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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Get a flat belly the Italian way!

When I was growing up, every time I went to the doctor, he told me "stay away from bread, pasta, and potatoes". Ok, the potatoes I can handle, but bread and pasta! Are you crazy? I am Italian! And my whole life up until a few years ago, I thought that these foods were "evil" and were what was making me fat. However, I learned that if you eat the right kinds of pasta and bread, and pair it with the right things, you can enjoy both and still lose weight.

I came across a book called "Fat Belly Diet" by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass, MPH RD. First, I want to say that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, this is based on research I did in books and on the internet. Everyone's body is different, so of course you may want to consult with your doctor before trying any new kind of diet. I just know what works for me. So with that said I introduce you to Monounsaturated Fatty Acids! Sounds yummy right? Well when we break them down as the following:

1. Oils

2. Olives

3. Nuts and Seeds

4. Avocados

5. Dark Chocolate

In the book, they are referred to as MUFAs. These delicious plant-based foods are powerful foods that are very healthful. At one time, all fats were put in the same category and we were told they were all bad. Research has shown this is not true. I can see it in my very own family. As a matter of fact, it is seen all over Europe, especially in the Mediterranean, that these foods do wonders for your health. I don't want to draw this out and make this post too can google the why and how of how good MUFAs are for you. If you want, feel free to ask me questions, and I can post excerpts from the book. My goal is to help you find a way to enjoy these foods and find a way to get them in your diet every day.

As far as oils go, I love of course olive oil...but I also like to use safflower, sunflower, and canola oils too. I actually got really into coconut oil, which can be used in baking in place of butter, and is so good for you. Pair olive oil with some Italian bread, drizzled on a salad, or along with garlic on your favorite macaroni; and you have a delicious meal that is heart healthy! The main key to picking the right macaroni, is to look at the ingredients and make sure it says "durum wheat" or "semolina". That is REAL Italian macaroni, and that is the good stuff that is good for you. As for the other oils, you can use in recipes that call for vegetable oil, in salad dressing, for sauteing, or in a stir fry.

I think that getting olives in your diet is pretty self-explanatory LOL. You can put them on salads, eat them plain, on pizza, or on a sandwich. There are all kinds of olives; stuffed and not stuffed.

As for nuts and seeds, I personally love to eat roasted almonds and pistachios. But again, this seems to be pretty self-explanatory. One nut that I found that is very good for you are cashews. I have been really enjoying cashew milk. I know it sounds funny, but give it a try! It is a creamy, delicious way to get cashews in your diet. Use it in coffee, cereal, or anything you would use milk for. It is also good for people that are lactose intolerant. Here is a recipe:

Cashew Milk
  • 1 cup cashews 4 cups of water (divided)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional) 
1. Soak the cashews in water at least 4 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the cashews and rinse until the water runs clear. Add the cashews and two cups water to a blender. Start on a low setting and increase the speed until the cashews are totally pulverized. This could take 2 minutes in a high-powered blender or longer in a regular blender.

2.Blend in 2 cups more water*, your sweetener of choice, vanilla extract, sea salt and cinnamon (optional). If your blender can’t totally break down the cashews, strain the milk through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. Store the milk in a covered container in the refrigerator. It should keep for 3 to 4 days.

*I like it thicker so I only add 1 cup more water

Now on to avocados. There are a lot of people that turn their nose up to avocados. You might be making a twisted face right now! These are so delicious on salad or on a taco, but if you aren't crazy about them...I know it's a consistency thing LOL...throw them in a smoothie! You won't even though they're there. Try this:

Avocado smoothie:
  • 1/2 of a large avocado
  • 1 1/2 cups cold milk of choice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch pure stevia or 2 tbsp pure maple syrup or sugar of choice
  • 1/8 tsp salt (optional)
  • 4 ice cubes
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth, then serve. Makes about 2 cups (1-2 servings).

So I saved the best for last...chocolate! I am talking dark chocolate. There are those that turn their noses up to dark chocolate too...but try different brands to find your favorite. I love Godiva's almond bark...dark chocolate and nuts! I will have a recipe coming up in another post that will give you an idea for dark chocolate.

Well, that is it for MUFAs for now. Please come back for more!