My Sugar Reset

Last week I had a rough week. It was rough enough to affect my appetite… I didn’t eat much at all. Not that that’s a problem. Fasting is valid, after all. But it also gave my body a chance to ‘re-set’ (that’s part of the fasting science too, btw).

What happened is that I somehow grew some Willpower. Now, I know what’s good for me when it comes to food and I eat extremely well most of the time… I’ll hardly ever part with my hard earned cash for junk food. But in my hospitality job, I’ve found it much harder to stop myself. I’ve analysed the potential reasons and have come up with two: I hate waste, so throwing out the amounts of food we have to ‘by law’ (food hygiene regulations… which really stem from the litigious fears) bothers me enough to stuff a piece of something in my mouth as I tip an untouched foodstuff into the bin (like, I’m eating this for all the Starving out there who can’t). And then there’s the much more intangible, abstract and highly subjective reason: reaction to dissatisfaction & fatigue. That is, “I’m over today and I wanna go home so I’m going to eat this food I don’t need” because ….just because. There’s really no excuse. (I developed a personal theory that ‘Time at Work’ and Willpower are inversely proportional: that is to say, my Willpower decreases the further into a shift I get.)

But really, it all boils down to Self Control. And I have that in large doses in some ways, and not – it would seem – in others.

Food Fervour

veggie-dense salad

But when I lost my appetite last week, something clicked. I’ve no doubt it was borne of my negative state and my innate tendency to be “hard on myself” but I ordered myself to do that which I always want to, and try to do: cut added sweeteners from my diet. (Not that I have many anyway: only raw honey, organic maple syrup & rapadura sugar live in my house) I decided if I wanted anything sweet (and I am the biggest Sweet Tooth ever) I was only going to allow myself fruit (I am a fruit bat after all). That’s it. So the meals I ate for the couple of days were simple veggie-packed dishes – literally salads – anyway. (This was a crucial element to my ‘success’.)

I wasn’t sure how I’d go back at work. But fortunately, I was stationed on an espresso machine, so there was no direct temptation. On my lunch break however, I didn’t go anywhere near the refrigerated cabinet in the dining room: I simply pulled my homemade fare from the communal fridge and ate my healthy stuff. This was the third day since my ‘meltdown’. The next day was significantly more challenging, since I was stationed in a food outlet. Chocolate, cookies, chips staring at me all day. But….. NUH! My Willpower had well & truly kicked in. I was not going to have (added) sugars. And I have stuck to this. I knew, I know, if I make one slip, it will open the floodgates… and there’ll be no turning back.

Sugar really is addictive, science has proven this numerous times now. The Sugar v Cocaine experiment with rats is the most well-known: the rodents were allowed to self administer both sugar or cocaine from dispensers in their pens ….and they all opted for the sugar. That’s how powerful it is. (Link to PLOS source here.)

I recall one particular experience that really rammed this home to me: a friend had given me a block of Cadbury chocolate as a gift, even though I had some of my homemade raw dark chocolate in the fridge. Deciding to have “just one” row of the Cadbury, I returned to my desk. But within 3 or 4 minutes, I was back at the fridge & into the block again. This happened 3 more times. On my fourth visit to the fridge, I opted for a piece of MY chocolate (I usually make it with a very small amount of organic maple syrup)… and the craving instantly ceased. There were no more trips to the fridge.

Food Fervour

salted caramel choccies

The biggest surprise – which is not really a surprise at all – in this ‘Sugar Reset’ I’ve experienced, is the sudden and obvious aversion I now have to sugary foods. In just 3 to 4 days, I have re-sensitised my tastebuds to Sweetness. I’ve had this experience before, but each time it happens it blows you away at how intense the changes are. The first moment I noticed it this time around was when I made some ….chocolate.

I have a favourite recipe for Salted Caramel chocolate that’s sweetened only with dates (it’s a Thermomix recipe by Jo Whitton, the link to her blog Quirky Cooking is here) so I figured I’d allow myself to make some of that if I was permitting myself to eat whole fruits. But for a little variety, I also made some totally sugar free dark chocolate (literally just cacao powder & cacao butter) and created some chocolates that combined both of the flavours …like Cadbury’s ‘Top Deck’. The ‘shock’ came when I ate one of the plain Salted Caramel choccies, followed by a combined one. I preferred the latter. I preferred less sugar.

Food Fervour

a roasted pumpkin salad I found quite sweet

I noticed it in more subtle ways as well: I made vanilla custard minus the maple syrup I usually add on top of the sugar-laden vanilla paste, and it tasted just fine. I actually felt a little ill when I made roasted pumpkin soup because the sugars caramelised in that naturally sweet veggie during the cooking process, then intensified in the thick, creamy soup. I’m even eating less whole fruit. Now that’s saying something!

The truth is, to truly give up sugar, we really need to discipline ourselves and restrict ….just for a very short period of time. Your body needs the chance to de-sensitise (and you will notice the difference). Think of your body as a spoilt child… when is the right time to finally say No?

 

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Charcoal… Why Bother?

Apparently charcoal drinks are a New Thing. I know that charcoal capsules/pills have been on the market for quite sometime but I haven’t seen a drink containing it …yet. It was an article I just found on the LiveStrong website (see here) that alerted me to them and the very same article has helped to turn me right off them, before I’ve even glimpsed any in food outlets. Turned me off consuming charcoal, full stop, in fact. (But it’s fun to draw with…)
Why?
Well, it seems that one of the primary reasons to take it is because it helps to remove toxins from your body. But the problem is, it takes ‘everything’ – the Good and the Bad.
Food FervourSo apparently ‘timing’ becomes a crucial factor, and this includes ‘placement’… If the charcoal enters your system too soon after eating a nutritious meal or taking medication, all of the benefits are lost: the charcoal snatches them up and carries them away. So consider how much money you’d be throwing down the loo if you spent your bucks on a ‘nutritious’ drink in which the charcoal is a star ingredient? Purpose (entirely) Defeated. Press the flush button.
For my money, a diet high in fresh, plant-based foods will do. Apart from naturally supporting the liver in its job – detoxification – some plant foods actually help to remove toxins from your body in the course of normal digestive & absorptive processes …without kidnapping the ‘Good Stuff’ at the same time. The cruciferous (eg broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) and allium (eg onion, garlic) plant families are known to do this and the wonderful little herb coriander is also often nominated as a great toxic warrior.
Save your money, eat well and stress less: there’s your answer. Or mine. Take a look at the article and decide for yourself! 😉

The Quickest, Easiest Nutrient-Dense Meal

Don’t you just love those ads that appear on almost every website, enticing you click, to find out what “5 foods you should never eat”? It’s laughable. Oh I have gone there, never you mind. Pretty much every time you are subjected to some long-winded video that culminates in no answer but a sales pitch.

Food Fervour

A simple salad with avocado & seeds

I’m going to give you an answer for free.

The quickest, easiest, healthiest meal you can make is:

Salad.
Just salad.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m lazy. On the whole, I hate complex recipes and heaps of washing up …and I’m also impulsive: if I’m hungry, I want it NOW.
But I’m passionate about eating well, as ‘cleanly’ (where ‘clean’ means as unprocessed and free of toxins, read: organic) as possible. And since veggies are the most nutrient -dense and -varied, my aim is to get as many in each day as possible …many more than the government’s “5 per day” guideline.

Food Fervour

Rushing to work? This healthy lunchbox takes no time at all

Salads make this possible when you are limited for time.  The only equipment you need to start with is:

One chopping board, a knife & your choice of serving vessel.

(I prefer bowls, so I can toss my salad more easily without scattering bits everywhere. Oh and they hold ‘fluid’ better, should I go overboard on the dressing) That’s it. Makes for a very quick and easy clean up.

Food Fervour

My favourite salad dish is a big square bowl

Then it’s just a matter of pulling all your foodstuffs out of the fridge. A little bit of organisation will take you a long way here: to put it simply, I try to keep everything together so I don’t have to make multiple trips. (Again, time-saving. Yes okay, as well as lazy…) The veggie crisper/drawer/bin (whatever you like to call it) is good for that. Who knows… maybe it was even designed with this in mind? 😉
Since I buy a lot of produce, it usually won’t all fit in my crisper, so I use another large plastic container in which I store the overflow (I bought it YEARS ago and it still works a treat)…

Food Fervour

Next it’s chopping time. Literally, chop: roughly or finely, however you prefer. (just no fingers, please!) I’ll usually cut finely because I like more variety in one mouthful!

I tend to put green leafy stuff underneath (spinach/lettuce/rocket) unless it’s more of a garnish (basil/watercress/mint) then load in the rest and toss it all together. Seriously, MOST foods/flavours combine well. All you have to do if you’re the slightest bit uncertain, is envisage salads you may have eaten in the past, or standard salads everybody knows. For example, I’ve turned Waldorf salad – basically celery, apply & walnuts – into a nutritional giant by throwing in green leafy stuff, cucumber, mint, eshallots, snowpeas. If you are really stuck, just Google. (Or follow me on Instagram for inspiration!) Pick an ingredient you want to use, type it in with “salad recipes” behind it and Bob’s your uncle. You will find literally tonnes of recipes on the net, and you’ll also discover that many of them are quite similar. (This is one way to become familiar with food pairings: you’ll surprised how easily you’ll absorb the info you glean…)

Food Fervour

Here’s my ‘pimped up’ version of a basic Beetroot & Feta salad recipe I found on the ‘net…

 

Food Fervour

I’m so lazy that most of the time I don’t even blend the oil & vinegar, I just pour them directly onto the dish from the bottles.

‘Rabbit Food’ can be tedious, I’ll grant you, but it’s only due to a lack of imagination and experimentation. The dressing is often the key to salads’ flavour, and will definitely help those who (think they) detest veggies to consume them with more ease. The problem is, shop-bought (ready-made/processed) dressings house a lot of the nasties (including excessive amounts of sugar) we need to avoid. If you haven’t the time or inclination to Google dressing recipes (by the way, here’s 50 of them, I found just now on the ‘Food Network’ site…) the easiest thing to do is throw either fresh citrus juice or your choice of vinegar with some extra virgin olive oil into a small jar, screw on the cap, then shake vigorously. Instant ‘clean’ dressing. Voila!

Food Fervour

‘Leftover’ Lamb Salad

Another consideration for the ‘veggie-haters’ is protein. Since our meals should include some of this macronutrient anyway (lazy me prefers nuts, seeds, boiled eggs & cheeses) the addition of your favourite meat will make salads even more palatable. Obviously for time-saving purposes, you’d look at using leftovers from a previous meal… unless you also had time to cook something. In which case, you wouldn’t be needing to read this post in the first place…?

Food Fervour

‘Sweetlip’ fish on a bed of salad

So, there’s really no excuse, as far as I can see. Eating healthily really doesn’t take much more time than it would to hop in your car and head to McDonald’s. But it’s a whole world more beneficial to your Insides. Which – quite bluntly – is the only thing that matters, because it’s where pretty much all Disease originates.

So, grab a knife and get healthy… Chop-chop!

 

My Sore Throat Soother

I don’t get sick often. But I’m pleased that, becoming so well-acquainted with my body, I can now pre-empt an immune system crash. You truly need to learn to listen to your body…

I worked 22 hours over the weekend and could sense a composite energy pattern at play: I was stimulated by the social nature of the work (customer service…as well as entertaining my fellow workmates!) as well as the coffee I’d knocked back earlier in the day but then exhaustion was also discernible in some little mishaps (read: brain fog) and the loss of self discipline (poor food choices!) the further the shifts progressed. The physical ‘dead-giveaway’ was how dry my lips were, despite drinking heaps of water….

So upon waking with a sore throat in the morning, I’ve swapped out my usual cup of black tea (dehydrating caffeine) with the old lemon-water trick. But mine is a little different… because I (pretty much) always have “nutrient density” on my mind. It’s by no means an original idea to add honey and ginger to a hot lemon & water drink, for their flavour (honey tames the lemon, ginger’s fire combats the stinging throat) and health properties, but I have found that a little turmeric (one of the flavour-of-the-month ‘superfoods’) goes well too.
It actually happened by mistake: I’d been given a turmeric root that was very pale in colour (not the usual vivid yellow) so I kind of mistook it for my ginger bulb (I store them both in a container in the freezer). Luckily I didn’t use too much, and the result was quite palatable.

food fervourSo what I do is pop the kettle on boil, ‘shave’ thin slivers of frozen ginger and turmeric (more ginger than turmeric, for taste) and pop them straight into my mug. Pouring the boiled water straight in, the root spices have a little time to steep, while I collect and add half a teaspoon of (raw) honey, stirring to dissolve. Then I’ll cut and juice half a lemon, and it’s ready to drink (at quite a palatable temperature too, thanks to the ‘cold’ lemon juice) immediately.

Oh, the relief! Thing is, it tastes so good I sometimes opt for a mug of the stuff when I’m not feeling off-colour, and that certainly cannot be a bad thing! 😉

The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me. Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years, but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the still-partially-frozen Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)…. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight! 😉

A Probiotic Toastie?

Since fermenting is now the latest thing in nutrition (to support and/or feed our gut bacteria which play possibly the mightiest role in our overall health) I have tried my hand at making sauerkraut, so that I have at least one natural, clean, ready-to-eat probiotic in my fridge…besides yoghurt, of course. Sauerkraut seemed like the easiest place for a Fermentation Beginner to start. “Probiotics 101”?

My first batch kind of failed, but my second attempt was a success. The question then became what to do with it. How do you eat it? I mean, how is it incorporated it into meals? After just eating it by the spoonful from the jar for awhile (hey, I don’t have to share with anyone so it’s ok!) I discovered it paired well with avocado: its salty tang, moisture and crunchiness compliments avo’s smooth, bland texture. I later realised that I could make a very quick, very simple tasty meal with some nutritional diversity, by adding in some ‘ever-ready-to-eat’ sprouted lentils I have stored in the fridge (no dressing required, thanks to the sauerkraut).food fervour

But today, I wanted something different; something a little more complex and filling. So I went hunting on the net, and came across a few recipes for ‘Reubens’: American-style sandwiches which usually include some kind of cured meat, like pastrami or corned beef. But then I found this vegetarian one: Vegetarian Reubens with Russian Dressing and it looked like something worth adapting.

Since I like to save time & effort (read: lazy!) I went without the dressing, adding avocado instead. It’s a surprisingly quick, warm nutrient-dense meal.

I quickly sautéed the mushrooms with chopped shallots, in coconut oil, pepper & salt, then added the baby spinach, stir-frying until it wilted. Removing that from the pan, I added some more coconut oil and lay my two pieces of gluten free bread, with the avocado already mashed on top, down to “fry-toast”.

A couple of minutes later the grill was warm enough, so I transferred my bread & avocado to the grill, then heaped the mushroom-spinach mix on top of one slice and my sauerkraut over the other, before laying slices of beautiful Nimbin Natural Tasty cheese over the top of both stacks. In less than a minute in my fast, hot grill, the cheese had melted beautifully so all I had left to do was press the two toasties together and transfer to a plate before devouring.food fervour

Now there’s a meal and a half, packed with nutrients, protein, fibre, good fats and of course ….wicked, gut-loving pro-biotics. 😉

 

Welcome to My Passion

This has been a long time coming. And I mean LONG.

I didn’t realise how obsessed I was with food until I recently began looking back over diaries from my youth. I’ve always had this ‘thing’ with food. Lucky for me, my career path led me toward Health by way of the Fitness Industry. Nutrition goes hand-in-hand with fitness so my exposure to the subject deepened. I read, I researched, I experimented. But it was the brief encounter I had with something called Epigenetics that truly awakened my passion for Food, for Clean Eating, but I’ll bore you with that at another time.

Suffice to say, it’s all about Whole Food to me. I subscribe to the Low HI philosophy (credit Dr John Tickell)… Low Human Interference. The more packaged and processed a ‘food’ is, the less benefit it is to you. Fewer processes, fewer additives, fewer nutrients lost. I’m all about nutrient-density and really basic COMMON SENSE eating.

So I’m blogging to give you ideas. I’ll be excited, especially with my new best friend the Thermomix, so I hope my enthusiasm, my fervour, is infectious. But a couple of warnings: I’m blasé and lazy. I often ‘bastardise’ recipes and rarely measure anything, so if you’re hoping to follow my lead, please have patience and moreover, TRUST that whatever happens, you’ll end up eating something that is way better for you than you would get out of a packet.

Let’s do this!

Image

My sister & I chowing down on Jelly Tip ice blocks in the early 70’s. My, how much has changed.