Friday, March 30, 2012

my very first foodie penpals

So, I had this crazy idea last month to get involved with foodie penpals! How could I be ever so crazy to want to have people mail me food and send some back to someone new in return?!

{If you don't sense the sarcasm, this is where I step in and say, it's totally not crazy!}

Me + the chance to try out new foods + sending someone else new foods = match made in heaven!

So let me get to what I received for my very first round! I had the opportunity to have the amazing Maddie send me a package (she blogs over at Mad Health Chick) and she was nothing short than the best foodie penpal! So what did she send me?!

I actually didn't open this box until three days after I received it! You're probably, yet again, thinking I'm crazy, but I used it as my reward for getting through my really busy week of 2 midterms, an assignment and a ton of homework. It was worth the wait! Upon first opening:

She was so super cute and asked if the chips popped on me...which they totally didn't (score!). I knew at first glimpse, I already loved it. But, when I started taking everything out, I was actually in shock. She outdid herself!

I had never expected to see this much stuff crammed into that box. Let's just say it was an unexpected surprise of the good kind!

Now, to break it down. I was really shocked that most of the stuff I've never tried! This was good because now I have the chance to try them, see if I like them, to know if I want to purchase them myself!

Like, the Enjoy Life gluten- and dairy-free bars...never even seen them before! They were the first things I tried, and they were amazing!! If I can find them around here, I'm definitely getting them again.

Or the teas, have never tried any of these flavours! Also, I'm really excited to try the chocolate bar Maddie sent and actually can't believe I haven't tried it yet (it's mint btw - a total win in my books) ...maybe because when I opened the box, it was all melty! The melty part is totally my fault because, while I didn't open the box for three days, it sat on our TV satellite receptor in our bedroom, and I'm sure you all know how warm those things can get! Oops!

Actually pretty funny, but I'm about to take the Buckwheat Snack (ShaSha Co.) products with me to school today. I'm sure they're amazing, too ;)

And ReBar, it's something I brought with me on Wednesday to school, but didn't end up eating it. I bet it will be awesome, too. Food hardly disappoints me! 

I really loved the addition of the can never go wrong with one of them!

Again, more teas!! I've only tried the one in the orange package so far and it was delish! Next, the spirulina bar. This probably made me the most excited to see because it intrigues me. Sometimes I'm a hoarder when it comes to things that I really enjoy/think I'll enjoy. This goes for coconut water; the husband knows that I have been holding onto my half of a case of coconut water we bought a while ago, while his is all gone. It kills him everyday =). So, I'm not quite sure when I'll actually decide to eat the spirulina bar, but let's hope it clears out before the coconut water does!

And finally, the last two items that I have had before - the sweet potato chips and the dark chocolate peanut butter. Having said that, they are both wonderful and something I would eat again and again, so a nice addition to the package.

I sure think Maddie went above and beyond for March Foodie Penpals and I just want to take a minute to really thank her.

You are awesome Maddie and I really appreciate the amazing package you put together. I am so with you on arranging a meet-up!! Woohoo!

All I can finish with is, I cannot wait for next month - I not only have new inspiration for my future penpal, but have opened a door to meeting amazing new food lovers and bloggers like me.

Have a great Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

the tester camera

It's not very often that you get things loaned to you to 'try out'...especially expensive things. But when you get those opportunities, run with them!

The husband knows that I've wanted a 'good' camera for quite sometime...and by good, I mean something other than a point-and-shoot; a real SLR. Even though a 'good' camera isn't in our budget quite yet, the husband, being the amazing guy that he is, took it upon himself to talk to someone he knows who's in the camera business. You know, to just ask some questions about cameras (read: so he doesn't have to hear me whine one more time about wanting a good camera).

After a talk with said person, he offered to lend us one of his company's cameras so we could 'try it out for a couple of weeks.' Now, I don't know about you, but how often do you meet amazing people that are willing to do this?! Let's just say, not very often.

He not only offered to do this for us, but had it ready to give to us (just like he said) the next time he saw my husband, which was yesterday. We are now the proud owners of a Fuji X-S1 for the next two weeks!

I'm pretty much scared to breathe around it right now, so once I get past the initial I'm-gonna-break-this-thing phase, I'll get you know how it pans out in terms of what I like about it and what I don't (or what I probably just didn't figure out about the thing!)

I'm very fortunate for this opportunity because this is a camera we're talking about, not just a DVD or a tupperware container (note: I don't even lend those out lightly)! I hope I can maximize on the next two weeks I have with it, so I can fully appreciate the kindness this man has, and hopefully remember to delete all the food pictures I do take on it before returning ;)

Tester camera, here I come!

QUESTION: What's the last nice/amazing/thoughtful thing someone has done for you?!

Monday, March 26, 2012

who was hungry this weekend?!

If you didn't see The Hunger Games this weekend, then you're probably the only one, because everyone and their brother saw it!

For it to be the third highest grossing movie in March ever says a lot about how successful it was.

I admit that I did enjoy it, but I wasn't sure about the ending. Any interpretations?! I haven't read the book, so maybe if I had, I'd understand the ending a little more?! It might just be something I read once exams are over, because now I'm curious.

What are your thoughts on books that turn into movies? Read the book before the movie, or watch the movie first then read the book?

I'm all about watching the movie, then reading the book because I become too critical of a movie if I've read the book first. Mainly because I want the movie to be exactly like how the book was, which is kind of unrealistic because books have the opportunity for more details since it's in writing.

This was honestly the first time the husband and I have been to the movies on a Saturday night in a loooooong time. We usually opt for the cheap night special on Tuesday's because we're cool like that ;)

It was nice to have a date night on an actual weekend night though! And to make up for the extra cost of the tickets on Saturday night, we snuck in our own treats...shhh, don't tell the theater!

I wasn't aware that Taylor Swift had a song for the movie, which kind of excites me because she makes awesome music. If you haven't heard it yet (which I only did a few minutes ago - the inspiration for this post actually), then here it is!

I guess the point of this post is, that if you haven't see the movie yet, you probably should because you don't want to be the one left in the dark. It's not fun when everyone else knows a secret and you're the one saying, "What is it?! Tell me!" ....because no one will tell you, haha.

Hope your Monday is off to a great start! I'm off to learn about some chemistry...oh joy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

sunday funday

I don't know why that phrase always makes me think of my husband's friend, but it does.

(Husband, husband's friend, Jared)

Maybe it's because the first time I actually laughed about that expression was when he quoted it from Jared. Don't worry Jared, I concur...especially with a caesar/bloody mary in hand ;)

Maybe we should change all the other day's of the week (minus Monday) to something that rhymes with fun. Like Tuesday could be Runday (which it pretty much is for me anyways, since it's a day off school I actually do have to run!). Wednesday could be Wonday. Thursday could be Punday. Friday itself can just be Funday; because 1) you don't want to take the 'F' out of TGIF, and 2) it is fun to celebrate the weekend coming. And, Saturday could be Satunday!

Where was I when they came up with the names of days?! Oh right...not born!

My Sunday funday started with a little muffin action. As a vegan, the one thing I do miss on the odd occasion are muffins. It's highly unlikely that you can get a muffin (and by that I mean buy) anywhere made without eggs or milk. I'm fine with making them myself, but it definitely does suck when you're on campus and someone across the table from you is eating a crazy-good looking muffin, and you have nothing

I solved that 'nothing' problem and made some banana chocolate chip. Now I'll be the one making people jealous tomorrow morning. I used the recipe from the 30 Day Vegan Challenge, which provides fool-proof recipes.

Sunday funday continued with a nice outdoor run. It's been 8 days since I've ran, but I'm ok with it. I had a busy, busy week that my priorities were different and it didn't kill me to not run. I still managed to squeeze in some 12 min BodyRock's! The one non-fun thing about my run watch died before my run was done.

It was my own stupid fault. I got cocky and thought 23% battery life would get through 5 miles. FYI: it doesn't!

It's now charging so I won't have that problem the next time I set out for run. Maybe I'll test the limits with 30%, but never 27% again...unless it's a little stroll! 

I think I ran pretty close to 5 miles (which was my intention), but the last time I checked my watch before it died, I was at 4.39 mi and then I have no idea when it died after that. I guess it's up to my own interpretation, so this is where I can say that I ran 15 miles in 46 minutes. Alright, you might catch onto my lies, so I'll just leave it at 5 ;)

Now, I'm set out to do a workout with the hub at 1:30pm (after he's finished up with some golf lessons) and not gonna lie...just spend the rest of the day relaxing. That's my kinda Sunday funday!

QUESTION: What are YOU doing this Sunday funday?!

Friday, March 23, 2012

getting through a long week

What a crazy week it's been. So crazy, that I had to break away from blogging, just so I could put my focus where it really belonged...aka: school.

I don't know what it is about approaching the end of the semester that makes prof's want to pile everything on you then, but they do it! I swear that in the 12 weeks this semester goes for, this week was the toughest/hardest/longest!

I had two midterms, one assignment, a chem lab report to hand in (which let me tell ya, was not the piece of cake I was imagining it being) and online weekly chem question I had to complete. After my midterm on Wednesday, I knew I should come home and study for my midterm on Thursday, but I'm pretty sure my brain resembled something closely related to mush! I decided to take the night off, just enjoy it, then woke up early and got on the study train again! I think that's a pretty good turnaround, considering the workload...and the intense heat that Ontario's getting right now!

Even with the heat, this intense week has made me want to go into hibernation. I'm ready to take a looong  winter's nap...aka: sleep in tomorrow haha.

I hope it's all downhill from here, and I can back to blogging about stuff that doesn't interest anyone anyways!

I'll end on that note. Plus share a super cute picture that makes me smile every time I see it...especially since this is how I feel after getting done 2 midterms, a chem report, chem questions and an assignment!

Happy Friday!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

defied all odds

Today I did the most unlikely thing I've done all week...I switched up my breakfast!

I am such a toast with PB&J kinda gal, that I cannot get enough of it, but this morning, I made a vow to myself (and other food choices) to not go there. I had to remind myself that I wasn't allow to make toast this morning.

It was oatmeal's time to reshine! (is it ironic that my toaster is in the pic above? ;))

I defied all odds! Especially since 'defy' means to openly resist and I think I pretty much did that this morning when I had to tell myself...NO toast! ;) I had the 'classic' oatmeal; complete with brown sugar and (almond) milk with a little not-so-classic mix-ins like ground flax, a little cinnamon, blueberries and raisins (unpictured - I added them after the shot...oops!)


I managed to bust out another outdoor run yesterday (after a little coaching myself, like I've done before), but the weather caught me off guard! I guess I'm still not overly used to this warm weather, that I actually went out for a midday run with a jacket on. What was I thinking? Let's just say that it came off within a matter of minutes! I really have forgotten since last spring/summer why I chose to run either in the morning or evening...makes sense again!

(because this is what happens when I come home from a midday run...sweaty mess!)

I really don't believe in pushing yourself when you know your body can't take it, and I'm almost sure that I didn't do this yesterday, but I'm not 100%. See, on my last run (from Tuesday), once I had gotten home, I had realized (luckily it didn't interfere with running) that my ankle was kind of sore. Then, I was going to run again on Thursday, but didn't end up doing it, and thank goodness I didn't because on Friday I actually noticed that my ankle was a little swollen. I didn't even think to check for this in previous days. I just assumed it was a little sore.

It kind of worried me that it was still swollen 3 days after I ran, and it doesn't help that it still hurts a little bit. But luckily, I didn't reswell it with my run yesterday.

Do you like my new use of words with 're' in front?! Reshine. Reswell.

Just don't push yourself if you know it might negatively impact your body and have you out for longer than if you had just decided to take a break.

I think I better google some exercises to strengthen ankles, apparently! And, take it easy when I do decide to run next!

Such a gorgeous Sunday out there. Hope you ate your oatmeal or pancakes or cereal or toast and are going to enjoy this beautiful day! I have homework ahead of me (2 midterms + an assignment due next week...yay, for school work never ending!) and welcome my hubby home.

I never told you any of this, but he was gone all week on a March Break golf trip with some juniors. He was down in South Carolina!

The only reason I wasn't jealous (or bitter) that he was gone and I was stuck at home is because the weather was so beautiful here. I wouldn't be surprised if our weather actually beat his one day! So anyways, he comes back later this evening, which is awesome.

Have a great day!

QUESTION: What did you have for breakfast?! Is there anything you had that you think would permanently detach me from eating toast every morning?!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

i'm feeling lucky!!

So it's Saturday and that's means I have a winner for the larabar giveaway!

Which belongs to:

Jamie, you won! If you could please email ( with your contact detailios so I can get them sent to larabar asap!!!

Hope everyone is having a great Saturday so far. I'm still mustering up the attitude to get out there and run...somehow! I'm not convincing myself that it's a good idea. Can someone come motivate me, pleeeease?!?

That's it for the post today. Maybe I'll come back with more tomorrow!

Happy St. Patty's Day, everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

friday facts

Have you entered my LARABAR giveaway yet?! Today is your last chance to do it, so click here!!

1. Today I'm seeing my childhood best friend that I haven't seen since...well, childhood!

2. I've got a ton of flashcards to study for my food midterm next Thursday.

3. This is my first time ever using flashcards.

4. If you ever need to study about starches and eggs, give me a call. I know a girl that makes some pretty sweet flashcards. ;)

5. I've been saving this sucker ever since I found out they were discontinued...and chose today as the day to eat it. RIP Cinnamon Roll (once and for all).

And this is what happens when you type in 'Cinnamon Roll' in the search field on Larabar's website:

*sad face*

6. Since St. Patrick's Day is conveniently on a Saturday, I expect to see a lot of this:

That's right...everyone turning into leprechauns.

7. The Weather Network let me down, yet again. It said 'severe thunderstorms' for yesterday evening and we didn't even get one drop of water. I would have really liked to see an intense storm, but instead, I got betrayed.

8. Ashley Judd's new show 'Missing' is friggen awesome. I had kinda planned to watch the pilot, but then thought I missed it (for some reason I thought it aired on Monday??), and then realized it was on last night when I was conveniently on the channel, so I watched it. I watched and loved. She kicks some serious ass. I guess it helps that I also am a huge Ashley Judd fan to begin with!

She's just so darn pretty!

9. Fact: my house was warmer than the temperature it's usually set at, all on its own. This is not only good for the heating bill, but means hello lulu wunder under crops...where have you been all my life?!

10. And finally, it's Friday, so that means...lots of studying this weekend. YAY! I'm sure your Friday means something much more satisfactory to you, but mine will be reliving those flashcards like it's my biz-nass. 

I announce the winner of the Larabar giveaway tomorrow!!! I wonder who the lucky winner will be!!

Have a great weekend everyone. Hope it's warm where you are, because it suuuuure is for me today!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

get out there!

Have you entered my LARABAR giveaway yet?! Go right now and enter here! (Closes Friday)

Sometimes I like to talk to myself to make me do things - mostly in my head, because it'd be pretty embarrassing if someone actually caught me doing that!

Yesterday was one of those days. Luckily, I was in the comfort of my home, giving me the ability to away!

The weather is pretty spectacular in south-western Ontario right now that I knew this week was prime for finally running outside. The last time I ran outside was on December 31st, 2011 when I ran a 5-miler down in Florida. As you can see, this was pretty much half a century ago, in runner's terms!

Some might ask, 'well why didn't you run outside when you returned back home?!' and my answer would be that I hate winter and any excuse to stay away from it is ok with me. Running on the treadmill is almost as bad as winter running, but not quite, so I sucked it up the past few months, and took to the belt!

With the Canadian weather finally cooperating, I've been pumping myself up for the much anticipated run outside. If I had to watch curling on the TV at the gym one more time, I might  have...learned how to play, myself (haha kidding!). It's not even the same person working behind the desk when I go to the gym, so why is curling aways on? And why is curling always on that channel, anyways?! Obviously curling is a tender subject still....

Back to the running outside anticipation: sometimes when I have a build-up of anticipation, it can back fire, where I start thinking of excuses why I shouldn't do that thing I've been anticipating.

This almost happened with my run yesterday, but then I told myself to, get out there!!

So, I got out there, and got this done...

If I had not gotten out there, then I would have never realized how awesome a first run outside (after months of hibernation) would be! I would have never realized that my pace is actually quicker outside and would have continued to be frustrated with the treadmill. I would have never gotten much needed vitamin D and been able to run on natural inclines.

The moral of this story is, if you stop and pause to think for even one second, you might talk yourself out of something you know you want to do. So just tell yourself...get out there!

Have a great Wednesday! Mine will be spent on campus for 12 hours...yaaaaay!

For that, I definitely needed to start my day off with some lovely tea.

And maybe Starbucks...don't judge!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

following the a to z trend

Have you entered my LARABAR giveaway yet?! You have until Friday to enter here!

Ok, I caved. When I saw Chelsey's and Cait's posts yesterday, I knew that I had to. Simply put. Let's also call this an intro to getting to know me since my blog is kind of new, after all.
There will be a quiz at the end, so pay attention.
A is for age: I hate to admit it, but I'm 25...and not on the low end. It's the 'almost turning 26' end of the scale.
B is for breakfast today: Toast...but that's a no-brainer because it's my 'go to' every morning. Unless it's Sunday morning and I have maple syrup, then it's pancakes. This is what my husband's pancake looked this past Sunday. 

He ate around the little heart and wanted to give it to me, but I was too stuff, so I gave him his heart back. He knows I still love him though lol!
C is for currently craving: Most recent craving was squashed...via roasted veggies. 

D is for dinner tonight: I want to try out this crispy, spicy tofu recipe I found so that could be accompanied by leftover roasted veggies, since I, for some reason, made enough to feed a small village.

E is for favorite type of exercise: I'd have to say running just because it's so damn addicting (PS survey, thanks for reminding me to charge my running watch!) *leaves the computer to plug her watch in*
F is for an irrational fear: Sometimes I wonder how safe elevators are when I'm in them (ie: the one in this old building that I take up to the 5th floor for stats help every week), and what is a safe floor level to be coming from in order to survive a fall.
G is for gross food: It'd have to say anything meat-based now. I just picture them as the animals vs. the name's the meat industry has given them...all the more reason why I need to have a pet pig. Yes, you read that right!
H is for hometown: I will tell you it's an hour outside of Toronto in the northern direction.
I is for something important: My relationship with my hubby. Sometimes I wonder how I got him/why he wanted me, and I really couldn't imagine if he wasn't in my life. It's gushy, but we get along really great and I just feel so lucky to have that!

J is for current favorite jam: Pretty much anything Jack's Mannequin. I can never get enough of them! But, if I had to pick one song by them, it's Release Me (at the moment):

K is for kids: Unless you count my husband (kidding!) we currently have no kids...not even an animal! But I guess it's good time to make an announcement...
Kidding! I'm in school so babies and quiet lecture halls don't quite go so well together ;)
L is for current location: The spare bedroom which I have invaded as my work area, complete with scattered papers and textbooks everywhere. Really encouraging for people to sleep over ;)
M is for the most recent way you spent money: I caved and went to the grocery store after school and bought Brussel sprouts. To better grasp the situation, here are 2 tweets:

Once I have an idea (or craving) in my head, I have to run with it!
N is for something you need: A shopping spree preeeeeetty badly, plus new make-up even more badly. I've been holding off on the make-up because I'm MAC crazed and I really don't know how animal friendly they are. I'd rather make do with what I have until I can save up some spare pennies to get some animal-cruelty free stuff!
O is for occupation: Does being a student count? I don't really do much besides that at the moment, but I would like to do more. Brainstorming some work situations that will go well with any suggestions?! haha
P is for pet peeve: I'm sure the husband would have no trouble listing all mine here. I'm sure he'd even break the record for writing down the most in the shortest amount of time! You don't even want to know the extent of my pet peeves - it's really such a wide range. From people guessing vowel after vowel on Wheel of Fortune to not having the sheets tucked in on my side of the bed - yes, I know, I sound pretty ridiculous!
Q is for a quote: This is probably one of my favourite quotes:

R is for random fact about you: Sometimes my eye colour throws people off. I've gotten asked before if I'm wearing contacts. I mean, I wear contacts, but not coloured! I told you I'm all for greens!

S is for favorite healthy snack: I like me some almonds or huge apples that are cut up with a squeeze of lemon juice to keep them fresh, so I can enjoy them later while on campus

T is for favorite treat: Oh gosh, I'd have to say these cookies. They dominate my house almost every.single.week. They're that good...vegan or not!
U is for something that makes you unique: I think my name can do that sometimes. I don't know all that many Charmaine's.
V is for favorite vegetable: This one really is tough...probably tougher than it should be because well, duh, who has a hard time choosing their favourite vegetable. Normally you're suppose to have trouble choosing your favourite treat! I really do love kale, but I also love Brussel sprouts (you couldn't tell from the 2 tweets devoted to them above?!) and now rutabagas! I'll just pick one randomly out of a hat...that might help!
W is for today’s workout: Let's see here; nothing...yet! That could change. I'm hoping it's a run outside (hence the need to charge the running watch), and bust out one of these bad boys:

Ok, maybe not a 9-miler, but a 5 would be fantastic!
X is for X-rays you’ve had: My right wrist in 2007, when I broke it. That was a fun time! I'm a lefty fyi, so breaking the right wrist was actually a blessing!
Y is for yesterday’s highlight: One of my friend's at school brought me an Caffe Americano to class. She seriously is the best!
Z is for your time zone: Eastern Standard Time...representin' the east!

And that's me...from A to Z. Corny, I know, but that is my middle name, or is it? You'll never know because it wasn't one of the questions! haha

Choose one of the questions above and answer it about yourself!

Monday, March 12, 2012

rise and shine

Have you entered my LARABAR giveaway yet?! You have until Friday to enter here!

Today officially feels like the first day of waking up to Daylight Savings, because let's be honest, I was in no rush to wake up early yesterday morning. But, this morning, I had to wake up early so I could enjoy my new tea!

Ok, I actually didn't wake up just to enjoy my tea. I like to get a head start on my morning by organizing my work cut out for me that day or week (can you say list-making?!), get lecture notes printed and trying to get some homework questions done for my chem course, if I can!

I did have to drink the tea this morning though. Reason? I got a total score on it yesterday. Listen to this breakdown:

Originally $5.79, on blowout sale for $2.99, plus I had a $2 off coupon. You do the math people. It was impossible to pass up and it was delicious. Extreme out!

You know what else was impossible to pass up yesterday? A pomegranate.

I haven't expressed my obsession with pomegranates on this blog yet only because they have not been available (or someone has been hiding them!) for a looooong time at the grocery stores in my town. My mouth almost dropped to the floor when I found them yesterday during our grocery run. Let's just say this thing didn't last all. I, of course, gave myself the half that I felt had more arils than the husband's. It was gone in about 5 minutes flat.

Although it was expensive (I doubt anyone else would be as crazy as me to pay the amount they were), it was worth it, but unfortunately, I cannot buy 5 of them in a week like I used to when they were half the price.

It's totally what helped with the easy rising this morning! Read: I think pomegranates are the secret drug  to staying healthy...I'm not kidding.

Since I'm done the rising part (I'm actually on campus now!), I still have the 'shining' part to fulfill. So, in the spirit of my larabar giveaway, I decided to indulge myself and bring one for my lunch. Blueberry Muffin sure does make me (or anyone) shine because it's sooooo delicious!

There you have it. Happy Monday!

QUESTION: What helps you rise and shine each morning?!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

my very first GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

Guess whaaaaaaaat?!

The clocks turned ahead this morning, but you already knew that ;)

So, since I've already lost one hour of the day, I'm going to keep this post short and simple, and get right to the point. We have no time to waste!

I'm doing my very first GIVEAWAY! *insert screams of excitement*

My dear friends at LARABAR asked if I wanted to host a giveaway and I was like pffft...of course!!

This giveaway comes from the latest recognition that LARABAR receive on The Biggest Loser. You can view the video here.

Here's what you'll win!

2 Cherry Pie and 2 Peanut Butter Cookie could be yours!

I don't know if losing an hour can get any better than having the chance to win some LARABARs!!!

What you have to do to win!

Here are your options - you can do one or both in order to be entered:

1. Comment below telling me what YOUR favourite flavour of LARABAR is, and/or

2. Tweet about this giveaway! You could say something along the lines of "@chareatsGREENS is holding a contest to win some @larabar!! Enter for your chance, here:" Once tweeted, leave a comment below saying you did!

*This contest is open to US and Canadian residents.

You have until Friday, March 16th to enter and I'll announce the winner on Saturday!

Happy entering and happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

what about sugar?

**NOTE: These are purely my opinions with information that I found fitting for this topic. By no means am I a Registered Dietitian or experienced health professional - just a girl expressing her opinions on a hot topic!**

Also note: this is part of a new series I will host where I cover a topic that is of interest to me and hopefully others. I'll do research and deliver facts about that topic that come with generic questions that people are always interested in finding out the answers to. Enjoy!

In a quest to eat less fats and less carbs, in comes this idea that we also need less sugar. Yes, I agree with this to a point, but isn't it really about where the sugars are coming from versus how much of it we're eating?!

Are natural sugars in fruits really the culprit? I think not.

Processed foods (yes, including the ones not characterized as being 'sweets' as well) including: baked goods, pops, chips, etc, etc are really the ones to blame for this fear of sugar in the body.

This sugar topic really irks me; like a lot of the other things we encounter, people tend to make a quick fix of a terrible solution. They'll drink diet coke because it's zero calories (ie: artificially sweetened), which means they can drink 11 of them, like it's water! Or since something that appears low in sugar (but how?) must be ok for them with no concern for how it's sweetened! For me, this is a big challenge, because instead of getting educated about the bad sources of sugar, we just immediately jump to the conclusion that all sugars are bad...but these zero calorie sweeteners are fine. That doesn't sit well with me.

I didn't mean for this post to come out as a 'research' paper opposed to a blog post, but once the passion of this sugar debate (in my head) started, I couldn't stop it!

I want to provide valid information (read: I just want to sound fancy-shmancy) that makes real sense of this topic. So here it is; the lowdown on what we naturally love...sugar.

It's all in the GI...the 'Glycemic Index,' I mean.

If we're not talking fruit, and purely talking sugars in, well, sugar form, where it stands in terms of glycemic index is definitely something to consider. If you are going to continue to consume tons of sugars, it's important to know which ones to consume and which ones not.

Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of the kinds of sugar you're eating!

Sugars & Substitutes with their Glycemic Index
Artificial Sweeteners
Never a Healthy Sugar Alternative
All artificial chemical sweeteners are toxic and can indirectly lead to weight gain, the very reason many people consume them. They should be avoided. In fact, given a choice between high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, we recommend high fructose corn syrup by far (though it's essentially asking if you should consume poison or worse poison).
Best Healthy Sugar Alternative
Though it is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia is not a sugar. Unlike other popular sweeteners, it has a glycemic index rating of less than 1 and therefore does not feed candida (yeast) or cause any of the numerous other problems associated with sugar consumption. Read more about stevia at Organic Lifestyle Magazine (OLM). Please note that Stevia and Truvia are not the same thing.
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol sweetener found in the fibers of fruits and vegetables which can cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption. It's said to be safe for pregnant women, and is said to possibly treat ear infections, osteoposis, respiratory infections, candida, and is it even helps fight cavities. In fact, in Finland, virtually all chewing gum is sweetened with xylitol.
Agave Nectar
A sweet syrup made from the Blue Agave plant, Agave Nectar is obtained by the extraction and purification of "sap" from the agave plant, which is broken down by natural enzymes into the monosaccharides (simple sugars): mainly fructose (70-75%) and dextrose (20-26%). Read more about agave nectar at OLM.
Though fructose has a low glycemic index rating, fructose consumption should be limited. Fructose is linked to heart disease as it raises triglycerides and cholesterol. It is devoid of nutrition.
Brown Rice Syrup
It is not recommended for diabetics, since its sweetness comes from maltose, which is known to cause spikes in blood sugar.
Raw Honey
A Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation   
With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, raw, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many alternative health care practitioners and a remedy for many health ailments. Choose your honey wisely. There is nothing beneficial about processed honey. Read more about honey at OLM.
Coconut Palm Sugar
Originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm , the date palm or sugar date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). It's also made from the sap of coconut palms. With a relatively low glycemic index, Cocnut palm sugar is the new rage among health nuts. It's often called "coconut nectar sugar" or "coconut sugar".
Apple Juice
Fresh apple juice is good for you, though we recommend eating fresh raw whole apples. Concentrated apple juice (sometimes used as a sweetener) is closer to refined sugar than fresh apple juice.
Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is considered to be one of the healthiest sweeteners in the natural food industry. Barley malt is made by soaking and sprouting barley to make malt, then combining it with more barley and cooking this mixture until the starch is converted to sugar. The mash is then strained and cooked down to syrup or dried into powder.
This is an ancient, Oriental whole grain sweetener made from cultured brown rice. It has a thick, pudding-like consistency. It's not easy to find in the U.S., but it is a great alternative to refined table sugar.
Sugar Cane Juice
Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation
Sugar cane juice has many nutrients and other beneficial properties and is said by some health practitioners to be almost as medicinal as raw honey.
Organic Sugar
Organic sugar comes from sugar cane grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. It is usually darker than traditional white sugar because it contains some molasses. (It has not been processed to the degree white sugar is processed).
Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made by boiling sap collected from natural growth maple trees during March & April. It is refined sap and is therefore processed.  It has a high glycemic index, and though it is much more nutritious then refined table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, there are better choices.
Evaporated Cane Juice
Evaporated cane juice is often considered unrefined sugar, but juicing is a refining process, and evaporating refines further. Though better than turbinado, cane juice (unevaporated) is a better choice as a sweetener.
Black Strap Molasses
White refined table sugar is sugar cane with all the nutrition taken out. Black strap molasses is all of that nutrition that was taken away. A quality organic (must be organic!) molasses provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and is alkalizing to the body.
Turbinado sugar is partially processed sugar, also called raw sugar.
Raw Sugar
Raw sugar
Raw sugar is not actually raw sugar. It is processed, though not as refined as common white table sugar. Therefore, given a choice between raw and white, choose raw. There are many different variations of raw sugar with many different names depending on how refined it is.
Cola (and most other sodas)
Though cola has a lower GI ranking then some might expect, there are many other reasons to avoid cola, or any type of soda. There is nothing beneficial to the human body inside a can of soda (not to mention we should avoid drinking out of aluminum cans!).
Corn Syrup
Corn syrup has very little nutrition and should be avoided.
Refined, Pasteurized Honey
The nutrition is gone, and there is often high fructose corn syrup added to processed honey. Refined pasteurized honey is no better than white table sugar.
Refined Table Sugar
Conventionally grown, chemically processed, and striped of all beneficial properties, many health advocates believe that refined sugar is one of the two leading causes (high fructose corn syrup is the other) of nearly every health ailment known to man (or woman or child). Not only does it have a high GI ranking, but it also is extremely acidic to the body causing calcium and other mineral depletion from bones and organs (sugar is alkaline but has a very acidic effect on the body).
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Many health advocates believe that high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar are the two biggest contributors to health ailments in our society. High fructose corn syrup is a combination of sucrose and fructose.
Glucose (AKA Dextrose)
White bread was the benchmark, but for consistency glucose now holds the rating at 100.
Foods that have maltodextrin often say "Low Sugar" or "Complex Carbohydrate", but this sweetener should be avoided!

If you noticed, the ones that are high on the glycemic index (and in case you're unaware, high = bad in terms of this index), are also the ones often found in all the processed goodies that rock our North American diet! This is not good news for your body...or your waistline, so try and stick to the more natural ones (think: stevia, molasses, organic cane sugar) when baking and such...mmmkay?!

The lower the GI you can go, the better off you'll be, but be careful because corn syrup/high fructose corn syrup (ie: high glycemic index rating/a bad sugar) shows up in almost eeeeeverything (sadly, it's even in mini-wheats, so watch out) because it's so cheap to make!

Why is 'sugar-free' so sugar free?

I'll just put this out there: what I would do (the non-health professional girl, just merely a nutrition student, got that?); I would much rather consume a natural form of sugar (ie: the ones I listed above in the brackets) then consume any product that is sugar-free. You got that? I don't want those sugar-free products or artificial sweeteners, and you don't me on that one!

Here's why:

Our body needs sugar.

As said by Dr. Oz, "cells in your body use sugar from starches, fruits, and sugars you eat for fuel or store it for future use." He also has a handy video here to get a better idea.

Also, for those of you that still feel the need to eat sugar-free products, let's be clear that you might not entirely be eating products that are completely free of sugar. This is another misconception that people get caught up in - just because a label has specific claims on it, does not mean they are 100% accurate. Just like something can be labelled "fat free" but still have up to 0.5g of fat per serving in it. Beware of these claims!

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "food labels can be confusing when it comes to sugar. A food can be labeled "sugar free" or "sugarless" and still contain calories from sugar alcohols 
such as xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol."

We also get into the sticky subject of artificial sweeteners that are just not good for you. Just look at what Dr. Lindsey Duncan had to say about them:

  • Aspartame: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that's sold under the names of Equal and NutraSweet. Some studies have shown that aspartame may be carcinogenic and may affect brain function as well as contribute to health issues such as diabetes, birth defects and epilepsy.
  • Sucralose: Sucralose (also known as Splenda) is made by chlorinating sugar. Some side effects that may be associated with sucralose or Splenda are skin rashes, irritability, dizziness, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues and stomach pain.
  • Saccharin: Saccharin is also sold under the name Sweet 'N Low. It's a possible carcinogen, and various studies have shown that side effects from saccharin may include headaches, skin conditions, sensitivity to light, nausea, diarrhea and irritability.
  • Acesulfame K (Ace K): Acesulfame K is a blend of aspartame with acesulfame potassium, and is sweeter than either of the two sugar substitutes on their own. There are multiple safety concerns regarding Ace K, including the possibility of it being a carcinogen.

Moral of the sugar-free story: know your source of sugar (or 'lack of').

Putting the 'real' back in sugar.

Lets get the notion out of our heads that we should cut out sugars altogether. It's like fats; somewhere someone got this crazy idea that fats are so bad for you, but you would not be healthy without it (by this, I mean the 'healthy' fats, the unsaturated), just like sugar. And why would you want to cut out sugars (both naturally occurring in fruits and other forms like maple syrup, stevia, etc)?! As humans, it's something we naturally crave, and for good reason!

So, if you're really trying to "cutback" on sugar, then why don't you put down the pop (or candy or chips or refined baked goods) and reach for an apple or cherries or plum - I don't care which fruit it is you eat, just start eating the natural kind of sugars; the ones your body loves! And do your research; find out what kinds (and amounts) of sugars you're really eating when you open the package. Or just stay away from the package altogether, because chances are if you're eating something from a package to begin with, it's probably not a good form of sugar!

Try and use your head before those taste buds of yours take over! If you're overdoing it on the sugar front right now, just know that when you cut back, you will start craving it's a science. Get past the hump and you'll be smooth sailing.

I hope you've enjoyed my weekend rant on sugar. Also, I hope I haven't deterred anyone from reading in the future, because I just want to be informative.

And also, I'm so sorry this post is so long. I hope you got something out of it though!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

QUESTION: What's your take on sugar? You've heard from me, now I want to hear from you!!