four nutrition myths.

All that talk about all the posts I was going to have coming and it’s taken me two weeks for another one. AND this one is going to be short. I am taking a much-needed mini vaca home to Pittsburgh for the fourth where I HOPE to bust out a few upcoming blog posts.

In the meantime, I ran across this article the other day about nutrition myths that people still believe. I could probably come up with about 50 more, but for the sake of brevity, here are the 4 myths Dr. Mark outlines:

1. It’s all about the calories.

Okay, so I think I stopped believing this one about ten years ago but you’d be shocked at the number of people still tracking their calories. Programs such as Livestrong, FitDay, LoseIt, and tons more now even have apps where you can track your daily calories and bump it up against your physical activity.

A CALORIE IS NOT A CALORIE IS NOT A CALORIE. Common sense should tell you 100 calories of Mountain Dew or 100 calories of McDonald’s french fries does not equal 100 calories of grilled chicken. I mean, seriously? As Dr. Mark so eloquently puts it, “Eating less garbage or choosing the lower-calorie garbage doesn’t make the garbage any better for you. It’s still garbage, and garbage doesn’t nourish your cells.” We need to focus on the nutritional profile of the foods we are consuming, not the number of calories we are eating.

But what if I’m trying to lose weight, Rachel? I get it- you want to be careful about what’s going into your mouth. But as long as you are eating your veggies and meats, not eating grains, watching your fruit (sugar) intake and not shoveling cups of macadamia nuts down your throat, calories will not be an issue for you.

2. Low fat diets are healthy.

This one takes a little more convincing for some people. I personally struggled with this a ton post-college: those low low-fat-diet-cartoon-265x300fat cookie packs or switching to skim milk or my personal favorite: fat free cheese. I mean, really? It’s CHEESE. It is supposed to have fat. Taking fat out of something with fat inherent in it can’t be good for you, right?

Studies are now showing those medical beliefs that were conjured up in the 80’s and 90’s about fat leading to weight gain and heart disease are just flat out wrong. As Dr. Mark points out, the largest clinical trial ever conducted on diet proved that low-fat diets do not result in weight loss or lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The important thing to learn is our bodies need fat; but we need to consume those healthy fats in conjunction with a diet low in processed foods and grains in order to stay trim, have more energy and maintain balanced insulin levels.

3. Sodium is bad and causes high blood pressure.

We all have heard the medical stories of sodium = high blood pressure and heart attacks. Thing is, there are a number of controlled trials that show no correlation between sodium restriction and a lower risk of heart attack.

A good point he makes: real food is naturally low in sodium. So just try to eat real food! Problem solved.

4. Cholesterol is bad and causes heart disease.

Ah. This is my absolute favorite one. If I had a dime for every time someone commented about using egg whites only, how their doctor told them to stay away from cholesterol, or how they want to stay healthy so they only eat cholesterol-free foods… I would be retired on a beach in Bora Bora.egg

Here’s the breakdown. 80% of cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver. Cholesterol is important for a number of things, including creating cell membranes, fixing damaged cells, and synthesizing a bunch of vitamins and hormones. Thing is, a typical American diet is full of processed carbohydrates, low in fiber and extremely nutrient deficient. What does that mean in relation to cholesterol? Your liver starts producing a bunch of cholesterol to make up for all the inflammation going on in your body due to eating this type of diet. Essentially, anywhere you find naturally-occurring cholesterol is a good thing to put in your body!

Bottom line of this article: Eat real food. Eat real food that has sodium. Eat real food that has cholesterol (that means EAT THE YOLKS OF YOUR EGGS FOR SOBBING OUT LOUD.) Eat real food that has fat. Eat these healthy fats without processed carbs. And when you start eating read food, you don’t have to count calories.

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So it’s been weeks. Well, actually months. BUT… I have some exciting news. I just started a new job! WOOT WOOT! This has been an almost year-long job search process and I am so happy and relieved to say that I am back at my former place of employment doing marketing. My previous job, although great experience with (mostly) great people, was not for me for a number of reasons. I was definitely unhappy and have been looking for a change since I pretty much started last April. And let me tell you: a year of unhappiness at a job can definitely take a toll on your mental health (which most likely contributed to my lack of motivation for blogging!). Fortunately, a position opened up under my old boss (who I love!) and I just started last week. Yay for change and yay for a job I don’t get feelings of dread about every Sunday night.

Which brings me to my post for today. My friend sent me this TED Talk last week and I finally got around to listening to it this morning. It’s a talk by a clinical psychologist named Meg Jay who specializes in counseling 20-somethings.

Her talk is about how your 20’s is not a time to trivialize your choices or feel like you don’t have to settle down or worry about anything important [read: career, husband, kids] until your 30’s. Meg’s stance is that those in their 20’s most certainly SHOULD be concerned about these things now; because once their 30’s hit, and when they find that none of these things are in place, many feel rushed and settle instead of finding what they actually WANT.

[Rachel sidebar]
I think, like many of my friends (especially my still-single friends like myself), we sometimes adopt the attitude of “I’ll worry about it later” or “I’m still having fun, what’s the rush?” when confronted about our careers, plans for marriage or having children. But we need to have caution against developing too strong an attitude toward putting things off; because our thirties will come and we need to have solidified as much of this as possible.

But this is a fine line; we also have to be careful not to settle with someone or rush into anything, just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Further, as single Christian women, I think sometimes this settling down/marriage/baby pressure is even greater. We need to start planning in our twenties but ALSO make careful, conscious decisions about those plans while we are making them.

[…back to the TED Talk]
thirtyA common feeling by many late 20-somethings that Meg comes in contact with: My 20s are almost over and I have nothing to show for myself.

One of her patients explained it like this. “Dating in my 20’s was like musical chairs; everybody was running around and having fun. But then sometime around 30 it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down.  I didn’t want to be the only one left standing up and so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest chair to me at 30.”

Meg warns: DO NOT DO THAT.

When you push everything to your 30’s, there is so much more pressure and stress to get the job, husband, kids, etc. in order—and quickly. When a number of people think back to their 20’s, they wonder, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?”

Meg’s 3 Pieces of Advice

1. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Make an investment in who you want to be next. Identity capital begets identity capital. Exploration not procrastination. Explore and make it count.

2. The urban tribe is overrated. 20-somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, how they think & speak and where they work. New people almost always come from an outer circle. New things come from our weak ties (friends of friends of friends).

3. The time to start picking your “family” is now.  Grabbing whoever you are dating (or worse: simply sleeping with) when everyone on Facebook starts walking down the aisle is not progress. The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one; be as intentional with love as you are with work. You need to consciously choose who & what you want instead of just making it work and/or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you.

She continued that changing your life is so EASY in your twenties. “Twenty-somethings are like airplanes just leaving LAX bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in Alaska or Fiji.”

THE TAKEAWAY:

“Thirty is not the new 20. Claim your adulthood. Get some identity capital. Use your weak ties. Pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life RIGHT NOW.”

And that, my friends, is my post for today. Glad to be back!

I know, I know, it’s been a while. Another post will be on its way soon, and hopefully I will be able to keep up on a more regular basis. For now, this awesome paleo infographic, courtesy of greatist.com. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Paleo

Get health and fitness tips at Greatist.com

nut free paleo cookies!

Wow – a month since my last post. I suck! I have been crazy busy the past month, went home to Pittsburgh for a week for Easter and have for reals been lazy on the posts. Not that this is going to be one to write home about, but I do have a fab recipe to share.

Saturday night in Chicago was freezing cold and rainy, so my friend Cherith and I decided to make it a night in with a few bottles of wine and made dinner and hung out. I was feeling the baking bug (I haven’t baked anything in forever- and I LOVE baking). I was about to whip up a batch of paleo cookies and realized Cherith is allergic to nuts. Awwwww, nuts. What’s a girl to do? Make regular cookies full of white flour and sugar? Please.

I found this awesome recipe from PaleOMG (of course!) for nut free, dairy free AND grain free cookies. And they were surprisingly really good. I know you’re thinking- okay, so what even goes into it? Read on, my friend.

Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredientsnutfreecookies
1 cup sunflower seed butter
⅓ cup raw honey
1 egg, whisked
1 vanilla bean stem, slit lengthwise, little baby beans removed with the edge of your knife
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½-1 cup Enjoy Life Mega Chocolate Chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out a dollop of cookie mix and pour onto baking sheet.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes; be careful not to overcook these.
6. Let cool. Then eat up!

a place at the table.

place at table

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, you need to. What a lot of Americans don’t know (and I didn’t know!) is how incredibly prevalent hunger is in our country. Also known as “food insecurity”, 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat. 1 of every 2 kids in America at some point will be on food assistance. And to round out these statistics, the US ranks WORST among the International Monetary Fund’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity. Fabulous, right?!

The documentary follows a number of families across the country, in very different areas, and illustrates how incredibly ineffective our government is at helping solve hunger in this country.

One family, in rural Colorado, receives donations every week from a food bank. Their shelves are filled with processed foods, breads, and pastas—they haven’t had vegetables in months.

A single mother with two children in Philadelphia grew up eating Oodles of Noodles and Chef Boyardee and now has to feed the same things to her children because the food stamp program in America is so horribly underfunded. How underfunded, you ask? Well first, your income must be under $24,000/year. If that’s the case, your allotment is $3/day for groceries. A bunch of C-suite’ers interviewed in the movie tried going shopping for a week on this, and struggled immensely. They realized they couldn’t afford any high quality foods, but filled their carts with pop, chips, cookies and junk like so many Americans that are food insecure.

Mississippi claims the highest rate of food insecurity AND the highest rate of obesity of American states. A second grader they interviewed, Tremonica, already has diabetes and is grossly overweight for her age. Her mother knows she should be feeding her more balanced meals, but simply can’t afford them. In Tremonica’s school, their teacher teaches them what honeydew melons look and taste like—even letting them pass a pre-sliced melon around the class, in an effort to help them recognize this in the grocery store if given the opportunity.

Problem is—Tremonica and her classmates live in a food desert, which basically means an area so far off the beaten path that food distribution companies [read: the trucks that deliver fresh foods to grocery stores] just can’t justify the delivery costs to deliver to these places. That leaves areas with a few grocery stores that are more similar to convenience stores or gas stations than they are to grocery stores. They will maybe have an occasional banana but nothing in the way of fresh or nutritious foods.

onenation

How did we get here? In the 1930’s, the government subsidized farming as an emergency program to get the economy out of the Great Depression. BUT… we never let the market take over after the economy settled. Essentially, agribusiness took over family farms, and started cranking out a ridiculous amount of soy, corn, cotton, wheat and rice. These are also called commodity crops, and according to the documentary, comprise 84% of government subsidies. Dairy and livestock receive about 15%, leaving fruits and vegetables with less than 1% of total government subsidies. One reason? Most fruit and vegetable producers are small, and don’t have the political clout of the big guys producing the commodity crops.

So what does that mean for us as consumers? Government subsidies = cheaper product. Cheaper product = more profit for the food industry. More profit = the ability to invest in huge infrastructures to process these commodity crops into the packaged goods [read: crap food in the middle aisles] that we consume today. To summarize, more subsidies = more crap = us eating more crap. (I’ve said it before, people!)

The real processed icing on the processed cake? Since 1995, the USDA has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250,000,000,000… lots of zeros.) on farm subsidies. And guess where that goes? Big Agra.

So what is the government doing about it? Every 5 years, Congress meets to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act.  A few years ago, schools spent an average of $0.90 – $1.00 per school lunch in America. THAT’S LESS THAN YOUR STARBUCKS COFFEE EACH MORNING. In 2010, in an effort to “help” fight child hunger, Congress passed “The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act”. Awesome, right? Ehhhh, not so much. Instead of accepting the proposed $10 billion in funding activists were asking for, they allotted a $4.5 billion increase over 10 years. That roughly equals a 6-freaking-cent increase per meal. What really was the knife in the back was that over half of the bill was paid for by cutting the food stamp program. In the words of one of those interviewed, it’s like pushing your mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the other and saying you were fed. Nice, Congress. You sure solved that problem.

In case $4.5 billion sounds like a lot to you (which it did for me), let’s put it into perspective. For the bank bailout, the government gave $700 billion. When Bush passed the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, they ponied up $1.3 trillion over 10 years.

jeff

he’s really “the dude”.

Jeff Bridges, a child hunger advocate since the 80’s, said it perfectly, “If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

The cost of hunger and food insecurity to the US economy is $167 billion each year, and is getting worse. One example—1 in 3 children born in American in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. ONE IN THREE.

What can we do? Food banks and charities are a start. But to most interviewed, they are a bandage on the bigger problem—the legislation surrounding nutrition and hunger in America. (And want to know a big proponent of legislative change? My boy Tom Colicchio.) If you are all about getting your voice heard, check out Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry website. You can also check out Feeding America to find charities and food banks near you and also find resources for advocating for change.

So being a foodie AND paleo makes life hard sometimes- like, really hard. I LOVE food. I love trying new foods and dishes and restaurants—but most usually have some element of gluten, which even though tastes delicious going down, feels not so nice afterwards.

Chicago just finished up their restaurant week, and let me tell you—it was amazing (as usual). I tried 4 new restaurants and each did not disappoint. I was trying to plan an outing with my friend Annika during restaurant week (who has a gluten allergy) and I forget how un-fun a week like restaurant week is for those people that actually CAN’T eat gluten (unlike myself who just feels like crap the day after). You pay a bunch for food you can’t eat!

Heaven behold. Senza: a new restaurant that popped up recently in Lakeview that is entirely gluten free. Alcohol-food-dessert-everything gluten free. And with 4 courses (and an amuse!) for only $50 (which if you think about it—is basically just as much as restaurant week and you get more courses AND can pick what you want). WIN.

And let me tell you. This place is SO GOOD. The chef, Noah Sandoval, came from Schwa (which has one Michelin star and who’s chef [Michael Carlson] has been nominated for a James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes for the last 3 years). The food was delicious (oh- AND they bring you a whole loaf of gluten free bread, too!), the ambiance was awesome and service was great. And both of our cocktails were the bomb dot com.

Here’s my menu recommendation (from what we both got and liked!):

DUCK CONFIT || huckleberry | saffron | pea tendril

PARSNIP SOUP || pear | celery | lobster | caviar

SCALLOP || golden raisin | cauliflower | foie gras

SPIKED APPLE CIDER || sorbet | gingerbread

I recommend this to anyone—but especially to those with gluten allergies or someone like me, trying to have a foodie night out, without feeling like complete crap in the morning!

breadsenza 1entreesdessert

Less than a week to go! I’ve been feeling really awesome lately- feeling better during the day, having better workouts, and just feeling overall happier!  I would also be lying if I didn’t say I am a little excited to get back to real life (and have a cocktail!). I’ve suffered a little bit socially over the past few weeks (getting a little sick of being nominated automatic chaffeur everywhere I go) and have a bout of FOMO every once in a while when I decide to just stay in. But it’s ONLY 30 DAYS, and I feel awesome. This was just the kickstart I needed to go into 2013 happier and healthier.

jibaritoI had another busy week, so not much excitement in the way of my weekly menu to report, except… as was expected, I did try my hand at a jibarito (flattened plantains used as bread, and also coincidentally a native menu item of Chicago!). Check it out! I was pretty proud of myself that it didn’t fall apart- and I used two mini beef sliders I bought from US Wellness with some guac, arugula and tomatoes to finish it off. Amazeballs. I decided to continue my Whole30 through Saturday (so I guess I should call it a Whole32…) since I’m headed to the ‘burbs for a church retreat and the food isn’t what you’d deem quality. (or frankly, edible). So here’s to less than a week to go!

Secondly, I came across this article the other day that details the school lunch program of the Japanese. Basically, Japanese schools serve real food to their kids at lunch (veggies, rice, fish) that is rarely frozen. And try to use seasonal ingredients when possible. Further, the kids serve each other, and you get what is served (there is no “second option” because you don’t like mushrooms).  Fruit and yogurt for dessert. Fried food is a rarity. Kids are even asking for the recipes.  Finally, on a regular basis, they are given a 5 minute educational session about their meal: a short explanation of what their meal consists of and what the health benefits are, helping the kids to interact and learn about what they are eating.

Why will this never happen in America? Two reasons: culture and Big Agra.

Culture.

The Japanese pride themselves on the homogeneity of their society; for the most part, their culture promotes healthy, well-balanced eating (of real food) and they are well-known for their self-discipline. Japanese culture teaches children a level of respect and submission to adults and to policies. These kids walk into school being told their menu every day. Their exact menu- no choices, no substitutions, no religiously-excused alternatives, no vending machines of cookies and chips if they don’t like what’s being served. (For real- they don’t have vending machines.) And guess what- they EAT IT. In America, on the other hand, children are coddled to tell us exactly what they want to eat, and parents allow their children to become picky and obnoxious about their dietary preferences. With our society of gluttony and an abundance of options, schools would be culturally shunned if they implemented a “take it or leave it” approach to the school cafeteria. Remember, this is the society that deemed PIZZA A VEGETABLE.

Also- what kid in America these days would help serve lunch? Are you kidding me? Children are being raised with such an air of entitlement that they would fall to the ground laughing if they were asked to help prepare or serve school lunch. And then get back to tweeting their friends.

Big Agra.

Japan_Lunch_161358640906

courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Big Agra earns money from stockholders, politicians and donors. Lots of money. Big Agra mass produces cheap sugars and starches (read: cereals, microwaveable meals, Cheez-Its, pizza, Twinkies: otherwise known as CRAP). Kids become addicted to this crap. All they want is to eat crap. They buy more crap. Big Agra gets richer. It makes more crap. Kids eat more crap (and parents buy it for them!). Cheap crap becomes cheaper because everyone’s eating it. Politicians take money away from school lunch programs. Schools are forced into extremely limited budgets and can only afford… *ding* *ding* *ding* CHEAP CRAP! A Washington D.C. school food director was just FIRED because he replaced the processed food from the school lunch menu with real, fresh food made in house. Guess why! Because of the dolla dolla bills, ya’ll. Coming from local politicians who profited from the foodservice company contract (which is composed of Big Agra foods).  So kids eat more crap- even at school- and get fat. And guess who makes money when kids are fat? Big Agra. Three cheers for obesity!