Going through life, one practice, one breath, one day at a time.

Snacking Healthy: Breaking the Chip Addiction

Hi. My name is Liz. I’m a chip-aholic.

Once I start eating them, I can’t stop. And I have a tendency to do this over and over again. It can be tortilla chips, brown rice tortillas made into chips, unsweetened banana chips, sweet potato chips, chips made with black beans. You name it. I eat them like they’re going out of style. I’ve been known to have to smash them and throw them away to stop myself.

I can tell you how it all started. In my twisted ‘rules’ of what I will and won’t eat, in an odd way, corn tortilla chips fall into the acceptable category. They have minimal ingredients — corn. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy or other animal products. I’ve long overlooked the part about them being fried because they’re often one of the few things on a menu I’ll eat.

For me, the draw is the crunch. At least that’s the only conclusion I can truly reach. After all, it doesn’t matter if they’re unsalted chips, or fruit chips. I’m an equal opportunity chip inhaler. I’ll be honest, it could also be that they’re usually carbs and, well, I do love my carbs.

So, in an effort to break myself of this habit, I set out to dig a little deeper into the nutritional, or should I say non-nutritional, value of chips with the hopes that these facts will be the lynch pin to get me to put the chips down.

Fruit chips: Nutrition Facts

Let’s start with fruit chip. They sound healthy. After all, they’re fruit … and fruit is healthy. And, I don’t eat the sweetened ones so there’s not that whole added sugar issue. Well, I did some research and here’s what I learned about those ‘healthy’ fruit chips.

banana chips

 

Let’s start with the ingredients. In addition to the obvious, bananas, the ingredients also lists coconut oil and “Natural Banana Flavor.” Any time I see something that says ‘natural [fill in the blank] flavor’, I have to ask why that’s there and what does that really mean. Also, because I still go light on oil any time I use it, it concerns me just how much coconut oil has been added to get them that crunchy. Translation: it’s probably a lot.

Then there’s the nutrition facts. Fat: 10g, Carbs 16g, Sugar 1g, Protein 2g. FOR 1/4 CUP!  And of those fat grams — 9 are saturated fat … the stuff known to cause heart disease and all kinds of other bodily harm. So those bananas you think you’re eating, they might as well be french fries.

Then there’s the part about them being fried. If you stop and think about what the raw foodies preach – that any cooking over 112 degrees destroys the nutrients, it’s pretty safe to say that when a banana is taken, coated in oil, and made crispy, most, if not all, of the nutritional value has been sucked out of it.

So, here’s the down and dirty in my opinion… eating bananas may not be quite as bad as eating french fries or potato chips, but they’re really not much better. Fact is, you’re much better off  eating a fresh banana!

smiling banana

It’s nutrient dense, filling, and clearly significantly lower in fat — and without the questionable ingredient of ‘natural flavoring.’

Healthy Chips? 

Blue corn. Organic corn. Added flax. Whole grains. Beans.

The chip industry has certainly caught our attention with making chips sound healthy.

First, the positive news. For the most part, ingredient-wise, they’re not too terribly bad. They’re corn. My only recommendation would be to choose ones that really are just corn — even better if it’s blue corn — but stay away from the ones that have a lot of other preservative-like and refined ingredients, including sugars.

Now, the bad news. In case you were wondering, they’re fried (at least most of the time). And, as we all know, fried anything is unhealthy and just because they’re not called ‘fried chips’, they’re still unhealthy.

Here’s what happens, in order to fry foods, oil is heated to super high temperatures. In the process, the chemical structure of the oil is altered. The result is a substance that not only has zero nutritional value, but the body can’t even figure out what to do with it. And, when I say that, I mean the body doesn’t know anything good to do with it, because bad things do happen. Heated fats increase the free radicals in the body, which cause inflammation, which destroy tissues, which lead to diseases. Anti-oxidants can help, but probably not enough to completely counteract daily chip chomping.

And, P.S., this goes for sweet potato chips too. Sorry!

Healthy Eating

So, now that I’ve gone and ruined the fun of eating chips, I do have a few suggestions that, ok, may take a bit of adjusting before you get excited about the swap, but are good, and healthy, and will soon become your new crunchy favs!

1. Jicama chips. Jicama is a root vegetable that I liken to water chestnuts. They don’t have a ton of flavor themselves, but they also don’t have a ton of fat or calories and they’re fun to experiment with. It’s great for slaws or other salad. Some suggestions:

jicama chips

  • Chop it into fries and toss with EVOO, fresh squeezed lime, chili powder, and a little salt  –  and even add a bit of cucumber
  • Similar to above, but instead of the chili powder, add red pepper (fresh or flakes) and cilantro
  • For an oriental touch, mix grated jicama and carrots with EVOO, lemon juice, tamari, pecans, green onion, parsley and chickpeas
  • Experiment!

2. Make your own sweet potato chips or ‘fries’. Slice into thin chip shapes or like fries, toss with oil (ideally one that’s good at high heats) and bake until the desired crispiness. You can also do the same with zucchini, parsnips, eggplant, beets or radishes.

baked sweet potato

3. Opt for Baked Chips! Guiltless Gourmet are my personal favs.

guiltless gourmet

4. Carrots and Hummus. Not only are you getting the satisfaction of a good crunch, but you’ll also get fiber and protein.

5. Kale chips. Super high in nutrients and you can go as fancy or as simple as you want depending on the type of oil and seasonings you use.

6. My personal favorite… Brown rice tortillas, baked for a few minutes at 325 to get ’em slightly crispy then top with almond butter. Or, before popping in the toaster oven, spritz with EVOO and top with garlic powder and cumin.

7. Slice a daikon radish and dip it in your guac

daikon

And, of course, there’s always raw almonds!

Now, the big question… what to do with those two bags of chips sitting in my pantry….

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Live in the moment; Accept the moment

They say, “Live in the moment!”

They say, “Rules are meant to be broken.”

Even yogis say, “Go to your edge.”

But, what happens when living in the moment and breaking your own rules push you past your edge?

That’s when it’s time to re-center yourself and remember that as long as no one got hurt,  wherever you are is okay and you’re perfect just the way you are — and there’s nothing like a good yoga practice to help you do so.

It’s easy for us to lose ourselves sometimes, to get caught up in the moment, and to behave in a way that maybe we’re not proud of. I don’t care if you’re 21, 31 or 41, we’re all constantly trying to figure out who we are and where we fit into this crazy world. Life is a bit of an experiment. Sometimes you’re successful in proving your hypothesis and sometimes you blow up the lab — or at least cause a little bit of smoke and flames. When this happens, it’s so easy to beat ourselves up, to hide under the covers, or to blast Pink or Kelly Clarkson tunes (not that I know anything about that… ). But, I’m here to tell you, that’s not the answer and all it’s going to do is push those emotions further down.

So, here are my suggestions.

1. Roll out your mat. Just do it. And sit. Close your eyes and breathe. I mean really breathe. Long, deep breaths. Challenge yourself to breathe in for a count of six and out at the same depth and length. Turn your eyes in to the third eye. Focus on the breath and forget the thoughts that have been swirling around in that head of yours.

2. Move. Get the energy flowing. It starts with sun salutations, or even half sun salutations. Just something to open the energy channels that are probably pretty blocked at this point. Start building internal heat.

3. Open your heart. As if just getting yourself on your mat wasn’t hard enough, let me be the first to warn you. This is really hard.

Today I did something that seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, but it was super hard – and even physically painful. Lie down on your back and place a block on its edge at the tip of your shoulder blades. With your arms out to the side, try to relax your shoulders towards the earth and feel your heart open. With every exhale, feel your shoulders relax more and your heart continue to open. Be in the moment.

4. Continue moving through your practice with attention given to opening your heart as much as possible. You can do this in relatively simple positions like downward dog or even lunges as well as more advanced postures like backbends.

5. Figure out where you hold your tension. Is it in your thighs? Your hips? Your back? Breathe into that spot and get the energy flowing!

There are not many guarantees in life, but one thing I do guarantee is that if you do this, you will feel better. You will remember that rules are random. They’re machinations of our mind and sometimes they’re necessary, but sometimes they can also make us feel as if we’ve done something wrong, when we’re just doing what felt right at the moment. Accept yourself. Love yourself. Yoga will help you do that.

 

Get Attached to Non-Attachment

yoga_sutra_verse_1-12

 

You can’t log on to Pinterest or Facebook without getting bombarded by inspirational quotes. Social media becoming a tool to spread good will and encouragement. But, here’s a question to ponder — why do people post those quotes? Is it because they really want to share the positive energy with others, or are they doing it for themselves in the vein of ‘write it down make it happen’, or is it for a sense of accountability? After all, if you’re going to blast it to the universe that you’re this spreader of positivity, you’d darn better be positive!

I suppose the answer is, all of the above. 

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who tends to post more than a few of these feel-good messages. She explained that her Facebook timeline is usually a pretty good indication of the type of day she’s having. The more motivational messages, the worse the days she’s probably having. Her theory here is that if she puts it out there, the words serve as a source of encouragement in her own mind.

We went on to talk about her bad days, and specifically something she posted recently about giving someone else the power to ruin her day.

This is where the yogi in me kicked in.

I suggested the idea that just as somebody else’s behaviors are taken with a certain meaning and given meaning based on our own thoughts, so too are motivational quotes. We are drawn to and assign maning to these quotes based on our own thoughts at that moment and how they can apply to our own lives. All of this is counter to the teachings of yoga about non-attachment.

Yoga Sutra 1.12 says:

Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah: These thought-forms are mastered through practice and non-attachment.

Explained, this says that it is through two things, (1) the practice of yoga and (2) the practice of non-attachment, that we are able to control the rippling thoughts of the mind. In other words, if you can separate yourself from action that take place outside yourself, then you can gain control of your mind and ultimately reach a state of peace  – or samadhi.

Of course, nobody is saying non-attachment is easy. Sometimes just putting happy thoughts in our heads and even posting them on facebook seems a whole lot easier! But, for one, this is temporary, and, second, it’s really just sort of a band-aid and doing nothing to actually help you deal with the reason you need encouraging thoughts.

Here’s another way to think about non-attachment. It’s the idea of reality versus our story. Something happens, and we assign meaning to it. In the case of a comment or a shrug by someone else, it’s usually a negative meaning. In the case of positive affirmations, it’s a meaning that encourages us to cheer up and think happy thoughts. Either way, the meaning is colored by our minds.

The idea of non-attachment takes the meaning out and allows us to look at whatever event is driving us to the affirmation as simply an event, void of meaning.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying affirmations are bad. In fact, they’re great. They serve a wonderful purpose in helping us average humans who still struggle with non-attachment, find positivity in challenges. And the fact that they’re blasted all over Facebook with people sharing positivity with others is super encouraging. But, what I am saying is that if we’re seeking the words of others as a way to find happiness, well, that’s about as bad as looking to others to find happiness within ourselves.

And with that, I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou, that, yes, I applied meaning to and it seemed apropros:

maya angelou quote

Add a Pop of Color to your Diet

You hear it all the time when it comes to fashion. Add a pop of color.

Wearing a LBD? Add a pop of color with red heels! Sticking to neutral colors? Throw on a chunky colorful necklace! Wearing white? Add a hot pink belt!

I used to define my life as beige. I didn’t realize it at the time, but everything in my house was beige. Even the art on the wall was shades of beige. My wardrobe, too, was pretty void of color. Mostly black and white, and the few items I did have that were colorful, well, those were mostly relegated to either the back of the closet, or sat on the bottom of a pile, teasing me… daring to be worn.

For many people, this same description can be used to describe their food. Lots of beige – or, even worse, white. White rice, white sugar, white potatoes, white bread. Maybe you’re intrigued by the colorful foods in the produce aisle. You buy them, bring them home, and they sit, getting pushed to the back of the drawer like the red sweater in my closet does.

But just like the fashion industry knows the power of a pop of color — clearly nature does too, because that’s where the health benefits are!

produce

The brighter the color of the food – and we’re talking real, nature-made color, not artificially added color like Peeps – the more health benefits. And getting that pop of color in your diet is so easy to do!

So, let’s run down the rainbow of super pretty super foods and how you can incorporate them into your diet.

tomatoRED: Tomatoes. Super high in antioxidants, especially the heart healthy lycopene. While I’m personally, not a huge sandwich eater, if you are, put tomato on your sandwich, even better, slice some up in a salad. Throw some sliced tomato, cucumber and avocado in a bowl with some salt, pepper and EVOO and you have a refreshing and satisfying snack or pre-entree delight. Personally, I love, love, love grape tomatoes and eat them like a snack.

Tomatoes do come with a bit of warning, though. They’re in the category of foods known as nightshade vegetables, along with eggplant and potatoes. These have been linked in some research to impact the muscles and/or joints and are not necessarily for everyone. If you notice you don’t react well to them, find another red food like red peppers to incorporate in your diet.

Strawberries are also a great choice for red food. They’re at the top of the list for antioxidant levels in fruit. Eat them fresh as snacks, add to a spinach salad or freeze them and add to smoothies. You can also throw them in the blender to liquify them a little. To me, that’s even better than sorbet!

If you’re a juicer, I encourage you to try watermelon/strawberry juice. It’s heavenly!!  ok… I’ll stop here with the red foods and move n down ROY G. BIV….

sweet potatoORANGE: Sweet potatoes are a great source of orange food! There’s nothing like sweet potatoes for beta-carotene and vitamin A.  To get the maximum beta-carotene benefits, add a little fat like coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil These are great just steamed or baked. I personally love to make sweet potato fries with a little cinnamon. Just slice it, toss it with a little oil, and throw them in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 for about 40 minutes, flipping them half way through.

kaleGREEN: This goes without saying that leafy greens and green veggies having incredible nutritional benefits from antioxidants to iron. My newest obsession is kale salad – rip up some curly kale, add a shake of salt to break it down a little, squeeze some lime juice, and add either a bit of tahini or avocado. I add grape tomotoes or sundried tomatoes and some raw sunflower seeds and seriously can’t get enough of it.

Not a kale lover (yet), steam or roast broccoli for a side dish or to add to some brown rice, keep cut up raw broccoli on hand to dip into hummus, snack on raw green beans or snap peas during the day, add edamame to your salad or whole grains.

Green foods may not only be the healthiest, but they also may be the easiest foods to eat every day!

blueberryBLUE: Blueberries!! Need I say more. They’re so high in antioxidants (there’s that word again). I get that blueberries can be expensive when they’re not in season and that can be a deterrent for some people. If that’s the case, buy them in large quantities when they are in season and freeze them. My mom enjoys them straight out of the freezer, but they can also be added to smoothies or a green juice.

purple cabbagePURPLE: OK, I admit it, I”m taking the easy way out and combining indigo and violet in the rainbow, but, really, does anyone really know the difference?? Purple cabbage. It’s probably something you think of more as decoration in a salad or on a plate than something you would eat by choice. But, I promise, it’s really good for you and good tasting! I’ve recently started adding it to my kale salads, but you can also use it like  taco shell. Take one of the outer leaves and add some brown rice, black beans and guacamole. Wrap it up and you have a hand-help delight! 

With all of these amazing options, there’s no reason to eat a beige plate again!! Not to mention, it’s so much prettier to look at!

The SuperFood SuperSnack

As a kid, I went to camp in northern Wisconsin — Camp Marimeta in Eagle River, way, way up there! Those are days I will never forget  — horseback riding, color wars, trampoline and good times with good friends.

The camp was on a lake, the scene of canoeing, kayaking, sailing and swimming — and in all those activities, I remember one thing… the seaweed!

When I think of seaweed, the first thing that comes to mind is the muck at the bottom of Lake Meta.

But then there’s the seaweed that you get in Japanese food. Not exactly the stuff on the bottom of the lake, or even the stuff that washes on  the beach from the Ocean.

The seaweed you probably know from eating sushi is better known as Nori. Nori is  from the red alga genus Porphyra, including most notably P. yezoensis andP. tenera. Before we see it wrapped around rice and raw fish, it goes through a process of shredding, drying and, most often, flavoring and toasting.

Nori may not seem like much, but it’s actually super high in nutritional value.

That thin, paper-like black stuff is high in protein, iron (vital for blood health), fiber and vitamins A (important for eyes, skin and teeth), C, K and B — especially B12 which can be lacking in many vegetarian diets. Seaweed is also high in iodine which is necessary for a functioning thyroid.

It also has zero grams of fat and very low calories for each sheet.

Because of its high mineral content, seaweed, along with its other sea veggie friends like dulse, kelp, wakame and arame, are often considered superfoods.

There are a number of different ways to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet, other than sushi. Some suggestions:

  • Use kelp powder in place of salt on snacks like popcorn
  • Add dulse to soup or salad
  • For raw foodies, dulse is a key ingredient in non-tuna fish
  • Make your own rolls. Try wrapping quinoa and black beans in nori for a high protein, vegetarian entree

Or … jump on the seaweed snack bandwagon!

It seems these days you can barely walk down an aisle at an organic grocery store like Whole Foods without bumping into a display of Annie Chun’s Seaweed Snacks or, more recently, Sea’s Gift brand.

Annie Chun’s comes in four flavors (although I’ve only seen the first two listed below at Whole Foods).

seaweed_anniechun

  • Sesame
  • Wasabi
  • Cracked pepper and herb
  • Brown sugar and sea salt

 

 

 

SeaSnax comes in a wider variety of flavors:

seasnax

  • Classic
  • Chipotle
  • Toasty onion
  • Wasabi

 

 

And, in case there was any doubt, they’re all vegan.

I haven’t had Sea’s Gift yet, but I did stock up on Annie Chun’s when they were 10/$10 at WFM and I gotta say, it’s a tasty mid-afternoon treat!

I tend to crave salty, and it definitely hits that need and while I’m munching away, I can at least know that even though my snack tends to attract a few odd looks, I know that I’m eating something that’s good for me.

And, the other really appealing part, is they come in snack size packets, so keep a few in your drawer at work, and instead of reaching for salty chips high in fat and calories, reach for a little seaweed!

 

Healthy Eating Baby Step #1: Just 5 ingredients

For someone who’s used to eating a diet full of … well… garbage … the road to healthy eating can be a daunting one.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that even though I’ve always had a weakness for baked goods, my diet overall has been relatively healthy my entire life. After all, I grew up watching my mother exercising daily for as long as I can remember and her go-to lunch was cottage cheese and fruit (ok, so at the time it was canned fruit, very possibly in syrup, but that was the 70s and things were different then and at least it was fruit!).  So, for me, playing around with my diet and weeding out the not-so-quality foods wasn’t that big of a deal.

But, I totally get that for some people it’s not quite so easy – and there are a million reasons why this could be so … crazy schedule, kids, husband, budget, etc. I get it! I do! But that’s why I’m constantly saying, “It really doesn’t have to be that hard!”

Can it be overwhelming if you’re not sure exactly what to eat, how to prepare the food, or even what to buy? Yes! Absolutely!

But, I promise, it doesn’t have to be!

One reason, when it comes to what I refer to mostly as “clean eating”, there are no rules. You don’t even necessarily need a recipe. In fact, I recommend avoiding recipes — especially those ones on Pinterest!Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest! I can spend hours toiling away and pinning one recipe after another, very few of which I’ll ever actually try. Why? Because I too get overwhelmed if there are too many ingredients.

 

someecard pbj

So, put down the recipe, and pick up these ingredients.

  1. Olive Oil (or another healthy oil of choice, i.e. coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil)
  2. Lemon and/or Limes  — or Apple Cider Vinegar if you like a little stronger acid flavor
  3. Salt
  4. Pepper
  5. Garlic (or garlic powder if it’s easier)

That’s it!

Honestly!!

I use those five ingredients in just about everything I eat and that’s the extent of it. Whether it’s a salad (romaine, iceberg, Kale or other), grains like quinoa, rice or noodles made with quinoa or rice, or veggies, I primarily stick to those five ingredients and it’s so easy.

Want a little more flavor? Keep these in the pantry:

  1. Indian flavoring: Cumin, coriander, ginger (highly recommended for the doshas that like warming foods, i.e. Vata)
  2. A little kick: Red pepper flakes and/or cayenne (added benefit that they’re good for the metabolism and building heat)
  3. Italian flavors: Keep dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary
  4. Asian twist: Tamari sauce, wasabi powder, dulse flakes, sesame seeds or sesame oil

And then, have fun!

When I can’t really decide what I want, I either stick to the basics in the first grouping, or I take something out of the cabinet and take a whiff. If it hits me as appealing at that moment, I sprinkle a little in. If it doesn’t, I put it back and try something else.

It’s honestly just that simple!

 

An Unfiltered Apple Juice a Day…

I love when I learn new things from my father. Well, let me clarify that…

I’ve learned little lessons that have turned into important lessons from my father my entire life. I always describe him as one of the smartest people I  know. He just makes sense. He always knows the right things to say. They may not always seem like the right thing at the time, and sometimes what he says is the last thing I want to hear at the time, but, the fact is, he’s usually right.

In this case, though, what I’m talking about is learning something new as it relates to health and natural remedies.

No one in my family has ever been a juice drinker. We drank water, iced tea, and diet soda — no milk, no juice.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started drinking a bit of OJ, especially when I’m sick. I try to stick to the lower sugar brands, but I figure as long as I keep it to a minimum, I’ll get the vitamin C benefits and keep the sugar relatively under control.

With the exception of juice in a cocktail, which I still try to avoid, and some less than tasty unsweetened cranberry juice detoxes in the recent past, that’s about the extend of the juice I’ve had in all of my 41 years.  Until now!

apple juice

When dad was in town last week serving as my post-surgery livery service we went to the organic market near my house to pick up a few thing. That’s when dad mentioned he’d been drinking unfiltered apple juice at the advice of his acupuncturist. I’d certainly seen it in stores but never really paid much attention. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined I would like apple juice! But, I thought, if dad is suggesting it, I should probably keep an open mind.

So we bought a bottle and headed home. A little ice. A little juice. A little sip. And what do you know? It was good. Really good.

Of course since I still wasn’t sure exactly why I was drinking this – other than my dad said I should – that meant I had to investigate.

According to the Martinelli’s brand website, unfiltered apple cider:

  • Reduces the risk of certain cancers
  • Protects against brain cell damage
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of asthma

Recent findings also suggest it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

But, if you’re looking for something a little more immediate to show it’s doing something, there are the colon-cleansing benefits – so much so that it’s often recommended for detoxes.

But why?

According to one article I found on Livestrong.com, the unfiltered kind contains a good amount of pectin, which is known to slow the absorption of food and binds to toxins and heavy metals to get them out of your body. Apples and apple juice also have malice and tartaric acid, which protect the liver and aid in digestion. I’ve also seen it recommended to add some apple cider vinegar to your apple juice to give it an added boost.

Also, it’s important to choose the unfiltered kind – the one that’s cloudy. This still has the benefits of the peel in it – and that’s where a lo of the benefits come in.

Another benefit — apple juice can be very filling and can satisfy a craving for something sweet. Lately I’ve been taking a swig of the juice when I find myself wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat but not knowing what I want and it helps quiet the crazy cravings — at least long enough to get myself to eat nutrient dense foods that satisfy my hunger and my need for energy and what I like about drinking the juice as opposed to eating an apple is that I feel as if I’m getting the benefits without filling myself up on  a piece of fruit and then can eat a full meal.

So to those who say “An apple a day… ” I say “A glass of unfiltered apple juice a day… “!