Recent Eats & Ramblings on Carbs…and Beer

Portobello mushroom burger w/ sweet potato fries from a quirky new CLT restaurant: Pint Central.

My diet has been all over the place lately. Some days I am fully committed to clean eating, sparkling water, and lots of green juices. A few days a week I am completely vegetarian or eat lots of raw meals. Sometimes I eat Paleo and high protein. Other days one might think I’m preparing to go into hibernation for a second winter, given the amount of carbs I consume in a 24 hour window.

The hubs made me this awesome salad for lunch....spinach, heirlooms, onion, avocado, bacon, balsamic.

The hubs made me this awesome salad for lunch recently….spinach, heirlooms, onion, avocado, bacon, balsamic.

Beer definitely falls into the carb category, which I’ve been hanging out in this week, and to me feels like less of an alcoholic beverage and more of a heavy snack I enjoy before, during, after, or in lieu of meals. We’ve had lots of fun date nights this week, and always celebrate our anniversaries with beer.

Anniversary dinner prep: the essentials. Thanks, my love!

Anniversary dinner table prep: the essentials. Thanks, my love!

I’ve actually not been drinking much the last couple of months. Christmastime was very wine-heavy, so I’ve been giving my liver a much-needed break. In general, alcohol doesn’t do any favors for me. I love a good beer, and enjoy wine. Vodka and I have slowly been repairing our rocky relationship. These days, if I have more than 1 drink I can’t sleep at night, and spend the next day feeling anxious and dehydrated. I have finally reached the age that I consistently wake up after even a night of light drinking with a headache and dry mouth similar to what I imagine the Sahara Desert feels like at high noon.

Carby carb carb. Pasta with a million mushrooms.

Carby carb carb. Pasta with a million mushrooms, EVOO, and a sprinkle of parm.

I did buy pasta recently that’s made with flour and veggies. So you get a half serving of vegetables in every 2 oz portion. It’s still pasta and processed carbohydrates, but you get some extra nutrients in there, instead of JUST processed carb. I’m pretty sure this is made for kids. I finally decided to cook it last week, when was really sick last week with a stomach bug and couldn’t keep down much more than bland carbs until my appetite came back. The pasta above was my first venture back into balanced meals.

Northern fare.

Northern fare.

My mother-in-law introduced me to popovers. I’d never heard of them until I met Ben, but apparently these things are a big deal up North. My family was more of a “yeast roll or cornbread?” kind of family. My MIL gave me her old popover pan, and I brought it out for the first time in years this week to cook Ben a little meal that his mom would approve of. Brussels Sprouts with walnuts, garlic, and EVOO, alongside some yummy popovers. I took one of these to my grandmother (who is a true Southern lady) to try. She had no idea what I was talking about.

Dear Publix: I love you.

Dear Publix: I love you.

One of my fave meals from the past week was a Publix sub. Ohhhh how I love Publix. Fortunately, Publix is FINALLY expanding into Charlotte, so I will have one close to home this year. The sub pictured above was on the always-delish-and-fresh Publix whole grain bread. Hummus, tomato, cheese, spinach, and the best ever: Salsalito turkey….yum.

I’m considering doing some sort of juice cleanse or something this weekend, just to get my digestive system back on track and detox from all the processed grain I’ve been ingesting for the last 2 weeks. I’ve enjoyed carbing out a little, but it’s time to get serious about training for the run. Besides, I’m starting to feel eerily similar to Homer Simpson, struggling to fit into his blue pants and craving donuts and Duff.

"You should stop by Moe's! I'm there every day. 5:00-11:00."

“You should stop by Moe’s! I’m there every day. 5:00-11:00.”

So long for now, beer. I’ll see you at the finish line in Charleston!

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Essentially Speaking

Contrary to popular belief, fat is an essential part of our diet. True, too much fat or too much of certain types of fat, can be harmful to our bodies and overall health. However, no-fat diets can also be harmful to us.

Fats we should avoid include foods high in trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol-laden meal items.

  • Trans fat occurs when liquid oils go through a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is used to change liquid oils into solid fats. When ingested, trans fats can increase our risk of cardiovascular problems and disease. Key words to look for on food labels include: trans fat (listed as an ingredient), hydrogenated oils, partially-hydrogenated oils. If you see this on a label, it’s best to avoid eating it.
  • Did you know that cholesterol is naturally created  by our bodies? It’s true! Our body already has all the cholesterol it needs. So when we consume foods high in cholesterol, we could harm our health by increasing the amount of cholesterol floating in our blood. This could lead to major heart problems, including blockages, heart attacks, or hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). A crucial fact to remember is that cholesterol is only found in animal products. Animal flesh, animal organ meat, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, egg yolks), and animal fats used for cooking (such as lard — also probably trans fat!) all contain cholesterol. Organ meat is especially high in cholesterol, and is also full of other toxins are probably best not to be introduced into our bodies.
  • Saturated fat increases the amount of cholesterol found in our blood. As I mentioned above, too much cholesterol floating in our blood can cause major problems. So a diet high in saturated fats that also have high amounts of cholesterol is probably not the best option for a healthy body. Saturated fat is also a leading contributor to obesity, which leads to many other problems in itself.

Polar bears need fat for warmth and for fuel when food is scarce.

Conversely, our bodies DO need fat! Just not too much of the bad guys listed above. Healthy fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in the following foods:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, halibut. The American Heart Association recommends eating 4 oz of fatty fish twice per week.
  • Walnuts, a great vegan option. Walnuts are on of the riches sources of essential fatty acids. Walnuts also inhibit intestinal absorption of cholesterol! (And they are delicious.)
  • Flax seeds or flax seed oil.
Other reasons our bodies need fat:
  • To provide our bodies with energy when at rest or during light activity.
  • For storing energy for later use.
  • Insulating and protecting the body.
  • Transporting vitamins that travel to our intestines for absorption in fat.
Some healthy sources of fat include fatty fish (as I mentioned), nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocados, 2-4 tsp per day of plant oils, and some whole grain foods. 
What’s the lesson here? Fat is essential! Don’t go too crazy when you eat it, but following super-low-fat or no-fat fad diets can do more harm than good. So don’t feel guilty when you eat your guacamole. Just remember to hold back on the fried tortilla chips.
Some content taken from Contemporary Nutrition, published by McGraw-Hill.