Aye Taco Bell Can Dance


I just wanted to share this video because I've accounted for about half its views. Yes, dancing dogs are somewhat cliche, and I'm an easy audience anyways because any YouTube video with a decently funny dog cracks me up; but, this video especially puts me in stitches. This pooch's expression is so nonchalant as if he's thinking *yawn* humans can be amused so easily. And yes, yes we can. Maybe its the music, but this chihuahua can dance a pretty impressive flamingo; his little doggy hips have a mind of their own. Work it Fido. Enjoy.


The Anatomy of Trail Mix

 You don't need to be a nutritionist to know that trail mix is (a) yummy, (b) addictive, and (c) unfortunately, a caloric stomach bomb when several servings are consumed per sitting (a normal serving in only 3 wimpy tablespoons). And how can you have just one serving? If you have that much self control, I would like to meet you. I personally would need the willpower and concentration of a Buckingham Palace guard to only have one delicious handful. Each scoop somehow satisfies each and every sweet/salty tooth I have (and I own a mouthful). The good news!, gorp is beneficial for your health when you don't polish off a whole 48 oz. bag by yourself (guilty).

Trail mix, you slay me.

There are countless gorp combinations, but the basic trail mix mixture includes: almonds, raisins, M&Ms, peanuts, and cashews. Lets do a nutritional biopsy on this addictive mixture and get a closer look on what we're really eating inhaling. Let's go nuts.

Almonds get a bad rap for being fatty, but they are actually high in monounsaturated fats (the good fats like avocados) which keeps your heart strong and healthy! They are rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. These knarly nuts are also high in vitamin E, fiber, and calcium which equates to a cancer fighting formunla! A serving of almonds (an ounce) is 170 calories and 130 fat calories, so one serving provides 105% of the DV of vitamin E and 60% DV of magnesium; and since magnesium is used to treat depression it would be safe to say that almonds can make you happy (if the nutritional benefits don't already make you smile).

Raisins deserve more of an introduction than just "wrinkly grapes", or the comparison indicator of prune-y fingers and toes after a long, hot shower; they are actually amongst one of the most nutritional dried fruits! Raisins are low in sodium, cholesterol-free, high in fiber and fat-free! They also provide a quick energy boost (no need for 5 hour energy drinks) being 70% pure fructose. No longer do raisins need to compare themselves to their cousins, the Grapes of Wrath. I dub them the Raisins of Rage.

We're all anxiously waiting to hear if M&Ms are as nutritional as they are tasty. I mean, if they're co-existing with the previous nutritional superheros they must be healthy versus purely decorative, right? Well, since M&Ms are usually milk chocolate rather than dark, that negates the antioxidant factor. I will, though, give M&Ms the mental benefit. We need that chocolate kick to satisfy our sweet tooth cravings and to balance out that salty element (I mean who doesn't pick out all the colorful Ms to only leave a bag of nuts for the next person...fess up, we all do it). M&Ms are the bright highlight of every bag and that's benefit enough.

Dumbo had the right idea because these legumes (yes, you read correctly; peanuts are not actually true nuts but related to peas and beans!) pack a powerful nutritional punch. Peanuts (peapeas?) are rich in energy, antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins. They are also very high in monounsaturated fats! It is said that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight than those who don't go nuts.

Last but certainly not least: the kidney shaped nut; and since nuts play a role in a healthy diet, cashews do indirectly benefit the kidneys! Cashews have a lower fat content than other nuts, and contain a substantial amount of vitamin K which the body uses to clot blood. One ounce of cashews contain 155 calories and provide 5g of protein. Not too shabby.

There you have it. The sweet and salty truth. We have concluded that trail mix is in high in numerous nutrients that keep the body healthy and well: rich in fiber (keeps you regular, if you catch my drift), vitamins, energy, and good fats! As long as you don't over do it, I see trail mix as a friend rather than foe! Still can't resist the constant hand dipping? I use measuring cups. For a mid-morning snack, I'll measure out 3 tablespoons (usually topped off with plenty of M&Ms) of trail mix and bring it to work in a zipped-locked baggy. This way I'm not tempted to pick and indulge guilt-free! I'm sold. Trail mix is powerful and nutritional heterogeneous mixture and a healthy excuse to grab your nuts (but remember, within moderation).


NO to GMOs?

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are defined as plants, animals, and microorganisms that have had their genetic make-up altered to produced a more desired result. This new attribute is meant to "benefit" humans or the environment in some way. Common genetic modifications include: 
  • Cloning (remember Dolly the lamb?)
  • Injecting growth hormones into plants and animals (I've mentioned this in a previous post: Happy Food comes from Happy Animals)
  • Tampering with genes to make plants or animals bigger and more suited to food market demands (ex. McDonald's agreed to this with its chicken farmers, they modified the chicken's breasts to make them bigger = more white meat = more McNuggets)
  • Creating completely new foods based on mix-and-matching old and new genes
  • Simply: creating something that is not formed by nature

I've aired parenthesized benefit above because of the growing health argument this issue is becoming. People fall on both sides of the dividing line, and everyone has their own opinions to back up their views. There are two sides to any dispute; to fully consider the issue as a whole, a person must be opened minded to both parties. The conflict of GMOs have people debating whether or not these modified organisms are detrimental to the human body and the environment. Well I was curious, and wanted to do a little research so I could form my own opinion. So, I've compiled a list of pros and cons. I will start off on a positive note and begin with the pros. ahem.

Pros of GMOs:
  1. Resistant to Bugs-  some foods have been genetically modified to be more resilient to insects; therefore, reducing the amount of pesticide chemicals used on crops.
  2. Better Quality and Taste- modifying food can improve the taste; making it more desirable to the consumer. Also, altering the genetic make-up can allow produce to last longer and not spoil as quickly.
  3. More Nutritious- GMOs can be engineered so that the amount of vitamins and nutritional value is increased; therefore, helping individuals fulfill deficiencies and meet their daily vitamin intake.
  4. Better Animal Health- genetic modification can help animals become better resilient to diseases and better adjusted to factory and farm conditions.
  5. More Food in Less Time- genetic modification can grow bigger & stronger animals and food in a shorter time period.

That is one side of the issue, now lets look at the counterargument.

Cons of GMOs:
  1. Allergic Reactions- GMOs can present allergic risks to individuals because new modifications add components to the animal or plant that were not originally there; causing the human body to possibly encounter a complication it would not of had if the item was not tampered with.
  2. Decreased Effectiveness of Antibiotics- some GMOs have antibiotic features that make them immune or super resilient to certain conditions, but then these toxins enter the human body and make actual antibiotics (aka. medications) less effective.
  3. GMOs Mixing with Nature- these organisms could escape (more so animals than plants) and intermingle with their organic counterparts; therefore, creating "superorganisms" with no on-hand kryptonites. Giant, chemical-resilient, blood sucking mosquitoes? No, thank you.
  4. Unethical Human Practices- tampering with the genetic make-ups of plants and animals could lead to individuals wanting to custom order their children or pets; even worse, people may consider cloning themselves or others.
  5. Long-term Health Complications- because GMOs are fairly new, their long-term complications are still unknown; individuals could develop new health issues that could potentially be non-treatable or life-threatening because of the GMOs' inorganic elements.

There you have it, a few strong points on both sides of the issue. After being open to both perspectives, I can see where GMOs would be beneficial to help increase food supply in order to feed the hungry. But, for the most part, I prefer my organisms handcrafted by nature. So, my opinion (regarding my personal health) stands as: because I am still unaware of the long-term consequences (good or bad) of GMOs, I try to avoid them as much as possible. GMO avoidance is not an easy task, but also a reason why I try to eat organic. Certified organic products assure me that they have not been tampered with by anyone else but Mother Nature herself. Yes, buying organic is not always cheap, so purchasing everything organic is unrealistic..but, as long as I try my best to monitor what goes in my body then it is one more positive step towards my healthy future. Eat simply.


Ithaca is Gorges

Equipped with my Merrell boots, Patagonia shorts, Camelbak hydration backpack, and a zip-locked bag of trail mix--I was a walking, talking, outdoors advertisement ready to tackle another outdoors escapade. My boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip to Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is an adorable college town that bustles with an active community. The little town is known for its organic love of the environment and outdoorsy culture; aka hiking heaven. Our sixth sense of adventure brought us to Robert Treman State Park. This state park is one of the many that inhabits Ithaca, NY and encompasses several beautiful trails that are saturated with waterfalls, gorges, and a big helping of Mother Nature.

After careful consideration, we decided to attack the Rim Trail. We were immediately welcomed by a massive flight of rock stairs. Now..I think I am in pretty decent shape, but some of those stairs made me feel far from Rocky Balboa. Also in the beginning of our journey, we kept passing children and tweens in flip flops and bathing suits; which made us think that our hiking boots and Bear Grylles ensemble was a tad over-dressed for this hike. But our gear, finally, came in handy once we got into the heart of Mother Nature and her awesomeness.

(A little sister of the stairs we met at the trail's entrance)

The trail was extremely pretty and the scenery resembled a continuously changing backdrop. I felt like I was constantly changing biomes every 15 minutes: temperate forest to taiga to rain forest (Hey, I was paying attention in sixth grade earth science). It was a little muggy but not too buggy; and the Rim Trail, for the most part (besides a few confusing forks-in-the-road), was clearly marked. It was a perfect length for a day hike--4 miles, round trip!

The best scenic feature was definitely the waterfalls, hands down. I couldn't get a good picture, but you could hear water flowing on every section of the trail; it was the perfect ambiance noise for an expensive spa. Plus there was a huge watering hole connected to a gentler falls where people were allowed to swim. The natural pool was accompanied with a diving board and everything, not too shabby for the middle of the wilderness. The air was embellished with so much laughter and excitement, that it made the trip such an memorable and fun experience. I love the outdoors, but it's always better when you have someone to share it with. 

I enjoy Ithaca because of its countless explorable nooks and crannies, whether it be a trail or quaint cafe. The town radiates a passion for nature and screams adventure to whoever wishes to partake. Ithaca is gorges.


My Ode to Only 8

Summer is the time of the year for sun, fun, and ice cream. I love ice cream, but it doesn't love me back. I've tried to fight it, but the frozen custard always triumphs in success while I cry with tummy troubles. Luckily, my summers became brighter; my skies bluer; and my body happier all with one discovery: Only 8. Like O'Soy, Only 8 has been a delicious answer to my prayers.

This isn't a pity post about my lactose intolerant-ism (I'm proud of who I am, thank you), but a recommendation to all health conscious individuals who succumb to their monstrous sweet tooth. Only 8 is a low-fat, low-calorie, low carb, glucose-free, cholesterol-free, lactose-free, and diabetic friendly frozen yogurt. With only 32 calories per half cup, this treat also instantly becomes guilt-free. The name comes from its "only 8" ingredients: Water, Fructose, Grade A Kosher Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavorings & Stabilizers, Calcium, and Active Yogurt Cultures (4 different kinds).

 As of now, Only 8 just offers a few basic flavors (I've had chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter), so it's not as bedazzled as a scoop of Moose Tracks or Mint-Ting-A-Ling, but (and don't get me wrong) it's pretty darn tasty for a delicious and healthy alternative. And I'm willing to bet, if I was to conduct a taste test between regular vanilla soft-serve with hot fudge and nuts vs. vanilla Only 8 with hot fudge and nuts...it'd be a close call. Plus Only 8 will save you probably at least 200 calories! I'm sold, especially since I can get it with rainbow sprinkles, cha-ching.

The only thing I've been disappointed in, is how uncommon Only 8 is; it is so hard to find an Only 8 vendor! Luckily the ice cream place down the my street offers it, but it's surprising when healthier alternatives are increasing in popularity. Yes, I know when an individual craves ice cream, he or she is not usually thinking how many calories are in my triple mocha fudge swirled milkshake? or will this large sundae with whipped cream, hot fudge, nuts, sprinkles and a cherry on top go to my thighs?, but it's nice to have healthier options when welcomed. I recommend trying Only 8 if given the opportunity, your taste buds and waist line will thank you.


My Saving Grace: Stonyfield

One of the best combinations ever concocted has to be yogurt and granola. The textures of smooth and crunchy fit perfectly with the mixtures of sweet and tangy--it's like a firework show in your mouth, filled with oohs and ahhs. My body, sadly being allergic to dairy, has developed a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with yogurt. Ah, and it's so hard to deprive yourself of something so wonderful knowing its deliciousness. And though I could eat granola with a shovel, it just isn't the same without its creamy and fruity sidekick. This was my brick wall, until I was introduced to my saving grace:

Bam. Stonyfield in one word? Ah-ma-zing. And I am going to attempt to summarize all of its numerous benefits (for body and planet) in 10 short-ish bullet points. Here I go, ahem.

10 Reasons Why I Love Stonyfield:
  1. They produce all organic products. All of their delicious yogurts (soy and greek, too), smoothies, milks, creamers, and ice creams are made without icky pesticides and other chemicals that are commonly used on non-organic farms. Plus they come in regular, fat-free and low-fat. What ever floats your boat.
  2. Their mission statement: "We're committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy business." Enough said.
  3. The yogurt lids sponsor and raise awareness about non-profit environmental efforts, farming and health issues, and other issues that Stonyfield supports. 
  4. Wait, there's more! Stonyfield has a My Stonyfield's Rewards club-- there is a code on each yogurt lid that can be submitted then traded in for free stuff. It's a great way the company gives back to the customer. Yogurt and free stuff?, don't need to tell me twice.
  5. O'Soy, Stonyfield's soy yogurt--Its the saving grace I mentioned above! It says a lot about when I fully support a company though I only consume a small category of their products (But, my family and boyfriend are huge cheerleaders of their dairy products). Stonyfield has the largest (and close to only) soy yogurt selection I have seen. I even wrote them an e-mail suggesting them to sell O'Soy in larger containers--they wrote me a thank you note and free coupons. Score. Stonyfield has allowed me to enjoy yogurt with granola again. O'Soy has given my life hope and not ingestion; my GI tract is gracious.
  6. Stonyfield fully supports family farms and happy cows. Fresh, organic food comes from the experts: farmers, and the producers: cows. Both need to go hand-in-hand to make yummy, good-for-you food.
  7. Sustainability. Stonyfield uses packaging that is beneficial to the environment. Light-weight plastics mean all Stonyfield containers are recyclable; and, as of October 2010, all of the multi-pack cups are 93% made out of plant based plastic. Who would of thought of such of thing? Stonyfield is like the Chuck Norris of dairy. 
  8. The company's CEO is referred as the CE-Yo...I just think that's witty and funny. Yo.
  9. Stonyfield is very active on Facebook and Twitter.They create long lasting relationships with their supporters. They have even RT'd some of my tweets which was extremely, ahem, flattering (I about peed my pants with excitement). Plus they have awesome recipes on their Web site that are healthy, easy to make, and (of course!) incorporate Stonyfield products.
  10. Finally, plain and simple, all of their products are just so good and so good for you. The company's compassion for environment and human wellness are clearly shown through taste and quality.
So good, even if your body can tolerate dairy (lucky).

This is my ode to Stonyfield. Here's a link to their Web site, Stonyfield, in case I've ignited an interest and you want to broaden your field (ha!) of knowledge. I fully support their products and what the company stands for. It's refreshing to see a business whose goals are more than selfish gains. I hope food manufacturers will (or continue to) follow in the same selfless footsteps, and concentrate more on the well-being of the consumer and environment as a whole. After all, without the two factors a company's success would never come to (fruit)ion.



Woman's Best Friend

I don't think anyone who has never owned (or loved) a pet can completely understand the relationship between a dog/cat/bunny/bird/hermit crab/(what have you) and owner. The unconditional love that radiates from a pet compares to no other. This fulfilling and reassuring feeling is so valued because it can't always be found from a human relationship. I think people should love more like animals: quick to forgive and love unconditionally.

After the countless failed attempts of owning fair fish, I became the epitome of a dog person. I am also an only child. So when I got my first dog at 7, she became my companion for the next fourteen + years. She was a surprise from parents, and established an immediate place within our family. Heidi has been by my side through most of my growing up. She has been a good sport for every time I've played Lion King and held her as Simba over Pride Rock (she plays a very convincing Simba). We've shared a secret connection, and I've once whispered applause when she snapped at a rude groomer. She has been a listener through every success and heartache. Her 6th sense can pick up any inkling of distress, and instantly offers her company and non-verbal understanding. Her high-energy and continuous love has impacted every member of my family.


Fourteen great years have taken a toll on her. My parents keep telling me that she's getting old, but I ignore them and say she's fine. She has had experienced ups and downs with her health. Her hearing has gone and her hips push bony and stiff against her skin. She's developed tumors on her petite frame, and her hair has turned a bleached silver. Though her body may be failing, her eyes still show so much of her spirit. She mossies around the house, but still displays episodes of spunk and energy of past years.

I, being a huge dog lover, always want to expand our 4-legged, furry family. After a year of "no's" and visits to petfinder.com, a puppy finally became a realization. A little over a month ago, the thumbs-up was given and my parents called me with the good news. I was a mixture of excitement and sadness. A new puppy confirmed Heidi's old age, and I also didn't want to hurt her feelings-- I have always considered her feelings as legitimate as a human's. Our new puppy, Sophie, became a great addition to our family (besides the potty training struggle). Her spunk and fun-loving attitude was welcomed by us but ignored by Heidi. Maybe it was Sophie trying to nurse from her, but Heidi saw her as an annoying little nugget than a play-mate.

Sophie (right), teddy bear used as size indicator.

Heidi's age has become more evident since Sophie has been around. I hope I never have to watch a loved one suffer because watching Heidi hurt from old age has been almost unbearable. But, though a pain in the butt, Sophie has been a life-giver to her in a way. I've been blessed with two great dogs. If possible, I hope everyone gets to experience a relationship with a pet (I have always wanted to adopt, but since a 3rd dog is out of the question, I've volunteered at the SPCA). When Heidi's time comes I will be a wreck but know her life was saturated with love and embellished with experiences. I couldn't ask for more and, I hope, neither could she.


Time to Dish Out "MyPlate"

I always found the food pyramid confusing. Its shape ironically represents the massive portion of food the USDA doesn't want us, obese Americans, to consume. I understood the concept, but somehow the visual of a pyramid and food never clicked. It reminded me more of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs than a way to balance my nutrition. I also found it kind of ugly and outdated (Plus, which always annoyed me, the picture of "sweets" looked more like a herd of fireflies than something I'd be tempted to eat. What are you trying to pull, USDA?).

From what I've learned growing up, I always thought veggies and fruit were more important than a big helping of grains (and I don't think I have 6-11 servings of bread in 2 days). Plus, determining serving sizes are sometimes hard to calculate--especially when manufacturers try to trick us with packaging and clever marketing. I don't always have the time or patience to measure out my food and examine labels. And when I'm starving, I've already obtained a pre-meal snack before I even think about how many servings are in the heaping pile of pasta on my plate (which most likely represents the shape of the food pyramid above)-- I just wish I had a visual of how much grub I should eat per sitting.  Make it so, USDA.

And finally, the fairy food godmother answered our prayers!

Eureka! Above is what abolished the food pyramid. It makes sense, a picture of a plate divided into recommended nutritional servings. How cutting edge (note the sarcasm), but seriously this was a good move by the USDA. Not only does this provide a visual for individuals (especially kids), but also creates more attainable nutritional goals. I don't know about you, but the old pyramid just made me feel defeated and like a foodie failure. Thankfully, this new "myplate" gives me hope. I really do like the concept and new, concise design. Here's the USDA's reasoning for the switch (I got this from their Web site):

  • Balancing Calories
    • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
    • Avoid over-sized potions
  • Foods to Increase
    • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
    • Make at least half your grains whole grains
    • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Foods to Reduce
    • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals--and choose the foods with lower numbers
    • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
It's simple and to the point. I love it and think it's a great idea. It's like a guideline to healthy eating. My hope is that it'll motivate individuals to want to make healthier food choices, and know that it's not impossible to take small steps towards a better health (even if it's just substituting water for soda). You go, USDA, you go.


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