Just wanna have fun!

May 3rd, 2010 by kaplods

Saturday my husband and I went geocaching with a friend (a “treasure” hunt using a handheld gps).

I needed my cane for balance, but otherwise did pretty well.   I was sore yesterday and even worse today (it always seems with new exercise, that the day after the day after is always the worst.

When it comes to exercise, I’m a lot more easily motivated when the task has a purpose (especially if the purpose is “fun”).  I have to say that as far as exercise goes, I like geocaching almost as much as bicycling, but swimming in warm water is still my all-time favorite form of exercise (our area has a warm water therapy pool, and the warm water is heaven on arthritic joints).  I’d live in the water if I could, because the break from gravity is awesome.

Tomorrow the plan is bicycling around my aparment complex (if it doesn’t storm). 





Gourmet Ginger Ale

April 9th, 2010 by kaplods

I love ginger ale.  I hate that a good diet ginger ale is so hard to find.

Tonight I had a ginger ale craving, and realized I had a hunk of ginger in the freezer and diet lemon-lime soda in the pantry.  Maybe I could improvise.

I keep ginger in the freezer, because I don’t use it often enough to use it before it shrivels.  I just use a microplane grater (no need to peel the ginger).  I don’t remember where I read the tip, but I think it was in a fancy food magazine.

I just poured the soda over ice, and grated a bit of ginger into the glass using a fine microplane grater.  I tasted it and although it was awesome, I decided I wanted a little more ginger, so I grated a little more.

If you mind the little flecks (looks like orange-ish, tan pepper), you could use ginger juice or maybe slice a piece of of the ginger and toss it in the glass with the ice cubes before pouring in the soda.

If I did that, I think I’d score the ginger slice with a knife several times in perpendicular directions, so that the piece of ginger would leach more flavor into the drink. 

Really though the grated ginger is the simplest, most economical, least wasteful and super yummy.  The fresh ginger flavor reminds me of gourmet (full-sugar)  ginger ales I’ve had.  One was from a bottled ginger ale I found in a health food store  and the other (best ginger ale ever) was from a local restaurant/microbrewery.  They make the syrup and then add plain soda water.  You can order it to taste, so I usually order it extra-light on the syrup.  Now I don’t have to.  I’ll order a diet sprite and make my own (I’m not above stashing a mini-grater and a chunk of fresh ginger in my purse – maybe they’ll get the hint and make sf versions of their rootbeer and ginger ale).

I think I’m going to try other flavors of clear soda.   Aldi and Walmart both have very good sugar free carbonated, flavored waters.  Don’t be fooled, these are really are just diet sodas without artificial colorings (but that’s at least a small bonus).  I’m thinking white grape, lime, raspberry, tangerine all might be good. 

For the lemon-lime soda, I used a cheap store brand lemon-lime soda. “Big Chill,” the IGA store brand.  I think their sugar free sodas are every bit as good as popular brands.  In fact, I think the Big Chill diet orange is the best diet orange soda on the market (better than Crush and Sunkist, I think).

You could also use club soda and sweeten to your taste, with your sweetener of choice.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.




Going back in time, and what is moderation anyway?

April 7th, 2010 by kaplods

Comments on my post reviewing “Refuse to Regain,” has gotten me thinking on the subject of nutritional history and anthropology and the  notion of moderation.

I’ve always defined moderation as “the least restrictive method that yields the intended results.”

I’ve used that exact definition for the last 20 years.  I even used it when I taught basic nutrition in community college childhood development classes.

So what is the least restrictive method that is effective?

Ah, if only there were a single correct answer to that question.  It certainly would save us all a whole lot of grief and trouble.

I think one effective strategy is to try to recreate in our lives a bit of the past.  We weren’t always the fattest nation (only getting fatter).

To a certain degree, I think most weight loss does follow the model of time-travel.  Some of us may only have to go back a few years – when there were just few fewer labor-saving devices, people got just a little more sleep, and people ate out just a little less.

But how far do you have to go back?  Five years; 10; 50; 100; 500; 2000; 5000; 10,000; 15,000 years?

As Barbara Berkely says in her book Refuse to Regain (I believe quoting another source, because I heard it long before her book came out) that if all of human existence were to be considered one day – we’ve only been eating modern foods (like grains and dairy) for about 6 minutes.

When humans switched from hunting/gathering to farming – average height fell dramatically and new or rare diseases became common in the fossil record (diseases such as tooth decay and arthritis).  As farming techniques advanced, those diseases become even more common).

But who wants to eat a “caveman diet,” even if it were proven to be the “best” diet for humans?  150 grams of fiber instead of 20 or even the 35 (which is sometimes seen as extreme advice).

There are few hunter-gatherer societies left in the world.  Not many, but a few.  Barbara Berkely references a study of New Guinea or Australian aboriginal tribesmen (born into the hunter-gathering tribes) living a modern lifestlye and suffering modern lifestyle diseases.  All the subjects had some modern illness diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure.  They were asked to return to their tribal culture for a period of time (it wasn’t terribly long, but I don’t remember if it was 6 weeks or 6 months)- and their health improved dramatically.

Does that mean that we can’t get healthier unless we live like triable peoples have for millions of years.

I don’t think so.  But I do think that “time travel backwards” is a concept that almost anyone could follow with success.  Someone with 10 lbs to lose, or someone who is at a healthy weight but has some risk factors may only have to go back to 1980, whereas someone with allergies, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, thin tooth enamel, autoimmune joint and connective tissue disease, arthritis and morbid obesity (like myself) may need to go back to the Stone Age.

Even as I’m more and more intrigued by primitive diets, I know that I cannot replicate an ancient diet in much detail.  I cannot and will not go back 15,000 years.

I could start from either end (modern foods working backward or stoneage working forward) or I could start in the middle.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my strong belief that moderation will be whichever point allows me to reach a healthy state (in weight and symptoms).

When will I end up?  1965?  1800?  20,000 BC

I don’t know yet, but I do know that 2010 is killing a lot of us.  If we don’t make some retro-style changes 2050 will be worse.

Ultimately, we can’t ever truly replicate any year.  I am not going to eat insects, so whatever humans have gained gained from eating insects I’ll have to replicate in a modified “modern” way.  Some ancestor diets recommend low-fat dairy (not a paleolithic food, but if you can digest it, it’s more palatable than eating bugs).

I’m not going to go into the wilderness and chase a deer (or let a bear chase me), but I am going to swim and walk and bicycle.

It’s not about replicating the past, it’s about recreating the results.  For the most part, eating more foods that ancestor’s would recognize and the further back the better. 

I think it boils down to making changes that are “older” in spirit, using some fairly easy basic principles.

Higher fiber is better than lower fiber (we’ve bred the fiber out of foods). 

Lower sugar is better than higher sugar (because we’ve bred sugar into our foods).

More omega 3 fats 

Less high fat dairy and other “concentrated” foods (dried fruits have more in common with candy than with fruit). 

Eating fewer processed carbohydrates.

If you have autoimmune disease, consider the possibility that you may have to “go back” further than someone without AI conditions.

Ultimately, it can all be reduced to “moderation,” if you define moderation as “the least restrictive method that is effective in achieving the results you want.”











Bananas: big bananas, little bananas, banana.com

April 4th, 2010 by kaplods

Bananas are one of the most common fruits sold in America, and in the world (some sources call it the most popular, and others say it’s as far down on the list as the third place).   They are rich in B vitamins and are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium.


 Bananas are not my favorite fruit (or even my third favorite), but I do like them, but I don’t like that the most common varieties bananas (in the USA) generally are so large that they contain two (and even sometimes three)  servings of fruit per banana.  I like to spread my fruit servings throughout the day, so that usually means eating only half a banana. 

It’s not a terrible inconvenience to cut a banana and half and put the uneaten half in the refrigeratior, and that’s usually what I do.  I just set the banana on a shelf in the fridge and when I take it out, I cut a very thin slice off the end (just because I don’t like the darkened appearance of  the cut end.   Sometimes you’ll read or hear that bananas should never be stored in the refrigeratior – that’s just not true.  Unripe bananas shouldn’t be refrigerated, because the cold stops the ripening process, but ripe bananas can be refrigerated.  The skins will turn black very quickly, but the inside will still be nice and firm for a long time in the fridge (banana.com says up to 2 weeks, but I’ve had bananas last even a longer). 

Bananas are very cheap where I live.  The Kwik Trip gas stations and convenience stores in our area sell bananas for 39 cents a pound.  According to Wikipedia, “Kwik Trip is also the only company in the region to carry Darien  bananas which have a somewhat softer/smoother texture than the conventional Dole bananas commonly found in supermarkets.”  I knew I liked the Kwik Trip’s bananas better than supermarket bananas, but until I read the wikipedia article, I didn’t know why.

I love miniature bananas (some of the miniature varieties, I really do think taste better), but I don’t love the price (up to 5 times the cost of larger bananas).  The oriental groceries in our area sell the tiny bananas at much better prices than the larger grocery stores, but I’ve never found them cheaper than $1 per pound.  I buy them occasionally as a treat, because they do taste a little different, and they’re so darned cute. 

The short and fat bananas have about 55 calories (1 fruit exchange), and the short, thin bananas are usually about 25 to 30 calories each (2 bananas = 1 fruit exchange).

When it comes to eating a banana, I usually just peel and eat.  I also slice them and put them in the freezer to add to smoothies (I love the texture frozen fruits create – almost like ice-cream). 

If you’re interested in banana recipes, I’d suggest looking online.  I have to admit that the Green Banana (plantain) and Potato salad recipe looks really good.

Plaintains are a starch/bread servings, not fruit.  They’re almost potato-like in flavor.  Like the tiny bananas, I’ve found them to be of better quality and price in asian markets, compared to supermarkets.

Also on banana.com is an interesting page on the medicinal uses for a banana from anemia to warts (and morning sickness, pms, high blood pressure, hangover, depression and other disorders in between).

So perhaps it’s actually a banana a day that will keep the doctor away.  Or maybe not, but they’re still good eatin’.


Book review: Refuse to Regain not just for maintenance

April 3rd, 2010 by kaplods

I’ve become increasingly interested in nurtritional anthropology and “ancestor diets” and research.  It’s been on my “to read” list for quite some time.  However, as the subject matter is weight maintenance and not weight loss, I was in no particular rush to read it.  However, it kept coming up in the ancestor diet reading lists, that I finally decided I’d order it from the library.

I just finished reading it, and I was really impressed.  I could relate to and/or agreed with nearly everything the author had to say.  I think I thought “I’m not sure that would work well for me,” only once or twice.  I think it may have been the first book I can truly say that about. 

I wish I’d read it sooner.  It’s entirely compatible with my current food plan, except that I had to seriously review my views on moderate use of modern foods, and on the very concept of moderation itself.  I really appreciate the advice to review every choice, asking “is it worth it.”   If I’m honest with myself that’s where I fail most often, I tend to  ask “was it worth it,” more often than “would it be worth it.” 

I was so impressed, that I took a lot of notes, and am considering buying the book as it seems like a book I’d refer to repeatedly. 

Scrambled egg with mustard green pickle, for two

March 29th, 2010 by kaplods

I recently discovered an odd (to me) treat, when I ordered a dish in a small chinese restaurant.  it was listed on the menu as “pork with mustard greens,” and  I was expecting a pork and greens stir fry.  Which is what I got, but with a twist.

The greens were pickled.  The first bite was so strange to me,and such a shock that I wasn’t sure I liked it, but with each bite I enjoyed it more and more. 

I asked the owner/cook whether she made the pickle her self, and in accented english, she laughed and told me no that she bought the pickled greens.

When I went to one of our local oriental groceries to find the pickle, I found out why the restaurant owner had laughed.  There were so many brands, sizes, and varieities of similar vegetable pickles, that I think a comparable question to an American-style restaurant would have been “do you make your own ketchup?”

I bought a couple in the smallest cans I could find (I was intimidated by the larger jars), and started looking through recipes in asian cookbooks at the library and online, and I came up with my own variation, using American style bacon rather than asian-style smoke-cured pork (which our oriental grocery had, but it was pretty expensive).

Scrambled eggs with mustard green pickle for 2

2 thin slices of bacon (or 1 thick), sliced in small slivers
4 green onions chopped (I use most of the green as well as the white)
4 eggs
1 can of mustard green pickles, drained very well (squeeze out the liquid) and if necessary chopped into uniform pieces (there were a couple big pieces in my can).
 (I used Pigeon brand “Fermented Acrid Sweet Mustard Green” The acrid, means “pungent” in this case.  It’s seasoned with chili peppers so has a little bit of a kick, but no stronger than canned green chiles.  There’s a bit of added sugar in the brine, but it’s not a sweet pickle, it’s just a little less sharp in flavor than the other similar pickles).

Drain the pickle really well.  I squeezed out as much of the liquid as I could). 

In a skillet, saute the bacon for a few minutes, then add in the green onions and cook until the bacon is almost crisp and the onions are soft.  Add the mustard greens and stir fry (it starts to smell really awesome).

Add beaten eggs and cook to your preference (scraping and stirring frequently for small curds,  less frequently for larger curds or omelet style lifting the edge and tilting the pan to make the omelette, with no stirring).

by my calculations

approximately , 240 calories 2 protein, 1 vegetable, 1 fat



Personal Blenders Rock, (Rocket, Magic Bullet…)

March 26th, 2010 by kaplods

If you’ve ever had insomnia, you’ve probably seen the tacky and overacted infomercials for the Magic Bullet personal blender.  Lame commercial, but really cool gadget, and an even cooler birthday present (Thanks Mom and Dad). 

Actually, I didn’t get the Magic Bullet, mine is the Rocket blender 17 piece personal blender system from Bella Kitchen.  

Awesome, awesome, awesome.  I’ve only tried it once, and I’m already in love.  It’s perfect for blending smoothies.  Even in a blender, protein powder doesn’t always dissolve well, which can leave a smoothie with a gritty or lumpy texture.  Not (as Alton Brown would say) Good Eats.

I was very much impressed with the Rocket.  It blended very quickly, taking only a few senconds, and the smoothie didn’t have a trace of grittiness or lumps. The entire system is very light weight, and easy to clean.  I love that there are two blades, and multiple cups, it means that the blender isn’t “out of commission” after only one use.  Rinsing the blade and you’re ready to make the next smoothie (or whatever).

Even if it only could be used for smoothies, I’d consider it a great gadget, but it’s much more versatile than that.  I suspect that I’ll have very little use for my blender, food processor, and coffee/spice grinder.

It’s also reasonably priced (the Rocket the best of the lot I’ve seen so far, retailing for only about $20).


Making food journaling easier (or at least harder to avoid)

March 16th, 2010 by kaplods

I used to keep my food and exercise journal in a standard-sized 3 ring binder, but I thought I’d use it more if I reduced it’s size to a Day Planner size to fit 8.5 x 5.5 ” paper. It helped, but I still wasn’t taking it everywhere. Sometimes I’d remember to take it to restaurants, and when dining in other people’s homes, but more often I forgot, or left it at home because it was too inconvenient or embarassing to take.

So, I’m trying something new. I shrunk down my exchange plan checklist (I used a spreadsheet program to make a little chart with boxes for each of my exchange servings under each category – protein, dairy, starch/misc carb, fruit, veggie, dairy, fat. The whole chart is about 2″ square).   I printed out a bunch of the charts (many copies to a page), then cut the charts into pages to assemble little booklets, with cardstock covers (using a tiny hole punch to punch holes in the paper and cardstock and stitched the pages together).  I had enough to make a couple booklets, each about 2″x3″.   When you open a booklet, the food checklist chart is on the left hand page, and the right hand page is blank to write on.

If I write small, I should be able to log all my food for the day. and contains pages for 28 days.

Then I used some plastic canvas and a nice sueded cotton/acrylic yarn to crochet a little “wallet” to hold the little booklet, and protect the book so that it can last me a month of carrying around in my pocket..

My plan is to keep the little journal with me, so I never have an excuse not to write down what I eat, before I eat it (even at home, I would make and eat lunch and then go record it, now I’ll have the log always immediately handy). It’ll also be less conspicuous in restaurants.

I have a short mechanical pencil to use with it. I thought about buying some micropens I saw at the OfficeMax, but I figured that a pencil was safer if the jeans ended up in the wash with the booklet and writing instrument in the pocket (hubby and I are both notorious for forgetting stuff in pockets).

It won’t replace my my Day Planner, because I’ll still want to food journal on a larger page when I have the time, because I also log things like how hungry I am, and also keep a symptom log in there. Also, I keep a lot of other neat motivational stuff in it besides the food journal, like my exercise chart and my weight loss chart (each pound lost is a square on a chart that gets a sticker. Initially I was giving myself a small reward for each 5 lbs, but then I got out of the habit.

I know it may seem more appropriate for a preschooler than a soon-to-be 44 year-old woman, but I’m willing to treat myself like a child if that’s what works.




Rats can’t count calories or keep tiny, little rat food journals

March 10th, 2010 by kaplods

Not long ago there was a research study that found that rats who drank water sweetened with aspartame ate more sweet foods when given the opportunity than rats not given the aspartame sweetened water.

This has inspired two new diet myths (that irritate me, which is why I’m writing this editorial).

1.  All artificial sweetners make you eat more sweets (or more accurately artificial sweeteners make you want to eat more sweets).

Firstly, the study was only of aspartame, so condemning all artificial sweeteners is premature – and secondly humans are not rats, and we have abilities that rats do not. Rats aren’t able to keep a food journal and set and keep a daily calorie limit.  They can’t say “I know this might make me hungrier for a short period of time, but the emotional satisfaction of having a low-calorie “sweet” dessert is worth a short period of inconveniently having to deal with a few cravings that might occur.”


2.  As a result of myth number 1, It’s better to eat “real” sugar.

This one really irritates me, because I believe in the original study, there was no sugar-water group.  The effecfts of aspartame-water was compared to plain water.  There’s no evidence at all that this “hungry for more sugar” experience doesn’t happen as much or more with real sugar, yet people are also saying that you should “eat real sugar” because artificial sweetener makes you hungrier for sweets than real sugar does (there’s been absolutely no support in the research for that claim, as far as I’m aware – in fact, quite a bit the reverse. Sugar is at least as likely to increase hunger for more sweet flavors – so eating “real” sugar probably is no better).


I an NOT saying that using artificial sweeteners is necessary to weight loss.  There’s no reason to use them if you don’t want to.  However, an advantage that humans have over rats (probably) is the ability to think about and control our actions.  A rat is unable (I think it’s reasonable to assume) to think “boy I’m starting to pack on the ounces, I’d better cut back on the munchies.”


As a human, we can count calories (or whatever we want to count, carb grams, fat grams, food exchanges, Weight Watcher’s points…), and we can follow diet plans (whether we invented them or someone else), and we can keep food logs, and diet journals to help us gauge our own success.

Unlike a rat, we can keep a food log.  We can write notes in it about how hungry we feel, what we’re craving, how we’re feeling physically …. and if we see patterns that concern us, we can take corrective action.

If aspartame gives you headaches, or you get extra hard to ignore cravings after eating Splenda-sweetened treats, you can decide for yourself whether the food is “worth the trouble.”

My food journals helped me discover that I have a reaction to wheat (that seems worst with bread, so maybe I have a secondary allergy/sensitivity to yeast or some other bread ingredient). I’m avoiding wheat, and planning on eventually getting allergy and celiac tested.

I find that on a very low-carb diet (Atkins induction level) with no sweets or sweeteners of any kind – that I am the least hungry, but I’m also the least enthused about my diet. I feel most like I’m on a diet, and do not feel I’m eating on a plan I can stick with. I also lose the most weight (still not fast, but a whole lot faster than on a high-carb diet of the same calories).

Artificial sweeteners seem to make me hungrier for sweets, and hungrier in general, but the effect seems FAR LESS intense than real carbohydrates do. If I eat something too sweet, even some fruits I find that I feel like I’m “starving” within an hour. If I eat protein with the piece of fruit, this doesn’t happen or is less bothersome.

I find that the emotional satisfaction of having sweet treats is more valuable to me than the small difference in hunger. As a human being, I can choose to ignore hunger, or satisfy it with a zero or low calorie snack.

I do find that my particular downfall is mindless eating – eating without a plan. As much value as I place on food journaling – it’s also something I find very easy to abandon. I’ll do great for a few weeks, and then get lazy.

Without a plan, I do eat more like an animal (an animal with good table manners) – letting my hunger and cravings guide my eating. When my intellect is in control, and I’m aware of what I’m eating, artificial sweeteners do not seem to affect my weight loss at all. I just can’t afford to go on “auto-pilot,” especially using artificial sweeteners, and even more so on a high-carb diet.

The expression “Are you a man, or are you a mouse?” comes to mind, or in this case “Are you a human, or are you a rat?”   The answer is clear, but living like it – isn’t always quite as simple, and yet we do always have the choice to exercise our humanity.



Cheap Cheesecake meal or dessert, $1.50

March 8th, 2010 by kaplods

A couple weeks ago, I bought a 2 lb jar of Pure Protein, Vanilla Cream flavor at Target for just under $20.00.  At 26 servings, it comes out to about 77 cents per serving/scoop.   I’m really lazy when it comes to making breakfast, and with the whey protein handy, I find I’m less likely to skip breakfast, because I always have at least enough time to stir a scoop of protein into a glass of skim milk.

This morning I decided to experiment and made a meal pudding.  It was surprisingly good.  The protein powder thickened the pudding almost to a cheesecake texture, so much so that I’m anxious to try the recipe with the cheesecake flavor sf Jello pudding.   The pudding mix I calculated at .73 per box, but I can usually find it cheaper on sale or in store brands.

This isn’t a practical recipe if you don’t have a use for whey protein.  I certainly wouldn’t run out and buy it just for this recipe, but I’m finding the whey protein handier than I expected.  My next purchase is going to be unflavored whey protein, so I can add it to more recipes to increase the protein content.

I did notice on the jello box that it said the pudding will not thicken if made with soy milk – I don’t know if soy protein would also inhibit thickening, something to consider though.

As a meal, it was very filling and a bit too rich (felt like I needed a hot cup of tea or coffee to go with it).  SO much that I think next time, I’ll divide it into at least two servings for a meal, and four servings for a dessert. 
Custard recipe

1pkg sugar free instant pudding, any flavor (I used Jellow brand white chocolate)
1 scoop (34g) whey protein powder (I used Pure Protein, Vanilla Creme flavor)
1 cup skim milk, cold

Mix all ingredients in a jar or tub (one that won’t leak when you shake it).  Shake until ingredients combine and mixture begins to thicken.

Or you can make with a hand mixer or in a food processor or blender (which would make a smoother custard, when shaken sometimes there’s a couple lumps).

Refrigerate or serve immediately.

310 calories (calorie breakdown: 7% fat, 48% carb, 44% protein)
2.5g fat
34g protein
37g carb

Exchanges: 1 dairy, 1 starch, 2 protein