Archive for November, 2012

how did we get so fat?

Working in healthcare, I get a ton of industry emails each week.  Usually I’m too busy to read most of them, but one the other day caught my eye.

An article came out earlier this week and reported on current obesity rates and trends for the future- and what experts predict for the future is absolutely disgusting and appalling. More than 35% of Americans are currently obese (up from 12% in 1990) and the trend is that by 2030, all 50 states will claim 44% or higher obesity rates. 44%. That is almost 1 out of every 2 people who will be OBESE. Not overweight, not “could stand to lose a few pounds” but OBESE (for a rough estimate, 30 or higher BMI.)

This isn’t high-level science or any new information here, people.  The author cites three incredibly simple reasons why our nation suffers with this epidemic.

  1. We eat too much.
  2. We eat poorly.
  3. We don’t get enough exercise.

That’s it, folks. Nothing incredibly ground-breaking or earth-shattering. No secret formulas. And not that you need further evidence that we need to seriously reconsider how we eat and approach food in this nation, but here are a few tidbits from the article:

  • The average restaurant meal is now 4 times the size of its counterpart 50 years ago. Plates are bigger so the portions look smaller. We are consuming 530 more calories EVERY DAY than we did in 1970.
  • We live extremely sedentary lifestyles- working in cubicles, sitting in our cars, and according to a Gallup poll, 1/3 of Americans don’t get any form of daily exercise.
  • The presence of chemicals that are “inescapable” in our society contributes to differing hormone levels. Think pesticides in our veggies, hormones pumped into our meat. Sick stuff.
  • Lastly, (and to me, most important) we are starting to “accept” the disproportion in our society. We buy new clothes to fit our growing waistlines instead of just maintaining our weight (or losing a little!) to stay in the jeans we have. Airlines have policies for obese people requiring them to purchase 2 seats to allow those around them more comfort. Funeral caskets now come in jumbo sizes. WHY IS THIS SOCIETAL ACCEPTANCE OF OBESITY OKAY WITH EVERYONE!? Because it shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and say “oh well!” as we guzzle a venti Salted Caramel Frappuccino.

So now, here’s 2 super-duper easy things that we as a society can implement to live healthier lifestyles and (hopefully) avoid obesity. Pay attention, because they are pretty cutting-edge.

COOK YOUR FOOD FRESH AT HOME MORE OFTEN. Cut down on eating out, cook at home, know what goes into your food. Your portions will be smaller, your food healthier and your wallet thicker. And your waistline, NOT THICKER. Done.

GET PHYSICAL! Get some form of physical exercise each day. Not hard. If you don’t feel like going to the gym, walk the block. Take the stairs at lunch. Do something. I work at a desk all day- in front of a computer- so I appreciate those of us who have extremely sedentary work days. It sucks. Even on days I get a workout in, it’s still nice to get up from your desk every once in a while and just walk around. On the same token, don’t JUST walk the block and think that’s a suitable alternative to going to the gym. Stay active!

If you want to read the whole article (which I suggest you do!), check it out here.

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thanksgiving in the ‘burgh.

It was such a blessing to have spent a whole week here in Pittsburgh with my family for Thanksgiving! Lots of relaxing, lots of family and lots of food (some good for you, some not so much!).

Here’ s a short recap of the week. Monday  & Tuesday: daytime, unfortunately not so eventful. I actually had to work both of those days (so did my family) so it consisted of time in front of the laptop and on calls (although I did get two good workouts in!). I was in charge of dinner both nights, and I wanted to prove to my paleo-doubting parents that a paleo meal could ACTUALLY BE DELICIOUS *gasp* *shudder*

Monday night, I made some flank steak on the grill and mixed veggies with butternut squash. Unfortunately we were so hungry that I didn’t have time to snap a pic, but it was deelish. Tuesday, my mom defrosted chicken breasts, so I relied on none other than my fav paleo recipe site, PaleOMG for Juli’s Date and Shallot Rosemary Chicken, coupled with her Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes. Here’s a before and after… was seriously so good and my parents were officially persuaded of the goodness of paleo-world. My mom even commented that she felt so much more satiated after dinner and felt less hungry a few hours later. BAM! I wouldn’t call them converts, but I definitely showed them the light.

I also decided to take it upon myself to whip up another batch of my chocolate chip paleo-ish cookies, since real Thanksgiving would be full of naughty sugar-filled treats. So selfishly, I wanted some cookies for ME! Funny enough, I got a little creative on the second batch and added some sunflower butter to the mix (for essentially a “peanut butter” chocolate chip cookie version). They came out fine and I went about my business. So my mom dives in that night to try one and is like, ‘WHY ARE THESE COOKIES GREEN?!?!” So I’m thinking, “okay, my mom has finally lost it.” She brings the cookie over and this is what she sees. I am perplexed as to why this version of cookie (with the only added ingredient being sunflower butter) had a radioactive-looking center. After some internet digging, it turns out sunflower seeds have something called chlorogenic acid (a naturally occurring antioxidant present in plant leaves and stems and also in sunflowers) that when added to baking soda, turns dark green. Apparently this chemical reaction happens when the cookies cool down (which explains why they looked perfectly fine to me when I took them out of the oven). Anywho, it turns out chlorogenic acid is actually why sunflower butter is good for you- it has a good source of veg protein, potassium, and Vitamin E- who knew?!  Totally creeped mi madre out, but an amazing idea for some St. Patty’s themed baked goods!

Thanksgiving was hosted at my parents’ this year, which means we had over 20 people at our house, so I did lots of grocery shopping, cleaning and prepping Wednesday and Thursday morning. Dad cooked the turkeys (which turned out awesome) and Molly really overdid herself on all the cooking and cleaning, too. As you can see from her picture, she needed a nap after all the turkey-related festivities! Overall, a super-relaxing and great time at home with family!

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Check out who’s posting his own “Really?!?” today: Mark Bittman at the NY Times. Love it! But seriously- do we REALLY need this many chemicals in a SANDWICH?!

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So many friends, too little time. I kid. But seriously- I have a total of 4 friendsgivings before I hit the road for actual THANKSgiving. Normally, this would be bad news on my waistline. But fear not- I have two super-easy, amazingly-delicious options for those holiday parties that are paleo-friendly and also super YUM.

Chicken Bacon Poppers

Ingredients: Chicken (raw), bacon (also raw), pepperoncini’s  (or jalapenos if you are a crazy person)
Other things you need: Foil, toothpicks, baking sheet

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with foil. (Strongly recommended but not required, but it makes clean up easy breezy).

2. Cut, cut, cut. Cut chicken into little pieces. Cut bacon into pieces. I usually do thirds, but if you want your poppers extra bacon-y, cut them in half. Cut tops off of pepperoncini’s and slice down the side.

3. Assemble. Place a chicken chunk into a pepperoncini, and then wrap it on up in a piece of bacon. Jab a toothpick so it stays put. Place that little guy on the foiled baking sheet. Repeat until they’re all wrapped and ready to go.

4. Put them in the oven! Depending on your oven, they will take 10-20 minutes. Just keep an eye on ‘em.

5. Plate and serve!

Dunzo. Appetizer is served, everyone loves them, and you don’t have to jump off the paleo train to enjoy one. Or 5. Or 10.

So now you are thinking, “that is great, but I am in the mood for something chocolate-y and sweet.” But paleo. -ish. Click here for my fav chocolate chip cookie recipe, compliments of Food Lovers’ Primal Palate.  Totally giving credit where it’s deserved, but here’s a little pic of the end result. Took these guys to my Crossfit friendsgiving potluck and they were a hit!

Technically, these aren’t 100% paleo, since they do have a little bit of maple syrup and of course chocolate chips, but hey, live a little, right? Still better than those gluten and sugar-filled monstrosities your friends probably brought. Happy Friendsgiving, friends!

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I love Amy Poehler. I think she’s got to be one of the funniest women in comedy right now. While this may seem like an incredibly random thought, hang with me- I promise there’s light at the end of the tunnel. One of my favorite SNL appearances was her stint on Weekend Update with Seth Meyers. Besides her doing the Sarah Palin rap 9 months pregnant (I mean, seriously!), I am particulary fond of their banter during “Really?!? With Seth and Amy.” In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing one of these segments, here’s a clip of them making fun of Illinois’ own, Rod Blagojevich.

Point is… I am starting my own “Really?!? with Rachel” section of my blog… dedicated to those “healthy” aisle-dwelling chemically-made Frankenfoods that our country loves to eat. Or shoutouts to ridiculous marketing efforts glorifying these “foods”. Or simply, foods I just can’t believe are in existence. Basically, anything that prompts a, “really?!?” response.

My first episode comes to you from our good faithful, Target. These little gems are called Quaker School Days! Amazing Apple Chewy granola bars. Their marketing spin is “designed with school snack policies in mind!”. Take a look at the ingredients.

chemistry lab tested, mother approved.

Really?!? What school snack policy insists children get adequate tocopherols and sodium benzoate? Really?!? “Aw, Mom, chicken and an apple for lunch? I was really hoping for some tocopherols today!” And let’s look at how many different types of SUGAR are in one of these bars. 10. There are 10 different types of sugar. (brown sugar, inulin, honey, corn syrup, dextrose, sugar, glycerin, more sugar, more brown sugar, sorbitol, more inulin, pectin, apple juice concentrate.) Really?!? I want my kid to study, not develop ADHD and diabetes! Really?!? And what is BHT anyway? Quaker: you tell us to “Read the label every time”… now I understand why they call these “school days!” chewy granola bars- because you have to have a PhD in order to READ THE LABEL! And what ever happened to school lunches that contained hard to pronounce ingredients like MEAT and FRUIT and VEGETABLES? Really?!? Really?!?

[end of first segment]

 

On a side note, I really didn’t know what BHT was. Take a look: Butylated Hydroxytoluene, or BHT, is an antioxidant that reacts with oxygen free radicals to slow down the autoxidation rate of ingredients in a product that can cause changes in the taste or color. (in other words, makes it shelf stable longer)

Turns out this additive has a scary MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) that says the following:

  • Do NOT let this chemical enter the environment.
  • Combustible.
  • Ingestion causes Abdominal pain. Confusion. Dizziness. Nausea. Vomiting.
  • The substance may have effects on the liver.
  • The substance is harmful to aquatic organisms.

Mmmmmm, tasty.

(source: thegoodhuman.com)

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So, I voted today. Which also means I have avoided all social media and TV outlets like the plague. But on a serious note, I think no matter who we are voting for, it is important to remember all those who sacrificed their lives for us in order to afford us so many freedoms, including the freedom to vote. No matter how many complaints you have against either (or both!) candidates, I think it’s easy to lose sight on how blessed we are to live in America and have an opportunity to make our voices heard. That is all on that topic.

My Mondays are long. I wake up at 5:30 to workout, go downtown to the office, and then head to volunteer. I volunteer with an organization called GRIP Outreach for Youth (check them out here) in an urban athletic ministry called SLAM. Basically, I need to be on my A-game, happy, energetic, and super-excited about Jesus for 3+ hours. So suffice it to say, when I get roll into my apartment at 10pm, I am tired, hangry (angry from being hungry- if you haven’t implemented this into your daily vocabulary, now’s the time.) and not in the mood for any funny business.

beginning to end…

So it was AWESOME when I got home last night to a flooded bathroom and my ceiling leaking water. Turns out, the genius hipsters that live above me decided to use Drano for their clogged shower drain in an old, vintage building (which means the pipes are in pristine condition!). Because of their sheer hipster genious-ness, the acid wore a hole through the pipe above my bathroom, resulting in said flood. Because my engineer is a rock star, he got the plumber AND the painter in and out of here before 4pm today. Yay Bill! Here is pictoral documentation of my entire day of flood-drama. Hope you enjoy because I sure didn’t. What the heck are a pair of hipsters doing east of I-90 anyways? Get over west of the highway where you belong. [first rant: complete.]

Moving on, a new study came out from my old cronies at JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) on eating out and its caloric effect on children. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago examined almost 10,000 kiddos and teeny-boppers and their eating/drinking habits over the course of 5 years. The study found that children and teenagers consume an extra 310 calories each day when they visit a full service or fast food restaurant (big shocker).

Essentially, on days they ate at a restaurant, their caloric, sugar, fat and sodium intake went up. The results also indicated that on days children ate out, their intake of sugary beverages and soda was “significantly higher”.

The authors comments: “Overall, the findings of higher energy and sugar-sweetened beverage intake and poorer nutrient intake associated with consuming from restaurants suggest that public policies that aim to reduce restaurant consumption – such as increasing the relative costs of these purchases; limiting access through zoning, particularly around schools; limiting portion sizes; and limiting exposure to marketing – deserve serious consideration. At the same time, regulatory and voluntary policies that aim to set standards for the nutritional content of meals obtained from restaurants are increasingly being implemented, and continued efforts are needed to improve and promote healthy food options in restaurants.”

My comments: I agree that serious action needs to take place regarding portion sizes, nutritional content and providing healthy options.  But the government could implement all kinds of regulations for restaurants regarding posting nutrition information, including a “healthy options” menu, etc. and (in my opinion) it won’t make any big changes on how we eat. And I also think it’s easy for us to blame restaurant-related public health issues on the restaurant. If they didn’t serve triple-decker bacon cheeseburgers, no one would eat them, right?

But what if I want to indulge in a cheesy, triple-decker bacon cheeseburger every once in a while? Should all of us, including those who have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy but enjoy our occasional splurges, suffer?

In my opinion, what is of more importance are family and friends in order to educate and influence positive change & healthier eating in each other. If I come home from school every day and my mom has fried chicken and macaroni and cheese on the table every night, what the heck do you think I’m going to order as a 6 year-old at a restaurant? You bet- chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

I’m also not saying that serving veggies with a meal at home to your kids is automatically going to make them head to the salad section of the menu and get googly-eyed over a house salad with oil and vinegar. Over time, parents (especially) have to have accountability for healthy eating for themselves, but more importantly, for their children. I was raised with a meal on the table every night consisting of a protein, starch and vegetable. And a lot of times fruit too. Yes, I have eaten fried chicken and cheesy macaroni and French fries and funnel cakes and doughnuts and… well, you get it.

But what having a healthy meal and a role model of two parents who ate balanced diets meant for me is that indulging is fine, but it instilled the importance of a good diet with vegetables, fruits and healthy protein. It helped me lose the initial weight I had as a child. It taught me portion control. Eating healthy teaches me to be able to read my body and know what it needs. It helps me not feel like crap every day. It helps me stay more active and exercise more. And have more effective workouts. It helps my skin, my mood and my attentiveness. It also keeps me eating more healthy things.

What I mean by that is exactly the second finding from the study—that children that ate more crap, actually kept eating more crap (Rachel paraphrase). When you indulge in a Snickers bar from the cube next to you at 3 pm, what happens? A half hour later you want to eat like 8 more of them. And chug a Sprite. Sugar is an evil, evil little demon that is wired to keep you craving it. And yes, this includes bread! Because breads and grains turn into sugar when they get processed in your body! Snap!

So it’s no surprise that the kiddos that drank more sugary beverages, and consumed more sugar in general, wanted more of it! This is why this cycle of unhealthy eating is so dangerous- it’s the “you can’t have just one” mantra from the Ruffles potato chip bag. But seriously!

We need to start holding each other accountable for the things we are consuming. I’m not saying to start yelling at your friend for eating cheese fries or a bowl of pasta (Is butter a carb?). What I am saying is that each of us can do our part to be a role model for healthier eating, especially to those younger, more easily-influenced ones. Bringing something to a holiday party in the next month or two? Make something tasty AND healthy. Everyone will be like “OMG this is so good!” And you can be like “Totes, and it’s sugar and grain free! Holla!” (or something like that). Babysitting your neighbor’s kids next Friday? Instead of using that $20 that the parents leave to order a pizza, go buy dinner ingredients and make it a fun activity to make dinner with the little ones. (or your own little ones since I see a new kid every time I sign onto Facebook- I mean, seriously, what’s up with that?!).

Bottom line: We need the younger generation to be educated about healthy eating. If they don’t have any education or knowledge about nutrition, no governmentally-mandated restaurant policy is going to teach them to eat healthier. They’ll just be more p*ssed when they can’t order their fried chicken. [end of rant #2. goodnight.]

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So I have been in my current job for about 6 months now-  and it definitely has its perks. One of these said perks would include working from home 3 days a week. No getting up early, dressed for the cold and trekking downtown. No microwave-friendly meals for lunch at my desk. Instead, I can sleep in AND make something fresh and delicious (when my work schedule allows it!).

Considering the name of my blog, I felt a bit obligated to begin my recipe collection with one involving my favorite pork product. And it’s a good one. And an easy one. I mean, really easy. Like a if-you-can’t-handle-this-then-you-are-completely-hopeless one.  But really, it’s easy.

Here it is:

Baked Bacon

Ingredients: bacon. (additive, antibiotic, hormone & nitrite-free, of course!)
Difficulty: ridiculously easy.
Cook time: 10-20 minutes (depending on your oven)

Step one. Get your bacon out of the fridge. Don’t preheat the oven.

Step two. Cover a baking sheet with foil. (easy clean up!) I repeat- do not preheat the oven.

Step three. Lay your bacon strips on your newly-foiled baking sheet.

Step four. NOW you can turn your oven on. 400°. Place baking sheet in the oven.

Step five. Walk away. Come back 10 minutes later to check on your bacon.

Step six. Depending on your oven, pull those delicious piggy slices out when they are a nice golden brown.

Step seven. Remove bacon from the sheet right away so they don’t keep cooking. Place slices on some paper towels to cool.

Step eight. Eat!

So now you are probably thinking, what do I do with all the bacon grease? Save it, silly! Pour that liquid fat into a container and save it for cooking later on.

DONE! Easy peasy.

The best part? Enjoying those slices this morning post-WOD with my fried eggs (in leftover bacon fat) and coffee!

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