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Archive for January, 2010

bucket list & spinach pesto

I’m having a little trouble staying on task lately. I had a “beet the winter blues” post under way, but couldn’t polish it off. Then I decided to tackle “the differences between boys and girls.” After a couple of days wrestling with that one, I had an epiphany. The differences are monumental, endless, glorious and can be represented by a marshmallow. Unfortunately, those random thoughts were too difficult to gather together and put into sentence form. But I’ll work on that, as it’s food-related and worthy of further contemplation.

Here’s the problem. I’m distracted and can’t seem to stay focused. I think I’m lamenting the passing of the decade. A whole decade of my life just whizzed by and I hardly had time to notice.

Yes, a whole decade. That’s TEN years. And don’t give me that stuff about how the decade really isn’t over until the end of 2010. You could make that argument if you want to go all the way back to 1 AD (or 0 AD), but it doesn’t matter, ten years is a decade and it’s over. To add insult to injury, ten years ago was the turn of a century. So the first decade of this century is over. Doesn’t that sound significant?

What do you have to show for it? Were there any profound lessons learned? When 2000 dawned, did you have lofty goals for the next decade? Did you accomplish the things you set out to do?

So much for losing 5 pounds (my current goal, which sounds rather trivial right now). I want to climb a big mountain. Rainier, Fuji, Orizaba – something like that.

Melissa’s 2010 Bucket List in no particular order
• Climb a big mountain
• Finish the last 250 miles of the Colorado Trail
• Complete advanced yoga teacher training
• Climb Colorado’s 14ers
• Write a book
• Lead transformational workshops (long story)
• Get over my jitters of public speaking
• Build a cabin in the mountains
• Nurture friendships, treasure family time and meet some of my blogging friends
• Volunteer at the American Mountaineering Center
• Ski more
• Get involved with the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame
• Have dinner with Charles Krauthammer (don’t ask)

What’s on your bucket list? Tell me – you might win a prize.

If you don’t want to think about it, here’s a pesto recipe instead.

spinach pesto
what you need

4 cloves garlic
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or a blend of Parmesan, Fontina and Asiago)
3 tablespoons raw pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper

what you do
1. Chop garlic in food processor, add spinach, herbs and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pulse to chop finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until slightly smooth. Drizzle over cooked potatoes or use as a dressing for potato salad (or whatever else comes to mind).

Go forth with bucket list in hand. Don’t let the next decade pass without accomplishing your goals and realizing your dreams.
P.S. Yes, I realize a bucket list has nothing to do with buckets.

enlightened hot chocolate

I’m not eating high-calorie treats right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lust after something sweet and chocolatey now and then. Now and then, I say casually, like it’s an uncommon occurrence. Let me see, I believe I was dreaming of chocolate in my 5:30 AM yoga class this morning.

Yesss, I do realize dark chocolate should not be the cornerstone of a spiritual path, but there’s no reason it can’t provide a little inner calm now and then.

With no refined sugar and no dairy, this healthy vegan hot chocolate is what I made upon returning from my down dogs, side planks and arm balances.

hot chocolate with a kick of enlightenment
what you need

2 cups organic rice milk
3 tablespoons organic cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 packet Stevia
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

what you do
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on low-medium heat. Whisk to blend and continue stirring until it reaches desired temperature. Shave a little dark chocolate on top. Makes 2 servings. Adjust to your liking by tweaking the ingredients.

Contains 150 calories per serving and is rich in vitamin D, vitamin B-12, calcium, iron and phosphorus.


Tempting foods part 2

The competition was fierce (see prior post), but in the end, the brownie sundae took the crown. It didn’t seem to matter that it’s now winter and half the country is experiencing record lows, people have an unrestrained and almost delirious passion for ice cream.

I’m a nutritionist, but half the time I feel like an investigative reporter or an underpaid research geek. My last post and your amazing response sent me into overdrive. I’m obsessed with books, obsessed with research and my office is a study in organized chaos. And although I’m not proud of this, I’ve had an intimate relationship (a serious love affair) with since 1995. I’m a charter mistress. Talk about insatiable appetites – I have one for books. And damn that Amazon, their one-click ordering with free shipping makes it nearly impossible for me to resist. My UPS guy just shakes his head. I’ll get to why and how this ties in with brownie sundaes in a moment, but for now, let’s just say this whole dang thing with over-indulging is complicated business.

The brownie sundae was the hand’s down favorite, followed by the bacon cheeseburger and the chocolate cake. It’s no surprise that raw broccoli came in last. Other than being the choice of some of my hyper-healthy readers, it had no chance against ice cream and chocolate. I like broccoli, but when I’m craving a blissful treat, raw cruciferous veggies don’t jump to mind.

Why is that? Why do we choose to pig-out on ice cream and not bok choy? Who obsesses over Brussels sprouts?

Not me.

Studies show that we’re more apt to crave fat, sugar, salt and more fat, sugar and salt. A few of you did said you might choose the broccoli if it was covered with cheese sauce. And a few others mentioned that I failed to include nachos. You’re right, chips or cheese fries should have been on my “tempting foods” menu. But no one suggested parsnips or beet greens.

We’re almost three weeks into the new year and many of us started 2010 with intentions of eating better, losing weight and exercising more. I did, and right now I’m doing fairly well with my intention, mainly I believe, because I’m focusing on something that trumps the feel-good sensation I get from eating tempting treats. I have a goal and it has nothing to do with conventional dieting.

Diets are bad and they don’t work. Changing what you eat, how you think about food and replacing the buzz you get from over-indulging with something physical, is good. And don’t count on the food industry to help you out. In fact, be very suspicious of them, very suspicious indeed.

I grew up in Colorado and back in the 50s and 60s, hardly anyone was overweight. I look at old photos from my parents’ generation and from when I was a little girl and everyone appears to be a “normal” weight. Our serious weight gain has happened in the last couple of decades and along with it, a rapid rise in lifestyle-related diseases. Two new studies suggest that 2/3rds of adults are now overweight or obese. Check out these guys in the photo above. These are many of the men who lived in a small Colorado mountain community where my dad grew up. The photo was taken sometime in the 1940s. My dad is 4th from the left in the bottom row. Healthy looking guys, right? Fit, handsome characters. If you took the same sampling now, many would be overweight and out of shape. We don’t exercise as much and we eat totally different foods from what these guys ate.

There’s a variety of reasons we’re becoming a nation of overeaters, one of them being what is available to us now. Ridiculous “foods” that weren’t around back then. Quick-fix breakfast cereals that turn milk weird shades of pink and purple. Ding Dongs that never spoil. Irresistible brownie ice cream sundaes that are absolutely loaded with sugar, fat and salt and designed to make you want more. That kind of food gives us a sweet rush of dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter. We like that feeling and seek out the foods that give us that high. In fact, so much so that we often can’t think of anything other than the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table or the brownie sundae on the menu. Add in the perceived depravation of having celiac disease (no gluten means less treat options) and all the sudden that gluten-free brownie sundae at the chain restaurant (I won’t name names) takes on monumental importance. If you feel deprived, you think you need and deserve the “reward” even more. The food industry knows this and has figured out the right mixtures to make us obsess over the brownie sundae or double whopper with fries. Fat, sugar and salt. It’s “almost” not our fault. We can “almost” blame the food industry, much like we blamed the tobacco industry. They are a sneaky bunch and they want you to want more of what they’re selling. Here’s the catch though, if you believe it’s not your fault, you have no control.

Power to the people, as Flo says on the Progressive ads! We get to choose.

Now, what do we do instead of overeating and then dieting and depriving ourselves? This one’s tough because we have imbedded in our neural pathways the delicious dopamine spike we get when we eat the tempting foods. It’s hard to replace that with a handful of raw broccoli. That doesn’t work for most people. We need something that trumps the buzz we get from the fat, sugar and salt. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. No pill, no diet, no magic formula. We have to take control, retrain our neural patterns, adjust our lifestyle habits and change our perceptions. We have to find something physical that makes us want to eat better. That’s especially hard when there’s a donut shop, a burger joint or a chain restaurant on every corner. It’s way too easy to get the fix, just like it’s way too easy for me to hit “one click ordering.” (Ooh, but I get so excited when I do that.)

Does this make sense?

Yoga helps me overcome the food part because it connects me on a deeper level with my body. I have a greater respect and appreciation for what’s going on inside, even on a cellular level. I feel stronger, healthier and have more energy. I like that, it feels better than eating the brownie sundae.

I feel better, I look better, so I continue to eat better. And on it goes.

I’m taking a 4 week arm balancing class right now from one of my favorite yoga instructors. A 4 week inversion class will follow. It’s hard to do these poses if I weigh just 5 pounds more than my normal weight, it hurts my wrists and I find I’m not strong enough to hold that much weight upside down (or sideways). Five extra pounds is too much. That’s my “tipping point.” I need to weigh less and that is my motivation, that is my reward. Yoga trumps my desire to eat high-calorie, low-nutrition food. Most of the time, anyway.

Maybe this will add fuel to your motivational fire. Here’s the breakdown of what’s in that irresistible brownie sundae that is served at a major US restaurant chain.

Calories: 1911
Carbohydrates: 135 g
Dietary fiber: 13 g
Total fat: 153.8 g
Saturated fat: 88 g
Protein: 26.9 g
Cholesterol: 426.3 mg
Sodium: 401.4 mg

So, skip the brownie sundae and take a yoga class. Or ride your bike to the farmer’s market and buy some broccoli. You’ll feel much better if you do.

P.S. Forgive me Lord, for I have rambled.

1. Nutrition Action Health Letter (Dr. David Kessler)
2. Deconstructing the Vanilla Milkshake

tempting food survey

It’s the new year and more than just a few of us have made resolutions to eat better, lose weight and exercise more. I’m definitely on a mission to lose a few pounds and reset my metabolism after the holidays. I even blogged about it on New Year’s Day. Staying on track with healthy eating can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. For me, sugar is the fuel that causes the thrills and spills.

As a nutritionist, I’m always curious as what makes people overeat. Or, what motivates me to eat that last little sliver of cheesecake when I’m cleaning up after a party – even though I’m absolutely stuffed. Why do we even let ourselves get to the point that we’re absolutely stuffed? If we’re full, why do we pack down one more cookie or the last few bites of the cheeseburger? Or, in my case, two more pancakes floating in maple syrup.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

It’s complicated.

In 1960, women ages 20 to 29 averaged about 128 pounds. By 2000, the average weight of women in that age group had reached 157. For women aged 40 to 49, the average weight had gone from 140 pounds in 1960 to 169 pounds in 2000. *

I wonder what those numbers are a decade later, in 2010?

Two out of three American adults are overweight or obese. We’ve all heard the health risks that accompany being overweight. So, why do we keep shoveling the food in?

This is a test. I had a recipe ready to post today, but the focus at the beginning of the year is always the same and it got me thinking. Why do we do this over and over each year?

According to the research, there are certain food combinations that trigger overeating and understanding why isn’t easy. I can’t really tell you why I ate the last of the cheesecake while cleaning up the kitchen (and fought my daughter for it). I was full, I certainly didn’t need it. There’s no good reason, except that I like cheesecake and in some odd way, I find it satisfying. At least while I’m eating it, but then immediately afterwards, I feel like poo and kick myself in the bum for overeating.

Bazillions of dollars are spent on dieting each year; people lose a few pounds, regain it, and then start the process all over again the next January 1st. Why? Back when I was growing up (the fifties and sixties), most people weren’t overweight. Weight was fairly stable. What’s different now?

I’ll expand on this in a later post, but for now, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a survey. Please choose which food you crave most from the choices below and leave your answer in the comment section. I’ll post the results in a few days. Be honest, there’s no right or wrong. Which one looks the most tempting?

1. Bacon cheeseburger with all the trimmings

2. Brownie ice cream sundae with whipped cream

3. Raw, fresh broccoli

4. Kraft macaroni and cheese

5. Pancakes with butter and pure maple syrup

6. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing

Okay, guys – let me know which one of these choices sets your heart on fire? Are you drooling yet? Which lever would you keep pounding?

I’ve already scarfed up the pancakes, if you’re wondering.

* Weight data from The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler (Nutrition Action Healthletter)

what’s in store for you in 2010


What does the future hold?

Can you see down that long (hopefully) and winding road that makes up your life journey?

No, none of us can. But I’m going with the intention of living a long and healthy life so I want to make sure I’m positioning myself to do so. And in style.

January 1, 2010.

No better day to start than today.

I have trouble considering myself as anything other than early-middle-aged (oooh, that seems strange), so to have that play out chronologically, I need to make my way to the other side of 100. And as I said before, do it with style. I want to be one of those old ladies doing handstands on the beach (or the only one), telemark skiing and climbing mountains with Colorado’s “over the hill gang.” Perhaps sporting an antique blond (also known as grey) ponytail and wearing chic and groovy clothes. Even golden girls can feel good, look good and be full of life. I want to eventually be that golden girl.

Thriving in style.

No time to waste. I need to be preparing for that now. I got sidetracked with the holidays and have been baking (and eating) muffins, cookies and cakes. Drinking red wine and eating dark chocolate. Not exercising enough. My metabolism is off-kilter and I’ve gained 6 pounds. Okay, I know I should know better and I’m not going to mention any names, but it’s not entirely my fault.

Now that the holiday roller coaster ride is over, I’m ready to get back on track with a healthy eating and exercise program. If you’re remotely interested, read on. Here’s what I’m going to do to lose that 6 pounds, reset my metabolism and get back in shape before this uptick in weight becomes the norm. That’s how it happens, my friends. Before you know it, this slow, inauspicious cookie-creep becomes an accepted part of your backside (or spare tire for the guys).

I don’t want to go there. I want to be able to do cartwheels when I’m 80 and each extra pound makes stuff like that sooo much harder to do. Pretty soon playing upside down is longer an option. And that’s not in my plan.

Your plan may be different, but the bottom line is the same. We want to stay healthy for a variety of reasons, whatever they may be.

This isn’t a cleansing protocol, that will come in the spring. This is my basic weight loss protocol. Nothing complicated, but after the sugar rush of the holidays, certainly not easy.

Onward, with resolution resolve!

1. I’ll eat a good, healthy and relaxed breakfast each morning. Something like a bowl of GF oatmeal, a smoothie, a sliced apple with almond butter and a cup of goat kefir, or poached eggs with greens on teff toast. The best thing right now is something fairly substantial, but not high in calories – and with a mix of protein, carbs and fat.

2. No snacking in between meals. I’ll stick with herbal tea or water.

3. Exercise every day. I will either go to yoga, go for a long walk, ride my bike (or indoor trainer), go skiing – anything that gets me moving, stretching, breathing and thriving.

4. Eat my main meal at lunch – something like a healthy bowl of soup or stew, a side salad and a few flax crackers.

5. Eat a light dinner before 6 PM. No snacking after dinner. I’ll drink some nice mellow herbal tea with honey before bed.

6. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Have an occasional glass of red wine on the weekend, but not during the week. No sugar, no processed foods, smaller portions, no snacking in between meals.

That’s a start. I had a bowl of oatmeal (see recipe below) for breakfast early this morning and now I’m going to go ride my bike trainer and listen to 80s music on my iPod.

Hearty and healthy GF oatmeal to usher in 2010 *
what you need

2 cups water
3/4 cup certified GF oatmeal
2 tablespoons teff grain
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped nuts (or a mix of nuts and seeds)
handful of raisins

what you do
1. Bring water to a boil, slowly add oats and teff, stir well and turn heat to low (the lowest setting).
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend well, cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Check and stir occasionally. Add a touch more water if you need to.

Serve with brown rice milk and raw honey. Makes 2 hearty servings.

* Some people with celiac disease  or a gluten sensitivity don’t do well with oats even if they are pure and uncontaminated, so check with your health care provider before adding oats to your diet.

Music to ride by – 80s iPod play list
1. Start Me Up (The Rolling Stones, 1981)
2. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler, 1983)
3. I Love Rock & Roll (Joan Jett, 1982)
4. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson, 1983)
5. Love Shack (The B-52s, 1989)
6. Straight Up (Paula Abdul, 1980) Sorry about this one, but who can resist singing along?
7. Thing Called Love (Bonnie Raitt, 1989) Go, Bonnie, go!
8. I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues (Elton John, 1983)
9. Super Freak (Rick James, 1981)

It’s 2010, let’s get moving!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)

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