Pumpkin Protein Waffles

pumpkin protein waffles

Hey, pumpkin loving people! I’m back with a new recipe for protein waffles made with pumpkin tastiness for you. It’s only been 2 years since my last recipe here at Healthy Green Kitchen…and that one featured pumpkin too. This is all normal, right?! I promise I eat things that don’t involve pumpkin. Sometimes. Hahaha. Seriously, though…right now … Read more

Fresh Vegetable Juice #SAVEITSUNDAY

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Glad in conjunction with their #SAVEITSUNDAY program. With #SAVEITSUNDAY, Glad hopes to educate the public about the consequences of food waste, and I am proud they’ve asked me to be a part of the program. I am being compensated to share my #SAVEITSUNDAY experiences; all opinions are 100% my own.

I am a really big fan of fresh juice. I don’t drink it every day or anything (nor do I engage in juice fasting), but I’m always happy when I do get the juicer out to make a nourishing drink. I enjoy all sorts of fruit and vegetable combinations (depending on what I happen to have in the refrigerator): I even included a chapter on fresh juice in my book.

Carrots and beets are both root vegetables and they are both quite sturdy (meaning: they keep extremely well). It is because of this sturdiness that I wanted to highlight them this month, since my #SAVEITSUNDAY posts are all about being mindful of “loving food more to waste it less”.

Carrots and beets can last for up to a month if you store them correctly: it’s best to keep them unpeeled (remove the tops if they are part of a bunch) in the refrigerator. The folks at Glad recommend placing the unpeeled carrots and/or beets in a large plastic bag (such as a zipper quart or gallon-size bag) and squeezing as much air as possible out of the bag when sealing. They’ll then do best in the crisper drawer. (To learn more about the best ways to prepare and store your produce, please visit Glad’s Food Storage Protection Pointers.)

carrot, beet, apple juice | www.healthygreenkitchen.com

It’s Valentine’s Day…why not make fresh vegetable juice for yourself or someone you love? Not just today, but any day? It’s an excellent way to bump up the amount of raw foods in your diet and each glass is extremely nutrient dense. Plus, this juice has such a lovely hue thanks to the inclusion of beet.

What about all the pulp, though…the fibrous by-product of juicing? We don’t want to waste that, right? Well, The Kitchn’s got you covered with 7 ideas for its use, Vegetarian Times has 20 suggestions for using pulp, and here’s a whole Pinterest board dedicated to not wasting the pulp when you juice.

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Homemade Oreos + My Current Thoughts on Sugar

Did you hear the news? Oreos are just as addictive as cocaine!

I was kind of shocked to find that out, actually, because it’s not at all my experience with Oreos. I generally feel more of a heroin-like effect when I eat them. Oh, wait…that’s probably because sugar is the same as heroin to the body. Yeah, it all makes sense now.

Ok, friends, I hope you know I am totally joking here. I have zero experience with either cocaine or heroin (and I haven’t had more than a handful of store-bought Oreos in many years). I’m going to share a recipe for Homemade Oreos with you in this post, but first I have some other things to say.

Homemade Oreos | Healthy Green Kitchen

I’m getting really tired of all of these “this food is the equivalent of a street drug” references out there (I mean…seriously? Can we stop with this already? It’s just wrong on so many levels). I’m sick of all of the articles that scare people into thinking they are poisoning themselves if they consume cookies or anything else containing sugar, too, without any mention of context or dose.

I’ve never been anything but completely honest with you, my readers, so I have no problem telling you that I used to believe all that sugar is toxic/addictive/what have you stuff. That’s right, I did. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may recall that I’ve even written statements like that in the past. I am being very up front about this right now because I’ve changed my mind about it being helpful (or true) to refer to sugar that way. Well-designed scientific studies have not proven that sugar is either toxic or addictive when consumed in reasonable amounts by healthy individuals so I’m no longer going to use terminology that suggests it is.

Below are some quotes folks left on my Facebook page just the other day:

“Addictions are all the same! They control your life and often ruin it! Sugar is an addiction!”

“Proven fact sugar addiction is as tough as heroin”

“This whole country is addicted because our food manufactures add sugar to everything”

“People can become addicted to simple carbs just as they can to smoking or alcohol”

I did not make those up: they are real comments left by real people when I recently challenged the concept that sugar is as addictive as drugs. The people who left these comments were rude and argumentative when I asked them to back up their claims with scientific evidence. They claimed I was in “sugar denial” for not agreeing with them.

My intention here is not to call people out for being ignorant…it’s to draw attention to how damaging it can be to not have correct information…to be trapped in dogma that’s not evidence based.

In the sugar = heroin article I linked to at the top of this post, a certain doctor asserts that “when you eat sugar, it stimulates the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which makes you feel pleasure. The brain recognizes and likes this feeling and begins to crave more. It may startle you to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all stimulate the same receptors in your brain.”

This is a quite a provocative statement, yes? It’s worded in such a way that you are very likely to come away from the article feeling:
a. guilty for enjoying sugar because enjoying sugar is just like enjoying drugs
b. convinced that you need a detox to heal yourself from sugar’s addictive grasp.

Guess what? Playing with kittens stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain, too, but I don’t see anyone recommending a detox for that. Just because you enjoy something does not mean it’s terrible for you, you have to feel guilty about it, and stop doing it altogether (not talking about doing drugs here, folks).

I have taken some flack as of late for not being willing to demonize sugar. For questioning the existence of sugar addiction. I really don’t care: I’ve hopped off the “sugar is ruining your health” bandwagon because there’s just no credible science to show that sugar abstinence is healthier than a diet that stresses balance and eating sugar in moderation. (For the record, I’ve always been a cheerleader for moderation…this is nothing new.) In fact, I think obsessing over this one thing, and running around screaming “SUGAR IS THE WHITE DEVIL”, is not really helping people figure out out how to live full, happy, healthy lives.

Do I believe eating lots of sugar fosters optimal health? No, of course not. I know full well that when sugar is consumed in large amounts, one is likely to run into health problems. I personally ran into health problems in the past when I ate too much sugar. There are certainly reasons to watch the amount of sugar you eat (I do). But am I concerned that a small amount of sugar will harm me? Poison me? No, I am not concerned. Not even a little bit. I enjoy treats made with sugar (like ice cream, cake, and cookies…mostly homemade, but sometimes not) and I don’t think they’re “bad” for me. Not in the least. They are a small part of my health-promoting, real-food diet and I enjoy the heck out of them.

Listen up: it’s more than fine to be concerned about food quality and nutrient density. I am obviously concerned about these: those concerns are at the heart of this blog and my book. But being concerned about those things does not mean one can simply ignore the realities of biology. The fact is that your body thinks sugar is sugar. I don’t really use much white sugar (and I do recommend against its use in my book); I choose organic sugar most of the time because it’s produced sustainably, it’s free of GMOs and pesticides, and because I believe buying fair trade is important, and I use many other unrefined sweeteners. Organic sugar, however, is not metabolized by my body in a measurably different way than white sugar. Raw honey? It’s lovely and I adore it. But again, it’s the same as sugar once it gets into my body. Maple syrup? It’s delightful and I couldn’t live without it, but my body doesn’t give a hoot how much I paid for it…my body still thinks it sugar. Coconut sugar? Sugar. Fruit? Sugar. I could go on and on.

There are absolutely valid reasons to choose unrefined sweeteners and fruit over white sugar, such as concern for source, processing, nutrient value, and the environment. But it’s not necessarily correct to say your body metabolizes one type of sugar in a vastly different way than another. (I’m not talking about high fructose corn syrup here, folks, because it does appear to be metabolized differently.)

All sugars, and all starches, are carbohydrates. All carbohydrates break down in the body into sugar. This does not make all carbohydrates bad for you…far from it. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you can damage your metabolism.

It’s really hard to know what to believe these days, isn’t it? Maybe you saw a documentary or read a book or news story in a major magazine and the message you took away was that sugar is addictive and toxic and it scared the heck out of you…gave you the impression that sugar is to blame for every health problem that exists in the world…made you think you should never eat sugar again.

It’s a real problem, though, when your body seems to want sugar while your mind is telling you not to have it. This can do a real number on you…it can makes you think there’s something wrong with you…it may “confirm” your fears that you do indeed are addicted to sugar.

Guess what? There is nothing wrong with you if you like sugar. Want sugar. Crave sugar. This is normal. It does not mean you have an addiction and that you need a detox. We evolved to want and need sugar. You heard me right: your body needs sugar. Once you have a clear understanding of this fact, you can move beyond the hyperbolic nonsense (because that is what much of the anti-sugar propaganda is) and give your body what it wants when it wants it. You can eat sugar without fear, even refined sugar, if you want to eat it sometimes.

I am open to the fact that you may have experimented with some form of sugar abstinence and that you have found you feel better without it (whatever “it” may be…all white sugar? all types of sugar besides fruit? all types of sugar designated bad by a diet guru?). Fine! Then don’t eat it. No skin off my back. But please don’t go out and tell everyone else, including me, that we’re sugar addicts and we’d all be better off giving it up, as well.

If you haven’t given up sugar, but you’ve been struggling with your perceived terrible relationship to sugar, if you are convinced you you are addicted to sugar, I want you to know something. I too once thought I had a real problem with sugar. I craved it constantly. I overate sweet things every time I took one bite. I thought I was addicted to sugar.

But then I radically overhauled my diet. I learned I wasn’t eating enough food overall. I dealt with my food sensitivities. I “discovered” real food and completely changed everything about how I ate. I figured out that I do best when I have protein at every meal. I incorporated high quality fats into my eating strategy and figured out how many carbs I do best with, and what kind. It’s been twenty years that I’ve been at this, and I am still making changes now and then. My diet now includes some sugar (generally unrefined sugar, but occasionally white sugar). When I want something sweet, I eat it. End of story.

Before you banish sugar from your life, please take the following into consideration:

1. Are you eating enough food? As in: enough calories to support your activity level? When you consistently under eat, it’s very common to crave sugar.
2. Do you eat breakfast and other meals at regular-timed intervals throughout the day? If you don’t, your blood sugar is prone to swings and this may make you crave sugar.
3. Are you eating enough protein? As in: protein at every meal and snack? When you don’t eat enough protein, it’s very common to crave sugar.
4. Are you eating enough healthy fats? Diets too low in high quality fats can lead to sugar cravings, too.
5. Might you have food sensitivities? When I had them, I had crazy cravings for sugar. Once I sorted them out: no more sugar cravings.
6. Is it possible your body is out of balance in some way? Is something hormonal or metabolic going on? Vague, I know, but entirely plausible. Sorry for not being more specific but this is a blog and I am not a practicing physician.
7. Do you get enough sleep? This one is so common…many people don’t…often leads to an increase in sugar cravings.
8. Do you have a lot of stress in your life? Again, so common. More sugar cravings.
9. Have you considered that your dependence on sugar is psychological? It’s very possible…this is different than an addiction. Have you tried removing the “bad” label you’ve given to sugar? Sometimes when we make things off limits we want them more than when we allow ourselves to eat them when we want them without any “judgement”.
10. Is it possible you over eat sugar because you have a binge eating disorder? Please, please, please talk to a professional about this.

Again, I want to be really clear that the point of this post is not to make a case for eating lots of sugar. It’s about making a case for consuming sugar in moderation. I repeat: I am not giving you the go ahead to eat a whole bag of store-bought Oreos nor am I telling you to eat the whole batch of my homemade version. That’s not moderation. Moderation isn’t about living your life in a constant state of swinging from one extreme to the other. Moderation is the opposite of extremes. It’s not eating a whole bag of something and then spending a week on a “cleanse”. It’s about finding balance…a place in the middle that works for you on a consistent basis.

Every single time I mention moderation in the context of eating sugar (both online and in my real life), someone tells me “that doesn’t work”. I vehemently beg to differ. Moderation may not be sexy enough to get someone on the bestseller’s list, but there’s plenty of scientific evidence that it does indeed work. Can you “do” moderation overnight if you’re more accustomed to swinging from one extreme to another? No, probably not. It may take some time, and you’ll have to put in some work. but I believe the payoff for doing that work is big.

Before I get to the cookie recipe, I am quite sure some of you are currently thinking something along the lines of:

“But Winnie! Sugar causes type 2 diabetes! Why are you telling people it’s ok to eat sugar?

or

“But Winnie! Sugar causes obesity! Why are you telling people it’s ok to eat sugar?

To the first point: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Saying so is a vast oversimplification of the situation. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Over consumption of sugar may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, but it is not the cause. Want to prevent and/or treat insulin resistance? Exercise. It’s pretty much the best thing you can do to improve insulin sensitivity.

To the second point: Sugar does not cause obesity. No one thing causes obesity. Not sugar (nor high fructose corn syrup)…not carbs…not GMOs…not food from fast food restaurants. Over consumption of sugar may contribute to obesity but sugar is not the cause. I hope to address weight in a future post or posts…this one’s already way too long to dive into that issue.

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The Deal With Dairy

Before I get to today’s post, I need to say something that’s been on my mind for a while, and even more so after a couple of the comments on my last post got a little heated.

When it comes to healthy diets and what we should/should not eat, a lot of people seem to think their way is the only way. I do not agree. No matter what you read in a book, or anywhere else for that matter, there isn’t one single “dietary prescription” that’s going to work for everyone. We’re all different: from our unique cultural backgrounds to our taste preferences to our biochemical makeup. We each need to find our own satisfying way to eat that will best support our individual health. I believe that a whole foods diet supports the health of everyone, but there’s a fair amount of “finessing” that can be done from there…like whether to eat animal foods or not, whether to eat grains or not, discovery/management of individual food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities, etc.

My opinions on nutrition- and therefore the foods that I choose to eat- have been influenced by my upbringing, my naturopathic medical education, my personal dietary experiences/experiments, and all of the research I’ve done (and continue to do every single day) since I set off on this holistic lifestyle path 20 years ago. I started this blog so I’d have a place to share my perspective, which I try to keep both dogma and fad-free. I am grateful that I have a place to express myself, and that there are people who are willing to listen.

That said, I am fine with it if you don’t agree with me…and it’s alright if you want to let me know that in the comments. I can’t possibly please everyone. But I want you to know that I stand by everything I write and I write it with only the best of intentions: to help you live a healthier life. I am well aware that a lot of us are very emotionally invested in our eating patterns and get nervous when our ways are called into question; if that’s true for you, I ask that you keep an open mind and hear me out even if what I am saying makes you uncomfortable. Change can be hard…there’s no doubt about that…but change is what this series is about!

Now let’s get to this week’s One Simple Change topic, ok? Let’s discuss dairy.

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One Simple Change: Consider Going Wheat/Gluten/Grain-Free

I’ve lost count at this point, but I believe this is the 37th post I’ve written for One Simple Change. I’m also moving along with my One Simple Change manuscript…my deadline’s closing in fast!

Today I’m going to talk about the potential issues with eating wheat, gluten, and grains as a group. I hope that by doing so, you can make an informed decision about whether these are healthy foods for you, or if you might be better off without them. Before I go further, I want you to know that I could probably write thousands of words on this topic, but since this is One Simple Change, I am going to attempt to keep things as simple as possible.

Let’s start with a discussion of wheat since you most probably eat lots of it. Many people (at least in America) eat wheat at just about every meal and snack. This isn’t hard to do if you have cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta or pizza and/or additional bread at dinner, and crackers, cookies, or other wheat-based treats in between…wheat is everywhere! Even if you make a concerted effort to eat a healthy, diversified diet, you probably still eat some wheat.

We’ve been led to believe that as long as we’re avoiding it in its refined form most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with eating lots of wheat, but I beg to differ. I think there are some issues with wheat, and that most people are eating far too much of it.

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