Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are You Frosting Kidding Me: Taking Valentine's Treats to Heart (Recipe Included)

Valentines Day 2013: my husband blew me away! Greeted early by this lovely display, I couldn’t help but swoon all day thinking of how much I love him. Yet, it was the magic Jeff performed in the kitchen the night before that really melted my heart.

A week prior, Brice's teacher requested “three cans of frosting” for class festivities. This simple task didn’t cause pause until it was time to read the label. That bit of supermarket literature takes you deep into the aisles of science fiction - far, far from the preschool nursery rhymes we should be reading our four-year-old. For your reading pleasure, we present a literary sample:

Now, definitions of healthy eating vary widely. You may be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, a clean eater, a locavore, a health nut, on a recent health kick, or simply someone who doesn’t want to kill themselves with food. No matter what kind of eater you are, knowing the truth about the contents of this frosting will greatly decrease your appetite and reduce your purchase impulse.

(Pardon in advance for the undercurrent of anger below, but it's hard not to be angry when you learn what companies will put in products to enhance their shelf lives and increase profit margins at the expense of our population, in this case our youngest child.)

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil: This is a trans fat. The same kind of trans fat that is banned in  Iceland, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, and New York City restaurants. While trans fats increase the span of a processed product's life, they decrease the span of human life. Largely, trans fats negatively impact heart health. Arteries harden and clog after trans fat intake. Trans fats also cause insulin resistance and contribute to type 2 diabetes. The web is flooded with information as the impact of trans fats have been widely studied. Here's the link to one source that compiles information in an effort to promote trans fat bans.

High Maltose Corn Syrup and Corn Starch: Canned frosting is a highly-processed food. (Read: it contains a lot of corn.) The dangers of corn run broader than our bodies. It's our entire ecology. Michael Pollan writes extensively on the impact of cheap corn sweeteners on the rising obesity epidemic as well as the similarly catastrophic impacts to our environment. Check out his articles or, if you're really curious, read The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Color (Yellow 5 & 6): Just what preschoolers need this Valentine's Day - an added dose of ingredients linked to ADHD. The Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding Yellow 5 & 6 as a preventative measure against the increasing the effects of the disorder. The impacts of artificial food coloring run broader than hyperactivity, too. As reported on Livestrong, Yellow 5 has been associated with allergic reactions, asthma, and is even banned in some countries.

Cellulose Gel and Cellulose Gum: While I'm not aware of any studies linking cellulose byproducts to disease, you should know what it is before you feed it to your children. It's wood. Actually, it is a highly processed form of wood that the industry uses to add fiber, replace fat, alter texture, and generally produce products for less money. You can find out more in this WSJ article.

Polysorbate 80: This delightful addition to the canned frosting concoction has been linked to reproductive issues and anaphylactic shock, according to Dr. Mercola.

Natural and Artifical Flavor: This is a surprise party of potentially harmful guests. Sometimes, it can mean MSG, a chemical widely known to cause brain damage. Giving my kid MSG on Valentine's Day doesn't do much for my heart!

In short, a can of frosting contains ingredients that are known to contribute to heart disease, ADHD, diabetes, asthma, reproductive issues, anaphylactic shock, and brain damage.

Faced with a busy night of dinner, homework, Valentines prep, and packing for a long weekend trip, Jeff stood in the market and made the conscious choice that buying canned frosting is the wrong choice for our family. It would have been much simpler to pay for a product off the shelf, but it didn't sit well with his heart. Instead, he purchased a few simple ingredients to make his own frosting. He did it without complaint and with a heart full of love for his children (and his wife who embarrassingly couldn't stop licking the bowl!).

Before sharing the recipe, we offer that this still isn't a recipe we'd classify as "healthy". It has the major advantages that there are no preservatives or artificial (i.e. unpronounceable) ingredients. It is quick and easy; it took Jeff less than five minutes to make a batch. It is also kid-approved, thumbs up across the board! The cons of this recipe are that it is still a "treat", meaning it includes a lot of sugar. We definitely don't advocate making this (or any) frosting part of your daily diet. Also, there's dairy so it isn't right for those with an intolerance. However, with how quick and delicious this recipe is, we'll never buy canned frosting again! A few minutes of prep on our end is well worth avoiding all the harmful additives the manufacturer includes on its end.

Mere moments in the kitchen can keep your loved ones' hearts happy and healthy. What a heart-loving message to take away from this Valentine's Day!

(Oh-So-Much-Better-For-You-Than-Canned!) Butter Cream Frosting
Adapted from Domino

3 3/4 cups (1 lb box) confectioners sugar
3/4 cup (6 oz) butter, softened
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for approximately 2 minutes until desired consistency is reached.

Voila! In just a few minutes you've rescued your loved ones from loads of potential heart harm. As always, using high-quality ingredients improves taste and enhances health. Jeff used organic dairy from grass-fed cows as well as organic vanilla.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Detox Debrief

After a December noshing on home baked cookies and carboloading at celebrations with the family, our bods needed some fine tuning. Thankfully, it was January so who really notices those holiday pounds, right? Very true, except for a weekend jaunt to Puerto Rico where I became keenly, horribly, and embarrassingly aware of the physical effects of my nutritionally dismal December. My skin was in rough shape; my hair wouldn't cooperate with my desire not to look like the frumpy mother image I desperately resist; I felt like the lazy version of a sloth; and my glowy, shiny, radiant self decided not to join us on vacation. (I missed her dearly.) To remedy that Christmas cheer (the same cheer that left me with lingering dismay), we chose to cleanse.

I've been following Annapolis nutritionist Lisa Consiglio Ryan, of Whole Health Designs, since we moved here. Lisa offers ten day detox plans, private consults, juices, and cleaning eating meal plans. Her programs are popular, generating participants nationwide. To accomplish our cleansing, we chose Lisa's Winter Renewal 10 Day Detox.

The plan: ten days without meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, gluten, soy, and alcohol. The verdict: we loved it!

Here's a recap of our experience: 

Day Zero: My husband is my hero!

Twas the day before detox and all through the house,
Stomped a stress-crazed wife and her supportive spouse.

On this day, I crumbled. Big time! The stress of changing my eating patterns always gets to me. Today was no exception. I hit Whole Foods during pre-Sunday supper rush hour. It was a mob scene that fried my brain! I missed ingredients leaving us without the ability to prepare Monday's planned recipes. Oops! With Jeff's help we cobbled together a plan for the next day, but I was a bundle of nerves about the whole thing.

Day One: Phew....we've begun. After the stress of yesterday, today felt much better. We were officially on the detox. After having weaned off caffeine a few days before, the morning went well, and I enjoyed the Start Your Day Oatmeal recipe. I wasn't sure that a vegetarian dinner would sate me, but Lisa's Spicy Lentil Bowl was lovely and filling.

Day Two: I feel like doo! Hooray for the detox headache that means this is working, is what I would have said if I was speaking in full sentences. Day two was my toughest day, but I kept reminding myself that the temporary bad feeling would soon fade way to a longer-lasting good one. Crossing my fingers that I feel better tomorrow, is what I would have done if I could have paused from massaging my temples long enough to manage that maneuver.

Day Three: Headache recedes, giving way to a healthier me. Thank you lord baby Jesus and every other deity anyone's ever prayed to that I don't feel like yesterday! Another bonus today: the scale was down two pounds. Yes, I know, I know, it's a detox not a diet, but come on, losing a few pounds is good news. In other good news, I ate a delicious kale salad for lunch. That seems like the true calling card of a healthy eater: using delicious and kale in the same breath. Lisa's creamy avocado dressing made kale work for me.   

Days Four through Seven: Eating and cooking veg feels like heaven! At this point we noticed we were spending LOTS of time in the kitchen together. The work of preparing meals for the detox was not overly complex, but it was work. Thankfully, we enjoyed sharing the toils together. Chopping, cutting, dicing, slicing, juicing, sauteing, roasting, and otherwise preparing vegetables was a nightly ritual for us. It was mindful - this process of feeding one another. The plan clicked along, and we worked it for all it was worth. We felt the shift from how are we going to eat like this to why would we not eat like this. Ah, the magic of transformation!

Day Eight: Feeling great! On Day eight, I bounded with energy. While we'd done yoga during the earlier part of the detox, today I hit the stairs for a cardio workout. I was raring to go! My mood was also bolstered by the fact that today included some of my favorite meals - leftovers of the veggie chili made for the Superbowl the night prior and a dinner of brown rice, butternut squash and toasted pecans that will continue to be a favorite of ours post-detox.

Day Nine: A little less fine. I'm not sure if my workout yesterday caused my system to flush out some more toxins, but on this day I felt less than wonderful. In fact, I felt a big ugh-ly! But, the end was so near I could taste all its veggie goodness.

Day Ten: When can we start again? Two delicious banana oat muffins kicked off this last day of detox. I couldn't believe the ten days was already over! I thought it would be an agonizing day, that the anticipation of eating whatever I wanted tomorrow would gnaw at me. But, it was just a normal day filled with healthy eating. Easy, breezy, and b-e-a-utiful!

Detox Plus One: Vegan fun! I woke up on the day after the conclusion of detox and stared at the contents of my kitchen for a long time before deciding what to eat for breakfast. I thought I would revert to eggs and toast, but I wasn't ready. My body told me "no" unequivocally. I continued  with the detox plan all day, in fact. We ate dinner at a vegan restaurant with some new friends, shared our experience on the detox, and talked healthy eating long into the night. A perfect way to cap the experience! Plus, Jeff notes this dinner marks our entry into the healthy eating club: conversing with the waiter about the undermassaged kale in my salad. (Yes, you can just imagine the dirty jokes that followed.)

Overall, the detox was a wonderful thing – I can still hear our bodies chanting "thank you"! We each lost more pounds than I thought possible in only ten days (I know, I know, it's not a diet, it's a detox!). We've implemented some of the changes permanently; we're now completely off caffeine. We've also reduced our meat consumption to a few times a week instead of every day. We owe a big THANKS to Lisa for the wonderful plan. You can check out her programs at Whole Health Designs or follow Whole Health Designs on Facebook.

UPDATE:  We're back in for another round. Spring Renewal starts April 22nd! Feel like trying it yourself? Get in on the detox goodness here!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Crazy Sexy Kitchen Review

Kris Carr's latest, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, is a hit for us, less for the recipes and more for the inspiring introductory information. She's a wellness warrior, straight up! You can feel the energy pulsing off her fingertips as she promotes the virtues of produce through her powerful prose. Kris's insights into alkalinity, the dangers of dairy, and the amazing benefits of an anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet have changed our lives, for sure and for better!

As for the recipes, many are well-suited to serve to vegetarian company gracing your table on a weekend. For example, the Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger was uber-delicious, but took hours to prepare. It doesn't suite our busy, working family weeknight grind, but we would certainly pull out this book when healthy company comes calling! While some of the recipes are gourmet (read: lengthy), others are handy plant-based basics like nut milk, hummus, kale chips, and avocado toast that will appeal to newbie healthy eaters and busy parents. (If you are a soy-free eater like we are, be warned that this book is not soy averse.)

If you are interested in the benefits of plant-based living, this beautiful book is definitely worth the read. Kris is energetic and engaging, and her message is important and powerful. Enjoy with an open heart and an empty belly, waiting to be filled with healthy treats that reduce inflammation and promote wellness!

Note: Hay House gave us a copy of this book to review. We're grateful for it and Hay House! And, no, getting the book for free didn't sway the opinions expressed herein. (Pardon the legalese, it's my native tongue.)