Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making greens palatable

Here are a few recipes for you to try in an effort to increase your leafy green consumption.

Even the kids might like this. Try it instead of chips!

Crispy Kale
Sea Salt
Olive Oil

Lightly toss chip size pieces of kale in olive oil and sea salt. Spread on parchment paper lining a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees on one side for 7 minutes. Flip the "chips". Bake on second side for another 7 minutes. Because ovens vary, check kale after 3 minutes on the 2nd side. Serve this tasty treat with hummus, guacamole dip or fresh salsa.

I've eaten these along with scrambled eggs for breakfast. A great start to your day!
Simply Delicious Collard Greens
Collard greens
Sea Salt
Raw butter or cultured organic butter

Remove the spines from the collard greens. You may discard them, save them for juicing, or slice them very thin and use them. If you choose to use them, begin a water saute and add the spines first. Be sure to cook them for 3-4 minutes before adding the leaves because they are extra fibrous and can be difficult to digest. Next, add the leaves and saute until bright green, but taste tender when tested. Do not cook them so long that they turn gray and mushy! Drain lightly and toss with good quality sea salt and raw or cultured organic butter.

If you don't have access to raw or cultured organic butter (Whole Foods sells a cultured butter), I would at least recommend using organic butter. My reasons for eating largely organic, and especially organic dairy will be for another post. I'll also take note to bring up the benefits of sea salt over regular salt in a later post.

I make this dressing a lot. It is simple and tasty.

Homemade Dressing1/2 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
Fresh squeezed juice of one lemon
2 cloves of garlic
Sea salt or Herbamare to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or Vitamix-type blender on low) and blend until mixed well.

You can find most of these ingredients in the organic section at Giant Eagle (our local grocery store). I can only find Herbamare at Whole Foods. It's not absolutely necessary, but I like it and buy it if we happen to be near a Whole Foods. It is an organic herb seasoning salt. The label states - "flavorful preference to table salt".

Monday, November 29, 2010

Greens, Glorious Greens!

I received some health counseling last summer from a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Eve. She was the one who inspired me to pursue the program once I was well. She mailed me several books throughout the course of our 6 month counseling program. One of them was "Greens, Glorious Greens!" by Johnna Albi & Catherin Walthers. I have to admit I haven't used the recipes in the book as much as I'd like, but it has some great ideas on how to cook a variety of greens. Eve's first suggestion for us was to get to know greens and eat them! She gave us a variety of ideas on how to prepare them so they would be tasty. After all, greens are amongst the most healing foods that you can put into your body.

As we all know, greens are not that enticing when plain. We have to do something to them to make them taste good. A homemade dressing or even a bit of organic butter and sea salt really help make greens palatable. Another way to prepare greens is to mix them into a green smoothie. I don't do well with much fruit, so I put a little bit of lemon with the peel and a natural sweetener derived from an herb called stevia along with my greens and other veggies. Stevia helps to take the edge off of collard greens and kale, especially. But most of you could mix your greens with some fruit and you won't even notice the "green" taste!

I was listening to a lecture a couple of weeks ago on "Food Energetics". The premise of food energetics is that, literally, "you are what you eat". For example, walnuts have long been considered a brain food. Today we know that walnuts are the only nut that contains omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for brain and nervous system development.

In relation to greens, the lecturer, Steve Gagne, talked about all of the fabulous properties of greens and the wonderful things that they do for our bodies. Leafy green plants are supportive to the respiratory and circulatory system. If you look at the network of veins and arteries in a leafy green plant, flowing through these veins are small molecules of chlorophyll and vitamin C. This makes leafy greens highly supportive of oxygenating the blood. Leafy greens also contain calcium and magnesium, which make them the most powerful food to use for improved respiration. They are high in fiber, iron and antioxidants. In general, more leafy green consumption means better breathing, more oxygenated blood, better glow to our skin, and more life and vitality!

I will give you some recipes in another post!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup

Here is a healthy, but tasty recipe that you might enjoy trying! I encourage you to experiment and find things that you enjoy, that taste good, and that nourish your body.

We just tried this dish a couple of weeks ago and I have made it twice now. It calls for squash, but you could also add other root vegetables. (Sweet potatoes, parsnips, or turnips, for example.) Root vegetables are very grounding and also satisfying because many of them have a sweeter taste.

I modified the recipe because I was in the mood for solid food, rather than soup. I added some grilled chicken to it too and it turned out yummy. Even my husband said so. So if it has his seal of approval, then it really should be OK. (My perspective can be a little bit distorted :-)

Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup

1 large winter squash (I used butternut squash), seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tart, firm apples, peeled cored and quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and chili powder to taste
4-5 cups vegetable stock (if you want to make the soup)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. In a large roasting pan toss the squash, onions, garlic and apples with the oil to coat.
3. Season well with sea salt and chili powder.
4. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.
(This is where I stopped, but continue if you'd like to make it into a soup.)
5. Put half of the vegetables with 2 cups of the stock in a food processor (or Vitamix) and puree until smooth.
6. Repeat with the remaining vegetables and broth.
7. Return pureed mixture to the pot.
8. If the soup is too thick, add more broth.
9. Correct the seasoning and heat to a simmer.
10. Serve!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Navigating food around the holidays

I am not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. (Just ask my husband and children!) But I have been refined by my weaknesses. As I have struggled around food for basically my whole life, I have been motivated to find solutions. When people look at me, they can't believe I can resist the sugar and all the tasty treats. Some think that perhaps I have never been plagued by them and it must be easy for me. Well, exactly the opposite! I have been sooooo plagued by them in the past, that my only option for personal growth and happiness has been to try and figure out how to overcome the urge to eat them! So now that we've established that I am a very real person, with very real weaknesses, I hope I can write the rest of this post with more credibility :-) I hope I can be an inspiration because I've been where you're at. I've lived it and I've struggled with it and I've gained some experience and knowledge that I hope I can share with you to help you in your struggles.

One of the key principles I've learned to help with overeating and/or the temptation to eat too many empty calorie foods is called "crowding out". The key is to focus on adding in good things instead of trying so hard to resist and fight against the bad things. Does that make sense? Instead of trying so hard NOT to eat everything you feel that you shouldn't eat, try preparing some healthier dishes and eat those things first. You will notice that, even if you do give in to the urge to eat junk, that you will not feel so drawn to it and you will eat much less of it as a result.

For example, the other day before my husband went to a place where they would be serving donuts for breakfast, he drank a huge glass of whey protein shake blended with some almond milk and blueberries. He would have normally been tempted to eat the donuts, but he said he was so satisfied from what he drank that he had no desire for the donuts. See, most of us crave and just "can't resist" those things when they show up. We have to change our behaviors and habits to make real lasting changes so that we are not just acting in the moment. Ultimately, if we want the donuts and we are hungry and right there with them and we tell ourselves we can't have them, it will be a fight. Even if we don't eat them, it will be a fight. I got tired of those days of fighting. And finally I learned the principle of "crowding out" and started to focus on adding the good things to my diet instead of focusing on fighting against the bad things. That is when things started to turn around for me.

I challenge you this holiday season to try this shift in perspective. Make some plans to have some healthy foods around that you like. Find some new recipes that sound good to you that are healthy. Or just try something like putting out walnuts or almonds in a bowl instead of something else crunchy. Execute those plans. Make the recipes, eat those foods first. And then if you want something else, eat that too. But notice how it isn't going to "call" to you as it has in the past if you have first filled your body with good, wholesome food.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Healthy and Unhealthy Fats

As a society, we have developed a fear of fat in our quest to stay healthy and lose weight. The low-fat movement, which arose in the 80's, is what started this trend. In order to make foods still taste good after the fat had been reduced, food makers replaced the fat with sugar. The problem, then, became that sugar was actually more of a culprit in fat accumulation and weight gain than fat was! So, in reality, the products didn't become any healthier by becoming "low-fat".

Our bodies need a particular amount of fat, but healthy fat. Proper amounts of healthy fat are a good addition to our diet. Examples of healthy fats are avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olives and unrefined oils such as coconut oil, olive oil and flax seed oil.

We need to be especially careful of trans fats when evaluating the types of fats that we consume. The omega-3 fatty acids in liquid oil cause it to go rancid rather quickly. So to prolong the shelf life of various processed and packaged foods, liquid oil is converted into a solid through the partial hydrogenation process. Think about the fact that trans fats are prolonging the shelf life of some foods. Then we ingest those foods. What might that be doing to your body? What does it do to YOUR shelf life?

Fortunately, food makers are now required to report the amount of trans fats on the nutritional labels of their products. Any amount less than .5 grams of trans fats will translate to zero on the label. So to be sure that the product is free of trans fats, check the ingredient list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Also be aware that many restaurants use trans fats to fry their foods.

I challenge you to start reading labels and see what the labels in your house say. It might be unrealistic to completely rid your house of trans fats overnight, but being aware is the first step. Once you are aware, then you can take baby steps to try and reduce or eliminate the amount of trans fats that you are consuming.

In an effort to be semi-brief, I have only scratched the surface of all the information out there on different types of fats. If you are interested in reading more, I found the following article to be quite comprehensive on the topic.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Welcome to Whole Foods, Whole Life!

Sometimes our lives take a turn we don't expect. Sometimes we have to experience the depths of darkness to truly understand light and joy. And in the moment of intense trial, I don't know how much we appreciate that. But as we push through, we can see how we are being led through those challenges to learn, to gain empathy, and to eventually have an impact on others who may have to go through similar challenges later.

I have been on a journey with my health the past year and a half that has been bumpy and rocky, but at the same time has brought much learning, growth, strength and happiness. Opportunities are unfolding that would not have been possible otherwise. Because of my experience, I have started taking courses with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I will become certified to be a holistic health counselor. I have started this blog in conjunction with my studies to impart information that I am learning and to share the vision of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, "to play a crucial role in improving the health and happiness of Americans, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world." Yes, I've always wanted to help transform the world...that's why I pursued a Master of Nonprofit Organizations degree before I had children. So now I just need to develop a nonprofit arm of my health coaching business. And voila, it will all come together :-)

To give you a sense of this journey...

I gave birth to four darling girls within less than 5 years. Yes, insane, but true. All in my 30's. And as you can imagine, it took its toll on my health, physically, as well as emotionally and spiritually. About 10 days after the birth of my 4th, I started experiencing some nausea/dizzy spells that were really concerning. After a couple of episodes I realized that it was associated with my digestion. Then started the 10 months of going from doctor to doctor, from test to test, with little to no results. I started with allopathic physicians and ended up at a holistic doctor, as well as a naturopath. They were able to provide more answers for me and their philosophies made a lot of sense to me. After a few months I was eating only a few foods, as most of them seemed to be causing reactions. Through some testing, it was indeed confirmed that I had developed a sensitivity to many, many foods. Another test that provided us with some information was a test taken by my holistic doctor for Candida (a yeast overgrowth). Digestive issues are very common when this yeast overgrowth is present.

Even though we had this information, the long and short of it is that things didn't seem to be improving. In fact they turned drastically worse by the end of the year. I had lost so much weight that it was now becoming dangerous. It was then that I met a naturopath who was able to, literally, get me on the right "path". If I ever wondered why I didn't meet her earlier in the journey, I remind myself that things happened in the exact manner that they were meant to happen for my maximum growth and learning. I hit rock-bottom and was immediately blessed to be able to start the rocky road UP. (Some weren't sure of my fate at that point.) This journey held within it some of my darkest days and I almost shudder when I think back on them. But I don't let my mind go there much, except for to be grateful that I have been able to experience so much healing in the past 11 months.

Throughout the significant learning, one learning has been key. And that is the fact that food has healing and medicinal properties and eating whole, unprocessed, organic foods can bring us to a much greater and vibrant health. I desire to help people understand how changing their diet can have such a large impact on their health, physically, as well as emotionally. How feeding their bodies with nutritious, whole foods will heal them or help prevent them from developing many chronic illnesses that are so rampant in our society today.

I recently listened to a lecture from Dr. Walter Willet who is the chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He said that Type 2 diabetes is 92% preventable! Hear this, almost NO ONE needs to get diabetes. Heart disease is 81% preventable. And colon cancer is 71% preventable. (If you're interested, I can provide you with further details of that study.)

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is making us sick. And it truly is SAD! It does not need to be that way. I am still working on my healing, but I have come a long way. And I want to give others my hand to help them on this road of change. It is not easy, but one thing I can tell you is that it is very worth it. I hope you will continue to join me as I post information that may be of benefit to those who are interested in preventing or managing disease through diet and lifestyle!

Thank you to some key players!

I can't introduce this blog without thanking a couple of gracious people for their help! Sonnet from www.recipesforjoy.blogspot.com & Jennifer from www.thedaysofasahm.blogspot.com. Sonnet was willing to transfer her blogspot address to me and Jennifer put together my header and blog button. I have had so much on my plate, that Jennifer's offer to help people for free with their blog headers was something I jumped on. Thank you so much Jennifer & Sonnet!

You may have arrived at this blog because you are one of my family and friends and I have just sent all of you a link to this new website. If it is something you are interested in following, wonderful! If it is not, that is OK, please send the link on to people who you think would be interested.

I will start to take clients in February and I will be giving student rates until I graduate from the program in October. So spread the good word!
I will be doing the majority of my counseling over the phone - so it doesn't matter where you live. Here is the current link to my coaching website if you'd like to know more. I will post the new address on my blog once I get a domain name.