Sunday, May 29, 2011

Indulging While Traveling

Well hello, hello!!

I am back from another trip to Seattle! I wanted to share some tips on staying healthy on a trip – it can be done!!

...but I thought I'd start off with some of the less healthy escapades from the trip... :) Besides some delectable home-made cookies from my friend's mother, COFFEE was the indulgence of the trip! I normally try to limit my coffee intake, but this was a no-holds-barred kind of an adventure!
The Coffee-Crawl Crew!
A cup of coffee does include some riboflavin but very little else. When taken plain, coffee has a mere 2 calories per 8 ounce cup. You add cream, sugar, flavoring, etc, that number will of course rise rapidly! Even a “skinny” Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks jumps to 70 calories per 8 ounces; all the way up to 670 calories for a Vente Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino blended drink.
First cup at the airport!  I did try to keep my coffee sizes limited, and limited creams and sugars... some!  But when you're in a city where little independent coffee kiosks are on practically every corner, who can resist!?

There are some benefits to coffee, such as having antioxidants, but James D. Lane, PhD, reminds us that just because there is a good component in coffee, that does not necessarily mean coffee is good for us!  More research, as always, is needed.
First cup once in Seattle - from our favorite place, Urban City!
“It has not really been shown that coffee drinking leads to an increase in antioxidants in the body... We know that there are antioxidants in large quantities in coffee itself, especially when it’s freshly brewed, but we don’t know whether those antioxidants appear in the bloodstream and in the body when the person drinks it. Those studies have not been done."
Mandatory Tour stop at the Pike Place Starbucks - the original one!
And then there is the caffeine aspect. Most of us know and love that boost we get from coffee. It seems like the “magic elixir” or “nectar of life” for some of us, right? The brain feels like it's functioning better, the mood picks up, and life just seems better! However, caffeine can raise blood pressure, cause irregular heart palpitations in some, and can increase levels of epinephrine or adrenaline..

Home brewed coffee at Jen's while we played games!
A small study with the American Diabetes Association shows coffee may be linked to impaired glucose metabolism, which is not a good thing! For one thing, it may be linked with Alzheimer's Disease.
The best hotel coffee I've ever had!  It was a wonderful start to each morning!
On the other hand, caffeine is a common performance enhancer of athletes! So, before a long day of hiking, we of course used that to justify why we had to get some coffee ;-)
Twenty-four hours into the trip, and I'm already on my 5th type of coffee!  This was the SECOND type of coffee the hotel offered.  Near the lobby, they had a THIRD brand!
And plenty of water!! Don't forget, caffeine makes you pee more!

Getting coffee before boarding the Ferry ride.
While in Seattle, we learned of a new type of coffee - White Coffee.  When I first saw it listed on a menu, I simply assumed it meant a white-chocolate flavored coffee drink.  But I was wrong!!  I later learned that white coffee is simply a less roasted bean!  

A stop at Cup and Muffin, where they had Rice milk available! 
I was so excited I ordered a separate cup of plain rice milk!
The longer the bean is roasted, the darker it becomes - not only in color, but in flavor.  And as I was surprised to learn, a darker roast does not mean more caffeine!  For some reason, I had always assumed the two went together.

A Slug Mocha!
Simple drip coffee with a chocolate (or white chocolate) slug - common at our hike of the Hoh Rainforest.
On the contrary!  The kind baristas at Urban City told us that it has almost twice the caffeine!  Um, hooray and yikes?  Since it is very lightly roasted, it has an incredibly mild flavor - which has earned it the nick-name of "flat coffee."  It is a bit of a watered-down nutty flavor.  By itself, maybe not the best drink.  But it was great fun to incorporate that extra nutty hint into various flavored drinks!
By this point in the trip, I had lost track of how many coffee drinks I had imbibed.
Since returning home, I have been asking around at coffee shops for this white coffee, but it seems that it has not yet migrated eastward!  I suppose that is good, considering all of the caffeine - better to avoid it as able!

Another lazy morning in the hotel, sipping on coffee before heading out for a long day of walking and hiking!
Of course, all in moderation normally! Caffeine is metabolized in the liver, and you don't want to tax your poor liver too much!! It's already doing so much for you! It one of your largest internal organs, and so important!!  So nix the caffeine as much as you can :)

Yet another Urban City coffee!  We stopped there daily!
The National Institute of Health reminds us that “the liver has many jobs, including changing food into energy and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood. Your liver also makes bile, a yellowish-green liquid that helps with digestion.

After a wet day of hiking through the drizzling rain, it was nice to get a hot cup of coffee at The Daily Grind!
While this trip was predominantly focused around coffee as the beverage of choice, I did enjoy some healthier options, such as lemon water, tea, and even a few green smoothies!  True tea, made from tea plants, will still have caffeine in them.  Even "decaffeinated" teas have small amounts.  

So if you want a caffeine-free alternative, try herbal teas or Rooibus teas!  They can be a wonderful alternative.  Rooibus tea is also rich in antioxidants, so not only is it easy on your liver, but gives you a warm boost of health to boot!
Vending Machine coffee... haven't seen that in ages!

However, if coffee is your drink of choice, just try not to tax your fat-burning, body-cleansing liver too much!  (*cough* yeah, that's a "Do as I say, not as I do" when looking at this trip!)

...But enjoy life and the occasional indulgence ;-)
The final cup of coffee at the Seattle Airport, before heading home.  A departing brew from Tully's.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Blessing of Health

"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings."

It is so easy to take health for granted.  We all have this thought of "I'm invinceble" or even just "this is how I am - those problems won't happen to ME."

But they can!  Rates of nutrition-related diseases are on the rise... from diabetes to heart disease, pre-mature aging to cancer.  And, while there is heated debate about if nutrition can cure these disease, there's at least agreement that they can lower your risk and decrease the severity!

So take a moment to soak in your blessing of health that you have.  It may not be perfect health, but you're here and able to read this post!  So that's something!  Now take a few more natural steps to health :)

Tick tock, tick tock!  I know it seems time consuming sometimes, but it's worth the effort and time to make your foods, or shop for healthy foods!

Ooo, how about an HOURLY DOSE OF NATURAL?  Can ya dig it? ;-)

Commit to caring for your body - it's the only one you get!  (Until we're far enough into the future that we're all bionic parts anyway.)

Have a great evening guys :)


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Healthy Eating Basics

Hola, mi amigos!

It's a lovely, sunny day, and I got a nice dose of sunshine on my lunch break! That always helps my mood!

Over the Mother's Day weekend, I got into a discussion with my dad about the confusing, conflicting, and chaotic world of nutrition. With one study contradicting another, a new recommendation switching an old one, and every "Expert" under the sun coming out with their own version of the "perfect" diet - you know, that one that will FINALLY work for you, and will solve all of your problems? ... it gets to be a very frustrating nutritional road to navigate!

I just wanted to throw out a few quick suggestions, though I would never claim to be the end-all-be-all-expert. They are my thoughts, and what I've seen to be true over my 10 years studying nutrition.

The biggest tip on picking a the correct eating/activity lifestyle:


What feels good, what fits your schedule, what are you going to stick to? If you don't like your food choices, you're not gaining energy, or you're stressing more about what to eat for dinner than anything else, it's not healthy! The best intentioned "perfect" diet will be no good if you're harming yourself with stress and anxiety!

Ok ok, that's vague - how do you pick WHAT will work for you?

To quote dietitian Marion Nestle: “The basic principles of good diets are so simple that I can summarize them in just ten words: eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables. For additional clarification, a five-word modifier helps: Go easy on the junk food.”

And author Michael Pollan shrinks it down even further to his 7 word mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” then clarifies real “food” as items closer to what they look like in nature, as opposed to things that have been processed, which he calls "Edible Food-Like Stuff" (or something similar.)

So if you get nothing else from this blog, let those two quotes give you some guiding light for how to take steps towards living a healthy lifestyle!

Good luck, and I'll see you back here soon! :)


Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day!

Happy Mothers Day to all the beautiful moms out there! And, to paraphrase my own mom, to all those who step in for mom when she can't be there - for the sisters, the grandmas, the aunts, the dads, and all those who care for and nurture others!

There's not enough patience and love in our daily lives, sometimes, so go out today and be love and patience for others!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sprinting Smoothie Sistah!

Happy Mothers' Day Weekend!!

What better way to start off the holiday weekend than with a run?  (Hmmm.... sounds oddly familiar...)  So my older sister and her husband joined me on the Columbus 5K!
In the starting gates!
It was a nice run, not as fast as we've done before, but she was still healing up after wearing a boot for 6 weeks!  So, nursing a previously sprained foot, our goal was simply to finish - and we did! 
Rockin' runnin' sistah!
And after all the running and sweating, we got cleaned up, and indulged in a healthy smoothie!  Rich in berries, this antioxidant punch helps replenish our muscles' energy stores!  Delicious and studious!  What a way to start a weekend!  We started it off right!

Sipping smoothie why studying.  What a brain boost! :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Main Romaine

I am finally getting back to the question of Romaine! Mom asked the other day why I love Romaine so much. It’s because it’s so darn healthy! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not placing it above or below other leafy greens!! They all have their own benefits to your body. Romaine is simply one that Dave likes more, so I tend to use it often to keep him enjoying his salads, smoothies, and wraps!

It’s got a crisp, clean crunch that brings a mild flavor. Plus, a 2-cup serving provides over 140% of your day’s needs for Vitamin K and almost 60% of Vitamin A! It is also an excellent source of folate, manganese, and chromium; and a very good source of fiber, vitamins B1 and B2, and minerals potassium, molybdenum, iron, and phosphorous!

At only 15 calories, that seems like a pretty good deal!

Romaine is one of the few plant sources of chromium, so that’s another reason I like it! Onions, broccoli, and tomatoes are also contributors (hooray for chromium salads!)

Plus, and take this with a LARGE grain of salt - Celtic sea salt, of course! ;-) - I have this notion floating around in my head that chromium may help reverse graying hair! I cannot recall for sure where this idea came from, but it’s something that niggles at the back on my mind. (To the Research Cave, Robin!) And I have had friends, and read accounts of others, who have noticed their own hair color returning after adding daily green smoothies to their diets!! It didn’t happen right away, but after a month or so, they noticed darkening areas where they’d more recently been silvery! Woohoo! So perhaps it’s just the general nutrition gained from adding a smoothie (and thereby eliminating a less healthy breakfast option) or perhaps it’s a specific nutrient. I will research more one day!

But back to Romaine! Here’s another good health combo… the beta-carotene plus the vitamin C work together to help keep down bad cholesterol!

When cholesterol gets oxidized, it becomes the sticky, nasty plaque that clings to your arteries. This begins to block the passage of blood, narrowing the artery and making it harder for your body to get that nutrient-rich blood around! So then, in comes higher blood pressure, less oxygen and energy getting transported, and possibly even heart attack or stroke after too long. Beta-carotene and Vitamin C help prevent this awful oxidation, helping to keep your blood a’flowin’ easily! And then the fiber can come along and help sweep out the gunk and help you excrete it. (I know, fun topic!)


Just try to get organic, as this is one of those Dirty Dozen highly sprayed veggies!

Have a great weekend, my friends! Tomorrow is another 5K run! Woo!

So! Romaine! Yet another great green to add to your life! Salads and smoothies are the easy route, but there’s plenty you can do! Add it to casseroles or sandwiches; or just use it in place of bread for sandwiches, buns, or tacos; use the smaller, firmer leaves as boats for fun toppings like salsa, avocado, or julienned veggies; or use it like a sushi wrapper!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hubby Making Progress!

I was sitting at my computer last night, minding my own business, clicking through my array of email messages, when my husband comes up, sounding very suspicious.

"Hun, you know how much I love you, and I think you're wonderful..."

Uhh, ok, where's this going?

"So, because I love you, I put up with all your crazies.  And I figured, I better offer to let you take a picture of my dinner before I eat any!"

Ahahaha!!  Awww, that's my man!

So this is the plate he proudly presented:

It's not a prefect meal, but it is leaps and bounds healthier than many things he tends to eat!

The back left if a slice of fennel (yep - straight up, vitamin C, cancer-fighting, licorice-tasting veggie!) with a nut pate on it.

Then he has brown rice with home-made red pepper curry sauce on it.

And finally, in the less-than-wonderful white bun, he has a "Rawtwurst" (nuts and seasonings to emulate a bratwurst!), organic mustard, and some of our home-made sourkraut!


And the best part?  He LOVED his dinner!  He was so happy on so many levels - that it's getting healthier, that he did it himself, and that it TASTED GOOD!

This coming from a man who almost soley based our apartment choice on the fact that there's a Taco Bell next door... he's come a long way!

So take your small steps, and take your time getting there!  These changes are life-time changes he's making, and they're sticking!  Hang in there, and you'll find amazing healthy ideas that just click for you, too!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Raw Ratatouille... the fancy way of saying "Zucchini Spaghetti in Circles"

I was all excited to try another new recipe from Gone Raw - so I picked Zucchini Ratatouille since zucchini is nice and cheap. And Italian sounded good!

And while this was a pretty zucchini dish with home-made tomato sauce, I think it will not be a repeated recipe.

I enjoy zucchini as a substitute for pasta, but I found that slicing and dehydrating all these slices was much more time consuming than just throwing it through my spiral slicer. Perhaps letting the slices marinate in a little salt and oil would be a good step, but I don't think it needs to dehydrate.

And the sauce would have been delicious if it wasn't for the fact that my grocery store changed their sun-dried tomatoes. Sadness!!

Thankfully, we recently found a nice tub of ORGANIC sun-dried tomatoes from Jungle Jim's market, so we'll get to try out some old favorites with these new nuggets of sunny glory!

So, above is our pretty dish of ratatouille... the first, and the last. But hey - we tried it, and now we know! Sometimes it's just the matter of pushing our comfort zone, and trying something new! Can't love 'em all!

Have a happy week, and I'll get to that post about Romaine lettuce soon!