Tag Archives: health

A report on my “dairy free” week

I want to report on my recent, voluntary week of a dairy-free diet. It was interesting, challenging even.

First off, I didn’t plan very well. That became evident very quickly. I thought I kind of had. I moved anything dairy out of sight. I even decided it would be an egg-free week too. But what I didn’t do to any great extent was plan what I would eat. I typically have some kind of dairy every day – cheese, yogurt, and milk are the main ones. But there’s others occasionally (ricotta cheese, sour cream, butter, parmesan or romano in the plastic canisters; cream cheese and ice cream rarely). Dairy is a big group!

What no dairy for seven days did was force me to come up with substitutes and that was the big takeaway. If you’re eating less cheese, maybe you’re eating more vegetables for instance. Eating less eggs, maybe eating more whole grains. I sure wasn’t going to eat crap in place of no dairy, not when I was thinking about it so much.

Because I am already mostly vegetarian, it was a week of vegetables, home-made soup, beans, fruits, pasta, breads, whole grains, nuts & seeds, and fish (one can of tuna, two small frozen whiting fillets, and canned salmon in a soup). The only place I messed up was when I cracked open a little jar of pesto and had that with a couple meals, only to remember later that it has cheese in it! Right there on the tiny label, Romano cheese. I just wasn’t thinking. I didn’t eat any candy or chips or crackers and stuck with stove-topped popcorn and home-made cookies that aren’t full of junk for snacking and treats. I did make wonderful little dates/walnuts/coconut treats (recipe coming in future post, super easy) that someone had just posted on Facebook although I made my version just a bit healthier. (I am not one of those people who claims to have no sweet, salty or fatty cravings.)

The dairy free week made me think about how many meals I make. Even if it’s two a day most days, just to be conservative, that’s easily 700 meals a year!!!  I don’t know why that never occurred to me before. It’s work to put together wholesome, non-toxic, nutrient-rich meals from scratch on a daily basis. And I like variety (I don’t want to eat the same things every day, not even for breakfast).

The no-eggs was challenging too. Although I love eggs and with no repercussions would eat them daily, same as cheese, I try not to over-indulge. If I’m going to guess, I expect I  eat 12 (a carton) every month or 6 weeks.  On night 6 my week of no dairy or eggs I had a dream that I made scrambled eggs just for me USING 8 EGGS. In real life, I eat only one egg at a time, whether it’s adding one egg to a recipe (even if it calls for 2 or more), or adding one hard-boiled egg to a salad, or making one scrambled egg for toast or a sandwich. ONE. Only one. Dream-me was going to scarf down 8 in one sitting!

So far as feeling better or seeing any big changes, I didn’t notice anything in particular; I felt normal, regular. My allergies (to molds, dust, etc) seemed about the same, no worse. My energy was okay, nothing amazing. (Typically, if you’re going to try out a vegetarian or vegan diet, 3 weeks is the suggestion.) For me, one week of trying something – whatever it is – seems sufficient to “re-wire” my brain. I mean, that breaks my habits and makes me sufficiently conscious of them.

All said, I’ve decided to cut back on cheese. While my previous limit was no more than an ounce a day (based on something I read as “okay”) I didn’t measure it and kind of guessed. And even though I predominantly chose lower fat varieties, they’re still pretty fatty. I’m not wholly anti-fat but I haven’t seen anything convincing to negate the conventional wisdom that saturated fats contribute to the top killer of Americans, namely heart disease. I certainly have older relatives who either had or died of heart disease. Also, I’d gotten into a habit of frequently buying packaged shredded cheeses and I have to say I was never comfortable with the “anti-caking” or other preservatives that many brands contain but I kept on eating them because they were convenient and tasted good. I think I can do better now.

The little grocery store closest to me sells store brands of sliced provolone, Monterey jack, and Swiss cheese in 8 ounce packages. There are no weird additives. Each has 12 slices per pack, so each portion is well under 1 ounce. They cost more per pound than the cheeses I usually buy but I really like the idea of knowing how much I’m having (rather than guessing and probably “rounding” in my favor). This means I’ll put one slice per home-made pizza, one slice to go in a big salad, or one slice for a grilled cheese.

If I buy a block of cheese, I can cut it into portions to freeze. I’ve done this before but not so much with the idea of measuring or limiting portions. If I cut 8 portions from a one pound block to freeze, I’ll know that each one is no less than a two-day ration. This gives me a guideline. I keep improving my diet over the years and I feel good about this. I think it’s the right direction. Particularly as I noted above, in that it forces me to come up with other/better substitutes. It sure isn’t as if I’m in danger of eating too many vegetables.

(p.s. THIS week is my self-imposed Amazon-free week. No shopping, no looking at the site, no Amazon.  I have my reasons for this, one of which is simply breaking a habit. This one might be harder than cheese, not sure!)

 

NOTE: Please forgive 1-2 days’ delay in responding to comments; I definitely want to read them.

 

 

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Ch-ch-ch-Chia! (seeds that is)

P_20160214_152245.jpgSo, recently I posted a drink recipe, Everything but the Kitchen Sink Drink that included chia seeds. I’d never had them before buying a 15oz bag last month. Chia seeds get such swell press for their nutritional properties that I was curious if I’d be able to see any measurable benefits. I finished the bag in just under a month, so I was knocking back essentially half the portion size listed per day.
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As I’d said in the other post, chia seeds are not exciting. Not offensive, but not “Oh, yum!” either. (I looked through my files and found a Delicious Living article from a few years ago – July 2011 I think – which described them as “flavorless” which I guess is better than the “boring” I said.)

I noticed two results. The first was I dropped a pound or two which I attribute to the high fiber. I don’t need to lose weight but to maintain it, which in winter is more challenging. So my weight is right where I want it. (Many years ago I read & kept an article which said the secret to weight loss is fiber. That simple maxim stuck with me and besides that, if there is anything adults are forever being encouraged to add to their diets, it is fiber. The Delicious Living article notes that with 6 grams of fiber per 2 tbsp, chia seeds have more fiber than any other whole food.)

The second specific thiing I noticed was that my nails grew a tad faster. I already have a decent amount of calcium in my diet and this was just an added boost. That is, I didn’t eliminate any of my other calcium sources while I was eating chia seeds. There may be other, less obvious benefits (the good fats ought to be working in there somewhere), but these were the ones I could measure.

Because I found the chia seeds for such a decent price ($2.99 for a 15oz bag), I went ahead and bought a second bag. I’m pretty sure I won’t try to eat it in a month, but I think it’s a nice addition to my diet, not for its bland taste, but for the nutrients. It’s one I’ll definitely have to remind myself to eat, because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget it exists otherwise.

Fruit Yogurt drink (otherwise called a “smoothie”)

Mmmm

Mmmm

I love my blender drinks and generally use the same/similar ingredients to my fake “icecream”.

I got a single serve “personal blender” for $10 and I use it all the time – the cup unscrews from the base and you drink right out of it – less dishes to wash!

It's about 1 foot tall. I use it so much the brand name wore off. Love this little guy!

It’s about 1 foot tall. I use it so much the brand name wore off. Love this little guy!

For ingredients, I usually use what’s on hand; more frozen fruits in winter and more fresh in summer. The fresh fruit drink pictured above was:

*3/4 cup water
*About 1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (also I try only to buy yogurt which says the cows aren’t treated with hormones – yep, that’s right, actual cows are involved in yogurt production!)
*Strawberries
*A banana
*Blueberries
*Unsweetened coconut
*Brown Sesame Seeds (aka unhulled)
*Blackstrap Molasses (lots of iron, some Calcium)
*About a teaspoon unsweetened peanut butter
*Ground Flax Seed
*Nutritional Yeast
*Cocoa powder
*Cinnamon

Oh man is that good!

“Green” Drink

An easy way to get more fruits & veggies into your diet is to drink them. I’ve had a green drink recipe kicking around awhile but hadn’t tried it (I don’t think the experiment I once did spontaneously with fruit and canned spinach – it was nasty – really counts).

The other day at the local Farmers Market I had the good fortune to buy a sizeable bag of kale for $2. Kale is a cool weather vegetable, meaning it’ll taste better when/grown eaten in cool weather, therefore it’s getting a bit late for it. However, I had a lot more confidence in what a bonafide farmer was selling than any kale being sold in grocery stores – which tends to look old & tough – at this or any time of year. I was not disappointed! I tried a few pieces raw and they tasted great.

I doctored the short recipe I had to omit cucumber (not a big fan) and include fruits.

Into the blender I put

*Water
*3 stalks of celery, washed & cut
*A big batch of rinsed kale (with thickest stems removed)
*A handful of frozen strawberries
*Half a frozen banana, sliced
*Cinnamon

Yum! It was really good. I didn’t have to force myself to drink it, I wanted to. I’ll grant you, the color was suggestive of pea soup, but once you get past that, it’s tasty. I think the sweetness of the fruit makes a big difference. This made enough for 2 drinks so I put the remainder in the fridge for the next day.
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Water, water everywhere, especially in me

This past week, for five consecutive days I drank the recommended eight glasses of water a day. I measured out 64oz each morning, so I wouldn’t be guessing, and also so I could handily see what I was up against. I mostly drink water anyway and a decent amount on a daily basis. Or so I thought. May I tell you that while a half-gallon of water is somewhat visually unimpressive, it is indeed a fuck of a lot of water to consume, in the middle of winter at that?

I know I drink more water in summer, but I wouldn’t have thought my winter intake too shabby. (Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen different recommendations depending on the seasons – which might make sense – it’s always eight 8-ounce glasses.) While other health directives seem to change over time, that one has stayed fairly constant.

Guidelines typically say other (non-caffeinated) beverages and even foods can count toward the total, but for my purposes last week, I found measuring 64oz out to be more exact, and further, I’m not going to try to calculate how much fluid is in an apple.

Water is essential to every level of our functioning. Many people don’t drink enough water. One of the oft-stated rules of thumb is that if you wait till you’re thirsty, you’re too late. Another is that fatigue is often a result of dehydration, so when you’re tired, you should reach for a glass of water. That one is my first line of defense when I feel sluggish. Hunger feelings can be assuaged by drinking water as well.

In fact, I actually felt a bit perkier during first couple days of my experiment. This may have been a sign that I was, in fact, dehydrated. Possibly from the drying effects of winter-heated rooms? Drinking all that water for five days definitely didn’t hurt me. The only thing was – it was really boring. Still, I’m going to make a point to commit to doing this, getting in the 64oz, more often, although probably on the occasional day basis, not for a whole week, during winter anyway.

Short Thought 79 (“You look good”)

I used to think when people who hadn’t seen one another in a while, met again and one sized the other up and said, “You look good,” or absent people later inquire of another, “How did so-and-so look?” that people were being shallow or superficial commenting on appearance.

I’ve reconsidered. I think now what’s really happening, is that people are assessing deeper matters, like health and mortality even, by external looks. It seems like a primitive instinct; to look for well-being or its absence in our “fellow-man.” We all generally do this by rote, which is why I think it must be deeply rooted.

Grocery shopping: healthy, healthy, healthy, junky, healthy

Which item doesn't belong?

Which item doesn’t belong?


This is my grocery store receipt from earlier this week: 3 lbs apples, 1 lb lettuce, 1 lb carrots, 1 lb pears, a bag of spinach, almost 2 lbs bananas, almost 2 lbs tomatoes, and… potato chips. Sort of a vegetable, yes?

This list pretty much captures my overarching diet philosophy, that is, mostly healthy with a little bit of junk. Does all the healthy stuff cancel out the occasional junk? I reckon it does, and if not, I am just not willing to never have anything “unhealthy.” How many people get to the end of their life and say, “If only I’d never had any chips. I coulda been somebody?”

I’m not a purist. I get cravings. Mostly I don’t give in, but once in awhile do. To stay honest – and I realize this stickler practice isn’t for most – whenever I have something junky, I jot it on my calendar. That’s how I know this is the second time this year I bought potato chips.

IF chips were healthy, I’d eat them every week. Salty, crunchy, greasy, oh my! A savory trifecta! The chips I got this week were a mixed pack, including two flavored kinds. I can’t say when I last ate a flavored chip (as I’m well aware their ingredient lists are appalling), but when I munched into that first barbecue-flavored chip the other day, my senses flooded with pleasure. Oh man was that good! Potato chips have a secret ingredient that changes an otherwise rational person into a dopamine-filled chip junkie whose only thought is “More, MORE, MORE.”

The bags are labeled in a way that caught my notice.

They're Made from potatoes? Is this anything to be boasting about?

Made from potatoes? Is this anything to be boasting about?