When too much of a good thing is bad

If you have ever been on any type of regimen to lose weight or to become healthier (which btw. are not always synonymous) you’ve probably come across the notion that as long as you eat healthily you can eat a lot and it won’t matter. I hear it all the time. I make a sugar-free cake and all of a sudden my brain thinks it’s a free for all, eat-the-whole-cake kind of a deal. But whether you use healthy sugar-free ingredients or not it’s still a cake  – if you have one too many slices it will go right into your thighs and buttocks. Why is it so hard to remember?

Food is energy and it doesn’t matter what type of food it is (perceived to be healthy or unhealthy), if you eat more than you can use, it will most certainly be stored in your body especially when you’re already carrying too much weight on your frame. If you are already super lean, then it might be a different story (more about that in a future post), but for now, let’s assume that we all have some padding we could spare.

A common misconception that fuels the if-it’s-healthy-there-is-no-limits mantra is the idea that there are healthy and unhealthy versions of sugar. Let me explain: there’s been quite a bit of stirring news in recent years about the dangers of consuming too much white sugar that now almost everybody agrees that white refined sugar is bad and should be avoided or its consumption be minimized. You’d think that this is a positive outcome, but you’d be wrong. We still crave the sweet taste so we arbitrarily decided that we will find sugar replacements or “healthy versions” of sugar. We’ve been taught that because honey is made by bees it is somehow different than white sugar and it’s even considered a healthy sweetener – how many times have you heard somebody say to have some hot water with honey when you’re sick? Honey will not only not cure your cold, but it will make you sicker by spiking your blood glucose, the same way that white sugar will.

Another fraud that we have have fallen victims of at least once in our lives is being perpetrated by the the organic food industry : think organic molasses, organic coconut sugar, even simple white sugar parades as a healthy alternative because the label reads it’s organic. This is the biggest and most successful food scam that I have ever seen – not only are you still eating sugar, you are also paying through the roof for it. A 4.4lbs pound of non-organic white sugar sells for $1.99 and 2lbs of the organic variety is $5!

Does it change your purchasing habits if you see a label that reads “Wholesome”? It must be good, right?

The list goes on… if you think you are somehow doing yourself a favour by switching from sugar to Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Coconut Palm Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup etc. you are fooling yourself. They are all metabolised by the body the same way  as sugar – in the liver – and have a glycemic index around that of white sugar – anywhere between 50 and 70. Sure, you could be harming yourself even more by consuming maltodextrin whose GI is 100, but you could also be doing much better by not fooling yourself with “healthier” versions of sugar.

Pure Canada Maple has a great little spin on their website about the benefits of consuming Maple Syrup that touts its antioxidant, mineral and vitamin content. It looks impressive enough to make me want to chug on some straight from the bottle… until I remember that it is a sugar and it will make my body go bonkers trying to deal with a surge of blood glucose, my insulin will try to lower it and redirect it into liver and muscle as glycogen and when that’s full and it will be full very quickly, it will deposit the rest on my thighs. I also looked at their little comparison table trying to convince us that the nutritional information of Maple Syrup is so much more superior to that of other sugars… until you look at the calorie and sugar content that is on par with its neighbors:

Source: Pure Canada Maple

What counts the most is the damaging sugar content in all those sweeteners – this is the deciding factor of how much these sugars are going to harm your body and in effect negate the other micronutrient content. You can get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from other sources that will not spike your blood glucose and make you fat.

This idea that there are better options of white sugar paired with the first notion that if something is healthy we can eat unlimited amounts of it, followed by the revelation that there is no such thing as healthy sugar alternatives creates an atomic bomb kind of problem. If the sugar alternatives are just as bad as white sugar (and they are) but we perceive them as better, less harmful and as a result eat more of them then we might as well have  been eating the white stuff in fear and moderation all that time and be better off for it. Now, we’re eating more of the sweet stuff and the results is we are harming ourselves more than before!

So what’s the solution? – you ask. When I first started being aware of the damaging effects of sugar on my body in 2005 what really did it for me was to get rid off all sugar altogether. I went cold turkey to heal my body and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to do that, most of us want to have the cake and eat it too. Damned be all the social media food porn that teases us with the picture perfect images of various treats! Yes, I blame the social media – when I first started using IG, I swear to my food processor, I did get dummer! I bought in to all those pretty pictures of supposedly healthy sweet alternatives and started experimenting with substitutes myself. Mind you, my substitutes were never the above mentioned sweeteners, because by then I knew better. I picked my sweeteners of choice based on their blood glucose effect, forgetting completely that it’s still the sweet taste that mattered
and whether a sweetener has calories and high GI rating or not, it is still telling our brain that sweet stuff is coming. So my vices were and still are: Pure 100% Stevia, Pure 100% Erythritol (or a blend of those two) and to a lesser extent 100% Xylitol. When I say 100% pure I mean without any bulking agents – remember you have to look at the ingredient list – if your Stevia, Erythritol or Xylitol contain bulking agents like Maltodextrin or even Sugar, you might as well just be eating straight white sugar. Those 3 sweeteners have no or very little effect on blood glucose which is good, but consuming them daily does mess with my brain. I never thought I would say this out loud – because prior to my use of these sweeteners I consumed sugar based foods only once a month – but I now believe that the sweet taste (regardless what sweetener it comes from) consumed on a daily basis makes me want to eat more than I would normally eat. And it’s not even the idea of them being calorie free, I simply get a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the treat is gone that I reach for another piece and another and another, until the feeling turns into a disappointment with myself…

All this to say that the sweet stuff is here to stay and as much as I can make sure that packaged stuff doesn’t
contain any added sugar, I can’t in my right mind say that I will never consume any sweet treats. I’d be lying to myself and you. Our weekly grocery shopping includes many items that are high carb and high sugar because other members of my family do consume them. So I am surrounded by the carbage that taunts me on a daily basis. Do I like the taste of carbs? Yes! Do I have weak
moments? Yes! And I try to deal with them by creating my own “better” recipes that don’t contain sugar. Does it work? Most times it doesn’t, because I, like everybody else, have learned to believe that the sugar replacers are somehow better and my inhibitions get lowered and self control goes out the window and before I knew it, my latest low carb creation – The Poppy Seed Cakes – was gone!

If you read this far, you probably gathered that my New Year’s Resolution is not doing as well as I would have hopped and you would be correct. Granted, I’m not having my sweet treat every
day, but when I do my sweet tooth kicks in with triple the strength and I want to eat a horse made out of chocolate 😉

So I decided to try something new – this is probably an old wives tale, but I don’t care – they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so starting today until March 18th I’m quitting Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol (the only sweeteners I’ve been using for years now) to see if my sweet cravings subside. So, no treats, no pancakes, not even once a week. I’m fed up! You should join me too and let me know how you’re doing in the comments section.

In the meantime, I leave you with the creation that became the source of inspiration for this long rant – Poppy Seed Cakes. It is, of course an all time childhood favorite turned low-carb, but I momentarily forgot that it was still a sweet treat and inhaled them quicker than the speed of light – I am not even kidding. By now, they are all gone, of course. If you think you can apply self control better than me, I highly encourage you to try them, because they were truly off the hook delicious – I guess that’s partly to blame for their disappearance 😉

I was not quite as successful as I would have liked with the icing on top, but it did add a nice sweet component, if just a bit too crunchy…

Poppy Seed Cakes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 43
  • Serving size: 30g
  • Calories: 158
  • Fat: 47
  • Saturated fat: 21
  • Unsaturated fat: 8.4
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Sugar: 2.2
  • Sodium: 70
  • Fiber: 9.8
  • Protein: 12
  • Cholesterol: 95
Recipe type: Sweet Treat
Cuisine: Low carb
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Be warned - these are to die for!
Ingredients
  • 250g Poppy Seeds
  • 4 Eggs
  • 125g Coconut oil
  • 125g Butter
  • 300g Almond Flour
  • 130g Coconut Flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1tsp Almond extract
  • Liquid Stevia to taste
  • 4tbs Truvia (spoonable)
  • 1tsp Baking powder
Instructions
  1. Poppy Seed Mixture:
  2. Bring 1 cup of Almond Milk to a boil and add your Poppy Seeds, 1tbs Truvia, Stevia and 1tsp of Almond extract.
  3. Reduce the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. When cooled off process Poppy Seeds through a grinder to break down the seeds - repeat 4-5 times.
  5. Add 2 Egg Yolks, mix well.
  6. Gently fold in 2 whipped Egg Whites into the poppy seed mixture.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Dough:
  9. Mix together in a bowl: Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, 2tbs Truvia and Baking Powder.
  10. Add 2 Eggs, melted Coconut oil and Butter and mix well.
  11. Assembly:
  12. Using silicone muffin cups line the bottom of the cup with a tablespoon of the dough, pressing with your fingers line the bottom completely.
  13. Add a tablespoon of the Poppy Seed mix.
  14. Cover the Poppy Seed mixture with another layer of the dough.
  15. Repeat until all your dough and Poppy Seed mixture is used up.
  16. Preheat the oven to 350F and bake 45 minutes or until your cups turn brown on the tops.
Notes
This recipe was originally supposed to be in a shape of a roulade called Poppy Seed Roll, but having very little experience baking with these ingredients I had to improvise quickly. When I realized that rolling this closed would pose a problem I turned the recipe into individual cakes by using silicone muffin cups. The dough would just not stick and hold together the same way traditional flour does.

Traditionally, since this recipe calls for potato starch and regular white flour it does come out being fairly dry, so my mom would make an icing to drizzle on top. She would use icing sugar with hot water to create it, but of course that's a no-no in my books. So I used a bit of Erythritol with hot water, but as you can see it did not produce a good looking icing. My recipe tester also disapproved by scraping it off. He found it too sweet. Next time I might grind Erythritol into a powder to imitate the icing sugar texture.

 

They turned out amazingly well, given the fact that it was supposed to be a roll rather than a muffin 🙂
The filling was very dense but at the same time retained a lot of moisture from Almond Milk. Traditionally, though, the recipe would call for some dry fruit such as raisins – but those are not allowed in any keto recipes. You can also add chopped nuts into the Poppy Seed mix like walnuts, but I found that I did not need to increase the fat content in this recipe due to all the Coconut oil and Butter already used, so I skipped the nuts. Maybe next time I’ll play with different versions.

 

The bottom line is : whatever you decide to be your sweetener of choice for your treats make sure you use it as a treat, not as a constant, daily component of your meals – that’s why we call them treats, because they are supposed to be infrequent.

It was me all along – book review

Ever since I said good bye to my student life I hadn’t been reading as much as I used to – back then reading was a means of getting a university degree. It was an obligation. An obligation that made left me longing to read for pleasure – books that really interested me, not just the ones from a class syllabus. So many times I’d hear myself say : “I can’t wait to create my own reading list comprised of books I want to read, not just the ones that a professor deemed necessary to read to further my knowledge.” Since I’ve finished university 8 years ago I’ve only gone as far as creating my new and improved reading list and acquiring the books, but reading was yet to happen. There was always something else to do, I would get sucked in by the social media, there would be house chores waiting to be completed or I would be too tired to keep my eyes open. It’s truly been aggravating how I am not able to find the time to read! So I’ve rejiggered my priorities and bumped up “the need to read” way above other daily hurdles. What’s more, I’ve made reading doubly beneficial by incorporating it into my gym routine :  reading + biking = learning and losing fat! What can be better!?  I’ve always liked biking, so every morning for a warm up I hop on the stationary bike at the gym for 30 minutes. For the past couple of visits, when I had unlimited amount of time, my 30 minutes turned into 50 minutes! Why? Because I have gotten so engrossed in my reading that I forgot I was actually working! So, what was the book that kept me peddling for the past week? – It was me all along by Andie Mitchell.

It was me all along
This is a screenshot of the cover of the book taken from my electronic copy of the book.

I tend to try to read books that I can learn from, so several weeks ago I went on a hunt to find some educational reading. It’s not like I didn’t have anything to read on my kindle, there is plenty there. Most things that I have started reading and never finished because the books just didn’t grab my attention that much. And honestly, I find it hard to find well written books  in the subject area that I am interested in, namely fitness and nutrition. Those books are either written by non-writers and are incoherent and full of spelling and grammar mistakes – hence are hard to follow. When I do come across a well written book on fitness and nutrition they tend to be academically heavy and don’t make for a good read to take with me on the bike. Those books, even though they are full of good information, are better read with a notepad and a pen right beside – not at all bike friendly. So I kept searching for something new and exciting until I came across “It was me all along”. I immediately thought to myself  that I didn’t want to read about somebody losing weight, so I dismissed it right of the bat. But somehow the little chubby girl from the cover of the book kept reappearing in my search results. After an umpteenth time I have given in – I read the description on the cover and I have looked up the author. It turned out she blogs about food and her dishes looked quite fetching. I still felt highly sceptical, thinking to myself that I didn’t want to spend any time reading about somebody struggling with weight and telling me what to do to lose weight. But I figured I can always just get the sample and decide later if I wanted to actually keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve devoured the sample and purchased the book. I have just finished the last few chapters on my 50 minute bike warm up before weights!

Andie Mitchell
This is a screenshot of the cover of the book taken from my electronic copy of the book. – Andie’s transformation is more than just skin deep.

Weather you are trying to lose weight or not or you are a foodie or a food blogger or even if you don’t care about all this talk about fitness, food and nutrition – this book is worth your time! It is well written with beautiful simplicity, yet does not make you feel like you are reading an amateur writer. It is simply very accessible without an amateurish air about it. It is an autobiographical account of Andie’s struggle with weight and what she did to develop heathy relationship with food and exercise. What I like the most about this book is that it is NOT preachy. Andie does not prescribe anything to her reader, she understands that we are all different and we all have different goals and what works for one person might not work for somebody else. She is very brutally honest about her own story, she is very open and raw and you never ever get the feeling like she is putting anybody down. If anything she’s hard on herself and her own actions. Reading her words feels like talking to your best friend – she is warm and charming. And I still can’t believe I enjoyed reading her story so very much – mostly because that’s not what I was searching for. I was more interested in something gym related, but boy am I glad I gave this book a try! Even though, I didn’t learn much related to building muscles from this book, I have learned so much more about the feelings of somebody who was so utterly unhappy in her own skin, the struggles she has gone through to come out on top and develop a healthy relationship with food. I don’t regret a single minute spent reading this book! And I could not recommend it more even if I was paid to do it 🙂 (which I wasn’t).

Andie does point out very valuable observations about unhealthy relationship with food and exercise that I think many of us tend to ignore or even not know about:

  • The amount of food that you eat matters most – wether it be “good” or “bad” food you still have to watch out that you don’t overeat. I have heard it way too many times – people discounting the amount of food eaten just because the food appears to be “a health food”. Just because you are eating coconut oil sautéed broccoli doesn’t mean it has no caloric value. Calories are calories, whether they come from a donut or broccoli – you can overeat on both with just as much harm done to your metabolism. Another side of this coin is that you’d have a hard time overeating on broccoli, but you get the gist.
  • Just because your friend is eating seemingly the same food doesn’t mean that you will both have the same end result. She might actually not be eating as much as you and you don’t even realize it.  
  • Your exercise of choice must be something you enjoy otherwise you will quit it sooner or later.
  • Too much and too vigorous of an exercise will make you want to eat back all the burned calories – this is a topic for a whole new post. 
  • Dieters are generally not good at eyeballing the amount of food they are eating – hence should use a scale at least at the beginning to learn portion size.
  • We tend to eat for company rather than because we are hungry. 
  • We know the how to get healthy and fit, but we are still not doing it – and that one just keeps baffling me.

So if you haven’t already I urge you to give this book a try – don’t expect any revelations, though. The only revelation in this book is that it can be done, but a 180 is needed in your attitude to food and your relationship with it. 

 

Skyr – the new best thing in your fridge

IMG_20160305_132200145_HDR-01It has come to my attention that there is a new kind of yogurt on the horizon. The kind that will make you say good bye to your regular greek yogurt. I’ve spotted it for the first time while browsing IG and thought, oh well another product, another company making money. But it kept reappearing and I’ve noticed that there is absolutely nothing bad about it – the macros sounded spectacular, it was plain and had no fat and promised to be thicker and yummier than anything else. I figured, I had nothing to lose and much to gain. So, I made sure that it is available in Canada, in fact it is carried by a very popular brand – President’s Choice that also has a reputation of being less expensive than any other brand. So, of I went on a Skyr hunt!

The first time around I was not at all successful! Even though, all the Dominion stores had a spot for their freazer shelves for the said Skyr and it was even on sale, all the spots were empty! What a disappointment! Oh well, I thought, it’s bound to be back sooner or later. So, 2 weeks later I started the same familiar hunt, just to find out that none of the cargo boats were getting through to the province and hence many products missing from the local stores. Well, now I was disappointed. Not only was my Dry Pressed Cottage Cheese gone from the shelves, this new product was not to be found either! Skyr was supposed to replace my Cottage Cheese, or at least give me some variation and I couldn’t find either! Mind you, the flavoured options were sitting happily on the shelves, it’s the plain one that was gone everywhere. And just to be clear, the last time I ate favoured yogurt was in grade 1. I don’t know about you, but I want to taste the yogurt, not somebody else’s idea of sugary sweet, artificially flavoured milk product. If I want to add punch to it, I will flavour it myself and flavour I do 🙂

Well, I’m writing a review of the product, so you are right in thinking “She must have found at least one container!” and you would be right thinking this. In fact, found it in a place that most of people I know don’t even shop, because it has a somewhat of a bad reputation of being a cheap place. I call it “a smart person’s grocery store”, the owner calls it “No Frills” – it’s the place where you can find almost everything that you would at Dominion, only at a fraction of the price. They had 4 containers, so I grabbed 3 and happily brought them home to dig in.

I will spare you the anticipation – you want it and you will never have greek yogurt again – it is that good! ItIMG_20160305_132207569_HDR-01 is velvety smooth, thick and soft like a cloud! When you open the container the smooth texture smiles at you as if to say : “Finally you have found me, now do with me as you please!” in a soft enchanting voice. With round little bumps of it sitting softly on the surface you do get the feeling that you are about to dig into a cloud, you almost don’t want to disturb it for fear you are going to destroy it. But when you do insert a spoon into it you realize there is no way to destroy this level of perfection, it’s that good!

Many people don’t like the plain flavour of yogurt for its tartness and that’s why they reach for the flavoured option, but this is about to change! This yogurt is so mild and sweet that you will not need to all the sugar loaded flavoured options! It’s a game changer! And it shows, the plain ones were all gone and the flavoured still on the shelves – if that’s not proof enough that you don’y need all the different versions of flavour, then I don’t know what would convince you. Now, if you do want to add a kick to an already marvellous flavour you certainly can. I do the following: 

IMG_20160305_132140298_HDR-01
Cloudy bubbles smiling at you and inviting you to have a taste.

 

Put your yogurt in a food processor and add the following:

1 scoop of your choice of BCAAs (I used Allmax pineapple and mango)
5-10 drops of liquid stevia
Couple of drops Pure Vanilla Extract
Couple of drops of Cream Cheese Extract
Couple of drops of Red Velvet Cake Extract for colour 
200g Light Philadelphia Cream Cheese (you can totally skip it, but it added more creaminess)

You can let your imagination be the boss and create all sorts of different flavours without any added crap. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what’s in your yogurt! 

Process on high, scrape the sides of your food processor couple of times and voilà!

 

How do I use this cream icing – I spread it on anything and everything! But mostly I use it for my overnight oats that I take to work for my breakfast!   

 

 

IMG_20160306_142855221-01
This is my daily breakfast – skyr with flavour added by yours truly, 30g of quick oats, 50g blueberries and 10g of Just Nuts peanut butter. The oats will soak up the moisture of the yogurt making them puff up and soften. Sometimes I will add some unsweetened almond milk if I want more of a runny consistency, but with this new product I was not sure yet if that was necessary and from the looks of it, it would not hurt to add 1/4 cup of some liquid.

 

IMG_20160222_103324563_HDR
You have seen this beauty before – I made this icing with Cottage Cheese, but you can just as well swap it for skyr! I swear it goes with just about anything that might need a bit of moisture!