Category Archives: Sugar

10 Ways Eating Clean Will Get You Lean

Fit BodyEating a clean diet not only yields significant health improvements for those with food intolerances and chronic health conditions, but can be the key to achieving your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. It’s a paradigm shift from the calorie counting decree we’ve been fed, but trust me, it’s legit. No calculators or food scales required.

This was a pleasant, surprising side-effect for me when I started strictly following an anti-inflammatory way of eating for rheumatoid arthritis. Being 8 weeks postpartum with about 10 lbs of baby weight to lose, I was amazed at how the weight melted off once I started eliminating foods I had intolerances/sensitivities to and just cleaning up my diet in general. I have since maintained a fitter, 10 lbs lighter frame than my pre-pregnancy, calorie counting and even low glycemic index following weight. And I have maintained this weight even during times when I wasn’t able exercise regularly due to injury or just the general insanity of life.

1. Lose the Bloat.

If you are consuming foods you have sensitivities to, you likely have excess bloating and swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin or around the eyes. This is due to fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones.

If you’re food sensitivities/intolerances are not known, the best option is to follow an Elimination Diet for at least 2 weeks in which you COMPLETELY avoid the suspect food(s) and all derivatives of that food. Reactions to foods are not always immediate – they can manifest hours or days after ingestion. Symptoms of food sensitivity can include headaches, digestion issues, fatigue, depression, joint pain or arthritis, skin conditions like eczema, canker sores, acne; or sinus congestion.

2. Prevent Fat Storage.

With repeat exposure to toxins from food, our bodies can be overloaded with chemicals that need to be detoxified. When the amount of toxins exceed what your body can process, they are either: 1) stored in your liver, which is coincidentally in your belly area (can you say muffin top?) or 2) they are isolated from the body’s systems in additional adipose tissue (aka FAT) as a protection measure. In essence, your body holds on to excess weight to dilute the toxicity.

3. Avoid Beefing Up (literally).

Here’s some food for thought “Cow’s milk, by design, can grow a 90lb calf into a 2,000 lb cow over the course of 2 years.”

This quote is taken directly from the “Diary Disaster” chapter of the book, Skinny Bitch, possibly the crassest, yet eye-opening part of the book for me. When you consume dairy products (and meat), you are consuming the same hormones and steroids those animals were fed to drastically boast production — and profits. Cows are injected with bovine growth hormone. Is further explanation even required to see why dairy (especially non-organic) is not your friend if you’re trying to be lean?

If you (or the kiddies) absolutely can’t give it up (and you are sure you do not have a sensitivity to it), please promise me you will always choose organic, hormone- and  antibiotic-free milk and meat products. For beef, the best option is organic AND grass-fed (just being organic doesn’t mean they are grass fed). And try to work in some almond, hemp or coconut replacements once in a while.

And no, you don’t need to drink cow’s milk to consume enough calcium (more info on that coming in a later post).

4. Ensure Optimal Thyroid Function.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of  The Ultramind Solution and 3 other New York Times bestsellers, addressing the root cause of illness, one of the most important factors in hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides. Such toxins act as hormone disruptors and interfere with thyroid function.  The other major factor that affects thyroid function, Hyman states, is chronic inflammation, with the biggest source of chronic inflammation being gluten. Of course, consuming other foods you have sensitivities to and highly processed and/or genetically modified foods are also going to keep you in a state of inflammation.

The primary function of your thyroid is maintaining your basal metabolic rate, so let’s keep it in high spirits.

5. Keep Insulin Levels in Check.

Consumed refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly causing a surge in glucose levels (also referred to as having a high glycemic Index). This requires your pancreas to release a responding level of insulin to combat the high levels of glucose which are toxic to the body. I believe it’s well-known, but worth reiterating, that insulin encourages the body to store up calories as fat. Prolonged levels of elevated insulin also contribute to inflammation, which if you haven’t gathered already is kind of a theme we have going. This doesn’t mean you need to go all Atkins on me to keep your weight in check.  Eating a clean diet includes eating high fiber carbs to slow the absorption into the bloodstream and avoid spikes in that fat storing insulin – choose whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and lots of whole, organic veggies and fruits (leave the skins on!).

And there is no exception to this rule just because you’re eating gluten-free. I admit, whole grain, gluten-free products are really hard to find, which was a big impetus in the creation of our Clean Cravings line. Many gluten-free bread products on the market are made primarily with white rice, corn, or potato flour or starch and loaded with sugar (not to mention a bunch of other artificial crap) so they have a high glycemic Index causing that surge of fat storing insulin. So look for the first items in the ingredients list to state “whole grain” and/or use grains like brown rice and quinoa. Here’s the ingredient list of our Just Crust products as a reference:

Ingredients:
WHOLE GRAIN ORGANIC BROWN RICE FLOUR, WHOLE GRAIN SORGHUM FLOUR, ARROWROOT FLOUR, ORGANIC RAW AGAVE NECTAR, GUAR GUM, FRUIT JUICE (GRAPE, PEAR, APPLE), RICE DEXTRIN (A NATURAL AND UNMODIFIED STARCH), ORGANIC OLIVE OIL, SEA SALT.

Read it and weep Glutino!

6. Avoiding the Pitfalls of Refined Sugar.

When refined sugar is consumed, it is stored in the liver as glycogen (blood sugar stored in the liver and muscles). However, if the liver is already overloaded with sugar or other toxins, (which it commonly is due to the prevalent toxins from processed food and environmental toxins), the excess amounts of glycogen get returned to the blood stream in the form fatty acids. The kicker? They are then stored in the less active areas including the buttocks, belly and thighs. One lump or two?

Note: Because this post is focused on weight loss, I will hold my diatribe on the other harmful effects of refined sugar  — for now.

7. Maintain pH balance.

A clean diet means a diet that is not highly acidic (e.g., no coffee, dairy, refined sugars and other refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, fried and processed foods, large amounts of animal protein). According to Dr. Linda Frassetta, a Nephrologist with the University of California,  our bodies now produce fat cells when we have an overload of acidic foods,  to prevent the acid from getting to your vital organs. And not only do they add those unwanted pounds, highly acidic foods deplete your body of the alkaline minerals required to neutralize that acid, which include: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This makes you prone to chronic and degenerative disease. Alkaline foods include: fruits and vegetables (yes, even citrus fruits because once they enter the body they are alkalizing).

8. Fighting Inflammation.

Avoiding inflammation is the common denominator in all of the above points because it is a big contributor to weight gain. But we’re not just playing defense here. While there are many foods to avoid – there are also plenty of foods we can consume to actually fight inflammation.  The key players here are essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which are strongly encouraged in an anti-inflammatory, clean eating diet. Essential fatty acids can be either omega-3 or omega-6 (ensuring a proper balance between the two, requires a post all its own – stay tuned), and are found in: flax seed or flax seed oil, fish or fish oil, hemp oil, chia seed, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, walnuts. These are “good fats” that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the body’s metabolic rate. Essential fatty acids can increase thermogenesis (fat burning) and a deficiency may cause cravings, particularly for fatty foods.

9. Have Satiety Kick in Sooner.

Whole foods high in nutrients, essential fatty acids, and fiber and low in refined sugar will keep your appetite in check by triggering your feelings of satiety earlier than processed foods and artificial ingredients. Why don’t you see how many almonds you can eat vs. bag(s) of Baked Lays….

10. Rule Out the Crap.

I know this is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. When you choose only whole foods, especially if you’re cutting out gluten and dairy, there’s not going to be a lot of donuts and candy bars on the menu. Enough said.

A Clean Eating Starter Guide

2011 - A New YearThe start of a new year is a great time for wiping the slate — and your diet —  clean. So if you’ve fallen off the wagon (or have never even managed to climb on) I have some great, practical tips and product recommendations that will make eating clean and gluten-free a snap.

 

Eating Clean Defined

Before we get into the details of my “starter package” of sorts , let’s first chat about what  it even means to “eat clean”.  It’s become quite the go-to term these days for everything relating to healthy eating. Google “eating clean” or “clean diet” and you can probably find 100 different definitions, but here’s how I break it down in its simplest terms: be most concerned with the QUALITY of the food you eat. This is a paradigm shift from the calorie and fat gram counting methodologies we’re commonly inundated with, but adopting this focus pays much bigger, long-term dividends to your waistline and overall wellness.

It involves enjoying foods that are:

1) without common allergens (e.g. gluten/wheat, dairy, corn, soy, yeast, peanuts, refined sugar). Most people don’t even realize they have sensitivities to such foods because symptoms can be so elusive. But regularly consuming foods  that your body reacts to, even slightly, can put you in a constant state of inflammation. And inflammation is at the the root of many chronic conditions.

2) without artificial preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This subject deserves a blog post (or 10) to itself, but the net net is that regularly ingesting such various toxins causes  free-radical damage (read: premature aging of cells), hampers the immune system, can be carcinogenic, and prevents weight loss.

3) nutrient dense. think organic bright-colored fruits and veggies, whole grains and unsaturated oils that provide critical vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and inflammation-fighting essential fatty acids.

Optimally all foods would be local and and completely unprocessed, but like most of you, I’m a girl on the go and can only do what I can do. So, if there’s a great, respectable company out there whose already done the work for me, I’m gonna take advantage. Afterall, that’s how Clean Cravings was born, and we make good stuff. I’m a little biased of course, but I speak the truth.

Taking Action.

So here you go — some of my best advice and product recommendations to to get you off to a Clean Start.

1. Be Prepared. I can’t emphasize this enough.  When you’re on the go with temptation around every corner and an unfortunate, extreme lack of healthful convenient foods, having appropriate replacements at the ready is critical to avoid slip ups and feelings of deprivation.  Do whatever you need to do – get a cooler for the car or the office, make extra food on the weekends to take during the week, get new equipment required to quickly whip up your favorite dishes, etc – a little prep up front will pay off big time down the road.

2. Educate yourself. I’ll be addressing many of these issues here in the future, but here are some great sources to get started if you are not yet familiar with these topics: gluten-free food guide from NFCA,  dairy-free guides from godairyfree.org, non-gmo information and guidelines from the Non-GMO project, organic food guide from the Environmental Working Group. I’m also a huge fan of the straight shooting and well-referenced books: The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Skinny Bitch for a great introduction to the disturbing situation of our overall food supply and commercialized food industry. I also highly recommend using the services of a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist to guide you.

3. Once you’re knowledgeable on what you’re not suppose to eat, you need to find your clean substitutes. Here is a partial list of some of my favorite products and brands that have helped me make the transition.  NOTE: I have no relationships of any kind with the outside companies/products I recommend —  just lucky peeps I’ve found on my 3 year scavenger hunt for the best products that make the clean-eating lifestyle as simple and tasty as possible.

  • Almond Milk (or hemp or coconut milk)  to replace regular cow’s milk in ANYTHING.  This former dairy loving girl can’t live without it.
  • Clean Cravings Just Crust products. I’m biased, obviously, but honestly I haven’t found a better tasting, cleaner gluten-free bread product. And the Just Crust Minis are so versatile – keep them whole for mini pizzas, breakfast muffin, sandwiches, etc. or cut into 4’s for the perfect pita replacement. Small enough to fit in a regular toaster slot — the whole family uses them for everything. My fave is the rosemary flavor. Plus, they’re made with whole grains, vegan, use organic ingredients and have no common allergens.
  • Brown Rice Tortillas. A little tough for burritos, but perfect for making your own corn-free tortilla chips. Fold into 4’s and pop in the toaster. For extra flavor,  spread with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before (and use regular or toaster oven). Even better, top with beans, avocado, sliced tomatoes and salsa for the perfect clean nachos.
  • Organic, wheat-free tamari. As ridiculous as it is, regular soy sauce has gluten in it. This identical tasting alternative contains soy, but because its organic its non-GMO. San-J even has individual packets you can buy that can easily be whipped out of your purse or wallet when you dive into that salmon sashimi or California role (made with real crab, of course – imitation crab also has gluten). Its also sold in regular glass bottles in any health food store.
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers original seed crackers and pretzel twists. Very tasty with a great crunch, high in fiber and quality ingredients (whole grain brown, flaxseed, quinoa). The Pretzel Twists are great for kids.
  • Amazing Grass GREENSuperFood drink powder. Made with raw, organic greens & super foods + probiotics, enzymes and essential fatty acids, this is one stop shopping for your immune & digestive system support. Best of all, it doesn’t have that typical grassy taste of many green drinks and whips up in seconds with almond milk and a hand mixer.
  • Larabars. The simplest bars you can find on the shelf. Dozens of flavors and made with very simple ingredients – primarily nuts and dried fruit.
  • Redbridge Beer. Made with sorghum instead of barley, this won’t disappoint light beer fans. I fancied Amstel Light in my gluten-eating past, and this is a close replacement. There are plenty of other gluten-free substitutes for darker beers, but I’m not yet up on those. Any takers on a taste-panel party?
  • Teecino herbal coffee alternative + So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer. Drinking daily since high school, one of my biggest hurdles was giving up coffee. But but I’m happy to report, I have been successful in kicking the habit. For those days I’m really jonesing for the whole coffee experience, I use this coffee flavored, all natural beverage and sweeten it up with the coconut based creamers (various flavors available, my fave is French Vanilla) . If you can’t yet fathom kicking the coffee habit, at least switch to a low-acid, organic version — check the aisles at your local natural food retailer.
  • Zevia Soda. My biggest, and most shameful habit that remains toughest to kick is diet soda. Its gross, there’s no way around it. But despite my deep knowledge of the harmful ingredients it’s made with, it has some type of crack-like grip on me. I have recently found the all-natural, stevia sweetened Zevia soda (various flavors, including my new fave, “Dr Zevia”). While I’m a huge proponent of primarily drinking water, this is great to have on hand for those critical, about to cross the dark-side situations. I just brought a six-pack to a Sunday Football BBQ and stuck one in my purse yesterday when I went to lunch.

4. Relish the naturally clean foods you can indulge in. When first switching over to a completely clean diet, I discovered foods I had either inadvertently forgotten about or purposely limited because of my former, incorrect concerns over calories and fat grams. For example, baked or mashed yams/sweet potatoes with a bit of vegan butter  are delish and more than satisfy those starchy & sweet cravings. And don’t forget about sweet potato fries (baked, not fried of course)! They beat the flavor of any fast-food fries out there (yes, even the fries at In-n-Out). And then there’s avocados. Whenever I miss cheese (especially with Mexican Food), I just pile on extra avocado and smile. I could kick myself for restricting my avocado intake all these years — what was I thinking?  Also think indulging in nuts and nut butters (raw is best, dry roasted as an alternate) and unsaturated oils like olive, flax, safflower. Let go of the calorie and fat gram counter and let yourself start enjoying these foods again. Because your body will actually recognize these foods (and because they are high in fiber and essential fatty acids), they’ll be so much more fulfilling than that bag of Baked! Doritos. Your sense of satiety will kick in for intrinsic portion control.

Top 10 Tips for Gluten-Free, Vegan Holiday Baking

While my Holiday spirit has waned a bit with this 80 degree weather we’re experiencing in Cali, the thought of baking and decorating cookies with Jordan (my 3-year old, eager helper) paired with a little “Last Christmas” by Wham! is keeping me on track.

My preparations are now underway to heat it up in the kitchen later in the week once the temp falls, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share my top tips for clean holiday baking. For those of you who thought eating clean would mean missing out on your favorite goodies and holiday traditions, think again.

So here goes — my Top 10 products and tips that meet my stringent and overriding criteria: clean. easy. delicious.

First, lets start with the staples to stock up on that can be exchanged for allergy-unfriendly ingredients in just about in any recipe.

1. Lankato Sugar. When I discovered this through a mother of a child with Autism, I knew my sweet tooth dreams had been answered. It is the closest natural sweetener to sugar EVER in terms of its taste and its versatility … but NOT in terms of the risks it poses to your health. Zero calories, zero glycemic index AND zero additives. But, best of all it has the flavor and texture of real turbinado sugar. None of the bitter taste you get from Stevia. Admittedly pricey, but worth every penny.  You can read more and purchase here. The only retail store I’ve seen it at is Erewhon next to The Grove in Los Angeles.

2. Sorghum Flour. Found at most natural food stores with all the other baking flours.  I’ve had success substituting this straight across whenever any type of wheat or other gluten-containing flour is called for in baking. Provides a great texture and lift.

3. Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks.Full disclosure – it contains soy, which I’m lucky enough to tolerate in small amounts (although I avoid as much as possible,especially when its not organic). However, they work JUST like  regular butter sticks — complete with those little TBSP markers and other helpful metrics which I can never keep straight.

4. Nut, Hemp, Coconut or Rice Milk. Perfect 1:1 substitutes whenever regular milk is called for. I rarely stray from my trusted non-sweetened vanilla almond milk but I’m going to start venturing out with hemp and coconut milk for added protein and nutrients. I’ve found rice milk to have a more watery consistency, but in the small amounts usually called for in baking I’m sure it would work fine.

5. Gluten-Free Oats. While oats themselves are gluten-free, they are typically processed alongside wheat, precluding them from being labeled gluten-free because of the cross-contamination. However, there are now vendors who are getting oats processed alone so that they are officially gluten-free. Again, can be found at any natural food store. Should be either with regular oats or in a special gluten-free section.

6. Allergen-Free Chocolate Chips. Enjoy Life Foods makes a dairy, gluten, corn, egg, soy and nut-free chocolate chip. Perfect for fudge, brownies or cookies. A staple to keep on hand all year.

7. Natural Expeller-Pressed Safflower Oil. This is my oil of choice whenever a baking recipe calls for vegetable oil. Besides having a great flavor, it contains the highest source of polyunsaturated fats than any other type of vegetable oil and contains other essential nutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E. The “expeller-pressed” refers to being natural processed vs. being chemically processed and depleting its nutrient content.

8. Organic Maple Syrup. A tasty natural sweetener that is commonly called for in the recipe book I detail below. Also great to have on hand for gluten-free pancakes and waffles.

And for those of you that are not so creatively inclined in adapting existing recipes….

9. “Simple Treats” Recipe Book by Ellen Abraham. In all honesty – I haven’t done a recent, exhaustive search on baking recipe books. However, I found this early on in my clean crusade and have tried many of these recipes and not-a-one has let me down, so I haven’t found the need to purchase another.  All recipes are wheat & dairy-free and very straightforward. The most complex it gets is putting your oats in a food processor to prepare a flour consistency. But even with that step, I can still bust out the mixes in under 15 minutes. And as ironic as it is, this founder of a food company is not a natural whiz in the kitchen. My favorites include the Almond Butter and Chocolate Walnut Brownie Cookies. My only note is to use the Lankato Sugar and Sorghum Flour to substitute the sugar and Barley flour, respectively. I found it on Amazon.

10. Clean Baking Mixes. Lets face it, with all the chaos of the holiday season (or any season for that matter), time seems to dwindle away from us all. Sometimes a short cut is just necessary. In a crunch, I default to my fave line of baking mixes– Cherrybrook Farms. I’ve used various flavors of cake and frosting mixes and have been able to fool the biggest gluten-free skeptics with the taste and texture. All the mixes I’ve used are wheat, dairy, soy and corn-free (just picked up the Sugar Cookie mix last week) and can be kept clean by using your nut or hemp milk and vegan buttery sticks for the required milk and margarine additions.  Some mixes do contain sugar (ironically, the “sugar cookies” don’t) but relative to the other gluten-free mixes available [not mentioning any national brand names that have tried to capitalize on the gluten-free market, but produce allergen and preservative laden crap] this is still a great option. They also have a pre-mixed frosting now – a good time saver, but noticed that it contains cornstarch and corn syrup (the mix does not). I’ll let you weigh the cost-benefit on that one depending on your specific situation.

Wishing you all a sweet, delectable holiday season!

p.s. Please share your tips and ideas for other clean baking ideas – just post a comment below to share with us all.

Jordan making cookies

my sugar plum fairy in action