Category Archives: Natural

Diet Soda May Hurt Your Diet

Somehow, I have a feeling this post will strike an unpleasant chord with many readers, as I know people who take their diet soda very seriously. I am not one who has ever been a soda addict, caffeine addict or sugar addict (at least not in drink form).  Ideally, I would try to stick to water, but I find myself drinking ice tea or low-fat chocolate milk (post-workout) and even the occasional coffee.  I try to stay as far away from soda as I possibly can for countless reasons.  Mainly, I don’t get any satisfaction from drinking the bubbly, sugary drink with artificial colors and flavors.  If anything I feel more sluggish and my stomach is upset from the carbonation.  I end up more thirsty than I was before indulging in the beverage and since my stomach is filled with so much air, eventually I’m back to being hungry too.

The main complaint I have with diet soda is their claim that it makes you think it is somehow “healthy” because the word “diet” comes before it.  The fact is diet soda still has artificial sweeteners which, although haven’t been proven to be harmful, are still best avoided.  Just because the FDA hasn’t stepped in doesn’t mean the product is a good one!  Saccharine was banned in Canada and other countries because lab tests with animals found that it was linked to bladder cancer; the FDA has chosen to remove warning labels due to inconclusive evidence as to the effect it has on humans.  Aspartame is a high profile, artificial sweetener that is highly controversial.  Aspartame was discovered as a sweetener while researching anti-ulcer drugs.  The scientist spilled some on his hands and realized it had a sweet flavor, so now it’s in many diet drinks, water packets and other sugar-free items.  There are many, many names for aspartame and claims have been made that it contributes to anything from cancer to psychiatric problems in humans.  The jury is still out on this one as well, but in my opinion it isn’t worth the risk.

Another point to be made is studies have found that people who drink diet soda are not healthier in any way.  Reducing the food energy intake of sugar in soda doesn’t imply that person will have a lower food intake overall or lead to weight loss.  An independent study also found that 48% of the 9,000 people in their test group were at higher risk for weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.  The diet soda merely increased the person’s desire for sweet foods.

 

Homemade Sparkling Water Spritzer

Overall, I think it is best to avoid soda in general.  If you have to have it every once in a while that’s fine and dandy, but don’t justify your indulgence by telling yourself it is “healthy” and do your best to try and limit your intake as much as possible.

 

Best idea for soda drinkers?  Create your own soda!  Combine sparkling water (not club soda-too much sodium) and your favorite 100% fruit juice.  This is a great way to wean you off of the artificial crap and still get a taste of the bubbly stuff.  Sparkling water is hydrating and the NYTimes reported it can help keep calcium in your bones.

For a drink like this, pour glass half full with 100% juice of your choice and half full of sparkling water.

To make things more fun or fancy, try using frozen berries or fruit instead of ice cubes!!

Fancy Schmancy Fruit Cubes


My Diet Pit Fall…almost.

 

Apple Dip

= DELICIOUS!

 

 

I recently fell victim to a not so healthy caramel apple dip.  It’s advertised as “low-fat” and tastes great!  But unfortunately the calories are 150 per tablespoon.  For someone who slathers her apples in the dip, I need something that allows for a little more wiggle room in terms of calories.  I probably have that one tablespoon after eating only two apple chunks.  This would have been a diet disaster if I hadn’t caught that on the nutrition label! Yikes!

A healthy alternative which I have been munching on is made with either non-fat yogurt or reduced-fat cottage cheese.

Directions:

Take about 1/3 cup of either the yogurt or cottage cheese

Add 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

Add cinnamon to taste.  Also could add nutmeg if you like that extra flavor.

Now, I am not positive about what this equals in terms of calories per serving.  I just stumbled across this recipe on a random website and decided to give it a whirl.  I know for sure that even if the calories are similar to that of the caramel dip I am replacing, there are a ton of added health benefits that you get from eating the non-fat yogurt like calcium and protein.  The same can be said for the reduced fat cottage cheese.  Also, the light brown sugar is about 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.  So if you add two table spoons, that would be 8 grams of sugar.  Still not too bad, especially if you don’t eat the whole thing of dip at one time or all to yourself!  Most yogurts that advertise having “fruit” in them also contain a ton of sugar anyways, so this is still not as much as you would be having otherwise.

Most importantly!! You are eating a healthy fruit full of fiber! Leave the skin on the apple for added nutrients.  This is actually a filling snack and will keep you from munching on crap the rest of the day.  I even eat this for dessert after dinner if I’m craving something sweet.

Healthier Christmas Cookies and other holiday faves

Thanks to Eatingwell.com for these tips on making healthier cookies this christmas! enjoy!

These tips are straight from their website because I came across them and thought they were too good not to share.  Check out their website to read more!

Also, be sure to check out EatingWell’s 2010 Christmas Cookie Award Winning Recipes – I have them posted on the above tab :)

Tip 1: Make them more heart healthy.

Swap out some of the butter, margarine or shortening for heart-healthy oils, such as canola oil or olive oil or pureed fruit or even vegetables.

To replace fats with oil: For every tablespoon of butter you replace with heart-healthy oil, you eliminate at least 5 grams of saturated fat from your batch of cookies.

Tip 2: Replace unhealthy fats.

Consider replacing some of the butter with nontraditional cookie ingredients, such as nonfat plain yogurt, nonfat buttermilk or even fruit juice.

When you reduce overall fat in a cookie recipe, the resulting cookies can be dry; adding a “moist” ingredient helps keep the cookies satisfying. Try 1 to 4 tablespoons of a liquid ingredient in place of up to 4 tablespoons butter.

Tip 3: Add fiber to your cookies.

Try replacing some (or all) of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour and/or oats. If you are used to the taste and texture of whole-wheat, some cookies are just as satisfying when made with 100% whole-wheat flour. Using whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour gives your cookies about four times the amount of fiber in every batch.

Tip 4: Keep sodium in check.

Some baked goods can be surprisingly high in sodium. Aim for no more than 1/2 teaspoon salt per batch of cookies. If you’re on a salt-restricted diet, try reducing the salt in a batch of cookies to 1/4 teaspoon.

Tip 5: Eliminate trans fat & other artificial ingredients.

One of the benefits of homemade baked goods is their simple list of ingredients. By making your own cookies, you can use whole ingredients and avoid most or all processed ingredients that are found in many packaged cookies.

Steer clear of ingredients that contain partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats), such as margarine and most vegetable shortenings.

 

**These tips are great and a lot of them I already use.  I never add as much salt as they say to on the recipe, it just isn’t necessary.  And adding fiber is another great way to be healthy and can even help with weight loss.  Although I wouldn’t recommend getting all of your fiber from your selection of cookies!

What’s Your Beef? A Look Into the Grass Fed Debate.

Grass Fed Beef AdRecently, I did a research paper on the feed lot cattle industry. What spurred my interest was an important movie called Food, Inc. which, for those of you who haven’t seen it, will make anyone question where their food comes from. They dive into more than just the treatment of the animals and find out the overall effects of this type of agriculture (if one can call it that).  I can assure you that this is not an exaggerated issue. I personally have traveled through parts of the state of Wyoming and Nebraska in which the smell from these feedlots is so overwhelmingly intense it makes me nauseous just thinking about it. All I kept thinking while driving past the feedlots was, “That place is so disgusting and we actually eat what they grow, that can’t be good for us”.  And it isn’t.

It all boils down to what the cows are fed.  These days, cows are fed corn, hormones and remains of other cattle.  Why? Because they get fat, fast.  According to Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dillema, cows 50 years ago took four or five years before they were big enough to slaughter.  Today, we see them growing at enormous rates.  A steer will go from 80 pounds to 1,100 pounds in 14 months. Plus, corn is a cheap feed as is the remains of their fellow species.  In other words, the cattle industry makes a much higher profit at a faster rate.

What you end up with is a cow who is suffering from anything from bloat to acidosis.  Their stomachs are becoming more acidic due to the starchy corn feed.  What happens then is the bacteria in their stomach becomes acid resistant.  So when we eventually eat this cow’s meat, the bacteria that would normally be killed off by our own stomach acids isn’t killed at all.  Hence the E-Coli outbreaks we’ve all heard about.  This spreads very easily when you consider the living conditions of these animals.  Typically, they are overcrowded facilities in which the animals are standing ankle deep in feces.  Yeah…not pretty.

Feeding cows the remains of other cows also yields a problem.  This is helps to spread that lovely little disease known as Mad Cow Disease or Encephalopathy.  The USDA knows of these practices, but has yet to put a strict ban on them.

Feedlot

There is a solution to these issues.  Grass feeding cattle.  It is practical and natural and will reduce the sicknesses in animals by up to 80%.  Cows would no longer be eating corn which causes the acid resistance.  Therefore, E-Coli would be significantly reduced and the need to pump antibiotics in these animals would be eliminated.  Plus, they wouldn’t eat the remains of other cows so the spread of Mad Cow Disease would also be eradicated.  Seems like a fantastic solution to me!

However, the USDA has deemed it unfeasible.  Why? Grass is a renewable resource.  It’s easy to grow.  You can reduce any harm on the environment with cattle rotation (which simulates the way Bison would have roamed years ago). The meat is higher in Omega-3 fats and is more lean than corn fed beef.  Seems feasible to me.

If you want to find grass fed beef in your area, I highly recommend it.  Make sure you read the labels carefully.  You can contact local farmers directly or visit your local farmers market or natural food store.  It may be more expensive, but it tastes good and you’re not filling your body with unhealthy fats, antibiotics and potentially dangerous viruses.
I am posting my full paper online, for more sources check out Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen and Food Matters by Mark Bittman.