Monthly Archives: April 2011

My body on sodium

I have a confession to make.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been a salt junkie.  I put salt on EVERYTHING.  I carry salt packets in my purse just incase I get lunch to go and there isn’t any available.  At D’s parent’s house, they even started calling salt shaker by my name, because I requested it so often.

Let’s just say it’s a family trait, passed down lovingly from my Dad.  In all seriousness though, every member of my family has a particular salt shaker that they like to use (this isn’t a joke i swear!).  My sister, R, likes to use the small one with the dots on it, my Dad uses the low-sodium potassium shaker, my mom and brother use the fancy salt grinder that when you push a button, it lights up and grinds the salt for you, and I love the salt and herb shaker that has a blend homemade by our family friend.

Recently though, with all this buzz about sodium in processed foods and the effect of salt on your system, I decided to take a good hard look at my little habit.  Or should I say addiction?  Not to mention that after dining with my cousin, who subsists on a low-sodium diet due to her lovely kidneys, I felt a little inspired to kick this thing once and for all.  For the past four days, I’ve gone salt free.

Here are the things I avoided:

  • Adding salt to any food, whether it be a big bowl of soup or grilled salmon.
  • Eating anything processed
  • Salty condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce (this is a BIG source of sodium), terriyaki sauce, and vegetable broths that aren’t low sodium
  • Cooked mostly my own food.  Even low fat restaurant fare is packed with sodium (those chefs love their salt!).

Here are the things I added:

  • Chugging water like it’s my job.  Starting in the morning, I’ve had a glass of hot lemon water upon waking, and carrying a huge waterbottle with me everywhere.
  • Eating low sodium versions of my favorite foods.  Amy’s split pea soup comes in low sodium?  Mmmm mm mm sign me up.
  • Adding tons of herbs and spices to my foods.  Just because there’s no salt doesn’t mean I can’t get spicy!
  • Eating a ton of fresh vegetables that debloat, such as celery, cucumbers, romaine (any veg with a high water content can help with bloat)
  • Adding different types of vinegars and citrus to foods.  This one is really important because it helps perk up food that doesn’t seem flavorful enough (where usually I would add salt I add citrus).

The results?

  • I lost three pounds…in FOUR DAYS.  What?  Ok so this left me completely shocked.  How the heck was I carrying around this much water weight??!!  My salt intake actually turned me into a human water bottle.
  • I felt totally unbloated and really great.  Talk about wanting to throw on my bikini again.  Seriously though, my clothes fit better and I just felt a lot happier in my skin.
  • Speaking of my skin — it actually looked brighter and clearer.  All that water that I was drinking seriously helped to flush out toxins.
  • I didn’t crave sweets at all.  With the salty taste out my mouth, I actually tasted the flavors of food a lot better and found myself reaching for fresh veggies and fruit rather than sweet things.  Rather than jumping from one extreme (salty) to the next (sweet), my tastebuds enjoyed a whole array of flavors.

The Verdict?

I had NO IDEA what an impact salt was having on my life.  Not only was I walking around all day like a human water balloon, I wasn’t able to enjoy food in its best state (and to me that’s just not living!).  While I don’t think I will completely take salt out of my life once and for all – after all our bodies do NEED a certain level of sodium to function properly, and salt does brighten some flavors, I think the added salt is gonna go for some time, especially as bikini season is right around the corner!

So the question is….are you ready to take the no salt challenge??

Midterm oatmeal bars and a few of my favorite things….

Lately it feels like I’m never NOT studying for midterms.  As annoying this is (besides the obvious hit to my social life), it has also has a positive impact, at least for D.  I’ve been baking.  A LOT.  Not to sound Betty Crockerish, but there is something incredibly therapeutic about baking and smelling those delicious sweet smells in my house all day.  And my Keebler elf baking habit also is a great way to procrastinate from the pile of notes that I have to read over.

I decided to turn my lemons into lemonade.  Or in this case, my oats into delicious, gooey, chocolatey oatmeal bars.  Not  only are they scrumptious, they have oats, whole wheat flour, and cranberries.  While I wouldn’t call them “health food”, they definitely make a nice treat at the end of the day.  Just be warned that these guys can get a little dangerous if left out – so I recommend freezing any that you don’t think you’ll eat during the week.

Scrumptious Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Bars:

adapted from Carrots and Cake Recipe:

Makes 10 bars

Ingredients:

2 cups dry oats

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

2 eggs

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips or carob chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients until smooth.

3. Spread batter in prepared baking pan, and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until bars are cooked all the way through.

4. Let bars cool completely in pan before cutting. (Seriously…don’t get overexcited and try to cut them immediately!  They WILL fall apart!)

 

Stay posted Thursday for a few more of my favorite things and a how-to on healthy packing for work trips/vacations!

Spice things up!

I’m always looking for new ways to make meals more interesting, because let’s face it…it gets boring cooking grilled chicken and veggies every day right?  But did you know that there’s a way to completely change your meal without adding salt, fat, or extra calories?  No, it’s not magic.  It’s herbs and spices!!

Ok so maybe that doesn’t jazz you up as much as it does me….but truthfully, we tend to overlook herbs and spices as a great way to add zest and zing to your meal.  So first off, what’s the difference between an herb and a spice?  Is it like which came first…the chicken or the egg?  Kind of!  An herb is usually defined as the fresh or dried leaves of a plant that doesn’t have a woody stem, and a spices come from a variety of sources including the root, bark, berries, seeds and stems and then are dried.

So here are some awesome spices that may be collecting dust in your spice rack and new ways to use them!

Cinnamon:


Cinnamon is a great spice that studies have shown can help control blood sugar.  We all know that cinnamon tastes great in sweet things like oatmeal and over apples (I like slicing apples, putting them in a sandwich bag and adding 1 tsp of cinnamon for a delicious cinnamon apple!).  But they also add complexity and a mediterrnean flavor to ground turkey or beef when cooking tomato sauce.  You can also use cinnamon on different types of poultry and meats for a sweet and spicy rub.

Oregano:


Did you know that oregano has 4 times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries!!  Woah!  Oregano is common in Italian and Mexican recipes, but it tastes great on lots of other things too!  Try 1 tsp of the stuff in your scrambled eggs tomorrow morning!  D says that it “tastes and smells like you’re eating pizza for breakfast!”

Chili Powder:

Ay carumba!  This mouth tingling spice gets its heat from a compound named capsaicin, which has metabolism-revving properties and can help reduce inflammation – good for those post-kickboxing class achy thighs!  Chili powder is commonly used in hot dishes – like…well… chili!  But it also tastes good on roasted veggies (try it on sweet potato or butternut squash for a kick!) and also salmon.  Feeling adventurous?  Try sprinkling chili powder into some fat-free hot chocolate.

Curry Powder and Turmeric:

These yellow-hued spices do a lot more than jazz up Indian food.  They contain a powerful compound called circumin, which has been shown to help protect against Alzheimer’s by thwarting development of amyloid plaques in the brain (which are a main component of this tragic disease).  Reason enough to serve up some Indian food tonight!  Curry tastes great in lots of dishes – whether it be jazzing up some lowfat chicken salad, adding complexity to a stir fry, or even adding a teaspoon or two to pureed veggie soup.

Wasabi:

You may want to think twice before you order this powerful spice on the side of your sushi!  Wasabi has many health benefits (hello clear sinuses!), but you may not know that studies have shown they can help prevent ulcers in your stomach by killing H.Pylori bacteria.  The plant chemicals in wasabi may also help prevent tooth decay.  While wasabi is most commonly served with sushi, it also tastes great mixed into mashed potatoes or guacamole for a spicy, refreshing kick.

Add these flavor-boosters to your next meal and watch things get spicy!