Monday, July 27, 2009

"I Just Don't Have the Time..."

This is the number one comment I get when talking to people about eating healthier. Why is it that what should be one of the most important rituals of our day gets tossed aside from our priority list as easily as over ripe bananas get tossed in the garbage instead of being used for banana bread? If we "are what we eat", then why don't we devote more time and energy into eating well?

The truth is; life is fast. We live in a world where you can wake up in San Francisco, have lunch in Chicago and dance the night away in New York City. Information is exchanged, literally, at our fingertips in a matter of seconds. News of wildfires in Australia or natural disasters in China can reach you seconds after being reported. It's no wonder people feel overwhelmed at everything happening in the hear about it all, and fast! For this reason especially, we need to grasp strongly to some routines in our lives that bring peace, gratefulness, and a sense of togetherness and connection. For thousands and thousands of years, humans have experienced these feelings over a shared meal. For those of you with children, Eating Together As A Family Creates Better Eating Habits Later In Life. This study shows yet another reason to ring that cowbell at dinner time.

Here are some tips to making mealtime one of your priorities:

* Shut off the TV. This includes mealtimes, but the less TV you watch during the morning, day or evening allows you more time to prepare meals. Just cutting out one or two 1-hour shows per week can keep your fridge stocked with well-prepped snacks and easy meal additions.
* Plan Ahead. Take an hour each week to plan out your meals for the week. They don't all have to be home-made, but then you will know ahead of time which meals are to be made at home and which meals will be bought prepared. No more "5pm: Oh no! What's for dinner?!?"
* Plan of leftovers. Make double or triple of what you are cooking and have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Did you know that we are one of few countries in which people have a different recipe or food for every meal? Most societies use part or all of a previous meal for the next one!
* Freeze it. Many foods will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Even most of the nutrition is still intact as well! So stock up on freezer-safe glass containers and get a labeling pen for the date and meal name.
* Involve your kiddos. Kids may slow down the cooking time a bit in the kitchen, but there are loads of benefits. First of all, they are more likely to eat the foods in which they helped prepare. Second, you get to spend quality time with them, something severely lacking for fast-paced families. Third, you will be teaching them that food does not only come from a box. They will begin to appreciate meals more and file away the knowledge that meals are created, not "opened" from a box. Later in life, they WILL thank you for this basic understanding and knowledge...I promise! (Mom - THANKS!!)
* KEEP IT SIMPLE. Really, who has time to spend 3 hours in the kitchen preparing dinner? Well, I sure don't. Most of my meals are prepared in about 30 minutes or less. The trick? A little planning ahead (for meal planning, soaking grains, groceries on hand), and setting the time aside (this is not the easiest thing!). Usually, something has got to go to make this time available. (Last time I checked the day was still only 24 hours...much to my dismay!) So, for me, just getting organized about the day cured that problem. Next, KEEP IT SIMPLE! Steamed broccoli drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper accompanied by baked salmon in butter and garlic can be a whole meal prepared in about 20-25 minutes. And only about 5-10 minutes is active time in the kitchen!

So next time you think, "I just don't have the time!", I urge you to re-assess your priorities and make the time. Your life will be enriched in countless ways. Happy Meal Planning!

If you want some extra help with meal planning, I can assist you and your family in learning how to create and execute meal plans that meet your family's nutritional and scheduling needs. Call (925) 951-7136 to start.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Today's Breakfast

Today's breakfast: steel cut oats (simmered on the stovetop for about 35-40 minutes), fresh berries from the Farmer's Market, cinnamon, a tiny squirt of agave nectar and shredded coconut.  This is so seriously delicious it should be labeled dessert!

Want to try this at home?  I suggest using a crockpot (slow cooker) for a gentle overnight way of cooking this delicious grain.  Throw in steel cut oats + 4 times the amount of water as oats into a greased crockpot, add some cinnamon sticks and put on low for 8 hours overnight.  Add the toppings in the morning (raisins, berries, almonds, walnuts, ground flax, sweetener, etc).

OK, gotta go finish my breakfast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What else can I juice??

I bought a juicer!  Well, actually I used gift cards from our wedding last year at Williams Sonoma to buy a juicer, but the point is, I have one!  I got the Breville Juice Fountain Elite.  WS doesn't really have a huge selection of juicers to choose from, in fact, they have two (same brand, different price and intensity), so my decision wasn't really that hard.  

I am a big fan of periodic cleansing and detoxifying (as you may know from my 21-Day Detoxification Program) but I have never done my own juicing as part of the program.  In the past, I rarely incorporated juices because by the time you purchase store-bought juices, they are pretty much just colored sugar water with some minerals.  They are devoid of most of the nutritive qualities inherent to freshly squeezed juices; enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants.  I also wasn't prepared to fork over a couple hundred dollars for a juicer.  Luck struck the other day though when I found the gift cards!!  

This juicer is perhaps not the MOST amazing juicer in the world...I've read that the masticating juicers are sometimes better than the centrifugal ones (like the Breville one I have now), and if Santa Clause were to bring me a wish-list culinary tool it would definitely be the VitaMix (I hope Santa has deep pockets!).  But for now, this Breville juicer is putting a smile on my face and jump in my step.  I feel amazing after drinking the juices!  Here is what I juiced today:

Carrots, Celery, Mustard Greens, and a Plum

And the best part?  The only prep work for the produce is washing, trimming icky parts and taking the stone out of the plum.  Easy Peasy!

Taste Test: Good, but pretty bitter...squeezed half a lemon in to make it a little better.  

Nutrition Notes:  High in potassium and other minerals, beta carotene, low in sugar, and really good for the digestive system and the liver.  

Will it go on my favorites list?  Probably not as is, the mustard greens were really bitter!  My favorites so far have been:
  1. Beets, carrots, and an apple
  2. Celery, carrots, and beets
  3. Ginger, carrots, and an apple (I went crazy with the ginger, careful, a little goes a long way!)
I think with the dark green leafy veggies you need to juice an apple or pear to offset the bitterness.  Either way, I still drink my concoctions for good health.  The beet makes it so vibrantly colored you just want to put it in your body...

Quick notes on juicing:
  • DO try this at home if you have a juicer, but limit your consumption of juice to 8oz daily as some juices have a really high sugar content (like apple, pear, and carrot).  
  • Some juices are best consumed about 10-20 minutes before a meal to "jump start" your digestive juices.  This includes lemon, ginger and bitter greens.  You can really feel it working!
  • Store-bought, pasteurized juices are not the same as fresh, non-pasteurized juices! Pasteurization kills all the good enzymes that help you absorb and digest all the good nutrients in fresh squeezed juice.  Also, many of the vitamins and antioxidants are sensitive to air and light as well, so you may think you're getting lots of nutrition that was present when the food was freshly juiced, but over time the nutrient value is lost.
  • Due to my last comment, fresh juices should be consumed immediately for optimal nutrition.
  • Juicing can be healthy and used when fasting, but make sure you consult with a nutritionist (like myself) or your physician to outline a healthy approach to fasting. Fasting is not right for everyone!
  • Just about anything can be juiced!
I seem to be a little obsessed with juicing at the husband and I bought 2 full large totes of produce at the Walnut Creek Farmer's Market on Sunday morning, and it is almost all gone already!  I walk around the house asking him if he wants to try my new concoction (he's a good sport) and "what else can I juice??"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Loco for Coco

I was always a little leery of drinking out of a coconut (it just seemed...odd), but I have fallen in love with coconut water! Cold coconut water on a hot day (like the sweltering humidity and scorching sun of Mexico) is unbelievable! Not only does it taste exquisite and refresh you, it is a healthy choice. Coconut water is an isotonic solution which replaces the fluids and minerals that the body loses during physical activities or sweating. Coconut water contains more potassium (at about 294 mg) than most sports drinks (117 mg) and most energy drinks and coconut water has 5mg of natural sugars where sports and energy drinks range from 10-25mg of altered sugars.

Looking for an alternative to Gatorade? Try coconut water. The greener the coconut, the more coconut water inside. As the coconuts age, the water and meal turn to coconut milk, also a healthy choice but much more dense and calorie rich.

Coconut is also great for boosting energy, an antimicrobial agent, and good for the immune system.

Monday, June 1, 2009

the GNH indicator

In the land of Bhutan, a small country nestled in the Himalayas, progress is measured by the GNH, or "Gross National Happiness". As a result of this more humane style of governance, Bhutan has developed high environmental protection standards (the use of plastic bags, for example, is completely banned) and a peaceful and harmonious society that actively protects its rich culture and profound Buddhist traditions.

When is the last time I measured MY progress by my happiness? I think I will incorporate the LDH indicator, or Leah's Daily Happiness. It is time to throw away judgments based on financial gain, celebrity status, or career achievements. This past week in Mexico, I scored a 10+ on the LDH indicator scale when I took the time to step away from the craziness, breathe and relax. I wish you all the same.