Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Hey everyone!! Sorry I disappeared for a bit, my personal life got its ass kicked and I also started a second job, all at the same time. I wanted to post a recipe that people have been asking for, this is for my homemade spaghetti sauce. Don't be intimidated by all the ingredients and steps, it takes a lot less time than it looks. And I just made it and it's simmering as I type making my apartment smell AMAZING.

You will need:
One large can crushed tomatoes (preferably organic, always low sodium)
Two 14 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
One can tomato paste
Small white onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
Garlic powder
Olive Oil
Margarine (the good kind without non-hydrogenated oils, or else use plain butter)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of margarine in the bottom of a large saucepan, and add the onion. Cooking on low and stirring every so often, heat the onions until they begin to get clear. Crush the garlic and continue for another minute or so. (Not too long because garlic burns easily.) Add all cans of tomato product. Take your hands and squeeze the whole tomatoes until mashed up and chunky. You can also do this before, I don't have the patience. Or for those of you who prefer smoother sauce, throw them into a blender. Take the large can from the crushed tomatoes, rinse with water and pour into the pan. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Cover the top first with garlic powder, then again with oregano. Add about a quarter to half teaspoon of the ginger, cloves, and basil. Finish with about a tablespoon of suger. If you do not want to add sugar, this is fine. The purpose is only to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Stir all together, turn heat to low, and simmer covered for 2-3 hours, stirring once in a while. I taste mine every half hour or so and add garlic or oregano as I think is needed.

This is the recipe that I usually stick to, but feel free to add whatever you want. I added green peppers and mushrooms once, and that was also good. I've added meat although my meat loving boyfriend told me he prefers it without it. Made my vegetarian heart proud :) Good luck everyone, and let me know how it turns out!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please eat your carbs!

Yeah. You heard me. Eat your damn carbs. The low carb diet craze is the most ridiculous thing to ever hit the diet world. Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy, fiber, and zillions of vitamins and nutrients. The trick is knowing what kind and how much.

Food companies have made it as difficult as possible to sort out the good food from the bad food. They do this by disguising unhealthy options as nutritious, "good for you" options. I find that this happens most in breads, rice and pastas. You should always, always, ALWAYS avoid white breads, pastas and rice. These are simple carbohydrates, they break down very fast and cause the blood sugar to spike and then crash. This is exactly the same reaction that sugar has, so when eating white bread and pasta, you are doing as much damage as if you were eating a handful of sugar. The body needs complex carbohydrates. These are the whole grains that have been made into bread and pasta in their natural state. During the process of making these white breads, the outer shell of the grain is taken away. This is where all the nutrients and vitamins are. Whole wheat and whole grain breads and brown rice have these grains in their natural state, and they do not break down as quickly. They take a long time to digest, which means blood sugar will not spike, plus you will get all the nutritional benefits of the grain.

So that seems simple enough right? Just buy everything that says "Whole Wheat." Wrong. For reasons I do not understand, most foods labeled as "Whole Wheat" are a trick. It's actually white bread made to look brown, usually by adding molasses for coloring. People buy the brown bread that says it's whole wheat bread and think they are eating a good bread. In order to make sure you are actually buying a product that is really whole wheat, you need to read the ingredients. If it says "enriched flour," put it down and back away. It should say "unbleached whole wheat flour." It also will probably have visible seeds and grains right in the bread. Pasta needs to say the same thing. If something is enriched, all that means is they tried to add back the nutrients that were stripped out in the beginning, and this doesn't work because our bodies will not absorb them this way.

Now for portion sizes.. breads and pastas should account for 9-11 servings a day. However, this is where the trouble comes in. A lot of people do not know what a portion really is. Its ONE slice of bread. It's 1/7 of a box of pasta. Its 1/4 cup of uncooked rice. A serving is not big at all, and all those sandwiches and pasta dinners can add up very fast. I recommend taking the time to measure out the servings. It will be worth it in the end. These foods tend to be calorie-dense, so overdoing it can cause weight gain, but these foods are so vital to our health that you cannot cut them out completely. I love taking a serving or two of pasta and adding a lot of veggies and a good spaghetti sauce. Add a couple of pieces of whole wheat garlic bread and I'm in heaven. (And also full and satisfied afterward.) Put this together with some toast and oatmeal in the morning, and a sandwich in the afternoon, and there are the recommended servings for the day.

The main thing to get from this post is to NOT AVOID complex carbohydrates. Work into it slowly if you need too. Whole wheat bread is an easy enough change, but whole wheat pasta can be a problem for some people. Experiment with different brands. Some are heavier than others, and remember to cook it for longer than you would the white pastas. Look at labels, and have fun finding ones you and your family can enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting started

The reason I named this blog "The Lifestyle 'Diet'" is because diets are temporary by nature. They are intended to have a person lose weight over a specified amount of time, and then usually have no sort of plan for what to do when that time is up. This is the reason why most people will then go on to gain the weight back, and in a lot of cases wind up being heavier than before. Eating well needs to be a lifestyle change. It needs to be something that can be sustainable, and doing this definitely takes the right mindset, and a commitment to being healthier.

The way that I do this is by not eating meat, and cutting back on dairy. I have many reasons for this: I have a lot of disease in my family that I am trying to avoid by being healthier NOW. I think the way animals are treated on factory farms is deplorable, and I want NO part of it. I watched a video on factory farming in 7th grade health class, and gave up meat for 4 years. I gradually began eating it again after that, and then this past Christmas I hit my highest weight ever. It wasn't an outstanding number, but I think that when anyone hits their "unacceptable number", its a low point. I had sort of been slacking off with my food. I had moved down south where the whole dynamic of food is different. I took a job where I sit all day long. I have a boyfriend who eats drastically differently than I do, and I liked the food. However, my boyfriend is blessed to be able to eat 5 million calories a day and still have 8 pack abs. I am not blessed in this way. I have to work at being at a weight where I feel comfortable. As my brother once tactfully told me, I am built like my father. I will never be a super skinny girl, I tend to be a little on the thick side. I am totally fine with that except that at this point I no longer felt curvy and fabulous, I felt fat. Not good. I decided to do something about it, so I grabbed the "Skinny Bitch" book, written by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. This was the kick in the ass I needed to take back control of my diet. The book promotes a vegan lifestyle, which means no animal products or processed food. This plant based diet has been proven time and again to dramatically lower blood pressure and cholesterol, cut the risk for heart disease and cancer by a TON, increase longevity and make for a healthier body weight. I am still unable to completely convert because I love cheese, but I have been meat and dairy milk free for 8 months. It isn't that I dislike meat. I love ham and steak the most, but after reading about the animals and reminding myself of the practices used in mass producing meat, its not worth it to me to be a part of that. For people who cannot give up meat, I totally understand. I am not trying to force people to make such a dramatic change that they will not stick with it. Take baby steps.

Grocery shopping has taken on a new meaning. The last time I gave up eating meat, my mother was in charge of this chore. Now, it's all on me. I spend a lot of time in the produce section picking out fresh fruit and vegetables. I buy, eat, and LOVE tofu and tofu products. I gradually moved to doing my shopping at the organic grocery chain Whole Foods. This produced an even more exciting change.. after a couple of months, I noticed a dramatic change in my skin and hair. My complexion is better than ever, and my hair is so shiny and feels amazing. I wasn't even trying to accomplish these things, they just happened. It was a very pleasant surprise, and I'm going to attribute it to going organic. Fruits, vegetables, pasta, eggs, and even frozen meals. I am obsessed with Amy's Kitchen meals, and the good news is that they are all meat, poultry and egg free, all organic, and there are vegan and gluten-free options. Her pizza and macaroni and cheese are to die for. I have not tried anything that I don't like, and its very nice to have something convenient to bring for lunch every day. I have never been a fan of frozen meals until I found this brand. The rest are garbage disguising themselves as healthy. Flip them over and read the ingredients and you will see what I mean. Read the ingredients on an Amy's Kitchen meal, and you can pronounce everything and almost every ingredient is organic. You can't lose.

If you get anything from this post, try incorporating more produce into your diet. The more fruits and vegetables, the better. They are an amazing source of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. There are so many options, plus they will fill you up so you eat less of the other not so great choices. Try to cut back on processed, pre-packaged foods because they are full of preservatives and sodium. I will get more specific in coming weeks about what to eat and what to avoid, but try this step for now. Enjoy and good luck!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In The Beginning...

I have been aware of the impact of food on health since a very early age. I have to credit my mother for this, she always made sure we ate well even when there wasn't a lot of money for groceries. My childhood diet was far removed from what I see children eating now-junk food simply never made an appearance. We ate whole wheat bread, fruit and vegetables which were home grown whenever possible, lean cuts of meat which were also home grown, and on the rare special occasion, homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I am not sure of my exact age, but I know I had to be above the age of five before I tasted a soda for the first time, thankfully a taste I never acquired. Now that I'm older, I am amazed that she was able to feed our family like that. We had very little money when I was a child, and the usual excuse for not eating well is almost always the expense. When I was a teenager working at the local grocery store, if someone was paying with food stamps the cart was inevitably filled with chips, soda, sweets, and processed dinners. In the year and a half that I worked there, I had ONE customer pay with food stamps that got produce and healthy breads and soups. This is not to knock people who are on food stamps, it is an extremely common misconception that healthy foods are too expensive and I'm sure they were trying to get the most food they could to feed their family. Years later in college, I wrote a flyer for that grocery store which outlined how to eat healthy on a budget, and compared common junk foods with more nutritious options. I was pleased to see that section of the flyers empty on a regular basis. It meant people were listening.
Anyway, I'm getting off topic. My mother was very creative with her meals but not in a way that is impossible for others to do. She is a very good cook and would make spaghetti sauce from scratch, macaroni and cheese, (which I still cannot master to save my life,) homemade soups, stews, casseroles, etc. We never ate canned food, processed food, or "kid" food. There was a vegetable every night that was either fresh or frozen and fruit throughout the day. Cereal was plain Cheerios, Kix, Rice Krispies, and we were not allowed to have sugar on it. Once in a while if she was in the right mood, we would be treated to Honey Nut Cheerios. To this day I find these cereals to be delicious and the sugary options to be way too sweet to handle.
I remember the conversation that made me decide that I wanted to know more about food and nutrition. I was 12 years old and my grandparents were babysitting while my parents were out of town. My grandfather has Type II diabetes and he was discussing his most recent meeting with his dietician. He spoke so highly of her, and I could tell this was someone he had a lot of respect for. He was saying that he loved going to someone who lived what she preached, and was saying how her skin and eyes were so clear, her hair was so shiny, and she was in great physical shape. We talked about her for maybe 15 minutes but the impact of that conversation was huge for me. From that moment on, I wanted to eat to be healthy like her. Health became my favorite class in school, and my 7th grade health teacher was my all time favorite teacher. I then went on to major in Community Health with a concentration in nutrition, and all of this was a direct result of this 15 minute conversation that I had when I was 12.
The purpose of this blog is to hopefully show people the myths that surround food and diet today. We are fed so much crap about food through the media, and I hope to set the record straight on some of it. I graduated college in 2007, but nutrition and eating well are my passion and I continue to research and read about it in my spare time. I will share what I learn, and I am always open to questions and suggestions from anyone who would like to offer anything.