Sunday, November 18, 2012

Books and Food: Familia, Amistad & Thanksgiving Without the Sugar Highs

by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Felíz Dia de Acción de Gracias or simply Dia de Agradecimiento this Thursday!  Here are two bilingual children’s books that work well reading out loud con familia on Thanksgiving.  Even if your familia does not include anyone under 10, I find these books fun and lovely to read during this time—especially if you’re wanting to practice tu Español! 

Gracias * Thanks by Pat Mora and illustrated by John Parra.  Mora illustrates a little boy’s gratefulness in beautiful poetry. 

A snowstorm is approaching preventing relatives from coming to Beto y Gaby’s house.  The snowstorm, however, brings other unexpected guests:  elder friends who are stranded.  The celebration becomes a gathering of an alternate familia. 

This coming week I’m getting together con mi familia and, as always, everyone has a dish to prepare. All of us are watching the carbohydrate (sugar) content in the foods we eat at the same time that we are committed to enjoying delicious dishes.  So how do you do that on a day like Thanksgiving? 

There are many low carbohydrate recipes on-line and there are also a number of low carbohydrate cookbooks offered.  Instead of giving you a listing, I’m going to tell you about a few dishes I’ll be bringing to the table.  I find that food is much more delicious now on a low carbohydrate diet.  I can taste more and I don’t get that heavy feeling after a meal.  I remember those Thanksgiving meals that were heavy on carbohydrates/simple sugars and how all of us felt sleepy and lazy and we all complained about gaining weight during the holidays.  Not any more! 

A note on carbohydrates:  Carbohydrates are sugars and starches.  There are two types of carbohydrates:  simple and complex.  The simple carbohydrates are refined processed foods like white bread, packaged cereals, soda, corn syrup, etc. Even non-refined foods like carrots and potatoes have a very high content of sugar.  Eating one carrot is like eating a spoonful of pure sugar. Foods that are on this list have a low or non-existent nutritional value and cause hunger and weight gain.  Complex carbohydrates are foods containing a lot of nutrients and fiber as well.  Examples:  spinach, broccoli, all the berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.), cauliflower, asparagus. 

At the end of this section on food and recipes, I've included a timeline that explains how we have been conditioned to think that sugar/carbohydrates are not dangerous.  Mother Jones Magazine this month includes an in-depth article about how our consumption of sugar has increased and why. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) predicted that by 2050, 1 in 3 individuals will have Diabetes.  Just this past week, the CDC reported that “Diabetes prevalence rates jumped dramatically across the nation between 1995 and 2010.”  “ . . . [O]verall, the median prevalence of diagnosed diabetes went up from 4.5% in 1995 to 8.2% in 2010.”

“All told, rates increased 50% or more in 42 states, and 100% in 18 states.  The largest increases were in Oklahoma (up 226%), Kentucky (158%), Georgia (145%), Alabama (140%), and Washington (135%).  CDC representatives said the new numbers were a mere taste of what’s to come unless public health agencies figure out how to combat Type 2 Diabetes, which was diagnosed in an estimated 18.8 million people in 2010.”  (from L.A. Times article by Eryn Brown)

Instead of crying over these statistics—I bring to you alternatives to help you consider a different, more delicious, nutritious and life-saving Thanksgiving.  After all—Thanksgiving translated in Spanish is “Acción de Gracias.”  “Accion”—Action!  Bring your family together in an act of loving and health-filled kindness. Also, this month is Diabetes Awareness Month and if you have a Walgreens Pharmacy in your area, they are offering free A1C testing for the month of November (A1C is the best test to find out if you or your loved ones/friends have pre-diabetes or diabetes.  It's a quick and easy test and you don't need to fast. All that is asked of you is a little blood via a pin-prick on your finger).  Here's the info:  CLICK HERE

Alternative Dishes to try (and also to add or delete ingredients as you see fit.  It’s fun to play with recipes): 

Stuffing:  A possible alternative to avoid all that high sugar bread that is in most stuffings is to try Garbanzo Stuffing.  Here is the recipe:  (CLICK HERE)  Check out the reviews of this recipe as well because in the reviews, you’ll find how some people added other ingredients (like zucchini). 

Garbanzo Stuffing
Alternative to the high sugar/starchy mashed potatoes--
Mashed Cauliflower:  This is so easy and so delicious.  I never have that heavy feeling after eating mashed cauliflower as I did with mashed potatoes.  Why?  The difference in carbohydrate count is key here.  1 cup of mashed potatoes:  41 carbohydrates. 1 cup of mashed cauliflower:  5 carbohydrates (plus a lot more nutrients). 

Mashed Cauliflower

Alternative side dish:  Spaghetti Squash makes an excellent side dish for Thanksgiving.  It is also a perfect alternative to the very high sugar/starchy spaghetti.  And it’s another “easy to prepare” food.  

Spaghetti Squash

The most difficult part of the process is cutting the squash in half.  You’ll need a good sturdy knife and strong hands.  Be patient and careful.  Once it’s cut in half, scoop out the seeds, etc. from the middle of the halves.  There are various ways to cook the squash (lots of on-line recipes).  Keep the cut side up and place both in a baking dish.  Rub olive oil on the cut sides and also drip a bit more in the interior sections.  Cut up an entire garlic bulb (the cloves in fine slices) and place the slices where you scooped out the seeds.  Salt and pepper and add a touch of cumin too.  Depending on where you live (altitude and humidity are a factor—I would just keep checking them throughout the cooking process), place in a 275-300 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until you can easily place a fork in the squash.  Let sit (covered in foil) for a about a half hour (again depending on where you live this varies).  When the squash is ready, scoop it out (it will be so easy) with a fork and it will look exactly like spaghetti. 
1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash:  8 carbohydrates
1 cup of cooked (white or wheat) spaghetti:  35 - 42 carbohydrates

I have mixed the spaghetti squash with homemade pesto, with zucchini, tofu, sausage—so many possibilities here! 

Spaghetti squash with olive oil, asparagus, and nuts

I hope these three alternative dishes peak your interest enough to try either this Thanksgiving or anytime! 

spaghetti squash with leftover turkey and basil on top

Sending you all, Queridas y Queridos La Bloga readers a most health-filled week. 

TIMELINE revealing how we have been conditioned to think about sugar: 

1934:  The Sugar Act, championed by FDR, subsidizes sugar farmers and makes their crops basic commodities

1943:  The Sugar Research Foundation debuts.  Four years later, it renames itself the Sugar Association Inc. (SAI)

1949:  Post introduces Sugar Crisp, Sugar Smacks, Frosted Flakes, and Cocoa Puffs soon follow

1954:  The SAI sets out to “destroy these fallacies” that sugar is fattening and causes diabetes and cavities

1955:  McDonald’s starts offering Coke.  Serving size:  7 ounces

1959:  “Are you getting enough sugar to keep your weight down?” asks an industry ad.  “No other food satisfies your appetite so fast with so few calories.” 

1964:  Big Sugar takes on diet soda.  One ad depicts a young pitcher winding up:  “He needs a synthetically sweetened diet drink like a moose needs a hat rack.” 

1968:  The SAI launches the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF) to help it scrutinize the safety of rival sweeteners cyclamate and saccharin. 

1969:  The FDA bans cyclamate based on a study suggesting it causes cancer in rats.  The industry “pioneered and persevered,” the ISRF boasts, “in the program of research that so quickly catalyzed the events leading to banning the product.” 

1970:  “If sugar is so fattening, why are so many kids so thin?” asks an industry ad. (By 2010, 17 percent of kids ages 2-19 are obese.)

1971:  “Enjoy an ice cream cone shortly before lunch,” beckons an ad in Women’s Day.  “Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat.”  The following year, the Federal Trade Commission orders the industry to stop making such claims. 

1974:  The FDA approves aspartame, marketed as NutraSweet.

1976:  The SAI wins the Silver Anvil award for its PR campaign countering growing health concerns about sugar. 
1977:  Prompted by testimony linking sugar to diabetes, a Senate committee report urges Americans to cut sugar consumption by 40 percent. 

1980:  7-Eleven introduces the 32-ounce Big Gulp.

1982:  Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces appear in E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial.  Sales of the candy reportedly soar 65 percent in a single month. 

1989:  Monkeys fed enough cyclamate to sweeten 150 cans of soda per week for 17 years are deemed cancer-free.  “With cyclamate we made a mistake,” FDA honcho Robert Scheuplein admits to the Washington Post.

Early 1990s:  Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and others secure “pouring rights” at universities (and later K-12 schools), giving them exclusive access to vending machines, snack bars, and sports events. 

1998:  A Georgia kid is suspended for wearing a Pepsi T-shirt to his high school’s “Coke Day” rally.

1999:  A record 151 pounds of “caloric sweeteners” is sold in the US per capita—42 pounds more than during the 1950s.

2000:  After a USDA draft report suggests that people “limit” sugar intake, Big Sugar successfully lobbies to retain the old word: “moderate”

2003:  The sugar industry threatens US funding for the World Health Organization [WHO] after a WHO panel suggests that added sugars should account for no more than 10 percent of a person’s diet.

2011:  KFC introduces the 64-ounce Mega Jug.  For each one sold, the chain donates $1.00 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

February 2012:  A paper in Nature argues that sugar is physically addictive and linked to diseases associated with metabolic syndrome—including heart disease.

February 2012:  Mars Inc. pledges to stop selling candy in portions exceeding 250 calories—like the 540-calorie King Size Snickers. (Now it sells slightly undersized Snickers in twin “Share Packs.”)

May 2012:  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes a ban on sugary drinks exceeding 16 ounces.  Days later, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group backed by the fast-food industry, buys a full-page in the Sunday New York Times:  “New Yorkers need a Mayor, not a Nanny.”  In September, the NYC Board of Health votes 8-0 to approve the ban. 

Timeline From:  “Sweet Little Lies:  The 40-Year Campaign to Cover Up Evidence That Sugar Kills” (Mother Jones, December 2012, pages 35-40 & 68-69).  Timeline by Maddie Oatman for this article (pages 38-39).

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