Mindful & MindLess

Middle Space

yoga exercise abstract

Think about it. It’s that stage in meditation when you’re in that place…in between sleep & wakefulness.  Meditation is kind of tricky if you’re not used to it.  It sounds easy enough but it takes practice…and more practice to be able to clue out all the surrounding clatter (there’s always distractions) and be completely still without actually falling asleep while remaining conscious.  At least that’s my unprofessional opinion – a*Yin & Yang effect. 

We can learn from our feline friends. I think everything you need to know about meditation can be taught by observing cats.  They are masters at relaxing and stillness while remaining alert.

Jia Jia likes to escape & meditate in his little hideaway spot.
Jia Jia likes to escape & meditate in this little hideaway beside the courtyard.

I’ve been contemplating meditation for several years but only recently experienced it.

I have a long way to go but I’m positive that over time I’ll be able to achieve this.  The very first time I was asked by the coach (yes, there’s a coach for starters) how I felt afterwards.  My answer: “it reminded me of napping in kindergarten except for hearing the rattling of dishes, people talking in another room and general outside disturbances.  Is there any way you can let them know that we’re in a practice so they can keep quiet for the duration?”

That’s when the coach replied that the whole purpose of meditation is to be able to quiet your mind even through the little (& larger) everyday outside distractions.  The next time I was much better at it and I’ll keep getting better.  Then I saw this:

Meditation & the big “O” – The Secrets of Orgasmic Meditation

We might just be the last people to this particular pajama party, but I recently found out that there’s an entire meditation practice that revolves around orgasms. Nicole Daedone—the creator of Orgasmic Meditation (OM) and the founder of its rapidly growing organization, OneTaste—explains it in broad terms: OM is to sex, as yoga is to fitness.  The goal of the practice? Experiencing more connection, happiness, vitality, and fulfillment—all possible, according to Daedone, when you have the power of Orgasm with a capital “O.” As Daedone explains below, she distinguishes the Orgasmic state (a larger state of consciousness) from the conventional definition of orgasm as climax (fleeting physical pleasure).

Daedone has studied Zen Buddhism, mystical Judaism, and semantics, and the practice of OM combines distinctive elements of her diverse background and expertise in surprising but thoughtful ways. Her company, OneTaste, has a presence in 30 cities around the globe, with tens of thousands of participants. Daedone is also the author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. Check out her SXSW talk that explains how Orgasm and the internet share a common purpose. (Yes, you read that correctly.)  Here she answers some questions:

Q:   What is the practice of Orgasmic Meditation all about?

A:  It is a practice that combines the power and attention of meditation with the deeply human, deeply felt, and connected experience of orgasm.

When I first tried OM, I had a life-changing experience. It was so profound, so, “Oh! This is what is supposed to be!” that I began to investigate the question: what would happen if we rebuilt sex from the ground up, but this time included consciousness and spirituality. The same way that we have been moving from processed to whole foods, from mere fitness to yoga, OM shifted sex out of the dark, under the covers, from the shameful and often consumptive places where it used to be, and into the light. Here we can have experiences that foster our well-being. We take the most powerful impulse, the orgasm impulse, and approach it in an entirely new way. OM offers a practice through which we can harness this impulse that is a deliberate, repeatable method for accessing the orgasm state.

And there’s an important distinction that’s worth making here. I differentiate between climax and the orgasm state. Climax is a few seconds of physical experience, whereas the state of orgasm is continuous—more akin to an optimal state of consciousness brought about from the activation of the sex impulse. It’s that feeling of being so completely absorbed in an experience that there is no psychic chatter, no being “stuck in your head”; a falling away of the ego. When this happens, our sense of limitations falls away as well. In the orgasm state, we feel totally present and connected, as if a deeper intuitive sense has awakened. The state occurs both in the practice of OM itself, and it has cumulative positive effects that carry over into everyday life.

Q:  Why do you believe so many women are conflicted about orgasm? And why do you think it’s so difficult for so many women to achieve orgasm?

A: I’ve worked with tens of thousands of women and I’ve not once seen a woman who couldn’t access the orgasm state. I’ve met women who can’t climax in the way a man does, but I’ve never seen a woman who isn’t capable of entering the state I’m talking about. And women are conflicted because the options available to them are not the options that suit their bodies! They’re based almost entirely on a confining definition of climax. For instance, reading arousal in a woman’s body is often more challenging than in a man’s. We’re conditioned to think “orgasm” can only be present when there’s a huge peak and release of energy (with all the attendant thrashing and moaning). But a women’s arousal can be so much more subtle. You can tune into it through swelling, juices, contractions of the vaginal walls, pulsing, buzzing, tingling, and so many other sensations. Many women may have these experiences, but discount them because they don’t conform to the conventional definition we have of orgasm.

Not only that, but women also contend with a much higher vigilance center—you know that part of the mind that’s always on the lookout for threat or danger. To get our minds to relax, root into our bodies and simply feel, is a much more challenging task for women than for men. We’re thinking about picking up the kids, the meeting at work tomorrow, how our bodies look, and on and on. So to have a practice that allows a woman to soften and shift her attention to how she actually feels is invaluable. It’s like she gets to have a sober blackout, to totally relax, and come back refreshed and with a whole new perspective.

Q:  How can we incorporate some of the tenets of OM into our sex lives?

A:  There are 10 key tenets of OM that we can take into all areas of life. For instance, at One Taste, we say, “let your desire lead.” As women, we are often taught that our desire is indulgent or selfish, but true desire is at the foundation of all great things—from relationships to innovation. It’s the only force powerful enough to pull us out of the everyday routine of life, or the muck and mire we sometimes get stuck in. I’ve always noticed that beneath every complaint is actually a desire, so we train women to go straight for speaking the desire. And you know what? Women are positively shocked to discover that their partners are dying to hear specific instruction. I had one couple come into an OM class who had given up after 17 years of a fairly challenging sex life. We did a simple exercise, “Just instruct him on what you desire, the pressure, the speed, the intensity.” At one point in the session, the husband began to cry. He said all along he had just wanted to know how to have her feel good. Desire, it turns out, is vital for human connection; and we often discover that what seems selfish is, in fact, anything but.

Another tenet is “feel over formula.” Bookshelves are overflowing with books on sex techniques, magazines are chock full of “How to Please Him in Bed” articles, and yet no one seems to be finding what they are looking for. The reason is that what they are looking for is not in the technique. What makes yoga invaluable is not just a series of postures, but the added dimension of awareness one develops. That “something extra” is what we are looking for in intimacy as well. So what we teach are processes that train people how to viscerally sense each other. An example is touching for your pleasure—showing people how to touch for the pleasure in their own hands, not entirely unlike the way that they would stroke velvet or their pets. Not to get an effect, but to be present in the pleasure in your own body and with each other. The small miracle is that when we are actually there with each other fully and leave behind the toys and the feather boas or the complicated lingerie, we discover that the simple connection is what we’ve actually been craving all along. And we can begin to extend this into our whole lives. We learn to take pleasure from the experience. Not living from a formula, but from how good something feels.

Q:  Your first book is called Slow Sex. What is slow sex, and why do you believe it’s better?

A:  I was super turned on to the Slow Movement when I wrote Slow Sex. The Slow philosophy is not merely about doing everything slowly, it’s about doing everything at the right speed, in their tempo giusto, or exact time. It’s about savoring experience rather than rushing through it. And, most importantly, it’s about taking the time to nourish. I often talk about the Western Woman’s Mantra: “I eat too much, I work too much, I give too much, and yet there is still this hunger that I cannot feed.” It just so happens that this hunger is only fed in the slowness of human connection—coming back to basics, reprioritizing our well-being over our “doing.”

As far as being better, I have an interesting vantage point in the world. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I teach about orgasm.” Immediately following the “wow” (it usually looks like their circuits are a bit blown), they will often respond with some variation of: “ah, thanks, but my sex life is just fine,” or, “my sex life is good.” And after 20 years of practice, and after having been one of those people myself at one point, I want to say this: fine and good is not good enough. Inside your own body, you carry the most powerful drive on the planet that can be used not just to feel good but to evolve you as a human being, to incline you towards empathy, connection, and generosity both as evidenced scientifically and experientially. My wish is that our old-guard view of sex as recreational or indulgent gets replaced with the perspective that it can be used for personal and collective evolution in the most real and practical way imaginable. To use a Buddhist expression, we can turn poison into medicine. We can shift from sex as consumptive, porn-riddled, and denigrating, to a practice that heals, connects, and empowers.

Q:  Is there really such a thing as a 15-minute orgasm?

A:  Well, I hesitated to say four hours, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me…

I remember the first time I tried OM. My partner was stroking and nothing happened. As per usual. I was thinking this whole thing was either a very strange or very stupid idea. Or both. I had a typical range of scattered thoughts: I must be doing this wrong. I shouldn’t have eaten, my stomach is poochy. He’s kinda creepy. I wonder if we’ll get married…

Then something else broke open and I was immersed into a totally different psychological dimension. Suddenly, I started crying. I felt like something that had built up inside me—something I didn’t even know was there before—was suddenly thawing. I felt a hit of genuine empathy in that moment. Keep in mind that I had experienced universal connection in sitting meditation, but now I was experiencing it while connected to another human being. And once you have that experience everything begins to rearrange itself. Everything that blocked connection fell away and what had previously been a spotty glimpse of what was possible, was now simply on.

It was my first visceral experience of the orgasm state. And the more I practiced Orgasmic Meditation, the more my capacity to know and understand intuitively what was happening with people, to feel them, and to actually have room for them, increased. Dramatically. I was cultivating the capacity to maintain stillness of mind in more and more intense situations, which in turn allowed for presence of mind in all situations. It was not additive growth, though; it was exponential. It became something I could feel everywhere.

Q:  If you could change one thing about our common perception of orgasm and sex, what would it be?

A:  To date, we have been squandering one of our most powerful resources: the sex impulse. We have been using it, haphazardly, recreationally, to blow off steam when, if channeled correctly, it could be used to light up the entire power grid of connection. Orgasm—capital “O”—is so, so much more than the brief, fleeting climax we have been taught to think of it as. When we harness our sexual energy, we change the whole of our lives and become more empathetic, connected, loving human beings.

I want people to truly understand that how you get where you are going profoundly affects what you get when you arrive. We have not been taught simple ways to access what we are looking for that contribute to our overall well-being, restore pleasure, and in the process make us better human beings. Orgasm has a big promise: union. Tibetan Buddhists use it as a metaphor for enlightenment, and yet we have not seen it deliver. Until now.

Q: You’ve said that orgasm has the ability to increase our bandwidth for connection and attention. How does this extend outside of the bedroom, and is there science behind it?

A:  OM changes the way we respond to sensation; it changes our brain. It strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”). And it affects our metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and brain chemistry, and brings about a state of extended deep relaxation. Similar to other mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, these changes make it possible to develop attention and access flow states—the ability to be “in the zone.” (Recent research in Los Angeles and Philadelphia found that just three months of OM can help put you into the same alpha brain state as three years of transcendental meditative practice!)

OM also shifts our center of intelligence from the cortex system to the limbic system—which allows us to feel things like intimacy and empathy, and which has a flexible capacity—expanding our appetite for connection.

Maybe most significantly, OM bolsters the “happy hormones”—like oxytocin, dopamine, and prolactin—that are known to make us feel good (minus the less sweet side effects of medication). Oxytocin, in particular, plays an important role when it comes to how we bond with others. Symptoms of low levels of oxytocin include everything from poor social involvement to low libido, sleep disturbances, weight gain, and depression—and low oxytocin seems to be playing a big part in the breakdown of human connection. Friends who are scientists have suggested to me that female orgasm may actually exist solely for the purpose of human connection. There are two scenarios in which a woman’s body really pumps out oxytocin (which is often called the bonding hormone): childbirth and orgasm. In terms of biological evolution, it may just be that we need oxytocin in order to keep us bonded to one another, to keep our culture together.

Q:  We heard you were once going to be a nun…

A: It often surprises people that on my way to becoming a Buddhist, I discovered this practice. In actuality, both are about developing consciousness and connection. Now they just call me “the nun that gets some.”

Ommmm….this sounds more like my kind of meditation!   

Source: GooP

*Yin Yang  

the short version:

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other                                                                                            

from the Tao Te Ching

UPS – (you will see this from time to time on my posts).  It means I will be delivering an upcoming post soon on a specific topic.  I want to delve deeper into Yin & Yang because it’s an interesting ancient philosophy about contrary forces which may actually be complementary. Yin Yang is perhaps the most known and documented concept used within Taoism).  Stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

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Healthier Lifestyle Inspiration

FACT: YOU CAN’T LAUGH & WORRY AT THE SAME TIME!
inspire2

SO LAUGH MORE! Or at least try to.  Watch a comedy, joke around and find humour in even the worst possible situations.   I did that with a friend last week who was going through something horrible.  It was so bad that I could have made it worse by laughing but instead we ended up laughing over how pathetic the situation was. The end result was she was still in pain…but from laughter.

Right now I’m like: “throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack.”  That’s a great quote but really….it’s true!  Don’t even stand in my way.  But first I’ll laugh about it all.

Because as hard as we try to make things right and turn things around for the better there’s usually a few setbacks and challenges.  I know this from living in general but especially since I’ve become a support person for someone very close to me.  Someone who is fighting to overcome an illness.  And it’s really difficult to see someone who is strong both physically and mentally go through a very weak phase.  Even though it strikes in a physical sense it still wrecks havoc with your mental state especially if you cannot do the things you’re used to doing.  Gotta stay positive because hope is what keeps everything going. But it can get discouraging and depressing nonetheless – that’s life.

A friend told me about a place called Inspire Health in Vancouver.  They are a team of professionals who help provide knowledge, tools and services to support overall health during and after cancer treatment.  Their doctors value standard cancer treatments, and will work with you, your family doctor and oncologist to provide the best cancer care possible.

They offer options for better health and a better recovery.  What’s to lose right?

Because as their website says: Growing scientific evidence confirms that stress reduction, eating a healthy diet, exercise and a positive support network can substantially improve health and well-being for people living with cancer and their supports.

INSPIRE HEALTH CARE APPROACH IS DIFFERENT – Cancer vs. Person-Based

Cancer-Based: from the perspective of the cancer-based model, the patient rarely plays an active role in their treatment or recovery. Since the focus is on the cancer, little effort is expended to support patients in exploring the benefits of healthful diet, exercise, spirituality and emotional support or other methods to enhance the patient’s well-being. Focusing solely on the cancer can leave patients feeling disempowered and unsure about how to contribute to their own health and well-being.

Person-Based: Although surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can play a very important role in treating the cancer, it is the person and their health – mind, body and spirit – that is the focus of care at Inspire Health.

They have a lot of things to take advantage of that you can pick and choose from like:  Counselling,  Gentle Yoga, Practice Meditation, Tai Chi, Acupuncture, Nutritional Learning and Cooking for Health.

And for me, being so on top of things nutritionally (and otherwise) spent part of the afternoon yesterday taking a cooking class on how to make SuperSnacks.  The head nutritionist demonstrated six different recipes substituting what you would normally use for something healthier but equally tasty.  Now the fun part: you get to test everything.

I have to mention at this point that I had already made half the recipes before (I know but I had to say that anyway) but this was NO cooking class for dummies.  It was interesting, inspiring and I did learn something new.  You always do.  I registered for a bunch more.  I want to hear all they have to say about food and learn more about healthier baking, fermented foods,  their version of bone broth and mindful eating in general.  Knowledge is power.

And THAT is no laughing matter!

YOU define what is important to you by what YOU dedicate your time to.inspire1

*An Important Sidenote: Today Jia Jia (my BFF) & I are off to Paws for a Cause – by BC SPCA to help fund cruelty prevention and education programs, and the enforcement of animal cruelty laws. Cruelty to animals needs to STOP now!

Thoughts?

Health MATTERS – How to Maximize your Diet for your Age

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health1 Getting older may not always be fun but it’s a part of life and you should make the most of whatever age you happen to be right now. Mistakes made in your 20’s can affect you later on but with a healthy lifestyle of exercise and eating correctly you can turn it around to become the BEST YOU possible – isn’t that what we all strive for?

Our nutritional needs change throughout the years; and depending at what stage of life we’re at, we may want to avoid certain food-related missteps and find out what foods we should be eating more of.

These tips come from dietitians (who specialize primarily in women’s health) on how to make the most of your diet for your specific age group. Of course you can take some of it with a grain of salt – but make it a tiny grain because no matter what age you’re at – too much salt intake  is never a good idea.

 In your 20s and 30s:  work, partying a little (or a lot), thinking of having kids, or chasing after young children – all while trying to fit in a social life.  Your energy needs are high, so protein should be a vital component to your diet.  Make choices now to lay the foundation for your future health.  Get lots of whole grain breads, quinoa and rice; they have been shown to slash the risk of heart disease later.  It’s vital that you reach the highest bone density possible during this stage – which means consuming dairy, and other calcium sources.  IDEAL FOODS: bananas for magnesiaum (also helps with PMS and to counter sugar cravings).  Oranges for vitamin C and to help build collagen in the bones, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels, and helps with the absorption of iron.  Spinach for folate, but if you don’t like spinach then any other leafy green vegetable.  Fatty fish, Plain Yogurt (helps your body absorb Vitamin D), Protein and Whole Grains which provide stamina and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. MISTAKES TO AVOID: consuming too much caffeine, pop and alcohol (all of these diminish calcium).  Not eating regularly throughout the day and cutting out necessary food groups (for example, not eating carbs in an effort to lose weight, or cutting out dairy).

my brain says right but my heart says left
my brain says right but my heart says left

In your 40’s: this is prime time for preventing health issues in later life.  You’re probably busier than ever, but you may not be as physically active as you once were.  Good-for-you fats found in high-quality mono and polyunsaturated oils (like olive and canola) are great choices.  Try to eat more fish, and boost your grain and fibre intake.  IDEAL FOODS: lemons for detoxifying, purifying effect on your skin and organs.  You can toss slices into a glass of water or hot tea.  Fish with the omega-3 fatty acids for helping your skin stay hydrated and they have an anit-inflammatory effect. Eggs which are high in protein and zinc which help the body absorb Vitamin A.  Almonds are a “good” fat as they contain vitamin E and calcium.  Apples as a source of fibre and protein.  MISTAKES TO AVOID: eating too much (change portion sizes), not eating enough protein, eating too many takeout or convenience foods (high in fat & salt) and eating low-fat foods that are high in sugar (read the label and check the amount of sugar).  You do need some fat in your diet (it keeps you looking younger) but the right kind.

In your 50’s: Iron becomes less of an issue once you stop having periods so it’s okay to eat protein sources other than red meat.  However, you still need plenty of calcium to protect your bones, so load up on dairy and other souces of calcium.  The onset of menopause brings a host of changes that can be mildly annoying (body shape, hot flashes, sleeplessness) to debilitating. Now is a good time to boost your intake of antioxidants in order to prevent common chronic conditions that can occur later (cardiovascular disease and the big “C”).  Eating plenty of fibre and water are essential for healthy bowels.  IDEAL FOODS: Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens (helps to balance hormones) and tofu is a protein that has been shown to have a positive effect on bone density.  Lentils (plant-based proteins) can help to regulate hormones.  Fresh vegetables are high in natural fibre and will help prevent fat from being deposited around your stomach. Watermelon and other fruit with a high water content (like apples, grapes) keep up the natural hydration levels in your body.  MISTAKES TO AVOID: eating too much as your metabolism slows down, eating mindlessly, drinking too much coffee or alcohol (they worsen sleep and any sleeplessness, anxiety or depression you may be experiencing.  Too much spicy food can exacberate hot flashes.

In your 60’s and beyond: Unfortunate as it sounds, the older you are, the more likely you are to develop a chronic ailment like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, etc.  Low-salt, nutrient-rich foods are essential for your continued good health.  Try to get more omega-3 and 6 such as nuts and seafood as these have been shown to combat memory loss, depression, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  I know this all sounds pretty depressing but it’s in the numbers – you can help prevent a lot of the ailments or at least help postpone them.   Eat  yogurt regularly and maintain a high-fibre diet.  IDEAL FOODS:  blueberries are packed with antioxidants and great for circulation and for healthy brain function. Fatty fish, Macadamia nuts for preventing high cholesterol, Spinach is one of the highest sources of lutein (an antioxidant that can help stave off macular degeneration, a leading cause of visual impairment.  MISTAKES TO AVOID: eating too much salt, not drinking enough water, not eating regularly enough (5 small meals throughout the day is better than 3 big meals), eating too much saturated and trans fat which make circulation sluggish and affect brain function.  Nobody wants that at any age!

This is my idea of an ideal healthy meal - all in good taste
This is my idea of an ideal healthy meal – all in good taste.

 And remember, exercise is important for all ages.

Also, while I’m at it:

*Don’t miss listening to “Transforming Healthwith host Brad King for the most evocative and informative up-to-the-minute interviews with leading health professionals – Live every Wednesday @ 12PM-PST/3PM-EST on VoiceAmerica.com – #1 internet radio station in North America.  Here’s the link: http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1686/transforming-health

B Well – on Whitening

Is whitening toothpaste simply a waste of money?

white teethWhen it comes to that million dollar movie star smile, everyone knows only one color will do: bright white.Yes, for those committed to looking perfect, a set of shiny white teeth is a must-have accessory. As such, a range of treatments and products are available to get those pearly yellows white.

In-office whitening treatments are the most effective, but also the most expensive, and even store bought whitening treatments can cost more than $100, so many of us opt for a more low-cost option: whitening toothpaste.

The question is, do they work? A new investigation conducted by British newspaper The Daily Mail has found that none of the six whitening toothpastes they tested had any affect on tooth color.

First, the paper had the tooth color of six women in their 30s and 40s professionally assessed by a dentist. Then they had the women brush with a whitening toothpaste for a month.

The toothpastes tested were Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening Toothpaste, SwissDent Xtreme Whitening Toothpaste, Oral B 3D White Enamel Protect, Beverly Hills Natural Whitening Expert, BlanX Intense Stain Removal, and Rembrandt Complete Whitening Mint.

Any whitening effect that these types of pastes have is likely due to abrasive additives rather than the bleach they contain, reports the Los Angeles Times. For example, Crest 3D White Vivid contains tiny hydrated silica particles, which scrub the tooth surface clean. Though some pastes also contain bleach, experts say it has no effect, because it is rinsed away before it has a chance to act.

The results of the Daily Mail‘s month long test? There was no perceptible change in tooth color in any of the test subjects, regardless of which paste they used.

So, why can toothpastes claim they are whitening?

“Any toothpaste can claim to whiten teeth,” says Advertising Standards Canada spokesperson Nicole Bellam. “They’re allowed to claim that, even if it’s just by mechanical action.”

She explains that according to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Cosmetic Advertising and Labelling Claims, even if a toothpaste contains no bleach, an active whitening agent,  or an abrasive that helps scrub the tooth clean, it can still claim it is a whitening toothpaste.

“Even regular flouride toothpaste can make that claim,” says Bellam.  There are, however, rules around exactly how these claims are made. For example, a toothpaste can claim that it “whitens” or “brightens” teeth, but it cannot claim that it “bleaches” teeth.

The lesson here? Use a whitening toothpaste if you must, as it may be giving your teeth an extra scrub. Just don’t expect miracles.      

                                                               Article By Lia Grainger | Shine On

 

Simple and Satisfying – Surprising Substitutes

Healthy Baking: Surprising Butter Substitutesbutter

By FitSugar | Healthy Living

baking2Baking calms the mind and feeds the soul, but all that buttery goodness can pack on the pounds. If looking to make healthier baked goods, omitting some or all of the butter from your favorite recipes greatly reduce the amount of calories, fat, and cholesterol in your sweet treats. There are countless ways to replace eggs in recipes, and here are healthier alternatives to using butter. These substitutes are great for vegan bakers too.red velvet cake1

  • Applesauce: Often used to replace oil in recipes, applesauce can also be used as butter alternative, and works best in cake-like recipes. Replace half the amount of butter in your recipe with applesauce; if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and half a cup of applesauce. If you don’t mind a denser, more moist bread, replace all the butter with applesauce to cut even more calories and fat.
  • Avocado: Substitute half the amount of butter in a baking recipe with mashed avocado (it works well with cookies); use the same method as you would when using applesauce. Using avocado not only lowers the calorie content but also creates a softer, chewier baked good, and is perfect if you want to omit the dairy.

Earth Balance: Replace all of the butter with Earth Balance to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol. Using Smart Balance rather than Earth Balance will also save some calories, but note that Original Smart Balance contains whey, so it’s not vegan.

  • Canola oil: In certain recipes, replacing butter with oil works well, especially if the recipe calls for melted butter. Fiddle with your favorite recipes to figure out when canola works instead of butter; when baking chocolate chip cookies, I’ve had success substituting half a cup of canola oil for half a cup of unsalted butter. Although slightly higher in calories, canola is much lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Greek yogurt: Replace half the amount of butter in your cookie recipes with half the amount of full-fat plain Greek yogurt. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and one quarter cup of yogurt. You’ll reduce the calories and the saturated fat. Play around with using more yogurt and less butter to see if you still like the taste and consistency. Here are more ways to use Greek yogurt in baking recipes.
  • Prune purée: Often used to help little ones stay regular, prune purée also makes a low-calorie and low-fat alternative to butter. Whatever amount of butter the recipe calls for, replace it completely with store-bought baby food prune puree (unless you have time to make your own; just purée prunes in the food processor). This option works well in recipes that involve chocolate and cinnamon.

Follow my “Gusto” board on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/intrigueimports/