Thursday, 31 January 2013

Thursday's Random Thought - MILF? Diet?



I mean, really???

Being an avid reader I subscribe to most of the major publishing firms e-newsletters.  I like to keep up with what’s new in the world of books because … ahem … my “to be read” list is not long enough yet.  Yeah, right!  Okay, enough about my personal vice.  When I received the monthly newsletter from this book immediately jumped out at me, not just because I am on a personal weight loss journey, and not just because I am constantly searching for new ideas to present at the weekly TOPS meetings.  Obviously it was the title of the book that caught my eye.  My first reaction was, well …



I mean, really???

As far as I know there are two extensions for the MILF acronym.  One being Moro Islamic Liberation Front and I’m thinking that’s not the one Ms. Porter had in mind when titling this book.  The more common slang interpretation is Mother/Mom/Mature woman I’d Like to F***, yup - that’s probably the one the book refers to.  The book description takes a more gentle approach “A true MILF is confident, sexy, and radiates a true femininity”.  It goes on to state that “by eating, whole, plant-based foods, you, too, can find balance, and dynamic health, and unleash your inner MILF”.

Hmm, didn’t know I had one?

Shades of Grey told me I had an “inner goddess” and now Ms. Porter tells me I have an “inner MILF”.  I’m more complicated than I thought I was!  MILF refers to women of a certain age group.  Mine!!  Tee-hee-hee!  Maybe after a certain age those “inners” join forces …whoa … should we even be allowed out in public unsupervised?

But fair is fair and I guess we all have an inner MILF.  We all want to be healthy, fit, confident, sexy and desirable.  I have not read the book, have not so much as even paged through it.  Given Ms. Porter’s credentials, “teacher of healthy cooking and hypnotherapy for over fifteen years she brings her wealth of knowledge to The MILF Diet in the form of holistic philosophy, mouth watering recipes and a fun, digestible enumeration of the healthy benefits of MILF-y foods”, I’m sure the information she shares is sound.

I will page through this book at my local bookstore because I must admit I am dying to know exactly what “MILF-y foods” might be. 

I dare to speculate that this book is going to create a bit of a buzz around the talk show circuit, mainly because of the title.  It sure caught my attention, and here I am blogging about it.  I wish Ms. Porter well, if for no other reason than she came up with a title for a diet book that will definitely get people to pause, possibly pick it up and thumb through it, like me - just out of curiosity!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Girl's Night(mare) Out

Girl’s night out, hen party, lady’s night …no matter how you describe it … it’s a tradition.  Little girls get together for sleepovers, vowing to stay up all night, only to be sound asleep by ten.  Teenage girls get together for sleepovers and do stay up most of the night giggling (usually about boys), watching scary movies and doing each other’s hair and make-up.  As we progress to womanhood “girl’s night out” means an evening away from little kids and husbands – an evening of sanity, laughter and (sometimes) tears with really good friends.  My children are grown, so now a “girl’s night out” is not so much about getting away from kids, but about getting together with friends.  It often involves the theater or a movie, or a celebration of a special event or just some down time to be able to “bitch” with other females.  And yes, it almost always involves dinner and/or drinks somewhere.  Sometimes a fancy restaurant to celebrate an occasion and sometimes a chain restaurant to grab a meal before going on to said movie or theater production.

Whether planned or impromptu, whether fancy or more casual, it’s always a nice evening.  And that is the way it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately for three friends dining at a Chilly D’s Sports Lounge in Stockton, California their girl’s night out turned into a bit of a “nightmare” out.  Granted, when the bill comes at the end of a restaurant meal it can be a little shocking but when Christine Duran looked at their receipt the shock did not come from the total at the bottom, it came from a table identifier in the top left corner.  Instead of a table or section number or a customer name, the receipt read ‘fat girls’.

Duran could not believe what she was seeing and immediately turned to her friends Isabel Robles and Christina Huerta asking, “Why does this receipt say ‘fat girls’?”  They laughed and accused her of lying.  When she showed them the receipt they were dumbfounded.

Confronting the waiter when he came back to collect their money he denied having anything to do with the “label” stating that a waiter named “Jeff” (whose name does appear on the receipt) typed the title into the system to keep track of their bill.

Obviously the manager was called.  Duran told ABC news that he “had a smirk on his face, like it was funny but he was trying not to laugh”.  He offered them a discount of 25% and then upped it to 50%.  Understandably, the women rejected both offers.  In my opinion the manager should have comped them the meal and probably offered them a freebie return trip as well!  That is if they actually wanted to ever return to his establishment.

Although embarrassed Huerta took a picture of the receipt because she wanted others to see it.  Bar Manager Jimmy Seimers was not working the night the incident took place but questioned Jeff who admitted typing the words into the system.  Seimers stated, “I don’t think he understood completely because he was busy last night, but that’s just no excuse.”  Seimers also stated that Jeff was suspended as investigation into the incident continues, but added that “they would probably find nothing that would save Jeff’s job”.
Rightly so, Jeff’s job should not be saved under the circumstances.  I trip to a sensitivity training should be in the cards as well.  Jeff could take some customer service lessons from the Red Robin Manager in Apex, N.C. who also caused a stir with his customer’s receipt.  An obviously very pregnant woman came in with her husband to enjoy a quiet dinner out.  The manager recognized that she was tired and stressed and decided to do something nice for her.  When their receipt came they were pleasantly surprised when he comped their meal, and wished the mother-to-be the best of luck.  I get the distinct impression there would be no ‘fat girls’ receipt tolerated in his restaurant!

When Christina Robles talks about what happened she cries.  “He probably thought it was funny.  It’s not funny.  I can just see it over and over again, and I still can’t believe it.  They labeled us ‘fat girls’.  It’s just something we’ve got to deal with.”

Chilly D’s posted the following on their Facebook page the following Saturday:

“ … I completely understand why they were hurt by what was written on their receipt and that type of treatment isn’t tolerated.  Also there will be no tolerance in the future, guaranteed.  Everyone is welcome in our establishment, my family built this business so that the community of Stockton would have a safe and fun place to hang out and come together.  My hope is to heal our newly tarnished reputation so that everyone feels safe and welcome again.  And if these ladies would like to meet with my family and I, so that we can personally apologize, we would really like to do that, because we do not want anyone to have an experience like this.”
I understand that waiters and sales personnel need to track customers to make sure the right table/person receives the correct receipt or invoice.  But seriously, do these insensitive individuals not realize that what they type into their system gets printed on the customer’s receipt.  I have a hard time believing that!  This is not the first time a receipt has insulted a paying customer.  A Maryland Radio Shack employee referred to a woman as an “ugly bitch from tatooville” on a receipt in March 2012.  A Papa John’s employee was fired in January 2012 after using the racial slur “lady chinky eyes” on a customer’s receipt and in August 2010, Consumerist reported on a Domino’s receipt with a racist remark typed at the bottom. Although the ‘fat girls’ incident happened in December of 2012, I did not come across the story until this week, while I was looking up something else on the Internet.  It was reported on ABC News as well as written up in the Huffington Post.  Obviously the other receipts are equally as bad, even more so, as the receipt from Chilly D’s, but the ‘fat girls’ is the one that happened to speak to me personally.

I have never been skinny and have resigned myself to the fact that I never will be.  It’s not the way I am built and it’s just not in my genes, but I could definitely weigh less than I do now.  After all, that is the purpose of my TOPS membership, my virtual walk and this whole blog.  I have been heavier and I have been thinner but with age comes wisdom and I have learned to understand than I am not defined by the number on the scale.  As far as other people’s perceptions go, thinner is definitely better.  If you have ever been overweight (it’s really hard to say fat, which makes the above story that much harder to tolerate and that much more hurtful) chances are you have been insulted in one-way or another.  Overhearing a whisper as you walked by (probably purposely not whispered quietly enough) or a hurtful comment from a well-meaning friend or relative?  There’s that tried and true, “you’ve got such a pretty/handsome face … if only you would lose a few pounds.” 

Although I have not thought about the following two comments from my personal life in years, they immediately came to mind when I read the story of the ‘fat girls’ receipt.

“I didn’t know hair grew on fat!”

The scene:  My very physically fit, high school football playing cousin was sitting in the living room with me watching television.  A commercial came on for a hair removal cream for legs.  I happened to make a comment that it really was not as easy and mess free to use as the advertisement made it seem and that was his remark.  I have since forgiven him (well, mostly) because he was an insensitive jerk as a teenager.  I was not as quick on the draw or as outspoken back then (read: painfully shy).  If I had the nerve then that I have now I would have no doubt come back with something to the effect of, “Really?  It grows on your head doesn’t it?”  Alas, life does not have a do-over button.  This is a secret, so don’t tell anyone but about that little scene, nastily - I take the slightest bit of pleasure in the fact that despite his athletic prowess in high school, he is now also waging the battle of the bulge.  I would have to rethink my come-back comment as well, because he is also bald!

“Wow, I didn’t know pork sausage could dance?”

The scene:  High school dance … the first and last one I ever went to.  No regrets though as the Monday after the dances usually held the consensus that the “Friday dance sucked”.

As I said, I very rarely think on those comments but boy they sure popped up quick when I read the article about the receipt.  As it happens they both happened to me during those high school years.  Teenagers are a mean spirited bunch!  At the risk of totally giving away my age, but to put a little perspective on the whole thing, it was the 70’s.  Perceptions of what was “fat” were different than they are now.  I would never have been considered “skinny”, but I honestly do not think I would warrant that comment in high school now.  As an adult I have had situations where my weight has made me feel uncomfortable, self conscious, unhappy and sometimes even unwelcome but those are feelings that I brought on myself.  Overall no one has made verbal comments – at least not within earshot.  I’m not even going to talk about my pregnancy years where I definitely was as big as a house.  That’s a whole different discussion!

It’s 2013 and everyone tries to be politically correct.  Terms such as physically or mentally challenged are commonplace.  Racial slurs are unacceptable even in the context of humor.  Midgets are little people and secretaries are administrative assistants.  Every area of life has gentle euphemisms.  And rightly so, no one deserves to be singled out because of their differences.  But there is no gentle euphemism for fat.  Fat is fat or heavy (not flattering) or overweight (not much better) or obese (‘nuff said).  Fat people know they are fat and do not need other insensitive people pointing it out to them, particularly, in the public manner of the ‘fat girls’ incident.

The push to be slim is very strong.  Witness the number of commercials for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, etc.  Witness the number of lotions, potions and magic pills for sale.  I’m not saying those of us fighting the battle should not be concerned with being a healthier weight, with eating more sensibly or being physically stronger.  But I believe those slim (but not necessarily healthier) people are becoming more tolerant.  Actresses are no longer bone thin.  Queen Latifa is a large woman and I think she is absolutely gorgeous.  She dresses beautifully, carries herself well and is a very sexy lady.  She did ads for WW, so is obviously is also conscious about her weight, but in the meanwhile, she continues to play the love interest in romantic comedies.  And, believably so.  Kudos!  Stick thin and anorexic (actual or just looking so) fashion models have been banned from the major runway shows. 

Were the three girls involved overweight?  Honestly, yes they were.  Does that mean that they are not welcome in a public establishment, or that they need to be singled out?  Certainly not.  Since none of the articles I read offered Jeff’s age I can only assume that he was young.  In my experience as people get a little older they are more tolerant of weight issues as well as other differences.  More willing to take the person for whom they are.

I am grateful that the important people in my life look at my heart instead of my hips.

I'm posting this on Monday afternoon, before my TOPS weigh-in because my laptop is still at the doctor's.  I'll catch up on the weigh-in next week, but I did walk 15 km on the treadmill this week, so I can add a little more onto my virtual walk.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Food Friday (Summer Fresh Snack'n Go)

Apparently this product has been around since 2006 and has won some food awards for best snack food.  I have not seen it before, but this week it was on sale at my local grocery store for only $1 per package.  It seemed like a good mid-afternoon snack - chock full of protein and fiber.  Well, it was a delicious mid-afternoon snack for only 110 calories per package, so I am very glad I picked up on the special.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Thursday's Random Thought ~ Forgetting to Eat

Many years ago I was listening to an interview with Barry Manilow and he made a comment to the effect that he gets so busy his assistant has to remind him to eat because he just forgets.  I thought to myself ... there are a lot of things that I may have forgotten over the years, but I can honestly say that eating has NOT been one of them!

I was reminded of the interview statement when I saw this "some-ecard" posted on Pinterest.  Do so many people out there really "forget" to eat that a card was created?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Dairy Diaries

Believe it or not, in the grand scheme of human’s time on earth, dairy products are a fairly recent addition to our diet.  Primal foods such as meat and eggs have been around since man was a “hunter and forager”, where dairy consumption probably dates back only to when humans began agriculture and the domestication of animals.  Think about it … I’d wager the only one that got to drink Woolly Mammoth milk was Woolly Jr.!

Dairy seems like such a simple food group and I’ve always been told drink milk … it’s good for you!  But like so many things about nutrition the thinking changes from decade to decade and sometimes from year to year.  In researching dairy for my Monday night TOPS group I came across a very strong “pro-dairy” movement but also, an equally strong “anti-dairy” argument.  All I can really do is present both sides of the argument and let you decide which makes more sense for you personally.

First, let’s clarify EXACTLY which foods commonly constitute the Dairy Group:
All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of the Dairy Group.  Okay, that makes sense.  Most Dairy Group choices should be fat-free and low-fat.  Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group.  Foods made from milk that have little or no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter are not.  Guess into which group those fall?
Yup … fats.  Calcium- fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the dairy group.

According to the Food Guide no matter your age or gender you need to consume approximately 3 cups of dairy daily.  But what’s a cup?  Obviously a cup of milk is a cup of milk but be careful … 1/3 cup shredded cheese is the equivalent serving to a cup of milk plus you need to factor in fats and ½ cup of cottage cheese is the equivalent to only ¼ cup of milk.  No wonder trying to stay on a healthy weight loss program is so difficult … it’s enough to make your head spin!  Hopefully the following chart will help.


In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage), 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the Dairy Group.

The charts lists specific amounts that count as 1 cup in the Dairy Group towards your daily recommended intake:

(choose fat-free
or low fat milk)
1 cup milk
1 half pint container milk
½ cup evaporated milk

(choose fat-free
or low-fat yogurt)
1 regular container
(8 fluid ounces)

1 cup yogurt
1 small container
(6 ounces) = ¾ cup

1 snack size container
(4 ounces) = ½ cup
(choose reduced-fat
or low fat cheeses)
1 ½ ounces hard cheese
(cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan)

1/3 cup shredded cheese

2 ounces processed cheese

½ cup ricotta cheese

2 cups cottage cheese
1 slice of hard cheese is equivalent to ½ milk

1 slice processed cheese is equivalent to 1/3 cup milk

½ cup cottage cheese is equivalent to ¼ cup milk
Milk Based Desserts
(choose fat-free
or low fat types)
1 cup pudding made with milk

1 cup frozen yogurt

1 ½ cups ice cream

1 scoop of ice cream is equivalent to 1/3 cup milk
(soy beverage)
1 cup calcium-fortified soymilk

1 half-pint container calcium-fortified soymilk

Of course you can always use the good old visual cues of dice and your hand.

Now that we understand what dairy includes and how much of it to have, the next question would be why include dairy in a healthy weight loss eating plan.

The most obvious reason is calcium, used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone mass.  Diets that can provide the 3 cups or the equivalent of dairy products per day can improve bone mass.  Yogurt, fluid milk and soy milk provide potassium which helps to maintain healthy blood pressure.  These days most dairy products are fortified with vitamin D which functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, again helping in the maintenance of bones and bone mass.

Seems like nothing but positives if you choose the low-fat or fat-free versions, but how can you be sure you are making the right choice – dairy wise?

·        Include milk or calcium-fortified soymilk as a beverage at meals
·        If you usually drink whole milk, switch gradually to fat-free milk
·        If you drink cappuccinos or lattes – ask for them with fat-free (skim milk) – it makes a better froth too!
·        Add fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal and hot cereals
·        Use fat-free or low-fat milk when making condensed cream soups
·        Have fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a snack
·        Make a dip for fruits or vegetables from yogurt
·        Make fruit-yogurt smoothies in your blender for a treat
·        Top cut-up with flavored yogurt for a quick dessert
·        Top a baked potato with fat-free or low fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream

Of course there are those people who cannot consume dairy products because of lactose intolerance.  Personally, I cannot drink milk.  It seems to be one food that really aggravates my hiatus hernia.  So we should look at some choices for those who choose to not or cannot consume milk products.

·        If you avoid milk because of lactose intolerance, the most reliable way to get the health benefits of dairy products is to choose lactose-free alternatives, such as cheese, yogurt, lactose free milk, or calcium fortified soymilk or to take the enzyme lactase before consuming milk.
·        Calcium fortified juices, cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk are all good alternatives.
·        Canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones), soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yogurt), some other beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip beans, kale, bok choy) can all provide calcium that the body can easily absorb.

The whole point of this blog is discussing healthy ways to lose some weight, so can dairy products really assist in weight loss?  Okay, you need to bear with me a little bit here because, unless you are in the medical profession, this part is going to make your eyes cross.  Quoting directly from Dr. Briffa at “dairy products do induce insulin secretion, which could cause fat deposition.  But their protein content will also induce the secretion of the hormone glucagons.  One of glucagon’s main effects is to stimulate the conversion of triglyceride (the form in which fat is stored in the fat cells) into its constituent molecule, thereby facilitating lipolysis (fat breakdown).  Also, unlike insulin, glucagons do not stimulate the uptake of sugar into the body’s cells.  This helps restrict the amount of glucose available for the production of glycerol, which in required for the making of triglyceride, and the “fixing” of fat cells.  The long and short of it – consumption of the calcium found in dairy products has been shown to paradoxically lower calcium levels within fat cells and this helps to increase “lyposis” (fat breakdown).  Again from Dr. Briffa, “there is considerable evidence linking higher intakes of calcium and dairy products with reduced body fatness.  It has been suggested that not just calcium, but other chemical constituents in dairy products somehow assist fat loss.  There is evidence that supplementing the diet with dairy products can enhance fat loss, including abdominal fat.

Dr. Briffa sites an interesting study done with three groups of overweight and obese women, each on a controlled food intake and engaged in regular aerobic and/or resistance exercises.  I won’t go into detail here (if you’re interested it is available on his website), but the authors of the study made the following conclusion:
“…diet and exercise induced weight loss with higher protein and increased dairy product intakes promotes more favorable body composition changes in women characterized by greater total and visceral fat loss and lean body mass gain.”

So wrapping up the pros for consuming dairy products when on a weight loss journey here are some quotes from (what I consider to be) reputable sources, and then we’ll move on to the nay-sayers.

“Milk is chock full of important vitamins and nutrients.  It’s rich in vitamin D, protein for satiety, and is on-stop-shopping for nine different nutrients, which can fill in gaps that may be created when cutting back on calories.”

“It may mean that dairy helps in weight loss or it may be that what is not being eaten helps with weight loss.  For instance, more dairy intake may mean less soda intake.”

“Dairy is not a miracle weight loss aid, but it can be a very nutritious choice that provides valuable nutrients at a low cost in calories or unwelcome nutrients such as added sugar, sodium, and harmful fats.”

“Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies make it when exposed to sunlight.  Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to a host of medical problems, including heart disease and certain cancers.  Low vitamin D is associated with weight gain, and raising vitamin D is looking more and more like it is able to help with weight loss.”

“The link between dairy products and weight loss has been controversial.  Some studies have found a higher dairy intake is related to a lower body weight but others have not.  But well controlled weight loss trials have demonstrated that consuming more dairy results in better weight loss, reduced body fat and smaller waist sizes.”

“Studies have found that dairy calcium promotes more potent weight loss effects than calcium supplements.  It’s thought that milk proteins can inhibit enzymes involved in fat storage.  Beyond calcium, blood levels of vitamin D also predicted weight loss success.  Vitamin D levels were higher – on average – among those who lost more weight.  Vitamin D increases calcium absorption from food into the bloodstream.  Higher vitamin concentrations may also enhance the breakdowns of fat.”

“The protein composition unique to milk products could help reduce hunger when calories are restricted.  And not being too hungry makes eating less easier.”

“According to more than 30 scientific research studies, a diet rich in calcium or in milk products could make it easier to maintain a healthy weight or lose excess weight.  In fact, it appears that calcium could make the body use fat as an energy source more efficiently and reduce fat storage in cells.  The weight loss could be even more effective in people who generally have a low milk products intake.”

It’s starting to get a little redundant, but I did want to make the point that milk products are not only good for you overall, but seem to definitely play a vital role as far as weight loss and weight management.

But … I did promise a little time to the nay-sayers on the dairy issue.

Dairy nay-sayers state “Dairy is nature’s perfect food – but only if you are a calf.”  From come six reasons you should avoid dairy at all costs:

·        The USDA’s food pyramid recommends drinking 3 glasses of milk a day.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, it’s not a recommendation that is based on science.  Some of the “experts” who helped create the pyramid actually work for the dairy industry, which makes the USDA’s recommendation reflect industry interests, not science or our best interests.
·        Milk does not reduce fractures.  Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fractures.  In fact, according to the Nurse’s Health study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent.
·        Less dairy, better bones.  Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption also have the lowest rate of osteoporosis.
·        Calcium isn’t as bone-protective as we thought.
·        Calcium may raise cancer risk.  (This has recently been refuted in more current studies)
·        Not everyone can stomach dairy.

Dr. Hyman goes on to say, “From an evolutionary point of view, milk is a strange food for humans.  Until 10,000 years ago we didn’t domesticate animals and weren’t able to drink milk.  Our bodies were just not made to digest milk on a regular basis.”

I could personally argue against many of Dr. Hyman’s points but I will let you make up your own mind.  By the way … Dr. Hyman also welcomes responses to his viewpoint on his website.

So, if you are still on the pro-dairy side, here are a few light, low-cal recipes to help you consume dairy in a healthy and hopefully delicious way.

Light Cheese Sauce (from
(47 calories per serving plus the added benefit of helping get some of those veggies consumed)
4 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 cup 1 % milk, divided
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Whisk flour with 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl.  Heat the remaining milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming.  Add the flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in Cheddar, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne (if using) and salt.

All snack recipes below from

Mini Cheese Plate
(64 calories)

2 Rosemary Crispbread Crackers
½ ounce Gouda cheese
5 Red Grapes

Parmesan Popcorn
(56 calories)

1 cup air popped popcorn
Tossed with ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Brie and Roasted Pepper Toast
(64 calories)

½ ounce Brie Cheese melted on thin baguette slice
Topped with 1 small
Strip roasted red pepper.

Olive Tomato Skewer
(65 calories)

1-inch Swiss cheese cube
Skewered with 1 Mediterranean style olive and
1 baby spinach leaf

2 Figgie Blue Bites
(74 calories)

For each bite:
1 teaspoon blue cheese on
(fresh) fig half,
Drizzled with ¼ teaspoon honey

Creamy Tomato Rice Soup 
(from ~ 201 calories, 10 g of protein, 5 g of fat, RDA - 22% calcium, 34% Vitamin C, 32% Vitamin D, 25% Magnesium)

1 Tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chopped onion
1 ½ teaspoon dried basil, oregano or Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (796 ml) diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup reduced sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup cooked brown rice or mixed grains
½ teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
Chopped fresh chives

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add garlic, onion, basil, and ¼ teaspoon each, salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until tender.  Add tomatoes and broth; cover and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, covered, for 10 minutes or until tomatoes are very soft.  Remove from heat.

Using an immersion blender in pot or transferring soup in batches to an upright blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Return to pot.  Whisk flour into milk; gradually pour into pot while whisking constantly.  Stir in rice; cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened and steaming.  Season to taste with sugar (if desired), pepper and up to ¼ teaspoon salt.

Ladle soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with chives, if desired.

So, enjoy your dairy, or not - depending on your personal point of view but do so within healthy limits.  Use your guides!

I had a few computer issues this week so I am posting this a little later than usual, but here's this weeks weigh-in stats.

I was down one pound at Monday's weigh-in.  Although I swore not to say the dreaded words "just one pound?" I did mutter them under my breath.  I was a little disappointed in the scale to say the least because I logged 20 km on my treadmill this week.  That gives me a total of 37.5 km on my virtual trip and means I am finally out of my immediate neighbourhood and on my way towards London, Ontario.

Maybe the scale will catch up next week?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Food Friday (100-calorie Bagels)

Some of the experts in the wide world of weight loss advise us to simplify our diet by eliminating difficult choices.  If you decide on something nutritious and calorie-wise that you also enjoy - have it every day.  The same breakfast and lunch then vary your dinner options between a few tried and true favorites.

Being, by nature, creatures of habit this sounds like pretty sound advice.  Fortunately, I like to have the same thing for breakfast every morning.  Unfortunately, the thing I like to have is a bagel.  One regular size bagel plus a topping and I am well on my way to 300 calories before having any protein, fruit or dairy … that significantly whittles down choices for the rest of the day in a way I don’t care for much.

Yes … I’ve tried having half of the bagel.  But successful weight loss is a mind game as much as anything and for some reason having half of something leaves me feeling deprived.  Laugh if you want to, but that’s just me.  So I was delighted when I came across the 100-calorie bagels.

Yes they are smaller than regular bagels but with an egg and some fruit they make a very satisfying breakfast, don’t leave me feeling deprived in any way and the brand I picked up (Thomas’) actually have the traditional bagel chewiness.  Nothing I hate worse than biting into a bagel anticipating that satisfying traditional taste only to find out it’s nothing but bagel shaped bread.  BLECH!  I know there have been “slim bagels” for quite some time and probably the 100-calorie variety have been as well and just didn’t catch my eye as I was rushing through the grocery store.  I find the slim bagels okay for other uses, but my mouth’s texture meter just didn’t register them as real bagels.

So for me right now … 100-calorie mini-bagels are in my pantry.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thursday's Random Thought ~ Exercise with the Food Channel

I actually managed to sneak in two treadmill sessions this week.  I'm hoping for one more so that I can log a little distance on my (neglected) virtual walk.  My preference is to listen to music while I am walking.  My playlist's variety of songs that have that driving thump-thump-thump seems to keep my feet moving when my mind starts to think "uh - maybe we're about done now?"  So today I came right home from work, changed immediately into my version of work out clothes (old track pants and a tee-shirt), tied on my running shoes, grabbed my water and my "sweat towel" (very necessary).  I plugged my earphones into the MP3 player and pushed play on my way downstairs (where the treadmill patiently waits).


Dang - forgot to charge the battery.

Okay ... this would NOT turn into an excuse not to work out today!  Television it was!

The reason I don't watch television while I work out is because I really can't concentrate on what's on the screen.  So the 6 o'clock news was out.  My go-to stations for background (don't want to have to pay close attention but need some voices around) television are either The Shopping Channel (and I really, really can't afford to watch that channel this soon after Christmas) or The Food Network (which I probably shouldn't watch anyway ... I think calories fly out at me through the screen and land right on my ass).  Anyway ... The Food Network it was.  Does that strike anyone else as a little oxymoron-ish?  The more I thought about it the more it struck me that I might be a little bit of a masochist.

At the same time it seemed funny enough to warrant an "extra" blog post.  Sure.  Why not?  I like to share my more ridiculous moments.  I also like to include a pic when I can because I think it adds a little interest and colour.  I was pretty sure that I would have to find two pictures and cobble them together in paintshop.

Uhm - NO !!!!

I googled "treadmill" & Food Network" and unbelievably, there it was … a picture of a woman walking on a treadmill while watching The Food Network.

I feel so redeemed ...

I am not alone!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Team Protein

Protein … seems easy enough … meat, fish, nuts, eggs, beans!  Have a little at each meal and you’re good to go, right?  Basically, yes … but who know there was so much more to that little muscle builder.

For instance, I did not know that there are “complete proteins” and “incomplete proteins”.  Now that sounds really confusing.  Protein is a “macromolecule” made up of 20 different amino acids.  Amino acids are compounds that aid in controlling hunger; building muscle and providing fuel for the body.   Amino acids are also the basis for tendons, ligaments, collagen (skin) and hair.  The busy little devils are necessary for healthy hormone production, correct fluid balance and the transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout the body.  Amino acids can be divided into three categories: essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids and conditional amino acids. Nine of the acids are essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied by food. Eleven of the acids are non-essential meaning our body produces them. Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness, stress or for someone challenged with a lifelong medical condition.

“Complete Proteins” come from animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs as well as soy beans and quinoa and contain all nine of the essential amino acids.

As the name suggests “Incomplete Proteins” fall short of providing everything your body requires when you eat protein.  Incomplete proteins include nuts, seeds and grains. 

Having a perfect meal would mean you would eat a complete protein each time, but that’s not only not always possible.  If you have an incomplete protein in one meal you should strive to have a complete protein at your next meal.  When you choose protein rich foods pay attention to what comes along with the protein.  Vegetable sources of protein, although considered incomplete do offer healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals. 

But, how much protein do you need to eat.  The average female, active less then 30 minutes per day needs approximately 5 - 6 ounces of protein per day, the number rising to approximately 7 - 8 ounces per day for the average male active less that 30 minutes daily.

Hurrrumph … that sure doesn’t sound like a lot of protein to spread out over 3 meals.  Guess that quarter chicken with a side salad, even if the chicken is broiled, goes off the chart!

What counts as an ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group?

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.

The chart lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group towards your daily recommended intake:

Amount that counts as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group
Common portions and ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked lean beef

1 small steak (eye of round, filet) = 3½ to 4 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked lean pork or ham

1 small lean hamburger = 

2 to 3 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked chicken or turkey, 

without skin

1 small chicken breast half = 

3 ounce equivalents

1 sandwich slice of turkey 

(4 ½ x 2 ½ x 1/8”)

½ Cornish game hen = 

4 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked fish or shell fish

1 can of tuna, drained = 

3 to 4 ounce equivalents
1 salmon steak = 
4 to 6 ounce equivalents
1 small trout = 3 ounce equivalents

1 egg

3 egg whites = 2 ounce equivalents

3 egg yolks = 1 ounce equivalent
Nuts and seeds

½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves) 

½ ounce of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or squash seeds, hulled, roasted) 
1 Tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter

1 ounce of nuts or seeds = 

2 ounce equivalents

¼ cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto, or white beans) 

¼ cup of cooked peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
¼ cup of baked beans, refried beans

1 cup split pea soup = 

2 ounce equivalents
1 cup lentil soup = 
2 ounce equivalents
1 cup bean soup = 
2 ounce equivalents

¼ cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu

1 oz. tempeh, cooked
¼ cup roasted soybeans 1 falafel patty 
(2 ¼”, 4 oz)
2 Tablespoons hummus

1 soy or bean burger patty = 

2 ounce equivalents

Charts can certainly simplify things but I don’t usually walk around with a nutrition chart and a food scale tucked into my purse or pocket.  Even if I did, I think wait staff, family and friends would be hard pressed to hide a snicker if I pulled out a food scale in a restaurant.  People who have been dieting for weight loss or simply measuring to eat properly often become complacent when it comes to portion sizes feeling pretty secure in “eyeballing” portions.  That works for a little while but over time those "eyeballed” portions inevitably get bigger and bigger and bigger.  Besides fussing with numbers creates anxiety which leads to confusion.  Eating healthy starts to feel just a little too complicated and that makes people give up.

An easy way of checking to make sure that you are getting a correct “serving” is to simply open up your hand.  The palm of your hand is an excellent measurement for protein.  Your serving should be approximately the size and thickness of your palm.  No excuses now … you always have the palm of your hand with you! 

So now we know why protein is so important and how much protein to have, but how does this all play into a successful weight loss program? 

Including protein in meals promotes the feeling of fullness, satisfies hunger and reduces the need for extra, unnecessary calories.  Foods that are naturally high in protein also have a low glycaemic index which means that have little effect on blood-glucose and insulin levels.  Stable blood glucose will help balance energy levels reducing the spikes and lows causing cravings and bingeing often the result of other food choices.

Vegetarians must be especially careful when making food choices to prevent low protein intake because animal products contain the highest amounts of complete proteins.  Soybean and quinoa are considered complete proteins because they contain all nine essential amino acids but other protein sources such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds and rice are incomplete proteins.  To be most effective plant sources need to be combined.  Mix rice with legumes and seeds for example to provide all the essential amino acids.

So protein sounds like a pretty good food choice to make when you are trying to lose weight BUT as with all good things … too much of a good thing exists as well.  Protein only diets are unbalanced and lacking in vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients.  High protein diets can help with short term, fast weight loss but not recommended in the long run.  In fact too much protein can have the opposite effect.  Excess protein is stored by the body as fat, not as protein.  The body is a pretty good hoarder.  It likes to store things that it cannot use immediately for possible future use.  Diets high in protein and deficient in other sources of nutrition (such as some of the “shake” diets available) can encourage the consumption of foods high in saturated fat, which may increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  Lack of fibre can cause constipation, bowel disorders and certain types of cancer.  Not having a balanced diet can put unnecessary strain on the kidneys and liver and prompt excessive loss of calcium, which may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

It’s important to combine sensible portions of good quality lean protein with recommended portions grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and fats.  As always it’s all about balance.

At - “protein can help you shed those unwanted and keep your belly full.  But it’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get the health benefits”.  Good proteins include:

Seafood is an excellent source of protein because it’s usually low in fat.  Fish such as salmon is a little higher in fat, but it is the heart-healthy kind: omega-3 fatty acids.

White-Meat Poultry – stick to the white meat of poultry for excellent, lean protein.  Dark meat is a little higher in fat.  The skin is loaded with saturated fat, so remove skin before cooking.

Milk, Cheese and Yogurt – dairy foods are excellent sources of protein but they also contain valuable calcium and many are fortified with vitamin D.  Choose skim or low fat dairy to keep bones and teeth strong and prevent osteoporosis.

Eggs are one of the least expensive forms of protein.  The American Heart Association says normal healthy adults can safely enjoy an egg a day.

Beans – one-half cup of beans contains as much protein as an ounce of broiled steak.  Plus, these nutritious nuggets are loaded with fibre to keep you feeling full for hours.

Pork Tenderloin is a great and versatile white meat and is 31% leaner than it was 20 years ago.

Soy – 5 grams of soy protein daily can help lower cholesterol about 3%.  Eating soy protein instead of a protein higher in fat – along with a healthy diet – can be heart healthy.

Lean Beef has only one more gram of saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast.  Lean beef is also an excellent source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

Protein at breakfast – research shows that including a source of protein such as an egg or Greek yogurt at breakfast along with a high fibre grain like whole wheat toast can help you feel full longer and eat less throughout the day. offered some interesting, versatile and easy protein meal suggestions, so I am going to take the liberty of sharing them here.  At both a meat eaters and a vegetarian choice were offered.  And really, does it have to be one or the other?  Try a vegetarian option once in a while … just for fun!

Meat Eaters Breakfast
In a small pan sauté 1 egg in 1 tsp olive oil, with 1 cup spinach.  Top 1 whole wheat English muffin with egg and spinach mixture, 1 slice of turkey bacon, and 1 slice (1 ounce) of low fat Swiss cheese.  (362 calories, 25 g of protein)

                                                            Veggie Breakfast
Cook ¼ cup rolled oats as directed on package in ½ skim milk.  Top with 1/3 cup blueberries, 2 tablespoons sliced almonds.  Serve with 1 hard boiled egg.  (374 calories, 20 g  protein)

Meat Eaters Lunch
Make a sandwich: 1 tsp Dijon mustard; 2 oz lean roast beef; 1/8 avocado, sliced; 1 slice tomato; 1/4 cup spinach on 2 slices whole-wheat bread. Serve with 2 medium carrots, 1/4 cup hummus. (474 calories, 27 g protein)

Veggie Lunch
Make a salad: 2 cups baby spinach, 1/2 cup white beans, 1/2 cup grape halves, 2 tbsp chopped walnuts, 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese, 1 1/2 tbsp vinaigrette. Serve with 1 whole-wheat roll. (502 calories, 21 g protein)

Meat Eaters Dinner
Heat broiler. In a bowl, combine 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; brush over a 3-oz boneless, skinless salmon fillet. Broil fish until flaky, 4 minutes. In a small pan, sauté 1 cup broccoli rabe in 1 tsp olive oil; spoon over 3/4 cup cooked brown rice tossed with 2 tbsp grated Parmesan, 1 tsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. (500 calories, 30 g protein)

Veggie Dinner
In a large pan, stir-fry 1/2 cup each sliced mushrooms and shredded cabbage, and 1/3 cup each sliced carrots, red bell pepper and green bell pepper in 2 tsp peanut oil, 1/4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce, 5 minutes. Add 3 oz diced firm tofu, 1/4 cup black beans, 2 tbsp chopped peanuts; cook 3 minutes. Spoon over 3/4 cup cooked brown rice. Serve with salad: 1 cup lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers, 2 tbsp carrot-ginger dressing. (621 calories, 23 g protein)

Enjoy your protein!
TOPS weigh in last night went really well.
Almost everyone weighed in with a lost including me ... down 1 pound.