Archive for the ‘Book and Product Reviews’ Category

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Making the little changes (and quick reviews of Food, Inc. and Nighty Night Tea)

November 13, 2009

Women’s Health features an article this month which shows how lifestyle activity has drastically changed over the years. It’s the little things that add up: standing at your desk, for example, burns about 30 calories more than sitting in front of your desk. How often are you stuck in front of the computer for? Even if it’s just a few hours each day, over time, all of that accumulates into something a whole lot bigger.

I’m squeamish about escalators and elevators. When I was travelling through Italy, I’d be huffing it up the staircases with an enormous backpack as tall as me resting on my shoulders, much to the amusement of my travelling companions. Stairs vs. elevator: about 380 calories worth of a difference.

But it’s not, as I mentioned in our recent poll, about “burning calories”. It’s about incorporating enough activity throughout the day so that we achieve a good balance. If I am in front of my computer (standing, naturally, rather than sitting ;)), and it occurs to me that I haven’t seen the sunlight all day, I know that something is wrong.

In my Oral Communication class, our most recent presentation was a persuasive speech. A number of people were talking about food and health-related issues, which I loved. One of my classmates spoke about the importance of Vitamin D, and how everyone in our city should take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. I partially agree with this statement, but I also feel uncomfortable with it.

Any time that we need to supplement our diet, or go to the gym for a workout, or even things like taking a nap in the middle of the day, it’s worth asking ourselves why exactly we need to do that. What’s missing from our lives that we need to compensate in these other ways? If we’re supplementing our diets, if we’re relying on the gym for exercise, if we can’t make it throughout the day without a power nap, what does that say about our lifestyle?

Since I began eating mostly-vegan, I do own protein powder, and I’ll add a half tablespoon to my oatmeal or when I’m making granola bars or other sweet dishes. I don’t take naps throughout the day, because I can’t shut down my brain partway through the day like that, but I have begun drinking Nighty Night tea* before bed to help me sleep better so that I don’t wake up in a state of exhaustion the next day. And yes, I also go to the gym a couple times a week: it’s the perfect study session.

I recently had the opportunity to see the film Food, Inc. and it blew my mind. Sure, I knew pretty much all of the information presented in the documentary, about all of the rotten stuff in the food that we eat and the way that the workers are treated, but I didn’t really *know* it. Seeing that documentary was such a relief- a relief to know that important people out there who can spread awareness to a wide range of people and who can probably make something of a difference are out there making movies like this. What does disappoint me about it is that it didn’t hit the major theatres (not around Winnipeg, anyway). It was only at the “obscure” movie theatre here, for a short period in September, and then just one more week during November. So much garbage hits the major theatres that surely a really good quality documentary like this should get huge amounts of publicity.

Part of me is a little sad about it all. It would be nice if we didn’t need to supplement our diets- if we really could get all of our nutrients from whole foods, and didn’t have to worry about all the crap that is put into even our fruits and vegetables. It would be nice if we didn’t need to take naps or drink special tea to ensure that we get proper rest. It would be nice if we got all the exercise we needed just from our lifestyle activity and didn’t have to go to the gym or use these ergonomic, posture-improving Herman Miller chairs (cool/eco-friendly as they are!) to get our muscles moving.

I suppose that as long as we don’t overdo it with the “fake” alternatives to real food/exercise and the like, we’re doing all right.

What do you think? Where do you “stand” on all of this?

*this tea is brilliant. It works even better than adding calcium powder to a glass of water at night. I have never found anything which helps me sleep as much as this tea does. Hunt it down and drink a mug in the evening if you have any kind of sleeping problems!

Edited to add: Rodale Books have kindly offered TWO copies of the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook to give away- Bag Lady, send me your mailing address!

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Book Review: “Women’s Home Workout Bible” by Brad Schoenfeld

November 9, 2009

Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS, CPT, sent me this book to review. He has also offered to come and speak to us about his book and his thoughts about working out at home, so be sure to stop by for his guest post on Wednesday with your comments and queries for Brad!

This book is BIG. It has colour. It has photographs to demonstrate exercises. Each division for the exercises is colour-coded to make it easy to flip to your desired section of the book: Shoulders and Arms, Torso, Core, and Lower Body. There are exercises for each of these parts of the body to do with body weight/stability balls/resistance bands, and then also options further on in the book for using dumbbells, barbells, and other kinds of weighted equipment.

There are also different options depending on your budget. Living as a student, my budget for a home gym is limited to a couple of yoga mats, a couple sets of dumbbells, a resistance band, hula hoop, jump rope, and stability ball. But most of the time I find that I only use the yoga mats and stability ball (personal preference: I like using my own body weight). The budget part of the book discussing the best equipment to buy really didn’t apply to me at all, especially because the budgets suggested here range from $100-$2,500. I don’t expect very many of us are willing to shell out that much money for a home gym (the kind using multifunction machines and chinning bars), especially when it’s easy to get in a workout without buying anything. I am strongly supportive of the soup-cans-as-dumbbells method and doing cardio outdoors. Yoga mats are a luxury, as well; not a necessity. In a pinch, rugs or the grass work just as well.

So, while I appreciate the concept of the budget for every body, I didn’t find it to be useful for my personal workout. The exercises included in this book, however, cover a wide range. I very much liked the number of exercises included here, many of which can be done with little to no equipment. Each one is accompanied by a photograph and information regarding the muscles targeted, equipment needed, tips/variations, and a detailed description for how to perform the movement. There were actually a number of exercises I hadn’t heard of before, so it was fun to learn some new ones! I liked so many of the ideas for how to use the stability ball in core exercises.

I wasn’t particularly keen on the slightly patronizing tone of the book in the introduction. The implication that women have difficulty getting in a solid workout because they are too tired at the end of the day from transporting kids and hearing their husband grumbling for dinner made me squirm. I think it’s difficult for a male author to write a health and fitness book designed for women, however. When I reviewed Lou Schuler’s The New Rules of Lifting for Women, I felt an equal unease with the way that the author seems to view his female audience.

That being said, I was impressed with the sheer vastness of topics covered in this book. Over-exercising is touched on (bonus points! I think that this important issue doesn’t always get enough awareness), and there is also some focus on the myths of the notion of “bulking up”, as well as a few notes on the importance of varying up the workout, fueling your exercise with good nutrition, and building a solid mind-body connection. Training routines are included at the back of the book along with some extra information regarding the particular muscles being targeted.

Come back on Wednesday with your thoughts and ideas about building a nice little home workout system and about training for particular goals. Brad will be answering your questions as long as they keep coming!

By the way, the photos of the women in this book: they’re real women. They have toned muscles but they look like regular women who exercise and are in good shape; not fitness models or anything like that. Always nice to see. I’m curious: what kinds of workouts do you do? Do you like using your body weight or using equipment? Home or gym (or outdoors)? And what kind of budget do you allow yourself when it comes to getting fit?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook, and don’t forget to answer this month’s poll!

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Book Review and Giveaway: The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook

November 4, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Taza Chocolate Giveaway is… VeggieGirl! Email me with your mailing address and I’ll make sure you receive your vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, delicious dark chocolate to enjoy.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook Review

This book was sent to me by Rodale Books to review. Any time I see a book with a title like this one, I assume that it’s going to be along the lines of a fad diet. Thankfully, the title is misleading in that sense: this is not a fad diet cookbook. Hurray!

The cookbook and diet plan were designed by the editors of Prevention. The premise of this diet (and you know I use the term loosely) is to include healthy fats with every meal: specifically, MUFA’s (monunsaturated fatty acids). The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook explains what constitutes a MUFA, how best to incorporate them into our meals, and the value of the Mediterranean diet. Fact: when I was living in Spain for three months, the only exercise I did was lifestyle activities (lots of walking and chasing after the girls that I was au pair to), and I did not count calories or watch my food intake at all. Fact: The food that I ate was whatever my house mother cooked, which included an abundance of olive oil and other MUFA’s (dark chocolate with every meal, not even kidding). Fact: I felt fabulous, had bundles of energy, and lost several pounds over that time period without even trying. That was also the period in my life when I had the best body image and, looking back at pictures over the years, I definitely think that I looked the best at the time and was more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been at any other point in my life. The classic Mediterranean diet is, I believe, an incredibly healthy way to eat.

The Flat Belly Diet also goes on to explain the health benefits of MUFA’s and their role in reducing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s. MUFA’s are vital for proper functioning and this book really focuses on improving our health while still enjoying ourselves.

They begin with a Four-Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart meal plan, which includes a meal-building formula. For example, lunch might be “1 protein + 1 dairy + 1 veggie + 1 glass Sassy Water. “Sassy water” is their combination of water with ginger, cucumber, lemon, and spearmint leaves to help with digestion.

The book includes meal plans and grocery shopping lists with vegetarian and vegan options. It looks at what foods to include regularly and substitutions for various kinds of food in case of allergies or dislikes. It also advises what foods to avoid and how to make every recipe in the cookbook a well-rounded meal.

The interesting thing that I found about this book is that it appears to be a healthy cookbook disguised as a fad diet cookbook. It has a few “success stories” throughout, which I’m never a big fan of, yet it stresses the importance of eating regularly and encourages the reader to not be afraid of healthy fats.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook has a beautiful layout with colour photographs, nutritional information for every recipe, and a broad range of different kinds of foods: breakfast, soup and sandwiches, salads and sides, vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meats, snacks, desserts. The ingredients in all of these recipes are real ingredients (no artificial sweeteners or pudding mixes that so many cookbooks, sadly, make use of with a heavy hand). At the back of the book is a serving chart with the different MUFA’s, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, flaxseed oil, pesto, soybeans and so forth, along with the recommended serving size and the corresponding number of calories per serving. There is also a conversion chart to make measuring easier for everyone.

I’ve tried a couple of the recipes, such as a dairy-free Creamy Broccoli Soup and the thin crust pizza, and both were delicious. Personally, my body doesn’t always enjoy a lot of high-fat foods; however this book will be perfect for the sisterroommate. We already agreed that when she returns from her travels in the spring, we will follow the meal plan included in this book and try it out: her major stumbling block when trying to eat healthy is that her body craves fattier foods, so this cookbook was basically designed for her.

I also received a Flat Belly Diet Pocket Guide, which has now taken a permanent spot in my purse. It’s fun to peruse and it includes shopping lists, calorie counters, meal plans, and really solid advice for eating out.

This is hands down one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever received. It is equally as valuable to me now as my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is!

Rodale Books has kindly agreed to giveaway not one, but TWO copies of this cookbook to two lucky readers! To enter to win, ask any one or combination of the following questions: what is your favourite MUFA? How often do you tend to eat MUFA’s? What do you think of this kind of diet plan? What type of diet do you find works best for YOU?

You know the drill: it’ll be a random number generator unless someone makes me smile πŸ™‚ You’ve got a week before I announce the winner!

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Product Review and Giveaway: Taza Chocolate

October 28, 2009

Taza Chocolate kindly agreed to send me some of their products a couple weeks ago to taste-test and review. The reason why I first became interested in Taza Chocolate is because it is stone ground, organic, minimally processed, and direct trade (their press release states that they “always pay more than Fair Trade prices for our beans”). I like the fact that this company operates on a sustainability level to be more environmentally friendly and to produce chocolate which is of the best quality. Taza Chocolate also states that it is a member of Slow Food USA (which we had a lively discussion about back in April) and the ingredient list for their products is refreshingly short. This chocolate is dairy free, gluten free, and soy free as well.

I was given the opportunity to taste-test the Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano, Cinnamon Chocolate Mexicano, and the 70% dark chocolate bar. Before the sisterroommate left country for half a year, I asked her to taste the chocolate and tell me what she thought about it. She playfully agreed:

It’s very granular, but it tastes like original chocolate; it has a very pure base to it. It almost tastes a little barbaric, as though this is how they ate it at ceremonies in ancient times. It’s kind of sparkly, you can see the sugar in it… you can taste the sugar quite prominently. It would be really good melted in coffee. It has subtle overtones of rain-washed valleys.

(As you can see, the sisterroommate had fun with her review).

I also quite liked this chocolate, but I don’t think that the Chocolate Mexicano disks are the kind of chocolate I’d want to eat just by itself because the sugar granules are very large, so it’s a little bit too sweet for my liking. The dark chocolate bar is delicious by itself, however!

I tried using both kinds of Chocolate Mexicano in this amazing chocolate zucchini bread, and I can honestly say that this was one of the most decadently delicious breads I have ever made. The chocolate melted perfectly! I used less olive oil, added in some applesauce, and cut out the sugar (replacing part of it with agave nectar); the bread still turned out beautifully and I can’t wait to make it again with the Taza Chocolate.

I do not believe that chocolate is “a health food”, but this would be the perfect replacement in your diet if you normally like the sweet stuff. The cinnamon Chocolate Mexicano only has Dominican cacao beans, cane sugar, and Costa Rican cinnamon in it; the pure cacao has the same ingredients minus the cinnamon. The 70% dark chocolate bar contains Dominican Republic cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and whole vanilla beans. These are all real ingredients, and for that reason, Taza Chocolate makes for a great treat.

Interested in trying Taza Chocolate for yourself? Leave a comment about your favourite way to cook/bake with chocolate, your favourite kind of chocolate, or anything else chocolate-related below to enter to win a 70% dark chocolate bar, 2 0z nibs, and Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano! As always, if someone leaves a comment that really rocks my socks off, the prize is yours. Otherwise, I’ll be using a random number generator. Winner will be announced one week from today, on Wednesday, November 4th.

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POM Wonderful Blogger Harvest Tour Recap

October 23, 2009

One missed flight and two delayed flights later, I am home again in Winnipeg after a POMtastically wonderful Blogger Harvest Tour at the POM Wonderful orchards in California. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The latter part of Day Two

After picking pomegranates on Tuesday, Janel gave a talk about the role antioxidants play as an anti-aging superpower. Her health and nutrition philosophy is the twin of my own. It was beautiful to hear her stressing the importance of eating real, whole foods. I had to restrain myself from jumping up and giving her a gigantic hug partway through her talk!

Then it was time for dinner at The Vintage Press. It ever you go to California- no matter what part you’re in- make a detour to Visalia so that you can eat at The Vintage Press restaurant. The interior is gorgeous, the owner is kindness in human form, and the food… I’ll be dreaming of the deliciousness of that meal for days:

PA200107Random things on a stick. They were tasty. That’s all that really matters anyways, right? πŸ™‚ I believe these were mostly vegetables and a mozzarella ball in some kind of oil/vinegar sauce

PA200110Bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed date, crusty whole wheat bread, and melty cheese in puff pastry

PA200112Cream cheese and pomegranate arils layered on top of a fig

PA200115Mushrooms between layers of puff pastry with cream sauce

PA200116Sliced pears and mixed greens with pomegranate arils

PA200120Pistachio-crusted salmon in a white wine/lemon sauce

PA200122Pomegranate sorbet

I enjoyed the meal with Kristy and Eric (I had so much fun with them the evening before that I really wanted to spend a lot more time with those two!), and Heather and Janel. The conversation was engaging and the company, perfect. I’d be understating to say that it was a complete pleasure and delight to talk to them.

PA200121Me and Heather

PA200124Kristy and I

Jeff gave an incredibly touching speech about the POM Wonderful-blogger relationship which I think had us all choked up. He and Andrea were the most amazing hosts any of us could have asked for! Then we went on a quick tour of the restaurant.

PA200135The whole place was beautiful, but I especially loved the piano at the top of this winding staircase

Roni suggested the idea of walking back to the hotel, so some of us walked/stumbled back. I crashed as soon as I got to my room.

Day Three

I woke up early for some quickie strength training and an interval workout on the treadmill to burn off at least two bites of that decadently rich dinner from the previous night. Once we’d all eaten breakfast together, we packed up and drove to the POM plant for our tour.

There’s quite an involved process for ensuring that each pomegranate is in pristine condition, but essentially what happens is that each pomegranate moves along the conveyer belt…

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…and then it gets a pretty heart-shaped POM sticker further on down the line. Aww!

PA210182This is one of the biggest pomegranates ever! It’s about 5.5 inches in diameter

There were big banners hanging all over the processing plant with motivational phrases such as “Everyone matters at POM” and “Every drop of juice counts”. I loved the friendliness of the atmosphere.

It was also fascinating to see how the bottles are made and the juicing system itself. The bottles are made with recycled materials and even the husk of the pomegranate is squeezed for juice, so POM is very efficient in using every part of the pomegranate. I was impressed at how little goes to waste.

Every minute of this trip was unbelievable. The only thing I would have changed would be for it to have lasted longer- there was so much more to learn and so much more time I wished I could have spent with the other bloggers! It was nice to meet these fantastic people who have such an interest in health and food. Shirley explained to me all about the gluten-free philosophy, which I had known nothing about before. And I have to say that it was a lot of fun to meet the girl behind the infamous breakfast cookie, Gina, too- now I finally know how to make one.

The Harvest Tour was out of this world.

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Day Two of the POM Blogger Harvest Tour

October 21, 2009

We started off the morning bright and early with a continental breakfast at the hotel. From there, it was a long drive to the POM orchards, so we snacked on Wonderful brand pistachios along the way. The orchards were fantastic; there are 18,000 acres of pomegranate bushes alone (and yes, pomegranates grow on bushes rather than trees).

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Pomegranates as far as the eye can see

We also became very excited when we learned that there are almond and pistachio trees in the orchard too!

PA200019Almond!

Then we went up in two planes to do a fly-over. The little plane was a six-seater; the “big” plane had about 8 seats. Just for kicks, I went up in the air on both planes.

PA200050Me and Janel on the small plane

The orchards are beautiful and cover an enormous distance. The ride was very bumpy on the smaller plane too:

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After the fly-over, we ate lunch before heading back out to the orchards to learn more about pomegranates from the experts, and to pick pomegranates and do a little taste-test.

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After that, we snacked on some POMx bars (chocolate-dipped peanut butter flavour and chocolate-dipped pomegranate flavour) on the drive to Visalia, California. We did a lot of driving today, but I kind of liked that- it gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other better and learn more about everyone’s truly fascinating lives. It’s very refreshing to be surrounded by people who have an interest in health, and the other bloggers are some of the loveliest people I have ever met.

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In about an hour we’ll all be meeting up to hear Janel talk to us about nutrition. I’ve only spoken to her a few times but already it sounds as though our views on health are really similar, so I’m looking forward to it! We’ll be going to dinner later on at a nice restaurant, with a meal featuring pomegranates in every dish. Tasty.

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POM Blogger Harvest Tour: Day One!

October 20, 2009

This morning I left my apartment at 6am to make it to the airport on time. A couple of airplanes later, with a quick stopover in Denver between them, I arrived in Fresno, California!

The POM company gave each blogger (there are 15 of us in total) a temporary credit card to pay for the taxi to the hotel, and I arrived at the hotel without a hitch about four hours before we were all planning on meeting together for dinner. A lovely little POM care package was waiting for me upon my arrival: it included a big environmentally-friendly tote bag full of goodies! Inside the bag was a folder full of the Harvest Tour information as well as a POM notebook, POM pen, POM usb device (with POM info and press releases on it, as I learned after I plugged it into my laptop), a bunch of beautifully designed cards with recipes for using POM on them, and a very large diagram of “how to open a pomegranate” (clearly it takes a lot of skill. Without step-by-step instructions I’m sure I could make as much of a mess with a pomegranate as anything else in my kitchen ;)). There was also a smaller box and inside it were a POM t-shirt (my size, yay!), POM Iced Coffee, and Spiced POM Cider. And a water bottle too, which was very much appreciated after the flight.

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I decided that I should spend the next few hours exploring some of Fresno before meeting everyone, so I asked at the front desk if there was anything interesting in the area. When she mentioned a Trader Joe’s nearby I’m sure I nearly shrieked with excitement! I went for a little walk to discover Trader Joe’s and it was heaven. I ended up buying a loaf of vegan sprouted bread, Better ‘n Peanut Butter, and a Clif Z bar. I haven’t ever seen any of those items in Canada before and I always hear bloggers raving about the latter two, so I just had to try them. I ate the Clif Z bar as a pre-dinner snack and the honey graham flavour was very tasty. I’m excited to take the bread and peanut butter back home with me. Some people get excited about seeing tourist sites when they go traveling; I get excited about places like Trader Joe’s.

After my expedition to Trader Joe’s, I went out walking in the other direction and discovered that the area that of Fresno that we’re in right now consists of large box stores and even larger parking lots. But that also means that there’s a gigantic mall only about 20 minutes walking distance away. I found a lovely pair of boots and am somehow going to fit that gorgeous purchase in my bag along with my Trader Joe’s treasures to take home to Winnipeg.

Then it was time for the dinner! We went to BJ’s Brewery and because there were so many of us it was difficult to get around to talking to everyone. I spent most of the evening talking with Kristy of The Wicked Noodle and Eric of Eric Rivera’s Cooking Blog. I think I spent far more of my time laughing than eating, which is always a good sign. They are both hilarious and it was wonderful to meet with other food and health bloggers! It’s also good to be able to finally put a face to bloggers that I see all over the blogosphere, such as Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter, Tina of Carrots ‘n Cake, and Roni of Green Lite Bites– and to meet bloggers whom I’d never know about before this occasion. And of course, as soon as the meals arrived, everyone whipped out their cameras and started snapping photos. How I do dearly love bloggers! It’s just the beginnings, I’m sure, of an immense amount of fun.

I had a lettuce wrap with Thai shrimp and some calamari to begin, followed by a massive salad with heaps of Cajun shrimp, artichoke hearts, and fire-roasted red peppers, and then finished it all off with a taste of apple crumble and a few bites of cookies with ice cream on top. Delicious! But I’m especially looking forward to tomorrow night’s dinner, which will be a specially-prepared POM affair.

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It’s time for this health blogger to crawl into bed before a busy day tomorrow of touring the orchards! I love being a part of this experience.

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Product Review: POMx Tea

October 16, 2009

Exciting Announcement

Next week I shall be away from the computer and out of business from Monday through Wednesday. Why, you ask? Because I will be in Fresno, California! Along with 14 other health bloggers, I have been invited by POM to tour the company’s orchards and juicing plant! This is POM’s first ever Blogger Harvest Tour and I am delighted to be a part of it. It includes an all-expense paid trip to California; I will be learning all about pomegranates. I am positively giddy with excitement. Upon my return I shall shower you all with new-found knowledge about pomegranates.

In the meantime, to hold you over…

POMx Tea Review

When I tried the POM juice, it didn’t top my favourites. The taste was incredibly strong and for someone who typically doesn’t drink much juice, it was just too much. I really enjoyed it in smoothies, but I couldn’t drink it straight. POM’s new iced teas, however, are a different story! They’re described on the press release as “deliciously refreshing”, and that is exactly how I would describe them. My favourite is the Light Pomegranate Wildberry White POMx Tea; I have an infatuation with white teas and this one perfectly emulates the lightness in taste.

A carton of juice can sit in my fridge for months and I won’t have any desire to touch it, but I actually found myself wanting to drink this iced tea. That is a definite sign that it has quality taste! I was happy to drink it on its own but also found that it pairs nicely with vodka (just in case you were wondering. It was solely for the purpose of research).

The nutrition stats for the Wildberry White Tea show that there’s about 70 calories and 18g sugar per one bottle. That is a high amount of sugar; however, I expect that much of it is natural sugars from fruit. Some of the sugars are added, though, as shown in the ingredient list: gentle brewed white tea (water, Superior White Peony tea leaves), POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice from concentrate, fructose, erythritol (natural sweetener), POMx (POM Wonderful Pomegranate Antioxidant Extract), blackberry juice from concentrate, natural flavours, citric acid.

Out of the other four flavours, only one other is “light”; the other three have about twice the calories and sugar per serving. The ingredient lists are all very similar. The other flavours are Pomegranate Lychee Green, Pomegranate Peach Passion White, Pomegranate Blackberry, and Light Pomegranate Hibiscus Green. Unfortunately the only two flavours that I could find at my store were the Wildberry White and the Lychee Green, and neither of these were abundant on the shelves- it looks as though they’ve been selling out fast!

Overall, I really enjoyed this new line of POMx Tea. It is a far healthier choice than other kinds of iced tea drinks that you’ll find at the grocery store. I’m not a big fan of the added sugars, but the product makes for a great treat and is super refreshing! Have you tried POMx Tea?

Have a wonderful weekend and I shall join you all once again next Friday (though I’ve got a post about my 21 Foods List and a guest post about nutrition for runners all set up for Monday and Wednesday, so be sure to check those out while I’m picking pomegranates in sunny California!).

Edited to add: It looks as though I might very well be updating my blog while I’m in California, in between looking at pomegranates. Check back daily!

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Book Review and Giveaway: “101 Things to Do Before You Diet” by Mimi Spencer

October 5, 2009

I received this book from Rodale Books not too long ago and “ate it up”, as it were. 101 Things to Do Before You Diet (because looking great isn’t just about losing weight) by Mimi Spencer is a practical guide full of useful tips on how to prepare yourself to be really, really, ridiculously good looking. As a fashion and beauty journalist based out of the UK, she has put together this book because feeling good and looking good are often interchangeable. She says that it’s okay to want to lose a few vanity pounds or to be a little slimmer. This book encourages the reader to figure out where our strengths are and to emphasize those strengths.

We learn throughout this guide little snippets of personal information, such as the fact that Mimi Spencer doesn’t love the way her stomach looks but that she has beautiful ankles to flaunt. Somehow these personal anecdotes- which are included just enough to make them interesting rather than irritating- are incredibly endearing. Her writing style is easy-going and her voice makes me want to sit down and have a chat with her. Sometimes books such as these, when written in the first person and thus incorporating personal stories, just seem narcissistic and boring. Not this one! I liked how her voice shone through. She doesn’t sound like she’s trying to sell anything. She’s just offering helpful advice that we would otherwise be completely ignorant of.

101 tips is a lot to ask for. Off the cuff, you might assume that they would all be of the same repetitive genre (drink water, walk for a few minutes each day, smile when you answer the phone ad nauseam*), but although some of the tips are of that ilke, most of them are genuinely useful for day to day life.

All 101 tips are separated into 10 chapters so that they are neatly categorized. The categories include topics such as changing your mindset, a step-by-step program to get out of a fattening rut, what to eat, how to dress thinner and create illusions, make up tips, ideas on how to get fit, and how your diet is your lifestyle. There’s a little something for just about every aspect of your life.

This book is specifically aimed at women, and especially targets an upper middle class group starting at about 10 years older than myself. Even so, I’m better off for having read this book. There are a couple recipes tucked in there and an entire explanation about the various kinds of shoes, and how certain types are slimming and others should be avoided. I like shoes. If you like shoes, you should read that part. Tip #68. It’s five pages of wonderful shoe-filled glory.

I really enjoyed reading this and some of it was stuff I knew, but with 101 thoughtful tips, there’s bound to be a fair amount that you hadn’t heard about before! I learned a few techniques that I’ll be putting into practice. Did you know that any kind of stripes, vertical and horizontal, are counter-productive to achieving a slimmer look? I sure didn’t (I should have read that section before I threw on a striped shirt at a party this past weekend…). If you ever wanted to learn the exact way to walk like a supermodel, improve your posture, or trot around in high heels, this book gives a crash course how-to. There are also many amusing quotes from various celebrities incorporated into the tips.

This is a lovely little book and a fun read. One of you can win this book for the price of a comment below! Tell me your favourite piece of advice for looking or feeling great. Who knows, maybe Mimi will write a sequel if we gather up enough quirky and unique tips πŸ˜‰ I’ll be using the random number generator to choose the winner unless someone comes up with a tip that really rocks my socks off (because challenges are fun!). This giveaway lasts a week and the winner will be announced next Monday, October 12.

*These kinds of tips all very true and things that we should be doing, but we also hear them everywhere. They become redundant. I start to wonder if people even listen to them at all anymore, or if instead they just go in one ear and out the other so that we don’t even take away the message…

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Cheezy Sauce Recipe

September 12, 2009

Yesterday, on Day 11 of the Vegan Challenge, I ate:

– 1 apple

– 1/4 cup almonds and a thick slice gingerbread

– Salad with romaine lettuce, spinach, quinoa/bean/veggie mixture, radishes, cucumber, tomato, green pepper, carrots, 1 slice Yves deli “turkey”, some raisins, and asparagus

– 1 almond butter ball, 1 calzone, snow peas with hummus, and 2 figs with almond butter

– A taste of the yummy chili that the sisterroommate made

– Air-popped popcorn with salt and spritz of oil, plus a glass of red wine.

Tofurky and Yves Product Reviews

Curiosity compelled me to try out the Yves processed “turkey”, just like it compelled me to try out the processed Tofurky franks. Both of them don’t taste too bad. They taste fairly similar to the real thing (by which I mean, they taste fairly processed, surprise surprise!). The franks are useful if you’re at a BBQ and the deli “meat” is useful if you have a hankering for a deli-style sandwich. I wouldn’t call them healthy, but I do like that they have so many added nutrients, particularly plenty of vitamin B12.

These two items would fall under the “glorified pretend-healthy jazzed-up food products” category, because really they’re just processed food with nutrients added like so many other items on the shelves, but part of Living in the Real World is that we’re going to eat non-real food sometimes. And, admittedly, there isn’t anything really unhealthy in the ingredient lists of either product. TheyΒ  are like the Switzerland of the food products: they aren’t going to have a huge impact on your health in either extreme of positive or negative.

Nutritional Yeast Cheese Sauce Recipe

I asked one of the co-authors of The Veganomicon if I could post their Cheezy Sauce recipe so that you all know exactly what the hell it is that I’m talking about, and Isa kindly gave me her permission! Here it is:

Ingredients

2 cups water

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves minced garlic

Pinch of dried thyme

1/4 tsp salt

Several pinches freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp turmeric

3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

Directions

1. Combine the water and flour in a measuring cup and whisk with a fork until dissolved (a couple lumps are okay).

2. Preheat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Place the oil and garlic in the pan and gently cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often and being careful not to burn the garlic.

3. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the water/flour mixture, turmeric, and nutritional yeast, and raise the heat to medium. Use a whisk to stir constantly. The mixture should start bubbling and thickening in about 3 minutes; if it doesn’t, turn the heat a bit higher.

4. Once the mixture is bubbling and thickening, stir and cook for about 2 more minutes. Add the lemon juice and mustard. The mixture should resemble a thick, melty cheese. Turn off the heat, and cover the pan to keep it warm until ready to use. The top might thicken a bit while it sits, but you can just stir it and it will be fine. Serve warm (on nachos, pastas, in calzones, or as a dip). Makes about 3 cups.