For the Love of Pasta

BBC News’ recent article “Is reheated pasta less fattening?” has me rethinking pasta!

If you haven’t heard the news, apparently when pasta cools and is then reheated, the structure of the pasta changes so that your body treats it more like a fiber and less like a carb. Why is this important? It means a significantly lower spike in glucose levels so you’ll stay fuller longer and absorb fewer calories. Eating cool pasta will have a similar effect, but strangely by reheating it you increase the benefits. Most importantly, it means that all the times I’ve yelled at Mr. Man for eating the cold leftover spaghetti straight out of the fridge I was right! (See? You really should heat it up before eating it. Geesh.)

But before you get your water boiling for a week’s worth of macaroni, I have a couple interesting pasta alternatives that will help you shed weight and stay healthy.

Spaghetti Squash

Image curtosey of New Health Guide

The sky is the limit with this midsized gourd. Spaghetti squash Bolognese? Asian stir-fry squash? Buffalo chicken gourd? Basically whatever you slop on top of pasta (or rice!) you can slop on top of this instead and end up with a similar taste, lower carbs (36 grams less per cup compared to pasta), fewer calories (190 calories less per cup compared to pasta), and an excellent veggie based meal to boost your health. Except maybe alfredo sauce. Although don’t quote me on that since I’ve never actually tried it. I’m just not convinced it would be a good idea. Some things just shouldn’t be messed with, just cooled down and reheated. But! I digress.


Information courtesy of Google. % of daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.

So how to unleash the awesome sunshine yellow happiness?

  1. Wash the squash
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise
  3. Scoop out the middle goopy bit, like you would a pumpkin, or a, well, squash
  4. Place the halves cut-side down in a microwaveable dish (probably a casserole or something)
  5. Prick the back of the skin a few times with a fork (like a potato!) (I love this part) (Yes, I’m weird)
  6. Add a smidge of water to the bottom of the dish (not a whole heck of a lot here)
  7. Place dish in microwave (say whaaa? So here’s the deal, you can totally bake this puppy in the oven for like an hour at say 475oC or something, but who has time for that?!?!)
  8. Use your “Fresh Vegetable” setting. Or, if you’re like me and your microwave is not soo fancy (and doesn’t generally work unless you talk nice to it and wiggle the door in just the right way and then cry and scream and kick at it until Mr. Man comes and rescues you with his magic touch to make the damn thing work and you wonder why you don’t just buy a new microwave already…*ahem*), I would put it in for 5 minutes at a time, poking at it with a knife (probably the one you cut it in half with) until it is soft (but not mushy). Generally speaking, a small to midsized squash will run you about 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully flip the squash cut-side up
  10. With a fork, pull the squash away from the skin creating spaghetti like strands

And there you have it! In 10 easy steps and 10 minutes, you have a fabulous pasta alternative. My go-to is generally just topping it with Bolognese sauce and some grated cheese like I would spaghetti noodles.

Zucchini

Image courtesy of Health Benefits Times

If you’re looking for a great lasagna noodle alternative, look no further than zucchini!

Information courtesy of Google. % of daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.

  1. Wash the zucchini
  2. Cut off the end bits
  3. Using a peeler or mandolin, slice off thin strips of zucchini lengthwise until you start hitting seeds
  4. Rotate and repeat (if your slices have seeds they won’t stay together all noodle like)
  5. Use the raw zucchini slices in your lasagna layering and cook as per usual

Honestly, it’s that simple.

You can also slice/cut up the zucchini into smaller strips to mimic spaghetti noodles and top accordingly. Or you can get all fancy pants like my spiffy co-worker (actually she’s super awesome and is the one that showed me the way of the zucchini), and get a spiral slicer and make curly zucchini slices (of any thickness or style). If you’re making spaghetti and don’t feel like raw zucchini, you can give it a quick sauté or heat it up in some boiling water. Just be cautious not to leave it cooking too long or it will go mushy. I would say 2 minutes tops.

If all else fails and you’re still not feeling overly inspired by my easy, healthy pasta ninjas, then I guess you can always revert to cook, cool, and reheat so you can have your cake and eat it too (or, in this case, healthier pasta with weight loss benefits that’s still pasta).

Who said leftovers couldn’t be sexy? 😉

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Green Tea Challenge

I know, I know, it’s still PSL season, but hear me out on this one.

If you Google green tea, the first hit you get is “Health Benefits of Green Tea” from WebMD. The internet is pretty much riddled with reasons why green tea is great for you like the “fact” that it will lower stress levels and prevent cancer and help you lose weight and save starving goats in Africa (say what?). But jokes aside, there is a pretty solid base behind the benefits of green tea (if you’re looking for more reputable online resources, check out Medical News Today, Harvard Health Publications, University of Maryland Medical Center and this article that links out to a lot of medical journals). I don’t buy into the idea of green tea itself helping you lose weight, but coming in at a whopping 0 calories, it sure beats 200 calories of latte ridiculousness (now that I’m trying to track that sort of thing all official like… ugh).

Let’s be honest here. Green tea sucks.

[DISCLAIMER: I am really not a tea drinker. Some people (for example, every woman in my family except me) love the stuff, but I have never ever liked it. I am sorry if you already love tea. That is awesome. You can stop reading now. No! Wait! Come back! Maybe just skip down to the challenge part.]

I mean, come on, have you tasted that stuff? Just thinking about it makes my mouth pucker and dry out. Clearly you can go all rebellious and add honey or sugar or something to it, but then that defeats the purpose. But, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with my lovely Chinese co-worker (let’s call him Wu) who informed me that:

You can’t not like tea. There is a tea out there for everyone. We will find it.

This led us on a rather notable tea quest through local markets and chain retailers and even his very own secret stash of authentic Chinese tea and bricks. (Wu still says that the brick stuff is, in fact, tea, but I’m pretty skeptical.) I learned some pretty valuable lessons along the way, like the fact that white tea tastes like grass, and black tea tastes awful, and pretty much anything you can buy from the local grocery store that comes in a little bag is stale. And awful. And apparently adding things to tea like sugar or milk is blasphemy as per Wu.

Most importantly, though, I learned that jasmine green tea is “my tea”. I.e. I can drink a whole cup of it without gagging, or making faces, or yelling at Wu. Furthermore, I learned that not all jasmine tea is the same. There are some sneaky jasmine oolong teas that are NOT jasmine green teas (even if the sales person tries to convince you that you will like it), and I learned that Tetley (and Lipton and other) bagged jasmine green tea is a hoax (okay, not really, but that stuff is still pretty gnarly imo), that David’s Tea is passable in a pinch, and that Tevanna’s Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls Green Tea is actually quite good. Nothing beats the local market’s wonderfully fresh jasmine pearl green tea, but that place doesn’t have parking and since Tevanna is under the same banner as Starbucks it feels less like cheating. This whirlwind experience has left me tea happy and convinced that there is, in fact, a tea for everyone.

Which brings me back to green tea.

I have assembled a list of reasons in no particular order as to why (jasmine) green tea is a superhero awesome:

  • It is 0 calories
  • It smells really pretty
  • It is relaxing/stress relieving
  • It gives you an excuse to stand by the kettle in the coffee area at work for a 5 minute break away from your desk
  • Tea cups are totally adorable

Oh yeah, and

  • It’s totally healthy for you because:
    • It has antioxidants that help kill free radicals
    • It has EGCG

    (And both antioxidants and EGCG are linked to a bunch of great things like reducing the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, cholesterol build up, wrinkles, aardvarks (just making sure you’re paying attention…))

To encourage you to explore the benefits of this beautiful beverage, and the broad range of flavours it has to offer, I have devised the Green Tea Challenge.

Image courtesy of Google.

The Challenge: Drink a minimum of 3 cups of green tea (any type of green tea) a day for 30 days.

The Rules: No additives allowed in the tea (so no milk or honey or sugar). No substituting green tea for other types of tea. Take note of how you feel before and after 30 days of green tea.

The Point: Encourage us to integrate healthier options into our diets to feel better all round. Hopefully by the end of this challenge green tea drinking will become a healthy habit that we can continue.

[The Bonus: As a bonus challenge, replace all hot beverages with tea.]

I know these demands are pretty steep, but let’s get this partea started! I will be posting my personal thoughts on and results of this challenge come November, and will hopefully have found some serenitea and the abilitea to overcome the urge to make as many tea puns as I can. We shall just have to wait and tea. (Okay, I’m done now. Honest.)

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Navigating Pumpkin Spice Latte Season

The crisp air of September can only mean one thing: pumpkin spice latte season.

Now, if you are anything like me, your first thought is “eeeeeeehehehehe.” Your second thought is “how in the world am I supposed to lose weight when it’s PSL love season?”, but by that point you are already guiltily sipping the heavenly pumpkin goodness out of your paper cup. And so it has begun. But before this PSL season gets too out of hand, I have braved the coffee shops to help arm you for the months ahead.

Starbucks

This is the mother of all PSLs. It even has a twitter feed @TheRealPSL. Ridiculous? Yes. Amazing? Indeed.

(Image and information from Starbucks website)

Standard Order:*


reclaiming skinny recommends tall, non-fat, no whip. (If you are not yet fluent in Starbs speech, it’s okay to practice this one at home in front of the mirror until it rolls off your tongue so you don’t lose your cool when ordering it from your barista.)

Second Cup

Second Cup remains a firm second place in my books. What this latte lacks in whipped cream is made up for in frothiness. Although it comes in with a smidge less sugar than the Starbs counterpart, I find the thick layer of frothy goodness a bit much for my tastes, and it left me feeling sick by the end of it.


(Image and information from Second Cup website)

Standard Order:


reclaiming skinny recommends going in for a small with skim milk.

Coffee Culture

This would be a wonderful latte if it were named, oh I don’t know, something more along the lines of Nutmeg Latte. I would say the pumpkin to nutmeg ratio on this one is 0 to 1. Their website boasts they use “real pumpkin spice syrup” (yum), and even if you scrounge the Nutritional Information chart to find out the real damage, you won’t find their pumpkin spice latte on there. For the sake of this blog, I used the (hopefully equivalent) caramel latte nutritional information.


(Image and information from Coffee Culture website)

Standard Order:


reclaiming skinny recommends to avoid at all costs, unless you love nutmeg, and hate pumpkin. (If you DO love nutmeg and hate pumpkin and want to try it, at least ask that they make it with skim milk to cut down on some unnecessary calories and fat.)

McDonalds McCafé

First off, I’m sorry. This should have never even made the list, but I saw it advertised and had to try it. Learn from my mistakes. This is revolting. I begrudgingly sipped it on my way home and dumped the majority of it down the drain.

(Image and information from McDonald website)

Standard Order:


reclaiming skinny recommends that you run far, far away from this atrocity. You’re better off ordering a vanilla ice cream cone at 230cal, 28g of sugar. At least you’ll enjoy it.

 

Honesty, if you’re going to PSL it up this fall, I say stick to your tall, non-fat, no-whip Starbs like a champ. Just, maybe try to reserve it for weekends only (there’s enough sugar in it to keep you wired all week).

If you can think of any other PSLs out there worth a mention, leave a comment and share the details!

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*Note: For a “Standard Order” I went with (approximately) 16oz serving and straight over the counter options. Why a 16oz size? Because I typically always order a 12oz and like to give myself the joy seeing how many calories I’m “saving” by choosing a smaller size. (So bad, I know.) You can order any of the above servings with Nonfat/Skim milk if you ask for it (some are also available with soy). For full nutritional information tailored to your personal preferences, please visit their website.

**Note: I decided to outline the two most significant nutritional qualities of these drinks: calories and sugar. Most of the websites will provide a more detailed look at the nutritional information, including things like vitamins and protein, but really, nobody buys a latte for the protein. Sorry, hun, but these are full on junk food no matter which way you look at it. I’m just trying to help limit the damage.

Diets Busted

First off, sorry there haven’t been posts recently. I’m sure it feels longer for me than you. I have like, three of them written in my head, but unfortunately I also have a concussion and have been banned from all screens, reading, physical activity, thinking (basically life…). So, against doctor’s orders, I’m taking a break from staring at the walls and figured I would update with something simple.

I have been wanting to share with you this article. Essentially, there is no miracle diet out there *surprise*. But what I do find interesting is that all diets will produce roughly the same weight loss results provided you stick to it. Personally, I’m not one for diets because they’re not lasting. You can’t realistically sustain an no-carb no-sugar nothing green eat-while-standing-up-and-jumping-on-one-leg kind of fad diet, and the moment you stop dieting, you are guaranteed to gain back some (a lot) of the weight you lost. I think making more conscious and lasting attempts to change your daily diet will benefit you maybe a bit less now, but significantly more in the long run. Instead of seriously limiting your food intake for a few months, I think it’s more important to set goals like “pizza only once a month” for life or something.

That being said, diets can be a useful tool to jumpstart weight loss if you are feeling particularly stuck or overwhelmed. In all honesty, I tried the Slim Fast diet plan for a while once. Which is definitely not one of the healthier diets out there, trust me. But after a month or so of only drinking a sugar-laden shake for breakfast, and a sugar-laden shake for lunch, and being over-all hangry, I did lose just enough weight to make me feel more confident to lose the rest. Except, you know, a few years later and I’m still here, weighing only 2 to 3 lbs less than I did then. So take what you will from that, I suppose.

What was the craziest diet you’ve tried?

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