Conquering Cravings With My New Friends

I’m back! After a long absence for which I do sincerely apologize, I have returned with some exciting news. Within the next month, I plan to embark on a complete lifestyle change known as the Whole30.

In a nutshell, it’s an elimination diet that cuts out grains, dairy, legumes and added sugar for 30 days. If Melissa and Dallas (Hartwig, the founders of the program) are reading this though, they’ll scold me for calling it a diet. Because it’s so much more.

Heeding the advice of my friend Taylor, who is getting ready to do her second Whole30, yesterday I started reading two of the four books the creators have written about the program: It Starts With Food and The Whole30. I’m 60 pages into the first one and have never been more fascinated by science. Ever. The book backs up the Whole30 lifestyle with cold, hard facts; it explains how eliminating certain foods from your diet completely (no cheating!) can change your life, even if, like me, you’re pretty happy with your life already.whole-30-books

Some people choose to do the Whole30 to cure diseases or alleviate various ailments, all of which has been known to happen. There is literally a full page in The Whole30 that contains all the maladies the program has succeeded in healing. I am fortunate enough not to have any symptoms in need of attention, other than occasional migraines, but one of the selling points for me is the potential elimination of unhealthy cravings.

As the name of my blog suggests, I enjoy junk food just as much as the next person. And despite exercising every other day and counting calories most days, I can’t help but cave when someone brings donuts to the office or when my boyfriend suggests we order pizza on a Friday night. If the Whole30 does in fact allow me to conquer that penchant for what Melissa and Dallas call “food with no brakes,” I will be pleasantly amazed. At any rate, that’s one of the things I hope to take away from my 30 days.

On that note, my favorite part of It Starts With Food so far has been the explanation of why we crave certain foods even when we know they’re terrible for us. I’m going to go book report mode on you now with a quick summary that I hope you find as intriguing as I do.

Way back when cavemen roamed the earth (or maybe not cavemen but the life form that came before modern day humans), they knew to opt for sweet foods in nature rather than bitter foods, because a bitter taste indicated poison. Similarly, they knew to consume foods that tasted salty because of their ability to help conserve fluid and foods that were fatty because of their dense calorie content. So our ancestors were trained to eat things that were sweet, salty and fatty. Yum.

But fast-forward thousands of years and evil food scientists discover they can create foods that are SUPER sweet, salty and fatty, more so than anything that exists naturally. These are supernormal stimuli or Franken-foods, and it’s NOT OUR FAULT we want them so bad. As the Hartwigs write,

“These foods light up pleasure and reward centers in the brain for a different reason than nature intended – not because they provide vital nutrition, but because they are scientifically designed to stimulate our tastebuds. The effect is a total disconnection between pleasurable, rewarding tastes (sweet, fatty and salty) and the nutrition that always accompanies them in nature.”

Next time I’m tempted by food with no brakes, I’m going to stare that vanilla kreme donut square in the eye and say, “You can’t trick me! I know your secret!” And now you do, too. 🙂

(Pumpkin) Spice up Your Life

I am obsessed with pumpkin spiced everything. It has nothing to do with being “basic,” as the kids say these days, or trendy; I just love the flavor. But what I’m sure many people don’t realize is how much sugar is typically added to beverages and store-bought foods that are pumpkin-flavored. Furthermore, more often than not, these items don’t contain real pumpkin. That’s why the moment I could feel fall in the air, I went in search of some healthy pumpkin spice recipes. I present to you. . . pumpkin spiced overnight oats two ways!

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The main difference between these two recipes is that one contains Greek yogurt for added protein and creaminess. I’ll start with that one (pictured on the right).

Pumpkin Pie Protein Overnight Oats

I adapted the recipe from http://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2015/09/02/pumpkin-pie-protein-overnight-oats/.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (122g) pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup (25g) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tbsp (12g) Truvia
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

The only change I made was using a packet of Sweet’N Low instead of the Truvia, simply because it’s what I had. All you do, as with any overnight oats recipes, is mix up all the ingredients in an airtight container with a lid and leave them in the fridge overnight.

Verdict

 

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Two paws up!

Because of the yogurt combined with the pumpkin, I found it very filling. It wasn’t very sweet, so next time I may try using vanilla Greek yogurt. Overall though, I liked it and will make again.

 

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

I adapted the recipe from http://rabbitfoodformybunnyteeth.com/pumpkin-pie-overnight-oats/.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

I used regular skim milk because I don’t drink enough of it, fake maple syrup because it’s what I had and no chia seeds because they were too high on the shelf.

Verdict

Yum! I think this one may have been slightly sweeter, perhaps because there was no tart yogurt to take away from the pumpkininess. Because of the pumpkin pie spice, it also tasted more like pie than straight pumpkin. Would definitely make again!

So there you have it. Got other pumpkin spice recipes you think I’d enjoy? Please send them my way! I can keep eating this stuff till spring 😉

 

Setting Goals then Eating Them For Breakfast

(Alternate title: “You Know I’d Run a Thousand Miles/Kilometers”)

It was the weekend before I turned 24. My sister and I were dining at one of my favorite restaurants in D.C. with one of our closest friends, Halli. That’s when Halli and I made a pact to run at least 500 miles in 2016. A New Year’s resolution. We reasoned that 10 miles a week was certainly attainable — I’d run the Across the Bay 10K only a month earlier, so my runs were averaging six to seven miles a pop — and 500 was a safer/cleaner goal than 520.IMG_1210

It pleases me to say that I am on track to surpass that benchmark, having reached 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) just a little bit past the year’s halfway point. I know this because I joined a MapMyRun challenge at the beginning of the year in which participants agree to shoot for 1,000 kilometers in 2016. As you can see from the picture, I am currently in the top 10 percent of all participants; I have run more this year — or at least logged more miles — than 90 percent of my competitors! Race you to the pizza, suckers!🍕

Spaghetti Squash Crusted Pizza

All hail the almighty spaghetti squash! Despite the fact that I needed a muscular man to help me slice open the massive fruit I picked out this time, I’m obsessed. And this recipe only added fuel to the fire of my obsession.

Other than the squash, you probably already have everything you need to make spaghetti squash pizza crust, which is GREAT. You’ll also need to gather your pizza toppings; I used Prego tomato sauce, a pizza cheese blend and chicken breast strips for protein.

Look how pretty it is!FullSizeRender

I’m not going to post the entire recipe here because I think you all know how to click on a hyperlink, but I will offer a few tips/warnings.

  1. For me, two cups of squash made a crust that was roughly nine inches in diameter. If you want a foot-long (or foot-round) like the recipe claims to make, I recommend using more spaghettified squash.
  2. Do NOT forget to spray whatever material will be touching the crust. I used foil but failed to spray and ended up having to scrape each bite from the aluminum. It was still delicious!
  3. The aforementioned muscley man remembered to spray but still could not eat his pizza without a fork. I think the fall apart nature of the crust might have something to do with not straining the squash enough before combining it with the other ingredients. Make sure you get as much squash liquid out as possible.

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Want to know a secret? This slice of pizza has a layer of aluminum foil stuck to the bottom of it.

Nutrition Label Changes

As the writer of a health and wellness blog (that’s weird to say), I would be remiss if I didn’t so much as mention the nationwide food label makeover announced yesterday.

 

To recap before I give my two cents, the FDA proposed a series of changes to nutrition labels two years ago that the First Lady just announced will go into effect within the next couple of years. Most food companies have until July 2018 to comply.

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Here are a few highlights:

Serving Size

The Change: Under the new guidelines, the suggested serving size on food labels will more realistically reflect what someone actually eats. For example, a serving size of ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup. Also changing is the number of servings contained in a “single serving” package of food that weighs up to — but not quite — twice the standard serving size. That means a 20-ounce bottle of soda will show one serving.

My Thoughts: I understand the concept behind the change: to help people understand the calorie content of what they are actually consuming. The problem is, I think many people, myself included, will end up eating more because of the larger serving size on some foods. I do try my best to adhere to the posted serving size for snacks regardless of calorie count; granted, the fewer calories something contains, the more likely I am to eat more than one serving. But now my single serving of some foods is just going to be bigger, in accordance with the listed serving size. I won’t intuitively think, oh, I used to only eat one handful of pretzels instead of the one and a half it says I can eat now, so let me go back to that. And for people who don’t regularly adhere to posted serving sizes, I don’t think they will be any more likely to do so now.

Sugars

The Change: The total sugar content will now be broken down to show how much of that sugar is added, as well as a daily value percentage for added sugars.

My Thoughts: Why didn’t food labels have this before? Great idea.

Bell Pepper Nacho Boats

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Say hello to my new favorite recipe! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s delicious. Everything you love about nachos, minus the greasy chips and with turkey instead of beef.
  2. It’s healthy. This is another one I found searching for “low carb, high protein” on Pinterest.
  3. It’s adorable. They’re rainbow-colored boats… I mean COME ON! The recipe practically begs for an I’m on a Boat parody, but I’ve got nuthin.

New Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Mushroom Quiche

I am constantly looking up new recipes on Pinterest. Despite the fact that I own several cookbooks and sometimes even clip recipes from magazines and newspapers, 9 out of 10 times I get my meal inspiration from Pinterest. My latest search term was “low carb, high protein recipes,” which is how I found tonight’s dinner.

I had never made spaghetti squash before so I had no idea what to expect. That part was surprisingly simple, although you do have to bake it for about half an hour before you can even spaghettify it.

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Photo: ifoodreal.com

Then you sauté the onions, garlic, kale and mushrooms, mix all that with the remaining ingredients, slop it into your spaghetti squash crust and bake for 50 minutes at 400 degrees. If it sounds time-consuming, it is. But I did 30 minutes of pilates while it was in the oven, so that’s gotta count for something.

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Here’s what it looked like straight out of the oven. Nice, right? The recipe says to wait 30 minutes before cutting into it, but I was a little over eager. Instead I waited 20 minutes after cutting into it, once I realized the slices lacked definition.

When I finally dug into my creation, I was surprised by how flavorful it was. So yummy! My only complaint is how moist it was. I wouldn’t call it pudding-like, but it certainly held onto the moisture from all those veggies. I wonder if there’s any way to minimize that for next time. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my leftovers, at just 170 calories a slice.