Friday, May 28, 2010

BBQ Greatest Hits Vol 1

Outside my apartment cars are double parked, 6am yoga was more crowded than usual and manicure places are bustling with pre-weekend primping. Who doesn’t love a long weekend? Well, actually I don’t love parts of them. There's pressure to beat the traffic, when we end up sitting in traffic anyway, there are expectations…it’s sort of like a mini New Years Eve but at least it’s an extra day off, right? So many of you will be barbecuing on this inaugural summer weekend, I thought I’d share 2 of my BBQ greatest hits. Undoubtedly there will be more as the summer wears on….but here’s a little taste.

Pesto turkey burgers
Combine 1 1b organic ground turkey, 2 tbsp pesto, 1/8 shredded parmesan, 1 clove finely minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Grill 10-13 min turning once. Serve over arugula or on an Ezekiel English Muffin.

Tip Top Tuna Burgers
These burgers are a Sally Schneider (The New Way to Cook is a worthwhile purchase) recipe and worth the extra chopping and effort.

3-inch piece of ginger peeled cut in 3 pieces, 1 ½ pounds tuna steak, 3 Tbs minced scallions, 1Tbs finely chopped cilantro, ¼ tsp minced garlic, 1 ½ tsp minced jalapeno, Pinch sugar, ¼ tsp kosher salt, Fresh pepper, 1 ½ tsp low sodium soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, 2 Tbs sesame seeds (can omit)

Finely chop the tuna. Press ginger in a garlic press or finely grate. Add 1 tsp ginger, scallions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, sugar, salt, pepper to taste, soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil to tuna. With wet hands shape into 4 equal patties, place on cookie sheet and freeze 10 min to firm up. Brush patties with remaining 1 tsp sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds on both sides. Can pan fry in very hot pan 2 min each side (brown outside, pink inside) or grill 1 ½ to 2 min per side.

Enjoy the weekend and if you make either of these burgers, report back!
Are you a fan of 3-day weekends? Will you be barbecuing this weekend? What’s on your menu?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beyond Broccoli

Hi Lauren,

I was at my parents this weekend and they were remarking about how great I look and how much energy I had. I don't know if I had told you, but I have suffered from severe depression in the past and my mom is very in tune to my moods. We were talking about how great I was feeling and I told her I thought it was because of all the colorful food I have been eating. Then I recalled a photo I took the other day when I was preparing food for the week. My mom laughed that I actually took a photo of broccoli!! For some reason this photo makes me happy.
Thanks for everything; you have been a life saver. I have never felt better.
My sister thinks you should get tee-shirts made that say "body by Foodtrainers”!
I attached my favorite photo for is cheerful.

This was one of those emails I had to share. To give you a little background, this client is a physician who came to me this fall for weight loss. I distinctly recall, in the first session, she was reserved and seemingly skeptical. Anyone who has been around the weight loss block has every right to be that way when they embark on a new venture. I tell clients after the first session that their goal to get started and not necessarily to do everything at once. Well this client, who I’ll refer to her as Dr O., did everything.

She jumped in full force. She clipped recipes and made her food, in advance, for the week. She kept a meticulous food journal and hydrated like crazy. You can only invest your time and energy in this manner when it is about more than dropping lbs. I saw Dr O for 2 subsequent visits and with each session she appeared more animated and confident. She was full of praise for her food plan and new routine and for me! The funny thing to me is that I didn’t feel I did that much. I didn’t spend time emailing with Dr O between visits, nor did I have to find creative ways to motive her. I certainly didn’t feel like a “life saver.”

The author Geneen Roth has received lots of press lately with her new book "Women, Food and God". She is a fantastic writer and speaker and really is the go-to person when it comes to emotional eating. Ms Roth emphasizes that we can’t look to diets or weight loss to fix ourselves. Part of me agrees with this, smaller jeans don’t necessarily solve our deep rooted issues. Yet sometimes, as was the case with Dr O, we can learn to take care of ourselves via food, we can feel empowered by taking charge of our bodies and if we see it that way even broccoli can cheer us up.
Do you think losing weight can result in other positive changes? Does cooking relax or cheer you up? What do you think about the broccoli made Dr O happy?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Simon Says

I know this will come as a complete shock to those of you who think I’m scholarly and mature (does anyone think that?) but I really like American Idol. I have downloaded Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox’s recordings from I tunes and look forward to watching live every Tuesday night. I’m a music fan, I practically chose my college because of this, fell in love with my husband at Jazz Fest- you get the picture. Yet what I really enjoy on Idol is the judging. At times the performances are fantastic, many are painful and the judges have to comment on them afterward. Oftentimes the judges try to make nice. Paula Abdul was known for remarking on a contestant’s outfit when there was nothing else positive to share. Most of the judges are honest. Nobody is more honest that Simon Cowell.

Simon Cowell makes no attempt to cushion the blow when contestants falter. If something is terrible he is not going to say “it wasn’t your best.” He will likely say it was appalling or horrendous or a train wreck (and in that case it probably was). You can see the singers waiting for Simon’s comment unable to gauge things until he speaks. After all, praise from him is as genuine as his critique. Strangely enough, there are some similarities between what I do, at Foodtrainers, and the judging on idol. Clients keep food journals and come to sessions to discuss their eating and exercise regime. There are times when clients may say “the week was OK” and I look at their journals and think otherwise. I am confronted with a choice to politely point out how things could’ve been better or to bluntly say “this wasn’t a great week.” I’ll admit, with clients and nutrition I often feel it’s most productive to take an optimistic, supportive stance. There is so much, when it comes to weight loss, that is filled with guilt and negativity that I don’t think I need to add to this. So does that make me a Paula?

What’s funny is that some of my client meetings are conducted via phone. I’ve noticed that when I am not face to face with a client, I can be more honest. It is hard to say something insulting, even if true, while looking someone in the eye. I cannot imagine what it’s like in front of millions of people, with a live audience and probably the contestant’s entire family nearby. I think it takes a ton of courage and confidence. Simon is leaving American Idol; next week will be his final week of judging. Perhaps the show will fill his seat with someone else who is brutally honest. However, they will have a tough time finding someone who is honest without malice, honest and always aims to be constructive though maybe stinging a little at first.
Do you have a “Simon” in your life whether a friend or family member? Do you think honesty is the best policy when giving an opinion? Do you like American Idol too?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cholesterol Composite

Ask a few people what foods to eat to lower cholesterol and you’ll probably get answers such as oat bran or red wine. These are perfectly reasonable answers. Yet how much is adding a little bran or soy or Shiraz really going to do if your cholesterol is concerning? Not all that much. There was a plan I had heard about a few years ago called The Portfolio Diet. This was a regime developed in Canada aiming to lower cholesterol. The creators of this plan put together a host of foods with cholesterol lowering properties. The results were astounding and published in multiple medical journals. Participants who followed this regime closely lowered cholesterol levels by 20 percent. The catch? Their plan is not for everyone, it is verges on veganism. It is also fairly high in soy and missing certain ingredients I feel would benefit those trying to lower their cholesterol or avoid going on cholesterol meds. So while I love the concept of a portfolio of foods, I have my own portfolio or “cholesterol composite.”

When Blisstree asked me for 25 cholesterol lowering tips I was reminded of this multipronged approach. Truth be told, I narrowed it down to 26 but could’ve given them 50 tips because when it comes to your arteries and your cholesterol-lowering foods, the more (foods) the merrier…or should I say the more blissful?

Click here for my 26 cholesterol ways to lower cholesterol including alcohol
How is your cholesterol? What foods have you heard help lower it? Any surprises on the 26 tips list?

Monday, May 17, 2010


On Friday I received this email from a college friend and recent client:
Hey Lauren,
I hope this note finds you well! Are the boys finished w/ school soon? We're out on June 1, and then Colin and I head to Hawaii for 2 weeks. So, I have 2 weeks before I go to the beach. I've been pretty good about keeping to the food plan (some days are better than others), but I'd love hints about what to do over the next 2 weeks to maximize beach body potential. And I'm not look for a miracle, I just don't want my mom to suggest that I look like a beached whale which she has been known to do.
Thank you so much!

My reply:
Dear M (she actually has a name longer than 1 letter but we’ll go with M),

Wow- Hawaii sounds fantastic. I’m going to ignore the “beached whale” portion of the email, with the trip 2 weeks away we don’t have time for anything even moderately deep. Make sure you’re signed up for our Monthly Morsels newsletter because on Wednesday our May “Bathing Suits Don’t Lie” newsletter will be emailed with extensive tips for pre-beach exercise and eating. In the mean time 5 pre-beach pointers:

1. Disrobe
It’s very difficult (ok traumatizing) to go from turtlenecks and boots to swim suits and sunscreen. For all intents and purposes we are all naked on the beach or if you’re like me securely beneath your cover up du jour. What to do? We say practice! My brilliant intern Lisa mentioned “I know this is pretty extreme, but in the days leading up to the beach, my roommate actually puts on her bathing suit when she gets home from work until she goes to bed. That is the time of day that she is most prone to over-eating, and she knows she will make better choices if she’s wearing the exact suit she wants to be in at the end of the week."

2. Fast
I’m not referring to juicing or completely swearing off food (we’ll get to that in Wednesday’s newsletter). I suggest you try a TV fast for the next 2 weeks. I got this idea from organizing expert Peter Walsh. In the time you would normally watch TV prepare snacks for the next day or make a shopping list. Maybe you take an evening walk with Colin or simply read a book to relax. All the time we say we don’t have to invest in our food and exercise can be recaptured from parts of the day we spend tweeting, Facebooking and watching the TV.

3. Debloat (shocked this is not a real word)
My 5 favorite dietary debloaters are asparagus, lemon, cucumber, parsley and dandelion greens. Have each of these every day the week leading up to vacation. Yes, I said every day. Have asparagus steamed, grilled or roasted with your dinner every night. Add lemon and cucumber slices to all water. Parsley can be chopped into salads or boiled for a tea. And Wednesday’s newsletter will have a dandelion/walnut salad that will be your daily lunch. Sorry if these aren’t your favorite foods. While you may not find them the most delicious, debloating is delicious.

4. Exit the Elliptical
Ever seen a friend you haven’t seen in a while and they look great, amazing, lean and just different? When you ask how they did it or what they changed did they ever say they started to use the Precor? Or that they’ve been walking? Hold your emails and comments I am not saying these forms of exercise are useless. You want to raise your good cholesterol, ease your way into exercise, destress…that’s different. You want to feel less lumpy in a swimsuit, we need more. Run, spin, use the stair climber (looks like staircase), jump rope or whatever form of exercise you hate or feel is “too hard.” Do this 6 days a week (aren’t I nice?) for 45-60 minutes. If you’re as fun as you were in college, do it in your swim suit for bonus points.

5. Eliminate
Nope, I’m not talking about pooping (althouth that does improve the way you feel in a swimsuit) again, I did that already. I am talking about what you need to eliminate from your diet in the days before the beach. After all, what would a short-term plan be without some good old sacrifice and deprivation? So…skip sweet and wheat, skip anything that comes in a package with more than 2 ingredients (eggs in a carton ok, kashi bars are not). And while you’re at it skip the 3 C’s canned (or smoked) food, carbonated beverages and cocktails. If you have a question if something is ok to eat, assume it is not.

Have a great trip and comment on the blog as you execute the 5 pre-beach pointers.

What do you do pre-beach and which one of these pointers hits home?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Burger Bogey

I have to realize, as I write this, that the whole world doesn’t live in a house where the Golf Channel is on the preset list. Even so, chances are you’ve heard of Phil Mickelson. At the Masters tournament last month everyone had their eyes on Tiger (sing if you’d like) and his comeback (yuck, gross pun) after his rehab or hiding stint. Tiger played well but Mickelson won the tournament and waiting at the 18th hole was his beautiful wife Amy, who made her first appearance on tour after over a year of treatment for breast cancer. They were emotional and I, for one, was crying in my living room.

When my husband asked me what I wanted to do yesterday afternoon, for Mothers Day, my answer was simple. I wanted to be in the apartment alone. And so he took the boys skating and I lounged around, cleaned out the pantry and read the newspaper cover to cover. Heaven. Yet one article, in the Sports section, left me wondering. It was a silly piece about how Mickelson had a streak of golf holes without a bogey (one shot over par) and a similar streak where he went to Five Guys for burgers after each round. The column went on to talk about Mickelson’s burger history, growing up on In-N-Out Burger and even looking into purchasing an In-N-Out Burger franchise at one point.

Hmn. When clients come to me with breast cancer or current clients are diagnosed one of the first dietary changes I suggest is decreasing or eliminating animal protein. This isn’t far-fetched advice. Go-to doctors in the field of health and wellness from T Colin Campbell to Andrew Weil concur. Surely Amy Mickelson is aware of the connection of animal protein (burgers included) to cancer. Assuming that someone with access to the best of the best in terms of treatment is altering her diet in order to rid her body of cancer, is her husband’s burger habit questionable? Insensitive? Or maybe you think it is innocent.

If your spouse has lung cancer, should their husband or wife smoke? Or if it’s diabetes, should their partner do candy commercials, maybe look into buying a candy company? I know that to some people there is nothing wrong with a man’s love of burgers. For me, this left a bad taste in my mouth.
Do you think I’m overreacting? Should one spouse conform to the dietary mandates of the other’s disease? Should a professional athlete have burgers and fries multiple days in a row? Shouldn’t we all consider reducing our animal protein prior to a diagnosis?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Scarborough Fair

Just about everything is celebrated these days. There is Bring Your Children to Work Day and Secretary’s Day (excuse me Administrative Assistants Day). For some causes there is longer fanfare such as for Teacher Appreciation Week or National Nutrition Month. I am not sure how one registers to become a Day or what the holiday hierarchy is to determine the duration. Surely, the Earth is due more than one day….This week is National Herb Week. Herb week was established by the International Herb Association to highlight herbs, herbal uses and herbal businesses (ooh not sure about that last one). I am also unsure why the week of herbs is stipulated to be the week before Mothers Day. Frankly I don’t care much about National Herb Week per se but I do care about herbs.

I was alerted to Herb Week on twitter when someone asked, in honor of herb week,  “what’s your favorite herb?” I answered “mint and basil.” Truth is, it’s impossible to pick. Whenever I grocery shop I purchase at least 3 to 4 different herbs. Here are some standouts:

Mint- I love fresh mint. Clients make me jealous when they describe herb gardens full of mint. I don’t have a garden but always have mint in the house. I add mint to smoothies and handfuls to tea. I also like mint with grain pilafs such as quinoa and rice. It just makes everything taste so fresh.

Basil- when you think of basil, what food do you think ok? My mind goes instantly to pesto, one of my favorite creations on the planet. My mother didn’t make pesto growing up but my friend Meredith’s mother did and I remember my first pesto experience clearly. Since them I add pesto to chicken and turkey burgers or “pesto burgers”. I also add a little pesto to salads. And if you haven’t served pesto to your children, do so. You may not think so but kids love pesto. Combine pasta pesto with steamed organic frozen peas and you have a delicious weeknight meal.

Cilantro-I know as I write this that the world is made up of cilantro lovers and cilantro haters. The New York Times explained recently that there’s a biochemical reason some people dislike cilantro. Sorry if you despise it or think it’s soapy, I think it’s amazing. One of my go to easy dinners has 5 ingredients: scallops, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. I also love cilantro with beans such as in this black bean and sweet potato salad.

Rosemary- I have to admit when I think of pairings for rosemary I think of bread and meat (2 things I rarely eat). Rosemary pairs fantastically with potatoes; this is an easy and flavorful roasted potato side dish from Eating Well. And I can’t resist, Cat Cora’s lamb chop recipe is fool proof.

Dill- is the 2010 herb of the year! Hold your applause. I love dill with cold salads and also with poached salmon. And I have gushed multiple times about my favorite dill pickles. Here is a great summer salad that combines shrimp, cucumber and dill.
Happy Herb Week and Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I feel as though I let Simon and Garfunkel down not discussing parsley, sage or thyme (next year!).

What is your favorite herb? Favorite use or recipe for that herb? Favorite “Day”? Favorite Simon and Garfunkel song?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reluctant Yogi

It was the perfect summer day. It wasn’t too hot or too humid. My husband, partially because he is a nice guy and mostly because he knows I am an abnormally tolerant golf widow, had the kids plus a friend at Rye Playland. I was alone in the city and the possibilities were endless. I went for a run, bathed and showered (because I could), made myself lunch and headed back outside. I was annoyingly content and the ideal target for what was to happen next. I walked down Amsterdam Avenue and noticed a sign in front of the membership office for the new yoga place that was opening. I went inside to find out more about the studio so I could tell my clients about it. In less than 10 minutes, I left with a membership to Pure Yoga that would not open officially until December. “But you don’t do yoga” nice husband remarked when returning from his exhausting play date. “I know” I admitted “but I’m going to start.”

Months later and many degrees colder I went to Pure Yoga for the first time. In class, I introduced myself to the teacher, told him I was new to yoga and set my mat up in what initially was the back of the room. It wasn’t long before I was annoyed. I didn’t know what was happening or what “dog” was what. Seemingly, everyone else did. I was craning my neck to see what was happening and deciding I hated yoga. To make matters worse, about 15 minutes into class the back of the room became the front and I was now annoyed, hating yoga and embarrassed…not exactly my idea of the path to peace. After 90! (note to self yoga is too time consuming) minutes class ended. So what did I do after such a letdown of a first class? I went to another class later that week of course. I found that I knew more what to expect and that I that upward dog looked more like a lizard and downward dog was where I could take a breath or two. I still wasn’t convinced.

I decided to shift gears and try a Hot Yoga class. I am one of those people who likes to sweat and wanted to branch out before I threw in the eucalyptus scented towel. This room was smaller and darker. The teacher wasn’t overly yogi and played really good music and the class was 60 minutes. I thought this maybe was the right yoga for me. I took a couple more of these classes with the same teacher but things weren’t clicking for me with yoga. I told my sister in law, who was also a sucker (I mean excited) for the early membership deal, that I wasn’t getting a good workout and wasn’t loving yoga. I even went so far as to email management to cancel my membership. “You can’t cancel you know we signed up for a year, you’re locked in until December.” I had a feeling she was right or at least had read her membership contract. Now what to do?

Around the time I realized I had 11 months left on my 1 year sentence to yoga, I received an email. The email was from one of the instructors reminding me of my complimentary private yoga session (also in the contract). I made an appointment with YogaMatt (that’s his email address clever, right?). I joked with Matt about how I’m exactly the wrong type of person for yoga (high stress, intense, type A) and he said “no you’re probably someone who can benefit most.” Interesting. After a couple more yoga classes I started to realize something else. Every time the teacher offered a modification to make things a little more difficult, I ignored it. My goal was to avoid embarrassment and I was mostly successful. However, I soon realized I was going through the motions and that didn’t feel very good. Scott the Hot Yoga teacher even said in class that when you aren’t doing things to your fullest potential you become diseased (I don’t recall the exact words). I had a choice; I either had to jump in and potentially humiliate myself or become diseased. What would you choose?

I have 18 yoga classes under my belt. My goal is to go at least twice a week though I’m sure more is recommended. I know that bind doesn’t mean when you can’t go to the bathroom and that “wrapping it up” doesn’t refer to a present. At times I surprise myself with an improvement and at every class I feel I am incapable of many contortions others have mastered. My friend Wendy said it took her a year to feel she was getting things with by the end of my sentence I hope to feel that way too. As adults we have the choice to quit things whenever we want. This was a good lesson in not judging or quitting too quickly. I get the sense there are more lessons to come.
Do you do yoga? Any advice for me? Anything you’re tempted to quit? Do you think it’s good to know what’s not for you or should we, as we tell our kids, stick things out?