Let Them Eat Yogurt!

The point of this post is that if you want to do something to improve the quality of what you put in your body, just read the list of ingredients on the things that you know in your heart should be simply healthy. Like yogurt. It applies to everyone, but especially to children, pregnant women and couples who want to conceive a child.

Yoplait makes this stuff called Go-Gurt that really makes me angry. Why should yogurt make me angry? Because Go-Gurt not yogurt; it’s adulterated yogurt. I encountered this stuff most recently during playgroup while babysitting and, not being a parent, felt that I shouldn’t say anything. So I’m saying something here. I hate this stuff. My friends at Fooducate hate it too. Get this. “A friend was strolling through her local supermarket when she came upon the yogurt section. A mom was there with her kids, and she gave them choice of several yogurt flavors. They picked cotton candy Go-Gurt. Cotton candy ?!!? As if all the stuff put into kids’ yogurts isn’t enough, now we’re encouraging them to look for spun sugar in their yogurt.” Seriously. Cotton candy. Can I just repeat this author’s ?!!? and add my own #@%^ you, Yoplait! As Fooducate cleverly points out, if this were in the “treats” section, rather than the “yogurt” section, everyone would be much clearer on what this stuff actually is. Sugar. A treat. Something your body can probably handle once in a while. It is not the same as yogurt.

Don't even get me started on how I feel about putting commercials on FOOD or about kids sucking on plastic. I hate this product in every possible way.

(A note on the incredibly useful Fooducate iPhone appit uses the camera on your iPhone to scan any bar code in the grocery store and then tells you important things like “NOT 100% whole grain!” or “Minimally processed food!” It also gives each product a letter grade based on how the nutritionists they asked would rate it as well as the entire range of grades given to the products in that category. In “potato chips” a B might be as good as you’re going to get. In “dried fruit” just keep looking for an A or an A+! LOVE THEM.)

While Fooducate objects, rightly, to all the sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, and all the artificial flavors and color that go into making yogurt taste anything like cotton candy, I’d like to add my own objection: it’s got carrageenen in it. My nutritionist told me to avoid anything with carrageenen in it, and, overwhelmed by things to add to my diet, I didn’t get around to researching why until today.

What is carrageenan? It’s a bit like gelatin. For many years, probably centuries, the Irish made it by boiling a certain type of moss to get out the stuff that made the plant cells so strong. Sounds better than most ways of getting gelatin-like ingredients! Unfortunately, most companies don’t use that method. It is now chemically extracted. I want to believe Tom’s of Maine that what’s in their toothpaste is safe, but I don’t eat toothpaste, I spit it out. Plus, the other toothpaste brands scare me more. Props to the company, by the way, for going into each ingredient in such detail on their website! But that’s a side note. Point is, I don’t believe that all “food-grade” carrageenan is safe. [You can read more about that and how the extraction process/production of carrageenan changed in this (technical) paper I found in the UN Fisheries and Agriculture Dept. archives–thanks for being awesome, Google.]

Why do I think it’s unsafe? There are just too many doubts, and when the evidence is inconclusive at best, why not just avoid it? It may cause cancer. It may give you stomach aches. One researcher is looking into a link to breast cancer. It’s not a necessary ingredient in anything unless you are a 19th century Irish lady trying to make a specific kind of desert. It’s easy to avoid the stuff–the name is easy to remember, and it’s listed on anything you might consume, from supplements like multivitamins to almond and soy milk to, well, “yogurt.” This is a concise explanation with good sources for why it’s best to avoid carrageenan. I’m not a big Dr. Weil fan (the beard kind of creeps me out… but in this case his evidence is good.) Supplements, almond milk and, now, Go-Gurt, which is specifically marketed to children and parents, are the products I have personally come across that sometimes include this additive. It makes me angry that the box tells me that this is “all-natural” and/or “healthy” while the ingredients list tells me that companies like Yoplait and Blue Diamond are adding this unnecessary stuff that just might be unhealthy or, at the very least, uncomfortable, if it gives you a stomach ache.

But I wouldn’t write an entire post that’s just about one food additive I find objectionable. The point is this: food is good. By itself. Yogurt already comes in single-serving packages that only contain real food! Don’t let companies convince you that you can’t handle carrying a spoon. Don’t let them convince you that kids won’t like yogurt unless it tastes like cotton candy. Don’t let them convince you that you should want yogurt that tastes like cotton candy. (Or pie, for that matter–why are there so many pie flavors? As this smart post points out, if you’re not careful you could end up with yogurt as sugary as a candy bar.)

You know what’s great? Yogurt with raw honey. Maple syrup. Agave. I have a sweet tooth, so I don’t like it plain. But I don’t want high-fructose corn syrup! Honey is delicious. Raw honey is more delicious (to me, anyway). Let’s teach our bodies and our children’s bodies to crave real food. Please. Vote with your hard-earned cash until Yoplait stops trying to pass chemicals off as food. And think about what’s in the package before you put that brightly colored box into your cart.

 

Breakfast: Protein & Peace of Mind

The biggest change in my life lately is BREAKFAST. This has always been my favorite meal of the day, maybe because I have a major sweet tooth. Almost two weeks ago, during my first consultation with Jan, The Amazing Nutritionist, I learned a bunch of science that added up to the following: I will feel better and promote better health in the future if I can get a super-high-protein breakfast every day.

Well, Mom, I hope you’re sitting down as you read this, because you probably never saw this coming: I get up early, now, so that I can cook a real breakfast. I would never have believed that this would happen if you had told me a year ago, but this night owl has learned to love her mornings.

Here are my specific breakfast goals:

  • Eat 20 grams of protein.
  • Do nothing but eat, slowly, during this meal. Do not read. Do not check email. Sit and be “present.” Psychologists call this “mindfulness”and there are truckloads of research that tell us that practicing mindfulness makes human beings happier.

(If this sounds like hippie nonsense, just read this article before you make up your mind.)

Avoiding my computer and my books and newspapers during breakfast is HARD! I sometimes end up talking to my dog. He listens because he’s hoping I’ll drop some food. I think we are now closer than before… But the real goal is to make sure that I start my day with calmness and mindfulness and that I eat all this protein slowly so that my body can do a better job absorbing it.

I don’t eat the same thing every day, but I’ve been eating some variation of this meal each day this week.

  • Creamy Fruity Oatmeal, with pepitas (delicious mexican pumpkin seeds, roasted and crunchy and nutty)
  • Coffee + almond milk
  • Peach Berry Smoothie

Here’s what I added to my oatmeal this morning:

Organic dried black Mission figs, chopped; pepitas, roasted and salted; organic candied ginger with natural cane sugar (those are the only ingredients--no sulphur).

Finished product! Trader Joes Quick Cook Steel Cut Oatmeal. When this runs out, I'll switch to Bob's Red Mill slower cooking version because it has more protein. I don't know why. Both are delicious. I also added toasted wheat germ and stirred it up; I can't taste it and it adds, you guessed it, more protein.

Cascadian Farms Organic Harvest Berries; (same brand) Peaches; Trader Joe's original almond milk; Bob's Red Mill Hemp Protein Powder; sweetened with 1 tbsp agave syrup.


Today’s breakfast was vegetarian and even dairy free. Is it vegan? I guess so… I am not a vegetarian, but have not yet gotten around to purchasing the grass-fed beef I am supposed to add (with beans) to scrambled eggs for another high-protein breakfast option. Another day! About the hemp powder: it looks and smells vile in the bag, but I really can’t taste it in the smoothie. I’m trying to do this whole thing without too many supplements and as many unprocessed ingredients as possible, but this stuff is minimally processed and made from a whole food. It’s also organic, which is really important with seeds. And, about the dairy–I’m trying to keep the glycemic level low, and cow’s milk is not great for that. I have now made the switch to almond milk even in my coffee and find that if I add enough of it, it cuts the bitterness of the coffee in the way that milk used to and adds a lovely almondy flavor without any chemical flavorings.

Here’s the breakdown of the nutrition I got this morning, thanks to a lovely iPhone app called, as you can see, “My Fitness Pal.” It’s online, too, if you don’t have an iPhone and like it. It seems to be primarily marketed towards people trying to lose weight, but I use it to keep track of things like protein and iron, not calories, which matter less in my case, especially since I’m eating less meat and almost no processed foods.

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Note the high levels of iron, calcium and Vitamin A, as well as my 21 grams of protein. Success! 20-25 grams, achieved!

I love this meal. It’s warming, comforting, delicious and filling. It’s also really easy and takes about fifteen minutes, because all these whole foods just get thrown together. Aside from a bit of chopping, boiling some water, stirring and using a blender, I don’t have to do much. It hardly feels like cooking at all. It’s July, yes, and hot, yes, and I’m eating oatmeal, but it hasn’t bothered me yet! This is better than any (homemade) breakfast I’ve had since my family used to make whole grain banana walnut pancakes for me in the shape of Minnie Mouse.