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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Man With a Craving & a Mission

What do a Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, medical school dean, dumpster-diver and former commissioner of the FDA all have in common? One name, one man: David Kessler.

He has recently come out with a book, The end of overeating, which I read about in this fantastic Washington Post article. Why the dumpster-diving? He was on a mission to find out the ingredients of restaurant foods.

Below is an excellent video with Dr. Kessler as he discusses the topics in his book. It helps answer the questions-Why can't I resist eating those chocolate brownies or that hot fudge sundae? Why don't I feel satisfied after eating? What is it about certain foods that trump my willpower? The end of overeating sounds like a fascinating read. Just when I began to think I might have an eating disorder (I'm perfectly healthy until I smell cookie dough!) after watching this video I feel like we ALL might have a common eating disorder--loss of control over foods that have just the right ingredients: fat, sugar, more fat and more sugar. Layers and layers of fat and sugar. Dr. Kessler asks, in essence, how the food industry is going to take responsibility for the problems they have created.

Check out this video, it might just make your day. If you feel powerless against certain foods, learn why and know that you are not alone. Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm Nuts For Macadamia Nuts!

Do you have a sweet tooth and like macadamia nuts?

I love them. They are my new favorite snack.

Macadamia nuts have ruled my last two weeks. I don't typically think about buying them when I'm at the grocery store, but since I ate some recently, I will always make sure I have them on hand. Here's why:
  • They're delicious.
  • They quell my near-insatiable sweet tooth.
  • They're rich.
  • I can't overdo it--they're very filling!
  • I discovered they make an awesome topping for chocolate coconut ice cream, and they compliment plain yogurt quite well with small slices of fresh strawberries.
  • They are truly decadent.
They are high in fat, but the good kind of fat, so go ahead, indulge a little!

I found an intriguing recipe at: Diet, Dessert and Dogs, for Raw Key Lime Tarts. They look incredible and the crust calls for macadamia nuts. Haven't tried them yet but they are at the top of my list of goodies to experiment with! Agave is the sweetener used in the filling. Yum.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eat Less: Feel Better

Do you dread facing all the food choices when you go out to eat? Do you get excited to have a meal out, but feel guilty knowing that you will probably respond to the environment by eating too much? One reason I quit eating at buffets is that I always felt like I had to get my money's worth. Since it was all paid for, I better make it worth the money by having seconds, thirds, etc.

Things have changed. I know that whether or not I eat everything on my plate, people in Ethiopia are not going to be affected by my decision. Contributing to hunger issues across the planet has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not to finish my meal. (I finally figured this out after growing up feeling guilty for leaving food on my plate while picturing half-naked, starving children in far away countries.) If you are interested in supporting a great cause like ending hunger, do it, but don't think that by overstuffing yourself you are doing anyone any good. It's an outdated parenting method.

Acknowledge that you don't have to finish every morsel on your plate. If you don't eat it all, it will either go to compost or garbage or your dog. If you do eat it all it is going to go in your body and potentially burden your body with more calories than your body needs. This specifically applies to those times you continue to eat after you realize you're full. Ideally, we would all be well fed and care enough to contribute to those who are hungry/thirsty. In saying this, I feel like I am making up for all those times when I ate everything on my plate thinking I was helping to make the world a better place. To actually contribute food and water to others, click here.

I just finished reading an incredible book called Mindless Eating. In it, author Brian Wansink uncovers hidden reasons motivating our dietary habits. He offers many pointers on how to quit eating mindlessly, including how to deal with being out to eat. Many of us fail in this area because it might be a special occasion or we are having so much fun with friends or family, that we forget to think about how much we've eaten at the table.

Here is a great list of restaurant rules, courtesy of Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink:

  • If the bread basket is on the table, you're going to eat bread. Either ask the waiter to take it away early or keep it on the other side of the table.
  • Portions sizes are often ample--split an entree, have half packed to take home, or simply order two appetizers instead.
  • While soft music and candlelight can improve your enjoyment of a meal, remember that they can make you eat more if you linger, and prompt you to give in to the temptation of dessert or another drink.
  • If you want dessert, see if someone will share it with you. The best part of the dessert is the first two bites.
  • Establish a Pick-Two rule: appetizer, drink, dessert--pick any two."
(Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, pg. 108)

What are your thoughts on going out to eat? Do you plan to splurge? Do you have rules for yourself?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Real Threat to Americans

Sometimes it's really good to see things in perspective.

Especially for those of you who tend to internalize information you see on the news. The media does not give a balanced perspective of what is going on in the world. If it did aim for perspective, it would perhaps show the following chart, night after night.

The fact is, information in this chart is not very entertaining and it certainly isn't what most people want to think about. It's much more exciting to talk about rare or unrealistic events because then we don't have to hold ourselves accountable for events that affect us daily. Well, here's to not passing the buck. Here's to facing reality and holding ourselves accountable:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stress of the IRS: Food For Thought

When it comes to doing my taxes, the same thing happens every year. I procrastinate. When I finish turbo-taxing, I vow that I will never save them until the last minute again.


Here it is, two days before taxes are due and I haven't started. I can't believe I've done this to myself again. Next year, for sure I'm going to start early....

Anyway, since I haven't completely figured out how to stave off cravings, and since I still use food for psychological comfort, here is what I'm currently chowing on while feeling the stress of the IRS:
  • dried mango (the Trader Joe's, unsweetened kind)
  • FruitSource-sweetened chocolate covered almonds (I can only find them at Safeway)
  • raw almonds
  • macadamia nuts, and
  • Tazo "Passion" tea, hot.
Now, I've got work to do! Good luck with filing taxes, if you haven't already!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Delicious Squash Soup in April

My neighbor brought over a giant squash last week. I was shocked! A locally grown, northwest squash in spring? Her friend runs a local CSA and had grown it over the winter, apparently. It was pumpkin-esque in size and color but definitely all squash. So one day my kind neighbor brought over this squash and some recipes to go with it. Last night I experimented.

First of all, opening the squash is a story in itself. In general, I find it very traumatic to use giant butcher knives, and I had to wrestle this thing while trying to cut into it. My imagination immediately takes me to the emergency room where my husband is carrying a bag of my chopped-off fingers on ice. Someone else must have used their imagination, too, because I had assistance opening the squash. I'm considering using an axe next time.

Scooped out the giant seeds to pick through and save for planting, then baked the giant halves at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so. When the flesh was soft, I tasted it. Delicious, but very different from other squash tastes. It tasted very sweet and meaty.

I let the squash cool and then sauteed onions in olive oil and butter and whipped up the rest in the blender before pouring the entire batch of pureed squash soup ingredients into a large pot to simmer. I didn't add curry until everything was simmering on the stove.

I kept returning to the kitchen and dipping in a large wooden spoon to taste. It was so good. It's times like these that I wish my husband ate more than chocolate and cheese and steak. It's amazing to look at our plates of food, which are usually entirely different substances (mine vegetable, his rare meat) and see that both of our foods are able to nourish us.

If any of your winter squash has made it this far without molding, try this recipe. It's so good, I prepared to eat five bowls of it but one bowl was very filling.

Let me know if you try this recipe and tinker with the ingredients. I did. I'm giving you the list of ingredients/amounts that I used, taken from another recipe. I would love to know what you do with this.

Curry Squash Soup

Bake or steam squash, after scooping out seeds. Use squash meat after baking, discard peel.
1 onion chopped
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1/4 C. spelt flour
1/2 C. cream/dairy alternative
4 C. or more water
1 tsp spike as "broth" in water
2 C. apple juice
1 tsp or so curry powder
sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautee onion in olive oil and butter. Add flour and some water to make roux.
2. Put 1/2 squash meat in blender with 1/2 of left over ingredients. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour into large pot.
4. Repeat step 2 with leftover squash and ingredients.
5. Simmer on low or medium-low for 30 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally. Add curry, salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dark Chocolate Bliss on a Cold, Rainy Night

Last night Jeff and I had an ice cream run. We needed it because we had not left the house in two days. So, just before the store closed, we ran in, grabbed our ice cream and drove home in the wind and rain.

He grabbed his usual pint of Ben & Jerry's and I grabbed my favorite naturally sweetened ice cream line made by Luna and Larry's called Coconut Bliss. They make the most fantastic coconut ice cream I've ever had. I've written about them before, but my taste buds made me promise to write something again this morning.

I chose Dark Chocolate, which I have not had in a long time. It was the sweetest, most decadent surprise. The last pint of Coconut Bliss I finished off was Strawberry Lemon Love. The strawberry flavor was incredible and creamy, but the lemon was a little icy and tasted quite sour. Normally lemon is my leading lady, but I could do without this version. It just didn't seem to have the oomph that I've come to enjoy in this line of ice creams. I found myself diving for strawberry in an ocean of sour lemon.

The dark chocolate is either pure heaven on earth, or my palate has become so jaded and needy that my opinion does not count. Eating no white refined sugar or corn syrup has changed the tolerance of my taste buds quite severely. It's a good thing for me, but when it comes to being a good judge of sweetness and flavor, I'm not the one to ask. Anything with a drop of honey makes my taste buds happy and satisfied. It was only a year and a half ago that my taste buds would not shut up unless I got them drunk on huge amounts of sugar: cookies, donuts, candy, chocolate and cake to name a few of my old favorites. Although I've always been a fairly good judge of flavor, since last year when my palette adapted to smaller amounts of sweetness, I've had to acknowledge that a sugar-free tongue is not the right judge in a sugar-laden world.

It's been a dark and rainy spring here so far in the northwest. Day after day of cold gray skies, rainy outbursts and spittle. No sunshine. So, it was a special moment last night when I experienced joy from a delicious spoonful of dark chocolate coconut ice cream. Jeff agreed to stay up late to watch Casablanca for his first time which added to the thrill. My favorite movie....my favorite ice cream....I felt like a kid again. Isn't the psychology of desserts a strange and mysterious thing?

Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Ingredients: Organic Coconut Milk (Organic Coconut, Water, Guar Gum), Organic Agave Syrup, Organic Fair Trade Cocoa, Organic Fair Trade Vanilla Extract

Casablanca: Not only is this romantic drama set during World War II, it was filmed during World War II. One of the best films ever made. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casablanca_(film)