C is for Cookie: November 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Holidays Here We Come

With December just around the corner, it's time to think about the holiday season. It's a subject that fills most of us with a mixture of anticipation and dread. A time to reconnect with family members: some whom we cherish and others we're happy to see only once a year. A time to give and receive gifts: the look of joy on a child's face when you get it right, the feeling of guilt when taking back the unbelievable sweater your mother thought you'd love. And of course, then there's the full spectrum of holiday food sensations: "Mmm, delicious!", "Yes, a bit more thanks", "No I've had enough", "Uh-oh, I think I'm going to explode".

How do we balance all that food? Some of the treats on offer are rarely seen the rest of the year. And it's a time of year for indulgence, isn't it?

My own challenge is to eat a modest amount of my favourite holiday baked goodies. Everywhere I go, somebody offers their holiday baking, handmade with love. My conscience advises me to eat what's offered me; it's the polite thing to do. My taste buds squeal "actually we've never tried that type of shortbread before!" Even my rational mind thoughtfully points out "well, how often do we eat gingerbread, anyway?"

I've devised a method of eating for this time of year that specifically includes a certain amount of sugary treats. Tongue-in-cheek? Well, let's just say I won't be handing this meal plan to my clients. But I have used it myself to get through the holiday season and it does moderate my hedonistic tendencies.

Holiday Meal Planning

Eat a medium-sized portion of something hearty. It's cold out, and you don't want to be hungry in an hour and have to reach for any random sugar cookie lying around at the office.
Start off with a piece of fruit: mandarin orange, or half a grapefruit
30 minutes later, follow with oatmeal with pecans, flax oil, coconut, raisins and nutmeg. Add milk or soy milk.
Or an omelette or tofu scramble. Try curried tofu scram with diced peppers and onions.
**Take your multivitamin**

Mid-morning snack
Veggies and dip. Or apple with cheese.
'Tis the season to eat lots of vegetables if you want to boost your immune system to keep colds and flu at bay.

Lunch: Protein + vegetable meal. Save room for calorie-laden desserts!
Try a turkey black bean soup with side salad
Or, ratatouille
Or, chicken quesadillas
Or, small bowl of chili or stew with kale or other leafy green vegetable on the side
Now you can choose your favourite holiday treat for dessert: about three small-sized cookies/bars is appropriate. Eat slowly and savour. Do NOT feel guilty. Feel happy and filled with holiday cheer. This is one of the requirements for the holidays and you are simply following tradition.

Afternoon snack
You could have one of your coworkers proffered delights if you like, but make sure you stick to your plan of going to the gym or for a run before dinner. Now is not the time to let your exercise regime slip up! Forgoing exercise will make you feel guilty and will deny you a much-needed stress reliever.

Dinner: Meat and veggies. No bread, rice or potatoes. You're having dessert, remember?
Try roast chicken with broccoli and cauliflower on the side with olive oil dressing
Or, fish with a tomato, cucumber and green onion salad.
Or, tofu stirfry, but watch for sugar content in any of your sauces
Choose after-dinner desserts that contain cinnamon which is said to help balance blood sugar levels. Take small bites and enjoy your dessert. Praise highly the person who made it. Be thankful for your health and your well-functioning taste buds.

Another snack?
If you need another holiday snack before bedtime, make sure it's a small one and balance the blood sugar rush with some protein such as a cup of warm milk.

Repeat ad nauseum. Because eventually, you will get sick of all these rich desserts and you will come back to a healthier diet. But it's much better psychologically to enjoy a reasonable amount of desserts, than to mightily crave them. That can lead to deprivation or binge eating. So, dive into Aunt Margie's pumpkin pie, nibble appreciatively at your colleague's gingersnaps and take two of your neighbour's truffles. It's good for your relationships, and for your soul. Look forward to January, the stoic month, when you can resolve to reset your diet: from pies to piety.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"Don't You Know That You're Toxic?"

Today I read a study by the Canadian Environmental Defense Fund which concluded that we all have some degree of toxicity. Everyone who participated, from healthy-living folks on Salt Spring Island, B.C. to First Nations people in Northern Quebec had pollutants such as PCBs and fire-retardants in their bloodstreams. These chemicals are cancerous and can cause birth defects, reproductive problems and respiratory disorders. I'd hate to think Britney was right.

For years now, alternative health advocates have been warning the public about toxicity but the message has gone unheeded. It's a warning that most folks don't want to hear. Some think that if they avoid obviously toxic situations (like smoking, jogging in traffic or working as a miner) they will greatly reduce their risk. But they scary part of this study is that the participants were found to have a huge cocktail full of toxic chemicals in their blood. Taken individually, the amount of any one toxin in the blood is potentially harmful. But proof that the typical Canadian has a number of these toxins in his bloodstream is an even greater health risk.

So what can we do? I'd like to think about this in a hopeful way. If we know that our environment is polluting us in ways we cannot control at this moment, we have to change this going forward and take steps to heal ourselves right now. Supporting organic farming is an obvious way to cut down on toxic chemicals polluting our water and air. Eating organic food ensures that we ingest the least amount of toxins in our food. The more we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, the more we displace the unusable toxins in our body with organic, highly-usable fuel.

I've always felt that the human body is an incredible machine that does amazing things even though we don't always give it the care it requires. We rarely give it the best fuel, we make it work for hours on end and don't give it enough rest. We even pollute it with harmful toxins but it still does its job, for the most part. When you consider that your body is the only machine you will own forever, and that it cannot be replaced, it sets up a pretty convincing argument for taking good care of yourself.

I'm going to go and make a batch of flaxseed ginger cookies now. That's one way I like to take care of myself: indulgent and nourishing!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Veggie Publicity Machine

It's official! Eating your vegetables can protect you from modern diseases. Which makes you wonder why we have these modern diseases in the first place, hmm? In the last 150 years or so, some relatively new diseases have killed staggering numbers of people in developed countries. Diseases like cancer and heart disease are the #1 and #2 killers of North Americans. Could it be connected to the fact that for the last 150 years, we've been eating fewer and fewer vegetables, and consuming mostly processed foods?

I was overjoyed to see this study called Eat Your Veggies To Fight Cancer put out by the American Association for Cancer Research. These people aren't going to publicize information that cannot be backed up. Although, I think the scientific reportage wavers a bit when the article encourages us to rub sprouts on our bodies. Is this nutritional reporting or Food Porn?

Eat Your Veggies and Regain Control of Your Health. This is a great message to publicize. We are seeing the message repeated everywhere these days and it can't come soon enough. The medical community is slowly starting to turn their attention to disease prevention as hundreds of thousands die or are hospitalized annually due to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

For years, fruit and vegetable farmers have stood idly by and watched as huge corporations like Coca-Cola and McDonald's lured their customers away with expensive advertising campaigns for dead processed food. None of those farmers had marketing budgets. They had no way to keep consumers interested in tender shoots of asparagus blanketed in Hollandaise sauce, new potatoes drizzled with a touch of olive oil and freshly ground pepper, or the sensuous juicyness of biting into fresh summer peaches. It's wonderful to have the health authorities now stepping in to promote our natural multivitamins: fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers everywhere are undoubtedly sleeping soundly tonight.