Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Food, Inc.

food-inc

I finally watched Food, Inc. this weekend. Wow. Where do I begin? I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the state of our nation's food systems. But this film really opened my eyes even more. Especially as an omnivore. Now, don't jump to any conclusions, I'm STILL not going vegan. At least not yet. I guess that's a good place to start though. Food, Inc. opens up the doors of the big mid-western slaughterhouses and chicken factories and shows us just how absolutely DISGUSTING this industry actually is. Thousands of cows standing in massive lots, knee deep in their own excrement. Thousands of chickens packed into huge, dark closed up chicken houses. These animals being fed genetically modified grains and pumped full of antibiotics. Fattening them up as quickly as possible so that they can be slaughtered and sold. They get so big, so fast, their bones can't grow that fast and many of these chickens and cows can barely hold themselves up.

Speaking of genetically modified grains, and not only grains, genetically modified foods in general. I was blown away by how much of our food is not what we think it is. That tomato that looks so ripe and fresh? Think again. It's been genetically modified to resist going bad too soon. The film talks a lot about corn and soybeans, which if you've ever read anything by Michael Pollan you aren't surprised by this. Corn and soy are found in just about every single food item on the grocery store shelves and these are also modified crops. They are engineered to resist insects or to be resistant to pesticides or who knows what else. One company in particular dominates the GMO industry so much that it's putting organic soybean farmers out of business. I dare not say too much, otherwise I might get sued. Seriously.

I used to pride myself on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. Fruits and veggies, meats and eggs. Keep it simple. I thought I was making the best choices, but perhaps the chicken breast is not all that much better than the potato chips. Think that's a stretch? I don't. Recently I have been trying to shop for organic products but didn't go crazy about it. After watching this film, my shopping methods are about to get a serious revamping. Now I'd like to find local organic farms that sell grass fed, free range, antibiotic and hormone free beef. Sure it's expensive, but you know what? Living a long and healthy life is worth it. Lately I've been spending a lot more time at Whole Foods. I've been buying cage free, organic eggs and you can really tell the difference. The yolks are brighter, the whites are clearer, they taste better. And you know what? They really are only a few cents more expensive.

One of the biggest arguments for eating crap is that it's cheap. So many people can't afford to eat healthy. Yet they pay a fortune in medical bills and prescription drugs to treat their diabetes and heart disease that could most likely be healed if they just used all that money to shop smarter. I don't have time to cook, I don't have money to buy healthy food, what's your excuse? I'm a single, unemployed girl with a ton of credit card debt, rent, utilities and I rarely get to hang out with my friends but you know what? My first priority is grocery shopping. You do what it takes to be well.

I could probably go on for days about this film and what it's made me think about, but I won't. I just highly recommend that you see it. And really think about where your food comes from and what food really means to you.

Have you seen Food, Inc.? I'd love to hear your thoughts!!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Sugar, awww Honey, Honey...

Sugar Packet

I'm going to start working on a series of posts that discuss the various forms of sweeteners: honey, evaporated cane juice, maple syrup, stevia and more. Stay tuned for those posts, coming soon!

I wanted to just say a HUGE THANK YOU to those of you that helped me to get the Greater Boston Food Bank to give me an interview. I am happy to say that I GOT that interview and had it yesterday. I think it went very well but I'm sure I have a lot of competition. Keep your fingers crossed for me!! I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Also, on Wednesday I signed on to be a volunteer Wellness Coach at Healthworks at Codman. This is a fitness center in the city that is for women (and children) who live and work in low-income areas, run by the Healthworks Foundation which is a non-profit division of Healthworks fitness centers. Click the link for more info.

Things are really looking up for me and all of the efforts I've made through my journey to beat Crohn's and live a healthy life and teach others how to do the same are really starting to pay off. I can't believe where this journey has taken me but I feel like this is exactly where I'm supposed to be and I've never been happier, not to mention healthier!! Thank you all SO much for your support and for contributing to this amazing community of people that care about each other and the wellness of all people. I wouldn't be typing this post without you!!

Oh, AND, another note, I just watched Food, Inc. and my head is about to explode. Oh. My. Gosh. I mean, I knew that food was killing us but seriously? If you haven't seen it, DO IT NOW! I'll write a more detailed post with my thoughts later.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Agave - Know the Facts

Agave Nectar

There has been a lot of hype lately about Agave Nectar and since I'm pretty sensitive to sugar, at first I fell for it too. It's promoted as a low glycemic, all natural alternative to sugar. It's been said that it won't give you that quick blood sugar spike like regular sugar and is a safer alternative for diabetics and healthy individuals alike. It sounds pretty good huh? Yeah, I went out and bought it too. When I realized sugar was an issue for me, I started searching for other bloggers that are also sugar free or low sugar and I found a few great websites. Still, I couldn't help but wonder, what exactly are these "alternative" sweeteners? What are they made of? For example, I read a lot about maple syrup, agave, stevia, splenda... and it really had my brain buzzing. After all that my body has been through, I really want to know EXACTLY what I'm putting into it. I always wondered why the only textbook I saved from college was my Biology book... I was a Psychology major. Now I know. I absolutely love the science of the body and specifically, the science of food as it relates to our bodily functions. I guess that's what happens when your body goes haywire and you're determined to fix it naturally!

Before I go any further, let me just say first - this is not meant in any way to bash agave or alternative sweeteners (except Splenda, that stuff is poison). This is just meant to stir up your curiosity. To think more carefully about what you consume. I believe more than anything that WE are in control of our health 100% and we must take responsibility for everything that we choose to feed it! Now. Let's talk about Agave.

The Agave is a flowering plant found in Mexico and the Southern & Western United States. There are various species of the Agave plant, one of which is Agave Azul - Blue Agave, which is most notably used for the production of Tequila. The edible portions of the plant are the flowers, leaves, stalks and the sap. The plant is used for many purposes, not just for food but the stalks can also be used to make Didgeridoos! (eh, Sally?)

To make Agave Nectar, the juice from the core of the plant is expressed, filtered and then heated to hydrolize the polysaccharides into simple sugars (yes folks, that means REFINED). The juice is then concentrated into a syrup like liquid that can range in color, light to dark, depending on the processing. The syrup does contain iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are what contribute to the color. Raw Agave is made by using a fermentation process, rather than heat.

The syrup is made up of fructose and glucose, with the fructose making up a larger portion of the ratio. The ratio varies depending on the manufacturer but the numbers I've found go all the way up to 92% fructose to 8% glucose. Now back to that little tidbit about Agave being a low glycemic food. Yes! It's true! Agave is a low glycemic food. The GI scale only measure glucose so according to that, yes, this is a better alternative to sugar. But be warned, due to the variations in fructose to glucose ratios, this may not always be the case. More importantly, what they fail to mention is that this nectar is in fact a High Fructose Syrup. Yup, that's right, I just compared Agave to High Fructose Corn Syrup. I'll let that sink in for a minute... Ok, you still with me?

High Fructose sweeteners have been linked to fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, decreased glucose tolerance, systemic insulin resistance, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease... I can go on, but I won't. You get the idea and you already know about the dangers of high fructose syrups. I just bet you didn't realize that Agave is one of them. Research even suggests that fructose actually suppresses the body's feelings of fullness. Ever had that feeling when you're eating a lot of processed foods that you're never full? Ever wonder why?

Here's the bottom line - Agave is a refined sugar, and sugars, are sugars, are sugars. Don't fall for the hype. If you are going to consume sugar, practice moderation! Try to avoid sugar as much as possible but that doesn't mean you can't indulge from time to time. The body does need sugar but the fact of the matter is, these days most of us get WAY too much of it. Most importantly, educate yourself. Know what you're eating and how it affects your body. Since most of my readers have some form of auto-immunity I can't stress this part enough! I hope this has shed a little light on Agave for you and is helpful!

Resources include: Natural Health Magazine, ClinicalTrials.gov, NaturalNews.com, Wikipedia

Friday, February 19, 2010

Review: Gluten Free Houston Coffee and Carrot Cakes

Gluten Free Houston Coffee Cake
Gluten Free Houston, Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Yesterday I received a package of complimentary cakes from Gluten Free Houston! I have to admit, I do follow them on Twitter (@GlutenFreeHou) but I had never visited their website to see what they offer so I was pleasantly surprised. I received one GF Cinnamon Coffee Cake and one GF Carrot Cake. Unfortunately, both of these cakes contain dairy which I avoid. However, I couldn't resist a little taste of each one. I really like to do product reviews so that you all can see what's good out there! I'm happy to report that these are great!!

Gluten Free Houston Carrot Cake
Gluten Free Houston, Gluten Free Carrot Cake

The coffee cake is dense and delicious. It really tastes fresh and as if I just baked it at home. Here's a tip, put a piece in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds and it makes it warm and oh so good. You could even whip up a quick confectioners sugar and milk glaze for the top.

The carrot cake is great too, although I am not generally a carrot cake fan. It's got real chunks of carrot and it's light and very tasty. I enjoyed it. I definitely recommend these products!

Disclaimer: These were complimentary samples sent for me to taste and review at my discretion. I do not give positive reviews just because the product was free, I will never mislead my readers!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not Just A Job.

Update 2/18: I just checked my twitter this morning and they heard us!! THANK YOU to all of you who tweeted on my behalf, you people are amazing!! The person that runs the GBFB Twitter has forwarded my message to HR. Hopefully I'll get a call soon. THANKS AGAIN!

As you know, I've been unemployed for almost 6 months now and have been actively seeking a new job. About a month ago I checked out the Greater Boston Food Bank to see if they had any jobs available and lo-and-behold they did! They are looking for a Member Service Assistant and it's the perfect position for me and my skill set and not only that, it supports a VERY important cause. Feeding those in need. If you're a long time reader, you know that volunteering is an important part of my life and of course, so is food. I can't imagine a better place to work. I submitted my resume and cover letter on January 20th and heard nothing back. I figured they filled the position. Today I was on Craigslist and saw a listing for the position again! I checked their website and the position is still listed there as well. So I sent along my resume and cover letter. I really want this job. I know I'd not only love it, but I'd be a great addition to the team.

I have been following them on Twitter @Gr8BosFoodBank and just posted a tweet letting them know that I want this job!! I've never done anything like this before, but right now I'm launching a campaign to get noticed. I want them to know how important this is to me. This is not just another resume submitted by a job seeker. This is my passion. Do you think I'd be a great asset to the Greater Boston Food Bank team?? Here's how you can help! Follow @Gr8BosFoodBank on Twitter and then send them a tweet letting them now that they should hire me! Include me in the message @MySugarAndSpice (and follow me if you're not already!!). I don't know if this will work, but what have I got to lose, right? I really appreciate your help!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine's Gift to Me.

IMG_9666 2

Through all the years of boyfriends and dates and single times, I only remember two Valentine's Days. The first was with my ex-long-term-live-in-bf who surprised me by pretending to leave for work, then knocking on the back door shortly after. I scurried out of bed and threw on something decent to find him standing at the door with roses and a gift. The gift was the anniversary special edition DVD of The Sound of Music. My absolute favorite movie of all time (his absolute least favorite). That was the best.

The second was this guy I was dating brought me dinner that he had made and we stayed in and ate dinner then watched a movie. The dinner was delicious, but he brought two bottles of champagne... and proceeded to drink both of them. Then he brings out the movie he picked... What Dreams May Come. Have you seen it? If you have, you understand why this was the cherry on top of the worst Valentine's Day of my life. I already had this movie in my collection but he didn't know that. He apparently didn't read the cover while he was at Blockbuster either because he didn't realize that this movie is about DEATH and that it's horribly sad. He cried. And then passed out.

This year I spent Valentine's Day renewing my Match.com subscription. I've used this site many times and sadly, most of the guys I'm matched up with this time are the same guys I've been matched up with for years. Maybe this time I'll get to meet some of them. I've had good and bad experiences with online dating, but I've been avoiding dating for too long so I decided, what the hell. Why not give it another go? So, we'll see what happens.

Now, about that pretty little thing up there at the top of this post. Oh yeah, that's a chocolate cake. I know, I know, here I go again eating sugar, right?! Well I decided that since I've been SO good about NOT eating sugar, and am feeling absolutely wonderful right now, a little Valentine's Day treat was in order. I didn't want to make a whole cake or anything, because then I'd eat it all and feel like crap. Plus I've been hitting the gym hard and I don't even have the desire to ruin all my efforts. I've read on a few blogs lately that people are baking cakes in the microwave for a quick fix. I jumped over to allrecipes.com and found what I was looking for right away. I used this recipe and substituted the flour with Better Batter, the milk with Almond Breeze and the butter with Earth Balance. I also didn't have any white sugar so I used light brown. Since the recipe serves two, I used two ramekins and split the batter between the two. It worked out perfectly! I whipped up a small batch of chocolate buttercream frosting to top the cakes. So very delicious. The perfect treat. And in case you're wondering, I did eat one and a half cakes. Which is good because a while ago I would've just polished off both of them!

To the lovers and the haters of Valentine's Day, I hope today was great either way!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dreaming of Summer

sunset people

It has been a pretty easy winter so far but we still have a good 8 weeks of it left here in Boston. I'm dreaming of summer... hence the photo. Sometimes do you ever just want to take a break? I know that sounds strange because I'm unemployed and have had nothing but one long break for the past five and a half months. What I mean is that I've been doing endless research lately on autoimmune disease and diet. I have been thinking about going back to school so that I could work with people that need to be on a special diet but could use some extra help. So I've been reading and writing and talking a lot about it all. Lately I've been feeling crappy and I started to wonder if there's a connection. When you think too much about your health problem, does it make it worse? I think it most certainly can. But I've also noticed that since I've been so strict with the gluten and dairy, my issues with sugar are much more pronounced. I also realized that I have become sedentary. I used to walk to and from work every day but now most of my time is spent sitting. I have been avoiding the gym as well because I'd been feeling run down. What I realized is, I feel run down precisely because I haven't been working out! Because I sit on my butt alllll day every day! It's no wonder I have zero strength or energy left. I finally got back to it this week and tonight I rocked it. I usually stick to the machines but tonight I played with the big boys in the free weight room. They don't intimidate me, I'm a trainer for crying out loud, but sometimes it's really crowded in there so I usually avoid the free weights. I realized tonight when the big boys are working out next to me I work harder. Can't look weak in front of them! I think I showed them who's boss tonight!! Well, not really, they lift pretty heavy but it was nice to just be there and joke with them and do my thing. I've been strength training for 10 years and I've always been able to step into the free weight room without a problem, but over the past few years I'd started avoiding it. Not anymore. I'm back in the game. Showing my stuff. It feels really good. In fact, every day gets a little bit better. I feel like things are exactly the way they are supposed to be and that it's all going to work out great.

Now, I'm signing off, it's time for We Are The World. YES!!!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Enjoy Life Foods Crunchy Rice and Crunchy Flax Cereals

Flax Cereal

The very nice folks at Enjoy Life Foods were kind enough to send me a free box of each Crunchy Rice and Crunchy Flax cereals to try. Some other bloggers have also received these and have suprised me with what they have done with them. One person made rice cereal treats! I wish I could remember who that was... (comment if it's you!). I never think outside the box (heh) when it comes to this stuff. I just poured some in a bowl and ate it with almond milk.

These cereals are all natural and contain minimal ingredients. The crunchy rice is made from rice flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey and salt. The crunchy flax contains whole sorghum flour, ground flax seed, honey, raisin juice concentrate, and salt. I love that!
Enjoy Life foods are also free of wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish and shellfish. These two cereals are also free of potato, casein, sesame and sulfites.

So how are they? Well, I like them. They are very crunchy and they absorb a lot of milk yet stay crunchy. They could use some fresh fruit or whatever other addition you like to give them some more sweetness and flavor. These both would be great to use in various recipes I think. I will have to look into it. If you have tried these and have suggestions, leave them in the comments! Thanks to Enjoy Life Foods for sending these to me!!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Help for Haiti!!

Haiti Earthquake

Lauren over at Celiac Teen has done an amazing thing and compiled an e-cookbook to help raise money for Haiti. The minimum donation is $10 but you can donate as much as you want! Plus the Canadian Government and Lauren's parents are matching some donations. Go check it out and donate today!!!!!

Also - all the money that I've made from ads on this blog was donated along with my personal donation. Thank you for visiting and clicking and therefore contributing!! I don't make much from this site, but I'm glad it could go to a good cause.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Foto Friday

Cape Cod Canal and Sagamore Bridge

The other day my sister and I took my niece down to the Cape to see my brother-in-law. He is a captain on the Capt John & Son boats out of Plymouth. They had to tug one of the boats from the harbor down to the boat yard since the engine is being repaired. It was just a good opportunity to get out of the house for a while so we went down and of course I brought my camera. I'm a shore girl, the ocean is my home, I can't get enough of it. I have taken 9,635 photos with my camera and I guarantee at least 1,000 of them are of the ocean. Maybe more.

This week has been a week of contemplation and decisions regarding my employment status. I chose to say no to a position that would require a lot of travel. I was very conflicted about this but as soon as I said no, a weight was lifted. Last Friday I was promoted to health & well-being shift supervisor on the Monday night shift. It gave me a real boost and reaffirmed that I do want to continue on with my health & well-being career. When I was laid off in the fall, I seriously considered getting my MSRD (Masters in Nutrition/Registered Dietician) but quickly realized that I could not afford the time nor the money it would take to get there. Lately I've been looking into an alternative that would take a lot less time and cost a lot less money. I'm not going to go too far into the details yet, but I'm feeling like I'm on a good path and I hope to keep moving forward.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Featured Blogger

Hey, maybe this will be a new thing on my blog, a Featured Blogger post maybe once a week or something? Anyway, today's post is all about Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. I love her blog and we've become good Twitter buds! Right now she's hosting a giveaway of Better Batter goodies and I WANT TO WIN. Just sayin.. so yeah, don't enter, because then my chances will not be as good. But definitely check out her website and follow her on Twitter @adventuresgfmom