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Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Thoughts on Changing Your Eating Habits

Change is difficult. I tried to change my hairstyle once when I was in my early 20’s, but was met with too many, “Hey, what’s up with your hair?” comments to hang in there. I bailed and went back to old ‘do, pretending that it was all some sort of a practical joke. (This made me feel better about the laughs I received as they no longer meant that people liked my hair about as much as they did Jar Jar Binks, but instead that my practical joke was a success!)

Even those of us who experience a bit of a rush when we encounter change, typically don’t do well to change too much, too fast. We are creatures of habit, of comfort. Especially the older we get. Whether it’s because we enjoy the taste of our sacred cows (or our sacred organic vegetarian soup), or because a different road appears crowded with shadowy creatures, sometimes we’d rather just sit tight.

Sometimes, too, change can feel like drinking from a fire hydrant. Perhaps we want to change, but the task can appear so daunting, and the journey so long, that maybe we just don’t feel like we have the energy. And maybe this is how a lot of us feel when thinking about changing our eating habits.

Perhaps the Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ chips and Long Johns just taste too good! Or we don’t even know where to begin. Or maybe we know that in just a few short days we will fail, anyhow, and revert back to our old ways and so we think, “What’s the use? Why bother?”

So to encourage you, I thought I would offer up a few thoughts to consider when changing your eating habits that might help along the way.

  1. Start small – I remember the time I tried to learn to speak Spanish…all in one day. I dropped a mint to buy my Rosetta Stone (all 6 levels), I was motivated, impassioned…and a bit naïve. Big changes cannot be made in a day. They take time. So relax and start small. Change one or two meals a day. Find a few new “good for you” foods that you like and ditch some crummy ones. See how it feels, and then build on it. After all,  “Cualquier cosa es posible!”
  2.  Have grace for yourself – Life is about failure. Get over it. Unless you are willing to fail, you will never do anything worth chatting about at parties. But think kindly of yourself and don’t berate yourself when you drop the ball (that never helps…ever…ever.)…but don’t give up either. Eugene Peterson said that Life is about a “long obedience in the same direction.” Though he wasn’t talking about eating habits, it still applies. If you want to change the way you eat…head in that direction each day. And eat some apples along the way!
  3. Cheat…every now and again – While some of you may be able to go Cold Turkey, the rest of us typically find it extremely difficult and often end up swimming in guilt after we cheat (or even binge). So take a few (just a few) times a month to indulge in an old favorite, like a Chili Cheese Burrito from Taco Bell. Or a chocolate cake covered with gummy worms with a Big Mac for the filling and your name written on top with French fries. Err…then again…maybe just go with the Chili Cheese Burrito. (Seriously, though, don’t overdo it, and don’t feel guilty about it.)
  4. Rethink food – Food is fuel. It’s important that we learn to eat to live, not live to eat. Certain foods are just better fuel then others. Find the ones you like, and fuel up! 

Any other tips for changing eating habits? Leave them in the comments below.

Change is good. But it isn’t always easy. And by the way, a few months after my “practical joke” ‘do…I got bored and decided to rock another new one. The masses loved it – and I’ve been rocking it for the last 12 years. Woot woot!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Paleo Diet. Worth a Look?

My brother, Chris, is a big fan and follower of the paleo diet, and has been eating according to its guidelines for almost a year now. Though I am not a proponent of the paleo diet (I lean more towards vegetarianism or a vegan diet), I do think it is a healthy way to eat and worth a look. Here is an intriguing post he wrote about how he discovered the diet, and why he follows it. Check it out!

Do any of you follow the Paleo Diet? How do you like it? Let us know in the comments below.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Chris Falletta, Ryan’s much cooler and smarter half-brother. All kidding aside, I’m also much better looking. Ok, all kidding aside, I’m honored that Ryan asked me to “guest blog” this week. I respect Ryan tremendously for the dedication and research he puts into how he feeds himself and his family. He and I have shared many long conversations about diet and food. We agree on quite a bit. I’m going to focus on, not only that, but what we DON’T agree on. I hope you enjoy.

As it usually happened…fueled and inspired by another discussion on food with Ryan, a little over a year ago, I was doing some internet research on how to eat for optimum health and wellness. That is when I stumbled upon this interesting concept called, The Paleo Diet…otherwise known as the “caveman diet”.

As I was just about to scroll past it, down to the next link Google had provided, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a read.

I read about this “crazy” idea where I could eat any and all naturally raised beef, poultry, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I could NOT, however eat grains, beans, rice, potatoes, dairy, sugar and processed foods. WHAT?!?! No grains? But aren’t whole grains good for you? I love my morning oatmeal and my lunch sandwich will be a little messy without bread. Why would anyone choose to eat this way?

As I read on and researched further, the answer that continued to appear…because THIS is how humans were designed to eat. We are designed to eat foods found naturally that could be “hunted or gathered” and eaten without being changed from its natural state. It is written in our DNA to eat this way, much like it is natural for a lion to eat fresh meat or for a deer to eat plants and grasses. You don’t usually see deer eating a freshly killed animal, or lions eating leaves…and you most CERTAINLY don’t see either of them enjoying a buttered piece of whole grain toast.

Former research biochemist and New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet, Robb Wolf says “The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.”

That is pretty powerful stuff. Since the paleo approved foods were foods I already ate and enjoyed, to try this out all I had to do was eliminate a few things. I substituted mixed fruit, or almonds with dried cranberries for breakfast instead of cereal, toast, bagels or oatmeal. I brought leftovers to work for lunch, which now consisted of a piece of meat and vegetables rather than grabbing a burger and fries. I snack on apples, cuties, veggies and nuts, rather than getting a candy bar or bag of chips from the vending machine. I can’t forget my smoothies, which is a schmorgesborg of almond milk, orange juice, fresh spinach, avocado, carrots, apples, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, protein powder, chia seeds and flax seed.

Let me tell you guys, I’m so glad I clicked on the paleo link instead of a link to some unhealthy fad like the atkins diet, the zone diet or even (cough cough) veganism. Within one week of this experiment the first thing I noticed was the meteoric rise of my energy levels. My ten plus year habit of coffee and caffeine pills in order to simply survive each day, became obsolete. The post lunch lull disappeared immediately. I didn’t feel sickly full and bloated after I ate, a feeling that we have just assumed is how we are supposed to feel after eating. For the first time ever, I felt GREAT! I was finally beginning to understand the concept of food as fuel. Before I had been simply filling my tank, but not necessarily fueling it, much like filling your gas tank with soda. It would be full, but it would NOT be fueled. Think about it.

After 2 months of this little experiment, I noticed another surprising gem...I had lost 25 lbs. and had only gone to the gym once in that span. In fact, on the paleo lifestyle, working out a lot is discouraged. Research has shown that living for hours at the gym, 4-5 days per week does more harm than good. What is recommended is infrequent, short bursts of intense energy, like you would see in Cross Fit. Get off the treadmill people, literally and figuratively.

Perhaps the favorite benefit that I have enjoyed, a little over one year into this, is the fact that I have not been sick once since I started. I usually would suffer through 5-6 bad colds a year…not anymore.

I don’t have to count calories or even worry about portion control as it is impossible to overeat this way. Think about it like this, can you eat 4-5 chicken breasts or 4-5 heads of broccoli at one sitting? Probably not, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to eat 4-5 slices of pizza at one sitting. It has to do with starches, blood sugar and too much science for this already too long blog.

But don’t take my word for it. I urge you to research it yourself. Google the following names of people considered the foremost experts on the paleo lifestyle: Art DeVany, Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.

Try it. Give it a month or two. You don’t have to jump in 100% from day one. Slowly get acclimated to eating and living the paleo lifestyle and allow yourself the opportunity to immediately compare and contrast how you feel eating this way versus eating your old way. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Homemade Fruit and Veggie Wash

I know what you are thinking after reading my last post..."Ryan, what's the best way to clean fruits and veggies on the Dirty Dozen List?" (You may also be thinking, "Ryan, is it cool if they are dark socks?" But this post is about the former, not the latter.)

I will still eat fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list. I try to buy some of them (that I eat more frequently, like apples) organic, but our budget won't allow for me to purchase all of our fruits and veggies from organic farmers. So for the other ones, I simply make sure to wash them very thoroughly. And to do so, I use a homemade concoction, with all natural ingredients that has been shown to clean the fruits and veggies and rid them of many (though not all) of the harmful chemicals and germs found on fruits. Here is the recipe for my fruit spray:
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 1 cup of distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • the juice from half a lemon
That's it. Easy, right? Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Allow to settle (when you combine the baking soda and vinegar it will react like an 8th grade science project, so be careful and keep your eyes peeled) and then transfer to a spray bottle using a funnel or the hands of a surgeon. Apply generously to the fruit or veggie and allow to sit for five minutes. Scrub and rinse.

The "Fit" fruit and veggie cleaner also works well and can be found in most grocery stores (but will cost you more).

And to answer the other, it doesn't matter if they are dark. Don't do it!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dirty Dozen Fruits and Veggies...and of Life

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces (no pun intended) a list of what they call the dirty dozen of fruits and veggies. This is a list of the top 10 dirtiest and most pesticide-ridden fruits and veggies on the market. Certain fruits and veggies are either grown using an unusually exorbitant amount of pesticides and chemicals, or they have a softer outer shell that absorbs harmful chemicals more so than others (the banana, for example, is not on the list as its tougher outer shell protects it. Eat more bananas.). The EWG suggests that we should still eat our fruits and veggies, regardless of harmful chemicals…but that we should limit our exposure to these dirty dozen, or buy them organic (don’t waste your money on the others). So, here is the list of the EWG’s dirty dozen of fruits and veggies (ones that I try to avoid or buy organic), and as a bonus, I have also included my Dirty Dozen For Life (things I try to avoid in life, in general, and why). Enjoy.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen of Fruits and Veggies

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported) (imported fruits can sometimes have lower regulations)
  7.  Grapes (esp. imported)
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic) (in this case, it’s the domestic ones you need to be careful of)
  12. Potatoes

Ryan’s Dirty Dozen of Life…And Why

  1. 1.     Movies with nudity – come on, we’re not 13 any more (not that it was all that healthy back then). I am a happily married man, and there is only one woman I want to see nude any more…my wife.
  2. McDonald’s – Where do I begin? How about by asking us to imagine what our food industry might look like if McDonald’s never gained traction.
  3. Talkative guys at the gym – I’m sure you’re a great guy. And I am happy for you that you are getting into shape. And that’s great about your new boat. It’s just that I need to be to the office in an hour and I still need to work my core.
  4.  Fighting/Violence – like I said, we’re not 13 any more. We can talk it out. Let me buy you a latte.
  5. Being Johnny Too Cool – Johnny Too Cool’s miss half of life playing the wall, trying to impress…well, anyone. Johnny Take A Chance is much more fun to hang with.
  6. Making little kids feel bad – Little kids are fragile creatures with hearts of gold. Don’t ruin it.
  7. Exaggerating – I NEVER exaggerate! Never! Ok, well, I try really hard not to, at least.
  8. Bragging – I know this is redundant…but we’re not 13 any more. Ok, ok. But bragging really just makes others feel bad, and makes the bragger sound kind of ridiculous. Right?
  9. Socks with Sandals – No Minnesota…you are NOT exempt from this. If it’s too cold to go without socks…wear shoes!
  10. Always being busy – Life is better enjoyed when we slow down to take notice. In the West, we have become addicted to being busy, and it’s not good. Allow for boredom, silence, and reflection…it’s like water to the soul.
  11. Facebook profile pictures taken with one hand while pretending not to be looking. At least have someone else take it for you! It would seem less weird.
  12. Not OK.
  13. Staying comfortable – the world is a jungle out there. So what. Find some buddies, and machete…and go explore. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Strawberry Colada Smoothie (aka The Luscious Stalwart, aka The Pink Smoothie)

So I’ve had some feedback on the avocado smoothie and it sounds like most of you weren’t afraid to try it. I like that. I like that about you. And it sounds like you all liked it very much. (I do realize that there are probably some of you out there who did try and didn’t like it…so thanks for not mentioning it in front of everyone in the comment section. I appreciate that.)

I wanted to offer up another of my favorite smoothie recipes. This one is especially kid friendly. My kids go crazy over this one…and I bet yours will too. At my house, we call it the “Pink Smoothie,” for, well, obvious reasons. (I tried to get my kids to call it “The Luscious Stalwart”…but it just didn’t stick. So “Pink Smoothie” it is!)

1.     1 - 1 ½ cup of milk (or almond/rice milk if you don’t do dairy)
2.     ½ pineapple (core included, but not the shell)
3.     ½ cup of Coconut Cream (to taste…I like a bit less than ½ cup, but Katie likes it sweeter, so ½ cup it is!) I use Goya Cream of Coconut. Cub Foods carries it in the ethnic foods section for a bit over $2. One can lasts about three batches.  
4.     A large handful of frozen (or fresh) strawberries (you can always do more or less depending on how pink you like it.)
5.     6 ice cubes
6.     BONUS: if you have an aversion to the color pink, or simply want to add some greens, toss in a handful of spinach. You won’t be able to taste it, but you probably won’t get away with calling it the “Pink Smoothie” any longer – it turns a bit greenish. No worries, though – just revert back to calling it “The Luscious Stalwart!” It will catch on!

Pineapples come loaded with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. Plus, like so many fruits and veggies they are packed with fiber but low in fat and cholesterol. Bonus: Whenever I eat a Pineapple, I feel like I’m sitting on a beach somewhere near the equator, ankle deep in clear blue water with palm trees offering me their shade. Exotic. (Sheesh….I need to get out of Minnesota more often…)

Strawberries come with as much vitamin C as oranges do (some even claim that this little red powerhouse contains more!), plus they taste amazing!
And as for the spinach…well, it helps your muscles get bigger. Right?

If you try the “Pink Smoothie”…err, “The Luscious Stalwart” let us know how it goes in the comment section. Especially tell us how your kids liked it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I Love The Egg…And Why You Should Too!

Yes. You heard me. I love the egg. And I know what you are going to say. “Ryan, eggs are unhealthy and will raise your cholesterol, right?"

To which I would reply, “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but that way of thinking is ‘old school’ (and not the cool kind of ‘old school’…but the lame kind).”

Sure, eggs were once thought of as unhealthy and dangerous for your cholesterol, hence all of the “egg white” products that have saturated the market.

But nutritionists and doctors alike have changed their tune on the protein packed chicken dropping. And what if I told you that even Mother Teresa endorsed the egg – would you trust her? Well, fine. Obviously I don’t have Mother Teresa on record endorsing the egg. But I have the modern equivalent…Dr. Oz! Yes! Dr. Oz loves the egg, too! And he was on Oprah!

Here’s what he has to say on his website about the egg:

     “Eggs are protein powerhouses that provide 13% of your daily protein and only 4% of your daily calories. These excellent, inexpensive protein sources fight frailty. Rich in choline, they also reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Cook up a week’s worth in advance and take them with you on the go. If you’re not a fan of hard-boiled eggs, eat one a day scrambled, poached or any other way you like it.”

(Notice he said “inexpensive!” Woot woot!)

Living in Minnesota, it’s easy to find farm fresh eggs from free-range (and humanely raised chickens). I even used to visit the chickens that gave me their eggs…you know, just to thank them and give them pep talks (it greases the wheels). I would encourage you to do the same. Eggs from free-range chicks are much healthier for you and allow you to sleep soundly at night because you know those chicks are being treated right.

I eat mine scrambled each morning. I toss some chopped oregano leaves into a skillet on medium heat along with some diced bell peppers (the red ones have more Vitamin C than the green ones…but any color tastes great!). Once the eggs are good and cooked (remember, too, that like meat, eggs continue to cook even when removed from the heat source, so don’t overdo it), I toss them into a bowl with salsa, and skip cheese by adding an avocado (read my avocado smoothie post to see why I’m a fan of the avo).

So give the egg a second chance. (And don’t be afraid to eat the egg for meals other than breakfast by adding them to sandwiches, salads, soups, or even tacos!). You won’t regret it!

(Dr. Oz in no way endorses anything else written on this blog. But that’s only because he has not heard of it yet. If he had…he’d be all over it!)

How do you like your eggs? Tell us in the comments below.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

3 Foods to Eat Every Day

Hey, High School is tough.
  1. The Long John - basically a long chocolate donut with an icing filling
  2. Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ Chips
  3. Chili Cheese Burritos - from Taco Bell... 
...went my old list of three foods to eat every day. No joke. I'm not sure how I made it through high school. And no, I'm not talking about my questionable fashion statements. I mean, how I made it through the day? How I was able to think straight on such a diet? Or play sports? They should have given me an award. As a matter of fact...they still should. I should get an award for being as successful as I was given the fuel I consumed. Who eats a Long John and a glass of milk for breakfast...for several years...and stays awake and alert enough to learn anything? Me. I had sat in learning classes for learned important things to me in high school. (What? English was my 1st hour class.)

Now my list goes like this:
This is just a random image.
Any resemblance is purely coincidental.
  1. Almonds - I keep a stash of these bad boys near my desk. One handful each afternoon - a quick easy snack  that comes packed with heart healthy B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium. Plus, they help stave off hunger until your next meal time. Check out Aldi, once again, for a steal on almonds. 
  2. Blueberries - these antioxidant rich little guys also contain vitamin C. I like to buy frozen blueberries (which are frozen at peak freshness) and toss some into my morning smoothie, bowl of oatmeal or into a batch of pancakes - kids love them. Buy frozen blueberries in bulk to save some cash money.
  3. Black Beans - More B vitamins here which boost your heart health. You can also find protein, calcium, iron and fiber in black beans. If I am honest...I don't get black beans into my diet every day. But I look for inexpensive canned soups that contain black beans (and low amounts of sodium), or I'll buy a can of black beans and add them to a dip, or to any hot dish...and you know how Minnesotans love the hot dish. If you have some Bear Grylls in you, you could always grow your own black beans. By the way, go easy on introducing beans into your daily diet...for obvious reasons. After a while, though, you should be fine. 
I am going to go make a few phone calls and get someone on that award of mine. I think we should come up with a name for it first, though. Leave some Award Name ideas in the comment section below. The winning submission will get a mention in my next post...which is like winning your own award. Trust me, it is. You will feel proud.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thank You, Flight Attendant Friend for Your Delectable Green Tea!

A couple of years ago I flew on a China Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Taipei. It was a long flight, so after a few mediocre airplane movies (this was pre-TV-in-the-back-of-the-seat-in-front-of-you, so I had to watch a miniature TV set that hung in the corner just about the restroom) I decided to catch some shut-eye. I found an entire 5-seat row to stretch out in and built my nest. A few pillows and one blanket later, and I began to drift off.
That is, until I met her.
My eyes had just closed when she abruptly shook me back awake with the words, “Would you like some tea?” This must be a dream, I insisted to myself. This can’t possibly be a flight attendant walking down the aisles with a pot of hot green tea, coming to shake me awake and ask me if I would like some. Not possible. Not as I have quite obviously cocooned myself in a blanket looking to cash out for the night.
But as I cracked open one of my eyelids…I saw her smiling face and pot of tea. What could I do?
“Sure,” I replied, masking my frustration. And I took her shot-glass-sized cup of green elixir. (At least they could have offered me the adult size.)  I quickly drank it down and crawled back into my den.
What happened next, I can’t really explain, except to say that my Green Tea friend returned five more times that night to interrupt my slumber. It was as if I had an illness, and her teapot held the remedy, and she would not let me rest until she cured me.
But after cup number two…I didn’t really mind her interruptions. In fact, with every footstep I heard that night passing my row, I anxiously crawled out from my dizzying coma to see if it was her. She had me hooked.
And nine years later, I have not stopped drinking green tea. I wish I could thank my flight attendant friend. Thank her for getting me addicted to one of the most healthy libations known to humans.  
The health benefits of green tea are well documented. Scientists have discovered that green tea comes charged with antioxidants called catechins which can repair your ailing immune system and help in the prevention of certain cancers (grapes, berries, red wine and dark chocolate also contain such powerful antioxidants). Scientists have also recently suggested that green tea helps stave off dementia, and fights bad breath. Who doesn’t love that? I’ll take more years of cognitive clarity and some fresh breath, please!
Plus, drinking a glass of (any) warm liquid tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full – so try a glass at your next snack time or the next time you think you are hungry but don’t necessarily need to eat.
So brew up some green tea for your health! You can add honey or some raw cane sugar to make it sweeter, or you can do like my Grandma does and add some cinnamon (Nice work, Grandma. Nice work.). You could even add some green tea brew to any smoothie if you like!
Here’s to you, Green Tea Flight Attendant! We salute you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sloppy Joe's Made Extra Sloppy (err..healthy) Just for You!

            Growing up I loved Sloppy Joes…maybe even a bit more so than I loved Taco Bell (Sorry, Bell). I mean, every kid loves The Sloppy Joe, right? They taste good, and they’re sloppy. Done deal. So why would I even suggest messing with such a good thing?
            Did you eat Sloppy Joe’s as a kid? If so, tell us about it in the comments below.
            Well a few years ago my family and I decided to eat much less meat, and really to only eat a specific type of meat if we did. We wanted to avoid meats raised on industrial farms that often inject the animals with an amalgam of harmful chemicals, and usually confine the animals in uncomfortably cramped spaces. As you may guess, these kinds of meats, though much healthier for the body and sustainable for farming, cost significantly more. But we had already decided to eat much less of it which helped defer the cost. We also began to keep a look out for good, healthy, and easy meat substitutes. And thanks to our vegan friends, Summer and Cory, we found one for the Sloppy Joe!
            Instead of ground beef, we use a product called Tempeh that contains little fat, but much protein. Tempeh is a veritable mess of crazy healthy ingredients that you can eat a hundred different ways! The kind we buy from Trader Joe's is made from soybeans, water, brown rice, barley, and millet. Now, I know what you’re thinking…and no, we don’t feed it to our neighbor’s rabbit…or bird. But we do feed it to their dog who frequently makes fun of vegans. He thinks it’s his dog food. Sucker.
Here’s how we make the Sloppy Joes!
1.     In a large skillet on medium heat, brown the Tempeh in a frying pan on the stove, like you would the ground beef (we typically use 1 lb of it for a family of six).
2.     Add your favorite sloppy joe mix to the pan and stir until desired temperature is reached.
3.     Serve on whole wheat buns (to make sure you are eating whole wheat buns, read the ingredient list on the package. The first ingredient should begin with “Whole…” or “100% Whole…” If it says “Enriched,” it is not truly whole wheat).
A note on the sloppy joe mix: I intentionally left this part open for you to decide which kind of sloppy joe mix to use. We originally tried to make our own mix from fresh tomatoes and other ingredients, but our kids didn’t like it because we were messing with the Sloppy Joe too much. It was tough to fool them that these were, in fact, Sloppy Joes – the same thing they had eaten just a month earlier. They didn’t even taste the same, so they didn’t buy it. So we, instead, used the Tempeh with our old family favorite Sloppy Joe mix from the grocery store, and they were hooked! We consider this a happy medium, even though store bought mix isn’t as healthy as homemade mix (but it is less expensive, and not unhealthy).  
            You can serve the Sloppy Joes with sweet potato fries (which I will post about on Wednesday or Friday), and some red grapes – a great summer dish!
            Oh, and be sure to lather on the mix if your family likes them extra sloppy! If you don’t like them extra sloppy, well then…what’s wrong with you!? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Another Pro Athlete Goes Vegan...Should We?

Vegan Arian Foster
(Bonus weekend post! I will do weekend posts when/if I find something interesting to share...such as this! Otherwise, see you Monday!)
ArianFoster, prominent running back for the Houston Texans and millionaire (yes, his being a millionaire is relevant), recently announced his decision to go vegan. It caught my attention because I have read quite a bit about the health benefits of leaving meat and other animals based products out of my diet (vegans eat absolutely nothing made from animals or animal by products – no beef, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, or even honey). I have toyed with the idea myself, as it certainly fits within my three rules of eating – see my post from yesterday), but have not committed 100% yet. It got me wondering…
Tony Gonzalez
A few Christmas's ago Katie (my beautiful wife) bought me Tony Gonzalez's book The All-Pro Diet. Tony Gonzalez, Pro NFL football player since 1997, eats a strictly vegan diet and is in impeccable shape (see for yourself),  frequently contributing to his football teams. I enjoyed his book, which contained recipes, workout routines and some other life tips (which I enjoyed the least, probably as they were a bit trite), but couldn't help but immediately notice the extravagant and pricey food items in his recipes.  And I wondered if his decision to go vegan had something to do with some of these items (vegan approved food items can be more expensive - but not always. I have found some gems...including Monday's upcoming Sloppy Joe recipe). 
  I think I would like to go vegan. But I haven’t. I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but I am a long way from being a vegan (I eat free range chickens humanely raised without drugs, and the eggs they produce. And I love honey in my oatmeal.). I think it’s partially due to the cost of going vegan. It’s a bit easier for guys like Tony Gonzalez and Arian Foster to float that kind of grocery bill…but not so much for others of us. But I wonder if there are other, subterranean reasons I haven’t gone vegan. Maybe I’m lazy. Perhaps I don’t really trust that eliminating meat altogether from my diet is the best thing. Who knows?
What about you? Are you vegan? Would you like to go vegan? Why or why not? 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rules for Eating (and nod to the sour cream caulk gun!)

    (Hey blog readers! Just FYI - I will have a new post for you to read each Monday, Wednesday and Friday! If you are enjoying the blog, subscribe to it by becoming a member on the right, or by email at the top. Hope you enjoy!)      
     I used to eat at Taco Bell all the time. It was great. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy boiled meat and dubious nacho cheese that never hardens? Mmmm. I did. And what about that sour cream caulking gun? Ingenious, right?

“Excuse me, Ma’am. Could you please caulk me some more sour cream? I didn’t quite get enough the first go around.”  
“No problem, Ryan. Because of our sour cream caulking gun, that will only take me about 2.5 seconds to add some more.”
I’d love to go back in time and meet the enterprising youngster who thought of putting a tube of sour cream into a caulking gun, instead of, I don’t know, caulk!
But this post isn’t really about the sour cream caulking gun…or anything else we could throw into a caulking gun (leave any ideas you have for the caulking gun in the comments below!), it’s about why I stopped eating at Taco Bell.
For that, I’d like to thank, at least partially, journalist and food activist Michael Pollan who wrote (among many other things) a brief little treatise called “Food Rules” which is worth the afternoon it takes to read it (and the few bucks to buy it). In it, he describes his rules for eating, including a three-rule rubric that I have adopted as my own:
  1. Eat real food (sorry, dubious nacho cheese that never hardens)
  2.  Mostly plants (he champions a mostly vegetarian diet for health and humanitarian reasons…as do I. I will post recipe ideas for healthy, meat substitutes in later posts...keep your eyes peeled!)
  3.  Not too much (Chipotle Mexican Grill gets an exemption on this one…only because it is just too delicious. I would have no problems breaking this rule if I suddenly discovered 3 Chipotle burritos sitting in front of me. If I’m going down…I’m going down swinging! Chipotle!)

It’s by these three rules that I eat, anymore. The difficult reality, however, is that eating by the first two rules raises the cost of your shopping bill, at least some. And while it truly is unavoidable, my hope is to bring you less expensive options that fit within these rules and that won’t break the bank. Next Monday I will be posting a great recipe that will replace your mundane (and probably not so healthy) Sloppy Joe brew - that kids will also love! So don’t be discouraged, because hey, at least rule #3 helps keep the bill down all by itself!
            Long live the condiment caulking gun!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Who Wants a Delicious Avocado Smoothie?

           One morning, about a year ago, I was craving a nutrient dense, calcium rich drink that looked like melted green snow and tasted sort of like ice cream – true story. This craving gave birth to renowned Braley Avocado Smoothie. Now I must pay tribute – this simple hydrating brew was the brainchild of my friend Pete…but I might add that it was yours truly who perfected it. (But I do tip my hat to Pete each time I blend the green snow drink.)
            Before I list the ingredients and let you read about the health benefits, I must warn you that at first glance this smoothie appears dubious. You might dodge a drink of it with excuses like, “Oh, I’m not really thirsty” or “Uh, it’s green” or even “No way that tastes like ice cream.” Well, my friends, look again. Nay, don’t look. Just drink. Close your eyes if you have to. Pretend it’s…well pretend it’s green snow that tastes like ice cream. Or if that description weirds you out a little…close your eyes and pretend you’re overpaying for a delectable Orange Julius.
            Without further adu, the Braley Avocado Smoothie:
  • ·      1.5 cups of milk (if you are lactose intolerant, or have a few extra pennies to burn, you could use Almond Milk or Rice Milk)
  • ·      1 avocado (peeled and pitted…obviously)
  • ·      1.5 tablespoons of honey, or to taste (or again, if you have a few extra pennies…use 1 tbsp of Agave Nectar which has a low glycemic index which means that when consumed, it doesn’t cause a sharp rise or fall in the blood sugar. Seriously. Google it. And then buy it at Costco, Wal-Mart, or online where it’s the cheapest respectively.)
  • ·       1 teaspoon of vanilla (go ahead, use the imitation vanilla. I do. The real stuff is way too pompous. Sorry, Grandma.)
  • ·      6 ice cubes
  • ·      Bonus Item: ½ to 1 whole banana. You can take or leave the banana. It adds an energy boost, sweetness, and bananas are relatively inexpensive.
  • ·      Combine all of these ingredients in a blender and blend for 20 seconds, depending on desired consistency. Remember, the longer you blend, the warmer the smoothie will get – so you may need to add more ice cubes.

          Now I know that Avocados can be a bit spendy…but if you read my Monday post, you will note that you can score avocados at Aldi for under buck. And the Avo is what makes this smoothie a nutritious gold mine. Avocados are high in fat…fat, by the way, doesn’t always make you fat (fat can make you fat, but not always…but we’ll explain that in a later post). You see, it’s full of healthy fats (which are GOOD for you!). Avocados also contain a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and they contain folate to boot, which improves heart health. Besides their rough outer shell that protects them from insects and poisonous chemicals while being grown (making it unnecessary to purchase organic avocados), avocados offer a colossal amount of Vitamin E. What does Vitamin E do? Who cares!? It’s a vitamin – just drink it! (Fine…it protects against myriad diseases and helps you maintain your overall health. Like I said…it’s a vitamin.)                                                                
            So, after you make your first Braley Avocado Smoothie, close your eyes, give a nod to my friend Pete, and drink down the melted green snow that tastes of ice cream. Then log back on to here and tell me how your experience was in the comment section.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Own Shopping Shangri La...Well, Sort Of...

            I grew up in Denver, Colorado, in a single parent home that survived on a tight budget. Now a tight budget often meant two things: first, not many fruits and veggies to go around; and second,  lots of made up recreational games…like the ahead of its time “Tennie-Golf.” (Tennie-Golf was basically a game of golf played around an apartment complex, any complex will do, with tennis balls and used tennis rackets – preferably rackets not to later be used for an actual tennis match). But don’t feel sorry for me – Tennie-Golf was awesome, I am still trying to have it made into a real sport. And a lack of fruits and veggies just meant that I could eat more donuts for breakfast – basically a win win for a teenager.  
            It’s no secret, fruits and veggies are good for the body. They provide myriad vitamins, nutrients, belly filling (and later belly emptying) fiber, and somehow make us feel like good parents when we get our kids to eat them. But the blockade to filling our cupboards with fruits and veggies is also no secret – cost. As an adult now, this cost often still deters us from lining our counters with fruits and vegetables. That is…until I discovered the magical land of inexpensive fruits and vegetables: Aldi.
            Let’s be honest, the German based supermarket Aldi (short for Albrecht Discount) is no Shangri La when it comes to atmosphere. It’s awkwardly quiet when you walk in (which compounds the awkwardness I feel when my kids yell out random, slightly inappropriate things), the décor is like something out of a 7th grade math textbook, you have to loan the store 25 cents just to use a cart, and some of my friends are bothered by the somewhat dubious characters that frequent local Aldi stores (I’m not bothered by them. Of course, that probably means I am one of them). But the low cost of fruits and veggies CANNOT be beat.
            The other day at Cub Foods I saw a SALE on grapes (a SALE, mind you): $2.50/pound. That same day I purchased two pounds of grapes from Aldi for $.99/pound each. Oh snap! Cub Foods obviously wants me to purchase my grapes from Aldi. No sweat.
            At the same Cub, which I consider the middle of the road store in terms of deals (I’ll write more about different store options in a later post), I found avocadoes for $1.39 each. At Aldi, I frequently find them for less than $.99. You can also buy anti-oxidant rich pineapples at a ridiculously low price at Aldi – which can rejuvenate just about any boring smoothie out there (tomorrow’s post: my favorite smoothie recipe!)
Have you ever been to Aldi? What did you think? 
            My mom loved us when we were kids. But it’s tough to squeeze honey out of an almond, right? Which reminds me, you can also purchase almonds at Aldi for much less than anywhere else I have found. (You guessed it…more to come about the Almond, too.)
            So, until Tennie-Golf becomes a national sport and I hit the mother load for inventing it, I will see you at the local Aldi…in the produce section!