Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fiber Facts

First of all, what is fiber? Well, it's basically a type of carbohydrate that your body can't digest, which is a good thing. Like we said before, fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Both types of fiber offer health benefits that we really can't afford to do without; so both types are good sources of fiber for our bodies. Some sources of insoluble fiber include vegetables, fruit skins, whole-wheat products, and nuts. Some sources of soluble fiber inclue oats, dried beans, flax seed, nuts, oranges and apples, and vegetables like carrots. You can see that some foods give us both fibers in one, making the nutritional benefits double.

Some of the specific benefits of fiber include relieving constipation, lowering cholesterol, protecting against diabetes, assisting with weight loss, protecting against some types of cancer (colon, for example), preventing the formation of gallstones and kidney stones, and preventing heart disease. Pretty cool, eh? I am sure that we all know people, perhaps even in our own families, that struggle with at least one of these things.

So, how much fiber do you need? Well, women should get aroun 20-25 grams of fiber a day; men should get 30-35. On average, men and women get between 10 and 15 grams a day. So we get about half. Pretty frightening when you consider all of the health benefits we aren't receiving and, consequently, some of the things we are struggling with.

The good news is that if we are eating the recommended amounts of food that we see in the Food Guide Pyramid -- namely five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole grains a day -- we will easily get the amount of fiber we need -- both types of fiber -- and enjoy the health benefits.

So where do we go wrong? Well, fruit and vegetables can be really expensive, especially if you are feeding a large family. So the tendency is to skimp on these foods because they don't fit into our budgets. It's good to stay in your budget; however, maybe we should consider cutting out more of the processed foods on our shopping lists and fill in with more fresh foods. Or maybe you can get frozen or canned vegetables and fill in with less expensive fruits like bananas and apples. You can also look for sales -- grapes for $.98 a pound or watermelon for $.20 to $.28 a pound. If you measure out serving sizes and give you children bags that are theirs to eat for the day (not to mention yourself and your spouse), they'll likely eat the entire thing and be tickled that they got their OWN bag. Also, avoid processed fruits, including dried and fruit juice. You loose the sources of fiber (the skins with most fruit) and also your body absorbs and uses these things differently, so you lose the benefits of eating "fruit."

Another place people go wrong. If you notice, most foods are marked with words like "whole grains" or "whole wheat." But have you ever looked at the nutrition information on those foods? For example, I saw a loaf of 100% Whole Wheat Bread the other day that only had 1 g of fiber per slice. The number two ingredient in that bread was high fructose corn syrup. So be careful when you are looking at and buying bread, cereal, and other foods to look at the nutrition information and see what you are actually getting behind the words on the labels. Whenever possible, make things yourself so you know what is in the food and avoid anything processed.

With beans -- buy a bag of dried beans and make it up yourself, or else you can also buy cans of beans and use those instead of refried beans or other substitutes and cut out some of the fat and calories while still getting the fiber. Not to mention it will most likely be helpful on your budget.

Again -- add color, add color, add color. And cook for yourself and as a family. The benefits of that alone are more than any nutrition label could ever explain.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

2 3/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup oil (I use olive)
1/2 cup honey (molasses or sugar work as well)
1 T salt
5 cups whole wheat flour, freshly ground (or combine wheat and white -- one wheat to two white)
1 1/2 T yeast

Put hot water, oil, honey, and salt into mixer. Add about 2-3 cups of the flour and mix to bring down water temperature to keep from killing the yeast (I still mix the yeast with about a cup of lukewarm water; I guess that's my mom in me). Add the yeast. Mix. Add more flour until the dough begins to clean the sides of the bowl. Knead in the machine 8-10 minutes on speed 1. Oil hands and counter (putting flour on the counter adds more flour than necessary and dries out the bread). Turn out of the bowl and form into loaves or rolls.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees for five minutes. Turn oven off and let bread rise in warm oven 25-30 minutes. Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes. Remove bread from pans, brush tops with butter (optional), cool on baking racks, ENJOY!!!!

Yield: 2 Loaves (large ones)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I wanted to follow up here on my progress, mostly because I think we all do this: When someone starts to lose (or has just lost) weight -- be it from pregnancy or whatever else -- the thought runs through your mind (or leaves your mouth), "How did you DO it?" Obviously if you have ever struggled with weight loss, you just assume that it isn't possible for you and want to know how everyone else does it. You don't just want to hear "diet and exercise" -- you want SPECIFICS. DETAILS. You're expecting to hear, "I stopped eating sugar altogether" or "I work out at the gym for two hours a day" or "I stopped eating carbs and focus on lean proteins at every meal." And your ever-ready reaction is, "Well, I can't do THAT -- I guess I'll just have to be fat, cuz I'd rather not lose weight than give up sweets -- and I don't have two hours a day to go to the gym -- and I LOVE my carbs and don't even think that cutting them out is healthy." We've all been there -- myself included.

So - since I have full confidence that THIS time, I AM GOING TO SUCCEED (whatever that success might look like by my babies' first birthday or the end of the year) -- I am going to tell you step-by-step what I am "doing" to have success. I hope that this will give you encouragement and teach you that YOU CAN DO IT as well.

So I am just finishing week three of my quest. I'm a little behind because it has been a little discouraging at times and I found myself wondering if I really WAS going to succeed.

Week 1: Weight Loss -- Zero pounds, Zero ounces.
That's right, folks. You can imagine how heart-broken I was. I mean, the first few weeks are supposed to be the easiest and when you lose the most weight. Not me! I guess I already had some healthy practices in place or something because my body didn't change one bit.
What I did:
1) I cut back to the number of calories I found using the Basal Metabolic Rate calculations I posted in an earlier post. I noted EVERY bite I put in my mouth on my little calorie tracking calendar that I wrote about before. If I didn't know the nutrition information, I didn't eat it. PERIOD.
2) I made a rule that I would NOT eat out. The only exception to this is special occasions -- and besides my babies' first birthday, I only have my birthday, July 4, and my sister-in-laws wedding coming up between now and then. So -- special occasions will happen just three times. And I can plan on them and be ready. Other than that, NO eating out. I actually carry a high energy protein bar with me for just those times when I might be out on the run and didn't have time to pack a meal/healthy snacks or might be with my family and didn't have time to pack a meal. Then they can eat out, and I can stick to my goals.
3) I gave myself a free day -- SUNDAY. This is great because not only are my Sunday's really crazy with church and meetings and things but Sunday is a day that I hold sacred. I don't shop on Sunday. So I still have to plan -- to a certain extent -- my splurges. This is PERFECT for me. On the special occasions noted above, I'll just make those days my free day and calorie count on Sunday. This is also really great because it helps me have something to look forward to -- the day that I can eat a large slice of cheese or pizza or lasagna or a large spoonful or two of cookie dough -- WITHOUT the guilt I have felt before when I have set resolutions and FAILED. What happens on Sunday STAYS in Sunday. No guilt trips if I go WAY over the edge.
4) I drank at least 16 ounces of water before I ate ANYTHING. That helped me feel full even when I was struggling those first days of calorie cutting.

Week #2: Total Wight Loss -- 2.6 lbs.
What I did:
1) REJOICED that the scale had MOVED DOWN!!!!
2) After my lack of success the first week, I was filled with so many thoughts about what went wrong, worrying that my body was still so messed up from my pregnancy and dealing with hormone shifts and things that I would NEVER recover, wondering if I was still retaining a lot of water, etc. SO I TURNED MY THOUGHTS AROUND. I reminded myself that weight loss is simple: Calories in has to be less than calories out. I CUT 50 CALORIES A DAY from what I had eaten the previous week.
3) I got 8 hours of sleep TWO DAYS this week -- a new beginning for me in the sleep arena.
4) I exercised THREE DAYS this week. I took my niece on a "jog" around the city park and raced her on one side of the block for the four laps we did around it. I also tried a workout video my sister has and went on a bike ride with my kids behind me in a stroller.

Week #3: Total Weight Loss - 1.4 pounds, 4 pounds since I began
1) I rejoiced again! This weight loss changed the second digit in my weight, which is a number I haven't seen for a while. SO I WAS PRETTY EXCITED!!!!
2) I had sick babies and only got to exercise one day this week. So I need to do better in that arena.
3) I got 8 hours of sleep four days this week. That's pretty good.
4) I ate more veggies -- adding color to everything (tomatoes, green beans, frozen peas, spinach, carrots, whatever). I try to have at least TWO colors in every meal or snack besides breakfast. This also counts with fruit. And I splurged and bought some fresh fruit that I knew I would love, cutting it up and storing it in serving-size ziploc bags in the fridge to encourage me to STAY ON TRACK.

And that brings me to today. So I am going to enjoy this Sunday and making heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies with my niece. I enjoyed the piece of cheesy bread I ate with my daughter earlier (with extra cheese). I am going to enjoy whatever it is we decide to make for dinner WITHOUT worrying about eating JUST ONE PORTION. And I'm going to be more successful next week than I was this week.

The amazing thing is that, even though I write about making cookies and eating cheesey bread and eating a larger portion at dinner, I actually found myself NOT craving sweets, fatty foods, processed foods, etc. this week. I REALLY NOTICED A DIFFERENCE. That's not to say I WON'T eat the chocolate chip cookie dough before we make those heart-shaped cookies for our neighbors. But I am not craving it. And I'd really be okay if we didn't do it. That's a FIRST for me EVER. Not even kidding. And I'm actually STARTING to crave vegetables like you wouldn't believe.

My two-fold focus for week 4: 8 hours of sleep and exercise. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 5, 2009

From the Soapbox

This subject is stretching the theme of this blog a little, but the soapbox subject to which I am devoting my 1 day a week of fame as an author is the encouragement to eat as a family.

My mom was (and still is) an extremely devoted mother of seven and my dad is a farmer/rancher who started his days at 5:00 AM and ended them after sunset. However busy they were, dinner was a sacred time, never missed, when all nine of us met to eat and to talk.

This is the place where we talked about our lives, our successes, our questions, our beliefs and our failures. This is where we formed our opinions and learned to debate. This was the training ground where we learned to meet head on any challenges from peers, to question dogma thrown at us by teachers, and roll with teasing from siblings. This was a safe place where we could feel bold in expressing our opinions, secure in asking questions, and were not scarred by sarcasm and ridicule.

Hardly ever did we end a meal by immediately clearing the table. We pushed back our chairs and continued to talk.

There is not space here to extol the value of the practice of family dinners. Suffice it to say that it was probably the best bonding time we spent together, a place where our parents had more influence than they ever dreamed.

If this non-empirical evidence and my personal conviction of the importance of family dinners leaves you with any questions, you can find a lot of research in out there in support of family dinners. Here’s an interesting fact that I will leave you as I step off of my soapbox and away from the spotlight of my day of literary fame:

A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. And no one has more power to prevent kids from using substances than parents. There are no silver bullets; unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family. But one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners.

Frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse. Compared to teens who eat dinner frequently with their families (five or more family dinners per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:
three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs, three and a half times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs, three times likelier to have used marijuana, more than two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco, and one and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.

Sugar, Sugar --- Oh Honey, Honey

One of our polls asked what was most difficult to change in your diet. The number one answer was cutting out sugar. So I thought I would post a few ideas and ask for your feedback.

1) Try switching to sugar free. I actually can't believe I just typed that, since I have been anti the taste of sugar free for YEARS!!! I could taste it in ANYTHING!!!! And it always left the most disgusting after-taste in my mouth. HOWEVER . . . . things have changed. Food scientists have come a long way with some things, and there are actually sugar-free products I prefer now to the regular stuff. Some of my favorites:
--- Bryer's No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream
--- A&W Diet Root Beer
--- First Two Comined for an AMAZING Root Beer Float
--- Swiss Miss Sensible Sweets No Sugar Added Hot Chocolate
--- Cook and Serve Sugar Free Chocolate Pudding
--- Laughing Cow Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches
--- Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Cups
--- Weight Watchers Oreo Ice Cream Bars
--- Dannon's 80 Calorie Yogurt cups with 1/4 cup of Fiber One

For the last few months I have had a REALLY hard time saying no to sweets -- I LOVE THEM TOO MUCH!!! But I have been surprised to see that when I allowed myself these few simple, sugar-free sweets every day, I felt less guilty. And slowly but surely, I find myself not really wanting them as much. That's FANTASTIC, right?

I think the trick here is to choose healthier options while waiting for my body to balance itself out. I'm still not to a point where I use Sugar Substitutes in things like Oatmeal or baking. That just ISN'T me. And, yes, some of these things are a little more pricey (which helps to not get them so much, right?). BUT, I allowed myself that splurge for a while to keep myself from feeling deprived and just giving up or binging on things that I wanted but couldn't have. And, as I said, I have been surprised to notice that I don't crave them as much.

2) Choose fruit first. You have to be a little careful with this one because you don't want to eat one thing when you are really craving another; you'll just have added calories from the first and over-indulge on the second. But if you can first eat fruit, you may find your post-meal sweet tooth is actually okay with it and doesn't need anything else.

3) Set small limitations. For example, you may not quit sweets cold-turkey. That probably won't lead to success for you. HOWEVER, you can start with small things like limiting yourself to one or two portions. Or maybe all you need to do is decide to look at the nutrition information of everything you eat BEFORE you eat it. That's a cup of ice water in my face sometimes; and the shock alone is enough to stop me when I think about how long I'd have to run to run off that tiny little splurge. Again, slow and steady wins the race. And you might just find yourself NOT craving sweets as much as you thought you would or have previously done.

4) Use portion sizes of sweeteners. For example, I eat oatmeal pretty much every morning, without fail. I used to add sugar to the point that it was like, "Do you want some oatmeal with that sugar?" Now I just add one tablespoon of brown sugar to my bowl of oatmeal and I'm just fine with it! I had to get to that point. But now that I'm there -- VIOLA!!! It's not even a question anymore.

5) Choose fresh over dried EVERY TIME. If you have a sweet tooth and are going to eat fruit, go for fresh fruit instead of dried fruit. Dried just doesn't have the same nutritional value and the sugar in it is so incredibly concentrated. Eating either one will give you that sweet taste in your mouth, so go for fresh.

6) If you don't make or buy it, you won't eat it! If you need help with this, call in the reserves: family, room-mates, friends, etc. Or if you want to make something because you are really craving it, call a friend and make it at their house. Make sure you have an alternate activity going on (like games or a movie or something outside), then you can eat just one and walk away to join the activity. OR you can take the plate of goodies TO the activity and steal one before serving everyone else. AND you can leave all the left-overs with them to find a way to dispose of them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Getting Back on Track: WINNING the RACE

Hello friends! So I am sure you have noticed that I kind of fell off the wagon, so to speak, in the last month or so. I think I just got so frustrated with everything, overwhelmed with life and sick babies and my husband's finals week and everything.

I am sure you have had many similar experiences. Then my babies turned 9 MONTHS OLD, and I realized that I am only THREE MONTHS AWAY from their ONE YEAR birthday. There are a lot of statistics out there about carrying around the pregnancy weight a year after your babies are born, but I NEVER thought I would be one of those women who was still struggling with it. I mean, how long does it take to lose 15 POUNDS anyway, right?

Well, as you can attest right along with me, SOMETIMES IT TAKES LONGER THAN YOU THINK. I have tried implementing everything I put on here, tried to fit exercise in even when I LOATHE INDOOR EXERCISE AND WORKOUT VIDEOS. I have slowly cut calories every week and even got to a point where I just dried up and couldn't breast feed anymore. But still, the WEIGHT HAS STAYED WITH ME.

So I decided the week after my babies turned 9 months old that I was going to kick it in gear and get back on track. I made a calendar, made a count-down chain (like you do for Christmas), made a calorie tracker to record everything I eat every day WITHOUT FAIL AND WITHOUT EXCEPTION, and I have been working like crazy to accomplish this ONE GOAL.

This is about more than weight for me at this point, though. This is about me feeling like I am still myself: someone who sets goals and accomplishes them; someone who can pull things together and make things happen instead of being pulled along by life and never really in control of anything; someone who succeeds at everything she does because FAILURE IS NEVER AN OPTION. Have you ever felt like your life was running in a different orbit than everything around you and just when you think you are back IN SYNC WITH EVERYTHING ELSE, someone sneezes and it spins you into a whole new galaxy? That's how I have felt these last nine months, and friends I feel that I need TO TAKE CONTROL.

So, I have YOU, my PEN and PAPER, my PAPER COUNTDOWN CHAIN, my RUNNING SHOES, my BIKE and JOGGING STROLLERS, my WEEKLY MENUS and expensive fresh fruits and veggies that I cannot live without, and just this one final thought:

"The will
to WIN
means nothing
without the will to
~Juma Ikangaa, quoted in Elaine Dalton,
"A Return to Virtue," Ensign, November 2008.