Preemptive TL:DR – Please help me raise money to support the Seattle Works organization. https://seattleworks.ejoinme.org/rockstar
No matter where you go, there you are.
Preemptive TL:DR – Please help me raise money to support the Seattle Works organization. https://seattleworks.ejoinme.org/rockstar
… so very, very much. As I wrap up this month of posts leading up to today, I’m thinking of all the different Thanksgivings I’ve been lucky enough to share. From ones with extended family through middle school, to the small, simple (and relaxed!) Thanksgivings with just my parents through my college years, to the last 13 Thanksgivings spent in Omaha, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, London/Dublin, Seattle and Munich, I associate this day with the family I was born into and the families I’ve created and joined over the years.
So today I am thankful for my parents, my sister, Austin, my friends from here, from across the country and across the ocean.
And kittens. Because, come on. Kittens.
Well, that was an interesting and challenging experiment We’ve stopped a bit early, leaving the remaining challenges unmet: have at least one locally-produced food item at each meal (we do this already for the most part); go a week with no sweeteners in anything (please); and limit prepared foods to just five or six ingredients (something I’ve been trying to do since I first read over the challenges).The blog I was consulting for these ideas is not particularly original and has some issues, but I definitely responded well to having things broken down into manageable bites (literally and figuratively). We are definitely continuing to incorporate some items into our food decisions: 100% whole grain, two fruits or vegetables at each meal (that one is still hard but kind of fun). limiting fried and fast foods, not buying things with added sweeteners (or at least added artificial or highly processed sweeteners); avoiding refined oils, purchasing local/organic meat; cutting processed foods with more than five or six ingredients. Which, when it’s written out like that: duh. I don’t think any of this is surprising to people who have read anything on food and health (or, frankly, anyone who has caught the evening news over the last decade). But I think there was definitely value in challenging ourselves. It’s led us to find some awesome new items (like these super fantastically yummy corn tortillas) and forced us (well, let’s be honest, me) to confront the sheer volume of added sweeteners in our diet. We were eating healthful food before, but now we have even more tools to help us make even better decisions. Most of the time.
Oh man. No sugar for a week? That is REALLY HARD. We started the week a bit off as we learned that our salami has sugar in it. Ooof. After correcting that snack item, we moved forward. I baked some banana bread with honey (and coconut oil – yum!) so I would have some sort of baked good when the cookies at work called to me. I also made some ice cream sweetened with honey, but I also didn’t end up having dessert every night. And you know what? I survived! But it was a challenge – we had to drive to a special bakery to find bread (BREAD) that was both 100% whole grain AND had no sugar in it. Yikes. We did find a loaf at Whole Foods, but they don’t always have it, so that’s not a guarantee. We did eat out a couple of nights – once we had pizza, and it’s likely (although not guaranteed) that the sauce had some added sugar. Sunday night I broke the week’s sugar fast a bit early to make some icing for a cookie-baking get together today. Afterwards I tried out some peppermint ice cream we had in the freezer (SUGAR!) and it honestly felt way too sweet. So maybe over time I can recalibrate my taste buds.
Going forward, we’ve agreed that when we’re buying things to eat at home, no added sugar if it’s at all possible. We actually found a salami that doesn’t have sugar (yay!) or any added sweetener. And now that we know where to look for items, we can more easily cut it out. As for daily consumption, I’m still going to have sweets, but hopefully they’ll be ones I make myself. Sugar will be around, but for now my goal is no added sugar before dinner. I don’t really need a morning muffin from the café or an afternoon hot chocolate.
As for other added sweeteners, this particular challenge suggests that maple syrup and honey are the best because they are the most natural and least processed – but they are still clear that all sweeteners should be used in moderation. However, that isn’t the only concern about sweets. Another issue is how it affects your blood sugar levels, and what that does to the body long-term. It does seem to have less of an effect on blood sugar as compared to table sugar (I’ve yet to find information on how honey impacts blood sugar), but some say that it is basically just as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup. This article, for example, seems to suggest that the glycemic index evidence is debatable, and it’s as not good for you as any other sweetener. I’m a bit torn, and probably won’t seek it out, but I may experiment with it a bit in baking, since if you have to use less than sugar then you’re at least ingesting less of it.
Ugh. It’d be so much easier if I didn’t like my sweets so much! Luckily there’s lots of fresh fruit around – apples and pears especially – so I can go to that for my fix if possible.
This next week we are to avoid all refined oils. This one will be near impossible if we eat anything not made at home from fresh ingredients. But that’s a fun challenge! We’ll avoid fried foods and commercially baked goods, and look to buy things at home to replace the not good items we have now. For example, thanks to the sugar experiment, we found unsweetened ketchup. And since the mayonnaise we have has vegetable oil in it, we’ll have to find a different kind if we want to use mayonnaise in our cooking.
We may take another break after this next week as the challenge is absolutely NO sweeteners (including honey and maple syrup), and it’s Thanksgiving. I’d still like my pie!
Well, this past week was not horrible. It asked us to do what we should be doing always – stop eating when we’re full. Admittedly this would have been a more difficult challenge if we’d eaten out at our favorite Italian restaurant during the week. As it was, the only real time I found myself actively breaking the challenge was on Halloween, when I essentially ate every sweet in sight after we had to cancel our trip to NYC. It wasn’t awesome, but it happens. I found that at times I did end up eating less, although not always, which makes me think that I’m usually pretty good at stopping when I’m full, even in the face of more yumminess. Austin had much the same response.
This week, though, might be quite challenging. No sweeteners except honey and maple syrup. In anything. Which sounds simple enough, unless you eat anything, ever. Seriously – sugar is added TO EVERYTHING. It’s kind of breathtaking. And then there are the actual sweets, which anyone who knows me knows are generally part of my daily routine. So yeah, this is going to be tough. But sorely needed. I’m okay with a week without sugar. Hopefully it will turn into a healthier life, where sugar is really only around on actual special occasions. We shall see …
So, first, the easy stuff. Last week was our 100% whole grains only week and it was interesting. Really challenging, but something we’re going to try to keep up. I failed on Saturday with a ginger cookie from Whole Foods; Austin had mac and cheese at a restaurant Friday night. It’s frustratingly hard to find anything 100% whole grain if you aren’t enjoying some fresh corn tortillas or popcorn. I did make the whole spelt pumpkin muffins again so I could have a yummy breakfast treat this week, and bought a ginormous package of 100% whole wheat flour to use in all my baking this fall. Sure, there will be sugar, but there will be fiber.
This week we’re to stop eating before we feel full to give our brains some time to catch up. That is definitely a challenge for me and the flip side, only eating when actually hungry. I snack mindlessly ALL THE TIME so this should be a good, challenging week. Especially with Halloween on Wednesday. Can I avoid eating multiple pieces of candy? We shall see …
But my real focus today, most all day, has been on NYC. I miss my friends there. We’re supposed to fly out there on Thursday night, but with each shocking picture of water pouring into some new construction site or subway station, it seems less and less likely. I’m happy I no longer work the 15-hour shifts of an OEM activation (although I’ve never experienced anything like they’re working right now), but I’m still finding it hard to close the twitter window and not flip between the 49ers game and the updates on MSNBC. It seems like a pretty crazy night so I just want to say I’m thinking of you all and I hope that by mid-day Tuesday, when the second high tide has crested and fallen, the damage is worse than we imagine.
This food challenge is getting tough. We did keep up with the last week – nothing light or low fat – and we’re going to keep it up. But we’re both a bit pooped, and we are taking this week off. The next challenge is 100% whole grain, and with us travelling through Monday, Austin sick and wanting to eat Ramen and such, I just don’t want to half-ass it. I’d like us to actually make that shift for real (not just a week), and right now we are just not ready. So tonight we had whole grain pasta … and some yummy sourdough made with white flour.
Hopefully we’ll be back next week and continuing on, because for the most part, we’ve actually managed to keep up with the other changes. I’ve gotten to a point where I get really annoyed with myself when I don’t have my two fruits/veggies at each meal, and I’m much more conscious of my meat choices (and we were pretty tuned to that even before this challenge). I’m slipping up a bit with the beverages: there were A LOT of hot chocolates last week. But still no soda (diet or otherwise), and that was a habit I thought would be much harder to break.
Back next week with a plan for the challenge, I hope.
Last week we were challenged with trying two new whole foods. Austin and I discovered that while there were foods I had not tried, and foods he had not tried, there wasn’t a lot of overlap. However, we were successful with kiwi berries, which are sold in half-pint containers in the same manner as raspberries, and navy beans. It’s possible I’ve had a dish with navy beans in them, but I don’t recall. Austin prepared this amazing vegetarian chili (oh Cooks Illustrated, you never let us down) using the beans, and we’ve got leftovers for days.
A busy week full of MOSTLY successful real food choices. Week 4’s task was to avoid fast food and deep fried food. We both really had no problem avoiding fast food, but the fried food was a challenge, and one that we both accepted we would not fully meet this week. While we managed to stay away from the chips when going out for Mexican food, the mini tostada amuse bouche we were greeted with Saturday during the day was consumed (and yummy). We also partook of the plantain chips at Marjorie, a fantastic restaurant in south Capitol Hill. It’s their specialty, and frankly the kind of thing I’m not about to pass up (moderation and all). But it was a really good challenge in trying to either find substitutions for fried options at restaurants or just avoiding them.
In addition to each new challenge have also continued with the increase in fresh fruits and vegetables, limited beverages, and not making meat the big center of the meal. Local meat is hard but organic and naturally raised is the goal for us. I’m especially not entirely sorry about not always choosing ‘local’, after some interesting discussion of it in Singer’s Ethics of What We Eat.
So, this week is sort of a break. The goal is to try two new whole foods. We’ve already got one in the fridge: kiwi berries. A new fruit? SCORE! But as for the other – I’m thinking eggplant for me. I’ve complained about not liking it but I can’t actually remember ever eating it. We’ll probably need to find another one so Austin has a new choice too.
Well, we continue on with this experiment and it’s getting interesting, especially because the ‘big’ challenges are still looming. Last week was the local meat challenge: nothing that was raised further than 100 miles from where we live. Effectively that meant being vegetarians for the week. We don’t tend to cook meat at home, so that left eating out, and even eating out it was mostly vegetarian choices. We did, however, go to Local 360. Granted, their version of local is 360 mile radius, but frankly I’m okay with that. Plus, supporting such an awesome restaurant with such a cool mission was fine with us!
We both continue to keep up with the other aspects of the challenge for the most part. A couple of days it’s been more like five fruits and vegetables instead of six, but it’s definitely a very conscious effort. And during this experiment I found that a lunch of steamed zucchini topped with grated parmesan is a really fantastic meal. Add some berries on the side and that’ll hold you for a bit for sure. The drink limitations are still in effect, made easier by the pack of sparkling water we ordered that arrived last week. I’m planning to stay with that one a more permanent basis, so diet sodas are hopefully primarily gone, but I’ll definitely still be enjoying the occasional spiced cider or hot chocolate this fall. I’ve always preferred to eat rather than drink my calories, but cutting out some of the chemicals in the diet drinks is a nice change.
So, we move on to this week’s challenge: no fast food and nothing deep fried. The fast food ban isn’t really that much of a challenge for us, as other than the late night visit to Dick’s or Hot Mama’s Pizza, we don’t tend to patronize those places unless we’re on the road. But the deep fried limitation will be a bit harder. I was faced with going out to Mexican food for dinner last night, and thankfully my friend is also not partaking in fried foods so we were able to just say no chips please. If they were on the table that was going to be a test. I really love chips and salsas, but all that oil hanging on really isn’t great. Subbing in a salad to replace fries when getting a sandwich or burger will be a good choice, although not one I’ll ALWAYS follow going forward, because French fries are yummy. Which reminds me, I really want to go to Vol de Nuit when we’re in NYC in November. Mmmmm. Belgian fries.
I can, however, already tell that this is not a challenge I’m going to continue with in its entirety past this week. I think I will incorporate a little more fried food common sense into my food choices, as it’s not REALLY something I think about that much. Making sure I don’t double up on fried food in one week is probably a realistic goal past this week. And the next time we’re going to be on the road, I’m going to look to pack stuff so we don’t have to stop at a fast food restaurant.
Next week almost seems like a cheat: try at least two new whole foods. Hmmm. Maybe we can pick a grain or something? Or perhaps eggplant or spaghetti squash. That’s right, I’ve not actually eaten either of those things, but who knows! Maybe we’ll find a cool new food we like.