7 Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy…But Aren’t

Sometimes those “healthy choices” aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be! Here are 7 foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t

Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy
Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy

Processed foods are the main reason that we, as a society, are heavier and sicker than ever.  Unfortunately, food manufacturers have spent years and billions of dollars to convince us that there’s no better way to be happy, healthy and (gosh darn it!) full than to take advantage of the many foods they offer.

The foods (and claims) have evolved over time so I thought I would go over 7 of the current foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t.

The Big Empty (Calorie, That Is!)

Empty Calories
Empty Calories

Rice cakes and Pretzels

How did these guys become knighted heroes in the world of healthy eating? They’re nothing but highly processed foods that are full of empty calories. They must have a great PR guy!

Breakfast Cereals

The first commercial breakfast cereal, marketed in 1863 was called Granula. It was made from graham flour baked into a lump so hard it had to be soaked overnight to even be edible.  Graham flour was, interestingly enough, named after Reverend Sylvester Graham, who soon joined forces with John Harvey Kellogg.  After a falling out, Kellogg went on to start his own company to distribute his newest cereal, Cornflakes, which was considered to be more palatable than Granula.

In the years that followed, the quest to make cereal desirable to the general public has resulted in having even the healthiest brands become highly processed products. They contain loads of refined sugar while being devoid of protein and nutritional value.  In an effort to make them seem healthier, they are often “fortified”, which simply means synthetic substances have been added to replace the nutrition that was destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Microwave Popcorn

From the chemicals in the bags to the “buttery” flavor and “artificial and natural flavorings”, this stuff just has to go.  Studies show that dangerous emissions (their words, not mine) released both during and after popping can lead to serious health issues including lung disease.

So what’s a girl to do when she really, really wants a crunchy snack?  No, I’m not going to tell you to get a stalk of celery.  (I hate it when people say that because they know that’s not what I’m asking…)

How about some good, old-fashioned, pop-it-yourself popcorn?  It’s low in fat and calories but it also has a good dollop of nutritional value as well.

The Low Fat Low Sugar Wars

Low Fat Yogurt
Low Fat Yogurt

You see the claims blazing from every shelf in every aisle of the store.  Low fat!  Fat-free!  Low sugar!  Sugar-free! We all know that too much fat and sugar in our diets lead to a plethora of health problems so it’s best to stay completely away from it, right?

Well, no.

First of all, let’s clear up all the claims on processed foods such as bottled salad dressing, baked goods, yogurts and the like.  It’s a fact that when manufacturers reduce the fat in products that normally would contain it, they add more sugar or sodium.

Low sugar items usually contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, which are associated with health risks.

Now for some real facts: Not only is fat necessary for our bodies to function properly, it’s also necessary for our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients from our foods. The same is true for sugar.

So, although we don’t need lots of added fats and sugars in our diets, we do need some and a balanced diet of varied whole foods will take care of that nicely!

Magical Healing Foods

Superfood
Superfood

Superfood

Although there’s no scientifically based or regulated definition for the term superfood, the word has long been used to identify a food that’s rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.

The term was coined by the United Fruit Company around World War I to promote sales of bananas. This was right around the same time that the scientific world was beginning to isolate different vitamins and nutrients in regard to how their use (or lack of use) specifically affected the human body. When The American Medical Association published an article claiming that bananas cured Celiac Disease in children, United Fruits ran with it. We now know this scientific finding to be faulty and that a banana is, sadly, just a banana.

You would have thought this to be the end of the banana-as-a-superhero movement but, no. There was money to be made so the SuperFoods Express remained firmly on the track despite the fact that scientific studies show little benefit to focusing on them as a superior form of nutrition.

Many studies today look at the benefits of certain nutrients when used in very large quantities…certainly, more than we could consume in a single sitting. They also look, in most cases, at just that nutrient or food, without considering that humans do not exist on a single source of nutrition. And the scary part? Some “superfoods”, such as açaí berries and pomegranates, can actually damage your organs when ingested in large amounts.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit free radicals from doing damage to our bodies. They rose to media fame in the 1990s when scientists began to discover that people with a low antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetable intake were more likely to experience damage from these free radicals.

As trials began to run on these findings, the food industry began to tout and market antioxidant-rich foods such as green tea and blueberries. Supplements also became popular.

Despite the fact that studies are inconclusive on the benefits of upping your antioxidant intake (and, in some cases, indicated it could increase health issues), these products continue to see – if you’ll excuse the pun – healthy sales.

One thing the studies did prove? That people who ate more fruits and vegetables of any kind were healthier overall than those who ate less.

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line

Focusing your attention on certain foods that are perceived to have some magical advantage over other foods may draw you away from the balanced, yet varied, diet that is so important to your health.

Let’s just ignore the hype, shall we? Get out there and grab some whole foods…anything you want. Take any kind of fruit or veggie, any kind of lean meat, any kind of whole grain and turn it into something delicious! Feel free to take a stroll through the Let’s Get Cooking section of this website for some great recipes including homemade salad dressing recipes such as thousand island, blue cheese and Caesar!

Don’t forget to let me know how it turns out in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

 

 

How To Stock Your Pantry – 17 Foods To Include and 7 Foods to Avoid

Life is busy. How can we eat healthy when we don’t have the time to cook from scratch? Here are a few tips on how to stock your pantry with time-saving items!

How To Stock Your Pantry
How To Stock Your Pantry

I like to cook my own foods from scratch. I’m a firm believer that cooking from scratch is really the only way to know the quality of what I’m eating. But, while we have a goal to eat healthily, we just can’t do it all.

It’s virtually impossible for us to make every single thing we want to eat. Sure we can put together a marinade for our grass-fed beef and pair it with some fresh vegetables for dinner. We can throw together a salad with homemade dressing or have a breakfast sandwich made from a fried egg atop a freshly baked biscuit.

But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? When was the last time you brewed soy sauce because you needed a sprinkle or two in a stir-fry? Cooked up a batch of catsup so you could have a squirt to dip your french fries? Or made your own mayo because you were dying for an egg salad sandwich? Me neither.

And, let’s face it, sometimes life gets in the way. We’re busy. We get tired. Unmotivated. Did your spouse really forget to tell you that he’s invited the Smiths to dinner? Or perhaps your son shows up with half the football team and wants to know what there is to eat.

Now, if we wanted to, we could surely go ahead and plan for all these contingencies. We could cook, bake, mix and ferment then dehydrate, can, and freeze it all. The problem with that is the aforementioned life to which we must attend. That and the fact that our storage spaces and freezers are only so big.

So here are some thoughts on how to stock your pantry – with 17 foods to include and 7 foods to avoid.

What Are Processed Foods?

What Are Processed Foods?
What Are Processed Foods?

Before we tackle the problems that we face every day, I’d like to do a quick review on what, exactly, are processed foods.

Processed foods are any foods that have been modified from their original state. This means, of course, that the moment you pick a tomato off the vine, you have altered or “processed” that food. I only bring this up because I want you to realize that the simple act of food being processed is not an evil concept.

Foods have been processed since the beginning of mankind. This was usually done on a community or family level with food being hunted, raised or foraged while it’s abundant and then using various means of preserving it for use at a later date. When we cook fresh food in our own kitchen and freeze it for future use, we are also processing food.

It’s highly (or ultra) processed foods that we need to be on the lookout for. These are highly manipulated foods that contain many added ingredients and sometimes don’t contain any of the food it claims to be. Are you aware that some brands of coffee “creamers” are made from water, sugar and oil? Not a drop of dairy-related anything.

The Bad Guys: Ultra Processed Foods

Ultra Processed Foods
Ultra Processed Foods

First let’s get to the bad guys: those highly (ultra) processed foods. While the food industry works hard to convince us that fruit-flavored loopy things are good for us, one quick glance at the label tells us that it’s certainly nothing even a toucan would eat.

The secret to choosing healthier processed foods is no secret at all! A look at the label and ingredient list will tell you everything you need to know. Here are a few things to look for (and steer away from):

Low fat, low sugar and/or sugar-free. Foods naturally contain fat and/or sugar to varying degrees and this is what makes them taste good. It’s important to remember that neither fat nor sugar is a bad thing when enjoyed in moderation. As a matter of fact, a certain amount of both is necessary for your body to function properly.

When foods are manipulated to remove naturally occurring fat or sugar, these are usually replaced by the opposite thing (fat for sugar and sugar for fat) or artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame.

Artificially flavored or imitation. Translation: Chemical.

Any ingredient you don’t have in your kitchen. Or can’t pronounce. Or wouldn’t even know where to get.

Vegetarian fed chickens (or eggs). Chickens are not vegetarians and need the amino acid that are found in meat sources. Since chickens love bugs, a vegetarian chicken is surely not a free-range chicken. It’s a chicken that has been kept inside (away from bugs) and most likely fed a diet supplemented with a synthetic version of the amino acid methionine.

Healthy or Natural. These words could mean anything. Often it means that whatever the manufacturer started out with was healthy and/or natural (which most food is…when you start out) but it doesn’t mean it stayed that way.

Kid-friendly. When was the last time your kid picked the healthiest option on the table? While there are exceptions, most kids, when left to their own devices, will pick the sugariest, most artificially brightly colored option they see. Especially if it’s being presented by a cartoon character.

Fortified or enriched. This means that something has been unnaturally added to the product. It’s a label typically plastered on ultra-processed foods to make them seem healthier.

The Better Guys: Minimally Processed Foods

Minimally Processed Foods
Minimally Processed Foods

There are some products on the grocery shelves that are less processed and can be a good addition to your pantry for when life comes a’calling. The secret is, again, the label and ingredient list. Keywords to look for might be simple, organic, grass-fed or free-range but the real test is to read the ingredient label. Make sure that whatever’s in the package are things you would add if you were making it yourself.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Canned beans
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Canned pineapple
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Jarred spaghetti sauce
  • Canned tuna
  • Peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Frozen seafood
  • Packaged cheese (including sliced or shredded)
  • Unflavored nuts
  • Boxed pasta
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Bread (organic or from a local bakery)
  • Crackers
  • Dark Chocolate

When You’re On The Go: Surviving Road Trips

Surviving Road Trips
Surviving Road Trips

Consider these options before you grab a hot dog from that street vendor:

Pack drinks and snacks. Even if you plan to stop somewhere for lunch, having a snack under your belt will ensure that you’re not starving when you make the decision on where to eat. Try some granola, fresh fruit and a water bottle.

Convenience store. More and more convenience stores are making an effort to accommodate those of us who want to maintain a healthy diet. Many offer single serving sizes of cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruits and salads. Remember to check the ingredient labels to make sure you’re not getting more than you bargained for!

Grocery store. When was the last time you thought to stop at the grocery store for a quick snack? There’s no shortage of healthy snacks to be found here!

Skip the chain restaurants. Look for smaller “Mom and Pop” restaurants that are more likely to make their goods from scratch. If you’re traveling to unfamiliar territory, take the time to research restaurants in the area online. There are plenty of apps that review local places and let you know the best option.

 

One Last Thought

One Last Thought
One Last Thought

We have certainly been spoiled with the accessibility of a wide variety of foods that have become available to us over the last century. We can’t go back nor would we want to.

What we can do is strive to consume foods in their natural state, as much as possible, and adjust the amounts and combinations to most suit the needs of our own body.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. This is a learning journey and none of us is an expert. We can only do the best that we can each day and remember that life is meant to be enjoyed.

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Evil Foods That Pretend to be Healthy

Faker. Pretender. Impostor. Fraud. There’s nothing I hate more than foods that pretend to be healthy and processed foods are the worst. They spend all their time insisting that they’re Tasty! Nutritious! Real! All Natural! Fun! Cool! Refreshing!

Lies. All lies.

Who remembers this ad?

According to the ingredient label, the first ingredient on Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli label is tomato. Which is a fruit. Lie #1.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

But even if you give them a point for having something nutritious as the first ingredient, consider this: Your average Plain Jane, nondescript red tomato has plenty of nutritional value including impressive amounts of vitamins C, K, B, A and more minerals than you can shake a stick at but, somehow, according (again) to their own claims, Chef Boyardee seems to have sucked all that nutrition right out of their product while adding a good dollop of fat and sodium.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. You can dress ‘em up but you can’t take ‘em out.

The Untold Truth: What Not To Eat 

We’ve all got ‘em. Our processed food vices. It could be cheese puffs or a certain brand of frozen pizza. Mine are Big Macs and Devil Dogs (although not usually at the same time).

What Not To Eat 
What Not To Eat

We know it’s no good so we break up. Sometimes we can stay away for months but once we slip, it seems as though eating more of it is all we can think about. Ever wonder why?

Because it’s been specifically designed to be addicting.

Processed foods
Processed foods

I know we’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating. Processed foods are created with a specific combination of fat and carbs that are meant to keep you coming back for more. I went over this dastardly behavior in more detail here if you want to take a look.

Even if you consider yourself to have a non-addictive personality, there are other things to consider when cruising your local grocery, convenience store or coffee shop. I won’t spoil the surprise but you should read on for some eye-opening information!

Relationships: What’s In Your Freezer?

What’s In Your Freezer
What’s In Your Freezer

The frozen food aisle is like a beacon of light in a dark and dreary world. It’s stuffed to the gills with pretty packages depicting delicious food arranged beautifully on fine china dishes. It promises tasty foods that are quick and easy to prepare. The labels portray a meal that’s hearty, healthy, organic, natural, vitamin-rich, fiber-filled, vegan, low fat, low carb and glycemicly correct. (You’re right. I did just make that up ;-)) They vow to help you be thinner, fuller, healthier, fitter, stronger, more energetic and just plain cool.

What these fiends are actually doing is trying to distract you from the real truth. What these meals really are is jam-packed with food additives.

Polysorbate 80
Polysorbate 80

Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic compound made from the dehydrated compounds found in sugar alcohols. It’s used to bulk up foods, keep frozen sauces smooth and as a binding agent in ice cream.

This additive actually alters microbes in the gut, creating an environment favorable for the development of cancer.

Carboxymethylcellulose
Carboxymethylcellulose

What else is in your ice cream? Carboxymethylcellulose, also known as cellulose gum or CMC is used as a thickener. Consuming large amounts may result in digestive system discomforts such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are used to prevent food oxidation which extends the shelf life of frozen food.

BHT and BHA are chemical compounds made out of a type of acid called carbolic acid. This acid is known to create acid burns if handled in large amounts. It’s been linked to cancer risk, skin irritations, and behavioral issues in children.

And, honestly, do you really want to eat something that’s been butylated?

Potassium Bromate
Potassium Bromate

Potassium Bromate is a lab-made additive, made through an electrolytic process similar to fusing metals together. It gives bread a thicker, stronger texture, a higher rise and a pleasing white color.

Handling this additive in its powdered form (by employees at the baking company) can cause serious side effects. It can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, damage your kidneys and Is considered to be a carcinogen. It can also negatively affect the nervous system resulting in impaired thinking and personality changes. There is some evidence that some of these side effects are also possible from the consumption of products baked with chemicals.

Banned!
Banned!

It’s been banned as a food additive in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the European Union. In California, all foods containing Potassium Bromate must bear a warning label.

But enough of that. How’s the sandwich?

Propyl Gallate is a food preservative that prevents oxygen molecules from mixing with the oil in frozen foods. It’s called an “ester,” a chemical compound that’s derived from an acid.

Propyl Gallate
Propyl Gallate

It has been shown to increase the risk of tumors and is a possible carcinogen. Studies also show that it could interact and alter hormones.

Sodium Nitrite is a chemical ion created by (you guessed it!) combining salt with nitrites and is used to preserve foods such as beef jerky, hot dogs, lunch meat, salami, and smoked fish.

Sodium Nitrite
Sodium Nitrite

It may damage your blood vessels and affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. It also can interfere with thyroid activity, contributing to hypothyroidism.

Just talking about this is making me hungry. Could someone please pass the chemicals?

Running On Empty: Fuel Free Foods

Running On Empty
Running On Empty

We’re all guilty of this one. We just like what we like, right? And everyone knows that the barista in the village makes the best coffee ever, even if it is $5 and a 20-minute wait. But is it really that great? Or is it just a habit, something we grab because it’s what we always grab?

Let’s shake things up a bit. I’ve taken 3 things (what I consider “biggies”) and tried to come up with some alternatives. See what you think:

Fancy Coffee Drinks

Feeling Fancy!
Feeling Fancy!

 

Brew up your own creation:

  • Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon pure vanilla (or cinnamon, cardamom, unsweetened cocoa powder, any spice that tickles your fancy) to coffee grounds before brewing or add a drop or sprinkle to brewed coffee.
  • Indulge in some heavy cream (or almond milk, coconut cream) and a spoonful of sugar (or honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar).
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, finish it off by stirring in some dark chocolate or date paste*.

We’ve still got some empty calories going on here, but far less than what you’ll be taking in from your local Fancy-Pants coffee shop. And you’ll be saving a ton of money!

Soda
Soda

Soda

Substitute:

  • Plain water
  • Infuse water by slicing or muddling one or more of the following into your water bottle:
    • Lemon
    • Lime
    • Cucumber
    • Strawberries
    • Raspberries
    • Rosemary
    • Water!
      Water!

      Apricot

    • Mint
    • Pineapple
    • Kiwi
    • Grapefruit
  • Low sodium V8 juice
  • Sparkling water
  • Fruit juice (in moderation)
  • Lemonade
    • Dissolve 2 ½ tablespoon sugar in ¼ cup hot water. Stir in 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice. Pour into glass filled with ice and top off with ¾ cup cold water or sparkling water. Adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste.

Granola bars, breakfast bars, nutrition bars, fruit/nut bars and whatever else they’re called

Nuts For Almonds!
Nuts For Almonds!

Swap these out for some good, old-fashioned trail mix. Make up a batch and prepackage it in containers so it’s ready to go! Here are a few things you can use (in any combination whatsoever!):

 

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried Fruit
  • Dried berries
  • Popcorn
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Cacao beans/fruit
  • Granola
  • Roasted coffee/espresso beans
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried peas
  • Dried or candied ginger
  • Candied orange peel
  • Spices
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Salt
    • Wasabi powder
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Curry Powder
    • Cumin
    • Chili Powder
    • Cinnamon
    • Nutmeg
I Love Lemons
I Love Lemons

Try these on for size and then stretch your imagination out a bit further to come up with your ideas. Then, of course, you should share in the comments below so we all can use them!

I Want To Diet, But then I Get Hungry: The Skinny On Fat-Free Foods

You know all those low-fat items you see on the shelves? Low-fat cereals, peanut butter, yogurts, granola bars. What can be better than taking healthy, nutritious food and making it low fat or even fat-free? It certainly sounds like a win-win, right?

Fat-Free Foods
Fat-Free Foods

Well…no.

Fats are what make foods taste good so if you take out that fat, you end up with an unpalatable pile of yuck. The solution, the food manufacturers discovered, is to simply load these foods up with sugar and lots of it.

The same holds true for low sugar or sugar-free foods. When they lower the sugar, they simply up the fat. Because what’s the point of manufacturing food that no one wants to eat?

Fat-Free
Fat-Free

If you’re feeling doubtful, simply read some labels. Take a look at the ingredients and nutritional labels of low-fat peanut butter and regular peanut butter. A low-fat muffin vs. a regular “fat” muffin vs. a sugar-free muffin. The deception will begin to become clear.

But wait, you cry! Aspartame is sugar-free AND fat-free!

Yes. Yes, it is.

Aspartame is the world’s most popular artificial sweetener. It is also marketed as NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin and AminoSweet. It’s been widely rumored to cause cancer, seizures, blindness, headaches, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Aspartame
Aspartame

I don’t think the above claims have been proven (feel free to let me know if I’m wrong!) but I think we can say one thing for sure:

It’s been around since 1965 and we’re not getting any thinner so I think we can debunk the weight loss claim. Oh, and it’s a chemical, not a natural food. Let’s just skip it altogether, shall we?

That’s A Wrap!

What strategies have you come up with to trade in your junk food habits? Let us know in the comments below.

Now that you’re armed with the facts, let’s get out there and shake things up!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

*Soak dates in water for an hour, then combine the dates with a couple of tablespoons of water in a blender. In addition to the sweet flavor of fruit, you’ll get some extra fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium in your cup!

Healthy Cooking for One — How to Create a New You

Trying to start a new program of healthy cooking for one? Old habits die hard but here are a few tips to help get you back on track to start eating healthier!

Healthy Cooking for One
Healthy Cooking for One

We’ve all seen him. That guy in the checkout line at the grocery store, the one we know is single and lives alone. 4 frozen dinners, 1 deli sandwich, 6-pack of beer and an economy-sized bag of Cheetos.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just because we’re single, it doesn’t mean we’re doomed to a future of breakfast cereal, frozen pizza for one and Ramon noodles.

Nor must we choose drive-thrus or gas station hot dogs.  I often who came up with THAT idea. Like, was someone pumping their gas and suddenly thought, “Well, this makes me want to eat a smoked sausage!”? (Yes, I’m kidding.  Here’s why gas stations started selling food).

We have a choice. I’d like to share a few things that I’ve picked up along the way to make cooking for one a bit easier and, hopefully, a little more fun.

Healthy Ways Start to Your Day

Healthy Ways Start to Your Day
Healthy Ways Start to Your Day

Running late this morning? Always keep some bananas, frozen strawberries and yogurt on hand to make a smoothie. It just takes a minute and you can drink it on your way to work!

Overnight oats are convenient and the flavor combos are endless so you’ll never get bored. They can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge so go ahead and throw together a few one evening for a week of quick breakfasts.

Everybody loves Sunday morning breakfast! Make a crustless quiche to enjoy with a leisurely cup of coffee and the newspaper. Store a few pieces in the fridge for up to 5 days for a healthy lunch and put the rest in the freezer for another time!

Play It Again, Sam

Play it again Sam
Play It Again, Sam

No big plans for your day off? Make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and freeze it in portions for use another day. Might as well freeze up a batch of meatballs to go with it, too!

A dozen mini pork pies make a great grab-and-go lunch (or, rather 12!).

Make a dinner recipe that serves two and take the leftovers for lunch. Or make a recipe that serves three or four and have some left for an easy meal later in the week.

Try this Szechuan-style shrimp or garlic chicken with caramelized mushrooms. They’re easy to put together and any leftovers you don’t use can be put in the freezer for a future meal!

Make connected meals. For example, when making potatoes for garlic chicken, do a few extra and use the leftovers to go with Korean beef (instead of cooking rice).

Or save some potato cubes unmashed to make potato salad. While you’re boiling the eggs for the potato salad, throw in a few extra for egg salad.

And always, always, make extra rice to package up in single serving sizes and store in the freezer!

Strategic Contingency Planning

Strategic Contingency Planning
Strategic Contingency Planning

It happens. You get stuck working late, encounter a major traffic jam on the way home or get caught up in a lengthy conversation with a friend. Then it’s too late to cook that dinner you had planned or you’re just too tired.

Make sure you’ve stocked up on a few items that have a decent shelf life and are quick and easy to throw together.

Eggs, cheese, peanut butter and pasta are excellent choices, as are crackers, rice and bread (store this double wrapped in the freezer if you need to!). Frozen fruits and vegetables require no prep at all so they can easily be used in a pinch.

Think of Ways To Be Creative!

Be Creative!
Be Creative!

Decide to go to the farmers market, choose something you haven’t had before then go home and create a meal.

No, honestly, I “wing” a lot of my recipes and it always turns out fine.

Ok, almost always as there was the “Fennel Incident”. Fennel, as it turns out, tastes like black licorice. Gross. Who knew?

Dress up your go-to meals. Grilled cheese? Mix it up with a two cheese combo, mustard and a couple of pickle slices. Add a splash of cream and some croutons to your tomato soup. Swap out the ketchup on your burger for some thousand island dressing.

Presto Chango! Leftovers don’t have to be the same thing that they were when they were originally left over. (Say THAT 5 times fast!) Pair the grilled chicken and roasted carrots you had last night with chopped onion, soy sauce, leftover rice and – BOOM! – a delicious (and definitely not leftover) stir-fry.

Riddle Me This

Riddle Me This
Riddle Me This

Who do you have to answer to anyway? Cooking for just you allows you to eat what you want, when you want, using whatever ingredients you want and as spicy (or not) as you want.

Who’s gonna even know? So what if that tuna and spaghetti thing didn’t measure up to your expectations? I’m not gonna tell and you don’t have to either!

No one’s watching, right? Pour a glass of wine, turn up the 80’s pop music and have a dance party in your pajamas while cooking pasta for the 3rd day in a row. Because you can.

Life is what you make it so make it good. Be brave, be bold, be empowered. And above all, have fun.

What are your thoughts on cooking for one? What are your favorite recipes and strategies? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Change Your Food, Change Your Life

We’ve become a society of convenience-based, fast-food junkies but what’s the REAL cost of processed food? My motto: change your food, change your life.

Change Your Food, Change Your Life
Change Your Food, Change Your Life

We are all acquainted with those people who wouldn’t know a fresh vegetable if it ran them down in the street. Maybe you are one of those people. Or, rather, were one of those people.

The fact that you’re here, reading this article, tells me that you’ve changed. It tells me that you want to eat differently.

I had a dear friend who embraced the motto, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house”. Yes, she was being funny but it was also (mostly) true and, if we’re being truthful, we all feel that way from time to time.

We’ve become a society of convenience-based, fast-food junkies. I’ve made a decision to change my life, to change the way I eat, so now I’m embracing this new motto: “Change Your Food, Change Your Life”.

Here are a few reasons why.

Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?

Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?
Do Processed Foods Make You Hungry?

The US National Institutes of Health say that eating a diet full of processed foods causes a rise in hunger hormones.

In a month-long study, 20 volunteers lived in a laboratory and spent two weeks eating a diet of processed foods followed by two weeks eating a diet of unprocessed foods.

It was discovered that the unprocessed diet caused appetite-suppression hormones PYY to rise while hunger hormone ghrelin went down.

This did not happen for the processed food portion of the study. As a matter of fact, the volunteers consumed an average of 500 more calories every day while on the processed foods diet.

Why is this happening? The answers aren’t clear. Obviously more studies are needed to get to the bottom of this.

Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?

Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?
Do Processed Foods Make You Fat?

The study I’ve noted above took great care to make sure that the nutritional intake for the two diets was similar but, here in the real world, things look a little different, don’t they?

We tend to choose (and overeat) processed foods that are full of refined carbs, added sugar and fat, all of which appeals to the human palate, but tend to fall short when it comes to fiber, protein and nutrition.

When we couple that with the information garnered about hormones in the study mentioned above, it’s no wonder we’re gaining weight.

Studies have shown again and again that beings who eat (humans, mice, dogs, etc) gravitate towards foods that taste good and we don’t mind compromising our health to do it.

In past generations, this desire was mitigated by the food that was available and the process of preparing it. If you missed that deer or didn’t have wood to build a fire, then you simply had to consume what you had.

In today’s society, the plethora of readily available and inexpensive convenience foods assures that we can eat as much as we want, whenever want.

Do Processed foods make you tired?

Do Processed foods make you tired?
Do Processed foods make you tired?

We’re Bushed. Zonked. Fried. Done in. Pooped. Whatever you call it, it’s no fun to be weary.

As we struggle valiantly to stay awake during the morning meeting, we vow to do better.

We promise ourselves that tonight we’ll lose the screen time, skip that second glass of wine and hit the sack earlier. So why isn’t it helping?

While all these things are certainly issues in our day-to-day lives, the fatigue that we’re suffering could be directly linked to the foods that we eat.

More and more, experts are uncovering the reasons that processed foods make you tired. And they’re not necessarily the reasons you may think.

I think we all know that when we eat a donut, the blood sugar spike we get will be quickly followed by a dip, leaving us tired and cranky.

What many people don’t realize is that the same holds true for so-called “white” carbs. These are the refined carbs found in many white foods such as white bread, white flour, white rice and some breakfast cereals.

The better choices to avoid that sugar crash are whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal.

Things go much deeper than that, however.

Because many processed foods don’t contain the nutrients that our bodies need to function, using them as a main food source can lead to a variety of health issues such as anemia. The higher salt sugar and fat content can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The chemicals that are used in processed foods can cause fatigue as well. Inorganic phosphate, for example, is shown to reduce oxygen uptake as well as impede the body’s ability to produce fatty acids. Considering that it’s used in up to 70% of all processed foods, I think we can agree that it’s a problem.

Do processed foods make you crave sugar?

Do processed foods make you crave sugar?
Do processed foods make you crave sugar?

Why does it seem that the more we eat, the more we want?

The answer is simple: Modern industrial food manufacturers have worked tirelessly to create foods that make us want more.

They have surrounded us with food that is cheap, delicious, calorie-dense and impossible to resist.

They have created food that is, by design, addictive.

So, yes. That sugar-filled donut you ate this morning really did make you crave more sugar.

But how do they do it? This next part’s a little scary so buckle up.

Manufacturers have discovered how to use a precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to virtually ensure our overconsumption of the foods they’re pushing. This concoction lights up the pleasure centers in the brain, creating a euphoria that compels us to want more.

It’s so powerful that it’s been compared to cocaine. Yes, you heard me right. Check out these findings put together by Yale University.

The Future of Processed Foods

The Future of Processed Foods
The Future of Processed Foods

Despite the outcries of those who look to regulate the industry, I wouldn’t expect things to change anytime soon.

Where there is a demand, there will, without doubt, be a supply and right now processed foods account for more than half the calories that Americans consume.

Ultimately, it’s up to each and every one of us to educate ourselves and then map out a nutritional plan that works in our individual lives.

No, we’re not experts but we don’t have to be.

We only have to strive each day to be a little better than the day before.

We only have to want to make those small changes and see them through until they become so ingrained that we find that we have, after all, changed our lives.  Check out this article for a few tips on how to begin cooking your own healthy and delicious foods at home!

Please feel free to share your personal journey in the comments below!

 

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

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