It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green…

…or so says the beloved muppet, Kermit the Frog, in his famous song. However, I’m here to tell you that it is easier than you may think—well, not BEING green, but EATING green!

I mentioned in my last post that I have been sampling healthier foods, to include various dark, leafy greens.  I’ve known for years that dark, leafy greens are good for me; we all know THAT from our home, health and fitness magazines, right?  However, I am not a dietician and I tell my students not to believe information without knowing the source, so I’ve done some research for you about these Kermit-colored superfoods.

In an online article entitled, “Health Benefits of Leafy Green Vegetables,” registered dietician Joy Bauer builds a “beefy” case for finishing your salad.  She explains that most dark, leafy greens deliver beta carotene (repairs body tissue and protects skin against sun damage), vitamin C (helps body make collagen for skin and joints), vitamin E and lutein (for good vision and protection from cataracts/macular degeneration), potassium (helps manage blood pressure), fiber (for weight loss, blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, etc.) and folate (may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss, and contributes to production of serotonin).

panda eating greens

Hey, I eat green stuff, and I’m cute!

Some leafy greens are also rich in calcium for strong teeth and bones.  Shape Magazine says leafies are like “edible vitamin pills… in one neat and delicious package.”  Are you kidding me?   Did you know salad was like magic food??  Why didn’t you tell me??? 

In the article “Let-tuce Keep You Healthy,” registered dietician Roberta Duyff writes “The darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich the lettuce. Romaine has seven times more vitamin A and C than iceberg lettuce.”  Sorry, iceberg, you can join the salad, but you can’t dominate the bowl! 

So, the fact that I am excited to tell you about my adventures to date with leafy greens is, well, rather unbelievable, but some of this stuff is pretty great.  It isn’t all salads either—there are lots of interesting yet healthy ways to prepare greens.  A few I have tried in the past 2 months:
 
   Escarole: “Escarole is a variety of endive whose leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of the endive family. Try tossing a few escarole leaves into a mild salad, serving some quickly wilted with lemon juice, or stir chopped escarole into soup.” (Cookthink.com)  The Italian Shrimp and Vegetable Soup I made several weeks ago included this healthy green!

Swiss chard

The “peacock of greens!”

Swiss Chard: (pronounced shard):  The stems of this green may be a number of beautiful colors. I’m afraid I can’t quote my source, but I read somewhere that Swiss chard is the “peacock of greens.” Love it!     The Whole Foods Market site explains: “Mild, tender and really yummy, Swiss chard is similar to spinach when it comes to taste and ease of preparation…Always start by washing the leaves and stalks under running water. Remove the stalks and…chop into bite-size pieces. Slice or chop the leaves and unless your recipe calls for a different approach, begin cooking by sautéing, braising or steaming the chopped stalks first…then add the chopped leaves…” I used an attractive, red, Swiss chard in a recipe recently: Lemony Lentil and Chard Soup.

Baby spring mix

Box o’ Greens

Baby Spring Mix (may include a variety of lettuces such as arugula, chard, baby spinach, romaine, frisee’ and radicchio): Yes, I like convenience and yes, I think it is a pain to dab off soaking wet lettuce or to get out that monstrosity of a salad spinner in order to prepare lettuce for a salad.  So, you would think I was custom-made for bagged lettuce, right? But, for the most part, I tend to find it slimy and I think it smells like preservatives.  Sorry, I’m a lettuce snob! 

So, how is a girl to incorporate weight-friendly salad into each day?  Hubby found what I call the “Box o’ Greens” at Kroger, and this stuff doesn’t smell! After a few times rinsing these leaves in a colander and dealing with the half roll of paper towels it takes to dry them, I decided to shoot the moon and take my chances that this lettuce really IS “washed and ready to eat,” like it says on the package. Some of these lettuce varieties are bitter, and some do bring to mind the look of a dandelion stem, but they blend well.  Instead of dressing, I drizzle on a  little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a healthy fat) and sprinkle a dash of garlic/sea salt mixture. That’s it!  And, to my surprise, I’m really ok with salad in place of carbs with my dinner these days!  

KALE!  My new, ruffly friend! I made yet another soup, this time with kale (Kale and Chickpea Soup with Feta).  This recipe includes both black and red pepper, so it was a tad spicy for my timid palette, but it was still quite good.  And kale, well…registered dietician Kathleen M. Zelman at webmd.com calls it, “the queen of greens,” and asserts that kale “is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet!”

kale soup

Kale and Chickpea Soup with Feta (I think I need a food photographer because this looks kind of gross in the picture, huh?)

Once my soup was in the pot, I had a lot of washed and dried kale left over (yes, dabbed with tons of paper towels, what can I say?) so, rather than waste it, I did something I never, ever would have seen myself doing—I made kale chips!!  I found tons of good information and a recipe for kale chips here at VeganSpin.com.  I covered the baking sheet with parchment, spread out my bite-sized pieces of kale, brushed them with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled them with that same garlic/sea salt mixture, and baked them for 10 minutes at 300 degrees.

kale chips

I know, they look like broccoli crowns in this picture. Like I said, I need a food photographer!

The whole time I’m thinking, “This is never going to work.  This is lettuce in the oven- I feel stupid.”   Yet, those darn things did brown up and got a little crispy and they tasted GREAT!  They weren’t like potato chips (were you seriously going to ask me that?), and they were quite fragile, but they tasted lovely—even the hubby and the teenager agreed!  

Well, here ends my green report!  Do you have any recipes or suggestions for adding green foods to our diets?  (No, not green M&M’s!  Nice try. I thought of that already.)  And, if you still have your doubts about greens, take it from Kermit, who, at the end of his ballad, concludes that, “I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful; And I think it’s what I want to be.”  See, green CAN be easy!

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Sorry, Sugar, things just aren’t working out between us.

Girl surrounded by sweets

Sugar just isn’t good for me!

Yes, breaking up is hard to do, but I just can’t stay in my dysfunctional relationship with…sugar!  Sugar is very controlling, making me do things I don’t want to do (like sneak candy and hide the wrappers).  Sugar makes me feel badly about myself when I look in the mirror.  Sugar and I have some great times, but those moments just don’t last.  Sound like a classic BAD relationship?  Yes.  So, are there 50 Ways to Leave My Sugar? (Alas, I wonder how many of you are too young to know the song to which I refer with that comment… never mind, just pretend to laugh and don’t tell me the truth!).

If your relationship with sugar is not as dysfunctional as mine, perhaps you two can still be friends, and just spend less time together.  Some easy ways:

Reduce intake of sugary drinks (to include “fruit juices” which often contain very little fruit, but plenty of sugar!) Or, enjoy half a glass of fruit juice mixed with half a glass of seltzer to cut sugar and calories and keep the fizz. At my house we call that a “spritzer.” How about unsweetened iced tea? There are many varieties of flavored tea that taste wonderful hot or cold- I recommend Tazo Zen, which has a light, minty taste, or peach, which makes a very refreshing iced tea!

Replace flavored yogurt with plain yogurt and bump up the taste by adding some or all of these: fresh fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dribble of vanilla or almond extract, a tablespoon of chopped nuts, a teGreek yogurtaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. If you haven’t caught on to Greek yogurt yet, it is creamier and higher in protein than regular yogurt.  I recommend it!  What do you add to your yogurt?

Have a little bowl of cereal instead of cookies and milk—I like Special K Red Berries because the dried strawberries give it a sweet taste. Lately I’ve been eating All Bran. Nah, it isn’t very sweet, but it really isn’t bad with a few berries thrown in. If you are “starving” when you get in the door from work, a bit of cereal, milk and fruit may be enough to keep you out of the cookies or… the jar of Nutella.

Try red grapes for dessert. Some people eat them frozen, or just grab a small bowl and munch gradually while you read or watch TV. I always want “something sweet” after a meal, and red grapes may be one answer. Yes, they do contain sugar, but they also contain fiber and are low in calories. Read more about red grapes and sugar here.

Do you have any other suggestions for being “just friends” with sugar? Tell all!  As for me, I recently decided it was time for me to take drastic measures to reduce my sugar intake. I embarked on a 3 week plan that eliminated all sugar other than some naturally occurring in fruit, and a few teaspoons of honey to sweeten breakfast shakes. The food plan centers on whole foods. For someone who doesn’t cook much, this was a big change—thank goodness for my wonderful, supportive husband!

My goal in trying this new diet was to discover new foods and better ways to eat in hopes of carrying some of those habits forward. I don’t want to be one of those “I never thought it could happen to me” magazine stories! To get started on my eating plan, I made a trip to Earthfare—expensive, yes; fun, yes! I felt so HEALTHY when I unloaded my groceries!  Take a look at some of my pantry items:

Earthfare groceries

I can’t say enough about natural peanut butter! It is SO good! Choosy mothers, you won’t want to go back to that hydrogenated oil and fatty texture of Jif!

The first night, I made Italian Shrimp and Vegetable Soup for dinner. The hands-on time is listed as 35 minutes. Pssshhh! I was chopping for over an hour—a fennel bulb, onion, celery, zucchini and escarole.
chopped stuff for soup I took a couple of short cuts and used pre-chopped garlic and cooked rather than raw shrimp (I mean, raw shrimp is so gross looking and slimy). Let me just say that, after all that washing of vegetables, washing of the cutting board and knife (over and over and over), measuring simmering, stirring… the soup was GREAT and I felt really good about having made it myself. Hubby loved it too, and we’ve made it again since. Want the recipe?

Italian Shrimp and Vegetable Soup

Italian Shrimp and Vegetable Soup

I’m several weeks past the initial 21-day eating plan, and I’m working to continue the good habits. I made it the first 21 days with no cheating at all. The result? I am not as tired during the day, and I just plain feel better about myself. Don’t think for a second that I don’t still want ice cream, Nutella, or a (recently in-my-face) box of Girl Scout cookies, but I’m making progress.  And I’d like to say I’m as thin as a reed, but there are other factors at work there, such as level of exercise and medication side-effects. But those are topics for another day!

Don’t be blue; think pink!

Baby Blues comic

Sometimes it is difficult to know what to believe!

Ah, well, so much for my “weekly” post. Refer back to post 1 if you wonder why 1 week morphed into 4+ weeks. Call it a procrastination proclivity!  Hopefully you have been journaling about your thoughts, feelings and habits for lo these many weeks and you are ready to take one small step.  If your journaling has taken place primarily in your well-intentioned mind rather than on paper, no matter.  Small steps it is!

Cluttered desk

Get the garbage bag!

If you, like me, have ever been a casual reader of women’s, health, home, and/or self-help magazines, you have pretty much heard it all as far as “how to get more out of your walking routine,” “powerfoods that will transform your health,” “inexpensive ways to declutter your home and simplify your life,” etc, etc.  However, unlike the most recent installment of Women’s Day, we are going to use all that information to fit YOUR needs!  Here is your next move:  Look over your journal entries (or, you procrastinators who haven’t written anything, make some notes NOW)and highlight in PINK the things you have done well, and in BLUE the things you’d like to improve.  For example, if you usually sample the donuts left in the lounge or breakroom at work, but one fine Wednesday you resisted, that was a GREAT decision– highlight it PINK!  If you were comfy on the couch that soggy Saturday, but took the dog for a walk anyway– PINK!

Who would have thought it would be so easy to find pink dog images!

No, no, don’t highlight the DOG pink! Sheesh!

On the other hand, go ahead and identify areas in which your habits could improve.  For example, I tend to stay too late at work more days than I should, and I’m missing time with my daughter.  That is a BLUE note!  I go to bed too late. All those magazines say a lack of sleep contributes to belly fat– whoa!  That is definitely a no-go to highlight in BLUE!

I’ll be publicly admitting all sorts of my own bad habits as we blog along here at The Whooshing Sound.  You needn’t tell on yourself in public (though do feel free!), but rather, come up with a few small steps you can take to improve.  For example, perhaps I could schedule something specific with my daughter one or two afternoons a week so I am sure to leave work on time.  Or maybe she can just text me when she gets home so I know it is time to start wrapping things up at work.  What else?

Garfield comic sleepy

HAHA, I really feel this way! Really.

Just don’t suggest I get up earlier to get things done at work– some things are not going to change, especially if I don’t WANT to change them. So, work within your own realistic parameters.  Anyone care to share?

It is 2 a.m. I might as well begin!

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

The quote above is credited to Douglas Adams (1952-2001), best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Like Adams, there are those of us who regularly hear the “whooshing sound;” those for whom procrastination is instinctual; those who thrive at the eleventh hour. It is an exhausting yet thrilling way to live!

procrastinators clock

Procrastinator’s Clock

And yet…there is also a certain thrill to crossing a task off a list (when it is not 3 a.m. the night before it’s due).  Perhaps it is all the more satisfying for a cradle procrastinator to achieve that elusive “finished ahead of time” feeling.  However, know this, dear reader- a procrastinator who finishes early doesn’t go to bed on time to prepare for the next metered day- we create new projects, fritter away time, find more tasks, get inspired by new ideas and possibilities—why?  We like the whooshing sound!

So, finally, to the purpose of this blog.  I am fortunate to be healthy and happy, but I want to be healthier and happier- don’t you?  Although I tend to accomplish my goals at the last minute, I still want to accomplish them, so I’m sharing my “to-do list” here in hopes that you will join me in my pursuit of greater health and happiness. It is January, after all, so isn’t everyone starting fresh with better habits?  We should too!

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s bestselling book, The Happiness Project, in which the author provides an account of her year in search of happiness.  I considered starting my own Happiness Project group, but…a year seemed like a big commitment. Instead, let’s try 12 weeks of making small changes for big results.  The skeleton of my plan comes from the Winter 2012 issue of All You magazine, and Week 1 starts with JOURNALING.

This is an opportunity to take stock, but without judging yourself! Find a notebook and start jotting down what you eat, when/if you exercise, and how you feel throughout the day.  Are you really hungry at 9 am even though you ate breakfast? Are you too tired to exercise when you get home from work?  Do you always want sugar?  (Yeah, those are some of my issues). Maybe you are one of those alien creatures who crave an afternoon snack of apple slices rather than a spoonful of Nutella? Good for you!  You are still welcome here- just scribble it down!

What to do...?

What to do…?

The problem I’ve had in the past with “journaling” is that the word sounds so official.  I’ve been known to stand in front of the journal section at the bookstore for a stupidly long time obsessed with acquiring “just the right” little book.  Would a bright color be best since this is a “positive change” journal?  Would that pretty yin-yang diary set the right tone for finding balance?  Should it fit in my purse?  Do I need a cute, little spiral that has an elastic band to keep it closed?  Ah, there’s that whooshing sound!

Fret,fret,fret, which shall it be?

Just grab a cheap, spiral notebook, a free message pad from a hotel, or even your cell phone’s notes app, and jot, jot, jot.  Carve out 10 minutes or so each day to write about your habits as they really are; just try it for a few days!! Complete sentences are not required; bullets, stick figures, happy faces (or hungry faces) are all ok! Later, a look back may help you identify small changes that you can make for big results. No worries—no one else is going to read it, so start now!  Don’t  just sit there listening for the whooshing sound!