Gluten Free Challenge

30 Day Gluten Free ChallengeOne of the best parts of changing my diet has been learning a vast amount of information about nutrition. It didn’t take long for me to learn that what I was taught in school was not necessarily correct. Learning the basic food groups and the food pyramid early in life, I didn’t really call anything into question. Times change, so did how we eat over the years. Now I feel I have a much stronger grasp of nutrition, but like with life, I am always learning. Yesterday in Stop the Struggle, Lani Muelrath cites 4 steps to get going with your workout, but these steps I feel also apply to eating. Over the next 30 days I will take on a Gluten Free Challenge.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale. It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as “dextrin” (Wikipedia).” While I don’t have an intolerance to gluten or celiac disease, it has been reported that maintaining a gluten free diet can make you feel better. “Growing awareness of gluten sensitivity has led some people who struggle with gut problems but have tested negative for celiac disease to take matters into their own hands and try a gluten-free diet, even though it’s an extremely difficult diet to follow (CNN).

While it might be challenging, I don’t see this 30 day challenge being difficult. Instead of looking at what I cannot eat, I look at all the other grain options I have; corn, potato, rice, tapioca, amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, quinoa, sorghum (jowar), taro, teff, chia seed, and yam! Fact is, outside of baking my own wheat bread, I am probably close to a gluten free lifestyle now. As Chef AJ told me, “Many items have hidden gluten like soy sauce but you can use raw coconut aminos or miso for a salty flavor.”

I can see many readers shaking there heads and asking “why?” Isn’t it enough that I have given up meat, dairy and all oils, but to toss in gluten now. Some must think I am a glutton for punishment. Truth be told, if I happen to have more energy and feel healthier, why not? It’s only a 30 day period and I see it as another goal on my road to health. Along the way, I hope to learn more about gluten, as it relates to nutrition and cook some new recipes. “In fact, experts now believe that celiac disease represents just one extreme of a broad spectrum of gluten intolerance that includes millions of people… celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, experts estimate that as many as 10 percent have a related and poorly understood condition known as non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity (CNN).”

In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Hopefully I will have “strong” report at the end of this 30 day challenge.

Stop the Struggle

Stop the struggle

A few days ago, Lani Muelrath posted 5 steps you can take to stop the struggle and get going with your workouts on her web site. The inspiration for this piece was a discussion that came off her Facebook page. “Research suggests that 50% of people who start an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months (Wilson & Brookfield, 2009).” Without knowing it, I have surpassed that 6 months barrier, as I now approach 8 months of eating healthy and exercising. I was able to “stop the struggle” and move forward with a healthy lifestyle. Yet, it wasn’t always like this time.

Lani cites “Motivation” being the key when it comes to exercise. I know, I made excuses before, “I don’t have time” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” were two of my favorites. She explains 4 steps to stop the struggle and get started with your workouts are

Find the why
Imagine success
Be specific
Set the date!

Each of us my find the why, I did. “Why is it that you want to get healthy, lose weight, get stronger?” Thanks to Dr. McDougall and the basis of a plant based diet I eating healthier than ever before. The results were evident in my weight loss (44 pounds to date), but more importantly in my blood tests that resulted in a decrease of total cholesterol (currently 88 points to 174). Now that my “diet” was under control and I wanted to look better.

In January I added exercise to the equation, I worked out 3 days a week using our Bowflex Revolution. When I started this way of eating, the only exercise was 20-30 minutes of walking 4-5 days a week. This allowed me to ease into weight lifting and getting basic movements down. After 5 months I decided to step up the exercise and joined the local sports club. It was my goal to work out 3-4 days a week, while adding a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio to my exercise regime. To date, I feel great. Coupled with the loss of weight, I am trying to fill out my physique. I have noticed an increase in strength and some arm muscles being defined.

As Lani says, find the why is closely related to imagine success. A day doesn’t go by I imagine how I will look and feel by the end of year (or other dates I set as goals). I can feel my body changing, I see it in the mirror, when I work out and when I sit down to eat a healthy starch based meal.

Thankfully I have a gym partner who is an experienced lifting weights. He has developed a good program that has us working specific body parts 4 days a week. The work outs vary in movement in order to strengthen and develop muscles in each muscle group. This is what Lani terms as “be specific” and being “connected to your why.” This is more evident in the cardio workout. While I do push myself with the weights, I know my limitation. I have seen further improvement while on the elliptical fitness crosstrainer as I move from 30 to 45 minute sessions.

Not sure why it’s taken 42 years to “stop the struggle” and take full control of my health. It has been challenging at time finding the motivation to stick with these eating habits or to commit to go to the gym. The rewards to date have been more than worth it! It has been a learning experience every step of the way. While I don’t look to change anyone’s specific habits or diet, hopefully people will take notice of the changes that are occurring. That at least opens the door for possible change.

Tofu Tikka Masala

1 block of tofu
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 clove of garlic crushed
½” piece of ginger crushed
Salt and pepper to season

1 medium onion preferably red, chopped
½ a can of crushed tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch piece of ginger minced
1 small stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala
½ cup almond milk (plain)
2 tbsp almond butter (optional)
Lemon juice to make the gravy tart
Salt and pepper (if necessary)

Drain tofu and chop into squares. Combine spices and lemon juice in a bowl. Add tofu, stir around and let marinate. I let it sit for about 20 minutes and warmed the oven to 350. Transfer the tofu to a cooking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Move them around after about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a skillet, heat water. Next add the whole spices and warm for a few minutes. I made it a bit more than paste by adding a bit more water. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook till the onions are translucent.

Next, add the crushed tomatoes. Cooking the tomatoes is the KEY step in this gravy. If the tomatoes stay undercooked, the taste of the final product will suffer. So how do you know, well add the tomatoes and the spices and cook till you see the edges of the tomatoes separating from the pan (never saw this with my tomatoes).

Next add the almond butter, ½ cup of water and almond milk. Mix and let it come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add lemon juice and season to taste. Finally add the tofu and let it go for another 5 minutes, so that the tofu can soak the liquid and spices.

NOTES: I omitted ALL of the olive oil, it wasn’t needed to saute the onion and didn’t want to load the dish with unnecessary fat. I might use the juice of 1 lemon for the marinade since I omitted the olive oil. All the tofu was well coated when it went into the oven.

I also wish I had used some more crushed tomatoes in the recipe, possibly a 1/4 cup more would have made for a more consistent gravy.

SOURCE: The Healthy Diary

Cooking Middle Eastern

Cooking Middle Eastern

Can I cook tikka masala?

I just posted on the McDougall Friends group on Facebook, I am getting tired of cooking the same old thing, week after week. Thankfully this IS something I have complete control over as I do a majority of the cooking. I am still open to preparing potato enchiladas for my wife, since she loves the flavor of them. Scouring the many websites I have collected and the few vegan/vegetarian cookbooks I have purchased, I am still at somewhat of a loss when it comes to cooking Middle Eastern recipes

Recently I was turned on to a Middle Eastern market called International Foods in Concord, CA (that is how Yelp lists it). I had been searching for chickpea flour and fava beans at a reasonable price. This small nondescript market had a wide variety of freshly cook foods, breads and ingredients for many Middle Eastern/Indian recipes. I was able to purchase chana besan and fava beans, as an added bonus, freshly cooked naan bread. The best part of this bread, it’s fat free, egg free (dairy), cholesterol free and contains no preservatives! It seems to be “McDougall Approved!”

Since changing my diet I have made a few different batches of hummus, all oil free. Some have told me it’s not hummus without oil. To each their own I guess I don’t use the “heart healthy” *sarcasm* olive oil since I don’t want the added fat and have done away with adding oil to my recipes. Another dish I am preparing better, baked falafel either in patty or ball form. Patties seem to bake better with a subtle crunch revealing a warm, moist inside. One dish I failed with, but will prepare better next time, dal palak.With this sudden find of naan bread I have been looking for dishes to accompany this wonderful tasting bread. I will also mention tabbouleh, but that was a box mix I purchased at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Today I found a tofu tikka masala recipe that I hope to add to my list of favorites. While the original recipe includes 2 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO (thanks Rachel!), 1/2 a tablespoon to bake the tofu with and 2 tablespoons for the gravy that will be slathered over the dish. I don’t think this recipe will miss that amount of oil and definitely won’t add to the flavor. While I am not sure I an sell my wife on the tofu, I will still give it a shot. I will serve it over rice and if she isn’t into the tofu, then mixed veggies might work.

Drink the Water

LaCroix Sparkling Water

Drink the water!

It’s been tough the past few days, as I have been working 12 hour days starting at 2am, but it was my decision. Coming off days off last Wednesday I had to call in sick with a stomach virus I picked up from my son who spent the better past of 3 days in a lethargic state with diarrhea and vomiting. I called into work sick Thursday morning at 4am when my alarm went off and remained in bed until 1am Friday morning. Much like my son I had to drink the water and had no solid food for about 36 hours.

During that time I started looked forward to my upcoming physical. It will have been about 12 months since I last went and just short of 11 months that my doctor put me on Simvastin, a medication I took myself off of about 4 weeks later due to side effects. It wasn’t long after that I made the necessary changes in my diet to clean up my health. Between July (really October when I changed my diet) and December last year I saw a 64 point drop in total cholesterol. That number further improved a few months later. Now, as I approach my physical I am taking further steps to improve my health, but am I degrading my lifestyle?

In March I had resolved to decrease the amount of beer I drank. I can’t say I have followed through very well. While we don’t go out and socialize often, when we do it usually includes BBQ and beer. What does get me are my days off when I work around the house. While I do keep busy I consistently find myself cracking open a tall, cold one all to frequently. It’s not a drinking problem, but it’s no problem to 12 fall by the wayside in a day and a half. This continues to pack on the empty calories, carbohydrates that end up turning to sugar and being processed by the liver. This in turn (I believe) has kept my triglyceride level elevated.

I still have 16 days before I go in for my next lipid panel, but have not popped the cap on a beer since last Monday (6 days). Hopefully I can continue this trend through the 30th and onwards. There is nothing wrong with a drink on occasion but I do believe it’s having an adverse effect on my health. To supplement this habit, I have started drinking more La Croix Sparkling Water, which comes flavored. It’s all natural, no sugar or sodium. It seems to hit the spot when I am working around the house and I find myself frequenting the fridge just as often to quench that thirst.