Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just Be Mindful

At year's end, I must say that I'm hopeful.

Yes, we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic. Yes, we have a generation of children who are less healthy than their parents were as children.

But as I read all new books and magazine articles emerging on healthy eating, I see that there's an awareness growing that being mindful is the necessary backdrop for any kind of personal transformation, including weight loss and becoming healthier.

"Awareness is the key to change. Once we are aware of something, it cannot remain the same. Awareness plus small changes in our automatic behaviors can produce large changes over time."
That, from "Mindful Eating ~ A Guide to Rediscovering a Healhty & Joyful Relationship With Food."

There you have it ~ a simple solution, yet a difficult practice ~ at first. But not forever.

As we realize there is no "perfect", there is no "end zone" or arrival point, we understand that every moment presents opportunities for change and greater happiness.

And no behavior presents itself as often as eating. It's something we all do ~ everyday.

If we take the time to appreciate that good food is a gift to us ~ we not only feed our bodies, but also our hearts ~ and our souls.

May you gather at your tables in that spirit with those you love and celebrate how very blessed we are ~ each and every one of us!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reflections on the Fiber Focus

What I love about this approach is that I don't think much about food ~ and the more fiber-rich foods I eat, the more I naturally gravitate towards them.

I don't find that I'm "makin' a list and checkin' it twice" like I often do when I obsess about food, and I don't drive myself crazy deciding whether I've been "naughty or nice" if I decide to have a piece of cheesecake!

Over the past week, I find I do have to "graze" and eat often just to get maybe 30 grams of fiber during the course of the day, and I feel pretty good as a result physically.

The surprise here is that I've felt much more calm and centered emotionally ~ pretty much within the week or so span I've been doing this. It's an unexpected bonus!

I feel more confident about my food choices, because I'm not struggling so often with the "should I" or "shouldn't I" debate, but rather know that my body directs me to eat what I need ~ and the choices are good!

This is a new dimension of the food journey that's well worth exploring!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Count Fiber Grams ~ Not Calories!

Here's a nugget of health advice ~ to prevent or improve heart disease, diabetes, or obesity ~ make those grams of fiber add up every day!

Fiber revs up your metabolism, helps stabilize blood sugars, optimizes what goes on in your intestines and reduces food cravings ~ and all you have to do is eat enough of it!

So gone are the worries that you'll weaken and eat a sack of Oreo's, or how you'll ever figure out complicated food exchanges ~ or that you have to keep counting calories.

The trick, I hear, is to eat 40 grams of fiber every day, and your body chemistry calibrates the rest.

I tried it out yesterday. It was enlightening. First of all, you won't find much fiber in fast food ~ so there's a benefit right there. It's mainly in fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes (beans), but you have to eat a lot to tally 40 g ~ another benefit. Lastly, once you get six or seven grams of fiber under your belt (literally)for the day, you don't crave foods that offer NOTHING nutritionally.

So ~ I started with a serving of oatmeal mixed with a chopped apple. That's 9 g right there. (Most apples have 5 g of fiber, which probably is how the adage, "an apple a day" came about.)

A handful of almonds later on added another several grams, and for lunch I had two bowls of a soup that I had made the day before with chopped beets, cabbage, carrots and onions ~ so about 7 g for each bowl ~ or 14 g total.

Going into the afternoon, I had already had more than 20 g of fiber and I noticed that I felt pretty good. The other thing I noticed was I really craved more of the good stuff ~ so another apple was much more appealing mid afternoon than fiberless saltines or something sweet.

So as you "nickel and dime" your way along in terms of grams, you find it's really not that difficult to get to 40g at the end of the day ~ if you're eating the right stuff. Though you have to eat often and a lot (of good stuff!!) to get there, it's not so hard because your body naturally craves it.

Take this as a mantra for two or three days: "Focus on forty!"

Let's see what happens!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is Healthy Eating a Path to Financial Stability?

... if you have any income at all, yes.

I just read today that Americans on the average spent $4,000 eating out last year. That breaks down to about $75 a week ~ so I'd guess they may even spend more than that. Americans also waste 40 percent of that food, which makes those excursions even pricier!

And of the food that gets eaten, how much is even good for them? Further, much of our health care spending goes to treat illnesses caused by the way we eat.

But this isn't out of control spending. It's all very much within the control of every person who eats.

Think about it ~ if you cut your trips to the restaurants by half, and then actually planned the meals that you have at home (because we waste 40 percent of kitchen food, too), you might end up with an extra $100 a week, or $400 at the end of the month ~ or enough over a year's time to buy a used car, make some home improvements, or take a vacation.

It would take some planning and some lifestyle changes, and the family would have to make a united effort (not a small challenge).

But if you end up healthier and wealthier for it, it may well be worth considering!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Put Thanksgiving Meal Stress on the Back Burner

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, the tension is mounting for the cooks. That's especially the case if company is coming!

But it doesn't have to be that way. For starters, it is, after all, THANKSGIVING DAY!
We have much to be thankful for, and so it is important to focus on that. All the rest is small stuff. For starters, if you have smiling faces on the people you love as they gather around the table, you could serve up macaroni and cheese and celebrate!

So if you're planning the traditional dinner, and you have the money to go grocery shopping because you have a job, and you have a table around which to gather the people you love ~
you're rich by the much of the world's standards.

The best strategy in getting ready for the big meal to plan ahead and keep it simple.

The central player is the turkey, so buy it early enough so it will have time to thaw. (The larger ones can take a couple of days to thaw in the fridge.) If you're planning on making a cranberry salad, that should be done the day before.

If you're having company, let someone else bring a potato dish (sweet potatoes or traditional, mashed potatoes) because managing both, along with gravy, is probably the most time consuming part. If your not having guests, assign that task to another member of the family.

Once the turkey is stuffed and in the oven (usually early in the morning to be ready by midday), you can then focus on a couple of healthy side dishes ~ with recipes calling for green beans, squash or carrots.

Here's another tip. Clean up pans and dishes as you go ~ then you won't be overwhelmed with the messy array spread over the stove and counter tops, and spilling over into the kitchen sink.

If you have children over age five, let them set the table. (You can fine tune the layout later!)

Another key: Focus on the moments and the tasks right in front of you and forget about the litany that remains to be done. Also ~ take a minute every now and then to just breathe!

Don't get hung up on the Norman Rockwell vision in your head of the perfect holiday setting. That guarantees it won't be what you hope for. Embrace what surrounds you, with all its imperfections.

And smile a lot ~ because that's what everyone will remember.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nothing Like Soup to Nourish Body & Soul

November is a month for soup.

Soup steaming from a bowl resonates with chilly winds and gray skies, and a crock pot can get plenty of use between now and abundant turkey left-overs!

I fixed a wonderful blend today ~ a sweet potato and peanut stew. (See recipe section of this blog)

What I love about soups is you can vary the ingredients, depending on what you have on hand.
I've written a number of times about the value of having a food pantry ~ with such items as canned tomatoes, beans, and broths.

Those are employed in this recipe, along with a few diced sweet potatoes, some spices like cinnamon and cumin, mixed with garlic and red pepper flakes ~ and peanut butter!

It can all go into the crock pot at once, or if you want to fix it quicker on stove top, saute the spices and garlic in a dab of olive oil, and then add it to the pot with everything else.

The blend of spices warms the spirit, as well as the palette.

As with any dish that combines a host of nutritious ingredients, you shouldn't crave more once you've eaten a hearty bowl of this soup!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Splitting a Meal Helps Keep Calories in Check, & Your Checkbook!

You want to save money and eat right. You can't eat restaurant food and accomplish that.


It's about balance. It doesn't have to be an "either or" decision.

Typically, the frugal course is to cook at home. But sometimes you want some variation from that routine. You can make that choice, and it can still be relatively healthy, and still be affordable.

For example, my husband and I had been very busy all day, and while we could have cooked up something at home, it was Friday night and we wanted something different.

We know, of course, that to go out for dinner is always in the neighborhood of $35 or $40. We only feel good about spending that much money once or twice a month ~ maybe.

So I suggested Andy stay at home and relax and I'd get something for us. I selected a local Asian restaurant and picked up one order of vegetables and rice for us to split. That was less than $10.00.

When I got home, the wine was opened and we shared what turned out to be plenty for two people. It was delicious ~ it was something different ~ and it was very affordable.

Tomorrow I'll refocus on preparing something good here at home.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It Doesn't Have To Be "All or Nothing"!

If we lived in monasteries or ashrams, we'd find it pretty easy to watch what we ate. Healthy meals ~ though not gourmet ~ would be served on schedule, and we wouldn't likely have a stash of stuff to eat back in our rooms!

Life would be much slower and much more predictable.

But that's not how we live, and often the best we can do is make the intention to nourish our bodies, and be aware of the choices we're making.

The other day, for instance, I was hurrying around town and found myself very hungry at midday. I had snacked on almonds earlier (because I've made it a habit to have them close by), but I felt like I had to eat something fast!

So I stopped at McDonald's. Yes, I did!

But I gave it some thought ahead of time. I remembered that their fish sandwiches were not greasy, not huge, and fairly tasty. I asked them to cut the tartar sauce. With that, I had some raw carrots and my water.

I'm very aware that it doesn't take much to send anyone back down that addictive road laced with salt, fat and sugar, so that made it easier to just stick to the sandwich!

Again, I have to stress that just being aware makes our choices better.

Later that evening, I diced up some cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and basil, and mixed a quick dressing of crushed garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and oregano to pour over it so I would have something healthier to eat for lunch the next day.

We just do our best ~ that's all. And it doesn't have to equate to "perfect"!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Are We There Yet?

That's the goal when it comes to healthy eating.

We strive for perfection, when we should be striving for balance. If you strive for perfection, there will be absolutely nothing enjoyable about the journey you're taking! Perfection is a concept that's outdated ~ and virtually useless in this context.

Take yesterday, for example. I was totally off balance. I could observe that clearly by my food choices. I had two slices of Boston cream pie at my son's birthday dinner the night before, and felt bad about that second piece. But then yesterday I was stewing about some things, and my response was to go to the coffee shop and have a slice of pumpkin cake drizzled with pumpkin icing.

I decided not to feel bad about it this time ~ but rather to just look at it as the clear choice that it was. I had to accept that, despite my best intentions, I had chosen to indulge AGAIN!

I can tell you the urge was pretty strong ~ probably because I had done the same thing the day before.

What I observed was perhaps this is how those with any addiction feel ~ remorse over a choice that takes them off balance. The conclusion: No willpower.

But that's not true.

It's not about willpower, it's about balance. You essentially set the stage for the best choices ~ and for those that aren't so good ~ by how well you nurture your body.

I hadn't been paying attention. I hadn't been eating mindfully because my attention was elsewhere ~ which is the case with anyone who's addicted. Their attention is elsewhere.

So instead of resisting what threw me off, instead I took a good, long look.

Because of that, I see things a bit more clearly than I did before.

If I'm mindful, I know that my choices tomorrow will be even better!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reading Food Labels Is a Waste of Time!

We're WAY too hung up on reading labels. I rarely do. Simply put, if you're having to read labels all the time, you're eating way too much processed food.

I buy canned goods ~ but they're generally limited to three categories: broths, diced and stewed tomatoes, and beans. The only food items I buy in a box are oatmeal and pasta. Because I buy these items frequently, I pretty much know what's in them.

Calculating all that stuff, along with grams of fat, cholesterol and carbs makes eating pure works ~like taking a life-long math class! The reality is that many of those who so diligently do that by day, end up raiding the cupboards and refrigerator for the bad stuff at night. If you're not eating enough fruits, nuts and vegetables ~ you're body simply isn't every nurtitionally satisfied!

To make life easier, and eating more enjoyable, eat more fresh stuff than processed, packaged food ~ and move around more. And make it a practice to ask yourself what you are really hungry for when those cravings hit.

Maybe it's not food, at all!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Community Table Adds Incentive to Eat Well

That's right. Invite someone to supper ~ preferably in the neighborhood.

I'm struck by the challenge of eating well when all the resolve is solely up to you as you travel your solitary path. Lots of people decide every day that they're going to get healthier by eating better, but their best intentions fail once they hit the house they share with those closest to them.

Unfortunately, it's not often the place where we get the most support. Sure, the intentions may be there in theory ~ but the work of making new agreements and planning a new strategy involves real communication; not an arena where families ~ couples ~ often excel.

To keep the positive vibes perking, invite a neighbor to dinner. That's when everyone can brush up on their manners and put forth their better selves. You know, like saying "please and thank you" or putting bread on a bread plate instead of laying the bread sack on the table.

Conversation tends to elevate, as well ~ so instead of complaining about jobs, school, kids or ex's, talk may turn to a world of other interesting things, including how to eat healthier!

The house gets freshened up, the clutter is stashed, good food is cooking and there's the anticipation that comes with the arrival of company ~ because we're all going to like ourselves just a little bit better.

It's a good way to feed your body and your spirit!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Simple Can Soup Be?

Here's a delicious soup that's so easy to prepare!

Like most soups, you can just fill your crock pot in the morning and have dinner ready when you get home that night. If you have the last of some summer tomatoes on hand that are now overly ripe, this is a good way to use them!

Gather about four pounds of the tomatoes and cut them into chunks. (To easily remove their skins, drop them in boiling water for a minute or so, and you can slip the skins right off!)

Finely chop one medium onion, a celery stalk and a carrot (use more, if you like), and saute them in a tablespoon of butter in a large soup pan. Stir in a clove of garlic and two tsp. of thyme and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes, a can of chicken broth, some salt and pepper, a half cup of water and a bay leaf.

Heat it to boiling, and then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and you're ready to serve!

If you make a larger batch, the soup will keep in the fridge for several days ~ or you can freeze it for a hot winter meal!

Eating well doesn't have to be precise! Just choose nutritious, healthy ingredients and every dish will only get better!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simple Dishes Contributed to Luxury Vacation

I was amazed at how planning simple meals ahead made my recent get together with my sisters in Telluride an incredible bargain!

Even though we rented a luxury condo, because we brought food in and split up the food prep, it cut our costs significantly.

To eat, say, just lunch and dinner down in the village could have easily cost each of us $30 - $40 a day. Instead we dined in grand style on simple dishes, including breakfast!

We lounged, drank red wine, slept, ate, rode the gondola ~ and talked lots over those four days while we celebrated my sister's 60th!

We paired up to fix our assigned meals, while the rest kicked back and relaxed. No one had to hurry. There were no reservations to make, no restaurants to decide on, no menus to pour over, and no checks to pay when we finished.

I was surprised that all our meals were pretty much meatless. Lots of yummy vegetable dishes!

Food can be a huge expense when you travel, but it doesn't have to be!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Start With Breakfast

You don't know where to begin. You want to eat healthier, and be healthier, but you just can't engineer a system that gets you there.

If you think of it, all you really need is a "foot hold" ~ something to ground you ~ a "set point."

Make it breakfast!

Most people probably run out the door without it, cruising through a drive-thru coffee bar instead.
But taking the time to fix a bowl of cereal (preferably, sugar-free) can re-orient you to what you really want ~ and that's to nourish yourself.

Much of our day is spent responding to things, so why not begin your day from a point of control?

Eating is the one arena in this crazy world, during these crazy times, where we can have some focus, some control ~ and achieve some very good outcomes.

Just a bowl of cereal with some fruit gives you the early morning energy boost your body needs, and it engages your metabolism to start burning calories. That's why you've probably experienced that your are hungrier then, by 10 a.m. Carry some almonds with you to snack on midday to stop those cravings and level out your blood sugars. They'll also get to work doing some good things for your arteries!

Make no other changes for a week ~ but keep that daily routine. Notice the difference it makes.

From there you can figure it out. Just eat more good stuff and eat less bad stuff.

Just pause long enough to notice!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mindful Cooking!

I've just spent the most amazing weekend in the mountains of the San Luis Valley ~ and much of it centered around food.

For four wonderful days a group of women writers enjoyed the peace and tranquility of a Buddhist monastery as we polished our word-smithing skills, while our culinary talents were nurtured in the kitchen. One of the monks both instructed and supervised as we sliced and diced the fresh vegetables and fruits that would star later at our dinner table.

My favorite was a Chinese Noodle Salad: Cooked Udon and rice noodles, layered with grilled tofu and eggplant, along with sauteed carrots, diakon (a large radish-type vegetable), steamed sno peas, and chopped red and orange peppers, English cucumbers, and Chinese cabbage.

The dressing was a combination of equal parts of soy sauce, dark sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin
(not quite as much), and some finely minced ginger.

This whole process was enhanced by gazing out the window at a beautiful little garden with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop.

Absolutely wonderful!

Monday, September 13, 2010

WHAT Are You Doing?

It turns out this is the pivotal question if you are going to eat "mindfully."

So much is about taste ~ the eating experience being "over" once you've swallowed your last bite.

Do you feel bloated, "stuffed", or are you craving more to eat? Then you haven't really nurtured yourself ~ you've just ingested calories because maybe you liked the taste, and perhaps the volume.

If that's the case, you probably find yourself on a pretty low energy frequency that matches well with TV programs that roll one after another, or hours surfing Facebook, or playing video games.
Our bodies, our minds and our hearts gain nothing from it ~ except the desire for more of the same.

It makes it so much easier to ignore our relationships, our inner conflicts, our frustrations and our disappointments. They all make for a good emotional salve, but the energy frequency remains the same ~ sluggish.

What would it be like to unplug, smile into the eyes of the person sharing the couch with you, and take time to appreciate and be grateful for a meal that you know will nourish your body?

Honestly, I used to read stuff like I just now wrote and think that it was all "too far out" for me. I couldn't relate ~ because I didn't want to be fully present when I was sitting down to eat. I saw food as a great escape ~ salivating over mashed potatoes and and salty gravy, buttered bread, meatloaf ~ and anything else that appeared on the table. Back in the day, I was after taste, and I was looking for volume. And I don't remember the people around me really "listening". We were all talking.

I came from a big Catholic family. We said grace before we ate, but I don't think it was with hearts filled with gratitude ~ it was what we had to do before we could eat. It was hard to feel nurtured and satisfied with all that guilt and shame that got dished up routinely in that culture.
So food helped with that sense of deprivation.

I see that now, but I didn't then.

So I offer to you that eating mindfully opens up a whole new world that operates on a much higher frequency.

I like it here so much more!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meet Leeks!

I should tell you just a bit about leeks, since I've referenced a menu item made with leeks at the bottom of my blog page.

You may not even know what they look like! Well ~ like giant green onions! Unlike onions, you have to cook them. They're great in soup ~ I sampled it last night. I don't suggest salting your soup after you serve it because leeks are high in sodium. But that's their only downside ~ far outweighed by the other wonderful nutrients that leeks possess to boost your immune system and keep you healthy (and make you healthier!)

Here's an interesting note ~ when I shopped yesterday, my neighborhood Safeway store didn't have any, but they offered to special order some. The clerk told me she used to always have them in stock, but no one was buying.

Too bad. The fresh produce section has lots of wonderful vegetables just waiting to be discovered!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Everyone ls a Cook!

As people are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that a pharmacy can reside in their kitchens, there's a universal truth that lags in belief.

It is this: Everyone is a cook.

The majority of Americans don't have the confidence, even though they are capable of producing. for example, a tasty marinara sauce for pasta if they have a skillet, some olive oil, a can of diced tomatoes (fresh is better, of course), and onion and some salt and pepper. Anyone can saute some chopped onion in a dab of olive oil, then add the tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Get fancy with Italian seasoning and some Parmesan cheese, and dinner is served!

But we get hung up on ingredients and measurements, just as we do calorie-counting. There's little we can really enjoy about the experience when we're stressing over details.

We can, however, put stuff together ~ and the more you do it, the more you develop the art of cooking. (Even if you're just mixing cans of food!)

For example, to that same tomato concoction, I added some lemon zest, and some diced basil, mint and parsely!

All of that good stuff works to nourish your body and boost your immune system!

The pasta, by the way, doesn't cover the whole plate. You don't have to measure it though ~ just use common sense about portions. Add some other vegetable to the mix instead of eating too much pasta. I also recommend buying the grain pasta, rather than enriched. Better for blood sugar control!

It takes a bit of planning, but once you get in stride with it, you'll find you eat out less, you feel better, and you're saving money!

Check out the section lower on this page on preparing Leek, Potato & Spinach Stew!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buyer's Remorse

... and it frequently comes after I've eaten out. Like tonight ~ I had gotten a few things at the store to make a Greek salad with a simple pasta dish for dinner tonight, but when my husband got home after three days away, we said: "Let's go out."

Forty dollars later, we asked ourselves, "Why did we do that?"

That's how impulse buying feels ~ rationalizing before as to why you should, and thinking of other ways you could have spent that money if you didn't. Were we celebrating? No. Was it a special treat? No. It just felt like a good idea ~ maybe because we could leave the house.

Any way you look at it, when you're income is stretched, like it is for many of us ~ it was a big price to pay when we could have stayed here, saved the money, and ~ most important ~ probably eaten a much healthier meal!

(As we drove home I thought ~ I could have paid for two extra days of pre-school classes for my granddaughter this week with that money!)

Another example of our heads battling with our hearts ~ we can count on our heads to supply the arguments for going against our hearts ~ every time.

To be mindful here, what I know for sure (as Oprah would put it) is that I get a very good feeling inside when I've put my energy (represented by money) into nurturing myself. I do that with good food ~ and the $13 I spent at the grocery store this afternoon felt a lot better than the $40 I plunked down at the restaurant.

The food was good ~ but not as good as I coud prepare at home. Fortunately, the next meal always provides the opportunity to make another choice!

(Go to my Recipes linked at the bottom of this page to see what I could have had!)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Bite to Eat

I had a pasta dish at noon.

I made it quickly here at home by sauteing some onion slices, some diced eggplant and zucchini in a dab of olive oil, and then adding a can of diced tomatoes (not drained), some salt and pepper, and some Italian seasonings. I boiled some fettecini noodles, put some on a plate and topped it with the vegetable sauce. Very delicious (and very inexpensive!)

My three-year-old granddaughter loved it!

This evening I found I wasn't so hungry. I had munched on almonds and some peach slices mid-afternoon, so for dinner I fixed a snack plate with some crackers, some garlic and artichoke hummus (I buy it at the store ~ lots of flavor varieties), a sliced tomato with basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar sprinkled over it, and a few more peach slices. A small glass of wine and a glass of water accompanied that ~ also a very healthy, inexpensive, EASY meal.

Almonds are a great thing to have around because they provide a quick snack that's healthy, cuts the food cravings, and gives you an energy boost.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Refrigerators Should Be Smaller

What if our refrigerators were smaller?

You'd save money on your electric bill ~ and you'd probably save money in your food budget. Considering Americans waste 40 percent (some estimates are higher) of the food they buy ~ whether in the grocery store or restaurant ~ it could make a lot of sense.

That being the case, those huge refrigerators we own turn out to be pretty expensive storage units, when a well stocked pantry and a down-sized fridge would be much more efficient.

Here's why.

Let's say you clear a closet, install some shelves, and spend $100 - $150 on a list ranging from a variety of beans and pastas, diced tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, a five or six spices, oatmeal, peanut butter, some cans of chicken and vegetable broths, and some raisins and nuts.

That gives you a pretty good boost for the ingredients for a lot of very healthy recipes.

For example, you could make a delicious dish of Mexican tomato, rice and beans, a great minnestrone soup, or a hearty vegetable stew by picking up a few things at the store ~ like carrots, onions, celery, and some cabbage.

They go in the refrigerator, but you don't buy a huge amount ~ just enough for a couple of meals.
Those things would be sharing space with whatever diary (or vegan) products you might use. Those things don't require a lot of room.

If you take a good look at what's taking up space in your fridge now, notice how much you're not even using.

Something to think about ...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Expensive Food Stop

Last week my daughter, my two granddaughters and I had lunch at one of their favorite lunch dining spots here in Grand Junction.

Lots on the menu. They do a good business.

But I found myself scrutinizing what we got for what we paid. Twenty-nine dollars was the total, not including tip. But I didn't see a lot of nutritional value in what I was served up.

I ordered an Asian salad ~ which turned out to be mostly ice burg lettuce with a few shredded veggies, some a few watercress and mandarin orange slices, and a crunchy topping. The salad dressing was sugary and super sweet. A grilled chicken breast sliced into strips was laid across the lettuce, and I opted to divide those with between my granddaughters.

So they wouldn't have needed the deep-fried tater tots or fried mashed potato "smilies" ~ or the chicken nuggets that they ordered, because they didn't eat them.

My daughter had a French dip roast beef sandwich, which she later said was twice as much as she needed. She didn't touch the mound of fries.

"Do you have a George Foreman grill at home?" I asked her.

I suggested that considering how much was left on the plates, for the several dollar tip alone she could have purchased a chicken breast, grilled it at home in the few minutes that takes, and then served the girls some chicken strips and a side of slices apples and a few chips. There woud probably still be enough for her to make a chicken sandwich.

I'm convinced that for many of us, eating out is sort of a "place holder" when we're not sure what we want to do next ~ and a very expensive one, at that!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Easy Vegetable Medley

Here's an easy dish that's inexpensive, takes little time to prepare, and is so good for you!

I pulled from my vegetable crisper a yellow squash, a zucchini, a stalk of celery, a carrot, an onion and a handful of mushrooms. No labels to read ~ just wonderful, nutrient-packed, food!

I think there's merit to taking your time to slice the vegetables (about 1/2 slices), because it gives you the chance to slow down and focus your attention. A very healthy practice in and of itself! I wash the vegetables good, but don't peel the skins off because there's good nutrition to be gained.

Meanwhile, heat some water to boiling in a sauce pan and then add some fettucini or linguini.

The rest is easy: Just heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet, and cook the onion for a few minutes first. Then add the carrots, because they are denser than the other vegetables, and cook them for 3 -5 minutes before adding the rest. Move them around with a spatula or spoon until their tender (but not soft!)

Season with salt and pepper, some basil and oregano, and cook for another minute.

Prepare a bed of pasta and spoon the vegetables over it. Grated Parmesan cheese tops it off nicely!

(This recipe serves 2 -3 people, so if more are dining, add enough vegetables and pasta.)

ANYONE can prepare great, healthy meals at little expense!

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Apple A Day" May Help Shed Pounds!

I don't know how long that old adage has been around, but from experience, I know it's been longer than 60 years!

Way back, people most likely were eating an apple a day ~ in season, anyway ~ because fruit was a luxury. (My mom said one Christmas when she was a child she got an orange, and thought it was a wonderful gift!)

But we're finding more and more that if wealth is health, then fresh produce is a gold mine. Another bit of evidence ~ I read an article linked to Dr. Oz's website about how bad microbes in our gut may contribute to obesity, and an abundance of the good bug can slim you down. According to the article, we're talking trillions of these things, the key being the proportion of good bugs to bad.

A study showed that obese people are three times more likely to have a virus called Ad-36 in their digestive tracts. (Chickens that have it get fatter!) It seems to trigger bigger appetites and store more calories as fat.

But the good bugs that work in your favor are those probiotics ~ and apples have it! So do bananas, asparagus, onions and garlic, to name a few other sources.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cook When You're Traveling!

My husband and I accompanied my daughter and her little family over to Denver for my granddaughter's birthday celebration. The zoo was the main attraction.

But even just a weekend trip can be pretty expensive when you're eating all your meals in a restaurant! Of course, eating out is part of the fun, isn't it?

But this time I decided to bring the food with us. I've never done this before, but now I'm sold!

I reserved two adjoining rooms and upgraded one of them to include living room and full kitchen. I made sure the hotel stay included breakfast. Then I planned a menu for the evening meals, and bought things to pack for lunch snacks. I think I spent $45 total.

It was great!

Friday night's birthday dinner was spaghetti, with meatballs on the side (so my husband and I wouldn't have to eat meat), and a large romaine lettuce vegetable salad I prepared ahead of time and packed in a cooler ~ so we'd have enough for both nights. My daughter brought along birthday cupcakes.

On Saturday after we visited the zoo, we decided to eat lunch at the Denver Aquarium because you can see the fish swimming around you while you eat. We spent $120 there, but decided to skip the cost of general admission to the aquarium (about $80 for all of us) because we enjoyed some of it while we ate. (The kids were satisfied with that because what they really wanted to do was swim a the hotel!)

That evening's entree was Spanish rice with tomatoes and black olives, pork chops for the meat eaters, and again, the salad.

No loading up in the car to go out to eat. Everyone could just relax ~ and really spend time together!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Peanut Butter Solution

I tried a new dish this week ~ peanut butter spaghetti!

It was pretty easy to prepare, and very tasty. It also reinforced for me the benefits of having a food pantry, because I already had most of the ingredients: pasta, ginger, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic.

Garlic falls under the produce category ~ so it isn't really considered a pantry item. Neither is any other fresh produce, and that's what you should be shopping for most of the time.

So while the noodles (8 oz) were boiling, it took just a few minutes to add a cup of hot water in a small saucepan to 1/2 cup of peanut butter, and then mix in two tablespoons of rice vinegar and the soy sauce, two crushed garlic clovers, a tablespoon of honey and 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger.
That was heated until it thickened, and then tossed with the drained noodles.


For the fresh stuff, I sauteed a handful of chopped onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, added some red bell pepper slices and a few mushrooms, heaped in some washed greens (spinach and chard), and topped it with a sprinkling of cider vinegar. (Greens can be bitter in taste ~ but the longer you cook them, the sweeter they become!)

Easy and satisfying. How did I know? I didn't crave more. That's the key!

Bon appetite!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Meet Kohlrabi!

When we think of eating more vegetables, we generally consider a pretty narrow playing field ~ like carrots, tomatoes and celery, perhaps.

But that arena is vast!

Take kohlrabi, for example. Abundant in Europe, you have to pretty much find it in someone's garden here. But lots of people grow it. It's a member of the cabbage family ~ and in some ways , resembles a turnip.

It's packed with nutrients ~ particularly Vitamin C and A ~ along with lots of fiber, potassium and calcium. It's easy to slice, and that's a plus when we talk about this great slaw recipe.

Slice two kohrabies into matchstick pieces (about 1/8 inch), slice a handful of radishes and a half of a medium-sized green cabbage. Shred a couple of carrots to add to it, and a handful of cilantro leaves.

Here's what makes it yummy. Whisk together 1 tsp of honey, 3 Tbs of white wine vinegar, 1/ tsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp cumin seed, 1/4 tsp of sea salt, and 5 Tbs of olive oil to pour over the vegetables. Toss it all together and sprinkle on some coarse ground pepper.

It's a great alternative if your regular fare is a tossed salad!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cravings Subside When You're Truly Nourished

A few salty potato chips do little more than drive you to find and eat more of them. It just works that way. Same with foods with large amounts of sugar and fat.

But you needn't subject your body to a stand-off, with the likely outcome of defeat. There's an arsenal available to you in all those fresh fruits and vegetables.

It's chemistry, but it's also physics.

You see, besides its chemical properties, food has an energy vibration. The vibration coming from processed foods is more or less flat, compared with the vibrancy of food from the garden or fresh produce section of the supermarket. What you're attracted to has some connection to where your body is, vibrationally speaking.

That's why when you're depressed or bored or sad, foods like chips and dip, brownies, or greasy, salty french fries might be your craving. When you're happier, you're more attracted to the foods that truly nourish you. The vibrations are more of a match.

Sound too "far out"?

I treated a few people in one of my sessions at Yoga West to Mexican tomato, rice and beans. It was lunch time, but each person reported they were satisfied after eating about a cupful of the dish. Here's why. It was a combination of garlic, jalapenos, rice, black beans, tomatoes, cumin, oregano and cilantro, which left us all feeling well fed. That doesn't mean "stuffed." It means "nourished", or "not craving more."

Check it out:

Cook 1 cup med grain rice according to package directions.

Drain one 14 1/2 oz can of tomatoes, save the juice and add enough water to make 1 cup liquid.
Set tomatoes aside. Saute 6 garlic cloves and 1 cored, finely chopped jalapeno in 2 Tbs olive oil until garlic browns (about 1 min). Add one 15 oz can (drained and rinsed) of black beans, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, and 2 tsp salt (preferably sea salt) and stir about 30 sec to blend the flavors.

Add the tomato juice liquid and adjust heat to bring to a gentle boil, and cook about 5-7 min. Add tomatoes, cooked rice, three tablespoons crushed oregano (1/4 cup, if fresh leaves), and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro ~ and stir a few min until warm. Makes 6 cups.

A side salad is a nice compliment ~ or this rice dish can hold its own by itself!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Could Treating Mental Illness Be That Simple?

I read an interesting article in Eating Well magazine that talked about the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in brain as a possible key to treating such mental illnesses as bi- polar disorder, ADHD, and depresssion.

Dr. Joe Hibbeln has done the research, and based on that, it's his belief that our American diet has left us low in omega 3 levels, and very high in levels of omega 6. Balance that out by adjusting what we eat, and you have a bunch of basically happy campers!

He says our ancestors had a balance between the two omegas, because they ate differently. Today, he says Americans have 10 to 25 times more omega 6s than 3s. Not a good thing.

Where do we get omega 6s? Processed foods are packed with omega 6 oils made from soybeans, safflower and corn. Omega 3 oils are found in fish, like salmon and sardines, and also in wild game meat. Flaxseed is also a source of omega 3s.

When you look at what most people haul out in their grocery carts, or order off of restaurant or fast food menus, and compare it what we know about the rate of depression alone in this country, it makes sense.

Dr. Sandra Cabot has been documenting outcomes of those who follow her liver cleansing diet, and reports not only does people's health improve, but those with addictive behaviors and mood disorders also do better. (She wrote the book, The Liver Cleansing Diet.)

The diet basically consists of fresh, natural foods and herbs,(no dairy or red meat), and lots of water. But there's another element. A blend of ground almonds, flax seed and sunflower seed is always on the table as a condiment for virtually everything. So not only is your body detoxifying itself with all the fresh foods, it's constantly getting hits of omega 3s.

I put it on cereal, salads, in yogurts, and over pasta. You can even sprinkle it over ice cream!

Is this a "sure fire" fix? Nothing is "sure fire" because much depends on your willingness to participate in your own healing.

But this much is certain. Our bodies are incredibly complex, miraculous creations, capable of amazing feats and performance ~ and healing ~ provided it gets the nutrients it needs. Our food, in its purest state, is the source of that.

Is it easy to eat well?

With some thought and planning, yes.

Is it convenient?

No. It's a daily practice, but the investment of putting your focus there is definitely worth it!

Do you have to be a good cook?

No. It's your own journey.

You'll get there!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Drop the Pop!

One of the very best reinforcements for healthier eating would be having more money left over when you go out to eat, don't ya think?

This would be particularly significant for families dining with kids or teenagers who typically want soda pop with their meals. But if you have a family of six, and everyone orders a soda, it could add $10-$12 to your bill.

Being "mindful" here ~ Water might not be as appealing since your palate is conditioned to the carbonated, sugary taste, but think about it this way: You're paying yourself at least $10 to drink something that's actually good for you. If you take the family out twice a week, that's at least a $20 savings, and if you're running through drive thru's in between, over a month's time you might even save most of a car payment!

If you do nothing else to change your diet, eliminating soda pop for most people will reduce their weight by 10 pounds over the course of a year.

Drinking lots of water, especially during the hot summer months, has a whole bunch of health benefits: it eliminates toxins, churns up digestive enzymes, makes your organs run more efficiently, and helps your body absorb nutrients. (Add a dash of lemon juice and you've now incorporated Vitamin C!)

We all worry about the high cost of health care, keeping our jobs, and other uncertainties presented by living in the 21st century. But this is one small step towards gaining control of your health that can turn out to be a huge investment ~ because we all know the first steps are the hardest, no matter what we want to accomplish.

Notice the extra dollars you have in your pocket, and how you're feeling minus the pop after a week or two in this practice.

And here's another very important thing to consider: Kids notice their parent's choices. Make the right choice often enough, and they'll be mindful.

They'll pay attention.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Water ~ A Step in the Right Direction

Never have there been more books or magazine articles about food.

We're obsessed by the topic, because it's so much a part of our daily lives. The foods we select, in large part, determine how healthy we are ~ and maybe how happy we are. We know what's good and what's bad, but our choices often override that information because our emotions are driving them.

If you're overweight and you feel bad, the easiest choice is to eat more of what makes you fat and sick. And so the spiral goes ~

So how do you define and then focus on a path that will make the difference you dream of?

My suggestion is to start with water ~ and then get moving.

Forget keeping a food log. Start with keeping a daily journal for three days of what you drink. Few people get through the day without some drink that contains sugar ~ the most popular choices being booze or soda pop.

Water is the elixir of life. After you get the habit going, I recommend investing in a water filter for your kitchen, or buy a filtered water bottle to carry when you're away from home. If you can't bear the thought of not having that sugary drink, reduce the daily number by one, then by two, and so on ~ and replace those drinks with water.

There are a whole list of health benefits to drinking at least 2 liters of water every day ~ not the least of which is it is a great appetite suppressant!

Do that, and add just five or ten minutes of walking, yoga stretches, or whatever gets your joints moving and your blood running.

Weight loss may not come right away, but you'll soon notice you have more energy.

So tip that glass of water!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Best Menu Picks

Eating out can be a challenge ~

Not only do you have to find the healthy stuff ~ typically, portion sizes are much too big. But I've sampled a few dishes here and there that are quite good, and I'll share them here:

Palisade Cafe ~ GREAT chicken curry sandwiches. (I sampled it last year before I cut meat out of my diet.)

The Ale House ~ Wasabi Ahi Wrap (seared tuna with Japanese horse radish!)

Java City ~ Wonderful veggie sub for just $3!!

Naggy McGee's Irish Pub ~ Quite a few healthy options over there. I recommend their Vegetable Dumpling Stew.

Since I no longer eat meat, it takes me a lot less time to scan the menu. Sometimes you just have to settle for a salad ~ but local restaurants have also gotten pretty creative in that arena, too!

I suggest carrying an insulated bag to work or in the car where you can store raw carrots, raisins and nuts ~ or some other fresh combo ~ to stave off hunger pangs when you're most likely to eat stuff that's not so good for you. It's also a good idea to carry something along if you have children in the car. It might save you a McDonald's stop!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Centering Meal

Interestingly, as I was doing some work on the internet this evening, I was tempted to delay dinner.

But I was hungry, and I knew my choices wouldn't be as good if I waited. I had considered a new dish tonight, but I hated to divert too much from the mental track I was on.

Of course, that was exactly what I needed to do.

So I put everything aside and walked myself through the steps of preparing Spiced Chickpea Couscous. (A tip: I always keep my counterspace clear and my dishwasher loaded so I don't throw up my hands and consider carry -out!)

It didn't take long. A handful of shredded carrots and sliced onion sauteed, with some raisins, cumin and red pepper flakes added. Couscous (an African grain) is really easy to prepare ~ just minutes sitting in a cup or two of hot water (to boiling point). I ladled up the couscous into a soup bowl and topped it with the chickpea mixture, and I was done.

But here's what's interesting. I focused on the meal I was about to eat, and said a grace beforehand. A mindful prayer ~ not the rambled Catholic version our family recited at the start of every meal when I was growing up ~ but a true moment of gratitude for the nutrients I was about to receive.

There may be a lot of reasons - but I felt totally satisfied.

Lacking a sauce of some sort for the food to swim in, some might possibly feel deprived. But everything was good ~ so good that it seemed my very cells resonated with the energy I knew this dish was delivering.

My head was in a different place when I finished, and I'm still pondering all the reasons why ~

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Food Cravings Tonight

Evenings are a time when food cravings that may have been silent through the day rear up to me noticed. It's like a place in our heads that takes over ~ especially if we contemplate something sugary or salty!

Makes sense. That's the time of day when most of us are likely to ponder what's wrong with our lives. Potato chips can look like a long-lost friend ~ not unlike a rum and coke might look to someone who drinks too much.

My husband is out of town, so there was less of an incentive to prepare something. It would have been easier just to snack tonight ~ and not on carrots! But if we are what we eat, it occurred to me that I needed to raise my vibrational energy level. So I decided I would cook up some greens.
It doesn't take much thought ~ and many combinations of good things will work.

I had some kale and some spinach in the fridge, so I sauteed some scallions (like little onions) and a clove of garlic in a dab of olive oil, then added some red pepper slices and some raisins, and then the greens (minus the tough spines). It only took about 10 minutes for that to cook, then I topped it with a sprinkle of cider vinegar.

I dished it up into a cereal-sized bowl, and then added about a 1/2 cup of pasta noodles from the fridge that I had cooked the night before. A dash of basil, and I was ready to eat.

I found that the meal tasted really good, and I felt really good afterwards. I had a few sliced strawberries to top it off, but that was it. I was pretty satisfied the rest of the evening. Even my thoughts vibrated at a higher level.

Pretty intriguing, huh!?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Refrigerators Are TOO Big!

I decided I'm not going to replace my big refrigerator. I'm going to look for something much smaller ~ like they have in Europe ~ or long-term stay hotels.

Between my husband's and my shopping trips, our fridge is crammed ~ so while I've pretty much memorized what's at the front of each shelf, I have no idea of what's lurking to the rear. You know, we Americans toss 40 percent of what we buy at the grocery store or restaurant ~ and I think the way we store food contributes to that.

It's painful to know you buy all that stuff when you don't use it!

I understand that young families probably need a bigger unit, but for one or two people, it seems you could manage rather well. First of all, you'd know exactly what was in there, or what you needed to buy, for the next one or two meals. Secondly, your stuff would be fresher because you'd be shopping two or three times a week. We're talking produce, of course.

As for all the discarded food, I'm quite intrigued with the idea of a neighborhood compost project. Lots of benefits ~ and more on that later.

Below is my latest favorite dish:

Roasted Parsnips & Carrots

Slice some parsnips and carrots lengthwise into narrow wedges. Toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I always use sea salt!) While they're roasting in the oven ~ all spread out on a griddle or pyrex surface (450 degrees) ~ mix a couple of tablespoons of diced scallions and chives with a tsp of rosemary and a tsp of thyme and sprinkle that over the veggies just before you serve them.

If you slice the veggies really thin, roasting time is about 45 min.


Friday, June 11, 2010

A Challenge for Mindful Eating

I've just returned home from what what originally to be just a wedding celebration, but it was followed by a funeral. My large family all gathered for my nephew's wedding last Saturday, and as we drove back to our hotel after great celebration at the reception, we got the call that our brother had ended his journey with a terminal illness.

Our celebration shifted to mourning.

During those days leading up to the funeral, I noticed that none of us was taking time to eat. We "pieced" along ~ but mostly attended to each other. It was not too unlike the flurry of preparing for the wedding celebration.

But I had a chance to get a close-up look at my sister's eating habits because I stayed with her during my time in Ohio

While I noticed that her refrigerator is pretty sparce, she's frequently drinking water. She seems to have a lot of energy, and most of the time, she "grazes" on vegetables, fruit and nuts. But for all of her 30 years of working, she's always eaten breakfast ~ a standard fare of an egg, toast, cereal and milk.

She'll laugh and tell me it's so she has more money to spend on clothes, and while she could use a few more pounds of body weight, I noticed that she held up well with the pace and emotional demands of those days, and she slept like a rock as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The events of the week didn't affect her eating habits much ~ she still fixed her breakfast, and then just grabbed celery and carrot sticks ~ or some almonds ~ to keep her going.

But she drank five bottles of water every single day. (I'm going to buy her a filtered bottle that she can refill!)

It reinforced for me that water is central to nourishing our bodies, and our spirits.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Between You and Me...

After a nearly year of writing these blog entries, I'm more convinced than ever that the practice of eating mindfully and healthfully evades most people ~ mainly because of the way we live.

To make a bad pun, I've found as I talk to friends and strangers, they're hungry for how to go about changing the relationship they now have with food. Over the decades since seasonal garden tending was a part of most everyone's day, we've been lured by convenience to load our grocery carts from the vast inventory of processed foods. The chemicals, along with salt, sugar and fat, have hooked us on the tastes we think make us satisfied and happy ~ not much unlike drugs or alcohol.

Most recently, it's been suggested to me that perhaps it takes being part of a larger "community" to make food preparation and eating a successful practice. There's much more to eating than just putting food in your mouth. I believe there has to be an element of ritual to make it both purposeful and healthful.

There's a benefit to "breaking bread" together, because it offers connection ~ the ultimate nurturing that we all seek!

Does it mean cooking for a lot of people?

No. I suggest you start by inviting someone to dinner.

Do it soon. See what you think!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's Healthy? You Know the Difference!

To relieve your mind ~ there is no arrival point where you've mastered mindful eating ~ anymore than a person who practices yoga can one day say they've achieved all they can and they're done.

The practice arrives at every meal, every time you open a bag of snack food, and every time you open a kitchen cabinet or refrigerator.

Like the other night. Foolishly, my husband and I were way too busy on Saturday, working away until well past 8 p.m. We rolled right past that point where a healthier choice would have been to disengage with the day's activities and transfer into a ritual mode of preparing something to eat.

My growling stomach and an impulse to fix something fast ruled over the saner approach, which would have been to grab a handful of almonds and raisins, have a glass of water, and then decide.

Earlier that day I had fixed a stir fry of shredded sweet potatoes, minced ginger and purple onion, with a bit of lime juice and nutmeg. (It was delicious!)

Sadly, though, I drove to the store and bought a box of vegetable rolls to microwave. I had picked them up at the store because I love those oriental appetizers. (I should note here that for many years we haven't owned a microwave, but my husband recently picked up a small one for popcorn. Yes, I caved to an impulse ~ but mindfully!)

They came packaged in plastic, and as I pulled out the steaming, limp rolls after they had "cooked," my appetite was gone. I remembered the aroma and the taste of my sweet potato combination earlier that day ~ the colors so vibrant and the taste so satisfying.

Looking closely at that processed batch of vegetables rolls was a good litmus test.

I tossed them in the trash ~ mindfully!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nothing Satisfies Like Soup!

Soup is the best meal ~ I'm certain!

It's a very efficient way to cook ~ and also get a lot of nutrients at the same time. There's not much precision involved ~ so anyone can combine ingredients in a crock pot in the morning, and be rewarded at the end of the day when meal prep is the last thing they want to think about.

For example, an Italian White Bean Soup is one of my favorites ~ mainly a combo of sauteed onion, celery and minced garlic, a couple of cans of white kidney beans (always rinsed and drained!), a can of chicken broth, and a pinch of group black pepper and dried thyme. Stir in a bunch of spinach and heat until it's wilted, then top with some fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve it with a slice of multi-grain bread and some apple slices, and you've got a well-rounded meal. There's plenty of protein in beans, so you won't miss the meat!

Another favorite of mine is Minestrone.. Again, no need to be precise when you're combining sliced carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, garlic, diced tomatoes and some white beans, along with a couple cans of chicken broth and a cup of water. Because the veggies are dense, this one lends itself well to crock pot cooking, so it can simmer all day!

I'll offer some to sample tomorrow, May 20th, at Yoga West at noon here in Grand Junction. I'll be presenting a session on Mindful Eating ~ Changing our Relationship with Food!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"...Like Ten Thousand Spoons When All You Need Is a Knife!"

... and so it is in a cluttered kitchen. (Remember that song from the 90's by Alanis Morissette?)

I think of that often reflecting on the days when I couldn't find my measuring cup ~ or I had three bottles of catsup and no mustard. Or earlier days when I could only locate one set of matched earrings, but could count 15 singles ~ five of which were always at the bottom of my purse.

So when we talk of mindful eating, it's important to have some semblance of organization ~ and the staples to build a few meals.

If your counter tops are covered with bills to pay, kid mail from school back packs, half-full water bottles and an unwashed blender, it pretty much blows your opportunity that day to eat mindfully ~ unless, of course, you can locate a few baby carrots, some raisins and an apple, and then walk outside or into another room to eat it.

If you gaze into the refrigerator and aren't sure what's behind the stuff right in front of you, you probably need to toss some things ~ or not buy so much at one time. Another problem is left-overs. It's painful to throw food out, so it's important to learn how to incorporate them into meals within a day or two.

A few tips:

Except for staples, don't buy groceries for the week ~ rather for a few days at a time.

Have a fresh tossed salad in the fridge (always add tomatoes right before you eat), and some cooked rice in the fridge to partner with an entree.

Use meat as a condiment for a vegetable or pasta dish ~ rather than the main event!

Have one stainless steel water bottle and forego buying bottled water. It's money in the bank to invest in a water filtration unit.

Chop up an onion, some carrots and celery and put them in separate containers in the fridge to get a quick soup started. A can of diced tomatoes, a few potatoes and some seasoning and you have the basics for a nutritious vegetable soup! Or use those first few items in your tossed salad.

Finally, eating should not be the high point of your day ~ especially if the gratification begns and ends in your taste buds!

Don't live to eat ~ Eat to live! So find an interest that energizes you and put your focus on that!
You'll notice a new relationship with food, with the people around you ~ but most importantly, with yourself!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You Truly Are What You Eat

Tomorrow I'm going to take the content of what I've been writing about for months and present it in a series of workshops on "Mindful Eating" at Yoga West down on Main Street.

I realize that people know what they need to eat to be healthy. They've heard it all for years. So why don't they eat better? Why is obesity such an epidemic?

It's because we have a relationship with food ~ and if that relationship is an unhealthy one, we'll have unhealthy bodies, and unhappy souls. That's the case for lots and lots of people.

Is it hard to change? Yes. But it's not complicated. The solution is simple. Again I reference Geneen Roth's new book, "Women Food and God," when she says we hold onto this dysfunctional relationship because we don't know that we can live without it.

We're so tightly bound to the role we think we've been assigned, we assume we're stuck ~ and food temporarily adds a coziness to the situation. Of course, it doesn't last.

It can be very complex for many people ~ but there is a way out, and you can begin feeling better just a day or two into a new approach to eating.

She concludes: "Your eating isn't about lack of willpower ~ but lack of understanding."

The workshops are at noon May 6th, 20th and 23rd. Hopefully I can provide some understanding!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Eating Is About Paying Attention

Geneen Roth says so well everything that I haven't about the importance of eating mindfully in her new book, "Women Food And God".

She basically says that eating is the arena where our issues present themselves, our feelings are strongest ~ and our opportunity for growth ever present. In her words: "How you eat tells all."

She firmly believes that most of us carry more guilt, shame, anger and sadness than we realize, and to numb that pain, food is a drug of choice.

For those who sample diet strategies to lose "ugly" pounds ~ dieting is never the answer.
That's why whatever we believe about ourselves in large part drives the decision to reach for a corn dog instead of an apple.

"Until the belief is understood and questioned, no amount of weight loss will touch the part of you that is convinced it is damaged," to quote Roth.

Amidst all this chatter about what to eat ~ it's really our feelings that drive our choices. Roth suggests they are valuable guideposts if we can pause long enough to recognize and honor them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contemplations Amidst Hunger Pangs

I sit here snacking on multi-grain crackers and garlic hummus ~ knowing I was just SO close to buying a chocolate bar! Chocolate was a match for my mood this evening ~ unsettled.. thinking of too many things. If I had a sack of chips in the cupboard, they'd have been quickly opened ~ and way too many eaten!

Which is precisely why I don't keep chips in the cupboard!

We can kid ourselves and say we are the master of our choices, but a lot depends on whether it's 1 o'clock or 5 o'clock ~ and how good we feel about ourselves at the time. (I look back to the days of raising kids with compassion for those doing it now. Five to six o'clock is probably the worst hour of the day!)

But now that I have something nutritious in my stomach, I can go about preparing something equally nutritious for dinner. Tonight, I'm pulling some left-over pasta tossed in sauteed garlic and olive oil out of the refrigerator for a side to the main entrees ~ another mess of greens!

I love this option because it's pretty much the same routine ~ but you can vary the ingredients.
So to the sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil, I'll toss in some washed spinach leaves, some chopped red peppers and sun dried tomatoes. Very fast! The last ingredient will be some balsalmic vinegar ~ or may just cider vinegar.

A few slices of oranges and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (Kashi brand) will be dessert.

Why am I so passionate? I'm nearly sixty-four, and I view this practice as my retirement investment. As long as I feel good and can buy the foods that make that possible, I'll have lifestyle I want!

You'll also hear this often here: Healthy eating is affordable health care!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Work on Depression by Getting Balanced

According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, published results on how well antidepressants work are skewed. It's been an incredibly profitable investment for those who own stock in the pharmaceutical companies that make them, so why am I not surprised.

Aside from that, I was reading in "Clean, Green and Lean" (I forget the author) at the bookstore last night about all the symptoms created by food allergies alone. Depression is one of them.
Add in all the toxic elements used to process all the packaged stuff we think is food and it's no wonder we're literally sick and tired ~ and depressed.

Anything that creates inflammation in the body is going to manifest itself as a health complaint or chronic condition. That's most of what we Americans eat ~ and that influence is changing health profiles world wide.

The books and articles supporting this are sprouting everywhere ~ thankfully. So purge your cabinets and refrigerator, do some research, and invest in the foods that are good for you.
If you drink pop, that's the very first thing to eliminate!

It's empowering, because we can change how we feel ~ mentally and physically ~ by what we eat. It's affordable health care ~ and it's available to you now!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Water ~ Pure & Simple!

In the course of a busy day, I need something to remind me to stay on course.

For me, it's water.

I bought a stainless steel, 25 oz water bottle that I fill with filtered water every day before I leave home. Sipping on that during the day helps remind me that the best nutrition is pure and simple.

I've backed away from latte's in the mornings and save them for the weekend. I'm saving money there, and more than than when I'm not buying bottled water.

I remember the savor this water because it truly is a precious, diminishing resource. It reminds me to be grateful for all the good foods that are available to us, if we choose.

Water. It's the elixir of life. Drink it with appreciation and gratitude!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There's Nothing Like a "Mess of Greens"

I was famished as I stood in my kitchen at 5:30 p.m. ~ happy, at least, that my cabinets contained no chips, cookies, or candy to munch on. The night before, I had left over pasta with sun dried tomatoes, but tonight I was craving greens.

Even if you don't think you can cook ~ this, you can do!

Just gather ingredients from four categories I'll share here, and then stir fry them together! It can be a main dish, or you can add a side of rice and a small slice of, say, pan-seared salmon ~ and you're set!

You'll choose your greens first ~ either beet greens, chard, spinach, collard greens , turnip greens, mustard greens or kale. (Make sure they're washed and cut!) Drop them into a wok or skillet where you've sauteed a handful of chopped onion and a few minced garlic cloves into a tablespoon of olive oil.

You can vary the dish by choosing different items I've listed above ~ or try your own creation.

It's an easy, affordable dose of nutrients you can offer your family several times a week!

Next pick a vegetable or two ~ sliced carrots, mushrooms or bell peppers, maybe ~ add that and cook for a minute or two. Some add-ins make it interesting. Choose from raisins, lemon zest, sun dried tomatoes, or even some minced jalapenos or Canadian bacon.

Another few minutes after that sautes, top it off with a sprinkle of your choice of vinegar ~ or just lemon juice!

There Is No ''Cruise Control"

It's not uncommon for those who've managed to lose the weight they always hoped ~ to find months later they're inching back to where they were before.

Sure, having a target weight as a goal can get you there, but once you arrive, you may wonder what's next? It's how we're geared culturally. We're always looking for what's next.

We've staged the food arena as a battle ground where we gear up daily to face the enemy. After all, food makes us fat! It can appear that way when you're assaulted with so many unhealthy food choices in fast-food joints and in most of the supermarket aisles. So, of course, it takes Spartan measures to keep saying "no."

But the paradigm shifts when you find good foods to say "yes" to. And there are plenty of them!
Here's the best news: "The more you eat of them, the better you feel!" The pounds will still drop, and you don't have to run marathons to make it happen.

That's because our bodies run more efficiently when we're eating the foods we were meant to eat. We burn more calories because our metabolism changes.

For 10 days, stay off the bathroom scales and reach for an apple or an orange the next time you crave a bag of salty chips. Have a bag of almonds handy ~ just a few of those can stave off cravings. Eat as many vegetables as you want and reduce your meat portions. (Americans generally eat twice as much protein as they need every day!) Add a little exercise ~ even a 20 minute walk each day will make a difference ~ then see where you are next time you weigh in.

You'll find good eating doesn't have to be a life-long battle. It's easier than you think!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Slice a Tomato for Litmus on Food Quality

I never buy tomatoes in the winter.

They're out of season at Colorado's latitude, and so the imported tomates you buy that time of year are hard as golf balls. I'd just as soon skip the garnish of anemic tomato flesh, languidly hanging out on the side of my plate at a restaurant. If you chew them, you don't taste anything ~ because there's little nutritional value there.

Arthur Allen explores the topic in his newly published book, "Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato." That is, if you're buying it at a supermarket. If you're growing it (in season, of course), or you purchase it at a farmer's market or from a distributor who buys locally, a slice offers no comparison. The pulp is bright red, rather than the yellow-tinged flesh of it's cousin that traveled many miles to get here.

Years ago, most families had a vegetable garden, but convenience won out. After all, it takes a lot of time to grow food. But books like Allen's are drawing attention and increasing awareness that it's apparent we lost an awful lot in the process ~ and the time we devote to developing our own backyard and community gardens may be the important investment we can ultimately make!

Easy Tomato Dish

Ripe tomatoes, sliced
Mozzarella cheese
Basil Leaves
Olive Ohio

You can decide the quantity of ingredients ~ Just arrange sliced tomatoes on a plate, top with strips of cheese and snips of basil leaves, sprinkle salt and pepper, and drissel some olive oil over them. Don't waste the effort if the tomatoes aren't ripe ~ and locally grown!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Less Really Is More!

My husband and I just got back from an expedition down to Tuscon ~ a culinary capital ~ to discover some new and different approaches to cooking. We've both recently moved away from eating red meat and poultry, and except for an occasional dish with cheese, we've pretty much given up dairy products, too.

In some ways it was challenging, because in most restaurants, most entrees are built around meat. Breakfast options are pretty much egg and meat-based, and lunch menus are mainly variations of meat and cheese sandwiches.

Some restaurants featured a few meatless dishes, and so we would select from those. Otherwise, we'd pick and choose among soups, salads and appetizers.

But while our restaurant menu options may have narrowed, by talking with vegetarian foodies down there, we've discovered there's a whole new world of great eating available when we sample new vegetables ~ for example, rutabagas, parsnips, fennel and chard. Get to know a few spices like basil, cumin, tarragon and red pepper flakes and there's no end to the great dishes you can create!

I can accept that from now on, our restaurant menu options may be fewer and we may no longer have meat in the freezer, because we have many more still undiscovered vegetable-based dishes to try ~ and more money to spend by cutting out that pricey meat!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Food Touches Physics and Spirituality

I'm more convinced that eating mindfully is a constant practice, not unlike yoga.

That's because depending on what the landscape of the mind is at any given time, cookies and chips can easily win out over broccoli. To move out of psychology and into physics ~ simply put, it has to do with energy frequency.

When we're stressed or depressed, and our energy levels are low, we'll crave foods with a low energy frequency. Anything salty, sweet, carb-heavy or fat-laden would be a perfect match!

But if we're mindful and make the choice to introduce high-frequency foods ~ like fruits or vegetables, we draw energy from them and get a "leg up" in our efforts to gain balance. And balance implies that meter is always moving ~ so if we depleted our energy reserves with our choices one day ~ the next day we can choose to regain some ground.

Of course, so many of us stay stuck within a comfort zone that mimics a see-saw, because to go beyond means leaving part of our "old selves" behind. The ego doesn't buy that!

It makes so much sense to me now why the Christian Lenten period ~ which prescribes some fasting ~ is six weeks long. If you follow a practice that you stick with when it becomes uncomfortable ~ some of that life-restricting ego gets left behind along the way.

As we approach Easter Sunday, I wish I had done a better job of observing it. Fortunately, the same choices will be there for me tomorrow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is Wal Mart Becoming Part of the Solution?

Never did I think I'd be singing the praises of Wal Mart, but I'm suggesting it now.

I read today in an article by Corby Kummer in The Atlantic that the huge conglomerate is marshalling its resources to compete with Whole Foods as a supplier of quality produce at affordable costs ~ and from local growers, no less!

From apples to zucchinis ~ Wal Mart is now offering these underpinnings of good health ~ in many cases, the organic version ~ and, according to the article, is holding its own in a taste test comparision with Whole Foods produce.

Through its new program, Heritage Agriculture, they are encouraging farms within a day's drive of a Wal Mart warehouse to grow crops that are otherwise imported cross-country.

This, at a time when many families are struggling financially as a result of job losses and high unemployment to put food on the table.

Factor now the ever-present issue of affordable health care.

Try this scenario ~

Dad's at home checking the unemployment ads, while Mom's at work and the kids are in school.

With this newest option, for not much money, he can buy a few carrots, potatoes, celery and onions and get a vegetable soup going in the crockpot before eveyone gets home. He skips the aisles displaying chips, cookies and pop. He picks up some bananas and raisins to top oatmeal or cereal in the morning ~ or to give to the kids as snacks after school.

They go to the park for some playtime before supper. They sit at the table to eat, and the TV stays off until they're done.

He's setting a course which, if repeated, means "money in the bank" because he's nurturuing his family with good food to promote their physical health. And he's spending time with them ~ quality time ~ to strengthen their emotional health.

Meanwhile, that all important community player, the farmer, gets economic support by offering a stronger, local market. (This is not to mention the huge, energy-saving benefit of eliminating transportation costs when food comes from miles away.)

As ironic as it seems, Wal Mart just might end up making a significant contribution in our communities.

It's going to be interesting to watch.

Monday, March 1, 2010

There's Opportunity Amidst Crisis

Universally, this is a very challenging period of time to be eating mindfully ~ or probably to correct any unhealthy habit!

The unsettling parade of tragic stories running across our TV screens and computer monitors are not just reporting isolated events, but a rippling that now resonates everywhere. And heightened anxiety welcomes anything flavored with salt, fat or sugar ~ in food offerings that are abundantly available.

Eating is the one thing ~ besides breathing ~ that we do every single day that we can control, and as a result, improve our health, our emotions, and our thinking.

(It IS true ~We create our reality with our thoughts!)

Clearly, we can't control the chaos in Washington, or in Haiti ~ or now Chile. But we can take stock where we are, and begin an upward climb ~ starting in our own kitchens.

Interestingly, the selection of foods that calm our nervous systems and put our bodies on a healthy track is much wider than the packaged, processed stuff that populates the middle aisles of the grocery store. And as we stress over the future of affordable health care in the country, there's a veritable pharmacy in the fresh produce section!

Rutabagas, parsnips and collard greens are just waiting to show you what they can do!

But before you meet them ~ start simply with the fruits and vegetables you're most familiar with. Toss the potato chips from the cupboard and snack on almonds, carrots and raisins ~ and enjoy them on a walk around the block instead of in your recliner!

No matter how bad the media says it is out there ~ you have more power than you think!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eating Differently Nudges Recovery Issues

Let's face it. Changing anything you do every day can change your whole life. Or put another way, if you want to change your life, change one thing you do every day.

If you are mindful about changing the way you eat, there's an uncomfortable ripple effect to be dealt with ~ not unlike giving up booze. For those who are carb sensitive, the experience is darn near identical because the carb addict craves sugar ~ be it Dewar's scotch or donuts!

While physically you may be feeling better, other familiar patterns may begin to fall away, too ~ and that can leave you feeling emotionally unsteady. That's when it's most tempting to scurry back to what's familiar, however bad for you that might be.

I'm finding that to be the case since I cut out meat and dairy two weeks ago. It's been so much a part of my grocery shopping, meal prep, and eating habits for so many years, I see it's not an emotionally simple adjustment to make. Perhaps this is the detox phase, not unlike what a cigarette smoker experiences who's decided to quit, or the alcoholic who's decided he's taken his last drink.

You start to feel edgy, like you need to DO something or GO somewhere. Meal planning is definitely simpler and less time-consuming, and so I have more time. But it's a bit disorienting, because I think: What shall I do with it?

Of course, doing NOTHING means we sit with ourselves. Initially, that's a very tough place to be because we don't think we like the company.

Within that new time and space, we start to get to know who we really are. For most of us, coming face-to-face with ourselves, we have to learn to accept, to forgive and to love that person.

But before us is a chance to live differently ~ more mindfully ~and it's a golden opportunity if we can leave the ego out of it.

This Lenten season is a perfect time for mindful eating ~ but then so many religions have prescriptions for eating mindfully because our bodies truly are temples for the spirit.

In that respect, how we eat is a spiritual practice in itself!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Kind Diet

I had taken some time off from writing here to finish up a book that my brother and I wrote about his journey with ALS, known by many as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It's written as a support for people who have it, and for their caregivers. I'm happy to provide copies, if anyone is interested.

Now I've surfaced again with renewed energy for writing about my favorite topic ~ FOOD!

In case you haven't heard about it, Alicia Silverstone has a wonderful book out called "The Kind Diet." Briefly, her diet is plant-based, and she does a good job of introducing a plethora of recipe options for those, as she puts it, "flirting" with going meatless.

In an interview for "Energy Times," she said she experienced both physical and mental benefits fairly quickly, and said she enjoyed a "lighter spirit" once she eliminated animal products as a food option.

I would agree. I experimented with an eight-week liver cleanse several years ago that was mostly plant-based. Some recipes occasionally called for free-range chicken or fish, but aside from that, I was pretty much just eating lots of fresh produce, drinking lots of water, and avoiding anything processed.

Was it daunting? No.

However it did take some planning.

But the pay off was that I felt great physically, and my outlook brightened.

It's true. You are what you eat, and Silverstone provides gentle guidance towards becoming a new, healthier "you."

As the title of her book suggests, what's good for you is also good for the planet!

(A note here ~ I'll be presenting a one-hour session on menu planning at the Academy of Yoga on Sunday, February 14th, at noon.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Llttle Help from our Friends

So you've decided that 2010 is the year to eat healthier?

Like any change, it's hard to do without support from the people around you. Eating food is a cultural experience, and unfortunately, the cards are stacked against us here. Like so many other aspects of American life, we tend to overdo it.

The economy is slow to rebound, and while it can be depressing and drive some people to eat the things they shouldn't, it's causing others to consider prioritizing where they spend their money, and consequently, what they choose to eat.

Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your lens. Are we living in a time of crisis or opportunity? Eastern thought would say it can be either ~ depending on your outlook.

Make sure you surround yourself with positive people if you've chosen a path of change this year. Nothing drives us to the refrigerator faster than negative thoughts from associating with negative people. And nothing makes resolve easier than just a positive few who are rooting for your success!