Posted in food, health & wellness, loreeebee.ca, recipes

Calorie Cutting Hacks for Classic Recipes

photo credit: Nicole Michalou and Pexels

Do you love classic recipes, but dread consuming the calories they are usually laden with? Me too. Over the years I have learned to substitute many calorie-rich ingredients out for healthier options, without sacrificing the taste or presentation.

Creamy Sauces

I learned to substitute the cream in many recipes because my stomach can never handle the high-fat content in cream. Instead, I use almond milk, but you could substitute in any other nut milk. I call them milks, but technically they are not milk, they have no dairy in them. I have yet to try the cashew version, but plan to soon. Not only will you not notice a lack of creaminess, but the fat in nut “milks” are a healthy type of fat.

For example, I make chicken alfredo with either fettuccine or penne pasta using a can of mushroom soup diluted with almond milk instead of the half and half or full-fat cream called for in most alfredo recipes. If the recipe calls for salt, omit it as the canned soup is salty enough, especially when parmesan cheese is an essential ingredient. Otherwise, your favourite recipe can stay the same.

Another idea is to use unflavoured, unsweetened, low-fat Greek yogurt instead of the sour or other cream called for in saucy dishes and casseroles such as stroganoff or pasta. Regular yogurt also works, but the Greek version is generally thicker, resulting in creamier sauces.

Gravy or Soups

Every time I roast meat, I add minced or a few cloves of garlic and several slices of onion to the bottom of the pan. This trick creates rich, golden-brown, flavourful “drippings” that can be used immediately for gravy, or frozen for future use in soups, stews, and sauces.

I keep a bucket in my freezer for such use, each new addition forms a layer. The fat rises to the top of each layer and is easily removed when thawed for use. Soups are especially tasty when a mixture of the layers are used as broth. The only problem is that no two batches of your home made soups will ever be identical.

This method eliminates the salt, sugar, and other unhealthy calories and ingredients that come in the canned or packaged supermarket broth, gravy, soup or stew.

Desserts

Similar to the creamy sauces, satisfyingly rich desserts can be made with almond (or other nut) milks instead of full fat, whipping or half and half cream. Except of course unless whipping the cream is required for volume. These milks don’t whip well.

Silken tofu and soy milk in equal parts, plus a bit of vanilla can be blended together and then whipped to replace full fat whipping cream. This is also a great dairy-free option for your favourite creamy dessert.

Not only does sugar increase your caloric intake, but it also adversely affects your body in other ways. There is lots of research linking kids’ poor, even aggressive behaviour and/or poor concentration to increased sugar consumption.

So, how can you eliminate or at least reduce these bad effects? Simply cut back on the sugar amount called for in recipes, or use a sugar alternative. Stevia, a plant-based sugar alternative, can be used in many desserts to cut calories as well as the glycemic index of your treats. Foods with a high glycemic index cause our blood sugar levels to rise dramatically after their consumption, an unhealthy treatment of our body, especially over time.

In less sweet recipes, such as muffins, simply use more fruit instead of the oil or fat called for in the recipe. Extra (naturally sweet) fruit also means you can reduce the amount of granulated sugar you add to the mixture. For example, applesauce is amazing in muffins. It adds a natural sweetness and keeps the muffins moist. I have also used low fat, unsweetened yogurt in muffins with great success. You may have to play around with the amounts of the substitutions to achieve your perfect muffin, but it can be done. Just make small batches until you discover your favourite.

Conclusions

With colder weather upon us, it is natural to crave and request comfort foods more frequently. To get even more enjoyment out of your favourite classics, experiment with alternative ingredients to make the recipes lighter and healthier, but still satisfying.

Just imagine, using these tips will allow you to consume your favourite classic meals or treats, with less guilt!

Your waistline, bathroom scale and your overall health will thank you.

Posted in health and wellness, loreeebee.wordpress.com, weight management

Eating Plant Based: A Crash Course

This article was originally published on Pyure Organic’s Blog Sweet Talk, and modified slightly to become a guest post here on my blog.

Nearly ten million Americans follow a plant-based diet for health, ethical, or preference reasons. Yet, there’s some confusion around the term plant-based – it’s not the same as vegan or vegetarian, though those terms sometimes get used interchangeably. We’ll break down what it means to eat a plant-based diet, as well as how sugar fits into a plant-based diet for weight loss. 

What is a plant-based diet?

People who follow a plant-based diet mostly or entirely eat plants. The majority of what they eat is fruit, vegetables, legumes – rather than animal products such as meat, cheese, or eggs. 

There are many variations of plant-based diets, including: 

  • Whole-foods plant-based: This diet prioritizes eating whole, unrefined, or minimally refined food that comes from plants, without any animal ingredients (meat, milk, eggs, or honey). It excludes processed foods, like boxed macaroni and cheese or meat-free vegan chicken nuggets. 
  • Mediterranean diet: Named for the traditional eating habits in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts, and seeds, using olive oil as the primary fat and low amounts of animal proteins, usually fish over meat.
  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian: This diet also prioritizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, but as the name suggests, followers are flexible and incorporate meat and animal products sometimes. 
  • Pescetarian: This diet cuts out red meat, poultry, and “wild game” but permits dairy products (such as cheese and eggs) as well as fish and shellfish. 
  • The DASH diet: DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet aims to reduce sodium in your diet and to help lower blood pressure. Followers of the DASH diet eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, some fish, poultry and legumes, plus a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week.
  • The MIND diet: MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet is a hybrid of the two diets mentioned above and aims to reduce the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are, unsurprisingly, varied depending on what plants each person chooses to eat. For instance, one study compared the effects of a plant-based diet that incorporated whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes as compared to a plant-based diet that included potatoes (fries and potato chips), sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, and refined grains. The first group had the lowest risk for heart disease, were more active, and weighed less than the second group. 

Plant-based vs. vegan diets

So, what’s the difference between a plant-based diet and veganism? 

Vegan diets abstain from all animal-based products. Often, veganism extends beyond dietary choices and into lifestyle habits. “Veganism is generally defined as living in a way that avoids consuming, using, or exploiting animals as much as realistically possible. While this leaves room for individual preferences and barriers, the overall intent is that minimal harm is done to animals through life choices,” reports Healthline. “In addition to excluding animal products from their diets, people who label themselves as vegan typically avoid purchasing items that were made from or tested on animals.” 

As it relates to eating habits, many vegans still eat processed foods. Vegans can certainly eat junk food – cookies, potato chips, and some candies are vegan. If you’re seeking to eat better to lose weight, veganism isn’t necessarily a silver bullet. It’s important to consider the quality of your ingredients in addition to where they come from (plants or animals). 

How does sugar fit into eating plant-based?

For those looking to eat healthier or lose weight, making the switch to plant-based is a good start – but only when you start to incorporate the right types of plant-based ingredients. “A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Kelly Plowe, MS, RD told VeryWellFit.

A whole-foods, plant-based diet will eliminate processed sugar, but be aware: alternatives like maple syrup, coconut sugar, and raw cane sugar can have the same effect on blood sugar as table sugar.

Research shows that Stevia is a healthier alternative to table sugar

Stevia is a key ingredient when trying a plant-based diet to lose weight. Stevia is a plant-based, zero glycemic (meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar), zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar – so a little goes a long way. Stevia is also free from any of the chemicals used to create artificial sweeteners. Just by substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, you’ll be making a big difference in your nutrition. For many, stevia makes up an important ingredient in a plant-based diet. For others, this is your first taste of exploring what it means to eat plant-based.

Pyure Organic Stevia is one of the only organic stevia brands out there. Learn more about Pyure’s organic stevia products – and get some tasty plant-based recipes – on our blog, Sweet Talk. Pyure products are plant-based, made from organic stevia plants. This highly sustainable plant lets us create a high-quality, tasty sugar alternative – and helps you avoid the chemicals, additives, and artificial processes found in many artificial sweeteners, not to mention plain-old sugar. 

That’s lots of good information about an organic, plant-based alternative to table sugar. I admit, I have never tried Stevia, and did not know much about it until recently. I do believe that sugars in our food are the culprit when battling weight gain. I have never enjoyed the chemical taste of artificial sweeteners, but recognize that reducing sugar consumption is a healthy and effective way to control weight.

As Stevia is plant based and organic, I may just try it when baking (my main sugar consumption, especially now that my grandkids like to bake with me) to see how the taste compares to sugar. Stay tuned!

Posted in food, guest blog, health and wellness, loreeebee.ca

Kick Your Sugar Habit

The following is another guest post from Pyure:

It’s not breaking news — sugar is bad for you. 

It’s fattening, promotes tooth decay and puts you at risk for a myriad of diseases.

What you may not know, however, is that sugar has been clinically proven to be addictive, producing symptoms typically associated with substance abuse, including cravings, tolerance and withdrawal. 

In fact, one study showed that given the choice, lab rats choose sugar over cocaine.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been trying to go cold turkey, but have been coming up short. 

How to Kick Sugar Cravings

Try these realistic sugar-cutting tactics and see if you get better results.

  • When it comes to empty calorie sugar bombs like soda and cake, make them special treats rather than everyday snacks.
  • Before making a purchase, get in the habit of eyeing the nutrition label for sugar content — you’ll be amazed at what products unexpectedly contain sugar.

Tips to Kick Your Sugar Habit

For a sweet fix at work, opt for fresh fruit or the occasional juice. As your taste buds adjust to your reduced sugar diet, these guys will taste all the more sweet!

  • Get in the habit of exercising, even if it’s just once a week to start. 
  • Physical activity stimulates the same pleasure receptors as sugar!
  • When sweetening your morning coffee or tea, opt for Pyure Organic Stevia for a zero-calorie, zero-sugar alternative that tastes great.

Look, when it comes to cutting out sugar, we know it’s easier said than done. But with realistic goals, manageable steps, and a little sweetness from Pyure, you’re well on your way!

Posted in business, guest blog, health and wellness, weight management

Does Stevia Help with Weight Loss?

This is a guest post, from the Sweet Talk blog at Pyure Brands….

The bottom line is that the only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than your body burns for energy.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and targeting added sugars and replacing them with stevia is an easy and tasty fix.

Research has shown that subjects given stevia-containing foods or beverages consumed fewer calories throughout the day. (2,3)

The Truth About Added Sugars

It seems like everything we read talks about avoiding carbs and sugar.

In the U.S., the average intake of added sugars reaches up to 270 calories or more than 13 percent of calories per day based on an average 2000 calorie diet.

Not surprisingly, the largest source of added sugars in the typical diet is beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters. They account for almost half (47%) of all added sugars consumed by the U.S. population.

The other major source of added sugars is snacks and sweets.(1) Most people don’t realize how much sugar they consume from other sources like marinades, sauces, salad dressings, yogurt, crackers and other items that don’t “seem sweet.”

The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories or about 50 grams per day based on 2000 calories.

If your body needs fewer calories based on size, age, and activity level, the gram limits are even lower.

To take it a step further, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 24g grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men.

It’s obviously an area of concern in our standard American diet as the term “added sugars” appeared 138 times in the dietary guidelines report!

Knowing Your Limit for Added Sugars

Simply put, consumption of added sugars can make it difficult for people desiring to lose weight to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits.

Whenever anyone restricts total calories, everything eaten needs to contain more nutrients to make sure you get what you need for proper fueling while limiting total calories.

One of the simplest strategies is to limit added sugars.

Why? Because they are more often found in foods that do not provide quality vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that we look for to help prevent lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers.

That’s where products like stevia fit in.

Can Stevia Help with Weight Loss?

Since stevia is a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar, a little goes a long way. By substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, there are many ways to cut total calories and sugar grams.

  1. Using stevia to sweeten your coffee or tea (hot or iced), saves 16 calories per teaspoon over sugar. A few cups per day with a few teaspoons each can really add up quickly. Each stevia packet is formulated to equal the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar. Take some with you to your favorite coffeehouse or restaurant and add your own.
  2. Instead of eating pre-sweetened Greek yogurt with up to 20 grams of sugar, start with the plain variety and add your own stevia, vanilla extract, cinnamon and fruit.
  3. Swap stevia for sugar, honey or maple syrup in your oatmeal, homemade salad dressings, baked goods and other recipes that call for sugar. Even subbing in ½ the amount in a recipe can make a big difference.

We would love to hear your sugar swap success stories. How do you enjoy Pyure Organic Stevia?

References:

  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015- 2018, 8th edition, Added Sugars page 54: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
  2. Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, Williamson DA. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite 2010;55:37–43.
  3. Tey SL, Salleh NB, Henry J, Forde CG. Effects of aspartame-, monk fruit-, stevia- and sucrose-sweetened beverages on postprandial glucose, insulin and energy intake. Int J Obes (Lond) 2017;41:450–7.
Posted in family, food, health and wellness, loreeebee.ca, weight management

Simple tips to lose pounds and inches

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Each year (at least for the past 4 years since I started my landscaping business) I notice the pounds and inches creep up on me throughout my offseason.  The main reason is the difference in my lifestyle between the two seasons.

In the spring, summer, and fall (from April to October here in Canada) I spend a minimum of 6 hours a day working in gardens.  Not that gardening is an extreme form of exercise, but the stretching, bending, squatting and walking does add up.  During the winter months, my main work is freelance writing for which I sit at a desk for those 6 hours.  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out which lifestyle is healthier.

The fact that the Christmas holiday season falls during these winter months does not help.  Like most people… Continue reading “Simple tips to lose pounds and inches”

Posted in food, health and wellness, loreeebee.ca, weight management

Sugar, Sugar

In the diet or health and wellness world, sugar is a bad word these days.  Apparently, processed foods, even the fat-free, fat-reduced or light products are not the way to go as they are making us fatter and fatter.  Why?  Because of the large amounts of sugar they contain.

Sugar comes in many forms and names.  Packaged, processed or prepared foods may be convenient and tasty, but are loaded with various forms of sugar:

  • sucrose, maltose, fructose, dextrose, glucose (anything ending in ‘ose’)
  • honey, syrup, nectar, sweetener, cane crystal, molasses, cane juice, malt

Sugar in any form causes our blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise and fluctuate, causing weight gain and more.  When the sugar is metabolized in our bodies, it is stored as fat.  A level, controlled blood sugar level is the best way to maintain a healthy weight and ward off diseases such as:

  • diabetes
  • breast, endometrial and colon cancers
  • heart disease and high blood pressure
  • infertility
  • sleep apnea
  • osteoarthritis
  • liver and gallbladder disease
  • stroke

Starting your new weight loss program does not have to be difficult.  Aim to eat more fresh, non-processed foods. If you are tempted to buy convenient, processed foods, beware of the hidden sugars; read the labels!

Cut out sugar from your diet for a healthier, slimmer you.

Posted in lorieb.com

Another Success Story: Wheat Free and Reduced Sugar Diet

Just before Christmas a friend confided that she has been struggling with weight gain, sluggishness, and low energy for a while now and since a car accident a few years ago has added concussion-like symptoms, body aches and brain fog to her list of ailments. She was in a no win cycle where she knew she needed to exercise more, but exercise worsened her symptoms…

I told her how my wheat-free diet has eliminated many of my health issues and loaned her my copy of “Wheat Belly” by William Davis. She read the book from cover to cover, gaining motivation along the way, and by the end she was hooked!

Three weeks ago she began to eliminate wheat and sugar from her diet, noticing an improvement almost immediately. To date she has lost 12 pounds, and 2 pant sizes. More importantly, she feels more energetic and is able to exercise more frequently and for longer periods of time…fantastic!!

Posted in lorieb.com

Lose the Wheat and more…

As promised in my last post, if you want to lose more than a few pounds and/or are concerned about your blood glucose levels, you will have to eliminate more than just wheat from your diet. There are many other foods that stimulate your appetite, and distort your insulin levels. These items all fall into the high glycemic index category, meaning they increase your blood sugar levels the most, which in turn causes more fat to be stored in your body. This theory is the basis of Dr William Davis’ book “Wheat Belly”. It is also the theory the “Zone” diet, popular a few years ago, is based on. I am sure there are many other “diets” based on these ideas, but these two are the ones I found made the most sense and worked the best…

Avoid: cornstarch and cornmeal (tacos, tortillas, corn chips), snack foods (potato chips, rice cakes, popcorn), desserts (pie, cake, ice cream), gluten-free foods (cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, tapioca starch), fruit juices and soft drinks (sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, colorings, carbonic acid), dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, figs, dates, apricots), some fats (hyrdrogenated/trans, fried oils, cured meats like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami)

Eat in moderation (less than 1/2 cup serving): rice (brown, white, wild), potatoes (white, red, sweet, yams), legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils), other non-wheat grains (quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, oats)

I know you’re thinking “WHAT CAN I EAT?”   Think back to the hunters and gatherers; vegetables should be the main component of your diet. Eat as many vegetables as you want!

Fruit, on the other hand, should be limited to small servings because modern, hybridized fruits contain too much sugar. The best (highest nutrient content and the least sugars) fruits are blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries and cherries. Bananas, pineapple, mango and papaya are the worst due to their high sugar content.

Raw (not roasted, or processed) nuts are full of good (monounsaturated) fats, protein and fiber, and are filling. Eat as many as you want of these too, they can reduce your cholesterol level and blood pressure. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and cashews are great. Peanuts (legumes, not nuts) cannot be eaten raw, be sure they are boiled or dry roasted without any additions.

Healthy oils are good too: extra-virgin olive, coconut, avocado oils and cocoa butter. Avoid polyunsaturated oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, vegetable oil. To avoid oxidizing the oil, avoid frying and keep cooking temperatures low.

Eat meat, but try to buy meats from grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free sources, and cook  the meat at lower temperatures for shorter times. Avoid processed and cured meats altogether.

Eggs and real (fermented)cheese are also great for you to eat. A chunk of cheese and a handful of raw nuts is a great snack!  Other dairy products, such as yogurt, (unsweetened, unflavored) milk, cottage cheese and butter should be restricted to two servings a day since the dairy protein in them increases your pancreatic release of insulin. Cheese is unlimited because of its fermentation process that reduces the effect of insulin release.

Other items, such as flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, avocados, olives, coconut, spices, unsweetened cocoa , unsweetened condiments (mustard, horseradish, salsa, vinegar etc) are all unlimited.

Water is your best choice in a beverage. Avoid fruit drinks and soft drinks; 100% fruit juice is acceptable in very small quantities. Tea and coffee (unsweetened, with or without milk) are fine since they are plant derived. Red wine is your best choice in alcoholic beverages; beer is wheat brewed and off-limits!

I am anxious to try the recipes listed in the back of “Wheat Belly”, especially the bread and muffin ones.    I will be sure to let you know what I think of them…