More Juice

Wow okay. So the juice cleanse is…intense. Well, maybe intense isn’t the right word. I should say weird. It’s been real weird. For instance, it took me three tries to write this coherently!

I meant to post something yesterday, but I fell asleep halfway through writing it and basically slept for the next 14 hours. I told you, it’s weird. So I’m posting about yesterday today! And maybe I’ll post again with more tomorrow.

Physically, I’ve been pretty okay. It’s been a lot more manageable than I expected, aside from sleeping a million hours. One weird thing is both nights I’ve woken up at like 4 a.m. with the most insane headache. I’ve had a lot of headaches, and a lot of different kinds but nothing really like this. Maybe the headache when I had a minor concussion…that’s actually the closest I can think of. It felt like someone had hit me really hard with a really heavy bat. But I went back to sleep pretty quickly and felt much better in the morning. Today, a much milder headache has come and gone but other than that I’ve been good.

Yesterday was a lot harder. I don’t know if it’s because I was doing too much or what but I went a little nuts in the middle. I felt so loopy. I almost started crying at an office supply store. Eventually I had to stop and get a gluten/sugar free granola bar because I felt like I was drunk driving and was worried about making it home. I’m guessing it was a combination of low blood sugar (stemmed from not following my juice schedule closely enough) and the detoxing process. Luckily it just lasted a few hours.

Other than the afternoon weirdness, I’ve been feeling really good. All of the juices I’ve made have been pretty tasty. Some have even been super delicious. Here and there I’ll feel hungry or I’ll really wish I could get some Indian takeout (or whatever) but for the most part, the consumption part has been no problem.

2013-03-18 17.01.43

In fact it’s going so well that I’ve decided to extend the cleanse, but on a modified level. Remember those old Slim Fast diets? A shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and then a sensible dinner? I’m thinking about trying something similar but with juices. I have no idea if it is a good idea or if it even makes sense, but it’s something I’m going to look into. I used to be a consistent habit of starting the day with a liquid, and I realize now it’s something I’ve been missing.

Also, I am adding on a fourth day to the full-on cleanse. I had enough produce leftover so I think I can fill up the whole day tomorrow. I definitely did not expect to want to keep going but I’m not sure three days was long enough.

So, that’s my experience with juice cleansing so far!

Here are a couple recipes that I have enjoyed:

Sweet Green Juice

  • 1 Bunch Kale
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 4 Stalks Celery
  • Handful Mint
  • 1 Pear

Tropical Carrot Juice

  • 1 1/2 Cups Pineapple
  • 1 Orange
  • 5 Carrots
  • 1 Inch Ginger

I would include pictures but I forgot to take some! Let’s blame the juice cleanse…

-lj

A dear John letter to junk food

Dear Carbs,

Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure how to say this. It’s been so great seeing you over the holidays. These last three weeks have been really great. You are so sweet, so deep. I’m always surprised how much I discover I’ve missed you when we get back together like this. You really are truly delicious.

This time when we reunited though, things just got so intense. I started approaching you in elaborate ways I never considered before. I mean, I baked! I made Mac and cheese from scratch, all for you! The black and white cake balls were truly inspired. I loved the chex mix so much I made it twice.

20130101-041418.jpg

But I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been apart for so long, and I’ve learned to live happily without you, or if it’s because our reunion had been so intense, but…and I’m so sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. You make me feel bad. And worse, you make me feel bad about myself. I can feel so good when I’m with you, but a couple hours later I’m overwhelmed by how crappy you’ve made me feel.

Frankly, it’s just not healthy. This isn’t how relationships are supposed to work. I can’t keep this going with you when I know you’re just going to encourage me to make decisions that will hurt me in the end. No matter how much I love you, I have to put myself first. We can’t keep doing this. It’s not healthy and it’s time for me to move on. But I do truly wish you the best.

Take care of yourself,
LJ

Natural Resources

We all know how important exercise is to successful weight loss. I have been learning the legitimacy of that advice recently. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been busy or because the weather has been colder and grayer lately, but I haven’t been very diligent with my workouts. Instead of doing at least something active five or six days a week, I’ve been at about half that for almost a month. It’s probably not coincidence that I also seem to have plateaued as far as losing weight is concerned. Especially since I have not really changed eating habits.

Sometimes, I really like going to the gym. In general I enjoy the feel of a workout, both during and after. It’s just actually getting there that gives me problems. Hopefully soon I’ll get into a pro-gym phase, but until then I’ve been looking for alternative solutions. In an attempt to get over this exercise malaise, I have been trying to think of fun ways to get a workout that wouldn’t feel like it was something I had to be doing. (What is it about being obligated to do something that makes it unappealing, even if it’s something we would like if we were doing it for entertainment?)

Yesterday, I came up with a great gym alternative. It was my day off of work, and I knew the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm (for mid-October) so I thought I should do something outside. Also, since it is mid-October, I noticed the leaves are at a perfect place in their changing patterns, and I like to get out and do a fall “photo shoot” every year. So given all these things, I decided to go hiking!

Hiking is something I love to do, but usually I save it for vacation. It never occurs to me to go hiking here in Indiana because, well, it’s Indiana. There are barely hills, let alone mountains. But that is an unfair stereotype, because it turns out Indiana has some great trails that I have been ignoring forever! I did a little research Monday night and found several different cool looking parks. I live in the exact center of the state, so most of the options were in relatively easy driving distance.

The park I chose was about 70 miles away, had good reviews on the Internet, some interesting trails (based on the map), and what looked like some cool opportunities for photography. It’s called Turkey Run for those of you who live in Indiana or eastern Illinois.

I was totally right about the photo ops.

The hike was great. We were out for about 3 1/2 hours and went about four miles, which is (obviously) not very fast. I did a lot of stopping to take photos. But even still, the two trails we hiked are listed as moderate to rugged and there was a lot of stair or small rock climbing along the way. We had a couple of stretches where we went pretty quickly, and although we weren’t necessarily doing it for the purpose of getting in a good cardio workout, it was nice to feel my heart rate get up to where it would have been on an elliptical machine. Only, this was way better than an elliptical machine.

And, who needs a stair stepper when you can use this?

Or this, even:

This particular staircase had several other levels, not pictured.

Hiking was a great experience, and just what I needed. It was a fantastic way to get my body moving, and give it a good challenge, without really noticing that it was doing work. I was just there to have a good time, and the exercise was a plus. The trails we went on went past a bunch of cool things, like a suspension bridge, an abandoned coal mine, some cool cliffs and an awesome old-timey covered bridge. I was so into those sites, plus the huge building-sized trees with their rainbowed leaves and other scenery, that the time went by and I didn’t even notice. In fact I barely noticed that hours had passed or that I was getting tired until probably three-fourths of the way through, and by then we’d probably gone nearly three miles!

In fact, just being outside in general was so refreshing. It is so encouraging in a workout to know there is a destination you are supposed to get to, instead of just a numbered goal on an electronic screen. To be fair, walking or running has the same benefit, but even with those, usually I am in my own neighborhood and even though I do have to make my way back home, it’s not the same. I see my neighborhood every day. There’s no sense of discovery. No excitement and adventure like hiking along a trail, looking out for things you don’t expect to see.


Not to mention hiking is actually a great workout! Sure, it takes a little longer. But by the end of it, I was hurting. In the good way! My right leg, which I lead with to climb, was definitely burning. The left one wasn’t far behind either. And my right quad was still aching when I woke up this morning. But it was so enjoyable that I probably could have kept going if we weren’t going to run out of sunlight. The great thing about it, workout-wise, is that it uses totally different muscles than I am accustomed to using doing my normal workout routines. There’s not a lot of high-stepping onto two or three foot tall rocks (which is pretty freakin’ high when you are only 5’3″) at L.A. Fitness. And there certainly is none in the flat midwestern subdivision where I live. So it was a new challenge, physically, which was what I wanted.

This is me, worn out and sweaty after 4 hours of autumn hiking.

I know exercise is important. I also know that I cannot allow myself to get complacent, because that is a slippery slope (and not the hiking kind). But it’s always nice when I can find new and interesting ways to get my body moving. I hope to do a little more hiking in the next month, before it gets too cold. And after that, I’ll try to think of new new ideas. Maybe I will start going to classes, so at least I’m not just left to my own devices. I’m not sure! But now that I’ve reminded myself that working out doesn’t have to–in fact SHOULDN’T– be tedious I think I will be able to get back in the right zone.

And, by the way, when it comes to fitness activities, I am always up for suggestions!

-lj

ps if you are interested in seeing more of Turkey Run, here are my photos at Flickr (minus the oh-so attractive selfie…).

An apple a day…

Like I said in my last post, I decided to get back into hardcore-mode with a new detox. Sadly, it was not as good as the detox I did last spring, even though they were both from Whole Living. This one allowed for lean animal proteins, so it only eliminated sugar, gluten and dairy (plus alcohol and processed foods). I don’t know if it was the recipes I was making or the inclusion of meat but I just didn’t feel the same intense effects as I did last time. I think it was a combination of things, including the fact that I was in a much healthier starting place than I was the first time. The detox was still successful in its main goal, though, which was really to give my mental state a reboot so I could get back into my old health-conscious routine.

The other good thing about this “detox” was that it did open me up to some new recipes, some from the Internet and some of my own. My favorite detox-friendly recipe was Apple Spice Quinoa. A few weeks ago I tried this Coconut Breakfast Quinoa I found on Pinterest, and it was fantastic. Since then, I’ve been coming up with new ways to make sweet, fruity quinoa, and I think this newest one was my most successful to date.

In my experience, apples are the best food to eat while detoxing. They are filling, and there’s something about them that gives my body a really clean feeling. Plus they are delicious, which is something that cannot be said of everything on the detox diet, so it’s a plus. Thus, the other afternoon I got home from my latest in what seems like an infinite number of trips to home organization stores, getting ready to start the work day, and I realized I had pretty much burnt out on kale and smoothies. I wanted something more than just an apple though, and I was out of almond butter. So I looked in all the cupboards and the quinoa inspired me.

This is 1.5 large gala apples.

Quinoa has a nutty, earthy, robust sort of flavor, which I thought would go well with apples, since they both have an autumnal kind of vibe. I added some other ingredients that are crazy-healthy and detox-friendly, and was so pleased with the result.

Apple Spiced Quinoa

Serves 3-4

  • 1 cup dry Quinoa (washed)
  • 2 Apples, sliced (any kind will do, I like Galas because they are a little sweet)
  • 1 1/4 cup Light Coconut Milk (I use 365 Organic. The would work with any kind of milk, though like almond or skim)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Shaved Almonds
  • 1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Clove
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon Honey (OR you could use brown sugar)

In a medium saucepan mix together quinoa, apples, milk, water and spices (& salt). Bring to a rapid boil. Stir again, add in honey and almonds, stir again. Cover. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add chia seeds, stir until seeds seem evenly mixed in and re-cover. Continue simmering another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. It’s done when the liquid is mostly evaporated, but the quinoa is a little gooey.  When it looks done, remove from heat and let sit a couple of minutes to settle and cool.

Serve with apple slices. You can also add a little more sweetener (I added a teaspoon of honey), and/or more coconut milk (or whatever kind of milk) to make it more like a cereal.

FYI if you are really detoxing I am not positive that honey is detox-friendly (it probably isn’t). But by the end of my 4 days I wasn’t being too strict because I didn’t feel like my body was really getting a good cleanse, but the challenge had gotten me back into healthy mode anyway. I am trying to listen to the advice that moderation is key! I don’t want to get burnt out (again?).

Apple Spice Quinoa

I am feeling pretty good about being back on the heathy, clean living bandwagon. I definitely have more energy today than I did a week ago before I got started. This non-detoxifying detox was actually really helpful, because it served as a great reminder that what is really most important in this process is that I do what’s best for my body. I can’t starve myself, or completely and universally eliminate things I enjoy, or I will never be able to maintain the changes long term. Even though I don’t think the week’s meal plan was good for cleansing specifically, I do feel pretty great after a week of eating super healthy and being conscious of everything I put in my system. So I am still going to count it as a victory!

My New Favorite Secret Ingredient

Spoiler: It’s non-fat plain Greek Yogurt!

The main struggle in my reformed lifestyle is a craving for the old indulgences. For a while, the excitement of drastic, quick change overwhelmed the reality that my food just doesn’t taste as good as it used to, when sugar and saturated fat were only vague, back-of-the-mind concerns. Now that those things are at the forefront of my meal planning process, I’ve been trying to find good substitutes, which I’ve talked about before. Spaghetti squash was a success I wrote about a couple of entries ago.

Similar to that one, I’ve been spending a lot of my time trying to find healthy alternatives to former favorites. But, the challenge is that when I say healthy, I actually mean it. I’ve learned that just because something is marketed as healthy doesn’t magically make it so. Fat free or sugar free a lot of times just mean more of something else you’re also not supposed to have, so that they can say it is “free” without actually making it healthier (which also means more expensive, most of the time). I don’t mean to sound jaded, but the more I learn about the food industry the more I know eating clean is the best way to stay healthy. So now the real challenge is making food that tastes as rich as something you can get prepared from a restaurant or the grocery store without all of the bad stuff in it.

My most recent endeavor in this goal was fish tacos. I love fish tacos. Generally speaking they are not unhealthy. But a lot of the time they will be covered in beer batter or mayonnaise or cheese and it sort of wipes out the healthiness. That’s where my newfound love non-fat Greek yogurt plays a part.

A lot of the time, I am weary of non-fat foods because I assume the fat that is supposed to be there is replaced with sugar or artificial sweeteners and chemicals. As a result, I am not too scared of foods with fat in them especially low-fat, but non-fat Greek yogurt is a proud, glorious exception.

I buy Stonyfield Farms’ Oikos line 0% Greek Yogurt (meaning 0% fat). Instead of trying to guess what is so great about Greek yogurt, please enjoy this quote from the Stonyfield Farms’ website: “Real Greek yogurt, like Oikos, gets its incredible creaminess not from added gums, thickeners or milk fat, but from an old-world straining method that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt. This straining process also gives Greek yogurt about twice the protein of regular yogurt, and less lactose.” In other words, it is perfect.

Side note: I am a huge fan of Stonyfield Farms’ these days because they are truly revolutionary in the organic movement. Some of the other “big name” so-called organic brands don’t really follow clean living, natural processes. But SF really does get its ingredients from little farms. I mean, maybe the yogurt is still blended up in a factory but at least I know the milk they’re using is healthy. But I am really getting off track!

The point is, Greek yogurt is an amazing substitute for fattier dairy cooking ingredients. It is also very low in calories. A serving size–one cup–has 80 calories, but that is a huge amount of yogurt if you’re using it for cooking. The two things I’ve been using it for the most are smoothies (when a dairy-free concoction’s consistency is just too weird) and salad dressing.

A friend sent me a recipe for a taco salad dressing that called for sour cream and mayo, which I didn’t want to use for obvious health-related reasons. Instead I tried out the Greek yogurt and I really doubt anyone could tell the difference. This particular dressing (which is below) has so many spices any tartness from the yogurt is completely masked.

  • So earlier this week when I was really craving fish tacos, but also really wanted to stay diet-friendly, I immediately thought of ways I could create them myself. I don’t mean to sound too cocky, but they were freaking awesome.

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Slaw

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Slaw–please excuse the poor photo quality!

Serves 8

  • 1 Pound Mahi Mahi
  • Marinade (below)
  • 8 Corn Tortillas
  • Pineapple Slaw (below)
  • 1/2 Avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese (Optional)

Mahi Mahi Marinade

  • 3 TBLs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Lime Juice
  • 1 TBL Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4-1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cayenne Pepper to taste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix EEOV, Vinegar and Lime Juice together in a baking dish (I used 9×13). Add the spices, mix again. Add fish and let marinate at least 45 minutes, covering dish and placing in fridge.

Pineapple Slaw

  • 1/4 Cup 0% Greek Yogurt (plain)
  • 1 TBL Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 3/4 Tsp Chili Powder
Pineapple Slaw

1 Clove Garlic, Minced

  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 Cup shredded green cabbage*
  • 1 Cup finely diced pineapple (and the juice)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

* I cheated a little and bought Dole brand “Angel Hair Cole Slaw,” which is essentially a bag of shredded green cabbage.

Mix yogurt, vinegar, garlic and spices together in one bowl. Mix fruit and veggies together in another. Combine, stir until cabbage and everything else is thoroughly covered in dressing. You can add extra onion or pineapple on top, or add chopped cilantro.

After the fish is done marinating, you can prepare it however you prefer, I like grilling, so we put it on the charcoal grill. 12 minutes is plenty.  While the fish is cooking, prepare the slaw and slice the avocado. I also recommend warming the tortillas. Rub one drop (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of EEOV on each one and bake them in the oven on 300 for 5 minutes. If you want to add cheese to the tacos, I recommend putting it on the tortilla before baking them, so it can melt a little.

When the fish is done, slice it into 2 ounce pieces, or even 16 1 ounce pieces.

Scoop 1 or 2 tablespoons of slaw onto the warm tortilla, top with 2 ounces of fish and 2 slices of avocado. Enjoy!

I was extremely pleased with how these turned out. They also kept very well so I had leftovers for lunch. Two tacos is plenty filling, even though the entire thing is very low cal and low fat (415 cals and 10g fat if you want specifics). Plus, all the ingredients were fresh and clean (well maybe the Dole bag of cabbage was only semi-clean but I am counting it!).

I am glad to find successes like this because as time passes I am finding it harder and harder to maintain that initial motivation. It’s been about three months now, which means I think soon I am going to rejuvenate my efforts with another cleanse. But for now I’ll take victories like falling in love with Greek yogurt and making a comparable, but healthy version of one of my favorite restaurant meals.

Summer Fun Food

Hi! I did not mean to go this long between posts but I’ve been busy. Last weekend was Memorial Day, which means summertime is here! I love summer, and all that it entails. However, I have noticed that now that the weather is nicer, people are a lot quicker to want to socialize. Memorial Day Weekend must be the number one picnic/barbecue weekend of the year. Personally, I went to a lovely pool party pitch-in. Everyone was instructed to bring one shareable food item and adult beverage.

As I’ve written about, I’ve found that socializing is the hardest obstacle for healthy living. So I knew that for this event I wanted to bring healthy stuff. Full disclosure: I brought one healthy thing (the fruit salad below) and one less healthy thing (a taco salad that would be great for health if not for the half bag of fritos in it…). But the fruit salad was so successful I thought I would pass it along. I’ve made it twice now and both times got rave reviews. It’s super easy, but while I was chopping fruit I thought it would be nice to add some kind of sauce for additional flavor. And here we are.

Summer Fun Fruit Salad

Summer Fun Fruit Salad

The recipe is incredibly easy.

  • 1 Mango, chopped
  • 1.5 cups Pineapple, chopped (approx. 3/4 of a pineapple)
  • 1.5 cups Strawberries, quartered (approx. 12 good sized berries)

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice (1 large orange or 1.5 small ones)
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

The instructions are easy. Chop all the fruit. Add to a bowl. Pour dressing over the fruit. Mix until dressing is spread over everything and the fruit is mixed well. Obviously variations abound. You could do more or less of any of the three fruits or add in other elements. Kiwi might be good, or papaya if you’re fancy.

It’s very easy and a great healthy option for this year’s cycle of barbecues and pitch ins that are so popular in the warm summer months. I’ve already given the recipe away twice to people who really liked the dressing, especially. Using honey in the dressing is a good way to sweeten the salad (sometimes strawberries can get a little tart) without piling on a cup of refined sugar.

I’ve been using honey quite a bit lately. I realized fairly quickly it was unrealistic to get rid of sweeteners all together. Stevia packets work well for some things, but sometimes it can taste a little…unnatural. I have noticed that Truvia is better about this than the generic brand I’m currently using, but that tells me Truvia is probably more processed. Who knows though?

At any rate, I am finding honey is really useful. It is a lot healthier than sugar, even if, nutritionally speaking, in grams they have the same amount of sugars. Apparently, honey is easier for the body to convert than processed sugar because of some chemistry thing with the fructose and glucose. The two enzymes do not bind together in honey, which is a good thing, apparently. Science!

Honey also has other health benefits. According to this surely unbiased site honey is an antioxidant, it is an anti-carcinogenic, it is a natural energy supplement, and it is good for the immune system. So, I am onboard with honey.

Substitutions are a slippery slope, though. I almost prefer avoidance because then you know you aren’t going to cheat or eat anything you’ll regret later. But sometimes substitutions are successful. For instance, the other salad I made last weekend was a taco salad (the one with the Fritos). Sadly, there is no healthy substitute for chili cheese Fritos, I looked. But the dressing could be easily modified. Originally it called for sour cream and mayo. I used Greek yogurt instead. It was really hard though, not to say, ok I can use the yogurt but still use mayo. Or what if I just used low-fat sour cream and low-fat mayo? Well, none of those options would have had the health benefits of the protein-crazy fat free Greek yogurt. And it turned out that the Greek yogurt worked amazingly well, and I’m glad I made that discovery because I will be using plain yogurt all the time now.

Thus, the moral of the story is twofold: 1. that fruit salad is delicious and I recommend using honey as a natural sweetener. 2. Substituting healthier ingredients works to a degree, but it is important to continue thinking about calorie counting and only eating healthy foods, even throughout this year’s round of weddings, pool parties, barbecues and other fun summer food-heavy festivities.