Get Real!

Finding ways to enjoy the hell out of life, while on our journey towards a healthy, authentic and passion-filled life.


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Get Real! (about which diet is right for you)

What is the right diet for me?

Paleo, vegan, clean, raw, alkaline, grain-free, the list can go on.

You can easily google any of these terms and find a plethora of information advising both for and against the diet type. Now, I believe that there really may be a diet that really is the healthiest to follow. Period. However, I don’t know that (in our lifetime anyway) we will find the end all, be all, answer. And even if/when that ever happens, there will always be those with particular health needs that require a different set of food guidelines for optimum health.

Even within my own blog, you can see times when I have aimed for Paleo, a couple months I was vegan, a time when I thought that store bought orange juice was a good way to get more Vitamin D. That is part of what my motto is all about. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. As I knew better, I did better. And that really is all we can do: the best we can. And we always need to consider too, based on our experiences, what has worked for us (in terms of how we feel, how we are able to digest our food, and if weight loss is a goal what has helped us lose weight).

Now, as far as the ‘healthiest’ diet ever, there are certain things that are not arguable at all though (color me shocked if I ever dispute any of my words here). Things that, across all diet types, do not change.

  • Water: This should be our primary source of liquid each day. Some may recommend black coffee or tea as well. Some may recommend probiotic liquids (kombucha, kefir). NONE will ever recommend drinking any processed beverages such as soda, energy drinks, fruit or vegetable juices (other than ones that are made only of fruits and veggies, with no additional chemicals, preservatives or sugars).
  • Vegetables: The more the better! Some may recommend eliminating or restricting certain vegetables (ones that are higher in acidity content, sugar or starches, for example). Some may recommend only eating these raw, or juiced, or cooked. Some say that it is best to eat a combination of raw, juiced and cooked veggies as each method provides different nutrients that are not available to us in the other forms. For example, juicing strips the fiber (some think this is bad), but allows for quick absorption of the nutrients (which, actually, some may think is bad as well), and also makes certain nutrients available to us which would have been lost in the parts of the food we were never able to fully digest. Cooking veggies, on the other hand, can either accentuate or ‘bring out’ certain nutritional aspects OR can break down or ‘lose’ nutrients in the process (depending on the veggie). Raw advocates believe that any cooking of a food breaks down the nutrients and creates carcinogens that are not healthy and natural for us and can disrupt our digestive system.
  • No Processed foods: No matter which diet type we are looking at, none will ever recommend the use of processed foods, though some believe they are ok in moderation (depending upon how processed, of course). Some believe we should stay away from meat, dairy, or grains, but all would say that in whatever we eat — we should choose the least processed option. A block of cheese (without added ingredients) rather than pre shredded or other processed cheeses (watch out for ‘singles,’ and other completely fake cheeses). Organic chicken breasts rather than processed sandwich meats (with added salts, sugars, etc.). Apples juiced by us rather than a store bought apple juice.
  • No added sugars (other than fruit, honey, molasses, maple syrup): Many diet types recommend no sugar at all (including fruit), but many believe that natural sources (the ones I just listed) are ok in small amounts.
  • Healthy Fats: Believe it or not, none of these diets say anything about avoiding fats! Of course, it depends on where these fats are coming from. But on just about every diet type I can think of (even alkaline) raw avocados and raw almonds are recommended as a healthy fat! Many believe olive oil (uncooked) is also a good source. And for the diet types that do not eliminate dairy or meat, some believe that butter (as unprocessed as possible), and the oil derived from cooking animal fat, is also healthy in moderation.
  • Fruits: Most diet types do recommend fruits in our daily diet. But, due to higher sugar and acidity content, the type of fruits and amount of fruits to be consumed varies. With juicing, it is important to note that with all the fiber being stripped, too much sugar in one juice will sure raise our blood sugar quickly all at once. Whereas eating fruits whole, or in combination with veggie juice may be a better alternative.

So far, we can drink water (and maybe tea or kombucha), we can eat fruits and veggies (especially raw or juiced, and keeping in mind the amount of sugar involved), and we do not need to stay away from fats, so we can eat avocado and almonds (almost) to our hearts desire. Beyond this, things may get a bit more tricky.

  • Whole Grains: Many diet types recommend avoiding all grains, believing that our body cannot digest them properly which causes a variety of problems. This would include rices, breads, pastas, corn, oats, beans, peanuts (almonds, again, still ok). The diets which believe whole grains are good for us (or even essential), only recommend whole grains that have not been heavily processed. So our packages should all say 100% whole grain (or 100% whatever type of grain it is, like 100% whole wheat) AND there should not be any ingredients we don’t understand on the label.
  • Organic Meats and Eggs: Some diet types suggest avoiding all meat, while some highly recommend it. In any case, if we do eat it, it is one of the most important foods that we should choose to buy organic. This is because when we buy non organic meats, there are no guarantees on what the animals were fed (if we are trying to be paleo, but are eating animals which eat grains, than we, in turn, are eating a little bit of that grain in the meat we eat), what chemicals were pumped into the animals, etc.
  • Organic Dairy: Again, many diet types suggest avoiding all dairy, while some recommend a limited amount or only certain forms of it. Paleo, in some cases, advocates for ghee, for example (a pure whole form of butter). Goats products are thought by some to be healthier, easier to digest, etc. than cows products.

So, to make a very long story short. I, personally, do not believe there is a ‘one size fits all’ diet type out there. Especially not when we are really looking at the big picture and all possibilities. Remember! We all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that you will continue to grow. 


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Get Real about Food Labels and Ingredient Lists

So you have made some decisions about what you would like to put in your body? Organic. Whole grains. No added sugar. These are just some examples, as I realize all of our goals can be very different.

One obstacle that can sometimes get in the way of eating how we want to eat, that we may not always be thinking about, is food labels, packaging, and ingredients. Some products make claims on their labels that exaggerate positive nutritional aspects or minimize negative nutritional aspects (or both at the same time). Some products change their packaging/labeling to promote a certain aspect of the product, even though it is exactly the same as it’s formerly-packaged cousin. Some products use organic or whole grain ingredients, but also use highly refined ingredients as well. They claim ‘with organic _____’ or ‘contains whole grains.’ This does not mean the products are 100% organic or whole grain, and in fact there may be very little in the product that actually is.

Here are some helpful tips to help keep things real!

  • The ingredients are listed on the label in order, as far as how much of the ingredient is in the product from most to least. A trick that can catch you off guard is if they classify different types of an ingredient. For example, they may list out cane sugar, beet sugar, and HFCS. Well, separated out, these may be in the product in small enough amounts that they got moved down the ingredient list, but added together it could still make up a large portion of the ingredients in the product.
  • Another thing to pay attention to on the ingredients list is: all the ingredients! I don’t even bother reading an ingredient list if I glance at it and can easily see dozens of ingredients listed. There are lots of things that can be hidden behind this ingredients list. Types of sugars/sweeteners that you may not know the name of, other chemicals used to preserve food or change its taste or color. ‘Natural flavor’ can be derived from anything in nature (whether plant or animal based). For example, Foodbabe, shined the light on raspberry and vanilla flavoring often coming from secretions from a beavers anal glands.
  • Whole grains. Unless a product says 100% whole grain (or 100% whole wheat, 100% whole oat, etc.), then it is likely not 100% whole grain. It may only be 2% whole grain, but they are able to label it this way. So, ‘with whole grains,’ ‘with 9g of whole grains,’ ‘includes whole grains,’ etc. does not mean 100%. If you are unsure, check the ingredient list, any grain listed (whether corn, oat, buckwheat, spelt, wheat flour, etc.) should have the word whole in front of it. And again these are listed in order, so if the ingredients say wheat flour, corn flour, whole wheat flour, then the whole grains are not the majority of the grains in the product.
  • Organics. Even within organic products (that promise to be pesticide and unnecessary chemical free) you want to check the ingredient lists as sugars, salts and natural flavors can still exist. But, at least, if a product is labeled ‘certified organic’ then all ingredients included are indeed organic. However if the label states, ‘with organic _____’, then only the ingredient specified is organic and other ingredients within the product are not. There is much more to the topic of organic foods, including ways that non organic practices or ingredients can sneak into our ‘certified organic’ foods, as well as how there may be small or local companies that practice organic food making, but are not certified and thus not labeled as such. However, I will leave this for a different, more detailed, blog about organics later.
  • Check the nutrition labels on everything. You never can be too sure, no matter what the label boasts. HFCS is hiding out just about everywhere (drinks, sauces, dressings, you name it). Sugar and salt are often included in seasoning packets or mixes. I accidently used a ‘lemon pepper’ seasoning mix one time, and upon tasting it (as it tasted of pure salt) I looked and saw that the first two ingredients listed were salt and sugar (and then somewhere down the list was a hint of lemon and pepper).


This is really when it’s relevant to remind you: Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that, you will continue to grow.


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The Whole Wheat Debate: Understanding Grains

The whole wheat debate…

Ok…. So my boyfriend and I were going through self-checkout at the local grocery store. He got to the huge bag of brown rice that I put in the cart when he wasn’t looking. Crap, I thought, here it comes. “What is this?” “Brown rice, really?” “You know the only difference is that the white rice is bleached, right?”

And I was stuck. I knew that this wasn’t the only difference, but heck if I could actually explain. All I knew was that whole grains were healthier than white ones, they just were! Luckily for me, I just had to whine for a couple of seconds and all was well … we were back out of the store brown rice and all. But it did make me wonder. Why is whole wheat healthier?? I should know these things!

I mean, why choose whole grains over other processed grains? And what’s the difference anyway? While we are at it, what’s the difference between whole grain and whole wheat? What’s a whole berry (sometimes listed in the ingredient list)? Also, what does wheat mean (as opposed to whole wheat)?

After much research:

Our bread, pasta, tortillas, baked goods, rice, etc. are all made from wheat (which is a grain) or other grains (such as oats, rye, barley, corn, rice, etc). A product, say a piece of bread, can be made from only wheat or it could be multi-grain (made using multiple types of grain, both oat and wheat for example). Now, there are different ways for these grains to be processed which will result in wheat flour (what we consider white, processed flour), whole wheat flour, whole grain flour, or sprouted grains (a whole other ball game, I’ll explain shortly).

It’s important to note that multi-grain does not mean whole grain, it just means it has multiple types of grain within the product but it has nothing to do with how the grains were actually processed (they could be whole grains or they may not be whole grains, this is when you want to check the ingredient list to look for the word whole in front of every wheat ingredient vs. white or wheat or enriched, etc.) Similarly, if a product states it ‘has whole grains’ it still may not be completely whole grain (it may be partially whole grain and partially non-whole grain). If a product says 100% whole grain (or 100% whole wheat), you are in the clear, but if in doubt this is, again, when to check the ingredient list. And again wheat is not whole wheat, if it was whole it would have the word whole in front of it.

So… the grains are either milled or sprouted. Milled is much more common. This just means it is ground (could be stone ground which was the original way of processing grains, or through a machine that now does this for us) into flour. During the milling process for regular wheat flour (white, processed, refined, flour) two important aspects of the grain are removed. These are the bran and germ, which contain many of the nutrients/vitamins/etc. Then these grains might be bleached white (ah ha, the aspect my boyfriend knew about) using chemicals. Then the grains may even be enriched (in other words some nutrients are added back into the grain, but still not with the same nutritional value as the whole grain – bran and germ included – would have). One of the reasons for processing grains in this way is shelf life, as these refined grains can last much longer since some of the natural oils in the grains have been removed with the bran and germ.

When whole grain or whole wheat flour is made, it is milled using all aspects of the grain, the entire or whole grain. Another thing to note here is that with the extra fiber and the makeup of a whole grain, our body processes this slower which prevents spikes in blood sugar (which we all know results in crashes, which result in craving more). So all of this is helpful for our heart, blood pressure, weight management, etc.

For those that can’t stand the taste of whole grain. It doesn’t all taste the same! There are many different types of grains (here’s one list: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-a-to-z). And there are even different types of wheat (by the way, a wheat berry is the whole completely unprocessed form of wheat, though there are different types). There is white whole wheat for example (wasn’t as commonly used in the US but is now being picked up a bit more) that has a milder taste but is still whole wheat. Different grains and different types of wheat have varying levels of nutritional value, however. But it is still always safe to say that the wholer our grains are, and the less they have been processed, the healthier they are for our bodies and the more nutritional value we gain from them.

Lastly, grains may be sprouted instead of milled. This is when the whole grains are soaked in water to be sprouted. The benefit here is that in whole grains that have been milled, there are nutrients that our body won’t be able to digest, but sprouted grains are broken down in a way that allows our body to more easily digest and absorb the grain and nutrients within. Honestly, I see now that I may have another blog on my hands in regards to these sprouted grains, but for more information right now, I found this website very easy to understand: http://www.foodforlife.com/what-are-sprouted-grain-breads.htm.

Whew… so take that and eat it boyfriend!! Oh wait, we have already switched completely over to all whole grains. Even having whole grain pancakes and turkey bacon with pure maple syrup tonight. YUM YUM!

Here are a list of websites that helped me in my research : )…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatberry

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/diningouttravel/g/What-Are-Wheat-Berries.htm

http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2009/02/24/meet-this-grain-wheat-berries/

http://www.foodforlife.com/what-are-sprouted-grain-breads.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprouted_bread

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6318/Whole-Wheat-vs-Sprouted-Grain-Bread.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/multigrain-vs-whole-wheat-whats-the-difference.html#b

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multigrain/AN02047

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/whole-wheat-vs-durum-wheat-vs-stone-ground-4024.html

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-white-wheat-faq

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/white-bread-vs-wheat-bread/

http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/grains.html

http://www.diffen.com/difference/Whole_Grain_vs_Whole_Wheat

http://askville.amazon.com/special-stone-ground-wheat/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=669640