Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Elephant Journal Rocks

Check out my new writing venue!

The Elephant Journal has tons of very interesting articles and people who write them. I'm just as fascinated by the authors as I am by the subject matter. Read on topics covering yoga, organics, consumerism, wellness, children, arts, education, etc.

Look for more of my upcoming articles, and as always, check back here for posts, too.

I apologize for my absence here at My Year Without.......life!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Really Really High Fructose Corn Syrup

I have no idea how many of you are soda drinkers, but even if you don't touch the stuff, we all know people who do. Here's an interesting topic for discussion:

Researchers discover soda beverages have higher than expected amounts of fructose. The typical range of fructose in high fructose corn syrups is approximately 45%-55%. However, researchers recently found as much as 65% fructose in sodas, including Coke and Pepsi.


What's the problem and who cares? Too much fructose is linked to serious health issues, including metabolic disorders. Marion Nestle of Food Politics says:
  • Fructose: increasing evidence suggests that the metabolism of fructose–which differs from that of glucose–is associated with abnormalities. This means that it is best to reduce intake of fructose from table sugar as well as HFCS. -Click here for full post

If you're interested in reading more about the latest on high fructose corn syrup and sodas, go to the following links:

Los Angeles Times article

Food Politics Blog

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sugar-Free, Quick, Easy Zucchini Bread & Stew

This zucchini bread rocks. It comes from one of my favorite naturally sweet recipe books, The All-Natural, Sugar-Free Dessert Cookbook.

I had a giant zucchini that I used half of for my Mish Mash Veggie Stew (see below). The remainder I shredded for bread which I've been craving--I haven't eaten zucchini bread in three years. The shame. It's one of my favorites, too.

Like always, I fudged with the recipe (my version below) but it turned out perfect. It would be easy to substitute applesauce for the eggs to make this vegan. I just love how (happy, non-caged) eggs add fluffiness.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

1 and a half C white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C veg oil
1/2 C pineapple juice
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 and a half C shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray regular-sized loaf pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl combine dry ingredients. In medium bowl combine wet. Pour liquid ingredients into dry and stir until just blended. Fold in zucchini. Pour into pan. (I like to drizzle a little leftover juice on top at this point. It makes the crust crispier.) Bake 45-55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Enjoy!

Mish Mash Vegetable Stew

pot of water
1-2 tblsp dried onions
tblsp of dried vegetable broth or similar
whatever vegetables you have!
purple onion
cherry tomatoes
whatever beans or lentils you have!
orange lentils
white beans
mung beans

I boiled the broth, dried onion, lentils and beans (after soaking) for about 30-45 minutes before adding the veggies. Then I let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I found this great pretzel at my local grocery. They are so incredibly hard that I can only eat them by soaking them in soups. They are delicious and hearty but I fear they are capable of chipping a tooth if I don't soak first.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Taste of Sugar, After Almost Three Years

Date: September 6, 2010
Time: 11:00pm

Place: Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington D.C.

Occasion: My 35th birthday

What: Sweet Indulgence

Almost three whole years have gone by and I have managed to stay sane without indulging in sugar. I've thrived, actually. Every New Year's Eve I've asked myself if I can let go and indulge a little. So far I have not wanted to taste sugar again.

At some point on my birthday, however, I decided that I might try a little dessert if the occasion presented itself.

It did.

Jeff and I enjoyed a very late night dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill and I asked to see the dessert menu.

(I've frequently thought about taking a bite of something deliciously, sinfully sweet, just a bite, but then fear becoming a full-fledged addict all over again. No taste in this world would make it worth it. And yet, does this total denial make me an obsessed freak?)

After a small dinner on the night of my birthday, the server brought out a chocolate cappuccino brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, covered with layers of fresh whipped cream. I knew this was going to be outrageously delicious. I planned to attack the dessert from the top down, one layer of whipped cream at a time before diving into the chewy brownie. I salivated in anticipation.

As I began to undress the brownie's sweet layers of whipped cream, a monster impulse came out of me and I began to greedily take large spoonfulls of brownie, covered in ice cream and whipped cream. I savored the flavors of chocolate and espresso and vanilla just long enough to swallow quickly before taking another bite.

This lasted all of four bites.

I reached my tolerance for sweet so quickly that I set my spoon down in surprise. I had not anticipated this. I planned to take advantage of the situation and eat the entire dessert, until the very last drop of melted ice cream and crumb of brownie were resting in my belly. I didn't care if I ate too much, just this once.

I sat back and looked at Jeff. He was holding his spoon, ready and waiting to pick up where I left off. I told him I had had enough. I couldn't even imagine taking one more bite. He asked me if I could "taste the sugar" and honestly I was not able to break down the ingredients like that. My mouth just began to need water and reject the mere idea of more sweet. It was simple and complicated.


I sat back and enjoyed watching my husband devour the almost fully intact dessert. He lives for chocolate and has this raging sweet tooth all the time. He asked me if we should tell our server what a significant dessert this was for me. The server came by and cleared our table and Jeff and I looked at each other, knowing that this would be our little secret.

As we walked outside, past the White House and down the street to our car, Jeff asked if I would eat sugar again anytime soon. Instantly pictures of donuts and cookie dough and ice cream flooded my imagination. I could take my pick. I could be done with this silly sugar-free kick and enjoy life! But I shook my head and tried to explain the strange sensation that I felt.

"As good as that brownie ice cream sundae tasted, a better feeling emerged from my brain as I stopped eating it and watched you enjoy it," I said, unsure how to explain this feeling. "These past few years I have watched so many people enjoy desserts, as I sip lemon water or tea. In the beginning I felt somewhat resentful and angry at myself for having such a dumb resolution to not eat sugar, but it morphs into something else. This is going to sound twisted, but I'll try to explain: As I watch other people eat dessert, I see that people are weak around sugar--which I recognize easily, because I am weak around sugar, too. They are victims to their sweet tooth and eat and eat until their stomach is about to explode, and after dinner will confess that they ate too much but couldn't stop. I feel a certain strength in passing on dessert because I know I will feel good about myself."

Too many times in the past (okay, almost every time) when presented with dessert, I overate. I would beat myself up for losing control, while suffering from a full, bloated belly. I would swear to have more willpower next time, but "next time" I never had that willpower I promised myself. It was a vicious cycle that never changed until that first day of the year, 2008, when I kicked sugar's butt.

After quitting sugar for two years and nine months and then finally eating a sugary dessert, my conclusion is that nothing tastes as good as feeling good about myself feels.

Back to my boring sugar-free ways...

Just kidding! Sugar free is not boring at all. Look around my blog for recipes and stories. Being sugar-free is actually quite an adventure, and I look forward to many more years of freedom from the white stuff.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm Back In, Sugar's Still Out

Well, dang.

I'm putting off school a little while longer, and in the meantime, I'm learning way too much about sugar to not keep posting and sharing.

While I froze my blog for a few months in an effort to take some time off writing about sugar, I found out that school will come later rather than sooner, and I never did stop writing about sugar. I just didn't post.

Not only is there a lot going on in the world of sugar, but I keep getting emails and feedback from people which has re-inspired me to continue writing, researching and posting. I've had my own interesting experiences, as well, including a short-lived experience with sugar that I can't wait to share!

You can count on frequent posts again, and I look forward to getting back on board in this gigantic world of blogging. I just can't help it, researching and writing about sugar and nutrition has become my passion.

Thanks for hanging in there, everybody!

More soon.....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Still Sugar-Free, But Moving On....

Dear Readers,

I apologize for my absence lately. It has been a difficult decision, but I have decided to freeze my blog in order to pursue some other interests. I am still passionate about living a sugar-free life, and had no idea that a New Year's Resolution would last this long.

As an overview, especially if you are new to the site, I quit sugar in order to see if it could be done and what it would be like. I was seriously addicted to sugar before I quit cold turkey.

I determined that sugar does not have a place in my life, ever, including life's celebrations and "indulgences". There are so many wonderful alternatives to sugar (my favorite being fresh, organic fruit, and honey-sweetened tea) that I don't feel like I am missing out. In fact, my taste buds are more sensitive to sweet now that they are not saturated and dulled by mass quantities of sugar, which I could never seem to get enough of. I used to plow through the vegetables on my plate in anticipation of dessert afterward. Vegetables satisfy my sweet tooth, now, and have never tasted more flavorful as they do these days.

Just from quitting sugar I have realized important physical benefits including: less tired, no sugar crashes, eating healthier foods in general, feeling better about myself, substantially stronger immune system, no itchy yeast symptoms, no more craving white sugar products, etc.

By quitting sugar and writing a blog, my interest in overall nutrition has exploded. Rather than stay focused on sugar (it offers no nutrients--don't eat it!) I am exploring the world of whole foods and how both healthy and unhealthy foods relate to healing and disease. In other words, I am considering going back to school to get my Master's degree in Nutrition. (A few years at a community college part-time, to get the pre-reqs out of the way, first!)

I am passionate about nutrition but also the relationship between food manufacturers and the general public. I have been duped most of my life into believing that a candy bar or cookie or piece of pie will make me happier and help me celebrate life's precious moments. Instead, eating those things made me feel lethargic, guilty and yet, somehow hungry for more. Now that I know how incredible it is to be free of sugar, I want to spread the word. By going back to school I hope to learn in more depth, what I have brought to the table in the last few years.

Thank you for all your feedback, great questions, support and interest in the information I've provided. It's been one of the most fun experiences I've had. I've really enjoyed getting to know many of you through your blogs, or by your great questions and feedback along the way.

I hate goodbyes, so instead, I hope the best for each one of you, whether you commit to giving up sugar or not!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dried Cranberries: Recipes and More

I love dried cranberries. I mean, I really LOVE dried cranberries. When I first gave up sugar in January 2008, it broke my heart that most brands of dried cranberries were covered in white sugar. I was ecstatic when I recently had the opportunity to review a package of dried cranberries, compliments of Eden Organic. Not only did they send cranberries, but I was "accidentally" sent dried cherries, too, as well as recipes, nutritional info, and their 2010/2011 catalog. I dove into each: cranberries, cherries (so tart, oh my!), and the catalog, which is full of a wide variety of items, including hard to find items like kuzu root, lotus root tea powder, and agar agar.

A bit about Eden Foods:
  • "Eden foods is the oldest organic food company in the US and Canada.
  • Eden foods means NO: Irradiation, Preservatives, Toxic additives, Food colorings, Refined sugars, or Modern genetic engineering.
  • Eden relationships with organic growers and over 355 family farms."
I used an Eden Foods cookie recipe, but as always, I made changes here and there, based on what I had in my kitchen. The cookies turned out incredible. The dried cranberries add a sweet zest. Though not as dark in color as other cranberries, they are just as flavorful and sweet as the other naturally sweetened varieties I've tried, and, they are bigger in size and organic.

Here are two oatmeal cookie recipes. The first is my version, and the second is the original recipe that I used to come up with mine.

Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Cookies
2 C. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 and a half C. white whole wheat flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. organic apple juice
1/4 C. sorghum cane syrup
1/2 C. dried cranberries
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil baking sheet. Mix dry ingredients separately from wet. Combine wet ingredients and then mix with dry.

Drop on baking sheet, pressing down on each cookie and shaping into a circle. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Just a note about some of the ingredients I used. Apple juice is a fantastic liquid sweetener. It keeps the cookie moist while not taking over in flavor. I opted to use regular vegetable oil instead of olive oil because the times I've tried olive oil in cookie recipes, the cookie tastes too much like olive oil. I'm not sure how these would have turned out using olive oil.....

Note the sorghum I used for sweetener. I just got it from MOM's and they purchase it from a small family farm here in the US. Sorghum was recently brought to my attention because of its unusual flavor (sort of like a milder version of molasses) and its nutrients. Most liquid sweeteners don't have much to boast about nutrients. But sorghum has calcium, iron and potassium, to name a few. As far as the cookies go, I think the salt was in perfect proportion to the sweet sorghum (or whichever sweetener you use), making these cookies super yummy and highly recommended.


You can find the original recipe (Eden Organic: Oatmeal Cherry Pecan Cookies ) by clicking here.

Next on my list to try: Dried Cherry Tart with Oatmeal Crust....

Fun Ideas For Dried Cranberries
  1. Toast: Spread whatever kind of butter you use, then spread a thin layer of honey, then sprinkle generously with cranberries. It's more delicious than jam.
  2. Oatmeal: Sprinkle on top or for a softer version, add to the oatmeal as it's cooking.
  3. Cereal: Sprinkle on top to make the most boring cereal exciting.
  4. Trail Mix For Your Purse: Find yourself out and about and hungry? I always throw a little bag of trail mix in my purse if I'm going to be out long. A simple mixture of dried cranberries, almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, peanuts, raisins, etc.
  5. Trail Mix For Your Car: Who doesn't get hungry on long drives? I always keep a bag of trail mix in my glove box and it hits the spot especially if I get stuck in traffic between meals and my stomach is growling.
  6. Trail Mix For Your Desk: If you work in an office, keep a jar/bowl/bag of trail mix somewhere you can easily access it for when you get hungry or just get the munchies but want to avoid the vending machine. Add a glass of ice water and there, you've avoided the junk food vending machine and the soda vending machine. Start a healthy trend around the office.
  7. Trail Mix For Travel: Whether you travel by plane, train or automobile, having this snack with you will keep you satisfied. The peanuts in flight are usually honey-roasted and covered in sugar.
  8. Homemade Biscotti
  9. Oatmeal Cookies: If you like raisins in oatmeal cookies, you'll love cranberries.
  10. Salad: An excellent addition to a green salad. Sprinkle sunflower seeds and dried cranberries for added sweetness and burst of flavor.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Which Snack Bar is Best?

Need some help determining the best snack bar for you? I think Lara Bars are by far the best choice, because of the organic, natural, few ingredients. In a pinch, a Lara bar quells my hunger, and I feel good about what I'm eating. Loved Fooducate's breakdown of the Lara bar versus a Kellogg's bar.

I also just found Enlightened Cooking, a cooking blog that has an entire article dedicated to making your own Larabars. Check it out!

I've been so busy with life and projects that I have not been able to maintain new posts regularly. Sorry! Know that I am thinking about you, my blog readers, and am preparing some new articles that I hope to publish in the next few weeks...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If You Love Mango, You Can Quit Sugar

A regular-sized mango has about 25 grams of sugar. That is why I love them.

My favorite fruit changes all the time. Usually it's whatever I happen to be eating at the moment. I love the fact that since I gave up sugar, a piece of fruit can satisfy my sweet tooth. This is particularly true with mangoes.

Trader Joes has a variety in stock right now called the Champagne Mango. It is smallish and the best type of mango I've ever tasted. I'm writing about mangoes for two reasons. One is because if you are trying to stay away from white sugary treats, load up on mangoes. Ripe and unripe. Eat the ripe mangoes soon and save the unripened ones for later in the week. (If they get overripe, cut out the meat and freeze it. Add it to a smoothie.) The other reason I feel the need to mention mangoes is that they can be intimidating to peel and eat--but I have found the answer!

My father-in-law gave me this great little mango-peeling invention and it looks like this:

In one easy swipe, it cuts through the entire mango, leaving you with three pieces.

At this point, depending on how you plan on eating the mango, there are many ways to attack the fruit. If you just need that sweet, juicy, unique taste of mango, then grab your serrated grapefruit spoon and dig in! I take one side at a time and scoop out the meat using this spoon.

It's more difficult doing this to the middle/pit of the mango, so I usually eat around it like an apple. If you are using mango slices for a dish, then simply take a knife and carefully carve out chunks of meat.

The mango-slicer-contraption is definitely worth having. Before I owned it, I would usually pass on mangoes at the store because they were such a pain in the neck to open. Trying to peel them was ridiculous and slicing them and trying to cut the skin off was a joke. For me, anyway.

Hope this tidbit is useful, and I would highly recommend loading up on mangoes! Your sweet tooth will be happy, you will be happy, and your body will be happy.

Mangoes are high in Vitamin A and C, and they are a good source of fiber. The only catch is that, "A large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars." (1) The high amount of natural sugar is what makes the mango a perfect substitute for refined sugar. It's the reason they are so sinful to me. I love sweet things and this packs a natural, sweet punch that does the trick.

On a side note, I also love the unsweetened dried mango that TJ's usually carries in the dried fruit section. It's addictive, but healthy. I'm happy to be eating a handful of dried fruit these days instead of a handful of Oreos.

(1) http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1952/2

Friday, April 30, 2010

Super Easy & Terrific Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

My mouth is saturated with the aftertaste of cinnamon, honey and molasses. I am still savoring little bits of sticky cranberries and raisins in my molars. The cookie I just baked is amazing. It is so simple and perfect. Thanks to Jamison Studio for this delicious oatmeal cookie recipe.

Rule #58 in Michael Pollan's book, Food Rules says, "Do all your eating at a table." I am breaking that rule right now as I type this post with a plate of hot cookies to my left. I pray I have the willpower to stop at two.

I am so happy with these cookies because a) I experimented by using brown rice flour b) they are so easy to make it's ridiculous c) I used less sweetener than is called for in the original recipe and they are still incredibly sweet. Not only are they sweet, they have a perfect texture. I worry a little about using applesauce in cookie recipes because sometimes the cookie ends up dense and rubbery. Not these. These little gems are perfect. If you would like to see the original recipe, click on the blog above. Otherwise, what I provide below is the exact recipe I used, with all my fudging arounds. As with any recipe, substitute to your liking. Try different flours, dried fruit, spices, sweeteners, etc. The following is what I consider the perfect oatmeal cookie.

Super Easy & Terrific Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 C. white whole wheat flour
1/2 C. brown rice flour
1 C. whole oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 C. raisins
1 handful dried, apple juice-sweetened cranberries
1/4 C. raw honey*
1/4 C. oil**
1/4 C. applesauce
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 egg***
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 335 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then combine. Add in nuts, dried fruits, etc. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden colored.

*I found a jar of raw Wee Bee Honey at TJ Max, of all places. It is an east coast, raw honey all completely pesticide free. I tasted it before adding it to my recipe and it is the sweetest honey I have ever tasted. Fragrant, too. I recommend this stuff.

**You can use 1/2 C. applesauce instead of any oil, but I wanted to try using both this time.

***Jamison used 1/2 a banana instead of an egg and she said it turned out great.


Now that I'm done writing this, I realized I stopped at 3 cookies. I was hoping for only two but at least I didn't get into that over-indulging state of mind that would have beckoned me to happily have more than 3.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Naturally Sweetened Biscuit for Humans and Dogs

Like I've mentioned before, I love perusing the strange gourmet food section at TJ Max and Marshall's. Sometimes I'll bring home dinner: colorful noodles, exotic mushroom marinara (doesn't checking for sugar go without saying at this point?), olives, pickled asparagus, tea, nut mix, bruschetta, olive oil, etc. Sometimes my purchase will include breakfast, as well: German whole rye bread, maple syrup, raw honey, etc. If you have not checked out this hidden gem, give it a try. It's fun to have black squid-ink noodles and exotic marinara on hand when a friend stops over for lunch.

The other day I found boxes of

at TJ Max. Always on the prowl for a naturally sweetened goody, I picked this up, scanned the ingredients,

and threw the box in my basket. Who cares that they are little "teething" cookies meant for toddlers, whatever that means. They looked simple and tasteful with the oat flour and molasses. The bright red sticker with "$1.50" really did me in. A box of naturally sweetened cookies for one dollar and 50 cents? Deal!

The next morning I stumbled out of bed, woken by the bright sun shining in my room before the 7 o'clock hour. Jeff and I take turns taking Annie-the-mutt down the 6 floors and outside every morning. It was his turn. I walked groggily to the kitchen, filled my teapot with water and swiftly prepared course coffee grounds for my french press. When the coffee was ready, I examined my pantry for something sweet to dip with. I'm a dip-a-holic, by the way. I love to dip toast, cookies, biscuits, bread or anything hard and chewy that might contrast the bitterness of coffee.

Side note: (I am not using coconut milk anymore to sweeten my coffee (I use organic whipping cream). I got sick of it really fast, even though it was delicious at first. However, coconut milk is still fantabulous for making chocolate "milk".)

I noticed my unopened box of maple "teether" biscuits sitting to the side in my pantry. Perfect, I thought. I settled in on my couch, wrapped warmly in my robe, holding my hot cup of joe and armed with two biscuits. I was obviously going to love these puppies.

Well, uh, that didn't exactly happen. For those of you who have kids, perhaps the descriptive word, "teethers" means something to you. I didn't notice the word at all when I bought the box. I was focused on the fact that they were cheap and naturally sweetened.

Well, "teethers" means very hard and dense. They are biscuits meant for toddlers to suck on while they are teething. Or for dogs. I dipped one end of the biscuit into my coffee and expected a nice, soggy bite. Instead, I had to use my molars to break off a piece into my mouth. For the next bite, I soaked the biscuit much longer in my steaming coffee but to no avail. I'm convinced this biscuit is nothing other than a dog biscuit safe for human consumption.

However, it was very tasty and the scent and taste of molasses lingered for a while after the first bite. It ended up being a great compliment to my bitter coffee.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Balcony Container Garden in its Infancy

I just moved my container garden outside to the balcony. I transferred several cherry tomato, heirloom tomato, arugula and butter crunch lettuce starts to bigger containers. The basil seems to be growing--but rather slowly, actually. The fragile starts grow a little bit each day, and hopefully they keep growing and thrive.

I swallowed my pride and bought a few little herb plants: sage, thyme and basil. I've already dried the thyme and sprinkled it on salads. It is so amazingly delicious. I can not wait for sun-ripened tomatoes!

As far as sugar goes, I'm trying to locate a tea I used to drink that was called Sugar Balance or something like that. It helped to stave off sugar cravings. Anyone know what I'm talking about? Pink box?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Haikus and Strawberry Snacks

Strawberries and nuts
Coconut and chocolate
A sweet snack for me

Rain and chilly days
Hot ginger tea with honey
Soothes my sweet tooth needs

Strawberry Snack
(Great for kids!)

Slice lots of strawberries
Lay flat and take turns decorating with one of the following nuts:
Sliced almonds
Macadamia nuts

Then add one or more of the following:
Coconut flakes
Grain-sweetened chocolate chips
Sliced bananas
Sliced pineapple

Get creative and snack responsibly!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Breaking News: Agave Allegedly Worse Than HFCS

Dr. Mercola states, "Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer "natural" sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but are unaware that most agave is actually WORSE than HFCS."

Rather than copy and paste entire sections here, read the article on Huffington Post yourself. It's long but worth the read, and current. Published yesterday, 4-15-10.

Dr. Mercola must have read my previous post about agave....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"How did I turn off the part of me that knew better?"

Interview with Special Guest: Michelle
Self-proclaimed Soda Addict

The other day at a local coffee shop, I had the privilege to interview this bright, witty, fun woman. Like many of you reading this blog, she has an interesting history with sugar.

Michelle was 19 years old when she first began getting the headaches. They got so bad she threw up. Repeated doctor visits, scans and tests showed nothing other than a possible sinus infection. She was given prescription drugs and steroids and took them...because she was desperate. The pain was unbearable. She dealt with this for 4 years, feeling like the diagnosis and treatment wasn't right, but not sure what to do.

A friend mentioned that diet could have something to do with the headaches. So Michelle visited her doctor and asked if diet could be the culprit. The doctor said no. A different doctor finally correctly diagnosed her headaches as migraines, but also told her that sugar had nothing to do with them. Despite this, she decided to change her diet according to her friend's advice and testament. For the first time in four and a half years, she no longer had migraines. So Michelle gave up sugar completely for one year.

During that year her migraines were nonexistent. She felt healthy and happy. When I asked Michelle when and why she began eating sugar again, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "It sort of just happened."

A student brought in her favorite kind of mints (those buttery yellow, green and pink ones shaped like large Hershey kisses), and she figured one wouldn't hurt. She kept them in a jar on her desk and within a week they were gone.

She was back on sugar. She told herself, "Maybe I can handle a little bit here and a little bit there..." Her logic was that most of her food choices were so healthy that a little bit of candy once in a while would be okay. At first she didn't feel bad at all. Then she became pregnant so she quit sugar for good, again. She felt wonderful. Within a year her family moved to Japan and that's when sugar found itself back in her life.

"I started eating sugar again, not knowing it, because I couldn't read any of the food labels in Japan. Then we started eating out a lot and it brought old habits back, like drinking a lot of soda."

With her husband away traveling often and raising two kids at home, it was a treat to drink soda. Her justification was, "Everyone else is drinking soda and it's not bothering them." Her migraines had not returned so she tested the limits by overindulging in soda.

She says the behavior started when she was a child--drinking soda when she was sick, and drinking Slurpee's at 7 eleven. Back then little was known about the adverse affects of sugar. But Michelle says that even recently, her doctor recommended that she give her daughter "jello, gatorade, and popcicles to ward off dehydration." What is a parent supposed to do when these sugary items are recommended by pediatricians, and have been for decades?

Michelle told friends that she kept accidentally shrinking her clothes in the dryer. About a year later she realized she was bigger, her clothes were not smaller. It took a while to admit that her favorite form of sweet might be the cause of the extra weight, but eventually Michelle couldn't ignore that her weight gain was due to her out-of-control soda indulgence.

After two or three times quitting soda and then falling off the wagon, "I realized I had an addiction. It was like I was an alcoholic, except with soda. It was a vice. How did I turn off the part of me that knew better?"

When she began drinking soda and eating a lot of other sweets, the migraines came back. When she was diagnosed with a chemical sensitivity (chronic sensitivity to low levels of chemicals, including scents, food addtitives, etc.), it led to an excuse to eat sugar because she could blame the migraines on chemicals like perfumes, instead of sugar.

Michelle says, "What I firmly and strongly believe, no one would know based on what I feed my family."

So, what is Michelle doing now?

"My goal is to get myself and my kids off of processed foods totally. I'm not going to get my husband to eat this way, and even on the weekends if we go out to eat, that's okay. But during the week I'm going to buy and prepare whole foods, grind my own flour, and keep junk out of the house." In an effort to keep the migraines at bay and encourage her kids to enjoy healthier food, she is preparing her family for some big changes.

On New Year's Day 2010, she took out all of the junk food in the house and spread it on a table. She let her kids (ages 10 and 4) eat as much as they wanted. Then she threw away everything that was left. Now the family eats mostly healthy (her husband isn't buying into this health-streak just yet, however!).

Michelle now brings home delicious naturally-sweetened snacks that she and both her kids enjoy. Soda is a special treat instead of a daily ritual. She has the ability to consume sugar (soda) in moderation, something many of us only dream of having the willpower to do.

She admits that one of the greatest difficulties in eating healthy is viewing foods differently than her spouse. In her desire to avoid conflict, it's been easiest to go with the flow instead of putting her foot down about certain foods. That's all about to change this next year, but she is making small changes and baby steps forward instead of forcing everyone to quit cold turkey.

I applaud her for being a caring, loving wife and mom of two as she seeks balance in her family relationships and at the same time strives to provide healthy food for her household.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mickey D's is on Their Knees

Begging me to please, please come in and take some free, government subsidized food products off their hands. What the?!

At least that's what the giant sheet of coupons implies. Two days after reviewing two outrageous food pyramids that are going to blow your mind, I received McDonald's coupons in the mail. Addressed to "Resident," obviously because they don't know that I am not a customer. Like I've mentioned before, on long road trips I love Mickey D's. I love that we can pull up, park, and I can run in a side entrance, use the loo, and then run back out again. Their bathrooms are usually clean, well-stocked and convenient. One summer I used their bathrooms so many times during a long road trip that I half expected to start seeing WANTED signs. "WANTED: Woman using bathrooms but not a paying food or beverage customer. REWARD."

The first two coupons on the sheet are "No purchase necessary." One for a free small Frappe, and the other one for a free 32 oz. beverage, "excluding orange juice, shakes, McCafe and iced coffee." The other coupons are buy-one-get-one or free this with purchase of that. For some reason I was insulted when I got this in the mail. I can't explain why, but maybe the pyramids I recently looked at had something to do with it.

Get ready to feel very, very angry:

The biggest revelation I got from this is that truly no one but myself has my best interest in mind when it comes to food.

(pyramids courtesy of PCRM. http://www.pcrm.org/magazine/gm07autumn/health_pork.html)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sugar Cane and Nevella: Unrelated Stories

Jeff and I enjoyed a 3-day weekend in small-town Virginia. In the little community we stayed in, there was a grocery store called Bloom. Underneath the store name was the phrase, "A different kind of grocery store". I didn't need anything there, but I was intrigued. What was so different?

Upon entering, we took a hard right into the produce section. Nothing looked too extraordinary, in fact I didn't even see an organic section, but I didn't look too hard because I immediately became distracted by a big brown barrel.....of giant stalks of sugar cane!

What?! Where did these come from and why would anyone want to buy a 7 or 8 foot stalk of sugar cane? I've seen short pieces of sugar cane packaged for sale before, but never sugar cane taller than me. Each stalk was for sale for $2.99. Jeff and I laughed and planned on stopping in to buy some (pure humor factor) on our way out of town, but forgot.

Bloom had a "natural foods" section, basically the same products you'd find at a Whole Foods, so I wandered around there for a minute before perusing the rest of the aisles of the grocery store. On an end cap I noticed a giant yellow bag of sweetener. I'd never heard of it before. "Nevella. No Calorie Sweetener." Hmmm. Of course I was skeptical. I picked up a bag (which weighed as much as a helium balloon) and looked at the ingredients, expecting sucralose, because so far, Splenda and its generic product sucralose, are the only sweeteners that don't weigh a thing.

As you can see, the ingredients are as follows: maltodextrin, sucralose, bacillus coagulans GBI-30-6086

I wouldn't touch this stuff. Why? All above ingredients are manufactured.

MALTODEXTRIN: Let's revisit maltodextrin. It's a product of corn (or wheat, in Europe). It's a food additive produced from corn starch by hydrolysis, into a white powder and is absorbed as quickly as glucose. Basically, it's a sugar you won't find anywhere in nature, and considered a "hidden" sugar. When you look for sugar in an ingredients label, it's easy to pass over this ingredient. (1)

SUCRALOSE: It's 600 times as sweet as table sugar. It is made by chlorinating sugar, and is made up of 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methyl alcohol. In 1998 it was approved by the US FDA. Then in 2000 safety concerns were raised, including lack of long-term studies. However, according to Wikipedia, "Sucralose is one of two artificial sweeteners ranked as 'safe' by the consumer advocacy group CSPI," not to mention other groups like the USDA, WHO, etc. Personally, I can do without anything artificial. (2)

bacillus coagulans GBI-30-6086: This ingredient was developed by Ganeden Biotech, Inc., who are focused on their probiotic technology. This patented bacteria strain can withstand high temperatures from baking and boiling.

It's interesting how many new sweetener products are on the shelves these days. I can't keep up with them all. However, it seems that most of them contain either sucralose or some product of stevia. Since consumers are demanding "sweet", but "no calories", the market (companies) is supplying that demand. I think artificial sweeteners will be around for a long time....

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltodextrin
Get The Sugar Out, p. 56-57

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quit Sugar and Thrive

Sometimes the reasons I go without sugar seem elusive, like during a full-blown craving. Other times I can't seem to find the time to list the reasons why refined sugar sucks.

Well, this morning I found some time and some novel reasons to reconsider eating any more of the white stuff. Although you'll mostly hear me demonize nutrition-less white refined cane/beet sugar, I also recognize and advocate keeping all sugars, even natural sugars, to a minimum. With that being said, I'd like to share bits and pieces of nutritional information and recipes from a book that I can't wait to share with you.

Ever heard of the Thrive Diet?

Written by a professional Ironman triathlete, author Brendan Brazier offers a plan to help you achieve top notch health and reduce all types of stress. He uses a whole foods plan and helps you understand how and why refined crap-food can be the source of stress. He provides super-easy recipes with wonderful, nutrient-rich ingredients.

Here's his take on the almighty sweet tooth:

"A sweet tooth also helps us maintain a positive outlook: The modern brain craves sugary or refined starchy foods (those foods whose fiber has been removed and therefore whose sugar component of the carbohydrate is relatively high) because they release serotonin, a chemical found in the brain's pituitary gland. The release of serotonin has a powerful elevating effect on our mood. Continually low levels of serotonin can lead to chronic fatigue and clinical depression. People who have a regular supply of serotonin being released into their bloodstream feel better, and are therefore more productive and feel less stressed, than those with low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is plentiful and free flowing when stress is low; however, as stress rises, serotonin production declines. Cravings for sugary or starchy food are most likely an attempt by the brain to make it "feel" better. This is why such foods are referred to as comfort foods--they are the foods that are craved after a particularly trying day. Ice cream and donuts, which are high in sugar required to produce the subconsciously desired serotonin hit, are common comfort foods. Giving in to these cravings will satisfy the brain, but this satisfaction is short-lived. And so you eat more serotonin-releasing foods, which eventually leads to more stress, since these refined carbohydrates offer very few nutrients--not having enough nutrients in our diet is a form of nutritional stress and therefore produces a stress response. Simply by having lower levels of cortisol (meaning less stress), the body will naturally produce more serotonin. Natural light and healthy food are the best ways to naturally raise serotonin." -The Thrive Diet, p. 18-19

He also states that the "common cause of nutritional stress [is] the overconsumption of refined food."

We've probably all faced the following situation: We are seated at a restaurant and we're ravished. We feel like we'll just drop unless we get some food in our body. The server brings a basket of bread and even though we don't want it, it's there and we're starving. We eat it anyway. Brazier describes what happens when we eat it: "I would wolf down the French bread typically served before the meal. My stomach would be physically full, yet I would still be hungry. Since white bread is void of any useful nutrients, my body wanted me to continue eating despite that I felt full. To digest, assimilate, and then eliminate the white bread requires a large energy expenditure. The net energy gain from it is very low." p.36-37

He goes on to describe how and why high net-gain nutrition is so important. He lists important staple foods, the role of exercise for life-long health, and meal plans for home and travel. His recipes include: pizza crusts (using beans and quinoa), energy bars, smoothies, pancakes (the chocolate banana pancake is made with hemp flour, buckwheat flour and dates), soups, salads, salad dressings, crackers, sauces, drinks and a banana coconut pie for dessert.

I'm eager to own this book (I'm borrowing the one I have now), and dirty the recipe pages while experimenting with hemp flour, ground sunflower seeds, hemp oil, miso, etc.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Urban Balcony Garden

I don't know what you call the opposite of a green thumb, but I kill plants. I've tried indoor plants several times but they never make it. I understand the concept of over-watering and under-watering, so I'm not sure what my problem is.

Fortunately, I have better luck with plants outdoors. I love to garden and last summer I helped my dad prepare and plant his garden in Washington state. I moved to the east coast before reaping any harvest, but I was amazed at the bounty he and my mom collected over the summer.

Currently I live in a high-rise condominium, but I've been wanting to play in soil and garden. I have not identified any community gardens close-by (although there are several scattered throughout the city) so I was beginning to think I would have to swallow my desire to garden. Then, earlier this year I read this post on Crazy Sexy Life and I knew as I read that I would have to give balcony gardening a try. This guy just makes it sound so magical (a garden growing on a fire escape in New York City?!), while also sharing some dirty details and pointers. Check out his blog!

So, I'm doing it, too.

So far I have planted: basil, cherry tomatoes, heirloom purple tomatoes, arugula, buttercrunch lettuce and red cabbage. I germinated my basil seeds first, so we'll see how that goes. One of my main goals in balcony gardening is keeping the cost down, and using as many recycled containers as possible. Between my husband and I, we have plenty of containers and I'm hopeful that I will not need to purchase any. My costs have been $7 for a bag of soil, and around $2.00 for each packet of seeds. Yesterday I planted. I'm keeping everything inside until I have hearty sprouts, then I'll arrange everything on my sun-kissed balcony.

I feel like a little kid, eagerly awaiting any sign of the first sprout. The only thing I'm missing is Stevia. I want to grow my own plant, dry the leaves, and use them in their whole form for sweetening my tea. I'm also anticipating satisfying my summer sweet tooth with sun-ripened cherry tomatoes. There's nothing more delicious than a warm, ripe, juicy tomato. Goodbye winter. Let there be a warm spring and pleasant summer!

In a few weeks, I will be transferring my starts outside to my balcony.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Still Sugar-Free and Insanely Happy

It's been exactly 2 years, 2 months and 22 days since I gave up the white stuff. I don't enjoy saying it like that, though, because it doesn't feel like I have given anything up. It feels like I have been given energy, happiness, good moods, more time (less time sleeping/napping), better health, and a greater understanding of this little devilish, overly processed grain of nutrition-less sweet.

What started out as a test of my willpower became much, much more. At first I missed and craved sugar in all it's sweet and fattening forms. Oreos became the object of my lust, as did giant mochas and whipped cream, brownies and Ben & Jerry's. Thing is, when I began feeling wonderful and going through my day without any sugar crashes, I realized that I was happier than a taste in my mouth could ever make me. The taste was so temporary but the feeling of being energized lasted and built up my confidence. I don't question whether I have willpower anymore. I've proven to myself that I can do anything since I did what I set out believing was impossible.

People ask me all the time whether I miss things like cookies and donuts. Sure I do. Sometimes. But most of the time I'm not obsessing over food anymore. I don't fantasize about getting my sugar fix. The cravings have hugely subsided and when I do get a hankering for something sweet, the slightest sweet in my mouth satisfies me.

Overcoming such a difficult behavior to control (my former sugar addiction) is the best. Nothing I've ever put in my mouth compares to feeling in control and happy and healthy. I used to think all this was impossible. I read books and heard stories about people who had given up sugar and I kind of didn't believe them. Surely they had hidden stashes of donut holes or midnight runs to Mickey D's for chocolate shakes. No one can really go without sugar, I used to think. Now, it's a way of life for me and lots of others who have dared to test the limits of their willpower.

With the growing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other medical issues, I don't care to go back to sugar. I love a little drop of honey in my tea, and my date- and molasses-sweetened cookies or my rich and creamy peanut butter cups. All in moderation, which is now something I can do. Hooked on the white stuff, I could never understand the concept of moderation.

Instead of saying I've "given up" sugar, I need to start saying that I've streamlined my eating habits to reduce needless calories. Giving something up is what people do for lent. It no longer makes sense for me to use this phrase. It's quite a treat being satisfied with a juicy piece of fruit. I no longer worry about extra calories, which before always came in the form of something sweet.

I don't know if this is at all inspiring in any way. I hope it is. I just wanted to give a personal update and reiterate that being sugar-free is one of the greatest gifts I have ever given to myself. It's not only doable, it's packed with rewards.

(Thank you Marc and Angel for posting my article, "9 Timeless Nutrition Tips for Any Age" on their blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coke, PepsiCo, Michelle Obama, & Other News...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Recently in the news:

makes a world-wide commitment to not sell sugary drinks in schools. However, they will still sell non-caloric beverages and sports drinks like Gatorade. We all know Gatorade is sugary, but at least Pepsi is taking a step in the right direction. Thanks to CSPI for their work in this effort. Unfortunately, Coke is not doing the same.

Michelle Obama "Scolds" the GMA
Thanks to Food Politics for outlining excerpts of Mrs. Obama's speech to the Grocery Manufacturer's of America. It certainly packed a punch!

Let's Move! Campaign: A Closer Look
Take a look at the informative post on Appetite for Profit's blog. If you haven't been interested before, reading A for P's take on things is sure to get you fired up!

Here's more on the Let's Move! Campaign, plus, look around this blog for lots of great nutritional information.

Bob's Red Mill: An Incredible Change of Ownership
When I found out that Bob transferred his multi-million dollar business to his employees, I teared up. Not just because I miss my hometown, but because of this amazing act of kindness. He inspires me to make decisions that I can look back on and feel proud of (giving away material items rather than storing them). Click here for the scoop. And if you happen to run out of date sugar or garbonzo bean flour, order from the Red Mill. Better yet, take a vacation to Portland, Oregon and plan to eat at and tour the facilities. It's quite charming.

That's it for now. I have an itch to write something provocative and juicy. Any topic suggestions?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Kitchen Exploded

It's been a while since I've had the motivation to blog...

Here's the most recent reason why:

It happened last week and almost killed my dog. I was seconds away from having my bare feet sliced into serving sizes.

What happened is I got home and wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water. My faithful mutt always has a sip with me. Her eating and drinking dishes are next to the pantry. Like I've mentioned before, my kitchen is teeny. So, Annie and I are wetting our whistles and then I step out of the kitchen for a second before loading some dishes in the dishwasher. Annie steps out into the front room with me. As we are walking out of the kitchen, the biggest crash I've ever heard in my life happened on the tile floor. The shelves in my poorly constructed pantry came crashing down. Basically, my pantry exploded.

Upgrading your containers to glass is a good idea--if you trust your pantry shelves. Most of my grains and pastas have been housed in gorgeous mason jars. Suddenly my kitchen floor became a swampy combination of vinegars, syrups, and a steady flow of molasses carrying large chunks of glass all throughout my kitchen and seeping into my living room. Walls were splattered with sticky substances. Most of our food became a soupy mix of glass shards and molasses. I freaked out. I grabbed Annie, and ran outside the apartment to call Jeff. I thought the wall had come down.

Fortunately, I have a most incredible husband. As soon as he heard the trembling in my voice, he assured me he was out the door and would take a cab home. I was shocked and thought it unnecessary for him to leave his job (contract position...you don't just leave because your wife has a molasses problem) until 6pm that night when we finally finished cleaning up the mess. It was a nightmare. Our apartment is completely tiled, so glass shards had rolled and spread all throughout the kitchen and the front room. We wore Crocs as we cleaned and then had to clean the glass bits out of the Crocs. Scrubbing molasses and glass off the floor was dangerous and tedious. I got cut. Jeff probably did, too, but didn't say. He had the good attitude, I had an anger management problem: "I could have been killed! Annie was drinking her water just seconds before...if she were standing there when it happened, she could have been killed!"

Jeff lost much of his "junk" food, and I lost all sorts of beans and grains and pasta. But in the end, I realized how lucky I had been. I can't imagine standing there and having a pantry full of glass jars and dishes fall down on me, surrounding me with shards of glass, cutting me into pieces. Annie and I decided that even though it was a strange catastrophe, it was a reminder to be thankful. We avoided the worst of it. And Jeff still has his job.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Natural Sugars are Still Added Sugars

Anyway I look at it, I have been eating too much sugar, albeit in the form of natural sugars. Women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugars, and for men it's 9 teaspoons. Lucky I don't eat added sugars. At least that's the way I saw it, since my sugars are mostly natural and hardly processed.

My latest revelation is based on information I read in CSPI's Jan/Feb 2010 Nutrition Action Healthletter. The cover story is SUGAR OVERLOAD, Curbing America's Sweet Tooth. Read it!

I was happy to see my favorite subject broached, but I thought to myself, 'This doesn't pertain to me anymore. I quit sugar over two years ago.'

What I read, however, turned my perfectly ordered world of natural sugars upside down.

I was not ready to have over two years of my work be thrown out the window by one statement. "[Added sugars] include high-fructose corn syrup, ordinary table sugar, honey, agave syrup, and all other sweeteners with calories."

Then I discovered a list in the article that brought me to tears. The list titled, Sugar by Any Other Name, broke down what is considered an added sugar, which just made me grimace. Why? Because my beloved list of natural sweeteners that I held high and mighty and above all reproach found themselves in the same category as the horrible sugars that I have not touched in over two years. How in the world could my raw honey be rubbing elbows with corn syrup? Or table sugar even compare to grape juice? Were not my beloved natural sugars in an entirely different class because they're, er, natural?

Apparently, folks, my head has been in the clouds. I thought I had found redemption in honey and juice concentrates and maple syrups. The sad news is that these are added sugars. That's not an opinion. That's a fact.

And that, my friends, breaks my heart.

An added sugar is an added sugar, no matter what the source of that sugar is. The verdict is in, the science is clear, and the AHA is bold enough to tell us that unless we keep all of our added sugars in the 6-9 teaspoon range (9 for males, 6 for females), we may be headed for medical troubles including increased risk of heart disease, high triglycerides, diabetes, visceral fat, gout, overeating, high blood pressure and obesity.

Added sugars do not include fruit, dried fruit, vegetables and other whole foods.

I'm angry for giving natural sugars an exception in my kitchen and in my diet. I thought I was free to eat as much "sweet" as I wanted, as long as my sweet was natural and barely processed. Now I see that I confused science and philosophy. Because I believe philosophically that honey is a better sweetener than sugar (raw, local, not processed, etc.), I made the mistake in believing that it is healthier, too. It may or may not be healthier, (honey has about 300 more calories per cup than white sugar) but as far as all those medical diseases are concerned, I have to limit honey as much as I have to limit white sugar because they are both added sugars.

I don't want to play by the rules of the AHA (6 teaspoons, approximately 100 calories, is not very much sugar, especially if you drink sweetened beverages or alcohol), but I also don't want to be suffering from heart disease or diabetes in the future, trying to convince myself that natural sugars are off the hook.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soda Tax: Who is For It & Who Isn't

Sugar, rum, and tobacco are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life, which are become objects of almost universal consumption, and which are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.

— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

What it is

A soda tax is a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and those sweetened with caloric sweeteners.


To decrease the consumption of sugary beverages and to generate revenue for obesity-related medical costs.

(The following is far from being an exhaustive list of all who are for and against the tax.)

Who is for it:

Most recently, California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced his soda tax bill for California.

California Center for Public Health Advocacy helped Florez draft the bill.

The soda tax was first introduced in 1994 by Kelly D. Brownell, PhD., Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.

The current Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas R. Frieden, and the above-mentioned Brownell argue for the taxation of sugary beverages in this 2009 New England Journal of Medicine article.

New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

Dr. David A. Kessler, author of my personal favorite, The end of overeating.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest

Without coming right out and saying it, Dr. Nestle implies her interest in the tax with several related posts.

President Obama: "It's an idea that we should be exploring," the President said. "There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that's been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else. Obviously there is resistance on Capitol Hill to those kinds of sin taxes," he continued. "Legislators from certain states that produce sugar or corn syrup are sensitive to anything that might reduce demand for those products. And look, people's attitude is that they don't necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that. It is true, though, that if you wanted to make a big impact on people's health in this country, reducing things like soda consumption would be helpful." — President Barack Obama to Men’s Health

Who is against it:

Beverage companies, and the American Beverage Association (ABA).

The ABA has this to say about the tax, "Families are still barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. Adding to their burden with a tax on their groceries should be the last way to tackle the state's budget problems." I think they need a heftier argument. Since when have sugary beverages become a staple of Americans' groceries? They go on to say, "...this tax will threaten thousands of well-paying, New York jobs in the beverage and related industries." Lack of jobs in New York? I can only hope that there would be a lack of jobs in the sugary beverage industry and other junk food industries!

Let's see, who has our best interest in mind: doctors, professors, and directors of major health agencies......or beverage companies?

I can't resist sharing this video:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Easy Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This bread is virtually the No-Knead recipe I posted in October, with a few alterations. It's a cinch to make, hardly any maintenance, but does take 12-18 hours to rise. So start it the day before you want it. For those of you who have had little luck with yeast breads, you'll love how fool-proof this is.

The only real trick, in my opinion, is getting the water temperature just right for the yeast. My way of doing this is crazy and I don't exactly recommend it, although it works for me every time. I basically put my finger under running water until it's just too hot for me to stand, but not hot enough for me yell. I know there are better ways (a thermometer, perchance?) but I'm old fashioned in the kitchen, including measuring. I generally don't. My husband wonders why I don't measure, and I don't have an answer for him. I know it makes sense, to guarantee that the recipe comes out perfect.....I guess I love how food comes out different every time.

However, it's hard to post a recipe when I'm just throwing things around, so I've done my best to gauge amounts. Tinker if you will.

Easy Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

2 C whole wheat flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
2 pinches sea salt
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 C raisins
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
approx 2 C. tepid water (less water by about 1/2 C if using white flour)

Mix dry ingredients including yeast. Then add water and mix until sticky and shaggy. This picture shows that I need more water. Dough should be fairly moist all over.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for between 12 and 18 hours, room temperature.

Then turn dough onto lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a little flour, and fold it over once on itself. Cover loosely with plastic wrap for about 15 minutes.

Using lightly floured hands, quickly and gently fold dough into a ball, and place on lightly floured towel, seam down. Dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours. Should double in size after rising:

At least 30 minutes before putting dough in oven, heat oven to 450 degrees and put in a heavy cast iron pot (or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) that is at least 3.5 quarts to 8 quarts. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven and turn dough over into pot. Shake pot once or twice if dough is not evenly distributed. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Cool on rack.

While the bread was still warm, I cut a few slices and slathered them with butter (Earth Balance) and just a light smear of honey. I find this bread delicious and especially rustic. Each bite with raisins is heavenly. I'll add more next time.


I can't resist showing you my dog, Annie. She put up with us while we had cabin fever during the blizzard last week. She pretends like she hates wearing glasses, but she knows she'll get treats if she poses for the camera. The abuse!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Unfortunate Marriage: Peanuts and Corn Syrup

To my shock and horror I discovered corn syrups and other sugars added to jars of peanuts.

I usually by peanuts in the shell, but I don't eat peanuts that often. I typically stick with more exotic nuts like macadamias, almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashews--because I'm so fancy.

I love a good peanut, though, dang it! I'm fortunate not to have allergies, and I realize and sympathize with those who are unable to experience the joy and tasty satisfaction that peanuts can offer. Luckily these days grocery stores are stocked with all kinds of nuts so our choice is not limited.

Last week, during our wonderful blizzard, I wanted peanuts. I visited the nut aisle (which is new to me because I usually buy my nuts at TJ's) and found a large variety of peanuts. I figured right off the bat that honey roasted peanuts would be off-limits. They were. I looked at some roasted, unsalted peanuts and they looked boring so I tried finding roasted, salted peanuts. I found several different brands, including the big "P" brand of peanuts, that added corn syrup, maltodextrin and corn syrup solids. Can you imagine why the heck these peanut companies are adding all this sugar to the poor, otherwise innocent peanut?

I finally found a grocery store brand of roasted, unsalted peanut and that turned out to be my only bet. All other peanuts had added sugars.

Two things I don't get:
  1. Peanuts are naturally sweet, so why would they need sugar? Without added sugars, one serving size of peanuts (28 g/about 40 pieces) has approximately 1 gram of sugar. Peanut sugar. Let's say that peanuts were not sweet enough by themselves. Wouldn't it be just as easy to add sugar ourselves?
  2. I've heard that sugar can act as a preservative. In this case, though, peanuts don't need preservatives. The jar I bought says, "SELL BY JUN 22 11". If my roasted, unsalted peanuts have a year and half shelf life, what gives? Do the corn syrup covered peanuts have a 10 year shelf life? Gross.
I have no idea why sugar is added to peanuts. It's not needed.

It's another must-read label, folks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ellen Degeneres Gives Up Sugar

I love when celebrities talk nutrition!

Click here, or here to watch Ellen's video diaries as she shares what it's like to be without the white stuff.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down?!

What do a blizzard, NyQuil and candles all have in common? They all happened this past weekend. It wasn't the 2 and a half feet of snow covering the city or the loss of heat, power and hot water that got to me most or the lighting our place with candles. It was finding out that NyQuil has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. What a disappointment, especially after taking it every night consecutively. Imagine a "remedy" full of sugar!

It happened right under my careful little nose. I check ingredients of everything-even soap. But several nights ago I realized that coughing all through the night wasn't just affecting my sleep--it was keeping my husband awake, too. That night I coughed so hard my nose bled and I threw up. I could hardly breathe because of the phlegm draining into my throat. I was miserable but determined to get through this au natural. Herbs, vitamins, tea, whole foods, water--YES, over-the-counter crap--NO WAY.

But I bit the bullet that night and climbed out of bed around midnight to enter the wild snow storm outside. I was delirious. My cough continued as I climbed over snow drifts and breathed in ice cold wind all the way to the grocery store.

I told myself I was doing the right thing. I had to get sleep and I hadn't had good sleep for days. I convinced myself to grab a bottle of NyQuil as soon as I got there and not let myself deliberate or check ingredients--but I was only surmising the chemical ingredients that would freak me out. Sugar never crossed my mind. When I arrived at the store I did just as I envisioned doing--I quickly grabbed a bottle of red nighttime NyQuil from the bottom shelf and threw it in my basket.

I guzzled the red, syrupy stuff before going back to bed and slept better than I had in quite a while. Every night I tried to skip the NyQuil but I had this crazy cough that started at night and would not let up. So I turned to the bottle several nights in a row and when Jeff got the cough, we toasted our elixir. Day 3 or 4 it occurred to me I hadn't checked the ingredients for sugar. I was so concerned with being scared off by the chemicals I didn't want to see, I had forgotten about sugar. High fructose corn syrup is listed after all the food colorings and before the glycols. Yuck. Did I still take the stuff after I found this information out? Sadly, yes. I felt trapped--either be awake most of the night coughing up my lungs or give myself a break and sleep soundly so my body can rest and repair. I chose the latter but only had to take it a few more times.

I feel taken advantage of. Gross. Angry. I was put in a catch-22 situation. I was not able to trace it back to anything or anybody which is disconcerting but I have let it go. I heard that some people have the cough for up to 8 weeks...mine has been less than two weeks, so I guess being healthy to begin with helps lessen the duration of such things.

Our power went out Friday night. No heat, electricity or hot water. The amount of snow that fell weighed down tree branches everywhere, including my neighborhood where the telephone pole and all the wiring fell and became tangled in the branches. Workers worked all day Saturday to restore power and by almost midnight we had some power. Still no heat or hot water. Sunday, Jeff and I made the most of it. We decided to build our own internal heat by walking around outside. It was crazy to see everything covered in a blanket of snow. Some cars completely covered, other cars with giant trees laying on the hood, broken and fallen.

We made the most of the fallen snow. Instead of rotting inside and getting cabin fever, we made an effort to be out in daylight. We found a great hill in our neighborhood where we tobogganed and took mad photographic shots of each other.

When we returned home, the hot water was back in business. It was a perfect way to end our perfect weekend. I definitely take too much for granted--my health, the weather, hot water, heat, etc.

The extra-perfect part of the end of our weekend included two new pairs of slippers.

Now my job is to write a complaint letter to NyQuil....