Larabars are a great snack for you if you want a nutrient-dense treat without all the chemicals and preservatives. Unfortunately, they can hurt your pocketbook if they are a habit. Suffice it to say that they can be habitual. My youngest loves them and they are good for him, so I find it hard to deny him of one of the few "treats" he can have. He needs the protein and Omega vitamins to balance the chemicals in his brain and he craves the sweet taste of the antioxidant rich fruits. These bars are quite easy to make, particularly if you create the raw version I have outlined below.
Energy Bar (lara bar clone)
1/4 cup raisins(or dried apricots)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup cashews, walnuts or almonds or combination of them
1 T raw, organic coconut oil
1/2 to 1 T raw honey
1 T flax seed
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. I do this in my mini food processor, which is much easier to clean afterwards. Combine until nuts are finely chopped and ingredients are binding together(they will clump together in the food processor). Spoon out onto a sheet of waxed paper. Press flat into a small rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. I pop mine into the freezer to slightly harden and then slice it into three equally-sized bars. One bar makes a great snack and is packed full of nutrition. You can vary the recipe in a variety of ways by adding different dried fruits, including coconut or changing the nuts to peanuts, adding goji berries or different seeds and you can also roll the mixture into one-inch balls and roll in carob powder for a dessert-like version. Try this recipe to get an idea of the consistency and then mess around with the combinations and see what you like best.
I recently read a post on one of my favorite sites to visit, Food Renegade. She is challenging her readers to break the coffee habit and her logic is difficult to challenge. She describes her experience with the morning java habit and she's describing what is happening to me. I don't eat much. I am careful about what I eat and I rarely over do on the no-no's of too much fat or sugar or dairy. But I have noticed recently that I eat breakfast later and later, crash in the afternoon(though I fight through it) and also feel like my metabolism is slowing. My waistline can attest to this phenomenon. She argues that caffeine is the culprit for this problem. The main source of this morning caffeine jolt? Coffee.
Coffee can be justified by any coffee-lover(just ask me how). There are numerous studies touting the benefits of coffee; a quick web search will illustrate that. The Mayo Clinic site says some benefits include its protection for people with Type 2 Diabetes, ands its help in prevention of disease including Parkinson's and even liver cancer. Coffee is also high in antioxidants. That is one statement that I have jokingly heard from people, including myself, justifying that third cup-o'-java in their day. But I don't take issue with the benefits, particularly when its being drunk in moderation. While there are plenty of bad things that coffee can do for you, the root problem is the caffeine. None of us want to admit it, but caffeine is a drug and it is addicting. Two cups of coffee during the day is considered a safe amount of caffeine for the day. And we are talking about a cup, not the mugs and jugs that are available to drink out of. Two 8oz cups clock in at just under 300mg of caffeine, but anything over that in a day is considered heavy consumption. At that point it can cause a myriad of symptoms including heartburn, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat, irritability, anxiety and headaches. For women, an additional problem is that caffeine causes your body to excrete calcium. Its hard enough getting enough calcium IN without excreting it. Caffeine causes your adrenal glands to work overtime as well and they already have plenty to keep them busy if you eat the standard american diet. Regular coffee feeds an unnecessary addiction to a chemical that just isn't good for our bodies. Most of the aforementioned antioxidant lovers wouldn't be happy with decaf, I am fairly certain of that. Thats because of what the caffeine does for them that they partake in the warm and comforting liquid beverage that is coffee. I have eliminated caffeine from my diet before. It is no fun, especially the first few days. You will find it takes 36 to 48 hours before your body adjusts and you actually start to feel better for having quit. So while getting off the caffeine is no easy task, the end result would be a good thing.
Another reason to get off the coffee-wagon is the condiments. First off, raise your hand if you think a Mocha Latte is coffee....WRONG. A mocha latte at Starbucks is a 360 calorie morning donut! But maybe you are a "coffee purist" like my mom. She can drink it with only lowfat powdered milk, which isn't too bad, but if you add milk or cream or even the dreaded sin: non-dairy creamer, you are most likely adding fat or even trans-fats to your coffee. Then there is the sugar/sweetener twist, adding calories or chemicals to the mix. Black coffee is the best way to go. If you drink a moderate amount, it will not hurt your stomach(or cause heartburn) and will give you the benefits that coffee offers without the harm. There are people that can drink coffee black, eliminating these two no-no's, so if that's you, refer back to point number one and drink decaf after cup number two :)
The other negative aspect of coffee for us right now is cost. If you like good coffee and you are wanting shade-grown, free trade, organic coffee, you're gonna pay for it. Not a lot of coupons out there for good coffee, so I usually end up purchasing the cheaper brands. I don't like doing it because I believe that farmers should get paid fairly for their work and I think that destroying forests for more fields of sun-enriched coffee are unnecessary when you can grow it in the shade. However, I personally can't swing $30 a month for coffee beans if I can't even swing the electric bill! So in drinking cheap brands of coffee, I am half-way to quitting anyway because its really not about drinking it for the taste anymore. Its the number one addiction in America that's calling me to the coffee pot most mornings.
The call of the Food Renegade is to try quitting coffee for 30 days. Its not a New years life-time commitment. Its a trial. A test to see if you can kick the habit. Most habits can be released from your repetoir with a mere 21 days of abstinance, so the extra 10 are a bonus. I am willing to try it. I can drink herbal teas to warm my bones, or maybe apple cider or even hot lemon water with honey. I am willing to see if I can do it, merely for the challenge, but mostly for my health. Will you join me?
One way I extend the budget is by taking online surveys. Survey Savvy is taking applications for new survey takers. You earn cash for taking them and its very easy to do. You work when you want and ignore them when you don't. They come by email and they pay when you qualify. Typically you are prescreened with some questions to see if you are what they are looking for. if you are, you go to the paying portion of the survey. If you aren't, you only wasted 2 or 3 minutes and you are entered in a drawing for gift cards or other rewards. Check it out here