Wholesome FoodsA Chapter by Sara Mercury
When cooking or preparing food, I prefer to use whole foods as opposed to more processed, and organic food to the non-organic. Even though not every item contained in my kitchen pantry and fridge is not always organic, I do try to incorporate organic whenever possible. (After all, let's face it ... organic is also COSTLY.)
For breads, I recommend sprout breads whenever possible, or whole grain breads. No bread in my pantry consists of anything less than 5 grams of protein, and no less than 3 grams of fibre. If a slice of bread is more than 100 calories, I won't eat but 1/2 slice per serving. I do not recommend any bread that has refined flour in it, refined sugar, or sugar added at all for that matter - no corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup added, and no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils added. I only recommend natural grains without anything artificial added whenever possible.
As for beverages, I prefer tea to coffee anymore, primarily because coffee has gone down in quality where flavour is concerned with most brands available out there. Starbucks is the best coffee I've managed to find thus far, in my opinion, that fits the bill and is worth serving to dinner guests and for my own personal morning consumption.
Both coffee and tea contain caffeine, which has its place for the health-conscious person. However, the health-conscious person ought be mindful of the health risks associated with too much caffeine in the daily diet. Caffeine, especially in larger quantities, is linked to cardiovascular problems, to include elevated blood pressure and heart arrhythmia, as well as some other less than desirable side effects like muscle tremor, headaches, electrolyte imbalances due to its diuretic properties, psychosocial problems such as irritability and moodiness.
Caffeine is most commonly used as an artificial energy source that wears off eventually, resulting in the crash and burn effect and severe fatigue. Using coffee and tea for the caffeine rush is not wise, considering that once a person comes down from the initial high, they must reach for another cup to boost their energy levels. Anything that is consumed in moderation is fine, but when it causes this kind of addiction, one must reconsider their choice for energy.
Besides, tea and coffee beverages in and of themselves are low in calories, if not calorie-free. Coffee, most especially is prepared using creams and a variety of flavours to appeal to the worldwide palette. Lattes, cappucinos, frappuchinos (the tea versions are also lattes and chai lattes) contain cream and sugar ... both of which add fat and a lot of empty calories to an otherwise healthful drink when consumed in moderation. But if consumed as an artificial energy source, coffee itself can add a lot of calories to the healthiest diet and secretly undermine any efforts to lose undesired weight.
In my own case, one day I realised just how many empty calories were going into my body on a daily basis when I counted the calories in my coffee every day. I was shocked to learn that 150 empty calories (and I was on a supposed 1200 - 1350 calorie diet back then) were being consumed every day by me, and I was only estimating the intake to be around 100! Three pots of coffee, folks ... and with a mug, 2 Splenda packets and 2 tablespoons of fat-free half-n-half ... that comes to 25 calories per mug of coffee! There are 4 mugs to an entire pot of coffee and I was drinking 2 out of every 3 pots that were made in my household per day! That comes to exactly 6 mugs of coffee at 25 calories apiece ... that's 150 calories, not 100! When you're on such a low calorie diet, 50 calories can mean the difference between continuing to lose weight, and standing still, and then eventually experiencing a slow weight gain! Fifty (50) extra calories a day translates into 1 POUND OF FAT in about 2.3 months!
When you take into consideration that a cup of black coffee with calorie-free Truvia sweetener in the place of sugar, and NO CREAMER of any kind is only about 3 to 5 calories, I could have saved myself about 120 calories per day if I dropped off the creamer and learned to like my coffee BLACK. However, long-term, that wasn't such a good idea, especially when the diuretic properties of coffee started to backfire on me. Now, I only drink two cups of coffee per day, and the rest is tea ... mostly of the decaffeinated variety, whenever possible.
Lipton still makes a very good tea here in the United States. I prefer Lipton Black Tea, Bavarian Wild Berry pyramid tea bags, made with real pieces of dried apple, blackberry, black currant, blueberry and raspberry, as well as rose hip and orange peels, ginger, licorice and chicory root, and cinnamon bark. It's not caffeine-free as far as I am able to ascertain, but it is a full-bodied tea that works wonders for mental alertness in the morning. And it tastes good too.
Here's a tip for all you wanna-be tea drinkers - if you're using a mug for your tea, you are sadly robbing yourself of the entire unique tea experience, Folks! Only coffee was designed for a mug. When it comes to tea, put the mug back on the shelf and get out that tea service that's been collecting dust in your curio. Those little tea cups are just the thing to house the perfect cup of tea ... even if you don't brew it in the pot first. Drop the tea bag into the TEA cup, pour boiling water over it, cover it with tin foil or a glass plate to allow to steep for one to five minutes, add your Truvia (or organic honey) in it, stir and enjoy!
Now, that's the perfect cuppa, Folks ... the way tea is supposed to taste! I think people miss out on the actual taste of their tea by watering it down in a mug, thinking that one tea bag is enough for the big thing! And, try adding two tea bags isn't the answer to that, either, I'm sorry to report. Been there, done that! It still does not do the trick like steeping it in a regular little tea cup. Nothing replaces the original way.
Another tea brand you will find in my pantry is Salada brand All Natural Green Tea with Red Antioxidants. It contains lycopene (found in tomatoes), Rooibos (red tea), anthocyanins and Vitamin C (half the daily requirements per cup). It's very tasty ... strawberry-orange - the perfect flavours for the morning cup of tea.
I also like Salada brand decaffeinated green tea with Purple Antioxidants (from elderberries, Rooibos, hibiscus and Vitamin C.) Also very tasty, it comes in Blueberry flavour. This tea is perfect for the evening cup of tea just prior to bedtime.
I'm also getting away from the artificial sweeteners, to include SPLENDA or sucralose. They use chlorine in the making of that stuff, and in larger quantities (like when you use it to make tea of the ICED variety where you use at least one to two cups per gallon container), does a number on your kidneys! I'm not exaggerating. I've got an enlarged kidney to prove it, Folks. So, to allow it to return to normal, I've given up Splenda and now use Truvia (steevia) no-calorie sweetener in its place. This sweetener is derived from the steevia leaf and is steeped like a tea and the liquid is then concentrated down to form a granulated powder and is sweet. I would rather use this than continue to kill my body with sucralose. And I've long since given up saccharin and aspartame. Saccharin causes cancer in larger quantities (for the purposes set forth hereinabove). Aspartame, even in small quantities causes gastritis and in some cases bowel troubles, not to mention has adverse effects upon the nervous system, so why bother? **If you see any sucralose or Splenda referred to in any of my recipes, PLEASE substitute Truvia (brand) or Stevia in the Raw (brand) no-calorie, natural sweetener in its place!**
By far, the best sweetener out there is organic honey, if you really want to know the truth. Let's get back to the basics, Folks. Our bodies need sugar for energy. Less is better than more in such substances, however. Honey has nearly three times as many calories as natural cane sugar does, but then honey also contains B vitamins that are essential for our bodies to convert our food to energy, anyway.
So, in essence, if we take a spoonful of honey, we do our bodies more of a favour than if we gave it anything else in its place! It will be more satisfied, and will help stave of hunger LONGER since we are giving it more of what it needs. Fill your body with EMPTY calories, and it will be left STARVING for more and that's usually when we experience uncontrolled hunger and food binges. That's why it's wise to stay away from crackers, biscuits (cookies), quick breads (muffins - except whole grains), refined breads and sugars, sweets (candy), doughnuts, chocolate, and breads (except whole grains and sprout breads).
Some of you may have read where chocolate has certain health benefits. This is not true in my opinion. There is simply too much sugar, corn syrup, and other hidden ingredients in commercially and privately made chocolate for it to be really that healthy for you to consume. So, forget the chocolate, and let's examine the main ingredient to chocolate for a few minutes: cocoa powder.
Cocoa and cacao beans are synonymous terms, but they're not really beans at all ... but the seeds from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree. The seeds are dried (or roasted) and then ground into a powder. The powder is then used to make chocolate, as well as brownies, cakes, fudge, puddings, pies and a whole host of other sweets and desserts, to include drinks like cold chocolate milk and hot cocoa.
But cocoa is not the same as chocolate. Chocolate contains sugar, syrups, and large, concentrated amounts of cocoa butter as a base to add flavour and texture to an otherwise very bitter, dry substance.
Cocoa butter is the good fat that is naturally found in cocoa itself. But in concentrated form, cocoa butter contains a lot of calories that accounts for most of the calories in chocolate (notwithstanding the sugar and corn syrups). Commercially-made cocoa is sold with different fat content. Some cocoa is higher in the cocoa butter fat. Most cocoa, however, is partially defatted before it's ground into the powder and put to market. Most cocoa on the market is around .5 grams of fat per tablespoon. This makes it a moderate to low-fat food when consumed in reasonable quantities.
There are many brands of cocoa powder available in the market, but they contain high amounts of harmful things like copper. For this reason, I only use Now Healthy Foods brand, Certified Organic Cocoa Powder for all my cocoa recipes. (Note that I did not say 'chocolate'.) Unlike chocolate, cocoa in its natural form is low carb and low calorie. One level tablespoon is around 10 to 14 calories.
Cocoa powder also is very rich in antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonols. Polyphenols and flavonols can be found in many of the superfruits, such as acai berries, pomegranates, cranberries ('crannies') blueberries, black cherries, and black currants, but cocoa has a much more concentrated level of these polyphenols and flavonols. Eating a serving of cocoa will give you more than three times what a serving of the dark superfruits will.
For this reason, I always have cocoa powder in my pantry and have a serving of it almost every day. It comes in handy when making my own protein snack bars!
Most of the energy bars out there are a far cry from what one could prepare at home in the privacy of their own kitchen. Some even contain too much sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup, which will spike blood sugar levels and leave you wanting to eat more of them.
Kashi makes a very good, wholesome protein bar without the high-fructose corn syrup, but you can do the same thing with a few wholsesome ingredients of your own on hand in your own kitchen.
You start out with whole grain, Folks. Certified organic brown rice cakes. Not Quaker (brand) rice and CORN cakes, but whole grain BROWN RICE cakes. Either lightly salted, or no salt added. I prefer Lundberg (brand) Certified Organic Brown Rice Cakes. That's what you start out with.
Then you take one tablespoon NOW Healthy Foods (brand) cocoa powder mixed well with a teaspoon or two of filtered water and about a cup of Steevia in the Raw (or to taste), mixed into a smooth paste. Smooth the sweetened cocoa paste evenly on the top of the rice cake. Then take two tablespoons of Ann's House (brand) Good Health Energy Blend trail mix (pumpkin kernels, almonds, dried crannies, and soy nuts) sprinkle and set the trail mix on the top in the cocoa paste and take a bite! All that for about 150 calories! It's filling, semi-sweet, and reminds you of a gourmet version of your favourite commercially sold energy bar!
Try that snack on for size after your next bout of cardio and/or weight training, alongside a cup of skim milk or almond milk and see how your body thanks you!
Peanut butter should be purchased at a health food store, or at a market where it is freshly ground PEANUTS ONLY. Most peanut butter sold at the local market has fillers in it like food starch, hydrogenated and/or partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup ... which makes peanut butter not-so healthy for you. Natural peanut butter, with nothing added but freshly ground peanuts is the only way to go! If you can find it sold this way, buy it! Natural peanut butter a good source of protein and Omega-3 fats ... both of which are essential for weight maintenance.
Do not be fooled: FAT-FREE is not always the healthiest alternative! Fat-free is good when you're reducing overall calorie content of a dish without compromising too much flavour, but if you consume too many fat-free foods on a regular basis in your diet, you might be surprised to learn that you are seriously depriving your body of the 'good fats' that are designed to keep the bad cholesterol at a minimum whilst aiding with appetite control!
In short, if you eat a virtually fat-free diet for very long, you will lose weight, but the weight you'll be losing won't all be FAT. Instead, you will be be sacrificing lean muscle mass, (which is the only way to keep the fat off), not getting enough of the micro-nutrients necessary for good health, and will be sabotaging your own appetite in the long run! Eventually, your body will get genuinely hungry and then you'll be likely to binge-eat to compensate!
That being said, back to the peanut butter issue. Natural peanut butter in moderation should not make you fat, so long as it is eaten the way it was intended to be eaten.
NOTE: PB&J sandwiches are NOT PART OF A HEALTHY DIET REGIMEN FOR ANYONE, regardless of their current fitness and or weight goals, Folks! Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches are for children, who are more metabolically active due to their growth hormones! Adults should NEVER indulge in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ... they contain too much refined sugar, too much fat and refined carbs (in the BREAD) to be healthy for any adult!
Wake up and smell the organic coffee brewing in the pot!
One peanut butter and jelly sandwich contains far more than one serving of peanut butter. Most of the sandwiches I've seen contain about three tablespoons of peanut butter, and that's a lot of peanut butter! One serving of peanut butter contains about 190 calories (2 tbsp). I recommend eating only half the serving, thereby reducing calories to around 95 per serving. If you want jam (which is the real name for 'jelly' as Americans know it to be) and bread with it - IF YOU CAN'T DO WITHOUT YOUR PB&J ... here's a more healthy alternative (that's not low in calories, but healthful all the same):
Try ONE SLICE of sprout bread (or whole grain bread of choice), one tablespoon of peanut butter (without salt, or sugar, hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils or corn syrup added) ... just natural peanut butter (you might want to purchase this at a health food store as it is nearly impossible to find at the general food markets) and two freshly cut strawberries, or about two tablespoons of fresh blueberries as an alternative to that jam! This alternative has far more nutrients for your body than any traditional PB&J sandwich!
When trying to eat more whole foods (even though for everything it's close to impossible to incorporate them everywhere, but I try), I don't leave myself with much option for variety in my diet.
Here is the idea of what kinds of foods I will probably buy at the grocery store:
*Fat-free half-n-half (not whole milk, but you know, 10 k/cals a tbsp …)
*Yoghurt cups (4 oz snack-size, carb-control. 50 k/cals each)
**Fat-free cheese slices (processed, but real cheese is too fattening, 25 k/cals per slice)
*Powerade Zero packets
**Natural almonds (100-calorie packs)
*Cocoa powder (natural and dark)
*Truvia/sucralose (trying to break free, but can't right yet)
**Apple cider vinegar (ZERO k/cals per tbsp)
**Ms. Dash (salt-free alternative)
***Natural green tea bags
*Lipton flavoured green and white teas
*Decaffeinated ground coffee (hazelnut or vanilla flavour, medium roast)
*Regular ground coffee (dark roast)
***ground spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, etc.
***Uncle Sam cereal with whole flaxseed
***Milled flax seed
*** beans (chic peas, white or red beans only)
**3 loaves of Ezekiel 4:9 loaves of organic, spouted whole-grain bread: low-glycemic sprouted grain bread (original), 7-grain, and cinnamon/raisin (all only 80 k/cals per slice)
*4 bags of frozen, asparagus stir-fry vegetables
*** frozen or fresh green beans
*** fresh grape tomatoes
*** fresh sweet potatoes
*** frozen sliced carrots (or fresh baby carrots)
*** fresh butternut squash (marrow)
*** fresh yellow squash (marrow) or frozen, sliced
*** frozen Brussels sprouts
*** frozen turnip tops
*** frozen chopped spinach (or fresh spinach)
*** frozen trinity (chopped bell peppers, onions and celery)
*** cooking oil spray (applied sparingly with a paper towel!)
*** reduced-sugar catsup (5 calories per tablespoon)
*** organic honey
*** frozen tilapia fillets or fresh/frozen Ahi tuna steaks
*2 to 3 boxes of vegan Boca Burgers
*Whole, shelled, freshly-frozen baby soybeans (edamame)
**Bag of fresh apples (palm-sized small, and if not small enough, fresh mandarin oranges)
*4 to 5 heads of leaf lettuce or 7 heads of butter lettuce
*large package of sliced white mushrooms
*items bought every week
** items bought every other week
*** items bought once per month or less (some of the frozen items stay in freezer a long time before completely consumed)
I NEVER buy FLOUR.
I NEVER buy SUGAR.
I NEVER buy CHOCOLATE. (unsweetened cocoa powder only)
I NEVER buy CANDY/SWEETS.
I NEVER buy BREAD " even whole grain. Only sprouted grain, FLOURLESS for me.
I NEVER buy CORN or CORNMEAL.
I NEVER buy MEAT … (except for low-calorie fish fillets)
I NEVER buy TINNED anything anymore, not even my formerly beloved V-8 JUICE.
I NEVER buy JUICE. (Why juice when you can eat the fruit instead? Besides, you shouldn't drink your calories … err… does coffee count, then? lol)
I NEVER buy SWEET BREADS or CAKES, or the mixes or ingredients to make them with.
I NEVER buy whole eggs anymore. Why do that when I can get all the protein I need in Egg Beaters with NO CHOLESTEROL and a lot less calories? In such a case, whole is not the most practical way to go.
I NEVER buy PREPARED MEALS. Who knows what kind of crap goes into that stuff!
My rule of thumb: If I don't know what's in it, I don't buy it! The same goes with calorie content of a food. If the calorie information is not on the package, is unclear or uncertain or questionable in any fashion, it goes back on the shelf, never to be touched by my hands again.
© 2012 Sara Mercury
Added on February 23, 2012
Last Updated on April 3, 2012
From the Kitchen of Sara Mercury
Lake City, FL
AboutHello, Darlings! I am a published author, and a legal assistant, as well as the mother of a 15-year-old son. In addition to writing novels, I enjoy singing and playing piano, writing poetry and son.. more..