Archive | June, 2013

Update On My Weight Loss Using The CalorieCount Website

29 Jun Fashion Model Silhouette

In a recent post I wrote about the website called caloriecount.about.com. I mentioned that it wasn’t very easy to learn (it wasn’t). However, I stuck with it and so far have lost 4 lbs. I attribute this weight loss to cutting back on fats, sodium, and over-sized portions. I also increased my activity level.

My goal is to lose 10 lbs so that my BMI will be in the healthy range.

The caloriecount website notified me that I had a sedentary lifestyle. Boy, my feathers bristled at that one! If MY lifestyle was sedentary, what was the lifestyle of people who didn’t work out and were couch potatoes?

Other than calorie logging, the website also allows you to enter activities you do each day. They would include: showering, driving, sitting at a computer, weight lifting, gardening, throwing out the trash, preparing meals, grocery shopping, aerobics, stretching, circuit training – the list is almost endless. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming until you get the hang of it. I now have a clearer picture of my daily activity level and although I still don’t agree with them about having a sedentary lifestyle, I have to admit that losing 4 lbs without starving myself does say something.

I began entering my foods and activities May 29.  Today is June 29.  That’s about a pound per week of weight loss.

The website (and you) calculate what you want your ultimate weight to be and that determines what your calorie count should be each day. Mine is 1600 calories per day.  

I had the hardest time reaching my minimum daily values for potassium (4,700 mg).  Once I began to realize that sweet potatoes and butternut squash (two of my favorite vegetables) were high in potassium, I incorporated them into more meals and now reach my potassium level more often. Other Potassium rich foods: prunes, bananas, spinach.) Potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of too much salt.

I knew that processed foods contained salt but I wasn’t aware that natural foods like white potatoes, spinach (yes, spinach), and fish contained high amounts of sodium! By themselves, you probably won’t go over your daily limit. But when you salt your foods or forget to read food labels as I did when I bought some blueberry bagels, each one having over 700 mg of sodium, you can quickly go over your daily limit of 2300 mg or 1 teaspoon of salt.

I was also heavy handed with olive oil and butter. Now, I measure by tablespoon what I put over my salads or my roasted veggies. Lately, I skip olive oil altogether and sprinkle my own homemade chicken stock when making my roasted veggies. It tastes just as good, maybe better.

I expect to use the caloriecount website until I imprint in my mind what portion sizes I need so that I can eventually forego the use of measuring spoons and cups. Yes, I’ve been weighing my foods like walnuts, golden raisins (another good source of potassium), and edamame (also potassium rich).

About a week ago, I decided that I didn’t need to enter my activities into the website any longer. I have a good idea in my mind how active I have to be each day.  Today I worked out AND I did the laundry. Usually I save laundry day just by itself but my stamina has increased and now to do both in one day doesn’t phase me.

The caloriecount website allows you to have snacks and I juggle my food entries to allow me snacking pleasure in the evening when I watch tv. Usually I have edamame, or frozen tart cherries, or grapes for a snack. Sometimes 1/2 slice of rye bread spread with blue cheese if I’ve gone light on the sodium intake earlier in the day.

I only had one evening when I was still hungry and went over my daily 1600 calorie limit by about 300 calories. I still ate smart though: 1/2 can of tuna, 1 cup brown rice, 1/2 tablespoon peach preserves, 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (My own concoction that tastes Asian to me). When this wasn’t enough, I cooked a cup of mixed vegetables. Finally, I was satisfied. I must have been very active that day to still be that hungry!

Some days I felt stuffed and I didn’t want to eat my evening snacks…..but I had to in order to meet my daily requirements.  For example, sometimes I saved my almond milk (calcium) for my evening snack along with 1/2 oz of walnuts and maybe some fruit. Well, a couple of times I had to force myself to eat the snack because I am determined to meet my calcium requirements everyday! One particular night this week, I was so stuffed that I couldn’t stand the thought of a snack and skipped it altogether, to heck with not meeting my DV! (It wasn’t a calcium snack though. I eventually decided to get my calcium for breakfast every morning – OJ and almond milk.) I don’t intend to skip my snacks often.

Once I lose the rest of the weight, I won’t be limited to 1600 calories a day. I don’t know that I will continue to use the caloriecount website because I should have a good idea in my mind what I need to watch: sodium, fats, sugars and portion size. On the other hand, I do like seeing their graph showing that I met my iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, fats, saturated fats, potassium, carbohydrates, protein, Vitamin A, and cholesterol limits. (I think I named them all.) The graph shows if you’ve gone over or are under or are good.

If you need to lose weight, I highly recommend this weight loss website. Also, I should mention that I previously checked out other weight loss websites and none of them compared to caloriecount. It’s more thorough and contains more helpful information. It is worth the time you have to spend learning it. And, who knows, you may find it easier to navigate than I did!

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New Food Friday – Ataulfo Mango Curd

21 Jun Mango Curd2

I’m a fan of chef Rachel Allen and recently she prepared a dish called Lemon Curd on her PBS show.  It looked delicious and as I tried to google the recipe, I came across someone else’s recipe for Mango curd. Since I already had a couple of mangoes in the house, I decided to make the mango curd instead. And that’s what led me to this Friday’s New Food Friday.

Mango Trees

Mango Trees (sxc.hu/asifthebes)

I think the more popular mangos are the pretty red and green ones but my local Meijer also stocks the smaller, yellow Ataulfo mangoes. Don’t overlook these because they are small. In actuality, there is more meat to pit ratio. In my experience there is no taste difference and they ripen better.

Mango Branch sxc.hu sonnyleon 482816

Mango Branch (sxc.hu sonnyleon )

This is what the finished curd looks like. It’s a pretty yellow color and creamy. To me, the curd tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a lemon cream.

Mango Curd3

Mango Curd

It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks, maybe more.

Mango Curd Closeup

Mango Curd Closeup

I like mango curd on blueberry bagels for breakfast but you can spread it on toast, English muffins, scones, the possibilities are endless.

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Mango Curd on Blueberry Bagel

Store bought lemon or mango curd is expensive and they don’t always have the best ingredients in them. I’ve seen some jars go for over $7.00.  Some jar ingredients don’t even contain egg yolks, a key ingredient in mango curd or most curds. The egg yolk is what helps to make the curd a good, nutritious breakfast food.

As with most recipes, the ingredients can vary. Some people add lime juice. I made mine with lemon juice.

2 ripe Ataulfo mangoes

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons butter cut into pieces

pinch salt (if you are using salted butter, omit salt)

Wash then peel the mangoes  cut into pieces and scrape all the fruit off the pit using every last drop. Add the lemon juice, the sugar, the salt if you are using it, and blend in a food processor. I used my immersion blender and the carafe it came with. Puree. 

Now add the egg yolks and purée 15 seconds longer. The recipe I used (from Epicurious) said to strain the ingredients through a sieve. I didn’t see any need for this but it’s up to you.

Pour pureed ingredients into a bowl and place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. DON’T LET THE WATER TOUCH THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL. Wisk or stir (I stirred) until thickened, about 10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 170 F degrees. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in butter, one piece at a time.

You can cover the curd with plastic wrap so a “skin” doesn’t form on top. I let mine cool and then poured it into a jar, let it cool some more, then screwed a lid on and put in the fridge. When it cooled, some water had formed on the lid and I wiped the water off. 

I saved my egg whites in canning jars and froze them. I will use them for baking breads to give them a nice shine. If you do this, allow the egg whites to defrost completely in the fridge. You could also make a white omelet with the egg whites.

I hope you try this.  You use fresh fruit, fresh egg yolks, and fresh butter. It’s delicious, nutritious, and avoids all the preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients in store-bought curd. 

Once you try this, you will want to make other curds. I know I do!

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My Nutrition College Course and a Follow-up Website

4 Jun sxc.hu michtur

When I was in college, I took the course Nutrition 304. This was no light course. I was the only non-nursing student in the class at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

University of Evansville Rick Lewallen 2005

University of Evansville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year was 1985 and I was 5’8″ tall and 148 lbs. Sigh! I’m still 5’8″ but I’m not 148 lbs.!

I know my exact weight at that time because in this class we had to do a dietary project which consisted of logging information on data sheets recording our mood when we ate, the place where we ate, with whom, the times, the food and amount, and our observation.

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

If that wasn’t enough, there were also calculations that we had to do such as percentage of calories from fiber, fat, carbs, etc.  This was an 8-page project of instructions and forms which included an evaluation form where I had to make recommendations to myself for improving my eating habits and diet. It was thorough and tedious!

In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember all of this from memory, I stumbled upon the dietary project today tucked into my Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 3rd Edition soft cover text book (133 pages) that I’ve kept on my bookshelf all these years because it is excellent. I paid $27.95 for it. You can now purchase the 13th paperback edition (864 pages) on Amazon for $177.49! YIKES!

My project required that I record my food intake over the course of five days. My findings were that I rushed when I ate and needed to try to relax more before and during a meal. I was low on calcium, iron, and too high on fats. I improved my fiber intake and my carb intake during the project. 

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

It’s interesting that I notated that I felt bloated when I drank milk. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t pursue that because even though I was low in calcium, I’m sure the bloating feeling influenced the amount of calcium I consumed. If I didn’t work out so much and lift weights, I wonder if I would have had a broken bone or two by now because throughout the years, I really didn’t improve my calcium intake enough.

asparagus-and-tomatoes-sxc-hu-muffet1

Asparagus and Tomatoes (sxc-hu-muffet1)

In those days, I drank soda. My poison of choice was Dr. Pepper. It was shortly after this course that I gave up all soda. I also gave up beef. Many years later, I gave up ketchup (too much sugar). 

I received an “A” for the project and ultimately a “B” for the course. I was SO close to getting an “A” –  missed it by that much! 

Part of the reason that I bring all this  up is because I stumbled upon a website where you can log your food choices and activity level. It is an outstanding website: caloriecount.about.com

I had been logging my foods and activity previously on WebMD but it isn’t as detailed as caloriecount.about.com. There are over 250,000 foods listed in their database! There are over 5 million members. You can chose to keep all your records private, or you can share with the other members. 

One of the things I love about this website is that it is very detailed, and you know me, I love details! I can click a button and find out how many carbs I ate in a day and which foods had the carbs and the percentage of carbs in each of those foods! The same is true for sugar and other nutrients/vitamins. I learned I have been eating too much sugar without even realizing it! I don’t even add sugar to my coffee or my tea, yet I was getting too much sugar from the foods I ate. 

You get a nutrition report at the end of the day that shows whether you are too low, good, or too high for each nutrient/vitamin. This is very helpful because you can check how you are doing any time of the day and if you notice that you are too low in, let’s say calcium, you have the opportunity to correct that by drinking some milk, or eating some yogurt or consuming any food that contains calcium. I love this feature!

One of the great things about this website is that I have finally been able to get my needed amount of calcium each day. I am ecstatic over that!

One of the down sides to the site is that it takes a while to learn. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and I still don’t know everything about the site.  So, if you plan to use it, expect it to take some time until you get the hang of it. Keeping track of the foods you eat is the best way to lose weight. It’s been proven. 

Not only can you keep track of your foods and activity levels but when you mouse over words like sodium or potassium, you can click the link and it will take you to a page that explains all about it, listing the foods that are high in these nutrients. This website is like a continuation of my college nutrition course and it’s free!

There are two other levels to joining caloriecount.about.com. One is a Premium level for $3.33 per month. (One day free trial). The other includes a Dietitian service for $24.99 per month (Seven day free trial). I’m not pushing either, I’m just explaining what is available.

For the free service, you also have access to over 400,000 recipes, nutrition articles, a goal-setting page, and much more. I haven’t even scratched the surface myself.

So far I haven’t been able to lose any weight. I’ve been too busy trying to squeeze in all the vitamins and minerals that I need. Calcium, fiber, and potassium take a great deal of effort and planning for me.  I also made the mistake of buying bagels without reading the label. They contain over 700mg of sodium per bagel! They’re blueberry bagels so I don’t want to throw them out. Every day that I eat one, I’m over my limit for sodium.  They are also high in sugar. This is why I preach reading the labels. I don’t know why I forgot to do it for these bagels. Maybe because they looked so good!

It takes perseverance to meet your daily requirements but it’s worth it. I hope you will take a look at the caloriecount website. It might save you a broken bone!

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