Friday, June 3, 2011

A well overdue update

Spring is finally on us in full force and with spring, comes that desire to refresh one's commitment to health as well. At least that's how things seem to go for me.

This past week I made a goal to make sure to eat at least five servings of fruit and veg a day. I think I usually meet that, but I wanted to make a conscious comitment to it.

There is also an awesome song from Signing Time about it that I can't get out of my head (yes, it's a kid song). I particularly like the refrain where they have a "banana, apple, pea, carrot, potato day" or a "lettuce, banana, carrot, pear, apple day"

I should have taken notes and composed a song for you. However, I didn't and I know you're so sad. Most of my days were banana, lettuce and mixed veggies, apple, apple, random vegetable and maybe one more fruit days. Research shows that if you are trying to lose or maintain weight, eating bulky fruits and veg helps as they are less calorie dense (as compared simply to calorie restriction). Go go gadget fibre and water!

A really great salad is finely sliced fennel, over greens , with orange slices, red onion and sweet onion dressing. It was the best salad I had this week.

I also started drinking a daily dose of Greens plus. It has a few of the supplements I otherwise take, thus, decreasing my pill swallowing, and adds another dose of green food which is good for alkalinizing the body. Since Ive been a little inflammed lately, this seems sensible.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More musings on meat...

This has been the year of the carnivore for me. The more I have read, the more the research seems to support that eating a diet of primarily healthy meats and lots and lots of veggies, with healthy fats, some fruit and limited grains is health promoting. Because of this, I've eaten more meat this first quarter than likely in the previous year.

These types of dietary patterns are sometimes referred to as paleo diets or low carb. It's a really large adaptation for someone who at several points was vegetarian or mostly vegetarian.

A really nice meal now is a mega salad (yum, with homemade dressing - I forgot how good homemade mayonnaise is!) and some fresh roast chicken, and another serving of vegetables -- in this meal's case, organic green beans. There is something very comforting about having a whole roast chicken in the over after an afternoon of yard work.

If you look at the US Department of Agriculture food pyramid, they talk about increasing fruits and veg. They talk about replacing refined grains with whole grains, but in no way do they talk about increasing grains. As well, the old pyramid with grains on the bottom as the "base" for the American diet is no longer. Now there are vertical stripes. Interesting, n'est-ce pas? Because of the relationship between carbohydrate consumption and patterns of insulin response, being conscientious about carbs seems to be a good thing.

Even in Health Canada's Food Guide, more portions of fruit and veg are to be consumed than grains (and a serving of grains is smaller than you think!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Epigenetics and you

Ughh...iPad ate my awesome post about the epiphany I had about exercise and epigenetics. I don't feel like re-writing right now, however here is the short version.

You get handed a set of genes ( thank you mom and dad) BUT how those genes are turned on and off are affected by what we do, eat, are exposed to, etc. So, exercise actually codifies how your genes express themselves. You can't change your genes, but you can change which ones are active. I didn't learn a out this in intro to genetics at York U back in 93!

Some links:

I like this one: Reported information about the impact of a behavior (exercise), inherently involved in the daily human routine, on the epigenome opens exciting new directions and therapeutic opportunities in the war against neurological and psychiatric disorders.

More here for technical geeks:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Food, food and more food

So here's  a dilemna...

I love baking bread. I got a great book by Peter Reinhart "Baking Whole Grain Breads". The recipes are fabulous, and I have two starters in my fridges now. The cinnamon buns were to die for, and I think I'm getting closer to a good rise with the full whole grain recipes.

However, I'm flaring. My joints are unhappy joints, and my cheeks are always rosy but not in a good way (although my lovely husband thinks it's cute). I'm reading again about inflammation, and in addition to getting your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio right (about 2:1), grains really seem like a no-go. They have a lot of components that promote inflammation and that aren't well digested, including lectins. They also promote increased insulin secretion, which is also proinflammatory.

So...I've been trying to eat mostly vegetables and healthy meats (and eggs), nuts, and some fruits. Which means not playing with my bread book. Very sad on the bread book front...

The good news is, that I get to go meat shopping more often. Sounds silly, but I'm enjoying learning to cook new meats. I've been mostly vegetarian for a lot of my life, and fully veg from time to time (although not recently, as elder son developed full blown allergies to all plant sources of protein about a decade ago --- hmmmm this maybe supports my new meat heavy diet).

Which means I have seen my friends at the Manotick Village Butcher more often (yay!). I have lamb shanks in the fridge now, and can't wait to braise them. Some chicken schnitzel transformed into chicken parmesan with some helpful advice from James earlier this week and the kids loved it. My meatballs with their ground beef are to die for.

It's strange moving from meat maybe three times a week at best to meat twice a day, everyday. However, everything I'm reading suggests that as long as I get healthy meat (read: grass fed) my essential fatty acids should rebalance, and my body should be happier.

Here are some great downloads of articles, for the evidence behind moving towards more meat and vegetables, and less grains.They are from Dr. Loren Cordain who coined the term "The Paleo Diet", and while I'm not going quite that far, there are some great pieces of evidence in there.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fresh bread, tasty chicken

Food seems to be my thing these days.

I found a book titled "Artisan bread in five minutes a day". I whipped up a batch of the dough, which you don't knead and can keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Monday it made pizza  for us. I was in the door at 5 and pizza was on the table at 5:30. It was delicious pizza, and barely cost anything. The crust was better than that from my favourite Ottawa pizza joints!

Last night I made a chicken stew out of two roast chicken breasts (again, from my friend's butcher shop since I'm on a strict local-ethical only diet of meat from their shop). We had a fresh, crusty, fragrant boule along with the succulent stew. Heaven! The little six year old who normally is picky had two servings of chicken. I was very, very impressed.

There is something very special about sitting around the dinner table as a family, with fresh bread and a tasty stew when it's frigid outside.

If you want to know more about Artisan bread in five minutes a day, here is their blog with the master recipe. I'm going to be trying the healthy, whole grain version next. I'm going to move from the volume measure method to the weight measure method since flour varies so much in its moisture content.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In pork chop heaven

I think I've just died and gone to pork chop heaven. I may never eat again, to keep its taste on my lips.

But really, I just had the perfect meal. I've had a day to myself, and between chores I had time to visit the Manotick Village Butcher again. The past two weeks since we've moved back to the area, I've been using up frozen meats before taking the local pledge and buying exclusively from them again. Yes, the owners are friends, but also they serve up awesome tasting, ethical, healthy, local meat. You can't beat that. *little happy dance*

I treated myself to a pork chop, since my lovely husband isn't home and he won't eat them. Also accompanying the seared chop were the sweetest little yellow potatoes ever from my weekly organic veggie box, and wilted spinach with local garlic. Perfect dinner.

I also picked up some local eggs, milk from Cochrane's dairy, lean ground beef (grass fed, so high in Omega-3s), and lard (yes lard!).

Lard? My dear husband is going to freak. The lard I picked up is a perfect translucent white, prepared from the healthy pork of the same kind I ate for dinner tonight. We've all been scared away from lard, but really, we need to brush up on our science. Lard really isn't so bad, and in fact we should use it more often. It contains only 40% saturated fat, as compared to coconut oil's 85% or butter's 63%. It also has 45% monounsaturated fat, and if you are concerned about weight loss, some research has shown that monounsaturated fatty acid's are associated with weight loss. Monounsaturated fat is a heart healthy fat as well, so next time you need to reach for a fat to make a pie crust with, or to fry your chicken in, pick up some lard and get cooking! (noting that perhaps, these foods should be consumed in moderation).

Anywho...for folks living in town who want to try the goods from the Butcher, I'm always willing to pick up orders and bring them to work with me. And if you're looking for Ostrich, they even have some in the freezer!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kid salads for the win!

My kids are not great veggie eaters. Actually, they are terrible. They try to pass ketchup as a vegetable. Other than cucumber, it's hard to get them to eat their veggies.

Until a few nights ago.

I had a bag of shredded carrots, and wanted to make carrot slaw. I had the brilliant idea to give them a choice of dressing - creamy or not. One chose creamy, the other not (and then changed his mind so got a mix of both). They seemed happy about their own personal bowls of carrot slaw, so I thought we'd take this game a step further.
I asked if either wanted raisins: my small girl did, the tall boy, not. And for almonds, they both did. I chopped the almonds and they both dressed their salads themselves.

I've never seen my boy eat so much salad at one sitting. Amazing.

After dinner we made a list of ingredients for subsequent kids salads. We named them silly things like:

The crispy bacon:
add bacon, cubed cheddar and tomatoes to romaine lettuce

The monkey:
mandarin oranges and almonds with carrots (with bear paw crumbs as croutons...not my choice, but if it helps, what the hay!)

Because they developed these ideas, they'll be more likely to eat them than if I had just put the salads in front of them. The act of actually making the salads helps too. I'll sneak in more exotic elements as we get used to this habit (second year psychology class on conditioning is very helpful here - the concept of shaping works for both rats and children!)

I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Omega 3 Banana Bread

My 3 year old daughter and I love to bake. And my mom gifted me a new microwave/convection oven with steam that I had to try last night. So, we baked high fibre, omega 3 banana bread. It was yummy!

2 bananas
1 cup milk or other liquid
1 egg (free range happy hens or omega 3)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil or melted butter (your choice!)

Mix in blender until smooth. Or, smoosh the bananas with a fork and mix all in a bowl.

Then in another bowl, mix well
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I recommend from the mill in Manotick if you are local)
1/2 cup wheat bran
3 tablespoons each of chia seeds and flax seeds (optional, but highly recommended!)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix until blended, then pour into a silicone bread pan or a greased bread pan. Bake at 350 for up to an hour, or until a knife comes out clean.

Not too sweet, and lovely crunchy with the added seeds.

Eat warm with fresh butter.

Creative Commons License
Omega 3 Banana Bread by Heather Orpana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A simple tale of coffee cream

Getting back into the habit of living well can be a challenge. I was doing really well last spring, and then things got busy, and somehow, poor habits sneaked (snuck?) up on me.

The important thing about habits is that they are things you do regularly. The amazing thing is that little things add up.

For example, if you switch the cream in your coffee, if you drink as much coffee as I do, you can reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume over the course of a year by a lot. Say you use about 2 tablespoons per coffee, and drink a modest two cups a day. That's 7 grams of fat per day, 2/3 of them saturated. Over the course of a year, that is  2555 grams of fat, and 1606 grams of saturated fat.

That's about 28 sticks worth of butter of fat. Forgive me cows...I'm not saying that butter is all bad. I'm just trying to use an easy to understand metric!

Switching to whole milk reduces your fat consumption in your coffee to only 2 grams total, or 730 grams a year, and only 438 of these saturated. That saves 1825 grams of fat, or 16425 calories which is equivalent to almost 5 pounds of body fat. I won't even go into what my muffin a day habit was doing to my body, given the high fat and calories in those innocuous cafeteria muffins (which are again, way off limits after the cafeteria would not give me the nutrition info!)

There you go, and easy way to change one small habit, reduce fat and saturated fat, and (in theory) reduce your calories. In reality, without effort people may replace the calories saved in one domain with calories in another, but at least it is a step in the right direction! On that note, maybe tomorrow we can talk about steps...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Back again! Happy new year

It's been a while, but living well is back. The fall was incredibly busy- I switched jobs and my brain was full with learning the new ropes. It was a great change, and one that reminded me how important minimizing work stress and finding meaning in your work is to health. Since I wrote my dissertation on stress and health, you'd think I'd have known better!

Happy new year everyone...I don't have much to say today, except to reflect on new year's resolutions. Often, they are set up to fail. The new year is like a fresh page in a notebook, and we look forward to taking on the year and following our resolutions "perfectly". This, unfortunately, sets us up for failure, as almost definitely there will be slip ups here and there. The blank page will be sullied, and this can send some people into a mind state of "I messed up once, I'll never get it right, and I've ruined my chance for a clean record."

This might be the biggest problem with resolutions - they don't leave room for being human, for falling down and getting back up again.

Perhaps this year the best resolution of all is to be gentle with yourself, to let yourself make mistakes, and most important of all -- to brush yourself off and get back up when you fall down. That is a truly great resolution to make!