Friday, February 27, 2015

International Women's Day: March 8th

International Women's Day

I grew up with a mom who is a feminist.  I was taught that gender equality is extremely important and that culture, not biology sets limits on women's capabilities.  My mother always told me to be financially self-sufficient.  I never remember her telling me to get married and have kids.  She wanted me to use my mind and have a positive influence on the world. 

Ironically, when I was studying sociology as an undergrad, I became far more interested in socioeconomic status and how that influences individual freedom and choices.  Of course, socioeconomic status and gender are inextricably intertwined.

Later on, in my studies the impact of gender roles and cultural stereotypes returned as central players in many of the psychological and sociocultural issues I was examining.  There is no doubt that inequality and antiquated gender stereotypes are still hanging on, far more than I would have expected in 2015.

Sure a lot has changed - women have now entered what were once traditionally male-dominated areas of the workforce, for example - but there is a lot that still needs to be changed.

Women are still valued as objects to be owned and controlled by men, and in Western culture, there are absurd expectations for us in terms of how we should look. Violence against women is still rampant.  These, and other issues, will be addressed on International Women's Day on March 8th.

If you want to learn more about how you can participate in this important day in your community, please visit this site.

Perhaps because I have two daughters, I have never felt a greater desire to see positive change continue for women.  Please get involved! 

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Club

The Boston Girl

I started a book club!

Given what an avid reader I am, I can't believe it took me so long to do so.

My friend suggested The Boston Girl as our first read.  Although we don't meet until the end of March, I already finished it.  It's very good. It basically tells the life story of Addie, a Jewish woman, born in 1900 and growing up in Boston.  It is narrated by Addie as an 85-year-old woman sharing the details with her granddaughter.

It was a timely read for me because Adam and I are taking a trip to Boston in May - it will be my first time there ever - and I always love learning about the history of the place I am visiting.  There isn't tons of historical info about the city, but it certainly gives the story context.

While I enjoyed this book, I wouldn't say I LOVED it, but I don't know why.  Perhaps once we discuss it as a group the reason for my reticence will be illuminated.

Oh, but Anita Diamant's previous novel, The Red Tent, which I read years ago, is absolutely fabulous!!  Happy reading.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Grain Brain...Insane!

low carb funny

I am the first to admit that I used to be a total carb addict.  Oatmeal, brown rice, pasta...I couldn't live without it...and probably ate way more than I should every sitting.  If a proper serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup, then I probably ate 5 servings in a single meal!  I never saw this as a problem since I was firmly entrenched in the 90s low-fat trend.  I kinda laugh at my diet back then, which was not only really high in carbs, but also refined sugar. I used to bake a ton of fat-free baked goods that had tons and tons of sugar.  They were delicious!  But now I realize, they were not really that healthy.

I probably got away with this without any repercussions because I was young, I always ate whole grains, and because I have always been so physically active.  But, interestingly, as I have increasingly shifted away from endurance exercise towards strength training, I've started craving carbs less and protein more.  I have also followed the research very carefully and while there is no evidence we need to completely ELIMINATE grains and carbs from our diet, there is growing evidence that we should limit them.  Both quality and quantity count.

My carb-iest meal is always breakfast, because I can't live without my massive bowl of oatmeal, but then I try not to overdo carbs as much as I used to.  I adore shirataki noodles, sweet potatoes and squash, and am happy to switch out rice for cauliflower 'rice' most of the time.  Surprisingly, I don't miss all the carbs.  But when I want bread, tortillas or regular pasta or brown rice, I eat it.  There is still plenty of research linking the consumption of WHOLE grains to positive health outcomes.

Aside from Dr. Mercola, the other guy I think is a hack is David Perlmutter, who wrote Grain Brain, which garnered so much attention a few years ago.  Perlmutter, who at least is an actual MD, claims that blood sugar is linked with dementia, and while this is true, its not solely carbs that are to blame.  Carrying around extra body fat causes high blood sugar levels, regardless of what foods were consuming to create the excess pounds.  Any diet, regardless of ratio of carbs to fat to protein, that leads to weight loss, will help decrease blood sugar levels.  And science disputes Perlmutter's recommendations of replacing carbs with saturated fat.  In fact, saturated fat is bad for your brain too!  In addition, Perlmutter's claims that gluten is bad for your brain, is also full of shit.  Some celiacs can sometimes experience related neurological problems, but this is rare and individuals not sensitive to gluten do not need to worry.

If you are still buying into Perlmutter's bullshit, feel free to pick up The Centre for Science in the Public Interest's Health Action Newsletter for Jan/Feb 2015, where they explain the way he has misconstrued all the data on the grain-brain link.

In sum, I would say the only foods that can be eaten without limit are non-starchy veggies.  Go ahead, eat all you want!  But pretty much everything else can be overdone...even the healthiest, whole grain carbs, so make sure you are eating an appropriate amount of servings for your individual needs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook

If you are at all nutrition-conscious, then you are probably familiar with Bob's Red Mill products.

They carry a wide array of whole grains, flours, baking mixes and cereals. I've been buying them for years and am a big fan.

When I was approached about reviewing this cookbook, I eagerly agreed.

I actually thought all the recipes would be using their all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, which I have not purchased before, but it actually does not.  It contains a wide array of recipes from salads to mains, to desserts, using many different gluten-free flour and grains from their product line, including millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, sorghum, etc.

This impressed me because I often find gluten-free recipes are anything but healthy and nutritious since they often use nothing but white rice flour, tapioca and potato starch to replace other flours.  These are low nutrition, low fibre products which I try to avoid.

The book begins with a section introducing the various types of grains and flours, and how best to use and store them.

It then has the following recipe chapters:

Soups, Stews and Chilis
Salads and Sides
Meatless Main Dishes
Seafood, Poultry and Meat Main Dishes
Breads, Muffins and Snacks

The recipes sound amazing and are interesting and inventive like, Cardamom Amaranth Granola, Mushroom and Sorghum Frittata, Avocado, Orange and Millet Salad, Edamame and Ginger Stir-Fried Quinoa, Chocolate Snowball Cookies, and (vegan) Chocolate Truffle Pie.

The author, Camilla V. Saulsbury, does use potato starch in some recipes, but mostly good quality, whole grains and flours are used.  She also has cane sugar in a lot of the recipes, which I would swap out for coconut sugar, stevia, xylitol or erythritol (i.e. sweeteners that don't spike blood sugar). 

Recipe pages do not have photos, but there are several sections of pictures featuring particular recipes, that are colourful and attractive.

Although the book is not strictly vegetarian or vegan, there is the Meatless Main Dishes chapter, and many of the baked goods, desserts and salads are vegan.  The main dishes with seafood, poultry and meat, could be modified to be vegetarian or vegan if need be.

Overall, I think this is a great book for someone who needs to avoid gluten and is looking to create  delicious and diverse meals that won't leave you feeling deprived.  Remember, gluten-free is not inherently healthy, refined sugar and flours are still unhealthy, even if they are gluten-free.  But eating a healthy, delicious and satisfying gluten-free diet is possible, this book is proof!

Disclosure: The publisher sent me this book, but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Healthy Candy?

Its Monday!  Its freezing! least the sun is shining.

So, this product news might just sweeten up your day.

Just about every packaged food product these days tries to make health claims.  Most is bullshit.  Just because something is organic, low-fat, has a tiny bit of whole grains, is gluten-free, cholesterol-free, etc., doesn't mean its healthy!

A trip to the grocery store with the kids involves me saying "No" at least a hundred times, particularly to Big A, who wants to try every single cracker, cookie, snack food, and breakfast cereal out there because she is a total sugar/carb addict.  Most of the crap on the shelves these days makes me shudder.

So I was pleasantly surprised when dragging Little A down an aisle the other day and found a product I was truly impressed with: Pocket Treats. 

It was in the candy aisle, of all places, and Little A immediately started asking if I would buy them.   I actually said, "Yes." 

They are made by U Be Livin Smart, the company that makes the Karmaffins I reviewed a few years ago.  Unfortunately, I wasn't so impressed with those.  Impressive ingredient list yes, taste was meh.

Anyways, here is the ingredient list:

Patented Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Banana, Apple, Cranberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Pomegranate, Orange), Honey, Apple Juice Concentrate, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Natural Flavour.

Hmm...not bad for a packaged candy!

Now don't get me wrong, the best snacks are things that come directly from the earth like fresh fruits and veggies and nuts.  But if your kids are like mine, they want TREATS and all things considered these are definitely better than most!  They are also individually wrapped which discourages mindless munching.  And how do they taste?  Yummy! The girls both loved them. 

Good work U Be Livin Smart!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Near Miss...

Hexing while driving.

The weirdest thing happened on Wednesday:

I heard Little A calling me from her bed and when I went  to get her the first thing she said was, "Mommy, I don't want you to die." Huh? I didn't think much of it 'cause she often says weird things.

After dropping of the girls at school later that morning, I was walking home.  I started crossing a busy intersection near our house after the light turned green.  A moment later I looked up and the grill of a car was coming at me and was not stopping.  I literally had a few seconds where I thought the gig was up for me.  I was able to pull myself together and lurch out of the way but the car still hit my leg.  Fortunately I was not physically hurt but I was completely terrified and in shock.

The driver just drove right into me as he did a left turn, on my right of way!

The guy did stop, get out and apologize and said, "Sorry, I didn't see you." 

What?  That means he wasn't looking in the direction he was all!!  It was so bizarre.

I am not one for confrontations but I screamed and cursed at him...and then ran home.  I got home and started sobbing and shaking.  It all happened so quickly.  After the anger diminished, I got very scared and upset just thinking about what a close call it had been.

After the shock wore off, I felt incredibly lucky and grateful not to have been hurt. 

But I'll be honest, what terrifies me most is thinking about what would have happened if the girls had been with me.  If he hadn't seen me, he certainly wouldn't have seen them, and Little A is a loose cannon with no sense of danger.  She is known to scamper ahead into the street before we give her the okay.  I go cold just thinking about it.

Speaking of cold, a toddler in Toronto let himself out of his grandmother's house in the middle of the night a few days ago and was found hours later, frozen to death.  What a tragedy! The whole city is mourning.

I don't know about you, but this weekend I'm holding my kids tight and I might never let them go!

Stay warm and safe my friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jillian MIchael's Killer Buns & Thighs: DVD Review

Jillian Michaels Killer Buns & Thighs
I really like Michael's two ab training DVDs, so when I spied her Killer Buns & Thighs in the sale bin at the mall, I couldn't resist.

I've never been able to get as much definition in my lower body as I have in my upper body, and that was then not helped much when I developed hamstring tendonitis after Little A was born. I ended up doing no weights for my lower body for a few years just to avoid aggravating it.

Now I can train lower body and have been really working on it, so I thought this would be a great way to shake up my routine a bit.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.

It has 3 levels, just like her Killer Abs DVD and you need weights and a step or chair for some of the exercises.

Level 1 was a bummer (pun intended!). I found it too easy and not very interesting.  Level 2 and 3 are fun and have a couple of cool moves, but really this was not the ass-kicking workout I was hoping for.  Nothing really got my heart rate up that much and some of the exercises are recycled from her ab DVDs which is kind of odd.  Like okay, you do use your lower half for dancing crabs, but not once, twice, she has supermans and those are primarily a lower back exercise.  Sure you engage your glutes a bit, but really, there are so many better ways to target glutes and thighs!

If you are an absolute beginner, then you will find this challenging.  But if you are a freakin' powerhouse like me (kidding!), then it might not push you as hard as you want.  You can, I should point out, add weight, or more weight to the exercises to bump up the intensity, which is what I did.  I think I will occasionally add in Levels 2 and 3 into my routine, but I don't see myself bothering with Level 1, I can do a better job of kicking my own ass.