Natural Sweeteners

20 12 2012

I don’t know about you, but all the sweetener choices are confusing me. Which ones are the healthiest choices?


Agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) comes from a cactus-like plant found in Mexico, which is also used to make tequila. The Aztecs used the liquid from the agave plant to flavor foods, considering it a gift from the gods. Now, it is considered a healthier choice as a sweetener with many beneficial properties. Agave is low on the glycemic index, making it a better choice for diabetics. But, as with any sweetener, agave should be consumed in moderation.

Agave is said to be similar in taste to honey and does not have the aftertaste found with artificial sweeteners. It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so less is needed to achieve the same sweetness. Agave is about 60 calories per tablespoon.


The chicory plant is a hardy perennial common in North American and in Europe. It has purplish-blue flowers that open and closes at the exact same time each day. Chicory leaves are also known as endive, frisee, escarole or radicchio and the roots are used to make “chicory”.  Studies have shown that chicory may prevent constipation and has been reported to help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon.  Like Agave, Chicory is very low on the glycemic index, making it less likely to raise blood sugar levels. Products sweetened with Chicory may contain other sweeteners as well. So, check the labels. This will affect the sweetness. Product calories vary also, depending on the amount of chicory. One chicory root has 43 calories, but some products may be calorie-free.


Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. The leaf of the plant contains the compounds that give its sweetness. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar with 0 calories per tablespoon and 0 carbohydrates. Stevia is zero on the glycemic index indicating it has not impact on blood sugar.

Monk fruit
Monk fruit is a type of small melon, cultivated for its sweet fruit and as an extracted sweetener. It is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of South East Asia and has been used as in traditional Chinese medicine. Its sweetness comes from antioxidants called mogrosides, found only in the monk fruit. Monk fruit is calorie-free, is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, and has a zero glycemic index.
I’ve read that the more sweet foods I eat, the more I will crave them. From personal experience, I know this to be true. So, although, these sweeteners may be healthier options, eating as little as possible or none, is still my goal.  But, when I do sweeten my iced tea, I will choose one of these natural sweeteners and use as little as possible.

Tammy’s Challenges

Mind: Listen to your body after eating. How do you feel? Does this food agree with you?

Body: Add 10 minutes to your cardio workout during the holiday season.

Soul: Smile at yourself everytime you look in the mirror. It will seem odd at first, but keep it up and learn to like what you see.

I would love to hear from you.  Contact me through email at and Facebook at TammYoga and Twitter @TammYoga.




Mindful Eating

19 11 2012

“Food and emotional nourishment are intimately bound together in the depths of our unconscious. Just as you might fill an inner emptiness with food, so you can reject or deny your needs, and therefore reject food, in the misbelieve that the smaller the body the less the longing for love.” Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind

Eating mindfully is not a diet or special formula for weight loss, but a way to live in the moment and notice behaviors that may not be serving us. Most of these behaviors have become habitual reactions to common triggers we encounter throughout our day.

One trigger may be stress. Stress is our body’s way of redistributing energy: our hearts start to race, our blood sugar rises, and we are more alert. This is good if it is for a short period of time, but our lifestyles have put our body’s stress mode into overdrive. This causes the adrenal glands to produce higher than normal levels of cortisol, which has been linked to increased weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area.

Sleep may be a cause for some that deal with weight problems. Too much or too little sleep has been proven to increase hormones that affect our ability to read the signs of hunger and fullness.

There is no easy or quick way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You may need to go deeper into your current patterns for dealing with stress. Do you eat to feel better? What feelings do you associate with certain foods? What foods do you eat to suppress feelings of anger or loneliness? What is preventing you from breaking through these habits?

Tammy’s Challenges

Mind: Examine your feelings about your body, relationships, and other areas of your life. Are these feelings true? Begin to notice negative thoughts running through your mind and replace them with life-affirming thoughts to heal those feelings. It may not be easy at first, but you may be surprised at the thoughts that may be keeping you from being the person you would like to be.

Body: Focus on a healthy body. Find exercise that you like to do. Realize that what you are capable of may not be what your spouse or friend is able to do. Your body is built different, you are at different places in your life, but you are doing what you know to be best for you.

Make room for plenty of rest.

Explore ways to reduce stress: yoga, meditation, journal, etc., and incorporate them regularly into your daily life.

Soul: Spend time to discover your passion. What do you enjoy doing? What do you do well? Explore your passion and share it with others. Send that positive, loving energy out into the world.

How are you taking care of yourself?



Water and Lemon

1 08 2012

What is the saying? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. What if you tried making the lemonade to avoid the lemons altogether?

I have found a great way to start my day. It has become a part of my morning ritual, along with washing my face and flossing and brushing my teeth. I drink a glass of warm water with the juice of one half of a lemon. It is easy and the benefits make it a priority for me.


  • Stronger immune system: A strong immune system helps to ward of disease. Lemons are high in vitamin C, which helps in fighting off colds. The potassium found in lemons helps to control blood pressure and has been shown to stimulate brain and nerve function.
  • Balances pH: A healthy body is alkaline. Lemons are an acidic food. But, when we consume lemons our bodies shift it to alkaline, creating a balanced pH.
  • Weight loss: The pectin fiber found in lemons, helps to reduce food cravings. So, maybe lemon and warm water in the morning will make for better food choices for the remainder of the day. It has been shown that people who eat a more alkaline diet lose weight faster.
  • Digestion: Warm water helps to stimulate the digestive tract and the muscle contractions to move foods through the digestion process. Lemon nutrients help to rid toxins in the digestive tract.
  • Natural Diuretic: Lemon juice increases urination and flushes out toxins. So, the toxins will be eliminated faster due to the increased rate of movement through the urinary tract.
  • Healthy skin: Lemon juice eliminated toxins from the blood helping to keep the skin clear. The vitamin C found in lemons helps to prevent wrinkles and blemishes.
  • Hydrates the body: Start the day off right by hydrating the body. When the body becomes dehydrated, the organs have a hard time functioning properly. This can lead to other health problems: stress, toxic buildup, and constipation, to name a few.

Do you think you could benefit from warm water and lemon juice every day?

Tammy’s Challenges

Growth does not come from one perspective. To achieve a healthy lifestyle, you must do more than concentrate on exercise alone. Diet changes will enhance your wellbeing, but it alone is not healthy. Let’s not forget the soul or spirit. It needs nurturing as well. So, here are a few mind (diet) – body (exercise) – soul (mental) challenges for you to try.

Mind: Pamper yourself with a good book, a nap, a bath….

Body: Call a friend and take an exercise class together.

Soul: Call a loved one and tell them, “I love you”.

I would love to hear from you.  Email:

Facebook: TammYoga

Twitter: @TammYoga

Namaste  (The spirit in me respects the spirit in you.)


What’s So Great About Broccoli?

26 06 2012

Article printed in the Weekly Record Herald on June 24, 2012

I had a hard time with broccoli as a child. Mom saying “it’s good for you” just wasn’t enough for me to choose to eat it. I guess I am the type of person that needs to know why. It wasn’t until I was older and started to focus on a healthier body that I realized how wonderful broccoli is. Now, I eat broccoli several times a week. Mom would be proud.

You may have read about cruciferous vegetables as must-have foods we should eat several times a week. The cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower rates of cancer, containing phytochemicals that increase the activity of certain enzymes in our bodies that fight cancer-causing agents. Broccoli is in the cruciferous family. This is the kind of information I needed to include broccoli in my diet on a regular basis.

Anyone watching their weight may want to consider adding more broccoli to their diet. The fiber in broccoli helps with digestion and is filling, while low in calories and fat. Here is where you need to be careful! How the broccoli is prepared (sauces, other ingredients, etc.) can add calories and fat. It can be steamed, microwaved, stir-fried, eaten raw in salads, and baked in casseroles. Be careful not to overcook, which would result in lowering the nutritional value.

Broccoli is available year-round, but best in fall and winter. Look for sturdy, dark-green spears with tight buds, no yellowing. If broccoli tops have more purple, it indicates a higher level of carotenoids. The stems are edible, so don’t throw them away. Peel, chop, and serve with the florets. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Broccoli Slaw From Eating Well: Winter 2004, The Eating Well Diabetes Cookbook (2005). The original recipe has been lightened with reduced-fat may and yogurt. This makes eight servings, 3/4 cup each.


4 slices turkey bacon

One 12-16 ounce bag shredded broccoli slaw or one large bunch broccoli (about 1-1/2 pounds)

¼ cup low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt

¼ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper

One 8 ounce can low-sodium sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and coarsely chopped

½ cup finely diced red onion


Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently, until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, microwave on high for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes.) Drain bacon on paper towels. Chop coarsely. If using whole broccoli, trim about 3 inches off the stems. Chop the rest into ¼ inch pieces. Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add water chestnuts, onion, bacon, and broccoli; toss to coat. Chill until serve time. You can also make ahead, cover, and chill for up to 2 days.
Tammy’s Challenges

Growth does not come from one perspective. To achieve a healthy lifestyle, you must do more than concentrate on exercise alone. Diet changes will enhance your wellbeing, but it alone is not healthy. Let’s not forget the soul or spirit. It needs nurturing as well. So, here are a few mind (diet) – body (exercise) – soul (mental) challenges for you to try.

Mind: Try a new healthy recipe or make a favorite recipe healthier.

Body: Take the stairs, park further away from destination, bike or walk on errand.

Soul: Before bed imagine your perfect tomorrow.
I would love to hear from you.


Facebook: TammYoga

Twitter: @TammYoga.

Namaste  (The spirit in me respects the spirit in you.)


Plastic makes me uncomfortable

21 02 2012

I have a problem with plastic. Some plastic is safe, others are not. I know there are symbols on the containers to indicate the various types of plastic. But, I am to the point where all plastic bothers me.

My Plastic Drawer

I have so many plastic food containers that I am afraid to put food in, so I use them for paper clips, hair ties, etc. I do try to reuse them, whenever possible. But, my stash of containers is multiplying. The idea of throwing them all away eats at me. What am I doing to the environment? Could I repurpose all of them?

Below are a few of my plastic dos and don’ts.

* I don’t microwave in it or put it in the dishwasher, even it is supposed to be safe.

* I do store food in it, but am moving towards using only glass containers.

* Any plastic that comes into contact with food is washed by hand. I wash my plastic protein shakers and plastic blender by hand everyday.

* I collect most of the Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target plastic bags and return to plastic bag recycling bins at Wal-Mart.

* I shop most of the time with reusable shopping bags, so I do not have so many bags to recycle.

* I reuse plastic containers from food items for other items: paper clips, hair clips, coins, etc.

Did you know that small animals and fish can get caught in these bags and die when they have not been properly disposed of or recycled? I cannot stand the thought of an innocent animal being trapped inside a plastic bag unable to escape.

* I tie knots in all plastic bags that I do not reuse: Wal-Mart bags, newspaper bags, etc.

* I cut all cereal and snack bags from top to bottom before throwing away.

* I cut through any plastic circle from bottle carriers. Animals can get caught in these, also.

* I cut through the plastic air pillows used to cushion items when shipped in boxes.

Plastic Shipping Pillows

Help! How do you feel about plastic? What do you do with all the plastic containers?