May 21, 2008

The Amazing Health Benefits

and Healing Power of...

grandchildren! Yes, truly. But of course a major obstacle to this incredible better-living breakthrough is that your children have to decide to have their children for you to acquire these much-sought-after health benefits.

Just how do grandchildren offer amazing health benefits and healing powers? Well, first and foremost perhaps is that they can get us to move when little else can. And darned if we don't completely forget our little aches and pains when playing catch with a granddaughter or tag with a grandson. They ask us to take them to the playground, and how can we just sit there? So, we find ourselves twirling on a swing, or skidding down a slide. And laughing. And you know how good laughter is for your health!

Grands keep our minds young in so many ways. We have to read to them of course, and then there are the card games and board games. I don't know about you but I have developed absolutely endless patience for playing Uno and cribbage, Quiddler and chess, war and checkers. When I'm playing rummy or Skip-bo with one of the grands, it feels as though there's nothing else in the world that could possibly be more important.

And then there's the challenge of "getting" all their silly jokes. Sometimes it's hard to... simplify... my thinking to catch on to the hilarious (well, in their view) stream of "knock,knock" jokes. And kids, the grands, just see things differently, and trying to go to that place and see things their way often requires mental gymnastics that must leave the mind more flexible!

But, there's also another, far more serious way in which grandchildren are good for our health: we will do things for them, to ensure being part of their futures, that we might very well skip or neglect otherwise. We need to stop here for just a minute....just in case you're thinking, but wait, I'd do those things for my KIDS, too. When my kids were younger I would have done anything humanly possible - and tried things far beyond that - for each and every one of them. But now that they are all adults, people with rich and full lives, it's different. The most important thing I learned in ten years of teaching middle school was how very important grandparents are to their grandchildren! What I will do for myself in the name of the grandchildren is of course, so much what I would have done for my children; it's just so, so much harder at this age!

Now what prompts this whole reflection? For me, continued high blood pressure readings came head-to-head with my deep-rooted aversion to medications. The alternative - and it admittedly might still not be enough - is to drop 20 pounds. Easier said than done of course, especially the older I get.

But in the past month Bert and I have shared both of the grands' birthday, a tradition I truly treasure. I want to be there for when Baxter becomes a teenager, when he gets his first car, and when he heads off to college. I want to be there when Katie becomes a teenager, goes to her first prom, and heads off to college. And I certainly want to dance at both their weddings. So, for them, although I have no intention of letting them in on this, I will take medication AND take off 20 pounds. Since I wrote "Buy Lean, Cook Light, Eat Less, Move More," I've lost almost 6 pounds so I know it will happen. Maybe then I can give up the medication!

There is a special joy in loving your child's child, isn't there!


May 15, 2008

NO Added Fat! NO Added Sugar!

A Great Date Muffin Recipe

This moist, flavorful bread will quickly become a favorite, especially with all the possible add-ins. While originally written as a muffin recipe, I often bake it as a bread, using a 9x9" pan. Of course you can use a loaf pan, but for some weird reason, I have trouble baking dense breads in a loaf pan... they never cook through in the middle.

For the dates in this recipe, don't use the pre-cut ones as they often have added sugar, and I think they have far less flavor than the fresh Medjool dates. Sometimes the fresh dates are pre-packed in 8 oz. containers, sometimes, they're just loose in their packing box in the produce department, and you just pick out what you want.

Date Muffins

8 oz. dates, cut in small pieces
1 c raisins
1 1/2 c boiling water
2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 slightly beaten egg whites (see note below)
1 tsp vanilla

Mix date pieces and raisins, pour boiling water over and let set until cool Add other ingredients, mixing well, pour into greased muffin tin, bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, a time which can really vary so test for doneness. OR, use a greased 9x9" pan and bake 30-35 minutes, which again can vary.

NOW, because I'm using eggs from our Girls, and these eggs tend to be extra large, you may want to use three egg whites if you're using store-boughten eggs.

Add-in possibilities -

Add the grated peel of one orange ... this is THE best!

Use craisins instead of raisins, but note the added sugar in the craisins.

Add nuts, especially chopped or sliced almonds. If you do use almonds, substitute almond extract for the vanilla.

A half cup of chocolate chips is delicious, and I bet white chocolate chips would be really, really good.

Experiment with various dried fruits, but be aware of the added sugars... I think I'll try some mango next!

Enjoy these muffins (for bread) with a cream cheese topping made much healthier with yoghurt.

Cream Cheese/Yogurt Spread for Bread

I really prefer this to the reduced-fat cream cheese you can buy at the store as this has half the fat of regular cream cheese, good added protein, and great flavor. Put a coffee filter in a colander and add a generous cup of non-fat plain yogurt. Let set at room temperature for an hour or so to drain, then beat into one 8 oz pkg of cream cheese. Great on any bread OR try mixing with a firm raspberry jam to use between layers of spice cake.



May 8, 2008

Buy Lean, Cook Light, Eat Less,

Move More

THERE... If you just conscientiously follow that advice, you'll save money, eat well, lose weight and feel better. Ahhh, if only it was that easy!

It's the season when we're getting outside more and finding out just how much we didn't keep in shape during this past tough winter. It's the time of year when we get out some lighter clothes and just hope they fit. Right now is also a time when grocery prices are really challenging.

BUY LEAN - This doesn't just mean meat, but includes everything on your shopping list. Read those labels, not only for fat content, but also sodium amounts. Be sure you scan the ingredients for sugars, especially the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. Check the shelf-edge tags for unit price as the largest packages are no longer always the cheapest per unit, nor are the smallest packages always the most expensive per unit anymore.

COOK LIGHT - Again, everything! As we're coming into salad season, check a few cookbooks for lower-fat, lower sodium homemade dressing recipes. I've taken to using a mixture of home-made light maple syrup and a dijon-type mustard. Couldn't be simpler, sticks to the salad greens well, adds a nice flavor. I think I'll add a smidge of chipolte pepper to the next batch.

Summer means more ice-cream type desserts too, but you can easily make frozen yoghurts, juice bars, your own filled cookies. Fruit and veggies are abundant for the next few months, so use them often, trying a new recipe here or there. And that lemonade you've been buying cans of for how many summers now? Loaded with corn syrup! Make your own. Buy bottled lemon juice and mix one cup lemon juice to four cups water, sweetening to taste, THEN for a half gallon, add the juice and pulp from one lemon and slice another lemon into your lemonade. You can do the same thing with limes for a great limeade, or best of all, mix the two.

EAT LESS - Now doesn't that sound simple! It really is, you know. It's a question of deciding with your mind just what foods you want to put into your mouth and why. How hunger-based is your eating? You know how to do it... the portions, what you snack on, how many calories you almost unconsciously eat each day... there's no big secret to eating less; it starts in your mind, then it's totally between your hand and your mouth!

MOVE MORE - If you do no other single thing to help you move more, go to Wal-Mart and spend less than $5 buying a GoWalking pedometer by Sportline. This is a step-counter so you don't have to try and measure the length of your stride, etc. You clip this little gadget to your waistband (I clip it to my underwear) right by your hip and each step you take, it records. Use it for a few days to see what your baseline is, then aim to increase it in small steps (bad pun!) until you're doing at least 10,000 steps a day.

You may think you already walk plenty, but check it out. You may think that 10,000 steps in not possible for you, but it truly IS. You'll find you glance at the pedometer during the day, then you park your car a little further from the store, your backyard walkabout may become a little longer and another flight of stairs doesn't seem quite so steep. This is the simplest, quickest, cheapest way I can think of to start moving toward this goal of moving more. Let me know what you think!