Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fat Fail

When you have a little time to spare, take 20 minutes and watch the video above. It, like many other, videos coming out these days is all about the food we eat and how fat North America is becoming. Jamie Oliver is very passionate about spreading the news on healthy cooking and eating and I think it strikes a chord with most food bloggers. In his video he mentions that today's generation of children are the first generation anticipated to NOT out live their parents. Most 10 year old's now have as much fat in their arteries as a 40 year old adult. How sad and heart breaking is that? It's become part of our culture to eat poorly and it's getting worse.

More and more people are loosing the ability to cook, which means they rely on fast food or ready cooked meals. Those types of meals are laden with sugar and fat and a lot of calories. They are highly processed foods that are difficult for our bodies to digest and highly addicting foods that make us want more. Our society is making it harder and harder for us to find the time to cook real food, so we use that as an excuse to eat out, order in, or microwave our meals. I fall into that trap all the time. Our children don't have a lot of control over what they eat and more and more school cafeterias are filled with pizza, burgers, macaroni and cheese. They are filled with endless amounts of high sugar, high fat, cheap to make low quality foods. When I was growing up, my school cafeteria only had junk food, but we ate packed lunches most days so our meals were at least healthier than the cafeteria food. Schools also used to be miles away from food but now schools are surrounded by fast food chains and the kids stop by every day. Can you imagine what it's doing to their bodies and our bodies to eat so poorly most of the day, every day, all year long?

We can't hide from it either. There are advertisements for food on T.V., in magazines, on buses and billboards and there's an endless market for weight loss programs, pills and paraphernalia to counter act those ads. We are nations that are getting fatter and finding it harder to lose that fat. But, if you didn't take a pill to get fat, why do you need one to lose it?

My work had a lunch time speaker come in and give us a talk about changing the mindset around fat loss and it was quite thought provoking. We are one of many work groups doing a "Biggest Loser" competition right now and Matthew Ashdown came and talked to us about way it's sometimes hard to lose weight. He's a personal trainer who is trying to change the way people go about losing weight.

We are brought up as kids to finish everything on your plate before you can have dessert. Since we love dessert so much we are driven to eat even if we are full and then it becomes a life long habit that is very difficult to break. Some people even use their weight, subconsciously, as a way to prevent change. For instance, someone might want to become an actress but won't do it until they lose those last few pounds. Really, the weight is their safety net that keeps them from facing their real fear of proving their worth in front of hundreds or thousands of strangers, so they keep the weight on or even gain more weight. So he is trying to help us understand to love ourselves and understand ourselves so that we can make those breakthroughs and understand what is holding us back. It's a big part of weight loss that is left out by a lot of programs, but is coming into the light. Programs like "Body for Life" incorporate the mental/emotional side of things. One of my co-workers said that he tried the "Body for Life" once before and it worked amazing for him. Part of the program focused on personal things that aren't diet or exercise related. The second time he tried the program he skipped that emotional/mental stuff and dived straight into the diet and exercise program. You know what? It's not working as well. So there has to be something to it.

So we don't treat ourselves well mentally, we don't eat well because it's easier and faster to by highly processed ready to eat foods and then on top of that, some of the food we think we are eating, isn't quite what we think it is. Another video to look at, if you want to take a serious look at your food, is called Food Inc. It discusses the use of corn in almost everything these days and how genetically modified corn is everywhere. We think we are not eating genetically modified or engineered food, but we are. It's everywhere.

Surrounded by unhealthy outlooks and some of those being difficult to control, it's hard to imagine what we can do to lose the weight and eat healthier. But the simplest solution is to learn to cook again. Cooking from scratch eliminates a lot of highly processed food, and makes us more aware of what we are putting in our bodies. Hopefully, it will lead to choosing healthier ingredients with more fruits and vegetables. To help do your part, you can buy from local farms or local markets, which support local grown vegetables. Local means less of a carbon footprint (aka more environmentally friendly), supports the local economy, and local food is (hopefully) less likely to be genetically modified and if it's organic, will have less chemicals.

Learning to cook home cooked meals again is a bit of a learning curve, but worth it. It makes food exciting again and can be used as an excuse to spend time with your family. Teaching them how to shop for food, prepare it and share it, is a huge gift. My Mom taught me a few basics and it has carried me so far. Some of my friends didn't get the same chance and live off of KD and pizza. When they want to impress their new partner with a homemade meal, they are at a total loss. Me? I can make sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta stuffed chicken, roast beef or maple glazed salmon. The journey to homemade cooking, often leads us back to healthy eating ... or at least healthier, which is a start.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Cupcakes

This evening I watched in awe as people from all over the world came together to celebrate the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I've never really been big into Olympics, but something about the opening ceremonies gets me every time. It's inspirational to watch people from all over the world and across the nation get excited and emotional about one thing ... to come together in peace and to learn and love one another. I've always been proud to be a Canadian (in the usual quiet humble Canadian way), but this evening, watching the Olympic Ceremonies made me want to join in the crowd and bang my drum and wave my light just like all of the 60 thousand very lucky spectators at BC Place.

Another very big event to occur this weekend is Valentines Day. Another event that I have a love hate relationship with. I hate it, despise it and loathe it when I am single and then I love it when I have someone to share it with. Even though it's become highly commercialized, I think the idea behind it is a good one. It's one day in the year to show the people that you love how much you really do care about them. So many times in life, things happen that are beyond our control and we sometimes regret not telling people how much we thought of them before we lost our chance to. It, like the Olympics, is a day of peace and love and celebrating together.

Showing someone how much you care shouldn't have to be expensive either. The commercial side of the holiday tells us we need flowers, chocolate, cards, diamonds and more. Although those things can be nice they shouldn't be mandatory. The day should be about spending valuable quality time together with your significant other and enjoying each others company. You can do shared outings together (picnics, hikes, theatre, movies, dinner, etc) or you can do make something from the heart to show you care.

Personally, I get sucked in to both sides of Valentines. I tend to always get a card and some small gift for my partner and I like to do something from the heart. Last year it was to organize a weekend trip up to a 'local' ski hill and this year it's cupcakes!

Valentines Cupcakes

2 cups of Sugar
1 cup of Bob Redmill's GF All-Purpose Flour, sifted
3/4 cup Coconut Flour, sifted
3/4 cup Carob Powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1 cup Milk (lactose free or almond)
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Boiling Water
Red Food Colouring

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. Create a well in the center and place all of the wet ingredients in the center. Mix until well blended, approximately 2 minutes. Pour into greased muffin tins or paper muffin cups and bake for 15-20minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). Prepare icing as per package directions and add food colouring until desired colour has been reached.

These are super sugary, moist and delicious cupcakes. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Carrot Flax (and more) Muffins

A while back I discovered a brand of flax muffins that were labelled gluten free. They were quite hearty and tasty and made for a good breakfast muffin. But then the store that I had JUST discovered them in, stopped carrying them. That store was Thrifty Foods and they were actually incredibly helpful. The bakery manager called me and told me that the people who made the muffins had to find a new place to get their muffins made and would let me know when they started to carry them again. It was probably 4 to 6 months later Thrifty Foods called me up and let me know that they were carrying the muffins again. Unfortunately for me, once I got there, the first thing I noticed was that the term 'gluten free' had been removed from the label and it only said wheat free. I scanned the label dutifully and could not find any other signs of gluten, so I thought I would try them anyways. Sadly, I think they are no longer safe for me to eat. I wasn't getting huge reactions, but small ones, which accumulate if you eat the same muffin every day for breakfast. I was devastated. Okay, perhaps devastated is a bit exaggerated, but I had been hopeful that those muffins would replace my very bland breakfast cereal bars.

Then the other day I noticed I had two carrots in the fridge and it sparked a thought. Perhaps, I could make my own flax muffins? Well I gave it a shot today and let my brother who had dropped by sample one moments after it had come out of the oven, and he liked it. He even tried to get his girlfriend to find the recipe on here and make some. Personally, I think they are quite good! They are moist, sweet, and have quite a bit of healthy stuff hidden in them ... even if they aren't quite technically healthy.

Carrot flax (and more) Muffins

1 cup of Bob's Redmill Gluten Free All purpose flour
1/2 cup ground Flax Meal
1/2 cup Coconut Flour
1 1/4 cup Sugar
3/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup of shredded Coconut
2 grated Carrots
1/2 grated Zucchini
1/2 cup of Golden Raisins
3 Eggs
3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Apple Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients (first 9). In a small bowl whisk together oil, eggs and applesauce. In a food processor, grate carrots and zucchini. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and then slowly add the grated carrots, zucchini, raisins and coconut. If the mixture is not wet enough, add some more applesauce. Once well blended, pour into muffin tins (greased or lined with muffin cups) and bake for 20-25 minutes. If making jumbo sized muffins decrease temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes.