Monday, June 18, 2012

Un-whole-y foods

Over the weekend I spent two days completely off the whole foods bandwagon. I can't recall exactly what I ate on Friday and Saturday, but somewhere in my processed foods bender I had food I hadn't eaten in nine months...a frosty, a doughnut, a fish sandwich, french fries (2 x!), Subway turkey bacon sub, and part of a box of Girl Scout Samoas (a personal Warrior Dash tradition). I knew what I was doing: using the Warrior Dash as a reason to eat pretty cruddy. It illustrated perfectly my problems in trying to lose weight and stay healthy.

1. I often try to exercise my way out of my bad calories. Or I use my exercise as a reason to overeat. That's what I was doing this weekend. The race itself only took about 45 minutes, so it's not like I was running a marathon, but I certainly ate like I was going to run a marathon. You cannot out exercise a bad diet.

2. I would always do really good for a few days then totally blow it for a day or two. I could only really see and acknowledge the good days, not realizing the effect eating out several times a weekend had on my scale. I would think "I'm eating healthy and it's not doing any good, may as well eat junk." In my mind I was eating healthy 80% of the time, when in actuality it was more like 50% of the time. Even now with committing to eating mainly whole foods, I probably fall somewhere in the 80-90% healthy range, and that's with a lot of planning and cooking at home.

3. All or nothing attitude. Saturday after the race I kept debating on whether I should just call it quits with the whole foods challenge with the family. It was just easier to buy our own bread and bagels and snacks than to make them ourselves. I started thinking if we couldn't eat everything non-processed maybe we should go back to the way we used to eat. But I have to admit, I know it is healthier for the kids to be snacking on real fruit rather than fruit snacks (they haven't asked for any in over a week). I did decide it was easier on all of us if I kept buying my husband poptarts...much as I have good intentions I don't like getting up in time to make him something and he likes poptarts. He's an adult, if he wants poptarts, well...but he keeps them in his car since the kids aren't eating them now.

Even during my food explosion I knew my plan was to get right back to eating whole foods (and cut back on portions/frequency) starting Sunday. And it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would. The kids are now more accustomed to eating fresher foods. The big thing is that it takes planning. Tonight we are having pizza...from crust I made from scratch, cheese I shredded, fresh peppers, and minimally processed pizza sauce (I could have made my own, but I was afraid then I wouldn't actually follow through...trying to stay away from the all or nothing thinking). It took time to plan ahead and get the dough rising early enough and a few minutes of shredding...more of a thought process than popping a frozen pizza onto the pizzazz, but I'm guessing the taste and nutritional content is much better (the timer just beeped beckoning the family to dine). That doesn't mean we're never going to eat frozen pizzas again, but I now know I can make a pizza from scratch.

Learning that it's not about all or nothing (i.e. you're either eating whole foods or eating junk food), it's about making the most nutritional choice every chance you get...and letting the occasional Girl Scout cookie pass your lips.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salute your shorts

During the early 90's I spent many hours sitting on the couch watching doubt a big contribution to my weight issues. One of my favorite shows was "Salute Your Shorts", a show about summer camp. Later I would live the dream and worked at camp for three glorious summers. Right now we are en route to the warrior dash and I feel the need to salute one of the most loyal shorts. A black pair of Adidas shorts that have been my companion for almost nine years. They have sustained me for countless workouts. They have accepted me at every number on the scale. At the height of my pregnancies they expanded to hug my belly. At my new weight they are slightly too big...but going to give them one more run at the warrior dash...just like last year. Except for a hem that is coming out they look as good as the day I first wore them. Loyal to me as any golden retriever. I almost chose a different pair out of vanity this morning because the size is less flattering, but I decided to stay as loyal to them as they have been to me. Sustaining. Accepting. Durable. Loyal. Kinda describes the guy right next to me. Saluting my shorts (and my man) on this warrior dash day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Warrior Dash Week

Prerace 2011. Clean and ready to go.

In just five days I'll be running the Warrior Dash for the second year in a row. If you haven't heard of the Warrior Dash it's a 3+ mile run with 10ish obstacles including jumping over fire and crawling through a mud pit. It was some of the most fun that I've had running...pretty much ever. I loved that I did things I never thought I could climb up and over large walls. It was like boot camp, without anyone yelling at me.

Post-race...he'll have 35 fewer pounds to lift this year!

I love the experiences and people I have met through running. Races (in which I'm not actually racing, just running) give me a chance for camaraderie with like minded people. I also love seeing others sign up for a first time race then get hooked on the feeling running gives them. The feeling of knowing they accomplished something they didn't think they could do...and the Warrior Dash is definitely one of those races. I really like to run for myself. It's something that I really got interested in after college. While I am super, super slow, I also know I'm doing something most people never expected me to do. I love the feeling of an early morning Saturday run. I feel free. I feel empowered. But lately I also feel pain.

What every Warrior needs...a turkey leg

Not just normal running aches. But my knees and hip have been reminding me with each run that I have the joints of someone much older. My joints give up long before my lungs do. I so badly want to keep running, but I know I at least need it break. It may last a few weeks, it may last a lifetime. But a quick reminder of my past should help me from getting too discouraged.

When I was diagnosed with arthritis in 2009 I couldn't even go for a 10 minute walk without a lot of pain. The doctor made it sound like I'd be limited to yoga, pilates, and water exercise the rest of my life. So I did what I could. Slowly adding more until I could walk for 20 minutes. Then 30. Then 60. Then a one minute jog here and there. Over time I was able to start running. I've had to learn to accept that to keep my knees happy I have to keep a slow pace and not run much farther than 3 miles.

Last year's Warriors.

When I was diagnosed I remember thinking "I wish I could have just one more good run." So this Saturday I'll get in one super fun run, knowing it may be my last. It's part of accepting who I am and how I am made.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Berry delicious

Thursday the kids and I, along with a friend, headed to "Mary's Berries" in Momence, IL. Mary's is a u-pick strawberry patch. Mmmm...strawberries. Freshly picked. Sweet. Juicy. Yummy.

Well, the haul of berries wasn't as good as we had anticipated. The strawberries had been perfect about a week prior, meaning the u-picks were pretty well picked over. But we did get about a gallon worth of fresh berries, picked with love. They were small but mighty.

Getting ready for some baking
Of course we enjoyed some as nature intended. But particularly because they were small, it wasn't so easy to eat them. And with the relatively small amount we picked, I didn't end up freezing any. So I cut the berries and made two yummy recipes. The first was a strawberry pie...Mary's own recipe. I gave it a was good (I mean, how can strawberry pie not be good?) but the crust (a non-roll homemade recipe) was a bit thick and didn't stay together. Because it was a B, I won't share the recipe. I did also successfully make homemade whipped topping.
The kids enjoying the strawberry can see it didn't hold together
Berry recipe #2...whole wheat strawberry muffins. I give this one an A! I adapted the recipe from the "ChangeOne Diet" book. I doubled the recipe to make sure we had plenty for breakfasts. The great thing about the recipe is you can change the add ins* to make all different kinds of muffins. One thing I appreciated about picking the berries and making the recipes is just how much work goes into creating from scratch recipes, and in some ways how disconnected we've become from how our meals become these lovely creations. When I sit down to a Little Debbie muffin, I don't think about much at all. When I sit down to my muffin I think "man, these are good. And oh the memories of picking berries."

Berry Muffins (makes 24 muffins)
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup butter (I may try using half applesauce next time)
2/3 cup yogurt (I used plain fat free greek yogurt, but any kind will do)
4 tsp vanilla extract
Blend and set aside

2 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar (or equivalent other sweetener if so desired, I used sugar)
Mix together-make well in center of mixture, then add milk mixture

Stir in milk mixture with fork until just blended. Do not overmix. Fold in two cups berries (any kind, I've also used raspberries). Spoon batter into muffin tins. Sprinkle muffins with another 1 cup berries. (I also sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar). Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Cool & enjoy.

*Add in ideas (beyond berries)
Instead of 3 cups of berries try:
Banana nut: 2 cups banana slices, 1 cup walnuts
Apple nut: 2 cups diced apples, 1 cup pecans (I'd probably throw in some cinnamon as well)
Pumpkin: 2 cups pumpkin, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Thursday, June 7, 2012

If at first you don't succeed...

Moving the family to a less processed menu has proven to be somewhat challenging. Mainly because we haven't had much experience eating that way, at least not the whole family for long periods of time. Parts of a meal, yes. Whole meals for whole days on whole foods...not so much. (Is it really only June 6??) So to avoid the boredom of eating a pretty small array of unprocessed foods we were familiar with, I've been trying to expand my food prep and make some of our favorites from scratch. I'm about 2-3 in this department (2 successes, 3 failures). The successes: baked banana oatmeal (to replace sugar cereal Sunday night) and whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffins (to replace poptarts...I think Andrew still has a few packages of those stashed away). Both recipes can be found on my pinterest board "whole foods I've tried."

Now for the failures, they are way more entertaining. You may learn more from these stories...

1. Yogurt...we have a yogurt obsession. I'll have a whole post about this, probably next week, but I first wanted to try to buy plain yogurt and flavor/sweeten it myself rather than the who-knows-what they put in the gogurt. This probably would have went okay, except I put the strawberries in the blender with the yogurt rather than stir it in...which makes more of a milk consistency than a spoonable yogurt. Nobody liked the soupy yogurt...including Andrew who eats anything. But I put the mixture into the freezer pop molds...salvaged the mess up. Next up, I'm making my own yogurt. Andrew is truly terrified.

2. Stevia...I've been using some generic stevia (which ends up not really being stevia at all). I had read on a blog about using a stevia leaf in your coffee to sweeten it. Imagine my joy when I found someone selling stevia leaves at the farmers market! She said one leaf was often too sweet, so you could use half. I went home and with a little apprehension, placed one leaf in my coffee. Nothing. Two leaves. Nothing. Three leaves. Ugh, nothing. So I tried option 2, drying the leaves then crunching them up and using them just like sugar (she assured me the only difference between store stevia and doing that was that they bleached the store stevia so it wasn't green). Day 2 I put my stevia crunched leaves in my coffee...yuk! I couldn't get past the green floaties and texture on the top of my coffee. So today instead I bought some "stevia in the raw", which is less processed stevia than I had been using. (Note: the leaves are sweet if you eat them, I was brave enough to try that).

3. Limeade...this recipe is also on my "whole recipes I've tried" board. The recipe itself is fine, it was all the execution. It calls for 1 1/2 cup berries and the juice of 4 limes (or about 1/2 c lime juice). I wasn't sure how to juice a lime, so the first one I cut in half and dug out with my fingers. The second one I thought, "hey, I'll just peel it and put in the fruit". Have you ever tried to peel a lime? Impossible. And then it left huge pulp in my limeade. Third fruit I again tried to squeeze/dig with my hands. By this point I'm 10 minutes into trying to make a carbonated beverage, so I left out the 4th lime. Blended it all up using stevia instead of agave nectar (the store bought stuff, not the green leaves). It was waaaaay too sour, even with leaving out one lime. It was also grossly pulpy. But I drank it...I'd really been craving a soda and this was the closest I could get while still abiding by my own self-imposed rules. It did quench my soda craving. But when I added the cost ($2.50 for the recipe) and time, I decided I would not make it again unless I just bought lime juice in the little plastic lime.

So I've not had the greatest luck, but I'm continuing onward. Tomorrow I'm going to try making homemade yogurt and strawberry pie with homemade whipped topping. Some people do the whole food thing without sugar...while I try not to get much sugar, I figure my family is still getting less if I am making the items myself...and I still want them to like me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making concessions

During the school year I work at sporting events most evenings from just before suppertime until 9 or 10 at night. When I first started in the field I made a decision that I would not allow the concession stand to become my second kitchen. Think about it, you CAN find something passable for healthy almost anywhere...except a concession stand. In junior high I used to love taking my dollar and getting a 8 oz fountain pop and candy bar (yes, back in the day). Oh, I loved concession stands. Ball games. Roller skating. Softball practice. So I knew in my adult life that because I would be surrounded almost nightly with this unhealthy option, I needed to stay away. And even though I've struggled with a lot of unhealthy eating, I've pretty much stuck to my "rule" that I won't eat from a concession stand. Sure, there are exceptions, but I would guess it has been less than 5 times the past year, and those were usually due to thirst.

But my kids...that's another story. They quite quickly caught on to the fact that a ball game = a candy/popcorn store on site. And while I don't want them to have too much junk, I also know that popcorn will keep a three year old occupied for about half of a basketball game. My kids are even so keenly aware of the sport/concession stand connection that they were both disappointed to learn that there is not a concession stand open during practice.

Tomorrow night we start a new era in our life. Annika (5) has her first softball game. We have entered the world of sports (or at least a different type of involvement). Which also means we've entered a world where kids are given credit at the concession stand after the game. I have to say from a health standpoint, this concept just befuddles me. We have rising rates of childhood obesity due in part to sedentary lifestyles. Organized sports is a way children can actually be active, but then we "reward" them with candy or soda of which the caloric content is greater than the calories actually expended on the field. It just makes me uncomfortable. Like our dentist giving kids sugary gumballs after their checkup (true story).

So am I going to be the mean parent and not let my kid get candy? No. Even though I've said this month we're eating only whole foods, I'll let them get something from the concession stand. And maybe because they're eating about 80-90% whole foods I won't feel so guilty. But I do know if we continue in the world of sports, I will try to be the one that always brings water and healthy food so our family doesn't have supper at "Restaurante de Concession."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 3: Challenges

Midway through day 3 of TRYING to remove processed foods from our family menu. And to say I underestimated the influence of processed foods in our life would be an understatement. It's actually very similar to how I've been eating, with the exception of having to cut out my diet soda (I'm trying not to think about that) and artificial sweeteners for my yogurt and coffee. But my family is a completely different story. While they all eat fruits and vegetables, I'm realizing just how much we relied on processed foods for the convenience and cost for a big part of the family menu. It definitely takes more time and effort to have fresh items for breakfast and snacking. Here are the biggest challenges we've had:

Social situations. Day 1 we had a wedding (although I loved that they had fresh veggies, cheese, and fruit as part of the menu...but we also enjoyed the turtle cake). Day 2 we had lunch with family. I never, ever, ever, ever want to become a food snob...where people feel like they have to make sure they cater to the way I prefer to eat (or, at least that I'm convincing myself that I prefer to eat that way). And I also don't want to pack my own meal, although in a potluck situation I'd be sure to bring something fresh.

A picky 3 year old. My five year old will try most foods and will fully embrace almost anything. She's adventurous. She's willing to try what's in front of her. My three year old on the other hand seems to know only one word at the dinner table...YUK! It almost doesn't matter what it is or if he's had it before, he takes some coaxing to try things, even things he's eaten and enjoyed before. So he's been much more of a challenge. On day 1 he even refused to eat the yogurt popsicle that prior to that he loved. I'm not giving up on him, but it does take a little extra effort to make sure that I have things he'll eat...boiled eggs instead of the omlettes we had for lunch, individual raw veggies versus a salad, etc.

The items still lurking about. I didn't totally clear out the cupboards. Some of the things I am letting everyone else finish and then just won't buy them again (at least for June). Some things I put away for the month. But somehow the kids quickly sniffed out the fruit snacks and graham crackers. But slowly these items are also dwindling and the grocery shopper of the family won't be replacing them, at least not until July 1. (I have to be honest, walking home from church today I had a moment of "what are we doing? It would be so much easier to just eat the way we used to." But I know that I feel better, so we're sticking with it.

Today is the first day that I've been fully on non-processed foods (social situations got me the other two days). I wish I could report that everything wrong in my life and body has improved, but that would be an utter lie. I do feel better in terms of my digestive health and just an overall feeling of well-being (i.e. I'm not bloated or lethargic).
Breakfast the past 2 days: local free range eggs, local berries, non-local (but yummy) kiwi

I did have a great day yesterday of hitting the local farmers market yesterday and also going to Riverfront Berry Farm where I found they sell free range eggs. They were more expensive than the store, but they made for some seriously good omlettes. As my 5 year old said, "the yolks are almost orange." Andrew and I finally watched "Food, Inc." last night and Andrew's first comment was "when do we get to order more beef?" (We get grass fed beef and pastured pork from Meadow Oaks Angus...their yummy bacon accompanied our fabulous eggs at lunch). Although I do have my moments of doubt, I'm happy that we're trying to have not just more whole foods, but foods that are raised locally. But because I also love kiwi, bananas, and coffee, I could not be a complete locavore.

I would say if you are thinking about cutting out processed foods, take a really good look at how many processed foods or restaurant foods you are eating. Pick one area to change first. Start slow so you don't get discouraged or go crazy. But do start. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Step 1 & 2 : Clean out the cupboards and make lists

Day 1. One meal down. But my preparations began about a week or so ago when determining that I REALLY wanted to serve my family mainly (or even solely) whole foods. I did two big steps in preparing for this experiment.

Step 1: Remove the temptation

The first thing I did when I was still trying to convince myself that removing processed foods from our daily eating would be beneficial was to clear out our cupboards of processed foods. Mostly I moved it all to our basement shelves (just in case I changed my mind). The items that are unopened will go to the food pantry at the end of the month if we are going to continue eating mainly whole foods. The opened items will either be tossed or held onto for special occasions. There were a few items like flavored yogurt and cocoa wheats that the family will finish up in the next few days, and then I just won't buy them again. I know you see the dramatic TV shows where a personal trainer or nutritionist goes through a family's cupboards tossing anything processed or sugary into the garbage. I'm too frugal and practical to make such a bold move.

Step 2: Make a list of things you (and your family) will actually eat

One of the scary things when changing to any eating plan is seeing food lists that are filled with things I've never heard of or don't like. When I started my healthy eating plan last November, I highlighted the items I liked and planned my meals around those foods. Along the way I tried some new items, but at the beginning I stuck with what I knew. Now that I'm working on making a change for our whole family, I started making lists of non-processed foods that the kids will eat. I classify them by meal. That way I know to have those items on hand. For example, the kids like raw spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers, so I'll be sure to have those on hand and ready for meals (along with ranch dip made with yogurt). Most of us rely on processed foods because they are easy and quick. If I'm going to have my family eat whole foods I need to make them easy and quick as well (although that requires preparation on my part, but I've been doing that kind of prep for myself for six months now, I just have to increase the volume). Here's a list of snack ideas that my kids like (I hope to expand the list):

1. Fruit & yogurt smoothies and parfaits (leftover smoothies can be frozen in popsicle molds)
2. Apples with peanut butter
3. Almost any fruit you throw at them
4. Cheese (I quit buying the imitation processed complaints from the kids)
5. Air popped popcorn

I currently have several lists going. I'm working on a way to organize them for myself to help with meal planning and grocery shopping. I also want some kind of a teaching tool where my kids can choose from different options to learn how to make their own healthy choices.

I do want to say that when we are guests at another person's house, I don't expect them to prepare only whole foods. I expect that when the kids are with either grandma, she will indulge them with goodies they haven't been eating at home. I don't expect to NEVER eat processed foods, I'm just trying to remove them from our everyday eating.