Thursday, January 21, 2010

A heave-ho to dried cranberries

It's official. I'm hitting the ejector button on dried cranberries. I love them. I want them. I desire their presence in salads, breads, my kitchen cabinets and my mouth. But they have not been responsible purveyors of joy for me. They've betrayed me by setting my overeat-o-meter into HIGH GEAR. And so they are dead to me. We had a parting of the ways a few months back, but recently they cajoled me into a reconciliation, promising moderation as the key to enjoyment of their tasty selves. They lied. Remember the add for this? Well, cranberries do too. They cannot be trusted, at least in my periphery.
They are a food product that time and time again I find I cannot handle. Why do I keep trying? Reminds me of the oft-used definition of insanity:

This brings up a topic about which I've been thinking a lot. Over many years of countles hundreds of diets and weight loss efforts, I've encountered a lot of philosophies of eating, and stopping bingeing. I've jumped on many bandwagons of theory, like the fact that you can anything you want, as long as it's in moderation. Turns out that's a crock for a food addict such as myself, though I know many who can do this. Another is the idea that for food addicted folks, certain foods must be totally eliminated from one's diet if she/he is to have any success with weight loss and reasonable eating. Omitting all white sugar, white flour, wheat are some examples. I've tried so many variations on these themes and the truth is they all work IF you work them consistently. Big IF. Bold IF.

My most recent cranberry debacle happened yesterday afternoon when I had an ounce of cranberries with a quarter cup of walnuts for a "healthy" snack. Tasted great, but was no more satisfying than if I'd had an ice chip with lemon juice squeezed over it to jazz it up. All this snack did was make me want more - of anything. Suddenly my empty-ish stomach did not feel good and righteous, it felt deprived and needy. The flip got switched and I was in food search mode like a heat-seeking missile. Luckily there wasn't too much in the house to have, so it wasn't a bad binge or anything. But I spent the rest of the evening in that confounded WANTING state that had nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with food obsession.

This started me thinking about back when I first went to Weight Watchers. I honestly don't know if I was in high school or if it was later, because once I got out of nursing school in '75, I was too thin (from disordered eating in the other direction) for a long time. Anyway - in those days, Weight Watchers had a concept of a traffic light to categorize foods as green light, yellow light and red light.
The idea was that each person needed to know what foods fell into what categories for him/her so that he/she could increase his/her chances of success. I always thought this was a brilliant concept, and looking back believe WW was ahead of its time in suggesting that individuals inventory themselves and their habits honestly to know how best to stay on program... an early version of personal responsibility. In other words, if you didn't lose weight, it might not have been WW's fault. Si?

Example: Peanut butter is fine in a measured amount for some people; for others like me, it must me handled with caution because a measured amount could frequently set me up to want 5 more measured amounts. So on my list this was a yellow light food - came with a warning but not forbidden. Red light foods were those off plan entirely by WW, but for some the peanut butter might also be on that list. Of course, celery and broccoli are always green light foods in most any amount. (Yeah, I know some people can binge on broccoli, but come on - how damaging would that really be?)

So - dried cranberries - RED LIGHT. Sad that a relatively benign and totally yummy and not unhealthy product falls into the NO GO ZONE, but my reality is that it does. Accept it, deal with it, move on.

What about you guys? What are your red or yellow foods? Or do you even buy the notion that some things must be avoided...or else?


  1. Cheez-Its. I have absolutely no self control with them and can easily eat an entire box without stopping to breathe. Sorry about your cranberries but even making a lifestyle change requires some self-control, doesn't it? Ah well.

  2. I have to ask you; WHERE were you hungry after the cranberries? Head hungry, or stomach growling hungry? Because if it's head hungry, you have to just work on your mind over (mental) matter. Stomach growling is another thing. But you know what? Stomach growling, "gut" hunger, won't kill us. It's a nice sign, in fact. We just have so conditioned ourselves that we have to respond to stomach growling with food, that it's become inbred. But we don't. We can listen to the gut growl, and smile to ourselves that it's a good sign that we are losing weight. We become mental/emotional victims of food. Food is just fuel. Sometimes the fuel tastes better than other times, but whenever we allow it to mean more to us than fuel, we are in trouble. Don't give in to your addiction; in other words, don't just say "well, I'm a food addict so I can't have this or that or eat this or that way"...that's succumbing. FIGHT it, intelligently. Face your demons, inside and out, and learn new coping skills for boredom, stress, and other emotional hunger pangs. :)

  3. Hi, just found your blog and I love this post! The traffic light is a very good concept. Cranberries (and raisins)are proving challenging foods right now for me too. Peanut butter is def a yellow, yellow,yellow light food for me (and perhaps I should move it into the red category). Candy/chocolate is RED light for sure. I am a sweets fanatic and once I get out.
    So yes, I do believe some foods are no go, for me anyway. If you know it's going to flip a switch, why even go there?

  4. Question on the dried cranberries. Are you talking about the sweetened ones from the store? I've been having a fun-affair (as opposed to a love affair!)over the last few months with my new food dehydrator. I haven't perfected the method yet, but I did successfully dry cranberries with splenda and thought they were great in my salads. I don't think they'd be a problem for me to eat too many of by themselves, but I haven't had them around enough yet to really know. I DO know I have to be careful with the dried fruits that I make and I DO portion them out. I do cantaloupe quite a bit because my husband can't go through one fast enough before it spoils, so I dry some of it and he likes it that way too.

  5. I LOVE dried cranberries (even the ones covered in crap - not literally - that they sell in a High Street 'Health Shop' over here), but, like you, the packet is gone before I even notice it.

    One time, I 'snacked' on 500g of dried figs while I was working at my PC, before I even realised what I'd done... I was on and off the loo all morning the next day!

    For me, nuts can be a real no-no as I struggle to just eat a few of them. A 'handful' for me is ridiculous as I have huge hands and I could probably tip an entire packet into one of them!

  6. I might be wrong, but my guess is that you aren't actually eating just dried cranberries. Because I don't know if I have ever seen them for sale (that way - plain).

    And if you are eating the packaged kind - it is the sugar that is getting you - big time sugar.

    I would have the WANTS with all capital letters if I ate them too. So would my middle child.

    Dried Fruits: Craisins, Sweetened Dried Cranberries
    Nutrition Facts
    Calories 138 (575 kJ)
    % Daily Value 1
    Total Fat 0.5g 1%
    Sat. Fat 0.2g 1%
    Trans Fat 0g
    Cholesterol 0mg 0%
    Sodium 1mg < 0.1%
    Total Carbs. 36.8g 12%
    Dietary Fiber 3.7g 15%
    Sugars 29.4g
    Protein 0.1g
    Potassium 37.1mg

  7. It is VERY hard to find PLAIN dried fruit and also raw (plain) nuts. I think a lot of people are getting oil, salt, sugar and not realizing it.

  8. Vickie and Beth - I am using the packaged ones, and I know they're sweetened. I'm interested in Beth's drying her own and using splenda, which I do still use sparsely. I know I can't do the others anymore!

  9. Hi Leslie. In this country dried cranberries are a recent introduction and usually they have added sugar. So I don't know if that is a factor here.

    But on the other hand, if they are without sugar they are just very ... what is the right word? My consumption of cranberries is next to nil so I'm not sure. So if unsweetened it may be that is triggering you to have something more to offset or balance out that bitterness/ acidity or whatever it is.

    Either way, you're not on a winner!

    It is a shame when fairly neutral foods have to be offlimits. But "whatever works" as we both know.

    Bearfriend xx

  10. I think you are wise Leslie to ban them for now, or forever. I LOVE bananas in an "If I was deserted on an island what food would you choose if you can have only one...way" But our house is banana free now because I realized that no matter how good they are for you, eating 5 of them isn't probably that healthy. They are an insulin producing, weight loss sabatoging perpetrator disguised as a healthy snack. I'd agree it's probably the sugar that's triggering you most. Well done!

  11. Hi Leslie. Your comment went up as I put mine up. SUGAR! No mystery then. Fruit with added sugar is not a healthy product and is just as bad as any other product with added sugar for setting the insulin rolling and hitting that spot in the brain which then cries out MORE!

    Bearfriend xx

  12. Hey, Leslie. Love this post. Thank you. If you mosey over to my blog, you'll see that I had my own binge going on (much more cal-laden than yours!)

    It is quite clear that you know what kind of cravings you were having and what the trigger was--Unfortunately, I am uncertain of my binge mentor! I'm suspecting it was also fueled by a 'legal' carb and then some emotional add-ons for good measure.

    But, you know, doesn't walnuts and cranberries seem just soooo innocent and, even, healthy?! I hate when that happens. good for you that you're on top of it. :) Deb

  13. This isn't a trigger food for me, so i can have them around and use them SPARINGLY in salads. One thing I have to be careful with is bananas. I have always loved them and can hose a whole bunch in a day or two if I am in a weak mode.

    If i am in an eating mode and there's bananas around, I ask DH to bring them to work.

  14. I know exactly where you are coming from!! It was last week when I thought I could have 'just one tablespoon of PB' and it turned into 1000 calories of everything else in sight! Chocolate is another one of those trigger foods. I can't have it in the house at all.

  15. I too just did a post about what I can not have- at least you know the trigger food and have gotten up the strength to admit it! :) WHOOHOO! Good for you! I had a recent break up with almond butter. lol

  16. chips and choc. I can't eat just one chip.
    Good luck.

  17. Um, I'm totally with you on the dried cranberries. I can eat a bag of those at once. SO, if, by chance, I do by them, I delegate them to be used only in recipes, never to be snacked on. 'Cause yeah, the two tablespoons or whatever exactly counts as a serving does NOT cut it.

    I also have stopped buying juice very often. First of all, it's hella expensive, but it's mostly because I love juice and will drink it far too much if I have a whole jug in the fridge. I think juice is fine, but moderation is definitely key, so I usually just buy a small bottle from the gas station.

    Neither of those foods trigger me to eat a ton of other foods though. It doesn't really work like that for me. I just have a hard time doing portion control with those specific things.

  18. First...thank you for stopping by my blog and for commenting and following. I am following your journey as well now.

    The Red Light Food for me is: Sugar. Plain and simple. If it has sugar, then I try to stay away from it. Even those lovely Fiber One bars have too much sugar and one is never enough! Dont even get me started on chocolate, in any variety! So, its not a specific food, but those that have that added, horrible, yet so yummy sugar that makes me and keeps me hungry for more!

  19. Red light foods? Not chocolate in general....I can have one piece in a day and be fine. A miniature Reese's peanut butter cup is 44 cals. No biggie. HOWEVER...brownies? There is no eating just one....if I bake a batch, they'll be gone in 2-3 hours, period. So no brownies for me. Secondly, pork....pork roast, pork chops, pork tenderloind, bacon, ham....I am a swine LOVER. 3-4 oz serving?? Yeah right...I'll eat 3-4 oz servings til the whole damn pork roast is gone. Have to be very careful with pork. I guess I can't call it a redlight, because I still eat it.....but I don't make a whole roast unless there are 3-4 other people coming for dinner.

  20. For the cranberries, I followed a recipe where I cooked them first in water and splenda, then popped them so they wouldn't dry hollow, and put them in the dehydrator. I didn't eat too many of them on their own, but I sure liked them in salad. The only thing I would do different, I think, is get rid of the little stem ends on top because I didn't like eating them; sort of like the hard ends sometimes on raisins.

    My cousin also gave me the idea of throwing cranberries raw into oatmeal before cooking. That works great!

  21. Brownies and sausage are yellow light foods and pasta can be a red light food if I let it.