Mocktails, the nonalcoholic wonders

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m dying to partake in the great tradition of drinking until the ball drops! That’s a long time to sip on a single glass of wine for someone who has committed to watch their alcohol intake. Do you ever feel the same way? In order to feel like part of the party and enjoy new and exciting exotic drinks, you may want to consider “mocktails”. Fruit juice mixes in hurricane glasses with fruit condiments and umbrellas are my favorite. If you are in a bar, you’d be surprised at the concoctions a bartender can come up with!

I was on a business trip at a top rated restaurant and didn’t want an alcoholic pairing for my meal, yet I felt the need to add something interesting to drink to round out the experience.  I asked the bartender what he recommended and he made his own creation of a fresh lemonade with fresh ginger and seltzer water. It came in a martini glass with a curled piece of lemon peel floating in it. I have to say, I was impressed and it really added to the meal!

If you are throwing a party or just enjoying drinking at home, there is website called Drinks Mixer that has a ton of recipes you can try. If you find one you like, memorize the recipe. Then, if you are out and about, I’m sure a bartender would be happy to make it for you. And for you beer drinkers….it’s easier for you…. there are a number of nonalcoholic beers on the market.

So here’s CHEERS to the New Year without a hangover!

Snickers Vegetarian

For a short period in my life I considered myself vegetarian because I disliked meat and only ate the rare burger when out with friends. But that’s a story for another day.

I’ve met a lot of vegetarians in my life and been surprised at the variety.  Those who just  didn’t eat red meat or didn’t eat meat at all. They were usually the ones who just didn’t like meat or took issue with eating a living thing.  One friend told me the story of her childhood love for her neighbor’s cow and how one year her neighbor and family celebrated her birthday by slaughtering it for dinner. I can see how that would drive you to vegetarianism!

There are those vegetarians who not only don’t eat meat, they will not eat anything prepared in a cooking medium or sauce made from an animal, like chicken broth, lard or your Asian pork sauces. Then you have your vegans or those who also do not eat eggs and or dairy. Those are the friends I worry about. I’d ask “where do you get your source of protein?” to start them thinking in case they hadn’t given it much thought. Under these extreme circumstances, the answer should be beans, nuts and legumes, but some fail to follow through. One friend even struggled to have a child due to her lack of protein.

Another of my vegan friends asked me if I wanted to stop by Burger King with her for lunch. “Burger King? what can you eat there?” I asked. “I eat their vegetarian Whopper”, she says.  Puzzled, since I didn’t know such a thing existed, I agreed to give it a try. We ordered, picked up our food and sat down to eat. I unwrapped my sandwich,  bit into it and was surprised to find a bun with lettuce and tomato on it. That was it!!!  Nothing else!!!   My first thought was Burger King is making a killing off of these! The second was how could my friend survive eating this way? I gave her a hard time and she reassured me she eats between her meals.

Later that afternoon she pulled a snickers bar out of her purse and started eating. At first I was shocked, but analyzing the situation a little more decided this made total sense.  My vegan friend’s only source of essential fats and protein was coming from that nut loaded candy bar! Now I’m not prescribing snickers bars as the best source of protein, but for a person in her situation, I’m glad she is eating it!

I’ve met a number of what I now call “Snickers Vegetarians” and found they have one thing in common. They are all friendly, cheerful, and unique individuals who have their own way of living.  I hope they live long and get what they want out of life.  Here’s to you….my “Snickers Vegetarian” friends!

Walk away from obesity

An article by Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology wrote that sedentary people walk 2000 to 3000 steps a day. An increase to 6000 steps a day significantly reduces risk of death and 8000 to 10,000 promotes weight loss.

If you have a pedometer, it would be interesting to see how many steps you walk in a day to compare. You may be surprised to find you are close to the sedentary level and may want to pick it up by walking stairs rather than taking the elevator, parking farther away from the store than usual, or if you have exercise equipment like a treadmill or bike, use it while you are watching television rather than sitting down. It will make a difference!

Got Water?

One of my slightly overweight friends asked me one day, “How can I lose weight if I don’t want to exercise, don’t want to change what I eat, and refuse to give up my alcohol?” ……………………………….seriously?……………………………..

I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince him he should do all of those things but looked at it from a practical sense. Was there something he HADN’T mentioned that could help him?

“Water” I said.  He looked at me with one eyebrow raised and asked…”Really?”  I proceeded to tell him water is the best thing to help a body work more efficiently which includes processing foods and removing waste. It made sense to me. I gave him a verbal “prescription” to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.

A month later I received a phone call from him happily announcing he had lost 12 pounds with the only change being the addition of the water!

All those expensive weight loss products and one of the best ones is free, right at your kitchen sink!

Merry Christmas and the spirit of giving

Merry Christmas everyone!

The holiday season is ripe with challenges to enjoy the celebration without compromising your healthy lifestyle. There is all kinds of food flowing, lack of exercise routines and lots of traveling.

The toughest part for me is the flowing food. The greatest pastime for my family is surrounding ourselves with great food and drink. We love to cook and receive lots of gifts in the form of food. I absolutely love it all!  But how do you keep from over indulging, laying around, gaining pounds, and sometimes making yourself not feel too well?

Lesson number one………….it’s always better to give than too receive!

I love to bake but my family shouldn’t eat as much as I make. I’ve made a new tradition to bake and decorate my annual sugar cookies but give them away to friends and co-workers. I enjoy the process of making them, sometimes sharing the decorating with friends, then me and my family eat a few and the rest I give away. Everyone gets to enjoy a little bit of Christmas goodness.

With all the goodies I receive, I taste it all, but don’t over indulge. Throwing an open house between Christmas and New Years is the best way to share your spread. Everyone enjoys an array of holiday munchables. Don’t forget to add your fresh vegetable and fruit tray with yogurt dressing! You want your nushies to be a well balanced diet!

Last but not least, give your family and friends a wonderful gift. Get outside and take a walk with your loved ones. It’s much better than lying in front of the television in a food- coma. You burn calories, feel better and soon will be ready to eat more! If you’re active, a snow sport event is a great way to give and work off all that holiday food! I remember when I was younger our entire family would go down large snowy hills on inner tubes sharing hot drinks out of thermoses. And….admittedly….there was usually a bottle of peppermint schnapps buried in the snow close by!

So here’s to you, finding a way to stay healthy through the holidays and enjoy the spirit of giving at the same time!

Merry Christmas!

natural sugar cookies recipe

Christmas CookiesEveryone loves those colorful Christmas decorated sugar cookies you find in the grocery store, but have you read the ingredient list? Although I’ve eaten them in the past, I just can’t bring myself to eat them today.

Here is a recipe that is slightly modified from the one my grandfather made (the baker).

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
3 eggs
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour

Cream together softened butter and sugar in an electric mixer. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Add in vanilla and orange rind. Slowly mix in dry ingredients. If the dough seems more like batter, add more flour until it sticks together better. Divide into 3 or 4 dough balls, wrap in wax paper and chill over night in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rollout dough and cut with cookie cutters, using flour to keep from sticking. The less flour used, the better the taste of the cookie.  Depending on the thickness of the cookie, baking time is between 5-8 minutes. If you like cakey cookies, remove from oven before cookies begin to brown on edges. If you like them crisp, remove from oven when browning just starts.

Icing is made with a simple combination of powder sugar and water. I like to make mine thicker so it doesn’t run off the cookie as much. Even the thick icing smooths out over a few minutes.

Decorating is where your all natural becomes difficult. If you don’t want to use coloring, white frosting with sugar crystals make an elegant look as do simple dried fruit. Otherwise, look at your local health food store for other natural options.

Enjoy!

Gluten free baking

I never had celiacs disease but I have had bouts of digestive issues that led my doctor to suggest trying a gluten free diet for 2 weeks.  “WHAT?!!!! I had already given up alcohol, caffeine, milk and limited my sugar intake. Now you are asking me to give up the nectar of the food world…..bread, cookies, cake, pies…..all baked goods??!!!”

Gluten is technically found in not only wheat, but also barley, rye, malt, spelt and it’s argued that oatmeal may also contain gluten too. I’m a descendant of a professional baker and live and die by my baked goods. My doctor finally convinced me to “just TRY it for 2 weeks” and I have to say, I was amazed at how good I felt following that diet. Plus, I lost a couple pounds in the process!

So, I wasn’t prepared to give up my baked goods and researched the best store bought GF items, but found the best results come from baking at home with alternative flours. Finding the mix of flours is the key to satisfying cookies, cakes, pies and bread that don’t leave you wishing for what you consider the REAL thing.

My favorite recipes for chocolate chip cookies, biscuits and pancakes come from a book called the Blackbird Bakery Cookbook which has the most amazing story behind it as well. The best thing is, my family enjoys things I bake and my friends find the chocolate chip cookies surprisingly tasty! There are a lot of recipes I could share, but this book is the best. Try it!

Shopping without temptation

Have you ever gone grocery shopping while you were hungry?  BIG MISTAKE. I am the worst offender of buying lots of terrible food when I shop hungry.

If you didn’t already know the rules to shopping without temptation:

  1. Eat a full meal before you go grocery shopping – Once my cravings are taken care of, I’m much more disciplined at the store
  2. Plan your meals in advance and make a grocery list – then I focus more on the list rather than the end caps full of impulse buys
  3. Include 2 healthier snacks on your grocery list – I pick a sweet item (usually chocolate) and a salty item (usually nuts) so if I have a craving, I have the right food for it.  And just a few nuts or a couple bits of chocolate knock the cravings out pretty fast!
  4. Don’t add cookies to your list, buy the staples to bake them – A box of cookies lasts less than 24 hours in my house. If I have a craving for cookies, I have to bake them. I really have to want them to go through the trouble. I always have flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, eggs and butter available at all times.  That covers most all recipes, and depending on what I happen to have in the kitchen determines the exact cookie I make. Most common are raisin, oatmeal, peanut butter, sugar, pecan sandies and thumb print cookies with the dabs of jelly.

You will be amazed at how this really controls what you buy. I know…there are still going to be those times when you can’t resist, but over eating is cumulative and any resistance of temptation could be one less ounce of weight gain.

Happy Shopping!

Yoga

I tried yoga years ago and seriously felt it was the exercise of wimps. “No pain, no gain” was my motto. Unless I was grunting and drenched in sweat, I didn’t think I was getting anything out of it. My work out routine consisted of an hour of step aerobics in the morning 6 days a week, and free weights 5 nights a week alternating upper and lower body.

Fast forward to a few years ago: I wasn’t just feeling pain and sweating, I was downright miserable! I was struggling through my work out unsuccessfully targeting to thin out my thighs, take a couple pounds off my rear and, at the very least, increase the size of my shoulders to counter balance the size of my rear end. Then came bursitis in the hip, plantar fasciitis in my right foot and exhaustion. I had to reduce my workouts to low impact aerobics without the step and reduced weights at faster, more frequent intervals. I was lucky if I could walk for more than 30 minutes. I felt defeated!

Everyone I consulted with about my issues recommended yoga, which I initially dismissed. Then a very smart friend gave me a DVD called the “Yoga Inside Out the healing way” with Paula Tursi. I decided to give it a try.

First, I found yoga significantly relieved my work stress. That alone made it worth its weight in gold. Then, my hip was stretched in ways it had never been before, and the pain began to dissipate. This also happened with my foot that had plantar fasciitis. Lastly, all the muscle targeting I had been doing with free weights and machines had nothing on the results I got when doing a full yoga routine. Longer, leaner legs, widened chest, rounder shoulders and ohhh…….what everyone wants, a firmer flatter abdomen due to a mega work out on the core muscles. I’ve now been able to increase the pace of my walking to add the cardio work I need to reduce fat and feel good.

Why I brought this up is I came across a show on PBS this morning that talked about the benefits of yoga.  It told of miracles. People who could not walk the stairs and struggled with their everyday lives now moving and living better. Even a golf pro with bad knees who can play again. It talked about the synovial fluid of the body being like the oil in an engine. If it’s not moving around all the parts, it’s not keeping the engine running properly. Yoga helps move that synovial fluid into all the joints and blood and air throughout the body.

I can’t imagine how different my life would be today had I jumped on the yoga bandwagon years ago. I really feel it’s the exercise almost anyone can do. Give it a try and see for yourself!

 

Vitamin supplements make for very expensive pee

When I was getting my Dietetics degree, I’ll never forget what one of my professors said to me. We just concluded a long run down on the list of essential vitamins and I asked, “so which vitamin supplements do you recommend for people to take?”  She answered, “My dear, vitamin supplements are very expensive pee. You only need to eat a well balanced diet to get the necessary vitamins.”  She went on to say she wasn’t telling me not to take supplements, but it was up to me if I wanted to throw my money away. I took it to heart and found she was, for the most part, right. It wasn’t until I started to have health issues that supplements were actually required. As a matter of fact, some supplements can do more harm than good if not taken correctly.

Beware of fat soluble vitamins that get stuck in your body. Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B end up in your urine if your body already has enough. But vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble and you can over dose on them. Vitamin K in particular can be very dangerous in high concentrations. How so? It is sometimes used in rat poison and can mess with the coagulation of the blood. And too many vitamins and minerals in general create a lot of work for your kidneys and liver.

Herbal remedies? Don’t even get me started. Tread lightly, I say.  Don’t get me wrong. I use supplements now, but it’s only when a doctor suggests it, and I don’t take any more than they recommend.

Save yourself some money and focus on eating foods that contain lots of nutrients instead. Isn’t it more pleasurable to munch on a fancy fruit salad rather than choke down a chalky white tablet that will end up in the toilet anyway?

I thought you would agree!