There’s WHAT in my pantry?! A look at hidden ingredients in your food

Like most people, I like to have a general idea of what’s in my food and what I’m putting into my body. I know that choosing a bottle of water over a bottle of soda is a better choice for a variety of reasons. But it wasn’t until recently that I started giving more thought to, well, everything I eat. The ingredients in any processed food I buy. I don’t know, I never thought I really needed to worry.

Last night I found out that my pantry and my fridge had some of the most dangerous substances in them when I started to really read the labels. I always used to think that people who bought organic everything and read all the labels were just —— assholes. No joke. Like it was some pretentious club “oh we’re better because we can buy more expensive margarine that saves whales and cures aids cancer at the same time” and while there are pompous jerks like that out there I realized that no, most of these people are just well-informed and have done their research. Something that I’ve avoided doing for so long because I already knew it wouldn’t be something I’d want to hear, realize, or accept.

What really had me start reading labels over a year ago was fake sugars. Sucralose, aspartame, stevia, you name it, they are in just about EVERYTHING and you can read more about my sugar rants here. The more conscious and I was about what I was putting into my body and what was in foods, the more aware I was that there are chemicals in so many food products and I don’t even know what 90% of them are or do.

So last night I decided to start reading the ingredients on some staple things I always keep in my kitchen. Re-fried beans for Taco Tuesdays, canned chili for when I need something in a rush, mayonnaise in my fridge; food items that I use often, food items that tons of people use often. I expected to see chemicals and things I didn’t know about, but what I didn’t expect to see was just HOW harmful these chemicals were when I started researching them.

The first thing I reached for was my beloved mayonnaise. I know it’s not healthy, at all really, but I LOVE mayo. I use it in my tuna salad, when I make egg salad, on sandwiches. It’s your typical bottle of generic store brand mayo.

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Then I turned it over to read the label.

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What the crap is Calcium Disodium EDTA and what exactly does “protecting flavor” mean? Immediately reaching for my laptop, I nearly dropped the bottle on the floor. Calcium Disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a food additive commonly used in things like pickled canned goods and canned beans. It’s made up of three ingredients:

  • Sodium cyanide – this ingredient is an inorganic compound, which means it is not considered organic, has been synthesized and is typically not found in biological systems. “Cyanide salts are among the most rapidly acting of all known poisons.
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ethylenediamine – this compound reacts in humid environments with air creating a toxic mist. It is commonly used in coolants and paints as a corrosion inhibitor, which helps prevent the corrosion of a metal. It is also used as a chemical in fabric softeners, adhesives, dyes, and clearly as something to keep mayonnaise from spoiling.

No wonder mayonnaise stays good for so long! It has so many preservatives in it! And if you’re like me, you may also be thinking “oh it’s just TRACE amounts, this isn’t THAT big of a deal, of COURSE they have to put something in it to keep it fresh…I mean…it’s not a big deal.” But isn’t it though!

Next up was the so called “no fat” refried beans. Anytime I’ve seen fat free, sugar free, light, or anything of the sort, it’s usually full of added sugars or fake sugar substances. But did you know most processed food products are also full of trans fat, MSG, and other chemicals? Gross!

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Notice that these are labeled “no fat” not “fat free” and there’s a reason. When I usually grab this in the grocery store, like most people, I expect to be able to believe the labels. No fat should mean no fat, right? The problem is that labels aren’t regulated, even organic items are labeled differently and have different requirements to meet depending on the type of organic label used.

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GAH! We were doing so well, Rosarita, until you got to autolyzed yeast extract (a cheaper chemical extract similar to MSG but with less glutamates) and partially hydrogenated soybean oil – which “adds a trivial amount of fat.” OH SO BY “NO FAT” YOU MEAN JUST TRIVIAL AMOUNTS OF TRANS FAT -__- Define “trivial.” This makes me mad for so many reasons. Products are allowed to make claims on their labels that simply aren’t true or that in exchange have fake or extracted ingredients and isolates. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the most commonly used trans fat in processed foods. Why? Because it’s inexpensive compared to butter and coconut oil. These oils go through a process called hydrogenation which sends hydrogen bubbles through the fat cells, making them more dense. Giving you that creamy, savory texture in foods. The problem is that these trans fats aren’t normal for the body, they don’t work like normal cells and they can cause major issues for your heart health.

When I reached for my Quaker oatmeal, the kind I had so lovingly eaten my entire childhood, I was outraged.

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Maltodextrin – a substance that forms into MSG in your system. More partially hydrogenated soybean oil – at least this one SAYS its trans fat. But what’s the point in saying “adds a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat” – it’s still awful for you! Comparisons that I’m now going to make to that statement:

  • Going to get a massage and having them poke you with a sharp toothpick briefly once every 10 minutes
  • Adding a drop of gasoline to every gallon of water you drink
  • Having your boyfriend or girlfriend kiss another guy or girl once a year – what! It’s an insignificant amount!

My main point here is that these things shouldn’t be in our foods but they are. Companies have solid reasons to add them: to retain their shelf life, so you can use them longer, so the expiration date doesn’t expire so soon, so they can spend less and make more money.

And while we do have a choice to make better and more informed decisions about the foods we eat, we’re also limited. Limited by how much money we even have to spend on food, limited to the amount of whole and organic foods available in our neighborhood, city, or region. Believe it or not there are places where people don’t have access to fresh produce.

Things are slowly changing but there’s still plenty of changes that need to be made!

 

 

 

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Springtime Smoothie & Antioxidant Benefits

Spring is here and the colors are bright. Today after my workout I decided to whip up something with LOTS of berries. This smoothie is sweet, tangy, creamy, and ever so healthy! What a treat for lunch to enjoy outside in the sun 🙂

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I’m not sure what I love most about my recent smoothie kick. All the ingredients are plant-based and make me FEEL clear-headed and energized. The more whole foods I eat, the clearer my mentality and focus, the better my mood, I find myself just randomly smiling more often and feeling excited about the little day-to-day things in life. Eating healthy and clean really does make me feel better and then in turn I want to workout more and keep the process going.

This smoothie also contains 2 cups of berries which are full of antioxidants. I feel like we all hear that we should eat more foods rich in antioxidants but we often don’t know why and how they work. Well, I’ll tell you.

Antioxidants play a vital role in combating free radicals in your body by counteracting the oxidation process in your cells.  Did you know that antioxidants aren’t actually a substance but a behavior? Free radicals are unstable molecules that latch onto or give electrons to other atoms. When free radicals have their way, they can damage various cell structures which can lead to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and various other diseases we’re constantly trying to avoid and cure.

When we eat foods rich in antioxidants we’re helping keep our bodies healthy but this doesn’t mean that eating pounds of strawberries everyday will keep you save from cancer either. While all of these choice we make are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, feeling good and keeping energized, they are all just one piece in the giant puzzle of our health.

You can find a list of foods with high levels of antioxidant properties here. The importance of eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, veggies, berries, etc also provides you fiber and tons of other nutrients! Ok so enough with the science talk. Let’s get to the recipe!

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  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any milk of your choice)

Blend ingredients together and pour into you favorite glass or mug. I just happened to have a huge wine glass in front of me. I want to invest in some cute glass jars soon so I can take smoothies with me. I also topped it with a few of the frozen berries that are fun to chew. The consistency is super creamy thanks to the avocado. Just make sure to check your teeth for berry seeds before you head out the door!

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The entire smoothie has around 350 calories and almost 20 grams of fiber!

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Blueberry and Greens Smoothie

Something about making yourself a smoothie feels indulgent and satisfying all on its own. Knowing you hold something in your hand that’s blended together with whole ingredients that’s going to give you energy, make you feel refreshed, and will nourish your body is ultra satisfying. I keep experimenting with new smoothie recipes, trying to see just how many things will go well together and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

I will admit that using fresh spinach gives you a heavier consistency and that if you’re not careful you’ll end up with blueberries in your teeth like I did. But a smoothie in the morning gives me energy like nothing else!

For this one I blended:

  • 1 green apple
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

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Bean and Tomato Salad with Crumbled Gorgonzola

Every time I incorporate more whole foods into my meals, I instantly feel healthier, cleaner, more alert, and in such a better mood! I’ve been working on finding more ways to bring in healthier lunches to work. This is now one of my new favorites and at around 250 calories you’ll be surprised how filling and satisfying it is.

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Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained
  • 10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • small handful fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

Add ingredients into a bowl or ready-to-go container for lunch. Pour olive oil over and stir well to coat all ingredients. You could also use crumbled goat or feta cheese instead. All of them taste amazing!

 

Baked Pickle Chips

There’s nothing like going to a bar and ordering a basket of deep-fried pickle chips, crispy, dilly bites of delicious. But they are deep-fried and then my body hurts. Last night I decided to try baking them homemade and not only did I like them more, but they were just as crispy and wonderful.

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There’s also something indescribable about taking the time to hand bake your own food. Gathering all of the ingredients, hand dipping each slice into the mixture and watching them crisp in the oven. Food always tastes more enjoyable when it’s not just something going mindlessly into your mouth, but something you’re proud of, something you hand crafted.

This recipe was inspired by some recent posts I’ve seen about baking vegetables into chips. You could do this with a variety of things like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, kale, etc.

For this recipe (feel free to double it or quadruple it for more people) you’ll need:

  • A jar of dill pickles
  • Grated Parmesan (I used a store-bought bottle because it was what I had in my fridge, but fresh parm would probably be better)
  • Bread crumbs (I used organic ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • Cooking spray or olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Fresh dill

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Measurements:

  • 3 dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Loose and sprinkled fresh dill

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by rinsing off your pickles so they aren’t overwhelmingly salty. Then slice 3 of them into tiny chip size slices. Next time I might also try letting them air dry on the cutting board for an hour or so they get a bit more crispy in the oven. For this round, I used them right away.

Crack your egg into a bowl and scramble with a fork.

Mix together Parmesan, bread crumbs, and fresh dill.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly coat with olive oil.

Then one by one, dip pickle slices into egg and then coat with bread crumb mixture. Press each piece firmly to make sure they stick. I had to wash my hands a lot since the mixture would clump on my fingers.

Bake chips for 8-10 minutes, then flip and bake an additional 5 minutes. The tops should be lightly browned and crispy. You should be able to dive right in. This recipe made about 35 pickle chips and clocked out at around 170 calories.

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The Importance of Zoning Out

How many days a week do you end up getting into bed feeling like you haven’t had a minute to relax? I know – the shit never ends! And when you do have free time it can often feel like you’re “wasting” it if you aren’t doing anything productive. Just like we make time to get to important meetings, go grocery shopping, and hit the gym, we also have to make time to zone out and for good reason.

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I’m super guilty of never sitting down. I’m the one who will get up during the middle of a movie with my husband to start washing dishes or tidy up the living room. I can’t sit still some days because there is always more to do and it should get done. I always think “I’ll be happy when this place is cleaner” but the truth is that no matter how much cleaning and organizing gets done, I’m NOT going to be able to relax or be happy unless I make time to be. Thought provoking, isn’t it?

We’ve all had those thoughts of

I’ll be happy when…

GET RID OF THOSE. And start being happy now, focusing in on the moment, being mindful and living your life AS it happens. Just like we all need to love our bodies throughout all of our progress and ups and downs, it’s also important to focus on being happy in the moment.

So why is zoning out in important and what is zoning out exactly?

I’m talking about those moments whether its 10, 20, 45 minutes or even 3 hours if you can make the time where you just aren’t doing much of anything. Time to sit down, lay down, throw on some house pants, and not give a fuck. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging drinking beer and lying in front of the TV, but then again, maybe I am. What is wrong with that?! Mental sanity and happiness is just as important as physical well-being and if you feel well rested and taken care of all around, you’ll be more likely to hit the gym and make the healthy food choices on those harder days.

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Zoning out allows your mind to take a break. I will often ask my husband “what are you thinking about?” and he’ll say “nothing.” This boggles my mind. The thing is, I actually believe him. I think men might actually have the ability to zone out enough to not be thinking about 10,000 things at one time. I, on the other hand, CANNOT turn off my brain like that. If there is something to think about, I’ll think about it, analyze it, destroy it, make it worse, etc. This is something I’ve been trying to work on for years.

Practicing the ability to just observe thoughts, recognize them, and not automatically accept them as a fact has been a major savior in my life. Often times when I’m overwhelmed or anxious I’ll take a minute to just listen to my mind go off in crazy directions, almost like a frantic friend venting about their day. I’ll listen without judgement, then I’ll just observe them and let them fly over my head. From there you can pick out the ones that truly are solid realizations and toss the others that were merely freak outs or stepping-stones of thoughts to get you to a more logical and understandable place. I’m not saying feelings don’t matter but being able to observe them before reacting is truly liberating.

Start off by making time, even just 10 minutes a day to sit down and zone out. Go into a quiet space, lay down on the bed, stare at the ceiling, watch an episode of your favorite reality show and don’t feel guilty about it. Play Plants vs. Zombies on your phone for 20 minutes, read a magazine, do SOMETHING where you’re zoned out enough that your mind gets a break from the chaos of the day.

These moments of self-indulgence will pay off in the form of better sleep, being more in-tune with your own needs and wants, having the ability to start relaxing on cue, and not feeling resentful of other people or errands throughout the day. When you make time for you, the world has to make time for you. Set yourself as a top priority, you’re the only one that will.

Green Smoothie

In an effort to eat more whole foods lately and eat less processed products, I made my first couple green smoothies this week. No one told me how FILLING these would be! It’s hard to get through half of one and it makes sense with all of the fiber, fruit, and greens in each one. First of all, this automatically looked like something I wouldn’t like. Why does it look like Oscar the Grouch just pooped in my nice Ikea glass…but it was surprisingly delicious! And it’s full of amazing nutrients and ingredients.

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So what’s in this thing?! I started with chopping up 1 green apple.

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Add the complete list of ingredients into your blender. I used my Ninja.

  • 1 chopped green apple
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 sliced strawberry to top (optional)

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This recipe makes 2 servings each at about 250 calories. Great for breakfast or for an after work pick me up! Enjoy!