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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Diet Discussion

While I prefer to think of the word "diet" as a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating over a lifetime, most people probably view "diet" as a way to lose weight. And some of us seriously need to lose weight to improve our health! Most diets don't lead to long term weight loss but encourage a pattern of losing and gaining weight over time. If you are serious about taking control of your health, it's best to consult a physician or dietitian for help. The best diet plans help you lose weight and learn to eat a healthy diet for the rest of your life.

One plan that I have experience with is the South Beach Diet. I attended a talk given by Dr. Agatston, creator of the South Beach Diet. He is a cardiologist by profession and his diet plan was designed to help his patients. Even though I don't need to lose weight, I decided to try his plan for two weeks as an experiment because I have a serious addiction to carbs. I'm the person who thinks mashed potatoes and gravy make a fine dessert, never met a bread I didn't like and who regularly eats cereal after dinner. My carb cravings were getting out of control.

Here are my conclusions after trying South Beach. The diet did help me reduce my carb cravings. Eating too much of the wrong carbs like I did can easily lead to weight gain, especially in the abdomen. The diet is not difficult to follow and the book has helpful recipes and menu suggestions. The book does give a plan for eating for the rest of your life, not just the weight loss phase. It also explains the relationship between diabetes and heart disease and the importance of exercise.

The downside is that people who don't like to cook will be frustrated right away. There are several South Beach foods on the market but these are not designed to be your whole diet. It also requires a great deal of self control and motivation. Overall, I think it is a good plan and would be helpful if done with a friend or spouse for support. It helps you get back on track if you give up on your diet or can help with cravings like mine. I still incorporate the breakfast and lunch ideas to keep my carb addiction at bay.

The next time you are in a bookstore, check out Dr. Agatston's books. This plan may work for you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Garden Delights

Spring is here and fresh produce is just around the corner! Our local farmers' market opens the first weekend of May and I can hardly wait. This year I have purchased a share of a local farmer's produce each week so I will let you know how that turns out. Buying fresh, locally grown, fruits and vegetables or growing them yourself is the best way to enjoy them. No offense to anyone, but often fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarkets were bred for shelf life, not taste. I can't blame anyone for not liking tomatoes for instance, if they have never had one picked at the peak of ripeness from a backyard garden.

I was lucky enough to eat homegrown vegetables growing up as my father was an excellent gardener. We also picked peaches, strawberries and muscadines and my parents made jelly and preserves. I never ate store bought jelly until I was older. Consequently, I learned to love most vegetables and we eat them every night for dinner.
Confession: I didn't inherit my father's green thumb but I keep trying every summer. I love heirloom tomatoes but last year's crop was a bountiful seven or eight. I'm plagued with too much shade and pesty raccoons.

This summer, head out to your local farmers' market and enjoy some really good vegetables. There is nothing like a dinner of simple vegetables, with sliced tomatoes and cornbread. Finish it off with cold watermelon for dessert. You'll be supporting the local economy as well and doing the "green thing".

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little Fiber Eases Things Along

Most Americans don't come anywhere near getting enough fiber in their diet. Take it from someone who knows, not getting enough fiber can have unpleasant consequences. We simply don't eat plain fruits, vegetables and whole grains like we did when our grandparents all had gardens. Lack of fiber shows up as constipation and contributes to various cancers. Makes you want to reach for that stalk of broccoli or eat a can of beans, doesn't it?

I always try to include plenty of fibrous foods in our weekly menu. Yes, my kids do eat cabbage, broccoli, beans and brussel sprouts. They may not rave or ask for second helpings but they understand the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

I also look for convenience foods that contain extra fiber and I am happy to recommend Fiber One products. They not only taste good but some contain as much as 35% of your daily value of fiber. Fiber One has yogurt, cottage cheese, several cereals, pancake and muffin mix and granola bars. I have tried most of them and my whole family likes them. I particularly like Fiber One granola bars as I consider most granola bars to be no better than candy bars. I can feel good about my kids snacking on them. I also really like the apple cinnamon muffin mix and the pancake mix. Check on for coupons for Fiber One products.

In the mean time, try harder to add fruits and vegetables to your daily life and don't rely just on convenience products. Eat an apple or try the broccoli recipe that follows. It's my husband's favorite way to eat broccoli.

Broccoli with Bread Crumbs and Garlic
One package broccoli florets
One garlic clove, minced or one tsp. of the jarred minced garlic.
1/3 to 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Steam broccoli till tender & drain. Heat olive oil in a skillet & add broccoli. Saute till broccoli begins to brown. Add garlic the last 3 or 4 minutes of cooking & sprinkle with bread crumbs, tossing to coat. Salt & pepper, then serve. Delicious!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tips and Tidbits

Whoops! Spring break took a little too long! I have also been working in the yard and garden and neglected my blog. Gardening is excellent exercise by the way, just don't strain anything. Stretching before and after all that shoveling, planting and mowing is a good way to loosen those muscles.

Easter weekend just passed and like every holiday at our house, it's an excuse to overeat. This holiday, I really made an effort to keep things light. One way I cut calories is to use less of certain ingredients than the recipe calls for or to substitute ingredients. I usually cut back on sugar in things like muffins, drinks, etc. I use 1/4 to 1/2 less sugar with no complaints from the family. We love cheese but I use less of it in cooking too and also use the lower fat cheese. I never use no fat cheese as it tastes awful and does not melt the same. I use no fat plain yogurt in recipes that use sour cream as I like the taste better than the no fat sour cream. My hash brown potato casserole contained 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup, no fat plain yogurt, 2% milk cheese and 1/3 the butter and still tasted rich and delicious.

Who would have thought that Paula Deen ever made anything light but I tried one of her salmon recipes and it received favorable reviews from the family. This is also a very pretty dish. Here it is:

Baked Salmon with Strawberry Salsa
4 to 6 salmon fillets, one orange
Sprinkle fillets with salt and red pepper flakes to taste and place in a greased baking dish. Place a thin slice of orange on top of each fillet.
Wash and slice a pint of strawberries. Mix strawberries with 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup sliced green onions, one clove minced garlic and spoon over fish. Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Y'all, it doesn't get much easier or healthier than this!
Tip: I always use the jarred, minced garlic. Use about 1 tsp. for each clove called for.