postaday2011 question: what would you tell yourself 10 years ago?

At age 61 with 20/20 hindsight, I’d counsel myself to laugh a lot, live my own life and not someonelse’s, and eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day to “stay regular.” I know, I know, TMI! But it’s the truth, the God awful truth! ha,ha. Told you…laugh a lot.

One other thing I’d pass along is to ward off “ants,” or automatic negative thoughts, as described by psychiatrist Daniel Amen in Change Your Brain Change Your Life. I’d go even further to say we should beat the c**p out of those buggers for attempting to suck the life from us. “Ants” take on a life of their own if we let them.

Automatic negative thoughts fester in our minds, convincing us that they are truth when, in fact, they are only illusions, posturing as facts. Many of us, if not all, live our lives based upon these masters of manipulation. No wonder relationships run aground, and mistrust among countrymen is possible, if not inevitable. If we allow these “ants” safe haven, they will grow fat and multiply. As hosts, we will succumb and self-destruct. Alzheimer patients are prime candidates for these nasty “critters,” which eventually consume the sufferer’s every thought, spinning falsehoods until fantasy and reality are one.   

It’s for sure we have all been overrun with automatic negative thoughts from time to time, some may never be without respite from these “ants.” Fighting them is imperative, sooner rather than later. Dr. Amen’s book provides the armament necessary. He speaks of these “ants” in the following YouTube videos. I’m hoping you will be encouraged to pick up and read  Change Your Brain Change Your Life, and other books authored by Dr. Amen.

Join me in stopping “ants” dead in their tracks!!!

wish I’d learned this 10 years ago…or earlier…hugmamma.

fiber…diabetes, the connection

February is “heart healthy” month. So I thought I’d share information that I myself must heed, as we make our way through the remaining 25 days. Whether directly, or indirectly, these tips involve heart health.

The following is from Reader’s Digest soft cover book “Reverse Diabetes.” It’s something to which I try to faithfully adhere. Every now and then I’ll digress, opting for yolkless eggs scrambled with sauteed veggies, Canadian bacon, and a slice of high-fiber bread, lightly spread with peanut butter and jelly. But more often than not, a bowl of oat bran mixed with a cup of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a cup of vanilla almond milk is my breakfast of choice. I down that with a cup of green tea.

What happens when…I eat a bowl of high-fiber cereal for breakfast?

The inside story: First, consider what happens when you eat sugary, low-fiber breakfast cereal. The carbohydrates in those crunchy treats make a rapid trip through your digestive system and are just as speedily converted to glucose. You know what that means. Your blood sugar spikes then plummets, and you’re hungry soon after. Choosing breakfast cereal or other foods high in fiber minimizes that problem for a simple reason: You can’t digest fiber. Instead, this rough stuff gets in the way as your body tries to absorb carbs and convert them into glucose. That makes for a slower, gentler rise in blood sugar after a meal. Keep eating high-fiber foods and your blood sugar will stay low, which will make cells throughout your body start processing this key energy source more efficiently. That means your pancreas won’t have to work so hard to churn out insulin, which can help keep diabetes at bay and make you less likely to need medications if you have the condition.

Eating fiber-rich whole-grain cereal has other benefits for blood sugar. For instance, whole grains are high in the mineral magnesium, which helps insulin to perform its handiwork. Eating high-fiber foods also lowers cholesterol and fills your stomach, which means you feel satisfied on fewer calories. That makes fiber a dieter’s friend.

BOTTOM LINE: In one huge study of more than 21,000 men, those who ate a daily bowl of cereal–especially high-fiber whole-grain varieties–cut their risk for type 2 diabetes by 37 percent.

The article proceeds to offer advice on choosing “a great breakfast cereal.”

Read ingredient lists and buy brands that include oat bran, barley, or psyllium seed husks as one of the first few ingredients. Avoid varieties that list corn, rice, or sugar among the first few ingredients.

I rarely breakfast on boxed cereals because of their high sugar, low fiber content. One-third cup of dry oat bran serves up 80 calories, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 5 grams of fiber, no sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Add to that the flaxseed, which, at 60 calories in 2 tablespoons, has 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 2400 milligrams of omega-3, no cholesterol, no sodium, no sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. A cup of blueberries tops off the cereal with another 3 grams of fiber. This bowl of breakfast cereal starts my day off with 12 grams of fiber, half of the recommended daily amount! During the rest of the day I continue ramping up my fiber count with veggies, fruits and high-fiber breads, pastas, or brown rice.

keeping diabetes at a giant arm’s length…hugmamma.

the facts on exercise

Prevention magazine’s February 2011 issue, has some interesting articles, which are probably applicable to all of us. One such article, “Beat Your Body’s Fat Traps,” advises that our exercise workouts may actually be undermining our attempts to lose weight. It claims that many who undertook a New Year’s resolution to lose pounds, overcompensated their successes “by eating as much as 270 extra calories a day–negating more than half of the calories they burned. This self-sabotage has a ripple effect. As the number on the scale inches down at a painfully slow pace, many women give up altogether.”

Our bodies may be our own worst enemies. As a reproductive apparatus, women’s bodies “stubbornly hang onto fat. A study in the journal Appetite found that for every pound of fat that women lost while dieting, their desire to eat increased about 2%.” A University of Massachusetts study found that women who were overweight and sedentary and exercised more than an hour, 4 consecutive days in a row, saw a change in their appetite hormones which more than likely stimulated eating. The same was not true of men. Often lending a hand in sabotaging our efforts to drop pounds, are our psyches which encourage us to have that dessert, as reward for a tough workout, a job well done.

A study in the UK showed signs of hope, however. During the 12 week time frame, half the new exercisers ate more, but the remainder did not, eating 130 fewer calories daily, and losing 4 times more weight. Prevention’s advice for all of us?

The first step is to know what you’re up against–working out doesn’t entitle you to eat whatever you want. Next, you need a smart exercise plan that curbs your hunger, coupled with an eating plan that fuels your workouts, not your appetite, so you don’t take in calories you just burned off.

Preven proceeds to lay out an appropriate eating plan. It’s suggested that eating every 3 to 4 hours maintains a constant supply of calories which maintains normal blood sugar levels before and after exercising. This prevents an insulin spike which encourages storage of body fat the next time one eats. Furthermore, to resist taking in extra calories with the increase in eating, “keep meals to 500 calories or less and snacks under 200, limiting total calories to about 1,600 to 1,800 a day.”

Eating protein at every meal promotes a full feeling by stimulating gut hormones. This helps to curb one’s appetite. Breakfast recommendations are eggs, milk, soy milk, yogurt and oatmeal. For other meals and snacks the following fit the bill, nuts, beans, whole grains, lowfat dairy, fish, lean meats, and poultry.

Loading up on fiber, 25 to 30 grams a day fills the stomach with fewer calories. And water quenches the thirst like nothing else after working out. Increased thirst after exercise is often mistakened for hunger. And sipping sweetened drinks only overrides any calories burned.

all makes sense to me…am already on it…hugmamma.

peanut butter and co., “small town” and out-of-this-world!

On a lighter note, much lighter to be sure, “Are you happy with your brand of peanut butter?” Yes, you heard me right. Many, many things catch, and hold, my attention. The Wall Street Journal and its treasure trove of meaty reading is but one. Food, as you’ve already surmised is another. Of course not being the young chickadee of yesteryear, I’m not so gluttonous anymore, by choice, but not by choice. So of late, I’ve satisfied my sweet tooth with a slice or two of fibrous bread, and “to-die-for” peanut butter. Strange how the older we get, we seem to revert back to childhood habits, childhood passions. Again, I’m not sure if it’s our decision, or Mother Nature’s. In my case, it’s a little bit of both. I like peanuts, a lot, so I like peanut butter, by default. But if it weren’t for my “plumbing” concern, I would probably be gorging on chocolate covered nuts, salty potato chips, and peppermint ice cream leftover from the holidays! Oh, and I’d throw in some white rice and teriyaki chicken for good measure! But already down 6 pounds, give or take depending upon the time of day, I’m more than fine with the new “object of my desire.”

“All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO. No-Stir Natural” peanut butter is the “cat’s meow.” My felines would say so, if they ate peanut butter. There are no trans fats, no cholesterol, and no high fructose corn syrup. Two tablespoons equals 180 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar. With a concern for high cholesterol, I have to watch my intake of saturated fat, so I try to ingest the least possible amount I can, and at 2.5 grams, I opt to “pig out” on one serving, sometimes less, of this heavenly peanut butter. These stats are for CRUNCH TIME; they vary with the other flavors, but not by much. 

I’ve sampled 4 distinct flavors, there are others:

  • CRUNCH TIME – natural peanut butter with great big pieces of chopped peanuts (was my all-time favorite, but has temporarily taken a back seat)
  • WHITE CHOCOLATE WONDERFUL – peanut butter blended with sweet white chocolate (now one of my favorites)
  • DARK CHOCOLATE DREAMS – peanut butter blended with rich dark chocolate (tied for current favorite)
  • CINNAMON RAISIN SWIRL – peanut butter blended with cinnamon and raisins (least favorite, too healthy, still better than other brands)

Besides its best selling feature, the fact that it tastes fantastic, “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO.” is a small town product, just like me. Of course, I’m really small town, having been raised in Maui in the 50s and 60s. By contrast, this peanut butter hails from The Big Apple, where it was “born” in 1998. My daughter, sister-in-law, niece and I visited its charming digs in NYC’s small, but famous, Greenwich Village, quite a few years ago. We might’ve even been witness to its humble beginnings, now that I think about it.

Having wend our way through Little Italy and Chinatown, where we lunched on so-so food, my niece expressed a fervent wish to find a shop she’d read about. Until then, I’d not known Jennifer was such a huge fan of peanut butter. A taxi ride later, we found ourselves in front of a quaint-looking shop which only sold peanut butter related items. There was a menu board listing sandwiches of every imagineable combination. I seem to remember that there was one in honor of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. It probably included bananas and bacon. My niece might have bought a sandwich “for later.” I know I was too overwhelmed by the whole peanut butter thing, to take it too seriously. Until now, that is.

Who would’ve thought I’d find jars of a Greenwich Village, specialty peanut butter sitting on the shelf at my local grocer’s? Needless to say I tried it, and it’s been our family’s choice ever since. I hesitate to say that I found about 10 jars of it in my cabinet just now. Several were hidden in a corner, so I thought we had none and decided to stock up. With threat of snow days, peanut butter is a nutritious, tasty food to have at hand. It’s a comfort food, I can still turn to…for comfort.

Other brands cost a few dollars, add another couple for “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO. No-Stir Natural.” It’s well worth the price, in terms of taste, and your family’s health. In the current economy small companies are struggling to survive. I’m hoping my favorite peanut butter weathers the storm, making it through to sunny days that lie ahead. I’m doing my bit, after all 10 jars for 2 people is a bit much. But they’ll keep. And if it disappears from my grocer’s shelf, I can try ordering my favorite peanut butter online at www.ilovepeanutbutter.com or call 1-866-ILOVEPB. 

If you can’t find “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO No-Stir Natural” where you are, and decide to order online or by phone, tell LEE ZALBEN, THE PEANUT BUTTER GUY, hugmamma sent you. Their website includes youtube videos which you can view, one produced by a travel channel. Your mouth will water just watching shop visitors sink their teeth into thick, flavorful, pb&j sandwiches!!!

gotta have my pb on fibreous toast, now and then…hugmamma.

“an apple a day,” the costco way

From all I’ve read and heard, apples are one of the best fruits to eat, period! The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is not a myth, according to experts like Dr. Oz. It provides the fiber needed to maintain digestive health, and the pectin in the skin of the fruit helps in the prevention of heart attacks. Apples are not my favorite fruit; I don’t think I have any.

Because fruit was readily available, more or less, depending on the generosity of others who “gave to the poor,” as a child, I preferred candy. Not on our family’s short list of  “must-haves,” it was a rarity. That’s why Halloween was high on my list of all-time favorite holidays; it still is. The difference now? I needn’t go house to house looking for handouts.  I can buy as much candy as I like, the kind I like. Eating as much as I like, is another thing. You know, older age= slow metabolism, and too much sugar= arthritic pain.

Helping me remain an arm’s length from my favorite “fruit,” is a tray of apples from Costco that sits atop my microwave. By far the most useful appliance in my kitchen, it’s also my “go-to” when I need reminding to do something like… eating an apple a day. Since our kitchen remodel a few years ago, I’ve stopped using the refrig as a bulletin board. Instead, the microwave serves as my reminder station, but only for important notices like, “Thurs., 9 p.m., Barb Walters/Oprah,” or “no more dog food” or “call cat-sitter.” So putting the apples ON the microwave means they’ll get eaten. If they sat anywhere else, they’d just get moved around, and eventually rot.

You’ll surely eat an apple a day, 

if you do it the Costco way,

just buy a whole tray,

and keep eating away.

It goes even quicker, 

if you share,

so share!!!…hugmamma.

“stretching” meals

Because there were so many mouths to feed when I was growing up, my mom was adept at “stretching” meals. I’m sure she wasn’t the only single parent, or married parents for that matter, who learned to enlarge meals by adding fiber, like oatmeal, or veggies. I was reminded of this when I tried a new meatloaf recipe the other night.

It wasn’t so much that the recipe made more, there were just added ingredients that I wasn’t accustomed to using, like grated potatoes, grated carrots and white rice. The recipe was entitled “Juicy Meatloaf.” Well it really wasn’t juicy. It was more like our dried out Thanksgiving turkey. What really struck me though, was the denseness of the meatloaf. Unlike the one I normally cook for our family, there was no “give” to this meatloaf. Each slice stood firm, and solid. And that’s how it tasted, firm and solid, not moist and juicy. It did last a few days, showing up as left-overs, alongside something else I’d cooked. So I guess the additional ingredients did “stretch” out the meatloaf. It was so dense that half-a-slice went a long way in filling my belly.

A favorite meal I serve my family is steak and onions. This dish can definitely be increased to serve more by adding items like sliced mushrooms, corn niblets, red pepper slices, and I guess anything else that’s to your liking. I’ll often look through the refrig for leftovers, which can be added. Of course everything has to be sliced thin, so they can blend while stirring. Just pour a little oil, perhaps a mixture of a couple pats of butter and canola, into a fry pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and saute. Toss in the thinly sliced steak pieces. It’s best to use the best cut you can afford, so cooking is quick. When the meat and onions brown, toss in the remaining ingredients, if any. Saute all, stirring every so often. Season with salt, pepper, and soy sauce to taste. Cover, and lower heat, cooking for another 15 minutes or so. It’s delicious served over rice, white or brown.

The same thing can be done with ground beef. I’ve never tried it with ground turkey, but it might work just as well. Serving a simple salad alongside either entrée, makes a nice meal. In these economic times, foods prepared simply can still satisfy the gourmand in all of us. By the way, one-and-a-half pounds of either meat will serve 3 adults. The more extras added, the further the entrée will “stretch.”

bon appetite!…hugmamma.

veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.