Posted on February 9, 2011
You hear me talk about eating clean and avoiding processed foods, foods altered by people but then I go and make a recipe with milk… so what gives? I’m going to break down the reality of processed foods and how it relates to a clean eating lifestyle. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for safety reasons and for convenience. The methods used for processing foods include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing.
We tend to think of processed foods as bad, but it turns out that many processed foods are not unhealthy. For example, milk would be considered a processed food because it is pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to keep fats from separating. While some people prefer to drink raw milk, most of us should consume the “processed” version we find in our grocery stores.
Another healthy example of food processing is frozen vegetables. While fresh may be best, freezing vegetables preserves vitamins and minerals and makes them convenient to cook and eat all year around. Fruit and vegetable juice is also an example of a healthy processed food. In fact, some orange juice is fortified with calcium to make it even more nutritious.
Of course, there are a lot of processed foods that aren’t good for you. Many processed foods are made with trans fats, saturated fats, and large amounts of sodium and sugar. These types of foods should be avoided, or at least eaten sparingly.
Processed foods that may not be as healthy as fresh foods include:
- Canned foods with lots of sodium
- White breads and pastas made with refined white flour, which are not as healthy as those made with whole grains
- Packaged high-calorie snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
- High-fat convenience foods, like cans of pasta
- Frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners
- Packaged cakes and cookies
- Boxed meal mixes
- Sugary breakfast cereals
These processed foods and prepackaged meals are very convenient and popular. If you do shop for these foods, be sure to look for products that are made with whole grains, low in sodium and calories, and free of trans fats. Make sure you pay attention to serving size, too, and balance out the processed foods you eat with a delicious fresh salad and some whole grain bread.
Read the Label – Additives to Avoid
You are what you eat, even when you don’t know you are eating it! Your food label needs to become your roadmap for grocery shopping. After a few trips, a little practice and some helpful tips you’ll be well on your way to knowing what to avoid! Here is a list of some of the most harmful and common additives that are in the average American’s diet.
Natural Flavors are naturally occuring substances approved for use by the FDA. These substances could contain flavors that come from allergy causing ingredients like nuts and wheat. If you are prone to food allergies this could be a big problem for you.
These are fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides that farmers spray their plants with the repel insects and weeds. Unfortunately they are not required to be listed on the ingredients of food. More often than not the residue from these chemicals remain on your food. Studies have linked these chemicals to cancer. You can avoid these toxins by washing your food with 1tsp of dish washing detergent with 4 liters of water or you can shop organic and avoid these chemicals all together.
Sodium Nitrite is a preservative that is found in processed meats such as Bacon, lunch meats, and other processed meats. The problem with Sodium Nitrate is that it can mix with other chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been linked to various types of cancer. You can avoid this by avoiding canned soups, frozen dinners, and buying fresh meats and nitrate free lunch meat.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This ingredient is listed as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, or Corn Syrup Solids. It is found in frozen foods, sweets, breads, sauces, sodas, candy, ketchup, and countless other foods in the American diet. HFCS is the grim reaper when it comes to your health. It brings with it a truckload of health problems including increasing your risk of diabetes , heart disease, and high cholesterol. It also can increase insulin resistance which can lead to obesity and a plethora of additional health problems. In fact High Fructose Corn Syrup tricks your brain into thinking it’s still hungry so it actually encourages over eating! Unlike other natural sources of Fructose like fruit HFCS has no additional vitamins or minerals. It has zero nutritional value. You should try to avoid foods that contain HFCS at all cost.
You can find these ingredients under the names red #3, green #3, blue #2, and the list goes on. They are find in Candy, sodas, and other foods that seem to be unnaturally brightly colored. Studies have linked artificial food colorings to a host of health problems including cancer and thyroid problems. You should steer clear of artificially colored foods.
This additive is found in dairy products. rBGH is a growth hormone that is injected into cows to stimulate milk productions. After approving the use of rBGH in 1993, the FDA has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of consumers, food safety organizations and scientists to reverse its approval of the hormone, or to simply require labeling of foods containing rBGH. The milk in grocery stores often contains this hormone. rBGH has been tied to prostate, colon, and breast cancer. You should look for milk that does not contain rBGH or switch to organic milk.
Omega-6 fatty acid
This often appears on labels as Linoleic acid, sunflower, sesame, corn, and soybean oil. Many frozen and processed foods contain these oils. This oil is not harmful in small amounts, but unfortunately Americans consume on average 5 times to much of these acids. This excess intake can cause high Blood Pressure and heart disease. You can avoid this excess intake by avoiding processed foods and substituting Omega-6 intake with OMega-3 from foods like almonds and fish.
This can be found on food labels as Monosodium Glutamate, baking soda, or salt. It is found in almost every food we eat, but processed foods and meats contain large amounts of salt. Unfortunately most restaurants often use Sodium in excess to season their foods. Excess Sodium can cause High Blood Pressure and put undue strain on your heart. You can avoid high salt intake by cooking at home and using herbs instead of salt.
This might disguise itself as yeast extract, gelatin, textured proteins, sodium casseinate, and many other names. This is found in many frozen foods, chips, and fast food. It has been shown to trigger migraines and make you feel hungrier than you are. You should carefully read packages to make sure there is no MSG in them.
Usually this additive is listed under the name partially hydrogenated oil. It is found in many baked goods we find on our shelves. It is also in margarine. Even though a food claims to have 0 trans fats that might not be true because a company is not required to list the trans fat content if it contains under .5 grams. So you must read the ingredient list on the label.
Read a few labels on your next shopping trip and look for fewer ingredients and ones with names you can pronounce! The more wholesome the better!
Additional Sources: http://thefoodfarce.com/2010/06/21/150/
Posted on February 6, 2011
Last week, while hearing Jim lament some of his nutrition challenges and comment on his ambitious marathon goals for May I decided that I would issue him (and myself) the ultimate challenge. Make the average guy undergo a nutrition make-over to get more clean, lean, and mean before May 1st. My approach to clean eating is pretty straightforward. You have to make it work for yourself, but everyone needs help to get started and support on the journey, so once a week Jim and I are going to be getting together so I can cook and we can chat about how to eat cleaner but still packs a flavorful punch for this fast food frequent flier. What better way to kick it off than with some clean sweet and sour chicken (no take-out here) and chocolate raspberry cupcakes?
Check out the video of the experience and the recipes are listed below. Try this alternative to takeout the next time you have a craving for Chinese food or rich chocolate goodness!
Check out the recipes for everything we made tonight!
Sweet and Sour Chicken
This healthy and vastly reduced sodium alternative to Chinese takeout is flavorful and filling. With or without rice (or in this case Quinoa) you can enjoy all the tastes of the Orient without the high sodium, fried meat, and unhealthy sauces.
Hands-on time: 20 minutes.
Total time: 1 hour.
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts), chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 3/4 cups)
- 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and marinade and sauté for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add bell pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add pineapple and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice for a complete meal, if desired.
- Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Generally takes about 12 minutes.
Nutrients per serving (1 1/4 cups chicken mixture; not including rice): Calories: 161, Total Fat: 1.5 g, Sat. Fat 0.25 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.25 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 17 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 21 g, Sodium: 404 mg, Cholesterol: 48 mg
Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
These sneakily healthy cupcakes are about 80 calories a piece and pack a vitamin fortified punch with the pureed spinach and blueberries, whole raspberries, and Greek yogurt. They will give you energy, satisfy your chocolate craving and keep you clean and calorically in check. They are also kid approved! 🙂
Serves: Makes: 12 cupcakes. Hands-on time: n/a Total time: n/a
- 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 cup Sucanat, divided
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup organic Greek Yogurt
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp skim milk, divided
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 egg whites
- 2 TBSP – 1/4 cup pureed spinach and blueberry mix
- 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
- 1/3 cup frozen organic raspberries
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, 1 cup Sucanat, flour, salt and baking soda.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream, 1/3 cup milk, oil, vanilla spinach and blueberry puree and egg white.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Combine everything with a rubber spatula.
- Add egg whites to a large clean, dry mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip whites with hand beater or whisk attachment of stand mixer until they begin to get foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup Sucanat very gradually to whites. Continue whipping whites into medium-stiff peaks.
- Fold whites in thirds into cake batter, gently but assertively with rubber spatula.
- Add raspberries and gently mix.
- Fill each of the 12 cupcake liners 3/4-full with batter. Tap bottom of filled muffin pan on countertop and transfer immediately to oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool completely.
- When cupcakes are completely cool, combine chocolate and remaining 2 tsp milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir until melted chocolate is completely smooth. Spread a thin layer on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle additional chocolate shavings, a chocolate piece,or a fresh strawberry or raspberry on top, if desired.
Posted on February 5, 2011
Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.
Saturday is long running day. It has been for a long time. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about today with excitement. Long run days are days where you lace up your shoes hit the pavement, the trail, the track, and even the treadmill and you log the lonely miles that exist between you and race day or even just until the next run. They hurt sometimes. I’ve lost toenails, found bloody socks when I’ve taken off my shoes, and taken more than a few ice baths in my day. They are long runs, hard runs, runs that put your body to the test. Lately, I’ve been doing my long runs with Casey, and you may remember her – I mention her often and she has her story in my blog. She’s my best friend and her racing name is Novocain… for a reason. She overcomes the pain again and again, not relenting to it and it drives her to go further than any person should have been able to in a few short months.
Today we ran a half marathon distance long run. It wasn’t a race, I didn’t put on a bib or have water passed to me every few miles to give me a few sips of relief. There wasn’t a start line where everyone lined up with nervous, excited energy and waited for the delicious sound of a gun going off or a finish line with cheers and applause. We just ran… long smooth strides, turning often to the tune of 106 laps to accomplish the distance. There were words of encouragement from gym friends, smiles from those we passed, and a few minor walls to conquer from start to finish. There was no fanfare, snow fell silently outside the large glass windows as we ran, the minutes passing as we talked and the miles fell away behind us. When we crossed our last lap, at a sprint, nothing happened, there was no fireworks or cartwheels. The power was in the look we exchanged; a quiet glory in what was accomplished and a smile, a hug to acknowledge the moment we just shared.
I ran a half marathon today with my best friend. It was a quiet two hours in the late afternoon on the track… just 106 laps between friends.
Posted on February 4, 2011
So a lot of people ask me about my social life as a working, training, coaching, single mother. My job consumes a lot of my daylight (and late night) hours, my training routine is pretty rigid, and I obviously am with my daughters a lot so that leaves about three seconds a day to have a real life. During racing season that intensifies. On the weekends I don’t have my girls I usually am racing and coaching and so I go to bed early so I can get up early. TRANSLATION: I don’t find myself out socially very often these days choosing training over going out and while I realize how lame that makes me it’s what I do and it makes me pretty happy all things considered. People often shake their head and roll their eyes when I talk about it, so I have a new answer I even took for a test drive tonight.
My friend called me tonight from L.A. and asked me how I was and of course I launched into all my training and events (which to most people is ridiculously boring) and to her credit she listened patiently and then waited a beat before asking, “So do you have any non-working out things going on? Like, maybe a social life?” I stammered for several moments awkwardly dancing around the question trying to figure out exactly how to answer her and I finally just said, “Yes, I DO. I am in a pretty serious relationship actually…his name is Gym.”
Ah… my Gym. I get chills thinking about it. My Gym really is perfect for me. And while I’m being honest and not to brag or anything, but it’s a pretty committed relationship and we both know it. He doesn’t have weird quirks or commitment issues – he’s always there for me waiting with open arms, (er doors) and he let’s me call the shots, which I kinda like. He’s patient and let’s be honest… on the physical front – he really makes me sweat. We see each other almost every day, sometimes for several hours at a time or even more than once and even if show up to see him in a bad mood I always leave feeling refreshed even if I am exhausted. I’ve even driven through snowstorms and freezing cold temperatures just to get to him and it’s always worth it. We spend weekends and most holidays together. My parents have even met him. (They think he’s great too.) I get to wear whatever I want – even sweats – and he doesn’t care. And I don’t ever do my hair or put on make-up to see him. (Secretly, I think he kind of prefers me that way). He’s met a lot of my friends, in fact we all hang out together and he’s really good to them too.
If I am being totally honest, It’s not perfect. There are sometimes I don’t want to see him or when I get to him I’m just not all that excited about it but I never regret it and when I leave he always makes me smile. It never gets boring either, we make sure of that. No two days together are ever the same. If I drive by his place and I’m too busy to stop it makes me sad and sometimes I dream of him at night. I can’t imagine my life without him. He makes me so happy. So, diary, I think… no…I know… I’m in love…with my Gym…
Posted on February 3, 2011
For virtually everyone across the country right now, you are snowed in, iced over, or just downright cold… it’s been a rough couple of days with the weather. NORMALLY, I would have just womaned up and gotten out my shovel calling it an excuse for more cardio and strength training, but 8 – 10 inches of fresh powder and drifts up to 3 feet facing me on my massive driveway made that a pipe dream. So, last night I sat warm and cozy in my kitchen sipping hot tea with lemon watching the snow flew past my windows (a friend of mine was snow blowing my driveway and walkways) I contemplated what every person must in a moment like this… carb loading. And I digressed rapidly into a spiral of carb fantasies from which I won’t quickly or easily recover.
My running partner doesn’t know it yet, but we are running a half marathon distance for our long run this week and so I let my mind wander about all the possibilities of the carbs I’d get to eat in preparation. It’s not an out-an-out glut fest, mind you, but I do get to increase my carbs in my later meals a couple days before the long run and it could, quite possibly, be one of my favorite parts of racing season; well outside the racing part. Let me put it in perspective. I love to cook and what Playboy is to men, Clean Eating Magazine is to me… It’s like crack on Christmas when I think about all the delicious possibilities that come in clean carbohydrate form… I rarely follow the recipe as is, and often times I change it on the fly but it is a great place for me to find some really great foods.
So, on a dark, cold, snowy night like last night all I could think about is one thing…baked spaghetti and meatballs.
Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 6: Enough for my girls and I to have it twice! You can take liberties with several ingredients too switching it up each time or keeping it classic.
Olive oil spray
1/2 pound whole wheat pasta noodles (you don’t have to use spaghetti noodles… my girls like to pick out different kinds each time like elbow macaroni, fettuccini, angel hair. I have found some great gluten free pastas here for those of you with those concerns)
2 cloves of garlic pressed
2 TBSP Olive oil
1 ounce of Parmigianino cheese, finely grated, (I have used mozzarella in a pinch)
1/3 cup organic tofu (or cottage cheese)
6 ounces of lean ground turkey or chicken (note: chicken breast strips work well in this recipe too! Or for the vegetarians out thee you can leave this step out entirely!)
1 TBSP wheat germ (substitute with gluten free bread crumbs or omit to keep gluten free)
1 TBSP milk (almond milk works well here too)
2 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 handful baby spinach
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Lightly mist a large casserole dish with organic olive oil spray; and set aside.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. drain rinse and then set aside.
In a food processor combine garlic, spinach, and basil until finely chopped. Add half of the cheese and the olive oil. Remove 1 TBSP of the blend and set aside in a medium bowl. Add tofu to the mixture and process until smooth.
Add turkey, wheat germ and milk to the bowl with the basil mixture and mix gently until well blended. Form mixture into small balls (about 24 total). Heat a skillet over medium/high heat. Mist with nonstick spray and add turkey balls until browned – about two minutes. Add tomatoes to the skillet reduce heat to medium and simmer until meatballs are cooked through – about 8 minutes. I sometimes add a bit more garlic with the tomatoes at this point as well.
Spoon 1/4 cup tomato-meatball mixture into bottom or casserole dish. Toss spaghetti with remainder of the mixture and transfer half to the casserole dish. Dot tops of noodles in the dish with half of basil mixture. Cover with remaining spaghetti mixture and dot top layer with remaining basil mixture and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven until bubbling – about ten minutes.
Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information using whole wheat spaghetti pasta, tofu, and ground hamburger. Different ingredients will alter the nutrition.
Serving size: 6 ounce servings