Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Session: Treats

It makes sense that clients that in come to Foodtrainers for weekly nutrition sessions clients learn a lot about themselves and their eating. What has been surprising to me, over the past 10 years, is that as I counsel clients I learn a lot too. There are so many times when I hear little pearls of wisdom from my clients and jot them down. Without violating privacy, I thought I’d share some of these anecdotes so that you people out there (who will soon come to read my blog and share your “pearls” via comments) can benefit as well.

This week, I was in a session with a new client. We’ll call her Rose*. I was encouraging Rose to make a weekend trip to the farmers’ market for produce and Rose said “I already stop at the farmers market on Sunday because I get flowers for my apartment.” I commented that it was such a nice habit to get fresh flowers every week. After all, I had just learned that Rose was an early riser who commuted out of the city each day for work. She often returned home late at night. Rose said “I love having the flowers in my apartment, it’s my treat.”

I later found myself thinking about Rose and her flowers and how she referred to them as a treat. And I started thinking about treats. For many people, I would bet the word treat conjures up visions of heavily frosted cupcakes or freshly baked cookies……but does a treat necessarily have to be sweet? And maybe if we consciously indulge ourselves with non-sweet treats, for some maybe a massage, for others a warm bath, maybe even taking a break during the work day and walking around the block, maybe we’ll satisfy that part of ourselves that wants comfort or a break from the day-to-day. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll crave fewer edible treats.

Most of us run around packing 30-plus hours of stuff into a 24 hour day. We’re overworked and over-stressed and this carries over into our eating. Perhaps we can each schedule in one or two treats each week. I took a tennis lesson on Friday. It was so nice to think about nothing else other than that fuzzy yellow ball for 60 minutes. Today (yes it is Saturday), I sat at the table and ate breakfast with my children rather than unloading the dishwasher or checking email or doing all of the other things we tend to do because we don’t think to stop and sit and enjoy some of the everyday treats available to us.
So try it, think about little ways you can treat yourself. You can even start a treat memo on your blackberry so that you can add to the list as treat ideas strike you. Next, look at your calendar and plug a couple of these treats into your schedule for the week. Enjoy treating yourself, commend yourself for taking a break and letting go, even if it’s for a minute or two. And when you’re tempted to grab a cupcake or a cookie, try heading to the farmers market instead.

*Name has been changed to maintain protect privacy

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kids and Kale

Even though my office is brimming with virtually every healthy recipe ever created, when it comes to my kids and their meals I tend to fall back on a handful of safe favorites. The rotation for my boys is pasta pesto, roasted chicken, teriyaki pork tenderloin, breaded chicken cutlets and the occasional steak or lamb chop. They usually have a vegetable such as peas or broccoli or a salad and I seek out quality (often organic) ingredients so they are well nourished….but bored, or at least I am. I spoke to a few friends and it seemed they too were in a rut. You want to branch out but when you’re in the supermarket you tend to go for the meals you know by heart and let’s face it you go for what will be well received. Moms have egos too!

I stumbled across an article in Time Out New York Kids about chefs who come to your house to cook family-friendly recipes. I expected to read about chicken nuggets and hamburgers and instead I was intrigued by the mention of kale and salmon and for lack of a better term grown-up food. I grew up with a mother who eschewed children’s menus and I had always believed kids shouldn’t have separate kiddy food that is….until I had kids. And so I felt a little guilty when I read one of the chefs quoted saying “my goal is for children to enjoy the same foods their parents eat, not for them to be pandered to with cat whiskers made out of spaghetti.” While I had never made a spaghetti whisker, I had to meet this person who preached my B.C. (before children) notion of a family meal. I found out her name was Jenna Helwig. I emailed Jenna that instant, found 3 friends to join in de-kidifying our family meals and we set a September cooking date.

Jenna asked us a little about our current cooking habits. We each emailed her with our stories. One child ate lots of vegetables but little protein; another ate poultry and meat but nothing green. In certain cases one sibling was rather adventurous while another ate only three foods. Needless to say, Jenna had her work cut out for her. And Jenna rose to the challenge. We made 7 recipes in our 3 hour class. We compared notes and shared tips. Zina puts a shredded apple in her turkey meatballs to keep them moist and Tracey toasts pine nuts with a little brown sugar and her kids snack on them. And Sue pointed out that her vita mix blender could also heat soups (I’m still unclear how this works but like the sound of the 1 appliance meal). We sliced and we diced and at the end sat down (well actually clutched plates standing up because this is how most moms eat) and tasted our creations. We were pretty impressed with ourselves but we weren’t the jury. My jury was at hockey practice and wouldn’t be home for hours. I would have to wait.

My rugrats weren’t home for 30 seconds when I dragged them into the kitchen. “You have to taste what I made in my cooking class” said the psychotic mother to her sweaty children. In truth, hockey had made the boys hungry and so they indulged me and sat down. I opened my various containers, spread out utensils and again waited. It was like Mikey and the Life cereal commercial. One tasted the soba noodle and vegetable salad and the other the chicken with pineapple salsa. “YUM” said the soba taster and “this isn’t salsa but I like this chicken” said the other. They continued to taste everything, they loved the turkey meatballs and the spinach-basil pesto. They were devouring foods that had jalapenos in them and others made with cayenne. As a nutritionist and a mom, I cannot lie; this was one of my happiest moments. And while I can’t promise that the kids will eat the same food we do every night, we now have a wonderful new handful of favorite recipes.

Find out more about Jenna at

What are your favorite family recipes?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weight Work

“Brace for impact” is the best way I can describe my business strategy over the past year. With many clients out of work, others expecting to soon be out of work and still others at work with little work to do, I had very modest expectations for the income generated at Foodtrainers. After all, if people were contemplating selling their apartments or beach houses, would they really want to book appointments with their nutritionist? You may be surprised by the answer. While some clients had to cut their visits from once per week to once every other week and we didn’t have the phone ringing off the hook with resoluters on January first something unexpected happened.

While clients were reshuffling their funds and analyzing their habits many realized they wanted to take better care of themselves. And others simply felt they had more time on their hands to work out or cook. And it is NYC so let’s face it some clients found a half hour of Foodtraining a less expensive release than seeing their shrinks. So to answer my own question, YES amidst a financial crisis unlike any other in recent years our Foodtrainers’ clients did want to come in for office visits.

I’ve been taking mental note of this and selfishly pleased that previous workaholics were becoming workout-aholics. And then I came across The New York Times business section “Financial Crisis One Year Later” (I am a little behind, it was in the September 13th paper). In a sort of post-game report, there is a recap entitled “Where the Players Landed” and updates on some of the most famous names on Wall Street. Some of the “players” have taken positions at different companies but E. Stanley O’Neal “puts a high priority on his workouts.” and Neel T. Kasjkari “spends his time reading, bicycling and trying to shed the 20 pounds he put on during the crisis. (He’s got 5 more to go).” And on and on there are examples of how, over the past year, with many things uncertain these high profile “players” and others chose to control perhaps what one thing they could…their wellness.

This phenomenon or trend is kind of interesting. Is it that people, stripped of some of lives luxuries, realize the importance of their health? Or, is health the ultimate luxury?

What impact has the events of the past year had on your health and wellness?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eight years and Foodtraining

November 2001. In nutrition years, it was the peak of Atkins insanity. Carbs were bad, meat was good…surely you remember. For me it was a time in my first pregnancy where I was well past the cute stage. Aside from being larger than normal, I was excited about another first or new beginning in my life- the opening of Foodtrainers.

I had found a location that was equidistant to both the East and West sides of the city, built a website, chosen a logo and just needed clients! Until that time, I had built a nice following at a few locations of a ‘popular chain of gyms’ in Manhattan. The tricky part was that I hoped enough clients would follow me so that I could pay my new rent, and for the baby in my belly, but not so many as to anger the ‘popular chain of gyms.’ And not to sound like the movie Field of Dreams but the clients did come. And the ‘popular chain of gyms’ was a little annoyed but popular enough it didn’t matter too much.
I cherished these first Foodtrainers clients and helped them with their eating but also learned about their families and their jobs and their lives. And these clients told their families and co-workers and friends about Foodtrainers and the business grew in a very organic manner.

And here I am almost 8 years later. I made it past the huge stage in another pregnancy and have 2 beautiful boys to show for it. In terms of nutrition, it’s a very interesting time. Instead of Atkins or South Beach clients are interested in seasonal, quality ingredients. Whole foods are good, chemicals are bad and once again I am excited about another first or new beginning. We have both a new website and a new blog and again I can only hope that the movie is right-”if you build it they will come.”