Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vegetables in Every Pot!

Most Americans are now too young to remember President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous message to Americans weary of a failed economy: “A chicken in every pot!”

It would serve to define a healthy society ~ and a healthy economy.

Now that we’ve experienced the worst of economic times since then, the message is still apt ~ if you modify it to: “Vegetables in every pot!”

While we don’t have the childhood diseases that led to a high mortality rate back then ~ by and large ~ we’re sicker. Ironically, there’s been plenty of food available ~ and that’s a big part of the problem. Too much of what we ingest is junk.

We look to food for diversion ~ for entertainment ~ as much as for nurturing our bodies. Unfortunately, the “nurturing” part has come up short.

There’s a very simple trick to make sure there’s a healthy soup simmering on the stove or in a crock-pot that will energize your body, and save you money, too.

Always keep a fresh supply of chopped carrots, celery and onion in the fridge. (about three carrots, three celery stalks and a medium onion). Also make sure you have some cans of chicken or vegetable broth, and diced tomatoes in the cupboard.

When you know this is a day you won’t have time to plan a decent meal, or the whole family is on the run, toss the veggies into a crock pot with a couple of cans of broth, a cup or two of water, some diced tomatoes, and maybe a dab or two of tomato paste, a tablespoon of cider vinegar, and some salt and pepper for taste.

That’s a base to get you started ~ to that you can add some shredded cabbage, a diced potato, a sliced zucchini, a can of corn kernels ~ whatever else you like!

Any left over soup can be heated up the next day for lunch.

Figure how much you would have spent picking up carry- out or going to a restaurant and put that into your savings account!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Thoughts on Eating Simply

We waste a lot of food.

I read recently that Americans toss 27 percent of all they food they buy from super markets and restaurants, and that just five percent of that wasted food could feed four million people a day.

Do we need four boxes of cereal? How about just one box and a box of oatmeal?

Does everyone need to have their own individual order when they’re eating out? Does everyone NEED a soda pop?

I don’t think there are many people who haven’t felt that depressing, emotional emptiness after you’ve filled your stomach and emptied your wallet eating dinner out. You secretly wonder: “Where’s the purpose?”

Are we mindlessly buying, micro waving, and eating in an endless cycle that does nothing to truly nurture us. Are we wasting our energy, as well as our food ~ and our money?

But if we feed our bodies well, we nurture our spirit. Either you do, or you don’t ~ and on a very basic level, you know the difference on a very basic level.

So there is an immediate recognition of energy coming back to you when you begin to reign in meaningless routines by being mindful.

If you plan to eat only what you need to be healthy, you’ll find preparing buying and preparing food to be incredibly simple, quite inexpensive, and wonderfully rewarding!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eat Simply ~ Eat Well!

Sometimes it’s just a matter of eating less!

I get stuck sometimes gazing into the refrigerator for the makings of something “creative” ~ and it doesn’t always come together.

But the other day, for example, I found that even that half cup of leftover linguini I was tempted to toss down the garbage disposal ~ but didn’t ~ and that skim of marinara sauce in the jar, was just enough to save me from buying lunch somewhere.

I mixed it together with a few black olives, sprinkled some parmesan cheese and a little pepper, and it was perfect. I also grabbed a few raw baby carrots and some almonds before I headed out the door, and I was on my way.

There were once days when I’d scrape more than that off our plates after dinner, and often felt pangs of guilt left over from the years of listening to the nuns preach to us about the starving people in India.The sobering reality is that now there are starving people in this country ~ and but for the grace of God ~ any of us could be in a food line somewhere sixty days from now.

So returning to my “mindful eating” mantra ~ the key is to plan ahead. As opposed to making big hauls from Sam’s Club or Wal Mart that fill your cupboards and refrigerators, plan a menu ~ mindful of what you NEED to eat. Turns out, it's not really that much!

It will save you time, energy and money (not to mention calories!) ~ while you invest in your most important asset ~ your health!

(I’ll be presenting on this topic this Sunday, December 13th, from 11:30 – 12:30 at the Academy of Yoga. Would love to see you there!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Empower Yourself by Eating Well!

I’m not a vegetarian but I’m seriously considering it.

The scope of our individual influence on the state of the world is limited, but that influence expands significantly the closer to home we get.

So I ask myself ~ how can I have the greatest impact for good at the tender age of 63?

As Alicia Silverstone so cleverly states in her new cookbook ~ "The Kind Diet" ~ we are all activists when it comes to our food choices.

And why is that?

Unlike the political process that excludes those who choose not to participate, we ALL eat, and we vote every time we push a grocery cart up to the check out stand with the products we purchase. The same happens when we buy locally from a farmer's market.

The food industry is HUGE, and the choices we make not only directly affect our pocket books, it sends a message to produce more of what we're buying.

The closer to home it’s produced or grown, the more natural it is, the better it is for you. Basically, vegetables and fruits have the nutrients that most efficiently fuel our bodies and boost our immunity to illness.

I find it interesting that with the current conundrum surrounding health care reform, there’s a general lack of awareness of the level of control we can exercise in our own kitchens.

“Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food," was the advice of Hippocrates centuries ago.

Simple advice for the prevention-minded.

Difficult? It can be.

But simple? Absolutely.

The pay-offs are quick and obvious. You’ll spend less money and you’ll feel better. There’ll be more energy available to you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

You can then see yourself differently ~ as a contributor to the planet rather than just a consumer of its resources ~ with a wealth of options!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mindful Eating Isn't Thinking

You know, mindful eating isn’t thinking about eating. Generally, if you’re thinking about eating, your going to want to eat ~ whether you need to or not.

Being mindful is totally different because what comes into play is beyond cerebral activity.

It reflects an awareness of your feelings and emotions, essential guideposts in forming behavior patterns that work in your best interests.

Not so with thinking.

Thinking often just ensures that you’ll always do what you always did, so you’ll always get what you always got.

That’s why exercise needs to be a part of this conversation, because putting your muscles to work is what helps bridle the activity of what’s affectionately referred to as “the monkey mind.”

Without exercise ~ just thinking ~ our minds are engaged like a revved up car engine with the emergency brake on.

But thinking makes us who we are ~ we would reason. To not think would cut off the ego’s essential source of validation. Which, of course, is precisely why you shouldn’t think.

You more or less get out of the way of your higher self ~ that intuitive voice ~ your “true North” that knows exactly what you really need.

If you can’t envision what activity you’d engage in, then just start walking. Briskly. Step out there after dinner when it’s dark and cold ~ or better yet, before dinner right after you get home from work.

Then check yourself out. Just that departure from the “same ol’, same ol’” will have recalibrated your system enough to cause you to pause before you make the same old food choices. That’s all it will take, because for a time, however brief, you’ll consider making a better choice.

If it works that way once, it can work that way again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nourishing the Body Isn't Rocket Science

What a brilliant statement recently by Sam Kass, assistant head chef at the White House:

“Cooking for people’s pleasure is obviously a nice thing to do, but the No. 1 reason we eat is to nourish ourselves and take care of ourselves.”

Kass couldn’t have framed it better. That’s why we cook and why we eat ~ a refreshing shift from the palate to the rest of the body.

I read his interview in the NY Times recently. It turns out he’s quite the activist. He and Michelle Obama are focusing on the increasing problem of childhood obesity, and Kass plays an important role in her healthy living agenda.

His main job, though, is cooking for the Obama family. The head chef attends to the formal banquets.

As Kass put it, “You look around our country and you see that we have a lot of major challenges, the origin of which is food.”

However, a former White House chef offered this criticism: “Let’s remember: the guy’s a cook. There are people who are much more qualified to talk about nutrition than cooks.”

I disagree totally.

Eating well is far simpler and easier than most people think. Just like that problem of not seeing the forest for the trees, often people can’t see good nutrition for all the boxes, bags and jars of stuff that’s not good, crowding their refrigerators, cupboards and counter tops.

A start would be to do a purge of all the white or processed foods. It’s amazing how that alone clears the playing field of what you have to work with.

You can build better choices from there!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fight Flu With Food!

Have you gotten your H1N1 flu shot yet?

It’s big news in the media, and long lines form wherever there’s the possibility of getting vaccinated. People are worried, and if they’re not, the nightly news says they should be. So then, of course, they are.

Hospitals are full, and it’s predicted that as much as 40 percent of the population may get it before it’s all said and done.

So what can you do?

That should be your question no matter what your illness. Aside from one of the best defenses ~ washing your hands and keeping them away from your face ~ put your focus on food and water, and hold your stress level at a minimum.

Just the process of preparing food can do that, mainly because it’s tangible ~ and it doesn’t require remembering a password!

Yesterday I made a minestrone soup in the middle of a list of other things I knew I should be doing. I dropped the “should”, because that word alone can send your head in a whole bunch of unproductive ~ dare I say “toxic” ~ directions.

So standing on my unmopped kitchen floor, with sunlight streaming through my still uncleaned windows, I sliced carrots, celery, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes, and chopped onions and minced garlic.

As my yoga instructor would say during those very long poses: “There is nothing else to do, and nowhere to go ~ right now.”

Key is not thinking about the next thing to do, because the next moment doesn’t matter as much as the present one. (I finally find, later rather than sooner, that that axiom applies to everything.)

Besides, I was on a mission to shore up my defenses against the flu. And I fully believe good nutrition can do that.

If I’m geared up too much emotionally, I pour myself a drink ~ of water. I do that frequently. It reinforces my main goal of being mindful of what I’m doing. It’s like a reminder. And water truly is the elixir of life!

I gather all the vegetables and sauté them for about 10 minutes in a pot with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I can either finish it as a stove top process or just put it all in a crock pot, adding a can of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of chicken broth, a cup of water and a little salt.

If you want meat flavoring, you can cut up a strips of bacon and add it to the sauté process. If you like it spicier you can always add some Tabasco sauce or salsa to your bowl.

That’s it.

There are few things that make you feel more intact that knowing there’s a warm pot of soup to fuel your body and boost your immune system.

I’ve said it before. Good health care really is affordable, especially if it starts in your own kitchen.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nourish Body & Soul With Vegetable Stew!

I’ve been writing for several months now about the importance of mindful eating, but this time I recommend testing this out by preparing and savoring a recipe for Moroccan Vegetable Stew.

After you’ve eaten a bowl, notice how you feel? Do you feel satisfied? Do you still have strong food cravings?

Typically, when you eat something that’s void of nutritional value, the opposite will be true. You’ll crave more food.

With some experimenting with foods in their natural state, you’ll find you’re much more focused and you’ll feel a calmness you’ll never feel when you eat foods laden with sugar, fat and salt.

So without further adieu, here’s the recipe ~

First peel, seed and slice one medium butternut squash, and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Slice two carrots into ¼ inch slices, a chop up a medium onion. Stir all those together in a 12-inch skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until golden brown.

Add one 14-oz can of garbanzo beans (drained), one 14-oz can of stewed tomatoes, ½ cup of chopped, pitted prunes, one 14-oz can of chicken broth, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper and 1/1/2 cups of water.

Get that to boiling, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in two tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

(I’ll demonstrate how to prepare it ~ along with several other tasty soups ~ this week on "Mealtime in Mesa County". It airs on Channel 12 round-the-clock at 3, 6,9 and 12! I am also doing a series of group sessions on Mindful Eating at the Academy of Yoga. The next one is Sunday, Dec. 13th. For information, call 683-0166.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mindfulness Is Key to Mastering Appetites

Food is an arena we all share.

It’s therefore something we all think about at times. A fortunate few see it quite simply for what it is ~ a means of nourishment so we can perform to the best of our ability during the day. But many of us have elevated its place in our lives to mythical proportions, and to that degree, it has great power.

I believe the resulting dysfunction of it all is a “we” versus “them” paradigm, separating those who control their food urgings from those who don’t. You may as well substitute the words “winners” versus “losers”, or “right” versus “wrong,” or “fat” versus “thin.”

What happens, then, is we mentally establish camps ~ sort of like Republicans and Democrats ~ and if you’re in one, you can’t be in the other.

But unlike the polarity we project as reality, I rather think we abide not in camps, but on a continuum where we are at times more or less dysfunctional, more or less in control of ourselves ~ more or less at peace.

So while we might look with disdain at the person with the belly overhang who loads up a second plate at a restaurant buffet, we would be well-served to check in to see what might be bringing up all that judgment.

There’s a saying: “You spot it ~ you got it.”

It’s worth paying attention to, I’ve found, if I cast a critical eye at someone else.

I see that from the food journal I’ve been keeping. It’s rather simple. The calmer I am inside, the healthier my choices. More healthy choices lead to an even greater sense of well-being. Things begin to shift as my ego takes a back seat.

Ah, but that’s where it gets dicey. It gets very uncomfortable to give up any of that ~ and it’s at that point important choices are made, every time.

Mindfulness is the orienting compass, because I felt my agitation this evening, and that caused me to review what I put into my mouth during the day.

It was quite clear. I was going in too many directions, with that well-familiar, ego-driven sense of urgency. It was a though the food I ate presented an emotional map ~ instead of starting with a calming, energy rich bowl of oatmeal, I chose a breakfast bar; lunch was light, but dinner wasn’t. Unlike the soups I usually prepare, I had enchiladas and rice, followed by German chocolate cake. By evening I was buzzing, and at 10 p.m. I was wide awake.

If I stay with the “camp” theory, I have to concede that I’m hanging out in both ~ though one, more than the other.

But the continuum idea makes a lot more sense. It’s like a journey, and it has nothing to do with winning or losing, or who’s right or who’s wrong.

It’s whether you are mindful. Because if you are mindful, you can better control your choices.
And isn't that what we really want?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Take Control of Food ~ Ask Your Heart What It Needs

"Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven!" That’s what Pillsbury used to say back in the ‘60s when the little dough boy would appear on TV commercials. It conjured an aspect of nurturing. Or so we were led to believe!

Since that time food has continued to take center stage as a way to make us feel good. We use it to feed emptiness and loneliness, or calm fear and anger. Given a collective national deficiency in those areas, the more food the better.

Whatever taste we crave, the food industry has stepped up to respond by layering chemical concoctions, along with heaping measures of salt, sugar and fat to feed those cravings.

As a result, what we know about eating right gets shoved aside anytime we’re within range of food laced with those addictive elements.

Not so with the good stuff.

It’s so simple ~ If you eat it, you’ll feel good, and you won’t crave more.

Here’s the key. Keep a supply of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts around, and toss the bags of potato chips, the bottles of ranch dressing and mayo, or the left-over birthday cake.

Some other hints ~

Graze throughout the day and make your meals smaller.

Make a half sandwich instead of a whole one. Balance it with an apple instead of chips.

If you eat out a lunch, make it a larger meal than supper. Opt for home made soup as an evening meal.

Drink water, water, water! It’s the elixir of life. (Soda pop isn’t!)

Like leaving any other addiction behind, not indulging in the old “comfort foods” may feel like you’re entering unfamiliar territory.That’s because you are.

But at the same time, you can discover that there are better ways to nurture yourself ~ like learning something new, exploring the outdoors, changing hugs with someone you love, or a heart-to-heart talk that clears the air. It's a way of rediscovering passion.

Nurture your heart. Then the food part will be easy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Need Grounding? Try Moroccan Vegetable Stew

It was one of those days when my very soul felt scattered in too many directions. The clue for me would be irritated drivers honking their horns or giving me finger signals as I process my “to do” list, instead of focusing on which lane of traffic I should be in.

I’ve noticed life seems to run pretty efficiently until my ego begs me to take on just one more thing, or squeeze a 45-minute errand into 20 minutes. It never works, but there are days I keep trying anyway. (It neatly fits that definition of insanity ~ you know, doing the same thing over and over again but hoping maybe ~ this time ~ it will all click?)

Of course, the day got worse. My concentration level dropped, my nerves felt frayed, and I was talking way too much and way too fast, setting the perfect stage for unmindful eating.

I reasoned that in order to “cope” with the afternoon that stretched before me, I would get a grilled cheese sandwich, along with some potato chips laced with salt and fat. Yum!

But minutes after I started eating, I became mindful again. I craved the chips, and if there had been a bag of them to go, I would have finished it off through the course of the afternoon. I felt calmer and more centered while I was eating, but not enough to deceive myself as to what was really going on here. I was getting a “fix.”

Enter Moroccan stew. I had made it the day before, and the leftover was in my refrigerator. It was a rich blend of carrots, butternut squash, onions, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and a few chopped prunes seasoned with crushed red pepper, cinnamon and cilantro. The flavors had married and produced a veritable balm for my nerves, nourishment for my body, and peace for my state of mind.

I remembered because I was mindful as I prepared it, and mindful as I had eaten it. So when I got home, I reheated the soup, ladled out a bowl of it, and then savored it as I ate.

Also, mindful of what I needed at that point in the day, I decided NOT to turn on CNN so screaming talk show guests wouldn’t upset the ambiance of this experience.

I was rewarded by my choices. As I ate the stew, I began to notice a sense of well-being. I felt GOOD. I didn’t crave more. I felt satisfied when I finished.

Life was balanced once again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Want to Change Your Eating Habits? Try a 12 Step Program!

I have to say that AA’s 12-Step Program could come in handy as we try to change how we eat.

As is the case for anyone struggling with alcoholism, there is a recovery aspect to learning to eat well. That’s because as we change our eating patterns, emotional cues pop up that would pull us right back to a diet heavily laced with sugar, salt and sugar.

Like a shot of Jack Daniels, or a drag on a cigarette, there’s that momentary feeling that once you slurp from a boat of ice cream and chocolate syrup, or sink your teeth into a plateful of greasy, barbequed buffalo wings, you’re among “friends.”

Why’s that? Because there’s a comfort in the familiar, and what’s unfamiliar is uncomfortable. The familiar territory is the land of processed foods. Along with sugar, salt and fat, they also have chemical additives to create or enhance virtually any flavor. It’s a fool’s culinary paradise!

There’s also that aspect of routine ~ something we’ve gotten so used to ~ we feel uncomfortable if we do things differently, like drinking water instead of soda pop, or fixing a veggie plate instead of a meal, or not eating until we’re stuffed.

It’s a big part of what we as a culture DO. We work, EAT, and sleep.

But like any dysfunctional habit, we come by it honestly. It’s reinforced through TV commercials, billboards, radio ads and restaurant menus, and a plethora of other prompts.

And like any other dysfunctional habit, it helps distance us from who we are. Our feelings clue us as to what’s authentic and what’s not, and indulging in the addictive elements of food keep us stuck in the “same old, same old.”

The insight here is to realize that, just as in the case of alcoholism, there is no personal indictment here, so shame is totally out of place ~ besides being disabling and non-productive.

There is a connection between our relationship wtih food and our relationship with ourselves. Make just one change in what you drink or eat by replacing it with a food choice in its natural state. It could be as simple as drinking water instead of soda pop.

And if that feels uncomfortable, you’re probably headed in the right direction!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Few Get Their Money's Worth Outside the Kitchen!

Unless you live in a monastery, eating only healthy foods is tough to do. But you can be mindful of what you eat all the time, and that’s optimal.

When you get it right, it’s become a lifestyle. Until then, it’s practice ~ everyday. I find there can be quite a distance in between, but your paycheck can be the voice of reason.

Witness a day trip my husband and I took up on the Grand Mesa with our two small grandaughters. We set off to drive up Lands End Road through Kannah Creek to the top of the mountain to see the chipmunks that swarm around up there waiting for tourists to toss them pumpkin seeds.

Thinking ahead, I packed grapes, trail mix and bottled water. The girls had such fun seeing chipmunks for the first time, that we introduced another “first” ~ a walk in the woods. By mid-afternoon we were hungry, so we stopped into a lodge restaurant for lunch.

Thirty-five dollars later we walked out, feeling less than satisfied. I would guess the same thing plays out with parents and grandparents in restaurants everywhere.

You look on the menu for something for the kids and your options are basically the following: corn dogs with fries, grilled cheese sandwiches with fries, chicken strips with fries, or peanut butter and jelly ~ with fries.

I ordered a half turkey sandwich with a side salad, and my husband ordered a buffalo burger. We ordered one serving of chicken strips for the girls to spilt. They ate a few bites and were done.

Oh, I was mindful, alright ~ That probably with the exception of the buffalo burger, the food wasn’t that great. The chicken strips were tough and deep fried, the turkey sandwich was overloaded with meat, and we left a lot on the plates. I was mindful that the meal was minimally nutritious, and I was mindful that it cost $35!

It would have made more sense to split one buffalo burger four ways ~ and share the side order of fries.

I know there are lots of families eating out many times during the week, because it’s easier than navigating their kitchens and planning a menu. They’d probably be shocked to know how much they spend.

Those crumbled up receipts we dig out of our purses and our pants pockets at the end of the week give a pretty good picture of our choices.

If you’re mindful, you'll see that those choices can be pretty expensive ~ for your pocketbook, and eventually, for your health!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eating Right Takes Focus!

When Bill Maher, TV comedian, was asked by Larry King what he thought would be the silver bullet for solving our health care crisis, Maher quipped: “Eat right!”

Maher doesn’t even shop at a grocery store ~ he gets his whole produce elsewhere. But the rest of us shop at supermarkets most of the year ~ except maybe when we can take advantage of seasonal farmers’ markets.

People generally DO want to eat right, Bill ~ I just don’t think they know how to go about it.

I would say a big part of the issue is lack of focus.

Feeding our bodies is somehow jammed into lives already crammed with way too much detail. In our culture, we have to take time to program our TV remotes, remember passwords for any online transactions, and read ingredients on food packaging. If you’re a diabetic, you’ve got another whole array of calculations to deal with.

The problem with focus generally translates into too many choices.

You know you’d eat right if you were hiking in the boonies with a backpack containing only bottled water, some apples and nuts, and a cheese sandwich. You wouldn’t even have to think about portion control. You’d have focus because you’d eat and then you’d walk, and if you got hungry, you’d stop and eat some more.

But when I opened up the fridge today at lunchtime, I found it difficult to focus because there was so much in there. (My husband also grocery shops. Ideally, one person should have that job!)

Lunch used to automatically mean a sandwich. I’m trying to get away from that routine. So as I gazed at the food, I decided once again to leave bread out of the equation. I filled a small salad plate with several things. I spotted a tropical turkey salad from the deli. The currants, pineapple, celery and turkey would all be good if they weren’t swimming in mayo. So I just took a spoonful, but also added some hot spiced cabbage and carrots I had picked up, and a few yellow pear tomatoes. I then sliced part of a nectarine to top it all off.

My focus was making sure most of what I had on my plate was whole, unprocessed food. The turkey salad was the exception. Most of what was on the plate was fruits and vegetables.

The litmus. I felt satisfied ~ but not stuffed. Food truly is an appetite suppressant if you choose the right food.

With the exception of the turkey salad, there were no ingredients to read ~ and since I only took a spoonful, I figured it didn’t matter that much anyway. Using a small plate cuts calories right away.

I’ve made a habit of eating small amounts more often during the day ~ so midway between lunch and dinner, I’ll have some nuts and the rest of that nectarine.

Right now there’s still way more food in there than we both need, so I need to call some friends to come dine and share it.

But I have to say it’s liberating to know that you need to eat relatively little to sustain your life ~ and to eat well, at that!

So, Bill ~ what do you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dining on Peanut Butter & Jelly

My five-year-old grand daughter and I have a routine whenever we go to an evening yoga class (I do the yoga and she socializes!) We eat together afterwards.

She got a picnic basket for her birthday, and so this week she wanted to pack something to have after class. She’s overheard me talking a lot about portion sizes, and I guess some of it sunk in.

“Meemaw… let’s order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to split,” she said.

Now the irony is, since we were ordering sandwiches, I was envisioning portabella mushroom and grilled vegetables on a panini bun.

For all that preaching, after a work out, I was prepared for something I felt I deserved ~ and more than half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I wasn’t excited. But I had to be supportive of her suggestion. It was a teachable moment ~ for both of us.

It centered around our relationship with food.

She was ready to savor the experience of a picnic with her new picnic basket, regardless of what we ate. So I went with it.

She asked for a side of carrots and celery rather than chips. Good for her! I could have weakened for the salty taste of chips. I relented when she asked for a small Dr. Pepper. We collected our order at Spoons Bistro & Bakery, placed it in the basket, and then went out on the lawn.

A ritual was unveiled before my eyes. First, a tiny, napkin-sized cloth was spread on the ground. Then she pulled out small, plastic glasses and two little saucers. She placed a generous half -a- sandwich on each saucer with the raw vegetables, and my tea and her pop were poured into the glasses. It was something to behold. We were ready to dine!

She took her time ~ much longer than I had planned ~ as she talked about how much fun this was, and got up a few times to run across the lawn.

The Zen of it all was when we finished, I was satisfied ~ but not before experiencing some moments of discomfort. I realized I’m usually in a rush, and I can easily put aside resolve when it comes to food. I got a peak at my addictive side.

At the end of our “dinner”, I felt somewhat liberated ~ at least for today. Like those tough yoga poses, I had coaxed myself into a new and unfamiliar position.

I know all about good choices, as most people do. I’m writing about it all the time on this blog.

But it’s well worth noting here that few of us are paragons of virtue. We strive to succeed, but we often fall short until our awareness catches up with what we’re trying to accomplish.

Our relationship with food reflects much of where we are on the journey! More to come ~

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eat More ~ Crave Less?

I heard it today ~ “Food is an appetite suppressant!”

It was in the context of a presentation by Ryan Andrews, a registered dietitian, who lectured at Mesa State College this afternoon. It’s unequivocally true ~ if we’re talking about natural, whole foods.

I tried it out. A friend shared a recipe for a zucchini soup ~
made by basically packing a blender full of raw zucchini, thawed frozen peas, avocado, fresh basil, garlic and lemon juice ~ along with a cup of water.

I ladled the pureed mixture into a small bowl, topped it with a few slivers of goat cheese and some ground pepper, and savored it. It’s what would be called “energy dense” food because it’s loaded with nutrients.

There were no cravings for a slice of sour dough bread slathered with butter to go with it, or for a dessert afterwards since, after all, it was just soup. I felt as though I had had plenty to eat ~ and since it was the last meal of the day, I most likely had.

I still had some work to do on my computer, and I felt alert enough to do that ~ unlike if I had consumed some carb-rich foods that would left me partly thinking about the work I had to do, and partly about what else I might find in the kitchen.

Andrews is right. If you choose the right stuff, it satisfies you.
If weight loss is your goal, you can think less about counting calories, and focus more on choosing from a wide selection of energy-dense foods. How liberating is that?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Body Is a Temple ~ Or, You Are What You Eat

Your body is a temple.

("...of the Holy Spirit", in the Catholic genre.)


I never got that as a kid, and I heard it all the time in the context of Catechism classes. That was back in the fifties when I was devouring chocolate Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies. My grandmother kept harping that Coke would turn a penny green, but I didn’t think much about that either.

I took my cue from what was served up at our dinner table, and we had desserts most nights of the week. My parents put sugar in their coffee, we dumped sugar in our Kool-aid, and allowance went for candy bars and comic books.

No wonder that whole “your body is a temple” concept was tough to grasp. When we were older and reached middle school, (“junior high” then) we decided that adage mostly had to do with avoiding heavy petting, or foreplay, in today’s vernacular. Few adolescents in that day were having intercourse.

Now the ancient teachings are starting to make sense ~ no matter if they’re Buddhist, Jewish or Christian. We’re now coming to understand that rituals like Lenten fasts and Hanukkah observances promote spiritual health because they also promote physical health. They offer our digestive tracts ~ our bodies ~ a break from the toxic stuff we ingest all year. They provide a cleansing for the cells ~ which turns out to be a cleansing of the soul.

But this "temple" connection isn't miraculous ~ it’s science.

If we overload our systems with fat, salt, sugar and chemicals, we create a toxic sludge that parks in our body parts to ferment into a costly diagnosis later. It also affects our ability to think clearly, to concentrate, to relax, and to generally feel happy.

Some would argue that the link between nutrition and illness is not evidenced based.

It’s actually beyond that because we believe the anecdotal accounts of people who've eat well and gotten better.

That's not rocket science. We’re an energetic field, made up of atoms and molecules that are constantly rearranging themselves. It's probably in sixth grade text books.

We can feel better tomorrow based on we eat today. That checks out by experience. We may still battle the same medical conditions, but fueling our bodies with energy rich fruits and vegetables gives us a little more leverage in regaining our health. The more often you make those kinds of choices, the better what's going on at a cellular level.

You’re outlook on life is a view from that temple. Be mindful of what you eat, because you’re feeding both body and soul!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Confused About Food ? Just Pay Attention!

One thing is for sure ~ There are very few of us who always “walk the talk”. After several weeks of grazing on healthy stuff, I noticed that the sum total of a recent day’s worth of healthy eating was a few carrots.

It started with a chai tea and a scone at the coffee shop around 9 a.m., and then I worked through lunch, munching some cheese and peanut butter crackers in my desk drawer. Mid-afternoon I headed out for a quick sandwich, succumbing to a grilled cheese. I had the choice of a side of chips or carrots, so I opted for the carrots. Dinner was crackers and tuna. Eating that day pretty much totaled a bunch of carbs with a trace of nutrition from vegetables and fish. The only plus that day was that I don’t drink soda pop.

But it was only because I’ve been journaling what I eat that I could see how well I can still fool myself about my own level of awareness as I went about my day. That day, I had other things on my mind, and so that day, I wasn’t focusing on what I know should be a priority.

So I realized this ~ Just like myself, most people know what they should be eating, so they really don’t lack information. Magazine, newspaper articles and health brochures abound with that kind of stuff.

I think it’s life. Other things get in the way.

It boils down to mindfulness, and being crystal clear on where you want to focus your energies. And every bite is a choice.

We assume that eating right is something we’ll get around to while we attend to everything else in our lives. For lots of people, it begins with a diagnosis that tells them their state of health has reached a tipping point.

There’s no alarm bell that goes off as you ingest food that’s been engineered, processed, or “pesticized”. You very gradually get older and sicker until one day a battery of medical tests validates it.

We’re living in uncertain times, true enough, and daily distractions can send us in a million different directions.

But every choice that isn’t mindful is siphoning away life energy, bit by bit. And the most important choice we can make is what we eat, because every single bite is an investment.

I think of it as a sort of retirement account. A healthy 401K will mean nothing if you get to age 60 just to hand it all over to pay medical bills!

If you get the chance, see Food, Inc. ~ the recently released documentary about America’s food industry. Small wonder we have the health crisis we’re experiencing now. Maybe our health reform package should subsidize anyone who has an organic garden and doesn’t eat processed food!

This all may sound radical, but that would be because it sounds too simple. It sounds simple because it is. We need to be mindful of what we eat. We’re all smart enough to figure out the rest!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Eating Right? How's Your Energy Level?

So why is eating right so tough?

Most people know what they need to eat less of, and what they should eat more of. It's not like good food is not easy to get. But like so many of the things we do ~ or fail to do ~ that aren't in our best interests, it's really beyond just "knowing" it.

Of course, the whole eating thing is incredibly complex ~ and eating disorders abound in this country.

However, the prescription is not a simple matter of just not eating stuff (or, in the case of anorexia, eating stuff).

Dr. Judith Orloff presents an interesting point of view in her new book, "Positive Energy". She says for many people, over-eating is an unconscious attempt to buffer negative energy at work, home, school ~ or just about anywhere. She suggests that for some, obesity is like a sort of protective armor against overwhelming vibes.

An interesting proposition. That means people who are highly sensitive and atune to the negative emotional energy fields emanating from people or situations around them may head to the refrigerator to diffuse what is, for them, an energetic overload.

This, Orloff says, is why dieting often fails.

Her solution is to look to the foods that will restore energy to your cells ~ foods that have a higher energy quotient, like organic vegetables and fruits.

Here's a quick test you can apply to find out if what you eat has positive energy ~

It radiates a healthy appearance, and it is chemical and preservative-free.

It's filling, and you don't have the impulse to overeat.

Negative energy foods, on the other hand, are loaded with preservates and chemicals, often make your feel bloated, and stimulate over-eating and sugar/carb binges.

Protein is important in keeping your energy levels balanced ~ but limit portions of meat or chicken to 2 -3 ounces. Most of us eat far too much protein ~ which contributes to acidity. (Another topic for later ~)

Be sure and drink water! Six to eight glasses is as good an idea now as when you learned that in grade school!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stressed Over a Food Budget? Maybe Less Really Is More!

I’m intrigued with the “grazing” experience. After a week of being mindful of what I eat, I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe “less is more”.

I seem to have more energy ~ and more money! How novel is that?

I made notes of what I ate for a week ~ Instead of no breakfast, I had either a hard-boiled egg, a little fruit and some tomato juice ~ or an English muffin and peanut butter and tomato juice.
Lunch was again some fruit with something like tuna/celery salad, or avocado and lemon juice with a slice of Swiss cheese on a flour tortilla, and dinner was often a salad with lots of vegetables.

Nuts and fruit were the main fillers mid-day and mid-afternoon.

If I had a hamburger for lunch or dinner, I skipped the bread and added fresh tomatoes and an ear of corn. There was no potato side dish. You get the idea.

That’s more or less the gist of it ~ but it allowed me a night of eating dinner out mid-week without that nagging guilt that I was spending too much money on food.

I admit it does feel strange not to have to run to the store as part of my meal planning, because then you have to decide what to do with that big hole in your day.

It’s also been easier to provide good nutrition for my granddaughters when they visit because kids are generally programmed to graze. A half a cheese sandwich with some sliced pears was just fine for lunch the other day ~ and so much cheaper than fast food and pop!

A caveat here. The men and women who work all day sweating calories out there in the hot sun most likely require more food for fuel. Just pay attention and eat more of those nutrient-rich foods and watch out for the packaged, processed stuff that just adds empty calories and makes you only crave more. A big hamburger at noon is probably just what you need ~ but some carrots and a bottle of cold water would be a much better choice than fries and soda pop!

Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Worry About Rationed Health Care ~ Ration Fast Food!

There was a provocative piece in the New York Times recently examining the conundrum of rationing health care. The experts say it’s already happening. We just don’t recognize it.

True enough. Our system rations care now when people without health insurance get no care, or co-pays are too high, even with insurance. The high cost of some pharmaceutical drugs determines who can get the drugs they need. It’s all rationed by virtue of their ability to pay.

From my perspective, of course, how we eat is central to how much any of us can control. The biggest health issues ~ heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers are connected to toxic accumulations of fat, sugar and salt ~ not to mention all the chemical preservatives.

What drives it is what we as a culture believe about food ~ that If you eat enough, there’s an emotional reward that has little to do with meeting the nutritional needs of our bodies. It’s a sedative for uncertainty, depression and anxiety.

Eating is a pivotal event in the day ~ driven as much by pleasure as nourishment. It also can absorb a lot of time.

Rather than trying to put together three meals every day, I’ve found some success with grazing for the good stuff ~ meaning you eat more often ~ just in smaller quantities.

You’ll burn more calories, you’ll spend less money, and you’ll have more energy. The only thing holding you back is your thoughts. Thoughts bring emotions, and emotions seek food rewards ~ so recognize it and get past it. You’re after affordable health care!

Affordable Health Care Tips ~

Eat smaller portions five or six times a day, rather than three meals.

A hard-boiled egg or a half an English muffin with peanut butter, some fruit and a small glass of tomato juice will get you off to a good start in the morning. Even two of those options are better than nothing.

Carry some almonds, a small yogurt or a banana with you for a snack mid-morning. You could also have the other half of that peanut butter muffin.

If you’re going to eat more at any point in the day, make it lunch rather than dinner. If you want a burger, skip the fries and order fruit.

Mid-afternoon, eat a banana or drink a smoothie.

Have what used to be the lunchtime salad for dinner and add 3 oz of grilled meat or fish with a slice of bread. (Watch the salad dressing!!)

Don’t snack after 7 p.m. If TV is the culprit, turn it off!

You can adapt this for kids. If you’re going to be out in the car, just pack an insulated lunch bag with some of these options (minus the almonds if kids are small) so you resist the inclination to swing through the drive-through food stop. Instead, go to the park! You’ll save a bunch of money!

Don’t sabotage your new health care plan with soda pop! Your body craves water to do its work!

Try this out for a week. Keep some notes of what you ate and how you felt at the end of the week!

I’d love to have you comment on my blog!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shop for Health Insurance ~ Buy an Avocado!

Last week I stopped at a coffee shop to have a frappacino with my stepdaughter. I don’t usually order those ~ but it was still hot outside so I thought it would be refreshing.

I selected a toffee frappacino. It was like sipping out of a jug of pancake syrup! I don’t eat desserts often, so a straw full of this sugar assault was about all I could drink. I handed it back in exchange for an iced tea.

Of course, those kinds of food and drink choices are everywhere, making it both physically and psychologically daunting to pick something that’s good for your body. Just one frappacino with whipped cream would not likely be the “deal breaker” that sends you to the hospital ER, but a series of those types of choices adds up ~ often resulting in a diagnosis of something like heart disease or diabetes.

As a result, there’s been a lot written and discussed of late about raw foods, and I plan to say more about that later. But if you think you’re ready to change course, the easiest approach is to begin eliminating the processed stuff in your diet. It can start with your very next trip to the fridge.

After a few days of eating fresh foods, you may notice a drop in your energy level, mostly likely because your cells are detoxifying. But if you continue, that won’t last long ~ and with each healthy food choice you’ll notice your energy level will gradually pick up.

Think of it as health insurance.

It’s a delusion to think that the sum total of our future health security will be hammered out on Capital Hill. As I write, there’s political strategy in place now to insure that nothing changes. Hopefully, the current system goes away because it’s simply not sustainable. But while we watch to see what emerges, our own personal power lies in shoring up our body’s own natural defenses with energy- dense foods.

You don’t need to be a cook to do it! More about that next week.

This Week’s Suggestion ~

If you do nothing else, drink less pop and more water!

If you love carbonated drinks, here’s a nice alternative:

Mix some tonic water with a tsp or less of agave sweeter, a slice or two of lime, and some mint leaves. Or forget the agave and mint, and just drink tonic water and lime. (For diabetics, agave has a far lower glycemic index than other sweeteners and offers a much healthier alternative to diet pop!)

Next time I’ll talk about “grazing” for the good stuff!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Want Affordable Healthcare? Eat Well!

So much is about food, you know.

How we spend our money, how we spend our time, how good we feel is, in large part, connected to food. "Follow the money" is the adage to find what drives business ventures. I would say "follow the food" if you want to guage the state of your health ~ or even your bank account.

That's why I've chosen to write about it. I'll write about what's good to eat, the emotional struggle to avoid what's bad, and how to simplify that part of your life.

This is my first blog ~ so I'm going to devote a bit more space here to frame why I think our relationship with food is so terribly important. Just look at the debate surrounding health care. The scurry on Capital Hill to craft a workable health care plan has been framed as the tip of our economic sword. If lawmakers don’t come up with an effective plan, they say we’ll drain all available buckets for social security, education, and on down the line.

Yes, sick people need access to care ~ but how much care can we afford? Keep in mind that even if everyone had access, the nation barely has enough physicians to treat those who are insured now.

The issue, basically, is how do we give sick people what they need to get well? But there’s also an overarching issue ~ Why are so many Americans getting so sick in the first place? In the best of worlds, energy and dollars would go towards preventing illness and maintaining good health.

But our medical system isn’t set up that way. If it was, medical insurance would handsomely reimburse for prevention programs and practices.

Culturally speaking, it’s another matter. It’s about how we live. In that respect, individually we have more control than we realize. In this country, food is central to that. In most other cultures, people eat to live. Here, we live to eat.

The food industry has largely promoted that. In his recent book, “The End of Overeating”, Dr. David Kessler says what’s put in food fuels the desire to keep eating it. Basically, those addicting ingredients are salt, sugar and fat. Add to that the chemical overlays that can replicate any taste to enhance those reward feelings that make us want more, and we’re hooked.

You may stave off quite well during the day, because that’s when most people are busiest. But come quitting time, it’s hard to resist heading to the fridge for something tasty, turning on the TV and then parking on the couch. Those who eat lunch out may be looking forward to fries midway through the morning.

Is it because they lack will power? No. That’s where people beat themselves up way too much. What’s really going on is your cells are depleted of energy you that could be getting from food in a purer state. As a result, you feel worn out and totally unmotivated to choose broccoli over chips.

The motivation has to be there first. So consider this. Modern medicine can’t restore you to health if you’re eating junk. No amount of access to medical care is going to make you feel better until you begin paying attention to what you put into your body.

And it’s defeating to make being thinner the first goal. That will come as you get healthier. Getting healthier should be the first goal. And that process can begin with your very next bite.

Regardless of what’s decided in Washington, it’s going to take awhile to roll out a revamped health care program. In the meantime, there’s a veritable pharmacy right there in the fresh produce section of your grocery store.

That’s affordable health care. Now let's make the most of it!