No Sugar May.

Do you struggle with bloating, inflammation, or trouble sleeping? Or maybe you wake up most mornings to stare in the mirror with a puffy face and dry eyes? Or maybe you are victim to the afternoon slump most days?

If none of these things resonates with you then congratulations! But this is the definition of my life when my diet contains too much added sugar. Which is why I attempt* a monthly detox a few times a year. 

*Attempt is the key word because our lives still need indulgences. 

Added sugar is a variety of caloric sweeteners or sugar carbohydrates added to food and beverages during their production. This type of sugar is chemically indistinguishable from naturally occurring sugar that we would find in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Added sugars have no nutritional value and are “empty calories”. 

These sugars can cause the body to become inflamed, gain weight, higher blood pressure and can even increase risk for heart attack and stroke. These little punk ingredients aren’t only bad for us but are just as addictive as alcohol, caffeine, gambling, etc. Our bodies become dependent on the need for sugar that we are consistently craving to fill the desire to consume more sugar. This desire than results in withdraw when we detox our body from them. Symptoms of withdrawal are headaches, increased cravings, and mood swings that can result in feelings of anxiety and sadness. The good thing is most withdraw symptoms only occur for a few days or a week. 

You might be thinking, why would I give up added-sugar then? Well, the rewards extremely outweigh the work. All those questions at the beginning of this post… ya, let’s get rid of those!

Cutting out (or for the most part) added sugar from your diet will likely decrease inflammation, boost your energy levels, and improve your ability to focus. You might even lose weight or see more definition around muscles. A low sugar diet also has been known to help with diabetes, heart disease, brain health, mood levels, and even improve the health of skin, hair, and nails. 

An informed diet does take work though. The food industry has a long history of sneaking in these ingredients in ways that do not have to be stated in the nutrition chart as actually added sugar. That means even if you see 0g added sugar, you still need to review the list of ingredients to actually be sure. For example: 

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Brown Rice syrup
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane Juice crystals
  • Cane Sugar
  • Caramel
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Ethyl Maltol
  • Fruit Juice
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Golden Sugar
  • Grape Sugar
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing Sugar
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado Sugar
  • Panela Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refiner’s Syrup
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle Sugar
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Yellow Sugar

The sad part is this isn’t even close to all of the sneaky ingredients the food industry shoves into food. The most effective way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. You might be thinking that is way too hard – I thought the same thing the first time I did an added sugar detox. But once you get into a routine of what to eat that is good for you, not too mention how good you’ll be feeling, it becomes a lifestyle that you don’t want to quit. 

If you would like to join me for the month of May, I’ll be sharing tips for shopping, meal planning, and yummy dish ideas here as well as on my Insta account (@ashraeeining). Having a tribe to go through this together, ask questions, and share ideas makes it WAYYYY more enjoyable (yes, it can be enjoyable!)

Like I said earlier, indulgences are still part of life – so have that donut or 3 scoops of ice cream. I know I sure do! Enjoy that margarita on a nice day and the cheesy enchiladas at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But making sure we are monitoring these indulgences so they don’t become a habit is when we start to take control over our health so we can feel all the benefits I stated above. 

So if you would like to join me on this journey for the month of May (or at least attempt* it) then stick around and follow me over on Instagram as well. I like to share some esthetically pleasing, highly edited photos of meals, snacks, and drinks (you can even follow just to creep the photos).  

Let’s get to feeling & living a healthier life!

 

 

 

Fudgy Avocado Brownies.

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I’ve been on a strong produce kick lately. I’ve been gathering a ton of avocados, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini lately and going crazy in the kitchen with concocting a load of new favorite dishes. The other night before I was about to head out of town for a few days, I had one lone avocado left to eat up before I left. I was over avocado toast and didn’t feel like adding it to my dinner dish that evening and decided to give avocado brownies a try.

I honestly don’t think I can say that I’ve had an avocado brownie before! Is that strange? I feel like this dish is quite popular? Or did I just miss this trend? So this was going to be an experiment. But the experiment turned out to be pretty darn tasty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Avocado or 2 med./small avocados
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
  • 1/2 Baking Soda
  • 1/2 semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a glass square pan.
  • Mix all ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
  • Pour mix into the pan and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Let cool & enjoy!

Three Super Simple Veggies.

Now that the holiday festivities are over, I want to make sure that I dive into healthy eating habits right away so I don’t become victim to eating nonstop treats and sweets. Now don’t be fooled, I’ll still splurge a little while I’m home for the next couple weeks but not to the extent I was the last couple days.

That is why I’m sharing three of my favorite & super easy veggie recipes today in this post. And when I say easy, it really can’t get easier than these three recipes for home cooked veggies. If you have olive oil, salt & pepper then you’re set!

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

These are my new favorite side and if you’ve been following the blog Instagram you’ll notice I shared these a few weeks back on my story when I made them for a Christmas party. I think the combination makes for an amazing savory and sweet flavor between the balsamic vinegar and cabbage taste of the sprouts.

Ingredients:

  • Brussel Sprouts, Enough to fill a cake pan
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Optional: Dried Cranberries, Pecans, Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash the Brussel Sprouts and cut in half. Line the cake pan with the sprouts and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Shake pan to evenly coat all sprouts with oil.
  3. Cook on the medium rack of your oven for 35-40 minutes or until you notice the layers of sprouts starting to brown.
  4. On the stove top, bring the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Once at a boil, bring down to medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes or until mixture thickens.
  5. Pour glaze over Brussel Sprouts and shake the pan.
  6. If desired, toss in cranberries, pecans, or parmesan cheese.
  7. Enjoy!

Asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus is a super simple side that can be cooked up fairly quickly. My secret is I prefer to get the larger stock Asparagus which might take a little longer to cook but they don’t wilt as easily while cooking in the oven.

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Optional: fresh garlic clove, Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wash and cut the ends off the asparagus.
  3. Line a baking sheet with asparagus, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Shake pan to evenly coat all asparagus with oil.
  4. If desired, add a diced fresh clove of garlic to the mix.
  5. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. If desired, sprinkle parmesan cheese across the top and allow to melt.
  7. Enjoy!

Sauteed Zucchini 

Zucchini

I actually make these little guys often before I even start cooking and snack on them throughout with a glass a wine. They are super handy when you’re craving fried food like french fries – definitely not the same but they’ve saved me a couple times.

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 Zucchinis
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash and slice zucchini into thin chips.
  2. Drizzle olive oil into a medium-size frying pan and heat over medium heat. Line pan with zucchini chips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure each chip is laying flat on the pan so they all cook evenly.
  3. Let cook until lightly brown and flip to the other side. Don’t worry if you flip too early, just flip them back over 🙂
  4. Once cooked to desire, let cool and enjoy!

 

I hope these three recipes make eating healthily a little simpler for you. These are definitely a couple simple recipe I turned to at least a couple times a week.

Let me know in the comment section if you test any of these out or if you have tasty simple recipes of your own. I’d love to hear them!

Happy Wednesday loves.

 

Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies.

If I’m going to splurge on treats this season it’s going to be homemade caramel puff corn or these new buttery salty cookies I found in a small deli in San Francisco a few months ago. It was my first time attempting baking these myself today and for the first pass I believe they turned out pretty darn yummy.

We’re about to host a cookie swap so these cookies are my contribution and I’ll follow up with the crowd comments!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Optional: melting chocolate

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until it starts to caramelize. It should smell nutty and you will see brown bits at the bottom of the saucepan.

3. Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl and stir in brown sugar and vanilla.

4. In a small bowl, whisk flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and combined.

5. Let cool to room temp and then scoop tablespoon size balls onto cooking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and lightly press into top of cookie.

6. Bake for ~10-15 minutes or lightly golden brown. Don’t overlook or cookies become dry.

7. If desired, melt chocolate and drizzle on top of cookies.

8. Let cool & enjoy!