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Archive for June, 2010

Vegetarians! Are you eating Vegetables?

If you are a vegetarian and overweight or at all unhealthy, constipated, or have a preventable disease, I suspect you are eating many of the foods I recommend trying to quit or radically reduce, and probably lots of “good fats” too. 

You may not be eating animal foods, but you’re probably not eating an incredible amount of fresh fruit and vegetables either.  Am I right? 

Also beware, many vegetarian processed foods are pretty dubious – some vegetarian sausages and veggie-burgers are filled with really bad ingredients. 

Please please please, do not eat processed, pre-packaged vegetarian foods unless you have complete and total confidence in your ability to read labels. 

Try to go for foods with ONE ingredient – themselves, and do your own cooking.

Many vegetarian restaurants and dishes are good, many are bad.  Like everyone else, vegetarians need to understand how these foods are prepared and if there are any bad ingredients or if they are soaked in vegetable oil, etc.

Dairy fat is a big temptation for lacto-ovo vegetarians, but I don’t quite understand how consuming lots of dairy makes any sense for anyone who is very concerned about the welfare of animals

If you must have dairy, you should make it organic and fat-free, and limit your intake of diary to once a day maximum. 

If you have not experimented with light soy and oat or rice-based drinks instead of dairy milk, please do so.  These are superb alternatives, provided they don’t contain sugar. 

Additionally, many vegetarians simply do not get enough high value protein in a lean and concentrated form, therefore they wind up hungry, and noshing on bad carbs. 

If you exercise a lot, or are in a weak state of health, you must ensure you are getting good high value proteins.  Soy is a good solution, so ensure you are getting enough. 

Make sure you are eating “integrated” foods – protein/ carbohydrates such as pulses and legumes, and ensure you are eating lots of different types of organic grains, fruits, vegetables, soy products such as tofu and edamame, and that you also are cooking with soybeans like any other pulse or bean.  Variety is key if you are vegetarian.

If you are celebrating vegetable plant life with your vegetarian diet, that is absolutely wonderful – ensure to celebrate the full spectrum and spend lots of time in the fresh produce section of your supermarket – where the fruit and vegetables are! 

You may wish to consider eating organic, wild fish from time to time, but that’s down to you.  If not a little fish, perhaps a few organic eggs.  Organic eggs are excellent sources of protein.  I believe it is better to eat organic fish and eggs than dairy products.

If you are vegetarian, Macrobiotics can be the solution for life-long health.  If you’re a passionate vegetarian I encourage you to explore the philosophy and methods of the Macrobiotic diet.  It is truly a celebration of plant foods, and will teach you about food combinations and ingredients, as well as a whole integrated philosophy about eating well. 

You may not think you are killing an animal, but ensure you’re not killing yourself either!

Love to you all!
La Libertini

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Why Organic?

Why Organic?

My simple answer to this is – why not?  If you have a choice, why would you choose the non-organic?  It is not a mystery – organic food tastes better and retains more of its naturally found nutrients. 

I don’t want to eat food that’s been reared or grown in an environment that is ridden with inorganic compounds – fertilizers, pesticides, hormones or whatever  the manufacturer or farmer has used to get the goods to market in a hastened or unnatural way.  It really is that simple. 

I think there will come a day when we look back on non-organic food and see it as just a phase that we went through in a post-industrialized world.  A phase that thankfully ended. 

For now, we should be demanding full digital disclosure on the barcodes of all food labels – organic or not. 

If the manufacturer can’t fit lots of information on the package, we should be able to enter a barcode online at home and get all the information about the production and/or growing processes. (Clothes too for that matter…) 

This way, we could have the correct information about what we are buying and can make the best, most informed choice. 

If you are a convert, please tell others about the goodness of organic foods.  Cook with them, tell people where to find them, and discuss the quality of organic foods with anyone who wants to know.

If you are worried about the cost, it may be worth doing a real comparison shop.  I think you will find the cost is not that different. 

And think not only about the cost to your health from eating inorganic compounds.  Think about being efficient with your food, not wasting your money on processed foods or foods you don’t need, and even growing your own garden. 

Start an organic garden – for you and your kids

If you have the space, try growing your own vegetables, herbs and even fruit.  There is no greater testament to organic, than to taste food that you have grown organically in your own back yard. 

There are many rather large suburban gardens that in summertime, could be heaving with fresh produce.  Yet, we go back and forth to the supermarket to buy what we could have grown, essentially for free. 

For children, taking part in the activities of a garden is educational and a truly wholesome way to spend time. 

Many urban areas have schemes for land-sharing and allotments.  Some are easier to join than others.  If this appeals to you, why not get involved?

Love to you all!
La Libertini

Its a Cow’s Life… For Goodness Sake Try Grain Milks

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about dairy products.  One might say I’m a bit fanatical.  If you have read my missive about what foods you should avoid when you’re trying to lose weight, you know I have it in for dairy.

I will admit, I do enjoy a drop of skimmed organic milk with my coffee, and occasionally (like once a month) I have cheese.  When I was preggo I had glasses of skimmed milk.  But really as things go, I am not a lover of dairy.

So… the other night I was looking on Ye Olde Handy Internet, trying to discover why I thought I may have been brainwashed by my friends in a Macrobiotic cult in the 1980s. They eschewed dairy – it was like a poison.  Really, nothing was worse than dairy.

So, I did some research into the life of dairy cows.  I knew their lives were bad, but not that bad.  Even organic dairy cows don’t have that great a life, so now I’m skeptical about that and will reduce my consumption of organic dairy also.  It is also unnecessary for humans to consume.

Here are some lovely facts about dairy cows on Wikipedia – a softer touch.

There are other more dramatic descriptions here on Dawn Watch and milksucks.com

Clearly there are some folks who are VERY anti-dairy.  And having read these web sites, I would advise any lacto-vegetarian to seriously consider grain milks instead.

In addition to having a mostly terrible life, dairy cows are eventually slaughtered for hamburger and dog food, so if you are really concerned about animal welfare, maybe re-think why you think you need dairy products.

So, why do people drink milk?  Well, the diary industry does a big job on people. Some people are convinced that milk is a requirement.  Mothers give their kids milk because they will drink it, and it allegedly contains must-have nutrients that are hard to come by. That is, if your kid won’t eat any decent food.

My son cannot tolerate dairy, so he has soy formula and unsweetened Rice Dream.  He loves Rice Dream.  There are lots of people who can’t tolerate dairy. Others just don’t have it as part of their culture.  In any case, not eating dairy forces you to be more imaginative about other types of foods, more valuable and more nutritious.

I think eating or drinking the mammary secretions of another mammal is just plain odd.  And quitting meat or fish and ingesting dairy as a protein substitute is, I think, also very odd.

In my view it is best to have very little dairy, and feel strongly that if you do eat it, it should be organic and fat-free.  It is however, totally avoidable.  I feel the same way about meats and poultry. Less is more – and organic is definitely best.

So what would you have instead of milk?  There are several fantastic grain milks that are very easy to come by.  You can get all of them unsweetened and many come calcium fortified and also organic.  Here they are:

  • Soy milk – Much improved, available everywhere, you can put it into your coffee, there are crazy flavours like chocolate and strawberry and banana, but these contain sugar and / or other sweeteners, which I maintain are NOT necessary and are a risk to health.
  • Rice milk – Rice Dream is my favourite, and my 1 year old son likes it too, great on cereal and just as a nice refreshing drink.
  • Oat milk – What a revelation!  Great on cereal, a bit heavier than rice milk and nice to create variety in your grain milk diet.
  • Quinoa milk – Harder to find, but a lovely grain taste that goes great with cereal.

Obviously if you are trying to lose weight, you’ll need to count your calories with grain milks like you would with anything else.  Don’t drink more than 100 calories of soy, rice, oat, or quinoa milk at any one time – its not necessary.

If you go over to the dark side and take in some dairy product from time to time, make sure it is organic and that you do so every once in awhile.  I might also add that if you are eating full-fat cheeses, you’ll need a LOT of luck losing weight and in particular cellulite.

Remove cheese from your diet and you can reap health benefits straight away.

Grain milks – the way forward!

Love to you all!
La Libertini

Categories: Uncategorized

Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels

Hmmm…

I heard a certain supermodel got into trouble for saying this.  But is it true?  I think so. Obviously it depends on how skinny you are talking.  Optimum weight?  Sure. Anorexic?  Uh, no.  (Women your BMI should be anywhere from 19-24, anything else is under or overweight.)

But back to what this actually means:  No food is worth sacrificing your health for.  No birthday cake, no sneaky ice cream or chocolate, no leftover pizza, no second helping of takeaway, no buckets of fried chicken, no late night snacking.

It is, quite simply, better to aspire and to be and to remain – thin, than to cave into your desire for bad foods.

And bad foods are not only the way to gain weight – there are lots of people eating really great organic, healthy foods who simply eat too much.  They too, just wind up carrying around a lot of excess junk in the trunk.

Am I promoting abstinence from pleasure?  Well, that depends on what you call pleasure.

I consider it a pleasure to dress myself easily.

I consider it a pleasure to have more energy.

A pleasure to look forward to exercise.

A pleasure not to have high blood pressure, or diabetes.

I consider it a pleasure not to be squashed in Economy, or squash others.

A pleasure not to have a fear of being naked in the gym locker room.

Mostly, a pleasure of not thinking about my body at all really!

You can be free.  Just remember that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Love to you all!!
La Libertini

Superfood Salad

This Superfood Salad is one of the best things you can have for lunch.  Vary your ingredients, and you can be happy eating it several times a week.

Vegetarians can use tofu instead of fish, as indicated.

*Hint*:  Cook your grain in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.

Mix the 5 elements below with 2 tablespoons Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (see Amazing Recipes) :

a. Greens – 1-2 varieties of romaine, arugula, watercress, mixed salad greens, café greens (one cup chopped, 2 cups flat)

b. 3 tablespoons Multi-Bean Salad Mix (see Amazing Recipes)

c. Vegetables – 2 varieties of carrots, pepper, celery, onion, tomato, broccoli, corn, grated beetroot (½ cup of each)

d. Cooked plain grain – 1 variety of bulghar wheat, brown rice, red Camargue rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa, spelt (2 tablespoons only)

e. 1 organic hard boiled egg OR ½ can of dolphin friendly tuna in spring water OR 1 oz steamed white fish (add cold) OR 2 oz crushed OR cubed nigari tofu

Enjoy cool or at room temperature (preferred).

Love to you all!
La Libertini

Cleansing and Detoxifying Fish Pho with Greens

Fish Pho With Greens

A Pho, pronounced “phuh” is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine.  It is normally made with beef stock, but this is a much lighter version using fish and greens.  You could even omit the fish if you are fasting or are a vegetarian.

The Pho is a wonderful staple at any time of the year.  Its great in summer when you need something filling but don’t want to be around a hot stove for too long.

The idea is to add some raw and some cooked ingredients to hot miso or chicken stock. Experiment with greens, onions, garlic, ginger, hot pepper, mushrooms, fennel, etc. to taste.

Serves 1

You’ll need:

  • Chinese mushrooms (dry)
  • Fish balls / shrimp / tilapia or any NON-OILY fish such as cod, halibut, snapper, bass, etc.
  • Mung bean (glass) vermicelli noodles (optional)
  • Broccoli rabe or any other dark green leafy vegetable
  • Rocket / arugula
  • Fennel
  • Miso base OR organic low sodium chicken stock (cubes are fine)
  • Red hot chili peppers
  • Ginger
  • Optional greens are spinach leaves, basil, mint, cilantro
  • Optional onions are chopped scallions, onions

If your mushrooms are dried, soak these for half an hour or until soft. Remove stalk and slice mushroom caps thinly.

Steam or blanch all the other ingredients, apart from the mung bean noodles and any “instantly cooking” greens like spinach or rocket, or your herbs.

If you are using a white fish, you can grill this or steam it separately if you like.

Noodles need to be boiled for about a minute separately. Drain noodles, rinse under cold water.

In an empty saucepan, place 1 tablespoon miso soup base (use brown, red or white miso).  Add 16 oz of water and stir to dissolve paste. You can also use organic chicken stock by cube.

Add noodles, sliced mushrooms, greens, fish balls, shrimp or other white fish, and simmer for a minute or so to return them to temperature.

At the last minute, add any “instant cooking” greens or leaves and if desired a small handful of chopped coriander leaves.

Pour into bowl, sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and enjoy.

What’s wrong with our food culture?

With more access to both high quality information and such a wide variety of foods, one might think we would have fixed so many of the health problems associated with diet and weight control.

But the reverse is true – more people are sick and unhealthy.  More people are overweight, obese, or depressed, than ever before.  And there is so much at stake that it has now become a political issue in many countries.

People’s pockets and health care systems around the globe are straining under the burden of illnesses, quite often, that may have been simply averted all together by their sufferers eating a healthy diet.

Watch a channel like the Food Network in the United States, and you can see why well over 60% of the US population is overweight.   Some of the programs encourage cooking with ingredients that should NEVER be eaten, particularly in combination with each other, and some celebrate indulgence on a scale that can only be described as completely irresponsible.  Portion size in the US has grown to unimaginable sizes, and celebrated on some of these programs.

Also in the US, there is a non-stop barrage of advertisements for drugs on television. Many of these are to combat high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, there are even depression medications to supplement depression medications.

It is astounding to think of the statistics around Diabetes 2, or adult onset diabetes.  In some areas, over 50% of the population has this mostly preventable condition.  Ditto for high blood pressure, heart disease, many depressions and cancers.

What is going on? Well, in the lands of plenty, quite simply, most people are choosing to eat terrible food.  Abundance is all around, yet people punish their bodies, and the bodies of their families.

This is not only punishment with fast food, but with processed foods, ready meals, bad ingredients and bad food combinations.  People are spending thousands of dollars each year at the supermarket, on food that is killing them.

With regard to fast food, I cannot imagine why people have chosen to be there, to consume these terrible foods.  Many people, after reading books like Fast Food Nation and seeing films such as Supersize Me, have stopped eating regularly at the obvious fast food pit stops.  But with such low price points, and such high levels of addictive fat and additives – perhaps it is just an easy solution that they rationalize about later.

But many restaurants, chains, and roadside pit-stops are just as bad, and have unfortunately become the mainstay diet for many people.  Many reassure themselves that “once in awhile” surely must be OK, right?  It is not OK, and I envisage a day when we will look back on fast food for what it is – irresponsible.

Another thing we should realize is that most of our dietary patterns – recipes and food combinations, come from a time when calories were scarce and people worked long hard hours mostly doing physical labor, and when there were no cars!

These days, even though people have a much lesser need for calories and a greater choice of healthy fresh food options, they consume more calories, contained in some of the worst food.  Most people – 70% of people, are consuming more than their bodies need, every single day.

Additionally, there are endless diet programs and exercise machines, which promise to solve whatever problem you need to address, in a couple of weeks or even in an instant.

My favorite is a drug that prevents the body from absorbing fat, and if you happen to consume enough fat while you’re taking it, it helps you to leave a vile ring of oil behind you in the toilet.  What a lifesaver!

It is totally indicative of where we are with weight loss and obesity – choosing to select solutions when we are at the end of our tether, rather than looking at the root of the problem.

In the 1970’s, where I grew up, there were virtually no fat people.  It was very odd to be fat.  I ask anyone who can remember that age to think back – to look at photographs and recollect those times.  What has happened?

My view is this:  Firstly there were developments in technology and packaging – the microwave oven and frozen pre-prepared foods came on the scene, and people started cooking less.  Fast food restaurants opened en mass.

More women began leading double lives as parents and breadwinners, and spending as little time in the kitchen as they had spare.  While this was initially viewed as a luxury by men and women who had grown up in an era when food really was scarce, our “disconnection” with food ingredients and cooking has cost us very dearly in the longer run.  But that’s only part of it.

I think there was, in the 1980’s some sort of trend toward acceptance of virtually everything.  Free to be you and me.  Love me as I am.  Beauty on the inside.  Fat people need loving too.  Its not my fault I’m fat – I can’t help it.  I have a slow metabolism…

Over time we have added computers, remote control, cable television, satellite dishes, VHS and DVD players and video games to our home environment.  And the internet, which is ironically the most vital source of information about the prevention of disease, now accounts for more of our personal time than nearly anything else.

So, less accountability in the kitchen, “easy options” for food preparation (or non-preparation), more consuming of “sold foods”, as opposed to preparing foods, and lots and lots and lots and lots of screen-gazing – it’s a bad equation for health.

(Don’t get me wrong, I think we should celebrate the technological achievements of humankind, but let’s not forget the achievements of nature.  If we forget that, and fail to celebrate and respect it, we will be missing out on so much that nature has provided, in particular, good food.)

So, as a result of these cultural changes people have totally different lifestyles to those led in the pre-1960’s.  Our lives, particularly those of children, are more sedentary.

Our food, for the most part, has become appallingly over-processed.  Should I demonize the processed food industry?  Perhaps.  But people have brains, and we have choices.

Health is a two-way street, and we can’t always blame others.  People who are super-fit and healthy know that it takes good decisions and good actions to get that way.  They don’t blame others – they take control.

It is very hard work for many people to even cook a simple meal using fresh ingredients.  Some people cannot even SHOP for fresh food.  They can’t cook it so they don’t buy it.  They often do not even know what it looks like, or what it is.  Moreover, they are oblivious to how to read the label on many common foodstuffs, with many simple good foods simply being overlooked – forever.

Who suffers most?  Children, of course.  The future generations.  Many children have a diet of sugar, full fat processed dairy products, processed foods, institutional foods, ready meals, takeouts and junk food ONLY.  As a mother I find this very disturbing.

Children need proper nutrition not just to learn and grow, but to ensure their moods are not artificially elevated or depressed.

Also, how are children to learn about good nutrition if they are not eating it?

You know, we have no need to wonder about why children are hyperactive, lethargic, or cannot concentrate or are overweight.  Between the white sugar, chemical additives, bad fats, dyes, hormones and antibiotics present in so many foodstuffs, too many children are suffering from a lack of good general nutrition.

If you are feeding your kids sugary boxed cereal for breakfast, relying on an institutional school lunch, processed snacks in the afternoon, and a questionable dinner prepared on the move – at what stage of the day are they actually nutritionally primed to meet the demands of their bodies and the learning tasks that are set to them?

I say you can get better results when your children are eating sound, nutritious food, and they will thank you for it later in life.  Children rely on adults to guide them to making sound decisions.  Don’t let them down.

Life can be described as one action after another, one step at a time.  Make your actions and your steps count.  In my view, it is everyone’s responsibility to look after their weight and their health.  Sure, you have a right to choice, a right to make decisions about your life, and the right to enjoy yourself and “indulge”, but this must be tempered with a view toward the broader picture.

Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes… we all pick up the tab for overindulgence.  Being overweight, even moderately overweight, costs both individuals and society, a fortune.  Money, that some maintain, could be better allocated elsewhere.

For diseases and accidents that could be prevented or avoided, often the approach is with a wanton abandon – a selfishness and stupidity that is truly amazing for an allegedly advanced civilization.

Many people say – “I don’t have time to cook, I don’t have time to read labels, I don’t have time to exercise, I am so busy with my kids I have to feed them what I can, I can’t afford certain ingredients…”, etc., etc.

Well, the real time and money stealers are health problems.  Sitting in the doctor’s office, sitting perhaps with your children at the doctor’s office, buying prescriptions, undergoing tests, having operations, getting sick and having time off work, developing diabetes or cancer.

These steal time, and in many cases – whole lives.

If you don’t look after your body, it will not look after you – and trying to mend a broken body is most assuredly very time consuming.

Make time today, to eat and cook well.  There’s no shortage of information on how to do so.   The decisions and actions – are yours.