Archive for December, 2012

December 26, 2012

What is the Best Thing about a White Christmas?

frontdoor

View from my front door

This morning, I’ve been looking out the window at the 10 inches of snow that fell on Christmas.  It is beautiful. The branches on my elm tree are sparkling in the sunlight. The streets are quiet because we have no snowplows in the south so most people are staying home. I feel relaxed because I don’t have to hurry to get ready and get out the door to get to the office by a certain time. In fact, I feel like I’m able to move at my own pace instead of at the pace of someone else’s expectations.

Is that it? Is it that the snow frees us from the usual expectations, takes away the pressure of rushing around to accomplish the too many tasks of our over-scheduled lives, and allows us to move at the pace we determine is correct to meet our immediate needs?

Is it the quiet that comes from the soft snow cushion that muffles sound, plus less traffic noise, and no airplanes passing overhead? Is it the beauty of the snow’s changing reflection of light that keeps pulling us into the moment?

All of these questions have run through my head as I’ve relished the quiet peacefulness of the day, lingered over coffee, left the TV off, and wiggled contentedly under the blanket covering my legs. I feel less pressured, more peaceful, and more connected to the being of life rather than the activities of life.  I am able to continually watch the light changing on the snow and stay right here in the moment.

It is as if the veil that clouds life’s possibilities has been lifted and I am free to explore what I want right this minute. I don’t have to try to get around to seeing my options once I’ve met everyone else’s deadlines (a time I know will not come before I’m too exhausted to care). I can stay in, or bundle up and go out. I can shovel my walk, or see how many funny looking footprints I can make. I can cook brownies and then cake and then the bread that has been rising to the warmth of the oven vent. There’s plenty of time for the bread to rise twice without me having to plan ahead. I can put on make-up or I can skip a shower. I can read a book, organize photos, meditate, do yoga, or just sit quietly and be with myself.

This is the kind of day I want to have every day – the kind in which I’m present in the moment, open to the possibilities, and deliberate in the activities I choose. For me, such a day always begins with stillness and quiet. That’s the very best thing about a White Christmas – beauty that keeps me focused in the moment, and the blank slate created by a blanket of stillness and quiet. It is from this place that all good things begin.

arbor

View from my kitchen window.

December 20, 2012

Holiday Indulgence–Is It Worth It?

For those of you who are tempted to fudge a little here and there, I recently asked myself this question–Was a recent holiday indulgence worth it?

After 9 months of strict adherence to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Thanksgiving arrived.  I cooked sweet potato pie, corn casserole, cornbread dressing (stuffing if you prefer), an amazing sweet potato and squash soup, and gluten-free macaroni and cheese for my extended family.  While I cooked, I tasted.  At the dinner table, I tasted.  For a couple of days afterward, there were leftovers in the fridge that…I tasted.  Now mind you, a taste isn’t a serving.  It’s just a couple of spoons full, and I never tasted anything containing harmful gluten.

Then came the cold December afternoon when I returned to my office ready for an afternoon snack.  No, not just ready…I felt like I was starving.  While I was out of the office, the most beautiful, red holiday basket had arrived.  Sporting a huge bow and from the most exclusive flower shop in town, it was filled with chocolate chip, key lime, and iced spice cookies, party mix, candy, and one gluten-free item – a tin full of dark chocolate hazelnut toffee.  Not more than 5 seconds after I finished reading the label, I ripped off the plastic seal and popped open that tin.

After all, I was starving and there were huge hazelnuts embedded in the toffee.  I broke the toffee away from a nut and popped it in my mouth.  After all nuts are allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  Still hungry, I continued.  The third nut I peeled had a tiny bit of candy still attached. Chocolate, caramel tasting sugar – YUM!  I didn’t try nearly as hard to remove all the candy from the fourth nut…or the 5th, 6th, or 7th.  After all, it was only sugar (not gluten) AND I had been strictly following the SCD, perhaps I was ready to reintroduce some items into my diet.  This justification worked so well for me that I used it again the next day when I pulled the lid off the tin.

Then came Christmas lunch.  May as well try the scalloped potatoes, and then finish off the toffee.

Four days later I have two New Year’s parties to attend and I am doubled over in pain or I would be if I weren’t talking to the repairman who’s here to fix the alarm.  I can’t believe I used to work like this all the time.  It feels like someone detonated a bomb below and to the right of my belly button.  I’m contemplating the minimum amount of time I can spend at each party because I’m afraid I may need to stick close to a bathroom.  I plan to take a second dose of activated charcoal and hope for the best.

In the midst of this pain and anxiety, I hear the question nagging at the back of my brain: Was straying off the SCD worth it?  Hmmm.  The toffee was delectable, and the potatoes satisfied my longing for filling carbohydrates, but now I’m on track for what may be a lengthy healing process.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm.  Was it worth it?

YES.  Yes, the transgression was worth it.

Ahhh yes, the transgression was worth it, but not in the hedonistic way you may think.  It was worth it because the discomfort I am experienced reminded me in a very concrete way WHY I choose each moment of every day to adhere to an eating plan which allows my body to heal. Such discomfort also serves as a reminder of how difficult it used to be to focus and function before I went gluten-free. I feel amazed and proud of my progress.

And I feel proud of you for wanting to feel your best and for being willing to make choices that will keep you on the path of healing.  To be tempted is to be human.  Give yourself a break if you weren’t perfect last week, but don’t use yesterday’s mistake as an excuse to give up on yourself or to stop making good choices.  Just use it as a reminder of WHY you choose to consume only foods that contribute to your optimum health.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Cheri

December 15, 2012

Let’s Talk Turkey

chili

 

Ever throw turkey burgers on the grill because you think they’re automatically healthier than regular burgers? Ever make turkey chili to appease a spouse who’s trying to lose weight? If you substitute ground turkey for ground beef in order to reduce the fat in your diet, but you also need to be concerned about calories, sodium, and cholesterol, you may not be making the best choice.

These days, general wisdom assumes that any white meat is healthier for you than red meat. Let’s see if a nutritional comparison supports that wisdom(1):

 

 

Ground Turkey 3oz, cooked                        Ground Beef 90% Lean 10% Fat                   Ground Beef 85% Lean 15% Fat

200 calories                                                     148 calories                                                           181 Calories

50% fat, 50% protein, 0% carbs                     51%fat, 49% protein, 0%carbs                      63%fat, 37% protein, 0%carbs

Total Fat 11.18g = 17%                                      Total Fat 8.4g=13%                                              Total Fat 12.6g=19%

    Saturated Fat 2.883 = 14%                              Saturated Fat 3.409g=17%                                Saturated Fat 4.927g=25%

Polyunsaturated Fat 2.747g                             Polyunsaturated Fat .389g                                Polyunsaturated Fat .364g

Monounsaturated Fat 4.159g                         Monounsaturated Fat 3.657g                        Monounsaturated Fat 5.506g

Cholesterol 87mg = 29%                                  Cholesterol 55mg=18%                                   Cholesterol 57mg = 19%

Sodium 91mg = 4%                                          Sodium 55 mg 2%                                             Sodium 55 mg=2%

Potassium 230mg                                              Potassium 270mg                                            Potassium 248mg

      Total Carbs 0%                                            Total Carbohydrate 0%                                      Total Carbohydrate 0%

Dietary Fiber 0g                                                Dietary Fiber 0%                                                   Dietary Fiber 0%

Sugars 0g                                                             Sugars 0G                                                                  Sugars 0G

Protein 23.27g                                                      Protein 16.8g                                                         Protein 16.25g

Vitamin A 0                                                          Vitamin A 0                                                           Vitamin A 0

Vitamin C 0                                                           Vitamin C 0                                                           Vitamin C 0

Calcium 2%                                                           Calcium 1%                                                            Calcium 1%

Iron 9%                                                                 Iron 10%                                                                 Iron 10%

The first thing you may observe is that all beef blends are not created equal.  Because the cost of leaner beef tends to be higher than either less lean beef or turkey, we must also factor in cost.  If budget is your primary concern, ground turkey is probably your best bet.

If your budget allows you to purchase leaner beef, then there are other factors to consider. Three ounces of ground turkey contains more calories and total fat grams than three ounces of 90% lean ground beef. The turkey also contains twice the sodium, a bit less iron and potassium, and 10% more cholesterol. Surprisingly, ground beef has fewer calories than turkey, but that’s partially because it has fewer grams of protein per ounce.

It seems the best conclusion we can draw is that your personal priorities will determine whether beef or turkey is healthier for you. If you need to limit sodium and cholesterol and reduce calories, choose the leanest beef you can afford. If you want to limit overall fat, then turkey is a better choice. Turkey is also a good choice when you want to increase the protein in your diet without increasing the saturated fat. Turkey will also be easier on your pocketbook…which can reduce stress…which can increase your health.

Now that you’re informed, you can enjoy your burger knowing you’ve made the very best choice for you whether you choose beef or turkey!

 

1)”Ground Turkey (Cooked).” Calories in and Nutrition Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2012. <http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/ground-turkey-(cooked)>.

December 9, 2012

Coffee – The Good, The Bad, and The Unusual

coffeeGood morning coffee lovers. If you’re awake and reading this, I’m sure you have your favorite vessel in hand and steam on your face as you read. I prefer to drink my coffee piping hot and black out of a pottery mug with no handle that fits perfectly in my hand.  Ben prefers to drink his from fine china with a razor-thin lip. This visual always strikes me as funny. Not to be missed are the great coffee related stories that abound. I have a client whose stepfather left never to return after finding a small dried-up tree frog in the china mug he insisted upon when visiting the family farm.

Anyway, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, I’m sure you have your own favorite blend, cup, mug, coffee shop, routine, or garnish. I’m also sure you love reading each new report citing the health benefits of consuming coffee: Longer Lives, Reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s, Less Skin Cancer, Increased Heart Health (before the 4th cup), and Decreased Risk of Stroke.(1) You may even feel the immediate calm I feel when the first waft of coffee aroma reaches me from the drive-through window at Starbucks.

Most mornings, I make coffee at home. I like to start with dark roasted coffee beans gleaming with oil. I want them to produce a taste that’s well balanced and not bitter. I have the press-a-lever coffee dispenser in which I fill the reservoir to 7 cups. I don’t how 7 came to be the magic number or why it persists since I usually have coffee left over and wont to land tepidly in my cup the following morning because I’ve forgotten to drain out the excess when I’m fully saturated. Nonetheless, 7 cups it is.

As coffee beans have become increasingly expensive, I have become increasingly conscious of a desire not to waste the excess. When I remember, I remove the excess dispenser contents before I leave for work. I place the coffee in a plastic container on the counter or in the refrigerator. Once I have the coffee sitting there, I need some creative ways to make use of it. Here are a few of the things I’ve successfully tried:

Using coffee to replace part of the liquid in brownies or chocolate cake. The coffee enhances and deepens the richness of the chocolate flavor.

Using as an ingredient in molasses cookies.

Deglazing a pan in which I’m cooking beef. The coffee makes a savory broth even darker and bolder.

Thinking about making Red Eye Gravy, but I rarely have ham and I don’t like gravy that much so thinking is as far as I get on this one.  On the other hand, I have used coffee as part of the liquid in a more standard brown gravy.

Using the steam and warmth of mug full of coffee to relieve sinus pain back in the days when I had allergies. (Yes, I said, “had”. Thanks to zero-gluten and Oregano Oil, this is no longer an issue.) Breathe the steam and then apply the side of the mug directly to the sinuses.

Reheating to drink as “emergency” coffee when I’ve run out of beans.

Mixing with a spice reduction, then applying to my hair to reduce the gray.

Watering herbs or houseplants that need more acid in the soil. I don’t know if this is really helpful, but it hasn’t hurt them yet and it makes me feel less wasteful.

Some of you are probably excited about a new idea that was sparked by reading these options.  Others of you may be wondering why I don’t just make less coffee. That’s a valid question, but here’s the thing – some days, I drink that much coffee. Sometimes, work unexpectedly beckons early leaving me with too little time to savor this pleasure. Another issue is that in my groggy pre-coffee state on any given morning, I can’t seem to muster the presence to determine how much I will want.

Rather than fight what feels natural, I’ve learned to expand the possibilities, make myself feel good about my decisions, and give you a few new options to consider be they good, bad, or just unusual.

 

 

(1)Brice, Mikini. “Seven Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee.” Medical Daily RSS. Medical Daily, 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.