A Calorie is a Calorie, but Food isn’t Food.

Honestly, does this look like food to you?

Toaster Schnitzel

I sometimes joke that I’m an “amateur nutritionist”. I haven’t gone to school to attain the college credentials, and I’m still nowhere near my ideal goal weight, but I’ve done a heck of a lot of reading. Reading, watching videos from conferences, documentaries on diet (yes, even the wacky ones), and listening to podcasts.

**Warning: This gets long.***

A few years ago, I learned that I operate optimally on a High-Fat-Low-Carbohydrate (LCHF) Diet.  If you want to read the sane information about it, rather than the anti-Atkins-Southbeach-Dukan propaganda, there’s a nice Swedish Doctor who can explain it in lay terms. At the most basic, while I’m not diabetic, sugar doesn’t like me. Less sugar = Less Maire = more fun. My problem is that I get sidetracked very easily.  No judging here…I’m not about to get up in anyone else’s grill about their lack of motivation in regards to their lifelong goals, so let’s extend the same courtesy to myself, shall we?

At any rate, in trying to keep myself motivated, I do more reading and video watching. I know I have food issues, so I do what I can. I keep hearing one weight loss camp saying “It’s simple. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Limit your calories and you’ll do fine!”.  The other camp says “That may have once been true, but modern science proves that a calorie is NOT a calorie.”

Do I, for one minute, believe this?  Of course not.  I don’t believe either statement.  I’m going to tell you why.

The phrase “A calorie is a calorie. Just lower your calories and you’ll do fine” usually comes at me from someone who has been exercising to the point where they require more calories to maintain a stable weight, or someone who wants their cake and cookies and is willing to practically starve to get them.  The worst offenders to this are usually the people who want me to  join them in eating food that is not in the cards for Optimal Care and Feeding of Certain Maires. To them, all I should have to do is run around the block or get on the bike or go to the gym and work it off.  Easy!  Well, it’s easy until I have a gas attack or a headache, and then *everyone* suffers 😉

So how is a calorie NOT a calorie?  Well, not all food is created equal. I’m going to apologize right here for the somewhat lengthy (2 paragraph!) explanation. The commonly ingested “foodlike substances” (as Michael Pollan would say) are high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, starch, and grains. These are all foods that spike the blood sugar, causing a surge of insulin and an eventual sugar crash. You know how this feels…you eat the food, feel a bit buzzed off dinner, and then half an hour later you’re sifting through the fridge with a case of the munchies, wondering just why you seem to have so many bottles of BBQ sauce. You then invariably wind up finding a bag of chips, mowing down an entire box of crackers (maybe with Peanut Butter if you’re feeling cheeky), or maybe dig into your chocolate stash.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what happens to me, and I’ve seen it happen to a LOT of other people.

The problem is that the insulin released as a result of the blood sugar spike stores any unused energy in your fat cells. The most convenient foods available in this day & age are high in carbohydrates, which break down into sugar in the blood stream. Guess where all that “energy” goes?  Right into the fat cells, courtesy of Mr. Insulin.  If you look at it from that perspective, a calorie ISN’T a calorie. The nature of the calories you are taking in are more readily stored as fat than burnt off, and the nature of the foods being eaten are such that they encourage you to eat more later on when you inevitably get hungry again.

My way of looking at it?  A calorie is a calorie, but food is not food. The definition of a calorie is:

cal·o·rie/ˈkal(ə)rē/

Noun:
  1. Either of two units of heat energy.
  2. The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).

So the definition of a calorie really hasn’t changed. What has?  The amount of calories per “serving” of food.  I put the quotation marks in there because a “serving” isn’t really a serving. Often, if you read the package for any given food, the “serving” size is a fraction of what the container actually holds.  Like 1/3 of a bottle of soda or half a frozen meal. It doesn’t say “Serves more than you think!” on the front…because the portion in the box (or can, or bottle) is what you’ve come to expect as a portion size. A serving of cereal is a bowlful, right?  Only if the bowl is the size of a teacup.

Have you seen those TV ads for liquid detergent?  Ultra-something, usually. Dish soap, laundry soap…it’s all concentrated so that half the cup washes the same amount of clothing, and half a squirt washes your regular load of dishes (I don’t know about you, but I always run out of bubbles long before I run out of pots & pans). In its own way, food has become ultra-concentrated.

Every  meal these days is served with bread, rice, pasta or potatoes. Sometimes with a combination of any of those items. As discussed previously, all those items can (and will!) cause a blood sugar spike. Dessert after a weekday meal is more prevalent – in fact, a lot of folks feel deprived if they don’t have a sweet after dinner. Again – blood sugar. The amount of soda-pop people drink is amazing – I’ve known folks who will polish off multiple bottles of full-sugar carbonated beverages. Juices aren’t much better. You get two or three (likely more than that, actually) times the amount of sugar than just eating an orange or an apple, but without the actual fibre from the fruit to signal that you’ve had enough – at least enough to replace a full meal.

Burgers are usually served with soda and a big serving of fries. Back in the 90’s, I used to annoy the counter staff at the McDonald’s down the street from my college by ordering what was, at that time, a “Happy Meal”: Hamburger, Small Fries, and a small Diet soda.  I was often asked if I wanted to “Supersize”, and because I was a poor art college student, I often said no.  Supersizing would have cut into my cigarette fund (and the one small box of Smarties that I allowed myself every couple of days). Once a week (maybe), I might splurge on a McDonald’s Pepperoni Pizza. I easily ran off my lunch because I could walk home from school ahead of the trolley on most days. I was almost literally half the size I am now.

(As a weird sidebar, I will mention that yes, I was half the size I am now. I would also immediately gain 20 pounds the moment I’d return home to my parents’ place. Literally within a couple of weeks. Explanation? Transit was sketchy so I was driven everywhere, and my parents liked a lot of processed foods for side dishes at the time. I went from walking everywhere and eating the bare minimum to regular meals (and the munchies that followed them) and being driven or picked up in order to “save time”. I will also point out that like most art college students, I wasn’t exactly eating healthy on my own – I ate a LOT of perogies – and the vegetarian roommate that my Mum thought would be a good dietary influence on me wasn’t exactly “orthodox” in her dietary beliefs.)

Nowadays it’s difficult to get the smallest fries in the little paper sleeve. I’m pretty sure that the last time I asked for a small, I was given a “medium” by 1990’s standards (smallest cardboard sleeve). The large is about the same as a 1990’s “Supersize”. Almost everything is bundled so that it’s less expensive if you buy the combo. Sure, it’s cost-effective, but it’s a lot of food. To further discourage you from the small hamburger and tiny fries, they turn that into a “Special Order” and make you wait longer.  It’s not just McDonald’s that does this, though. Most of the local Family Restaurants serve one or two appetizers prior to your entree (ie: Bread sticks or biscuits and soup or salad), but also encourage you to order (or try for free!) an alcoholic beverage and additional appetizer. The main course comes out on a huge plate, and when you’re done, you’ll obviously want one of their “gourmet” desserts (which look like the “gourmet” desserts at the Family Restaurant next door, oddly enough).

So the sizes of your meals have changed, and the side-dishes have changed. Should be easy, right? Get a doggie-bag after only eating half, and hold the pasta (or bread, rice, potatoes, etc).  That should fix it, right?  Well…no.  Because our food now contains additives that raise the calorie count. I’m always a little surprised to find that a “seasoned” chicken breast has extra calories due to the “seasoning”. Oh…and good luck trying to find a “stuffed chicken breast” that doesn’t have some form of breading on it. Add on top of that, because the size of portions has changed, we’re now expected to eat more. Who buys a Delissio (in the US, DiGiorno) pizza and only has one or two slices? Maybe the family smart enough to feed a family of 4 or 5 with it, but most people today can easily scarf down half the pizza on their own.

The shame of it is that this could be easily solved by cooking more and eating out less.  And by “eating out”, I’m including all the convenience foods you pick up at the supermarket on the way home because they were quicker than making it yourself (I will admit, however, that I make an exception to this rule for the generally plain rotisserie-cooked chickens that our Safeway offers up still warm from the ovens). The problem is that we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t cook. Either we can’t cook, or we have less time to do so.  It’s inconvenient.  Once upon a time, one member of the household worked and the other one stayed home. Nowadays, if there is a second person in the household, chances are pretty good they work too.  Most of the folks I know do some kind of shiftwork. In our house, one person is often coming home when the other is just getting geared up to leave. When we used to play a lot of video games (ie: World of Warcraft), this time was even further condensed.  What do you do?  Eat convenient food. If all you need to do is pick it up at a drive-thru, or restaurant, unwrap it and/or nuke it, then eat it…so much the better.

We lived behind a 7-11 and a pizzaria for a couple of years. I think I know of which I speak.

How do we solve this?  Well, I’m trying to cook more, and make better choices when I’m out and about.  By doing this, I find that my portions are just large enough to make me feel like I’ve eaten enough, and I don’t wind up falling into the blood sugar/insulin trap. I find that as the weight comes down, I become more active, so I wind up maybe eating a little more, but moving more as well in proportion. I also don’t wind up with any kind of cravings for sweets. Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat.

Basically…don’t rely on convenience.  Eat whole foods. Learn to cook. Learn to streamline your cooking. Take an afternoon and make lunches for the next week. Plan your dinners. Get a crock pot and learn how to use it (beware anything pre-mixed or pre-bagged, including meat, veggies, and sauce mixes). Try going low carb or paleo, or just cut out sugar. Find something you enjoy that involves moving your body. If you like aerobics or weight lifting, go to the gym. Take a walk. March in place in front of the TV.  Ride a bike.  You don’t have to dress like Lance Armstrong to ride a bicycle.

Chelsea's New Bike

This is Chelsea. She rides a bike and she doesn’t dress like Lance. She bikes practically everywhere, and looks pretty stylin’ doing it too. You could look as cool as Chelsea. She got her spiffy Linus bicycle at BikeBike in Calgary (where we got our Pashleys!)

Best things in life?

See, this is why I’m glad I took a walk last night. Because around here, you’re never sure the weather’s going to last.

Yep.  Big fluffy flakes. And before anyone asks, yes, that’s an ashtray on the deck railing. We no longer smoke, but we have friends who do – and it’s just easier to keep an ashtray handy rather than making them loiter at the front of the house looking suspicious.

While we were on our walk yesterday, we stopped by the Safeway for something to drink. I was very happy to see that Snapple now has a 0-carbohydrate “Diet” drink, for those of us looking for the occasional beverage that isn’t water or a soda.  Personally, I’m trying to cut out the soda (it has started doing ugly things to my digestion), and I generally don’t believe in buying bottled water (I’d rather think ahead and bring a reusable bottle of my own). It was really nice to see a Snapple product that fit the bill.  The one negative? Aspartame. I find that aspartame usually has an aftertaste, which is why I switched to sucralose. Luckily, the Snapple drink doesn’t seem to have that aftertaste, for which I’m thankful.

So, while it may not be the best thing in life, it’s certainly better. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, really.

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I baked! (kinda)

I took this

and turned it into this:

I’m frankly surprised it worked *at all*. You see, it’s a mix that uses yeast. Way too late, I remembered my Mum’s advice to not “kill the yeasties”, as they’re what make the dough rise. For starters, I used cold milk instead of room-temperature. Second, I used Splenda instead of sugar.  So not only did I create an poor environment for the poor things, I also starved them.  Then I forgot to add the melted butter. Either way, the group around the table appear to have liked it, particularly the person with Celiac disease. It tasted good slathered with butter, as a compliment to chili – and that was the goal.  Yay!

The husbeast has dubbed it “Cram“.

Apparently Gluten-Free breads are notorious for being awful. This turned out not-too bad. If, maybe, I’d used Sugar and Oil, it might have been even more awesome.

Toppings!

This week’s Friday Five is about food. Figures that they would do this, with Christmas coming up and all the foodness that will be coming.

What’s your favorite ice cream topping?
I really don’t have a favourite topping for my ice-cream. When I was a kid, we’d have canned peaches or pineapple, and the juice freezing into the ice cream was damn tasty. It made me really appreciate Vanilla. Nowadays, I’m just as likely to get a hot fudge sundae with peanuts. I’ve never really been much for caramel on my ice cream.  *In* my ice cream, though…that’s another story!

What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Pepperoni, hands-down. Sometimes, depending on the pizzaria, I’ll add mushrooms, sausage, and/or red onion to the mix, but pepperoni is usually the main component.

What’s your favorite thing to sprinkle cocoa powder on?
I don’t, usually. I generally find cocoa powder to be a little too bitter for it to be a garnish. However…see below 🙂

What’s your favorite thing to put whipped cream on?
What *isn’t* my favourite thing to put whipped cream on? Instead of buying the commercial, pre-whipped, pre-sweetened stuff, I just buy whipping cream and use my hand-mixer to blend it with some splenda and vanilla. Sometimes, I even add a little peppermint, or cocoa powder (see?  I told you we’d come back to this). For a low-carber, whipped cream isn’t just a topping, it can also be the dessert itself. A little goes a long way! As for my favourite thing to put whipped cream onto? I’d have to say Pumpkin Pie.

What do you like to put upon a cracker?
Peanut Butter. Oh, once in a while I’ll mix things up by putting some cheese on my cracker (provalone is nice), but on the whole, my favourite cracker topping is good old PB. A special treat for me is the sweeter, whole-grain crackers with baked brie and a bit of jam.  Yummers!

Still life…with Pocky.

More updating to come on the topic of “Things I did when I wasn’t here”, but in the meantime:

Yum!I call it “Still Life, with Pocky“.

We went out to dinner at Kinjo on Friday evening, with friends we haven’t seen for almost a year. This is normal for us, and by the end of the conversation, the guys are debating comics and making plans to tabletop RPG or somesuch thing. Maybe this coming year, we’ll actually get it together enough to do it. Either way…little fishies were eaten and enjoyed by all!  Nom nom little sushi!

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Hands off my Coffee Crisp

image

 

Someone in this household picked up discount Hallowe’en candy at the grocery store. And it’s a Coffee Crisp-heavy load. To quote the Husbeast, “I love Coffee Crisp, and I never get any for Hallowe’en”.

When I was a kid, I had to fight tooth-and-nail for Coffee Crisp and Mars. For years, I’d be absolutely positive that there would be Coffee Crisp and Mars bars in my Hallowe’en haul, but after Mum and Dad had gone through all the candy for “Safety Reasons”, there wasn’t a sign of either kind of candy bar. Apparently the “Safety Reasons” included “Confiscation of all Coffee Crisp and Mars mini chocolate bars” (Dad is the Coffee Crisp culprit. Mum likes Mars bars). In addition, they attempted to make the candy last longer by locking it away in a cupboard. I’m not sure if that was a blessing or a curse.

I have a feeling that the year my brother and I rebelled and told Mum and Dad that we would “risk it” was the year the Hallowe’en magic died for them.  What I don’t understand is this:

If Robin is able to go out and buy his own bloody Coffee Crisp mini chocolate bars, why were my parents unable to do the same thing? I love you, Mum and Dad, but stealing your kids’ mini chocolate bars instead of buying your own stash is just a wee bit more than a little twisted, don’t you think?

😉

Yip yip yip….uh huh.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in Canada (and happy Impending Thanksgiving to those of you who are south of the border). For those of you not celebrating the harvest season with some sort of poultry product, go ahead and do so.  I won’t tell!

I’m working on the holiday, so on Friday, Robin and I cooked up one of these:

Free Range Chicken, brined & roasted

And some of these:

Roasted Vegetables with Rosemary seasoning

And put together a table that looks like this:

Wine, Stuffing, Roasted veggies, Chicken, Creamed Cauliflower, Gravy.

We even enjoyed some of this (note the empty bottle):

Little James' Basket Press red table wine

And then I finished off these:

Yip yip yip yip yip uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!

Today I plan on working, and then life will return to normal, and I will enjoy the changing of the seasons that’s going on outside. I’ll also start working off all that food, because I didn’t even show you the dessert – and that’s only because I didn’t get a picture of it while it was pretty and just-heated.  We were totally stuffed. Makes me glad I’m Canadian…I have a bit of time to recover before we get geared up for Yule! 🙂

Disordered

First, before I do anything else, I’m going to show how this month’s socks are going, since I couldn’t get it together for my weekly Wednesday update. I totally blame work for this, as the rotations screw with my brain. Robin had to remind me on Thursday night that he wasn’t going to need a drive to work on Friday because that’s the first of his regular days off.  Yes, I forgot what day it was. My life has been reduced to “Am I working, yes/no, and for how many days in a row?”

Sad. But I have knitting, and that helps me stay (somewhat) balanced.

That’s a sock and almost a half. Yes, I switched back to my circulars…I found that with this particular yarn, working with my DPNs  threw off my gauge, and that’s not something I want to have happen with socks meant for someone else.  I have to take into account not only foot length, but also width, and some of the people on my knitting list have thin feet with high arches (yeah, Dad, I’m looking RIGHT at you).

Next up! This was our supper last night:

Meats, cheese, fruit, nuts and a very little bit of decadence

I suspect that the “appropriate” followup sentence after that picture *should* be “and across the country, arteries clanged shut with the thought of that meal”, but I’m one of those blatant rebels who believes the exact opposite, and have for quite a long time.

Yep, I’m finally going to talk about The Fooding.

Read moreDisordered

What was that about muffins?

I mentioned that there probably wouldn’t be any pictures of muffins on my blog right?  I lied.

image
Low-Carb Cream Cheese Muffins

I found a low-carb muffin recipe and decided to give it a whirl.  Ingredients?  Cream Cheese, Eggs, Splenda, Vanilla and cinnamon (just a little tapped on top for a bit of zest). They’re currently cooling on the counter, and I look forward to giving them a taste.  In a spot of whimsy, I decided to make half with my silicone cups, and half with my sparkly silver paper muffin cups.

Don’t get used to baked goods on the blog, though. I don’t know of a lot of low-carb baked desserts, and part of the point to going low-carb is to get off the sugar and sweets. My palate is definitely wired for sweet rather than savoury, and that’s something I’m trying to fix.

Also, I’m not a big fan of those “Look at what I baked” posts. I’d much rather see a dinner post or a lunch. While I do have vegetarian and vegan friends, and I respect their food choices, I find that most of the baked-good posts (whether it’s intended or not) smell a little bit of “look what I can eat and still remain a skinny hipster”. This is a problem that I, personally, have to deal with, as a sideways look at sugar causes me to inflate like a parade balloon. There’s definitely a post in there, and it’s one that I’m working on in my spare time. The trick will be to try and present it without bitterness or blame. My body and food issues have issues of their own!

At any rate, these little baked babies will be going in my lunch for work today, and I’ll let you know how they turn out! Next thing to figure out?  How to use these lovely apples:

Last year we only had 1 apple and someone stole it!

They came off the tree in our front yard.  There are a couple more that are still ripening that are far enough up that I don’t think the neighbours will snitch them, but I’m keeping an eye on them. My only current idea is an apple crisp from my Mum’s recipe. It’s definitely not low-carb, but I think that since these apples have spent the summer growing in a totally non-commercial environment, I can afford to make them just a little bit naughty.  I’ll likely have to combine them with a couple of grocery store apples to get the bulk I need, but definitely will be a home-grown-dominant effort. (Reminds me, I still have to bribe Lhiabelle into coming over here & “helping” with my garden…)

I felt it strangely appropriate that I knit a Yarn Harlot pattern on DPNs

Last but not least, I cast on my September socks.  Earl Grey in Trekking XXL.  Really very damn pretty, but in a manly kinda way.  Handsome?  Yes, most definitely. It will give me something to work on while I figure out how I want to do the heel on the current design socks.

Stormy Weather

We’ve been having all kinds of weird weather lately. Everything from sunny & hot to stormy with hail.  This is what I drove home in this evening. I have to admit, I had a bit of a blast plowing through all the water that was gathering on the road!

We had ourselves a bit of an outing down to Inglewood today, mostly for lunch and a visit with our friend Chelsea. Lunch was lovely…I got quite a bit of knitting done on the August sock.

Afterwards, we went to Chelsea’s, and she plied us with tea and home-made cookies.  You have no idea how absolutely yummy the cookies were! Chels is very conscious of the gluten-content of her foods, and so she tends to use non-traditional cooking methods. Sometimes the results are startlingly spectactular…but that often has to do with the fact that we’ve become such a society of convenience that we forget just how tasty “real” food can be.

Chelsea has given me permission to post up the recipe, so…here goes!  I hope that you enjoy baking them as much as we enjoyed nomming on them! 🙂

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