Friday, July 11, 2014

The Tallest Sunflower Competition

A while back BB and I were asked if we were interested in entering a tallest sunflower competition. We both enjoy playing with dirt and growing things, so we said yes.

At the beginning of May a package arrived containing garden tools, five pots and five seeds.

Sadly we didn't get off to a great start, as four of the five pots were cracked. Still, we found some similar ones in the shed, and a few days later we were given the go ahead to plant our seeds. We then placed them on a sunny windowsill with some tomato seeds we planted a few days earlier.

Then our second misfortune. Only one germinated, and to be fair, it didn't really look very healthy either, but it clung on and we nurtured it as best we could, watering it and turning it around on the windowsill every day until it was ready to plant outside. We planted it out early one morning at the beginning of June, and BB watered it well

This is how our sorry sunflower looks today. Not as tall as BB yet, so I'd estimate it's about 90 cm, and propped up with a stick. I'm guessing we may not be the winners of this competition!

Monday, July 7, 2014

“Can I Help?” — Getting Kids to Help In the Kitchen

Image by Rachel Tayse, used under Creative Commons licence.

Cooking with kids might spell disaster with a capital ‘D’, but, actually, it’s a fun and rewarding experience that teaches kids life skills and raises their awareness about healthy eating. In the fast food- and convenience meal-culture of today, many children grow up without having learned to cook even the most simple of dishes, or with no idea where their food comes from. Getting the kids to take part in meal preparation connects them to the food supply and sets them on the path to healthy eating and self-sufficiency later on in life. Oh and it can also lighten your workload in the kitchen slightly, which is always good!

Some recipes and aspects of cooking obviously aren't suited for small children, such as chopping vegetables and preparing elaborate dishes, but most everyday food has some element children can participate in. Take soup; when making a soup, parents can do all the chopping while the kids can gather the diced and sliced vegetables and heat them up in the soup pot or slow cooker. They can also tear up greens for a salad, and may even enjoy coming to the grocery or market to pick out ingredients. 

If cakes and biscuits are on the agenda, the kids can help to put the measured ingredients into the bowl (maybe they can even measure them out?), stir the batter, grease pans and shape things like cookies. There’s something about the ticking of the timer and the whirring of the oven that makes kids enjoy simply watching the baking process. Let them take light items such as baking trays without the oven — but supervise them while they’re doing it, and most importantly, make sure that they’re wearing oven gloves.

Slow cooker meals are good to make with kids because they allow both parties to take it easy. Prepare the ingredients and start the slow cooker at bedtime, and make it a game to guess what sort of food will be there the next day. Recipes like jams and jellies that require constant stirring provide an excellent way for kids to take part in preparation.

Whether it's a tray of chocolate chip cookies or a stew, there are many ways to involve children in cooking. Getting kids involved in age-appropriate ways teaches them valuable life skills and helps them appreciate all the hard work that goes into making meals. Children are naturally curious and most kids are happy to help in the kitchen. It makes them feel important and useful. As a bonus, many children are more likely to eat their veggies if they had a part in preparing them. No more stressful mealtimes!

For more ideas on how to involve young children in the kitchen see 10 Jobs a two year old can do in the kitchen

This is a collaborative post written by a guest author, exclusively for A Blissful Life

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Fish with The Deep Sea Smile - Book Review

The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile has to be one of our favourites from the Parragon Book Buddies Scheme so far. The illustrations are awesome - we love the colours and the style. The text is also one of the best we have had. Simple words which rhyme and repeat, ideal for a young child learning to read. They also flow well, giving the book a certain rhythm that makes it a pleasure to read and listen to.

In summary, it is a tale of a a small family who are fishing. They are looking for a particular fish - the one with the deep sea smile. They fish and they fish, and they catch lots of fish. Fish with all sorts of different features, but not the one with the deep sea smile. They don't give up though, they carry on fishing, and finally they catch their fish. He smiles his deep sea smile and the hook comes free...

A lovely tale. I would definitely recommend this one.

Disclaimer: This book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

30 days of conscious eating

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while will know that I previously did the whole30. A couple of times. It was great in that it got me really focused on eating good food at every meal. It also taught me that I feel much better without sugar, dairy, legumes, alcohol and grains in my diet. I lost a little bit of weight, felt loads healthier, looked better, slept better, my "puffiness" went away and I had heaps of energy.

Though I still describe myself as almost paleo, many of those things have crept back in. Sugar, alcohol and dairy in considerable volume, grains and legumes not so much, but occasionally both of those too. 

It's no wonder really, when you consider the above, especially the sugar, alcohol and cheese, that I have gained weight and feel rubbish.

On Wednesday I went for my first 'run' (read trot) since my last pregnacy. I walked BB to nursery and then ran home. It was hot in my long track pants and I decided I needed some shorts. Bad idea; I went shopping for shorts on Thursday but I couldn't find any big enough in a mainstream clothing store. Unbelievable! Just how did I let myself get this fat? Something has to change! 

I have been saying about doing another whole30 for a while. To be honest though, doing a strict one to the rules is quite off-putting. I found it hard to eat that much food, and to prep it, and to pay for it! I also feel I know now what I have to do with regard to the foods I should and should not consume. I just have to do it! 

I am also interested in alternate day fasting, and the 5:2. Plus recently the potato hack has piqued my curiosity. 

During my research of the potato hack I also came across a great book called Potatoes not Prozac, which looks at beating sugar and alcohol addictions through nutrition. From what I have read in books like Wheat Belly, and from my personal experience, I think wheat might fall in the same category too. A key element of the recommendations in Potatoes not Prozac is to have a good breakfast with plenty of protein. Step one is to "just do breakfast" - every day - until you have mastered it and only then move on to the next step. So much of what I read in that book rings true with me, and so I decided to commit to step 1.

So my thinking is to combine all of these into my own program of conscious eating for thirty days and see what happens.

My rules are to stick to whole thirty foods only, with the exception of the white potatoes and possibly quinoa, both of which I have found to be fine for me. I also eat green peas and beans with no trouble. 

So in summary, just to be clear to myself as much as to people reading this, I am talking 30 days of:

1. No added sugar
2. No alcohol
3. No dairy
4. No grains (except possibly quinoa, not technically a grain I know, but seen as one by many) 
5. No legumes (except green beans and green peas)"

I am going to eat a good breakfast, aiming at 25-30 grams of protein, every day.

Some days I am going to eat three proper, whole30 compliant meals.

Some days I am going to eat significantly reduced calories, as in the alternate day fasting or 5:2 methodology. I will have a good breakfast as normal, and then just potatoes, as per the potato hack, in the evening, making sure there has been well over 4 hours since I consumed any fat before I eat the potatoes. 

Feasting days and fasting days will be arranged to fit what I am doing and how I feel. I plan to have at least 2 fast days a week, but never 2 fast days in a row.

I might also track what I am eating in my fitness pal too, to keep an eye on calories and macronutrient ratios.

I am going drink 1.5 -2 litres of water a day too.

And move more.

Am I combining too many things and ruining my chances? Probably. Certainly if you believe all you read, each of the diets I am combining would say I should stick to one, and that I am compromising my chances of success. But this is about me right? I have the right to experiment with what I feel might suit me. This feels good to me, and being conscious of what I eat for 30 days should surely help.

I'm starting on 1st July. 

Progress reports to follow. 

What is the Potato Hack and should I try it?

Boiled potatoes, with Himalayan salt and cracked pepper

A couple of weeks ago, when I mentioned at #paleohour that I really needed to shed some fat, it was suggested I try the Potato Hack! What is the Potato Hack I asked? When you just eat potatoes and nothing else, came the reply? Really? Isn't that insane?

A couple of days later though, when two hours after a light lunch I was starving, I thought I would check it out. After all, I love potatoes, and they do fill you up.

So I began to try and find out what the potato hack was all about. I wanted to know if there was any science anywhere saying whether this might be a good or bad idea. After all, I thought potatoes were supposed to be 'bad'.

Potatoes are still part of my diet on a regular basis, even after adopting (my version of) a Paleo diet. There are a couple of reasons for that, one being that I really like them and 2, being that it does make it easier to eat out now and again. Allowing myself potatoes helps me resist the temptation for wheat products, which is the most important thing for me, and rice just gives me the worst belly ache.

It was quite hard to find information, hence the reason for writing this post. A google search leads to several forums on Marks Daily Apple, though Mark doesn't seem to mention it himself. Still people are liking it and recording great fat losses of 1/2lb to 1lb a day so I decided to look further.

There is plenty of evidence that eating just potatoes helps you to burn fat. Forums are full of people with stats, and there is this case of a guy who ate only potatoes for 60 days.  He works for the Washington state potato commission so the results could be biased, but I do like the fact that they are so open about that in the first line. Though they record weightloss no necessarily fat loss, the results are surprising!

Overall Results (After 60 Days)
Weight: -21 lbs (-11%)
BMI : -3 pt
Cholesterol:-67 pts (-31%)
Triglycerides: -60 pts (-44%)
HDL: +3 pt
LDL: -58 pts (-41%)
Glucose: -10 pts (-9%)
Chol/HDL ratio:-1.75 pts (-37%)
LDL/HDL ratio: -1.40 pts (-44%)

No one else is suggesting doing 60 days though. The general consensus is that it's a hack, for a limited time, but that it can give your fat loss a boost, or a kick start. Common sense tells us that it simply can't be healthy to eat only potatoes long term. But for a few days maybe it's worth a try.

I read lots that said the theory behind the fat loss it is due to the fact that white potatoes cause a massive insulin spike and that your body needs fat to make insulin, so providing you don't eat any fat with your potatoes, you body uses your fat reserves to do this. Not being one to accept this without scientific evidence, I did a google search. I have to say I didn't find much. Most websites are saying what most of us believe, that insulin makes you fat rather than burning it! Also the more you read into the forums the more you read that the science just doesn't stack up! Though there is no doubt that this seems to work for losing fat, I didn't really find any satisfactory evidenced based research on the mechanism of how (other than the fact that you consume less calories than would normally as it's really hard to eat 2000 calories worth of potatoes in a day- that would be 2.3 kilos or 5lbs).

I did however find a great podcast at Fat Burning Man that says it's not as simple as insulin makes you fat, and that sometimes it makes you burn fat. It's definitely worth a view if you have time, but in summary it says it depends on when you eat your carbs. Most people eat foods throughout the day that cause insulin release. Insulin in the system does inhibit fat burning so most of us are inhibiting fat loss all day. However, Kiefer suggests that if you hold off on the carbs all day, and then eat them at night (they are calling this carb backloading if you want to research it further) so you have an insulin spike rather than constant insulin, and then you can burn fat. They suggest that you eat fat in the morning and carbs at night. The opposite of the no carbs after lunch theory, but it appears to be working. Also, eating the carbs is good for the muscles as it replenishes them with glycogen so that they can work harder tomorrow. The podcast is aimed at people that exercise a whole lot more than I am doing right now, but there is evidence it works for non athletes too.

I also found information about resistant starch. Something potatoes have a significant amount of, particularly if you eat them cold (resistant starch in potatoes is reduced by heating and cooking but increases again when they are cooled). Resistant starch is undoubtedly a good thing according to it's Wikipedia entry, and when you look at the list of foods containing it, and you consider the fact that green bananas are not appetising and I don't eat grains or legumes, here is a case for me to eat potatoes (and green peas)!

So, I did try it. I managed a couple of days of eating exclusively potatoes. Almost. I do like potatoes, but I like other food too. I also worry about nutrients, though apparently potatoes do have a really good nutrient profile which is why they were chosen over foods like rice for this hack. Never the less, I like a good balance, and get twitchy if there's nothing green on my plate.

So, I don't think I will be doing days on end of just potatoes, but a day or two could be good. Better still a low carb fasting day followed by a satisfying bowl of potatoes at night sounds really appealing, and could just work well for me, practically, financially and health wise.

I am happy I did this research too. I will no longer feel guilty about eating potatoes, or about having a simple dinner of just steamed veggies sometimes!

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