Sunday, May 22, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 4: So What CAN I Eat for Breakfast, Anyway?

Last time, we took a look at all the horrible ways McDonalds fills their fare with sugar, then calls it a healthy choice. Unfortunate, because no matter our resolutions to never, ever eat anything from McDonalds, even with their tempting all-day breakfast menu, you know something is going to happen where you end up in that drive-thru lane, anyway. So, what can you have there that isn't loaded with sugar, and is reasonably nutritious? Below are a few answers to that question.

#1. Egg White Delight McMuffin

For high protein and low, low sugar, you aren't going to do better than this, at least at Micky Dee's. It has the ideal number of calories for breakfast250and only 3 grams of sugar. It's pretty much the brass ring for breakfast at the place, maybe for any of their meals, in general. Despite this, it's not my favorite choice. I like to have at least one egg yolk a day, packed, as they are, with vitamins and minerals; plus, it has ham and cheese, as you see in the picture, neither of which I'm wild about. Also, even though this is by far their healthiest choice, it still has 800mg of salt33% of the meal! But high sodium is the price you pay for indulging in fast and processed food. For the complete numbers, click on this LINK.

#2. The Egg McMuffin

Even McDonalds couldn't screw up an egg with Canadian bacon and cheese on an English muffin. It clocks in at 300 calories, a little above average for breakfast, with 18 impressive grams of protein and just 3 grams of sugar. That said, this is not my personal go-to, either. I'm not much of a fan of cheese or Canadian bacon (even though it's leaner, i.e. better for you, than "American" bacon), and they butter the muffin, which is just a bridge too far, as far as I'm concerned. I prefer the Sausage McMuffin with Egg, (below) even though it gets an "F" from Calorie Count.

#3. The Sausage McMuffin with Egg

Why, Ruth Notes, why? Well, I know it has 450 calories, which is a whole lot for a breakfast but! It does have 21 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar! I request it without the cheese, so I am loosing out on about 9 grams of protein, but I'm also cutting fat and calories in the process. For me, this little bullet of protein fills me up and keeps me that way for four to six hours, at least. 

So, in an emergency situation, during the hustle and bustle of modern life, when it's the Golden Arches or nothing, at least now you can pick something filling, without also being filled with guilt. 


At the beginning of all this, we posed the question: what is a healthy breakfast? Is it the simple meal of yoremeatless, grain-based, coffee, beer? You're not really counting on the beer, though, are you? Over at Food Matters, they have put together a very nice list of ingredients and advice about what makes a nutritious and filling breakfast. It's loaded with choices; you're sure to find something you will like, can afford, and can make in a snap. Except you people out there expecting beeryou people are out of luck!

For myself, I have a breakfast go-to that fills me up for HOURS and is tasty to boot. Ready? Here it is:

This is the good stuff, folks. Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Cereal. Natural grains loaded with protein and fiber, and not a speck of sugar in sight. Surprisingly, it's also available at my local Big Lots. Only $4.50 a bag, and it lasts me for a month, at least.

I used to prep it the way it says to on the package, which is to make it like rolled oats or oatmeal. Make on the stove, stir until done, put away the left-overs for consecutive morning zapping. Which works just fine, and I'm not knocking it, but after a while I just didn't have the patience for all that standing and stirring.

Sure, you can make it in the microwave too, there are also directions for that. But when you're super impatient/hungry (me), this is still too much of a process. The solution came in an unexpected way:

"Wild," starring Reese Witherspoon, is a movie that came out in 2014. Based on the memoir of the same name, it's about a woman on a journey of personal redemption, exorcizing her demons while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail alone. We follow along, watching both the agony and exhilaration as she completes 1,100 miles of the 2,650-mile wilderness trek (we highly recommend the movie, BTW). Now my point, before I stray too far from it, is that, in the movie, Reese discovers that her camp stove won't work, and she's left with nothing to eat for days and days but dry oatmeal, to which she can only add cold water and eat out of a tin bowl.  


It gave me the idea to treat my Bob's 5-grain as though it were meant to be a cold cereal. True, it's not as yummy as the warm version, but when you add a little sprinkling of coconut, like I do, and especially if you've got some nuts and/or blueberries to throw on top, with a cup or so of milk (ha ha no not water), you've got yourself a fast, tasty, nutritious breakfast that lasts for hours!

Long Story Short:
Breakfast, if it's part of your routine, should be filling and nutritious, not larded up with sugar that is going to leave you hungry, crabby, and ill-nourished. 

It's a daily struggle, isn't it? In this environment of fast food and highly processed food, finding something, anything, we can eat and feel good about, and that is good for us, feels like a major accomplishment. There are many obstacles put in the path to health and well-being, but everything we learn, every day we can avoid the bad stuff, is another day we win.

That concludes our series "Breakfast Epiphanies!" Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

McDonalds McTeacher Night

You know, sometimes it feels like we here at Ruth Notes do nothing but complain about McDonalds. It really wasn't something we set out to do; in fact, we feel somewhat bad about it. After all, McDonalds is a good old American business, a world wide success story. Nostalgia plays a part in this negative feeling, too, as does familiarity. Who doesn't get a craving for those fries, those burgers? Even when indulging that craving brings on a firm never again, as you experience the inevitable aftermath of guilt with a side of grease. Even my mother, who frowned on eating out in general and fast-food in particular, had a soft spot for McDonalds. She was a coffee connoisseur, and she assured me that theirs was the absolute best. She loved nothing better than to sit in a plastic chair at a plastic table and sip away at a boiling hot cup a' joe, nibbling on a small order of fries.

Even given all the happiness you gave my mom and many millions of others through the years, I just can't let this new atrocity slide, McDonalds, especially when Mom was a teacher, and proud of it. What am I talking about? Click on the below image to enlarge, and read at your peril.

This comic is by the award-winning, nationally syndicated cartoonist Jen Sorensen, who specializes in political and social commentary. This one is, as many of her cartoons are, spot-on with the machinations our not-so-favorite fast-food giant. It's a great introduction to the issue, which you can read more about by following this link.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Today we celebrate Mothers everywhere for putting up with us all through the years always being there when we need them. 

In honor of the day, I'd like to share some memories of my mother. I remember her as a mom, certainly, but also as a working woman, a role model who taught me a lot about what it means to be a professional. 

Mom taught Home Economics for 30 years, and along the way introduced many, many students to the skills they would need to function in an adult world. I know a lot of kids I went to school with regarded Home Ec., along with shop class, as an "easy A," but to say so to my mother was a good way to get on her bad side. 

It's time for the boys to learn cake decorating, circa 1981.

To her, learning to scramble your own eggs and hem your own pants was more than domestic drudgery; it was learning to live an independent life. I remember when a boy in class complained to her that he didn't need to learn how to cook, because some day, he would have a wife to do all that for him. "You want to have to depend on some woman just to eat for the rest of your life?" she snapped back, and that was her philosophy in a nutshell. Teaching her students to read food labels carefully, to price compare, to budget, and to do as much of their own cooking and sewing as possible, created not just smart consumers, in her view, but good citizens.

Today, Home Economics is called Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) and, if you are lucky, you are in a school district that still provides it. 

So here's to all the moms, whether they work in the home or out of it, on their special day!

Mom, living it up in the laundry unit.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 3: Arch Villains

When McDonalds announced their "Breakfast All Day!" plan to much media hoopla last year, it seemed like a desperate attempt raise flagging business. Which, of course, it was.

Don't get me wrong. I love the sort of breakfasts McDonalds serves up (especially pancakes). And, double-whammy, breakfast is also my favorite meal of the day. Most of my fondest memories of eating are about breakfast. My dad, getting up early to make us dinosaur-shaped pancakes with what we would now call "locally-sourced" maple syrup. Hunting mornings, coming back in from the cold to deer steak and scrapple (scrapple, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" of meats). 

Anyway, let's just say it's tough to be diet/health conscious about a meal like breakfast, when nearly all the choices are bad (yet wonderful) and you can tell yourself you've got all day to burn it off. 

But it's really hard when the food engineers at McDonalds (and, let's face it, most any restaurant) tack on the sugar, making that questionable decision to a) eat at McDonalds and b) eat typical breakfast fare, an even worse one.

Let's take, for example, McDonalds version of the classic American breakfast: McDonalds Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes. According to this bad boy contains 1,090 calories, over half the calories of a 2,000 calories a day dietand that doesn't even include the calories from the juice, milk, or sugar and creamer you may put in your coffee. 

So what, right? Anybody that expects that particular meal to be healthy probably thinks birthday cake and donuts are too. There are plenty of other, better choices under the "golden arches," right? Like … oatmeal!

McDonalds offers "Fruit and Oatmeal", which you can get with or without brown sugar added. Great. You like fruit, you're not eating enough. And oatmeal? All the good stuff there, right? All those whole grains you're supposed to get, all that fiber! Sadly, McDonalds is sticking it to you again, by loading up what should be a healthy alternative with sugar.

Undeniably ... suspicious.

If you were making oatmeal at home, how many teaspoons of sugar would you sprinkle on top of it? One, maybe two, but probably not more than that. One teaspoon is the equivalent of four grams of sugar, so at most you'd be putting 8 grams of sugar on your oatmeal. But McDonalds has put 18—EIGHTEEN—grams of sugar, four and half teaspoons, into the "without brown sugar" version of their fruit and oatmeal.

And the one WITH brown sugar? Hard to imagine that you'd add more than one teaspoon at home—brown sugar is pretty potent stuff. But McDonalds adds EIGHT TEASPOONS (THIRTY-TWO grams) of (presumably) brown sugar to this "heart healthy" option.

Well, just how much added sugar should we have in a day, anyway? Take it away, Photoshop!
As you can see in the above chart, after you've had the non-brown sugar option oatmeal, AND put 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, you've had your sugar quotient for the day. If you've had the one with brown sugar? No sugar in your coffee, and it's STILL two teaspoons more sugar than you should have for your entire day.

Okay fine. Let's try the "Fruit and Nut Parfait." Fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Three ingredients, each healthier than the last—how could they make a McSucrose McCluster McBomb out of that? Well, they managed. This rather small item contains 160 calories, and 21 grams of sugar. Again, basically all the sugar you're allowed for the entire day.

Frustrating? Yes. Infuriating? Absolutely!

Don't despair. Next time, we'll find out that, indeed, there are heathy choices to be had at McDonalds, plus, we'll share our favorite home-made breakfast go-to's! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Doughnuts to Doughnuts

I hope everyone out there is making it through their day today without having their shoes tied together, or finding Vaseline on all their doorknobs. That's right; in case you neglected to flip your calendar last night, it's April Fool's Day today. Ah, now it aaaall makes sense, doesn't it?

To be honest, though, doesn't it sometimes feel like every day is April Fool's Day on the Internet? So often, you come across something that makes you say, "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

I came across an info-graphic recently that had me hoping it WAS an April Fool's Day prank.

It shows, in pictures, how many grams of sugar certain food items have compared to a Kripsy Kreme doughnut. Some of the numbers won't surprise you, of course. For instance, this sample below shows that a single Sprinkles Red Velvet cupcake is equivalent to four and a half Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, having 45 grams of sugar. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams if you are a man, and only 25 grams if you are a woman. In other words, by eating just this one cupcake, you've blown your quota for the day, no matter who you are.

That's okay, though. Nobody thought a cupcake was a healthy choice, did they? It's a given that some things are just loaded with sugar and calories; the yummier they are, the worse they are for you, that's just life. It's not fair, but we get it.

It's when sugar is in the most unexpected places that it is a real problem. 

Here's you. You're out doing your thing, being good, avoiding sugary sodas, even the chemical-filled diet versions. You're doing the right thing by keeping hydrated during the day, but for crying out loud, a person can only take so much water, am I right? You pick yourself up a bottle of Snapple, specifically, a Snapple Peach Tea. So delicious and refreshing! What the heck, we'll take a look where that falls on the Kripsy Kreme doughnut meter:

As the infographic shows, an unbelievable  39 grams of sugar is in this 16-oz. drink—more added sugar than anybody should have in an entire day, and the head-slapping equivalent of four Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, only a half a doughnut less than the freaking cupcake!


For more astonishing doughnut equivalencies, check out this link to see the full list. 

And, in other apparently-not-a-hoax news, Krispy Kreme has announced on its Facebook page that they are giving away FREE doughnuts today! Not sure if it's an April Fools or whatonly one way to find out, I guess!

Because this is just mean!