Posts tagged choosing healthier foods
Blueberries are a rather maligned fruit. Until recent years you couldn’t even buy them in a supermarket. All you could find were products with blueberries in them. That all changed when blueberries were found to be a “superfood.” Who would have thought that the lowly blueberry would be near the top of the heap in antioxidants. They’re also high in vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Not only that, there have been studies that show that blueberries may protect the brain from aging diseases like Alzheimers. One study actually showed improvement in cognitive tests with just two weeks of high doses of blueberry juice. Now that’s a prescription I could follow.
North Carolina, where I live, is one of the biggest producers of blueberries in the nation. We have the perfect highly acidic soil and climate they seem to like. One of the first perma-crops we planted on our property were blueberries and this year they are really coming into their own. We have blueberries the size of quarters and an abundance of them.
Right now we’re just eating them fresh with a little maple yogurt; occasionally pairing them with strawberries. However, fresh blueberries are delicious in muffins and other quick breads, and we’ve made an amazing blueberry syrup by simply combining fresh berries and sweetener (Sucanat for us). It isn’t as thick as if you cook it, but it retains all those amazing nutrients and antioxidants.
One important thing to note is that organic blueberries have even higher amounts of nutrients. Domestic non-organic blueberries are listed as number 10 on the the dirty dozen list, so keeping them organic keeps you away from as many as 50 pesticides and give you even more of those desirable antioxidants!
Check to see if you can successfully grow blueberries in your area and plant a hedge of blueberries. They are attractive plants and will feed you better than a hedge of hollies will any day!
Just want to give you a heads up. I’m going to be offering a free demonstration of my “Cooking by Feel” method of food preparation on June 12th, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. It will be held at The Creative Center in Greensboro, NC. You can see the calendar listing. I discovered I have a knack for being able to just grab things out of the fridge, willy-nilly, and end up preparing a delicious dish or meal. My goal, through the demonstration and classes, is to get people eating more freshly prepared food, with minimal time involvement, and make it so tasty they won’t want to go back to pre-prepared or fast foods.
I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix, because what I’ll do is, the day of the event, I’ll grab stuff out of my fridge, load it up, take it to the site where the demo is, and I’ll prepare one or two dishes for people to taste.
I will make sure I have a wide selection of my most used herbs, as well as all my food fixers. You know those things that you add when you made it too salty, bitter, sour, etc. Other than that it will just be whatever whim I happen to have that day.
These demos are a lot of fun and you get to taste whatever concoction I come up with. I hope you’ll join me as I venture into in-person opportunities to learn healthy gourmet meal preparation.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Solonynko.
My schedule has been such that I haven’t been able to shop at local farmer’s markets for quite some time. Recently I decided I needed to change that schedule and get back to supporting local food production.
Just today, after I’d made that decision, my husband showed me a documentary that was really interesting, but also a little disturbing. In the PBS series “America Revealed” near the beginning of episode one – Food Machine – Yul Kwon visits the Shasta dam in northern California. He says that because of this one dam California is able to produce 1/2 of all food consumed in the USA. He also stated that if that dam were compromised in any way 1/2 of all food in America would stop being produced. There would be no water to do it.
Now I’d already decided to start buying locally, as much as possible. Now I want to call you to do the same. If you have a local farmer’s market, or CSA (consumer support agriculture), please start buying as much of your food from there as you possibly can. If we start supporting local food production, if something should happen to the dam in California we’ll be in a lot better shape.
That’s an important reason for buying your foods locally, but here are some others. The food is much fresher. If I put a zucchini bought at the store and a zucchini I’ve picked fresh from my garden in the refrigerator at the same time, guess which one lasts longer? Well, it seems pretty obvious that something fresh picked should last longer, however, I’ve had zucchinis still fresh in my fridge after 3 weeks, if they came from my garden. I’ve never had one last more than a week from the store.
This also means more nutrients, as some nutrients degrade as time passes. Locally grown food doesn’t have to travel long distances, so different varieties that have better taste can be grown, supporting our seed biodiversity. Plus they can grow unusual varieties if they know they have a market for them.
You’ll also know what has gone into growing your food. Now I wouldn’t walk up to a farmer and ask him how he grows his stuff. Get to know him a little, let him see that you’re not a threat (many farmer’s see a stuffy city person as not having any understanding about what they’re up against). Just casually ask about their thoughts on organic growing, etc., be non-threatening, and certainly don’t try to convert them when you first meet them.
Of course if you have some local organic growers you can always vote with your money. If non-organic farmers see that the organic farmers sell out faster and they sell more, then they’ll be interested, as that means a higher dollar to work ratio. I don’t know any businessman who’s not interested in that.
Of course growing your own and sharing your over abundance if you have it is the best way, but not all of us have the time, money, or space to do that. The next best thing is to try and buy what you need from within 100 miles of your home. I’m working on that.
I think most of you saw the write up about Coke and Pepsi having to change their formula to stop using a carmel color that was contaminated with a known carcinogen. How many other foods are compromised in some way? Many more than we would like to acknowledge.
I’ve talked some about GMOs and how if you eat anything with non-organic corn, soy, canola, or cottonseed oil you’re probably eating GMO food. Now they’ve started with sugar beets!
We all got a good scare when they came out with the findings about BPA and I would have thought that all organic, natural, or “health” labelled foods would have changed can their lining immediately. It wasn’t that easy, though, and until last fall all the canning companies were still using a BPA plastic lining. I was shocked because I had been carefully buying organic tomato puree, only to find out that I was still getting BPA until just recently.
Unfortunately the canning companies were in a bind, as certain foods will leach the metal in the can into the product if you don’t line it. Tomatoes were especially problematic. They were researching frantically trying to find a product that would work under canning conditions and they finally found one last fall. So, at least for now, your organic tomato products are safer.
How can you keep up on all of this? Well it is definitely a task and one that I’m not perfect at, but you can visit the web site for Center for Food Safety, as well as download the app for you iPhone or iPod. Another site is Environmental Working Group. They also have an app that lists the dirty dozen; the 12 most pesticide laden foods, and the clean 15; those foods you don’t have to worry about buying organic (although it’s nice to support organic farmers as much as possible).
I know there are numerous other sites that have excellent information, as well, and as I find them and look them over for accuracy and non-sensationalism I’ll post them here. In today’s world eating healthy means more than just quitting junk food. It means being vigilant about what is in everything you put in your mouth.
I’ve recently started up a coaching business for a healthy lifestyle. I’m doing a pilot program first, with people I know, to see how well the information is received and if they can actually use it.
Last night I presented information about toxins in our food. It sometimes surprises me how little most people know about what they’re eating. These people are pretty sharp too, more aware than most. However, I found that one of them didn’t even know what GMO foods were and the others didn’t know the depths to which they have infiltrated our food system.
So, I want to pass on some info for you. GMOs are in almost all non-organic foods, and even some organic foods are starting to be contaminated. The big four that are causing all the problems are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed in all their various forms. Sugar beets are coming on strong now, too. At least one of these ingredients is in almost all pre-prepared, non-organic foods.
Just a year ago they were saying about 70% of all non-organic pre-prepared foods were contaminated, now that is nearly 95%. That’s a lot of GMO in our diet and we don’t really know what they could be doing to us.
I’m not as concerned with them splicing some other organism’s genes into my food (although I want to know if it is animal since I’m a strict vegetarian). What bothers me the most is how plants are either pesticide ready or already have pesticides in them.
In India they found that animals that ate the stubble from fields (a common practice for poor farmers to feed their livestock and a great way to add some fertilizer) were dropping dead. The reason: the farmer was growing BT cotton or a Roundup ready crop. The animals were dying from the residue in and on the stubble!
That is enough information to make we want to make sure I don’t eat any of the pesticide ready or impregnated foods.
There are no long-term studies of the impacts of these organisms, because they haven’t been around long enough to do them. Plus most of the studies used to approve these “foods” were done by Monsanto themselves. Most independent studies have found questionable if not downright serious health issues.
We need to make sure what we’re eating is good for us. Otherwise how can we be healthy! How can we survive.
This past weekend I needed to cook two meals a day for eight people. I have to admit that I had a terrible time getting the proportions right. The first day I made way too many grains, the second not enough.
Also, because there was no kitchen where I had to serve I had to make all the food in crock pots. It was tasty, but the vegetables were more of a soup than a dish and the grains got overcooked and mushy.
Another problem I had was just how much salt, herbs, and spices I needed to put in. It is very frustrating to be an excellent cook and feel like you fed a group of people a very mediocre meal. They all raved about it, but still, I know that it could have been so much better.
The things that worked well were the bread and the salad. Other than that I felt like people were OK with what was served, but not really excited about it.
So, what is your best tip for cooking for crowds from 8 to 30? I know that I’m going to need to be preparing large scale meals again. Also, what do you serve for snacks? Remember it needs to be healthy. No white sugar or flour, something prepared fresh that will feed a small army of munchers. I had fruit and freshly made popcorn that went over fairly well, but I want to get away from chips and overly sweet treats. Please leave a comment below. I’d be interested and I’m sure others would to. We’ve all come up against this bugger at one time or another.
In this day and age you can find information about just about anything on the Internet. Unfortunately you’re at the will of the site owner as to whether the information on the site is truthful or not. One thing I’ve found really helpful is when a site that sells products has customer reviews. Also, bloggers often have good reviews about products that they themselves use. However, if it is a blog you need to check and see if they have paid entries. Take a minute to read their disclosure. Most will have a statement that they will only review products that they know and have used, plus they will only make true statements about products. If they haven’t used it, they can talk about it, but they can’t say it’s a great product or things like that. Once you’ve read that then you can have at least some confidence that their review is real. So, over time you can build up a selection of site to use as a resource library.
In searching around the web I found interesting information on the Best dehydrators to buy. I was pleased to see that my Excalibur is still considered the best large dehydrator around. It was interesting reading the reviews by people. Everyone that I read found the Excalibur to be excellent at drying and very easy to use.
One thing I found interesting was that there were companies I had not heard of before. L’Equip food dehydrators and Nesco were two of the companies that I wasn’t familiar with. Nesco is an inexpensive dehydrator. The one nit that I had with it, was I didn’t see a way to control the temperature, so if you’re concerned about drying “live” foods, then you’ll need to put up a little more money to get one with a temperature dial. The L’Equip dehydrator looked really interesting, but didn’t get as positive reviews as the others. However, it can expand to 20 racks, which would be great if you’ve got a big garden that overproduces most years. I’ve not had that problem, yet.
I enjoyed reading through the food dehydrator recipes. I’ve enjoyed making my own banana chips in the past and the recipes reminded me of how much I enjoy them. I’ll need to check for overripe bananas the next time I shop. I’ve been working on coming up with snacks and foods I can take with me when I go into town to do my weekly shopping. I became aware that I was choosing to munch on a lot of unhealthy foods, because they were quick and portable. However, over the past few months my waistline is showing the effects, plus I never feel very good the day after shopping. Being one to always look at the cause of low energy or a draggy feeling I found that it was always after shopping. It was easy for me to figure out it was my choice of foods. However, there isn’t much out there that a vegetarian that doesn’t eat onions, garlic, green chilis or mushrooms can buy and munch on other than candy bars and potato chips (and only the salted ones, any that have flavorings have onions and garlic in them, even the ones labeled salt and pepper, as do almost all dressings, so salads are out). Anyway, it renewed my interest in looking at things I can dehydrate and eat straightaway. Dehydrated foods are easy to pack and can’t be damaged by cold or heat, either. I think my dehydrator is in store for another workout.
Christmas is a time when we think of family get-togethers, memories and traditional treats and meals. With many of the traditional ingredients: white sugar and flour, dairy products, trans and saturated fats, and refined carbs, on the “no-no” list you may be wondering what you’ll eat this holiday season. We don’t want our families to feel deprived of the traditional treats they’ve come to associate with the holidays, yet we want to provide healthier choices.
You might want to try some raw food desserts and see how friends and family respond. Most people make faces when you tell them you’ll bring something raw, but once they’ve tasted it, they come away grinning and smacking their lips. With just a few simple kitchen appliances you can put together a great dish. Jenny Cornbleet’s book called Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People is a great place to start. I’ve tried a number of recipes in this book and they’ve all be delicious. In it there are dessert recipes for cakes, cookies, fruit crisps, pies, tarts, puddings, mousses, shakes, and ice cream. All of them are totally raw. Guess what? They taste better than their sugar-laden counterparts.
One recipe is for a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce. It calls for 1 ½ cups walnuts, dash of salt, 8 pitted medjool dates, ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, ½ tsp vanilla extract, and 2 tsp water. For the raspberry sauce you use 1-cup fresh or frozen raspberries (thaw and drain if frozen) with ¼ cup pitted medjool dates, soaked for 30 minutes and drained. Place the walnuts and salt in a food processor with the S blade and process until finely ground. Add dates, cocoa powder, and vanilla … process until mixture becomes sticky. Add water and process briefly. Transfer to a serving plate and form a 5 inch round cake. Place the raspberries and dates in a blender and mix until smooth, pouring over the cake just before serving.
You don’t need to give up all your comfort foods, just find a healthier recipe for it. The taste may be a bit strange to you the first time, but after you’ve switched to healthier ingredients for a while, you’ll find the original recipe inedible. Should you choose to nibble on a few old favorites, don’t go down the guilt trail, thoroughly enjoy those few bites, but use moderation. Over time you’ll replace the unhealthy treat with a healthy one and start a whole new set of traditions for you and generations to come.
Over the past few years I’ve found some of my favorite foods skyrocketing in price. The reason? They’ve been found to have high nutritional values, especially when it comes to antioxidants. Let’s see… pomegranates. You know those weird fruits that you used to have at Christmas that hardly anyone knew what to do with, so they would just sit around until they shriveled up. Well, I’ve eaten and enjoyed them since I was a kid. A few years back you could get a really, really nice pomegranate for 99 cents. Now, on sale they’re $1.50. At regular price, you’re looking at $3 apiece!
Another favorite is pumpkin seeds. Again some amazing curative powers and they went from around $4 a pound, to $8 a pound in one year!
Blueberries are another. You used to get a pint on sale for 99 cents. Now? This past season they were on sale for $1.50 one time, the rest of the season $2.29. Thank goodness we have 6 blueberry plants that had bumper crops this year.
The thing that most people don’t understand is, just adding a few of these items to your diet isn’t going to do much good. If you’re constantly living an unhealthy lifestyle, filled with fast food, sodas, couch potatoeing, alcohol, etc., a few antioxidants might knock a few free radicals out of your system, but they aren’t going to protect you from degenerative diseases. It takes a dedication to a healthy lifestyle to make any real changes.
A few years back we were at an expo. At that time my husband was on a 100% raw diet, I was on about 50-60% raw. They had this machine that measured your level of antioxidants. The average level was around 15,000, my husband was at 80,000, I was at 60,000. We’ve been dedicated to a healthy lifestyle for our entire marriage and even before. Over 22 years of watching what we eat, drink, how we move, and think, now that’s a recipe for health.
So, those of you that are just eating a few of the new “fad” health foods, but still living an otherwise unchanged lifestyle, either start really changing your ways or stop eating them, so that they’ll become affordable for those of us that really do take care of ourselves.
Recently I became aware that some white sugar (made from sugar cane) is run through a charcoal filter. However, it isn’t necessarily vegetarian. They take animal bones throw them in a fire and use the leftovers for what is called bone char. YUCK! I’ve decided not to eat anything with white sugar in it, because I don’t know if some poor animal had to die to make it white (beet sugar is naturally white).
Where did we ever get the idea that white sugar is better? This is certainly a conspiracy. Did you know that when they strip all the nutrients off of sugar to “purify” it and make it white, your body thinks it is a poison? The reason we have sugar highs and lows is, once you’ve eaten something with white sugar in it your body sees that as an invader and sends out the troops to get it out of your body fast. Thus the crash when it leaves your body so suddenly. Not only that, since there are no nutrients left in white sugar, it means that you have to rob your body of stored nutrients in order to digest it properly.
Whole sugars, those that only have impurities, like bits of stems, removed from them interact with your body in a whole different way. They have all the nutrients left in them, too, so your body can easily process them without putting any strain on your system.
When we lived in New Mexico I had a problem with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. We were living at 6500 ft, which meant our blood had to become pretty thin. It must have been because my blood was thin that I started having problems, but I sure would get whacked out every time I’d eat anything with sugar in it.
One day we found a whole sugar product for sale and decided to try it. To our surprise and delight I had no sugar highs and lows, none at all!
What I’m aggravated about is that evaporated cane juice needs a lot less processing than white sugar, but it is around twice as expensive, so manufacturers are naturally going to grab the white sugar to keep their products competitive.
I’m tired of eating healthy meaning paying through the nose for your food. I’m also exasperated by food companies that will feed people poison, or something near it, just to save a little and make more profit. Aren’t we worth more than profit? Isn’t a human life the most precious thing on the planet? It doesn’t seem like it anymore. Money is more important in food, medical care, and housing.
I’ve been using whole sugar in my home for over a decade. The only white sugar we have is used to make nectar for the hummingbird, but now there is a whole plethora of things I can’t eat, including almost all restaurant foods. I dream of a world with healthy, tasty, nutritious food for everyone. Where people have lots of energy, creativity, and zest for life, and everyone is at or near their ideal weight.