Friday, January 31, 2014

RECIPE: Homemade Almond Milk

Let me start by saying I've never been a big fan of dairy substitutes. I don't drink a ton of milk, but I absolutely love cappuccinos made with our Nespresso machine, and nothing I've bought in the store has frothed up or been anywhere near as delicious as cafe au cow. So I had resigned myself to the fact that I'd be switching to green tea for the duration of The Whole Life Challenge. I was, however, planning to buy almond milk for my husband, who would be doing the challenge with me, and who does enjoy almond milk, especially in his smoothies and cereal (puffed brown rice is compliant at the WLC intermediate level!).

Alas, when I reviewed the labels on each and every container of almond milk at the store, I discovered that even the unsweetened varieties contained ingredients, such as cargeenan and guar gum, that aren't allowed on The Whole Life Challenge. So I turned to my group members to see what they suggested. One person said I should buy made-to-order almond milk from a local grocer, but when I saw the price ($16 a quart? I'm sure it's delicious but are you effing kidding me?), that option was off the table. Then, another member* suggested making the almond milk ourselves. His recipe sounded simple enough, so I decided we'd give it a go. And guess what? Not only was it easy, it was unbelievably delicious—so much better than the cardboard-flavored fluid from the grocery store—and better still, it steamed up flawlessly for my morning cappuccino. Plus, we had leftover almond mulch that we could use in other recipes (like homemade LaraBars)!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Concerned About Toxic Cans?

I was the deputy editor of Natural Health magazine for over a year, where I spent a lot of time researching the health hazards of Bisphenol A (BPA). It was during my time there that I learned BPA was present in the lining of a whole lot of canned goods. Does that mean I stopped buying canned products? Um...not so much.

The thing is, I make a lot of meals with crushed tomatoes and legumes (I'll be sharing some of those recipes with you soon, since they're all Whole Life Challenge compliant), and cooking is time-consuming enough without having to slice and dice and soak and boil. That said, I did start to pay attention to which companies were making an effort to eliminate BPA in their products. Topping the list were Eden Foods and Muir Glen. Unfortunately, these companies are often pricier than a lot of otherswhich is why I was so relieved when a member of my Whole Life Challenge team shared a letter from Trader Joe's (where I buy a lot of our food) assuring consumers that there was no BPA detected in a long list of their products. If you'd like to read that letter, you can find it at this awesome BPA Free Canned Food blog, here. Bonus: This blogger has contacted a ton of other companies, including Amy's and Whole Foods, about the BPA in their cans and you can find their responses at the above link as well.

Bottom line: It is possible to simply pop open a can and still eat clean. Hooray!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

RECIPE: Clean Banana Nut Muffins

One of the best things about doing The Whole Life Challenge so far has been discovering all the amazing, healthy recipes people share with each other. Yes, the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning (hey! cleaning!) can be overwhelming at times. But it's worth it when you're putting your health first...and when the results are this ridiculously delicious. Seriously, when I first saw this recipe I thought there was no way they'd taste like real banana-nut muffins. I could not have been more wrong. These babies are moist and every bit as good as (if not better than) the ones I used to make that were loaded with flour, sugar and more sugar. Pretty amazing for baked goods that are Whole Life Challenge compliant at the advanced level, not to mention gluten-free (and Paleo, if that happens to be your dietary preference)!

The sweetness in these comes from nothing more than the bananas and dates, and the moist and buttery taste is courtesy of coconut oil. (Don't complain to me about the saturated fat! I've read a ton of research on coconut oil and will write more about its many health benefits in a future post.) If you want to make these vegan, I've been told you can substitute 1 cup applesauce for the 6 eggs, but I haven't tried that yet. (If you do, please report back with your results!) I have baked eggless cookies using a baking soda-water substitute for the eggs, but I'm not sure if that will work with these since you're using coconut flour instead of death flour (seriously, you know that refined white stuff will kill you, right?). Incidentally, coconut flour has a phenomenal nutritional profile (hello? 3 to 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, depending on the brand!) and creates a much better bread-like texture than almond flour, in my opinion. ALSO NOTE: I usually halve this recipe and get about 9 muffins out of it, which winds up making the serving size slightly smaller (and therefore each muffin lower in fat and calories). Anyway, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Here I Go Again

As a magazine editor and freelance journalist, I've been writing about health and fitness for nearly fifteen years. Does this mean that I'm healthy and fit? That would be a big hell-to-the-no. Fact is, eating right and exercising on a consistent basis have always eluded me. I'll find a diet or workout that I love and do it for a few weeks (or, if I'm feeling really motivated, a few months). But then I'll promptly fall off the wagon and undo all my hard work. I swear, I've been losing and regaining the same 20-40 pounds for the better part of my life.

A few weeks ago, my weight was back at an all-time high (or close to it). My body mass index (BMI) put me at dangerously close to obese. (Curious to know what yours is? Check out the National Institutes of Health BMI Calculator here.) My waist measurement was also off the charts, which was sort of a shock because I always thought it was just my hips that were too big. Not only was I feeling hideous and uncomfortable in my own skin, I was worried about my health. (I mean, hello? I lost my mom to breast cancer four years ago, and I can't help but think that her obesity contributed to her mortality.)