory or healthy snack.  I always feel like I get my money's worth, and it's a great way to try new products before you buy. It's just the best!

For Christmas this year, I signed Jay up for a few months of Stridebox, a subscription box just for runners.  For $15/month, it came primarily stocked full of nutrition products, such as sports bars, goo, and electrolyte drink mixes.  Pretty much everything they sent was organic and made with real ingredients, so that was a big plus.  The boxes also included a few accessories, like a water bottle and shoe laces.  Jay really enjoyed it!
I just recently signed up for a free trial of Graze, a $6 healthy snack box that comes as often as once a week.  I am always on the lookout for easy, nutritious snacks to keep at work, so I thought I'd be worth a try.  I was able to specify my snack preferences and dietary requirements ahead of time, and it's easy to sort through what they have.
I opted for vegan snacks only in my first box, and I received fruit and seed bars, a black pepper cashew mix, a natural energy nut mix, and a mix of dried apples, cranberries, and figs.  Everything so far has been delicious, and the individual packaging is really convenient.  I like that I can easily throw one into my purse or lunchbox when I'm in a rush.

If you are interested in Graze, use the code JY6FN1XJB and you'll receive your first and fifth boxes free!

I also tried Naturebox for a while, which is very similar to Graze.  Instead of receiving a box every two weeks, you get just one box per month full of healthy snacks.  It ranges from $20 to $50, depending on how many snack bags you opt to receive.  It is definitely more expensive than Graze (which is mainly why I stopped ordering it), but it's also a lot more food.  You can select and rate your snacks, all of which are nutritionist-approved.
Naturebox always offers half off plus free shipping on your first box.

I've been seriously eyeing Barkbox for a long time - a monthly box stocked full of toys, treats and gadgets for your pooch.  Wendy and Oliver absolutely LOVE all presents, so I'm sure they would adore this monthly treat.  At $20/month, it's a tad pricey (especially if I were going to get a box for each of them), but I will definitely keep it in mind when their birthdays roll around in the fall.  I've heard really good things about Barkbox, and I love that they donate 10% of their proceeds to doggy rescue organizations.

These pictures of pups with their Barkboxes are too cute!
If you're interested in checking out the other millions of subscription boxes out there, try this website for a complete list with reviews.  I wish I could order them all!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Black Bean Tempeh Burgers

Hello! I hope it was a great weekend, especially for all the moms out there.

I enjoyed a fun few days, beginning with a happy hour with coworkers ...
(We were really excited that we all had the exact same lip balm.)

And ending with a delicious Mother's Day dinner last night.  We had my mom, step-dad, and grandma over for vegan sweet potato enchiladas, tamales, and salad.  I wish I had taken some pictures, but I was too busy enjoying the food and company.

In between, I cheered on the Thunder in a couple of intense games and attended a super fun bowling party for a friend who turned 30!
Wendy also enjoyed some R & R.  She may not be a mother, but she sure didn't feel guilty about putting her feet up yesterday. 
That dog never stops cracking me up!

The majority of my weekend meals weren't particularly noteworthy, but I do have a tasty recipe from last week to share with you today in honor of meatless Monday!

I'm not one to ever really crave burgers, but, last Thursday, Jay came home from work early and really wanted to make them.  Since he was cooking (or helping at least), I was all for it.  We decided to stray from our typical black bean burger recipe and try adding tempeh to the mix to bulk it up a bit.  We researched some recipes online and came up with what you see below.

They were fabulous topped with avocado and Sriracha and served with spicy roasted sweet potato fries.

On a side note, my grandma commented that I should have named the blog "100 Ways to Eat Sweet Potatoes."  I suppose we do eat them a lot.  They are just so nutritious, inexpensive, and versatile - you can never go wrong with sweet potatoes!
Black Bean Tempeh Burgers

1-8oz package tempeh
1/2 cup cooked black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium scallions, sliced thin
1/4 green pepper, diced small
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
3 tbsp water
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp grilling or hamburger seasoning mix
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegan or regular shredded cheese (we used Daiya mozzarella)
1. Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Combine ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Crumble tempeh in a large bowl.  Add seasonings and toss gently.
4. Add black beans, scallions, cheese and flax mixture.  Mash it all together until all the ingredients are well combined.
5. Shape mixture into patties, about an inch thick. It should make 3 or 4.
6. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes (or until brown), turning once. 
7. Serve alone or on a bun with your favorite toppings.
To make the fries, just peel and cut a large sweet potato into fry-shaped pieces.  Toss with olive oil, sea salt, chili powder, and a little cayenne pepper.  Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, stirring once.

Only one more Monday to go until summer!  Let the countdown begin!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gettin' Freekeh

So the fun grocery find of the week is....


Jay and I saw a special all about this roasted grain on the Dr. Oz show a few months ago, but we have had the hardest time finding it!  Our local Whole Foods didn't even carry any.  I had pretty much given up, when I accidentally spotted these pre-packaged bags at Sprouts over the weekend (and they were on sale!).  I grabbed two different flavors to work into our dinners for the week.
So, what is Freekeh you may ask?  It's just a young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked.  It works great as a replacement for brown rice or quinoa in almost any recipe.
But why would you want to eat it?  Well, among other reasons, Freekeh has up to three times the amount of fiber and protein as brown rice, plus fewer calories than quinoa and white rice.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

Freekeh is prepared in a similar manner to other grains.  Simply use one part Freekeh to 2 1/2 parts of water or broth—bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

Last night, I used our tamari flavored Freekeh to make this roasted sweet potato stew from
I loved the nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture of the grain.  The dish turned out freek-in' amazing.  ( < Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

If you're lucky enough to find Freekeh at your local grocery store, you should definitely give it a try!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Healthy Eats on the Road

I took a personal day on Friday so that I could tag along with Jay on a work trip to Dallas.  We weren't there long, but I was able to fit in a beautiful run, a shopping excursion, and plenty of relaxation.  It was the perfect little refresher to help get me through these last few weeks of school!

I love traveling, but finding healthy food options away from home can be a challenge.  When you have to rely on restaurants for all of your meals, it's impossible to eat as healthy as if you were preparing food from scratch in your own kitchen.

I don't overly worry about what I eat when I'm out-of-town, but I do make an effort to keep my diet as normal as possible (although that certainly doesn't happen 100% of the time).  A lot of it is out of my control, so I just do the best I can!

I tried my best to photograph my meals and snacks over the last couple days so that I could share my healthy(ish) eating efforts with you.

Jay and I began the three hour drive immediately after work on Thursday, and we were both ready for a snack.  I had packed a couple things in my bag, but we stopped at a gas station about 45 minutes in for a few more items.  We ended up snacking on pretzel thins, Snapea crisps, sunflower seeds, fresh fruit, and bottled water for most of the ride.
We got into Dallas with just enough time to pick up some real dinner before the Thunder playoff game began (and what a game it was!).  Since we were in a hurry, we stopped at a Chipotle and ordered our usual - burrito bowls filled with brown rice, beans, sauteed veggies, all the salsas, lettuce, and tons of guac. 
Chipotle is my all-time favorite "fast-food" type restaurant because they offer fresh, real food.  They make an effort to use quality ingredients (organic and/or local when possible) and have concern for animal welfare and the environment.  

It was so nice to just be lazy and watch the game in bed with dinner and a beer.
On Saturday morning, I ventured down to the hotel lobby to check out their free breakfast.  I wasn't too thrilled with the options, but I did have a bowl of oatmeal and a half of a banana with coffee.  (Forgot to bring my camera down!)

The weather was absolutely GORGEOUS, so once Jay left for his games I took a 3.5 mile run around the area.  I loved all the paved trails that wove through the neighborhoods in Addison! I don't think I even so much as saw a car the entire time I was running.  
I went back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to the mall for some shopping.  It didn't take long for me to become starving, so I took a break and sat down to lunch at a Corner Bakery.  I ordered a salad trio with kale, edamame, and pasta salads on the plate.  
After hitting up a couple more stores, I stopped again for a soy coffee frapuccino.  Shopping is hard work!
Once back at the hotel, I ate this delicious coconut cream pie Larabar for a snack while I relaxed for a bit. 
As soon as Jay was done working, we headed directly to a local patio and enjoyed a happy hour drink with some coworkers.  
Followed by dinner at a local Thai restaurant that received rave reviews on Urbanspoon. 

Our veggie roll appetizer was beautiful.  
For my entree, I ordered a spicy noodle dish with tofu that came recommended by the waitress.  It did not disappoint.
Saturday morning started with more oatmeal, coffee, and fruit. 
And then a softball game.  
The Cyclones picked up a great win in their final game of the season!

We stopped at Fuzzy's Tacos for some chips, salsa, guac, and veggie tacos and then hit the road. 
We arrived home with just enough time to shower and throw together a quick dinner before meeting friends to cheer on the Thunder in game 7.  Hooray for another win!
Even though we ate a healthy dinner at home, we couldn't help ordering some Parmesan garlic fries at the bar.  Probably not the healthiest way to end the day, but oh well.  

We have a family brunch to go to later this morning, but after that I'm looking forward to catching an afternoon spin class and stocking up on groceries.  While it is possible to eat healthy while traveling, nothing beats cooking at home!