Tips for starting on eating healthy

There will always be a handful of people who are intrigued and want to eat healthy but have no idea where to start, and for some, it can be harder than others because of the environment that is making it harder for one to be vegetarian or to choose to eat healthy. I believe making the choice to eat healthy is a personal one and can be done, albeit tougher in the beginning of transitions. I gathered some tips on making it easier to start, because we all know that having a good foundation is important, and changing your eating habits can be rather challenging as it takes us out of our comfort zone that many of us have known for years.

Plan your meals in advance. Especially for those who lead a busy lifestyle, be it students or working adults, planning in advance makes you able to eat at the specific time and not waste any on deciding and hesitation. Plan up to a week in advance, and prepare little lunch boxes if you have to, or even bring fruits that are easy to transport around. If eating a full vegetable filled lunch won’t do, at least eat a large serving of salad before anything else, as vegetables are alkaline and will help those who are prone to gastric, not to mention increase your vitamins and fiber intake. If you don’t like to bring salads out, opt for places that has salads for appetizers. Never eat your fruits and vegetables after your meal though.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean boring meals. Spice up your meals by looking up recipe books and try making something yourself, if it turns out good you know what to cook the next time you run out of ideas where to eat out. Not only is it satisfying cooking a meal from scratch, it can be a fun thing to do with your partner over the weekends. Making your own meals also means taking a trip to the supermarket. Take that time to really have a good look at the vegetables and fruits section to see what they have in stock, and if you’re hardworking, you can write down names of vegetables or fruits that you are keen on trying and then go home to look up recipes with that food. 

Do it with a friend or a partner. Having someone to eat healthy together definitely helps because not only can you both decide on new healthy places to eat, there will be tips to share with each other and always learn about new thing related to eating healthy. It also makes it easier to stick to eating healthy food when you have someone else ‘watching’ over you.

Keep reminding yourself why you wanted to change your diet in the first place. Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you are sick of always falling sick, or maybe you want to improve your skin and complexion. Whatever your reasons and motivations are, keep reminding yourself of it. Don’t lose sight of what made you want to change something as drastic as your diet in the first place. I find that reading books or magazines, and even websites, related to healthy living regularly works in reminding yourself why you had started this change.

Matching your mind and body. Eating healthy or going vegetarian straight away will make you crave for unhealthy food and may make you miserable at times. The best way to go about this is to be moderate in the changing pace of your diet. Do not give up so easily, but rather, set a more realistic pace for yourself in this transition. There is no point in chugging down healthy foods that you dislike and making eating healthy such a terrible affair. Don’t cause unnecessary stress to yourself and be realistic in your goals.

Change your diet slowly. Different people have different pace. Some will be able to adapt the change in diet better than others, and you have to see what suits you best. A sudden change in diet might make you feel unhappy mentally and emotionally if you aren’t used to it. You have to give yourself time to adapt. And remember, you are aiming to change your lifestyle for the better, not doing a detox. Whatever you are trying to improve will be a long term commitment, so the key is to be realistic in your goals.
It is okay to snack once in a while. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t resist a couple of chocolate biscuits once in a while. As long as you know majority of your diet is a healthy one, you shouldn’t be feeling bad for snacking occasionally. Love your body not torture it! 

It is possible to eat with people who do not have the same diet as you. You don’t have to avoid eating out or eating with friends with bad eating habits entirely. You can suggest places that sells salads and meat so both of you can have different choices on food. If unable to order individually, you can always opt for the healthiest food among the bunch and eat lots of vegetables before that or in the next meal. Don’t sweat it too much. 

Never feel guilty for your eating choices and never make others feel guilty for theirs. Eating preferences are personal choices. If you prefer to eat healthy but most of the people around you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Find a way to work around it during meal times. What really turns people off is when you start lecturing everyone at the table on how unhealthily they are eating. Not only is that rude, but it’s really making them less likely to take your word for it. You wouldn’t want them to laugh at your eating habits, so don’t do the same yourself. If someone is genuinely curious about what you eat, they will ask you about it without having you to start.

Whatever reasons and motivations you have for having a healthy diet should reflect your general wellbeing and overall, improve your health, so never ever get stressed out or worrisome when it comes to food, or it will be no different from an eating disorder. Learn to love your body and yourself. 🙂

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Anyone know the answer to this?

I’ve been really puzzled by this unanswered question, and am hoping some of you can give me an educated guess, if not an answer. I’ve been buying my groceries at Cold Storage and Supernature, and both of them carry products by Bob’s Red Mill. However, all of Bob’s Red Mill’s products at Cold Storage have been covering a section of the label that, in my opinion, has nothing wrong with it and may in fact boost sales if consumers read it.

This is the one at Cold Storage

This is the uncovered pack bought at Supernature

Words written on the label

I was thinking maybe it could be a company policy or something along the lines of those.. But still, I am really curious. If any of you has the answer, or have any rough idea, do comment to let me know! This little sticker on my Cold Storage bought pack is driving me curiously crazy.

The controversy of genetically modified foods (GMO)

Some people choose to buy organic because of the unnatural way many companies have chosen to produce their crops or livestock. We have been subtly introduced genetically modified foods since the middle of 1990s and look at us now – we cannot even tell the difference between foods that are genetically modified and foods that are planted and harvested by conventional methods. Documentary (part 2) by journalist Jane Moore went on a mission looking into origins of our foods these days and the truth will shock you if the term ‘genetically modified’ does not already.

The reason why many people shun organic food is because of the price, and because there has been no proper education given on the technology that is used on foods known as genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetically modified foods are separated into two categories. The first one is genetically modified crops and the second is the way live stocks are being bred to produce meat that is virtually sold everywhere today. The GM crops are created by introducing genes in existing plants to produce ‘superior’ and ‘purer’ harvest that are supposed to be resilient to pests and weeds, to be easier to grow, and supposedly to be higher in nutrient levels.  Most live stocks including cows, chickens, pigs, and even some salmon fish farms, are usually injected with growth hormones and antibiotics that will make them grow faster and bigger than what was considered normal size about a decade ago.

While these GM foods are supposed to be better, they are not everything they claimed to be. Companies creating these GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also companies that sell the pesticides used on these crops as it turned out GM crops are even more in need of pesticides and herbicides. Despite its claims, GM crops are harder and more expensive for farmers to sustain, and whether it is safe for the environment is another issue.

Government bodies would have assured you that there has been no direct health or environmental concerns linked to the use of genetic modifications, but many concerns have been raised regarding the long term side effects of consuming GMOs in accumulative amounts. Some states in Brazil have entirely banned GM crops, and the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of Consumers, in collaboration with Greenpeace, has prevented the importations of GM crops. In Europe there are large numbers of consumers unhappy with the increase in GM crops, leading them to mandate labeling of GM foods and non-GM foods so people have a choice.

A Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) in Singapore was set up in April 1999, however, all foods containing GMOs entering Singapore must be proven safe by competent national regulatory bodies of the exporting country before being allowed into Singapore. This would mean we do not have our own national guidelines regarding GM foods. In regards to labeling of GM foods in Singapore, a consumer writing in to Straits times questioning the safety of international food safety standards was replied by GMAC that “The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires GM food intended for sale in Singapore to be subject to rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries.”.  This “rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries” would include the very confused regulatory process in the United States, which has three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods.

In the United States, they have the EPA, USDA and the FDA. In a nutshell, the EPA is in charge of evaluating crops for environmental safety, and the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow. Companies creating GM crops do not require a permit from USDA if they meet these 6 criteria:

1) The plant is not a noxious weed;

2) The genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant’s own genome;

3) The function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease;

4) The GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms;

5) The introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and

6) The GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens (see http://www.aphis.usda.gov:80/bbep/bp/7cfr340 ).

Image from 'http://www.whatisall.com/science/what-are-genetically-modified-foods.html'

Not one of those criteria involves checking for long term effects when consumed by humans in accumulative amounts. Lastly, the FDA evaluates pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. And so asking FDA to regulate something like corn, or apples and soybeans is not possible because these are considered “whole foods”.  The FDA’s take on GM foods is that they are  substantially equivalent to unmodified, “natural” foods, and therefore not subject to FDA regulation. When consumer interests groups asked the FDA to include their evaluation on whole foods, they replied that “the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product”.

I believe consumers have the most say in deciding what foods they want. I find it highly unfair that this technology so widely used in our foods today is not being thoroughly explained or even made known to every consumers. People should be more aware and selective when it comes to food, as many people get too comfortable and trust blindly what is laid out there, instead of reading what’s on the label of their purchases.

Could chronic worrying be the reason for your ailments?

Many of us today are faced with more stress than ever. When dealing with problems that can’t be solved immediately, the next thing we do is worry. Many people don’t think they worry a lot, but they do find themselves thinking about subject matters obsessively. And that could eventually lead to stress. 

There are many reasons for worrying. Some people believe the more they think about the problem, the sooner they will think of a solution to it. Or it could be they are afraid of overlooking certain issues and would rather be prepared than surprised at the outcome. Being preoccupied with never ending ‘what ifs’ is also a form of worrying. While the list of reasons for worrying is a long one, so is the list of ill effects from worrying.

By worrying, you are making your body more inclined to produce stress hormones and some stress hormones stay in the body even when the ‘stress period’ is over. Stress hormones linger longer in people who are older, making them more susceptible to the side effects of stress. Worrying also makes your body unable to repair itself quickly and over a prolonged period of time, your immune system will be affected, leading to other problems. Excessive production of stress hormones will have physical effects on your body such as:

  • faster heart rates
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • inability to concentrate
  • irritability
  • muscle aches and tension
  • nausea
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • nervous energy
  • sweating
  • trembling and twitching
According to this site, when these hormones are excessively present in our bodies and isn’t used for any physical activity, it can have serious consequences such as:
  • suppression of the immune system
  • digestive disorders
  • muscle tensions
  • short term memory loss
  • premature coronary artery disease
  • heart attack
With the immune system being vulnerable, it increases the risk of falling sick more often, and aggravation of existing ailments in the body. There are many ways to decrease and even stop unhealthy worrying entirely, especially since most worries are not able to be solved immediately. Here are some ways to stop/lessen worrying.
Skip your coffee and drink tea instead.
Coffee increases the release of stress hormones and even though tea contains caffeine as well, it is not as harmful as coffee. Tea also has a calming effect on the body. Try Chamomile or Green tea.
Taking a slow, long bath.
The sound of water is therapeutic and relaxes not just the mind but the body as well.
Writing them down.
Listing your worries on paper will let you have a clearer view of how small those problems are. When you keep going them over and over in your head, you tend to magnify the problem. Some people worry because they are afraid of forgetting or missing out certain things, in this sense, writing is very useful.
Postpone your worries and focus on the present.
Many people get caught up with worry and neglect the present. Instead of constantly having thoughts going through your mind, stop thinking and concentrate on what you’re doing. Learn to enjoy the present.
If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it.
There are two things in this world. 1) things that we cannot control and 2) things that we can control. If your problem falls in the category of things you cannot control, then stop worrying about it!

Coffee is not your saviour

Without a doubt, many people rely on coffee for their morning ‘wake up call’. Even healthy people who eat right, and are food conscious, drinks coffee once in a while. It is perfectly fine to indulge in coffee occasionally, but what is worrying though, are people who drinks coffee everyday, and at least three times a day. If you look up the internet you’ll find websites listing mostly benefits of coffee, and that is puzzling because coffee is far from beneficial. There may be some truth in those beneficial claims but more than often, the beneficial gains of coffee to the ratio of negative effects is 1:9. It doesn’t help that the media seems to associate coffee with a ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ lifestyle especially in television dramas for teens, with actors casually mentioning grabbing cups of coffee anytime of the day.

Recent research also showed that coffee is just a placebo for people reliant on their daily coffee fix and does not increase attention span and concentration. Regular consumers of coffee feel the effects of heightened alertness from coffee due to the chronic fatigue they suffer, and what the coffee does is merely masking that fatigue they are feeling for as long as the effects last. 

Coffee is also known to increase norepinephrine production, which is a stress hormone, and can cause palpitations, leading to a rise in blood pressure resulting in anxiety. This explains that ‘perk’ you feel that makes you think you’re awake after drinking that cup of coffee first thing in the morning. When the effect wears off, you long for another cup of coffee, thus developing a mental and physical dependency towards it.

Caffeine is not only diuretic, causing your body to dehydrate faster if you don’t drink enough liquids that is not coffee, it also has a taxing effect on your liver which metabolizes it. If consumed over a long periods of time, it will cause your liver to be overworked and slow down the ability to burn fats and cleanse the other toxins in your body.

Because coffee is acidic, when taken too much or on an empty stomach, can disrupt digestion in your stomach and then speeding up the passage of waste in the intestines, causing a sudden laxative effect. Such acidity are main contributors of ulcers of any kind and also heart burn for those who are more prone to digestive problems.

Instead of relying on coffee to give you a temporary boost that actually takes a toll on your body, I’d say try being alert and awake the Jack Lalanne way as he advises on how to stop being so tired all the time. Simple and common sense advice, but sadly, not many people follow.

Are you still going to pick up that cup of coffee after reading this?

Cooking attempt #1

I contemplated really hard as to whether I should post this up or not. I have no idea what this dish would be called, but it’s basically simmered broccoli, red bell peppers and shitake mushrooms. Along with it is some pan simmered (?) noodles. It turned out surprisingly nice actually. These pictures were taken on impulse while cooking and it doesn’t look exactly good but that’s what happens when you are cooking and trying to snap the best picture at the same time. I’d still give myself points for effort though! And my partner liked it, so I don’t think it was bad at all. 😀

What I did was make my own soup stock from scratch. I am particularly proud of being able to make my soup stock from fresh ingredients as I used to rely on packaged soup stock that can be found in supermarkets. I added chicken with bones, parsley, corriander, onions, garlic and some chili to the pot and filled it with water. I left it to boil and then simmer for around an hour. When it’s done, I removed the chicken and separated the meat from the bones, and kept the soup aside.

Next I stir fried some garlic in olive oil on my pan and added the red bell peppers and mushrooms. Then I put some of the soup stock in the pan and added the broccoli and left it to simmer. After that I used the remaining soup stock to boil and cook the noodles. When it was cooked, I put it in the pan and stir fry (?) it a little and added a little light soy sauce.

I mentioned that I stir fry, but there wasn’t any real frying just lots of stirring in the pan.. So I really have no idea how to describe it!

Well, there you have it. An attempt on stir-frying noodles and a very bad description of my dish on this blog. Today’s lesson also made me aware that I have very little utensils I can use at home, but it was really fun!

Going back to the way nature intended for us

Many of us are no longer living ‘naturally’ in today’s modern times. While we can be ‘natural’ by eating fresh, real foods that are grown from the earth, there are many things about life today that is far from natural. Living in such an un-natural world definitely deprived humans of many things, and one of those things is happiness. When you think of the word ‘happiness’, many things comes to mind. Because of how our mentality has changed over the decades, ‘happiness’ means different things to different people.

What is important is that you find what are the things that make you happy without having to sacrifice another. Real happiness should, and will, never come at the expense of another important thing. I find that the way instant gratification is being glorified in our entertainment and media industry nowadays, it blurs the line between a want and a need, and the end result is usually stress or worry.

Watch this video by Jack Lalanne, as he talks about how we should not only eat healthy but be happy as a person to live a good life. This video is in black and white, yet, the message is the same and applicable to modern times today. It’s quite sad to know that people didn’t change much from the times of when television was still in black and white till now, when television is in 3D and HD.

Are you a sugarholic?

We all know too much sugar is bad for you. But do you know how bad it is for you? Most of our daily intake of sugar exceeds the daily requirement just by the afternoon. Sugar is in your cereal, your flavored milk, your coffee and tea, your food sauce, your pie, your cookie, dessert and the list goes on. In fact, a video on CBSNews website says, the sugar intake required for a day can be found in just half a can of soda.

According to this article, consuming too much sugar has proved to reduce the production of a brain chemical known as Brain-derived-neurotrophic factor (BDNF). With BDNF levels reduced, it contributes to insulin resistance which leads to diabetes and a host of other problems. Low BDNF levels are also linked to depression and dementia. And guess what? Chronic intake of sugar actually makes your brain unable to tell your body to stop eating, which is the reason for your sweet cravings.

Eating too much sugar is common sense  and everyone knows it. But to actually stop it and make a healthy change in your life is another issue. These knowledge are not newfound studies and research that are only reported recently. Jack Lalanne, was an advocate of eating and living healthy, and used his life as the best example to show the world that it works. He died at age 96 and was probably fitter than anyone in their 20s. The only regret is not knowing about him earlier or I would have bought a ticket and flown to meet this man in person. 

Jack Lalanne knew from the start that people are consuming sugar way more than what the body needs and by doing so, we are slowly eating ourselves to death. Watch the video below as Jack Lalanne explains and gives a lecture on ‘sugarholics’. Bear in mind that this is a black and white video and the sad fact is that this video is even more relevant to the way people live today. It is unfortunate that with all the advancement in technology and economy nowadays and we don’t even know how to eat to treat our body right. Guess wisdom really does not come with age.