Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's worse putting an obese child on a diet or doing nothing?

Not a "Vogue" photo I realize

I love being tipped off to provocative nutrition articles. On Friday I received this:
I HAD to write to ask if you have read the article about the Mom who put her 7 year old daughter on a diet in this month’s Vogue (J-Lo is on the cover) If you haven’t please, please, please go get it. Would LOVE to know your thoughts even though I think I already know what you would say.
At the time I hadn’t read the article but I was on my way for a pre-trip pedi. Prior to reading, a 7 year old on a diet, in a fashion magazine, sounded like an open and closed case for scary parenting. Once at Cindy's Nails,  I spotted the J-Lo Vogue, sat back in the squishy pedicure chair and started in. Dara-Lynn Weiss opens the article describing a situation where she was at a friend’s house and made a little bit of a scene when a her daughter is served salad nicoise. I felt myself cringe but read on.

Bea, we learn, was normal weight early on and started putting on weight as a toddler. Her mother explains that Bea always seemed to be hungry and a preschool teacher even mentioned she had trouble self-regulating at a snack table. As she watched her daughter gaining weight, Weiss says she initially ignored the problem. By the time Bea was 7, the doctor classified her as obese and her parents took action.

In a very honest account, Weiss recaps her own weight issues growing up. As an adult her weight stabilized she writes, “I felt pretty normal. And I looked pretty normal. But, like many women, I wasn’t really normal.” Many parents, specifically mothers, have their own weight “stuff” that they bring to the parenting table. Some women were pressured to lose weight by their own mothers and are determined to do things differently.  Others may have grown up heavy and looking back wish their parents intervened more so that they didn’t have to be taunted or unhealthy. It’s very easy to pat yourself on the back and feel successful in the nutrition department when you have average weight children. It doesn’t mean you are exempt from family food issues.

There were some things I felt this mother got right:
  • She enlisted an expert
  • She tried to make this a family affair, she brought her son to the doctor to be weighed in and she ate the same lunches as Bea
  • She increased her daughter’s physical activity, enrolling her in karate
  • She referred to things as “a nutrition regimen” versus a diet (though I’m not sure "diet" if handled properly is the end of the world).

Other things I didn’t agree with:
  • With either children or adults I don’t feel public situations are the time for lesson teaching or scene making (except when it’s my children and they are using bad table manners). The goal is always to control what you can control and snacks at a friend’s house aren’t for a 7 year old to refuse.
  • Health is the best platform. Yes, children are aware of their size but losing weight should be in order to be healthy, for life, and not to get new clothing, especially at 7. Health and healthy foods aren’t highlighted in this article and Weiss admits “we became connoisseurs of anything in a 100-calorie pack and bought enough diet soda to horrify any Whole Foods-shopping mom.”

As I read this account, I found myself thinking of children with dangerous food allergies. Weiss mentions this comparison “should she (Bea) attempt to walk through the door (at school) with an almond in her pocket, she’d practically be swarmed by a SWAT team.  But who is protecting the obese kids when 350-calorie cupcakes are handed out on every kid’s birthday?” And if we get our children extra help with speech or reading, should we not have them assisted when needed with nutrition? “The same Tiger Moms who press their kids into private school test prep at four or force them to devote countless hours to piano or dance or sports find it unthinkable to coax a child to lose weight.” The word “coax” rubs me the wrong way but point well taken.

The truth is many will take issue with this mother’s methods. If I recorded some of my boys’ piano practice sessions I would bet you wouldn’t award me patient parent of the year either. This article references a 2011 survey where parents find weight the single most difficult topic to discuss with their kids ahead of drugs and sex. Maybe this Vogue piece is a tool parents can use to open the discussion. And I think this is a discussion we should have with obese and non-obese children. After all, we can work on weight but we also need to work on sensitivity. 
I don’t think this is what the person who emailed expected me to say but I’m so glad she told me to look into this and in case you’re wondering I asked the proprietor of the nail salon for the article (no magazine swiping).
Have you read "Weight Watcher" in Vogue? Do you think 7 year olds should be put one weight loss regimes? Do you think it's worse to take action for an obese child or do nothing?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Break Travel Foods (Avocados Included)

Avocados enjoying some Belizian sunshine, I don't store them  outside just trying to make you jealous. Did I?

Packing clothes for a warm weather vacation is easy. Bathing suits, flip-flops, easy dresses and sunglasses and you’re pretty much set. I spent way more time organizing food to bring with us, especially since we were coming off a week of eating raw. As I packed what I consider a vacation essential, avocados, along with our swimsuits and shampoo it crossed my mind that perhaps other people don’t stress over their travel food. I looked to the twittersphere and asked, “Do normal people pack avocados in their suitcases?” It turns out they do or at least the food-focused people who I associate with. If you do not, we can still be friends though I’d give the avocado more thought (unripe in the luggage, ripe in the carry on). Avocados can be used for a smoothie in the morning, sliced in a salad at lunch or if you're really on board halved and eaten with a spoon.

Aside from the avocado I must have:
Green Juice- while they don’t go in the bags, I have one on the way to the airport. It’s part last hurrah and part laying the groundwork for a healthy trip.
Container of Crudité- I don’t leave home without a fairly large glass container of crudité. The kids love to munch when they get antsy on flights and it assures me that their travel day has some nutrients. For Saturday’s flight I had carrots, celery and jicama. The container also keeps my carry on tote of food cold.
Bars that don’t melt-there’s nothing worse than taking the time to procure proper snacks and finding they’re a mess when you’re ready to eat them. Skip any chocolate-coated bars. I brought a couple of pure bars and Sheffa bars with us.
Probiotics- if I were forced to choose one travel supplement it would be probiotics. My current probiotic is made by Renew life.
Tea- I take an assortment of tea bags with me wherever I go. For this trip it was Pukka 3 Ginger Tea.

I also asked some of the avocado packers what their must-pack snacks are:
Juli Novotny, the owner of Kookie Karma
Healthy SPF- if in tropical place, most of those spray sunblock are horrible for us to absorb via skin. (I brought Vive Sana on this trip)
 A roll up bag- I consider myself fairly fashionable and yet I MAKE myself take only 1 or two of everything. Less is more when you travel. Bring a tiny roll up bag that you can open up if you decide to buy things; Eagle Creek makes a great one
 Healthy Snacks for the plane- first class or not, better safe than sorry. You never know when there will be delays or issues and you’ll be stuck for hours with only airport food. Our Foodtrainers' March newsletter “Not a Total (Spring) Break” focused on travel snacks and we highlighted Juli’s amazing kale creations.

Amie Valone personal chef, recipe developer and more from The Healthy Apple
Chia seeds for protein
Avocados for healthy fats
Magnesium to help keep things regular

Amy Metcalf aka Amy Danger fitness instructor, nutrition enthusiast and PhD candidate
Lara bars
Steel Cut Oats (& my water heater)
Green tea
Packaged salmon,
Nuts and Shredded Coconut

Carolyn Brown fellow Foodtrainer vacay essentials
Running and yoga gear always
iPod with new playlists
Stash of healthy snacks,-Barney butter  is floating somewhere in every bag I own. luggage too 
Google ahead  of time the best active stuff to do and pre-pick restaurants

I think Juli said it best “I’d rather save those "bad" calories for great meals and cocktails at my destination.”
What are your must pack snacks or foods? Does it take longer to pack your food or your clothing? Have you ever boarded a flight with an avocado?

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Raw Vegan Husband

Sarma's Favorite Green Shake, Sarma's photo too

My husband Marc doesn’t have it easy. For today, I’ll stick to the food part but trust me it goes far beyond that. In terms of food, I’m sure there are weekends he wished we didn’t have to lug the giant, non-wheeling (the stainless steel didn’t come with wheels!) cooler into the car. Maybe he had hoped that life would have less lettuce, more gluten or that he wasn’t asked if everything was organic. Despite my tendencies, Marc maintains a fairly “normal” diet. He loves his beer, bread and coffee and on many nights from the kitchen I hear something resembling “Daaaad you ate all the cookies. “  Marc’s a fit guy plays hockey, skis in the winter, cycles and plays tennis and golf in the summer. There are marathons and triathlons but still…lots of beer and cookies.

We leave for vacation tomorrow. A client recently enjoyed the “not just juice cleanse” from One Lucky Duck the takeout outpost for one of my favorite restaurants Pure Food and Wine. I’ve done many of the popular cleanses before but I thought this one might work for Marc. There are two versions and one wasn’t necessarily geared at weight loss but it’s raw, vegan and very different from the way he typically eats. Marc looked at the sample menus and decided to give it a try (have to say I was shocked, the guy previously wouldn’t drink a green juice). This past Saturday, I looked over at Marc. It was our last ski weekend and we were out at a local restaurant. In front of my man was a festive green, St Patrick’s-themed Bud Light and a Patron on the rocks. “What?” he said in reaction to my eye rolling, “I have to get it in while I can”.

Monday was the first day. For solidarity, I signed myself up for “Shine” and Marc for “Glow”.  At 7am I realized Marc was still in bed, I think he was fearful of his coffeelessness. I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to a caffeine free workweek so I made us a cup of coffee to split. The kids, home on spring break, woke up and my older son asked for BACON. I made bacon (organic, nitrite free) and waited for our first delivery, it was delayed and Marc left for work without food. Later, my son and I delivered his first bag of food to his office and he reached in and grabbed his Blue Sunset smoothie.
I know, he looks thrilled
 He enjoyed it; even my eight year old enjoyed it. Later in the day, after his taco salad I received an email “I could eat like this forever.”

On one hand I agreed, everything we were eating was fantastic. On the other hand I couldn’t believe Marc was eating this food without a complaint.  He had cut out dairy, meat, fish, coffee, refined sugar, most grains and was drinking green juices, eating shoebox-sized salads and enjoying himself. I am still split as to whether this is a male thing or a testament to the fact that if food is interesting and satisfying, change is quite manageable.

We weren’t hungry at all this week. Some of my favorite items were the Swan Juice (cucumber, spinach, dandelion, grapefruit, tarragon, spearmint and yuzu), a Spicy Sesame Salad and chocolate pudding. Marc loved the taco salad, the tortilla wraps (give him Mexican-y and he’s happy) and the Mallomar.  There were some really funny moments too.  On Day 2, I saw dinner was  “Portabella and Hempseed Burger”. Marc hates mushrooms. I hid the menu card and placed the slider-sized meal on the table. Marc ate the delicious concoction with pickled pink onions.
This is a salad plate so you get a sense of the portion.

 He then asked what he had eaten. On Wednesday, Marc realized he had plans to go to the Ranger game with two colleagues. First, he rushed home for his Brazil Nut Crusted Sea Vegetable Croquettes. He met the guys at steak house at the Garden and had seltzer.  They had steak, creamed spinach- the works and gave him such a hard time for his cleanse. One day I left some greens over from my lunch. I had saved them in case dinner was sparse. At 10:30pm Marc eyed the greens and pulled them out “this is delicious” he declared. He had come a long way from the cookies.

Sarma, the owner of One Lucky Duck has two great cookbooks. When you read through the recipes you realize how involved raw food is. There’s soaking and dehydrating and many steps but it was a real treat having the deliveries this week.
Have you experimented with raw food? Ever done a cleanse? Do you think food changes are different for men versus women?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not Feeling Well? It May Be the Chicken

Not my kind of "party"
Many people who watched Food Inc. saw chickens packed in dark, dirty pens, walking in each others’ feces and swore off chicken. On the other hand, maybe you blocked those images out and remain unconvinced of any danger. Well,  if you thought salmonella, arsenic, injected hormones or chlorine baths were your biggest concerns with feedlot chicken, think again. Researchers found that the culprit for almost all UTIs (urinary tract infections) in women isn’t from “holding it” or improper wiping but chicken. Yup, that chicken and broccoli may contain an extra ingredient namely E. coli bacteria.

I love skeptics. If you’re reading and wondering how the E. coli was traced to chicken, I’ll explain. Researchers from McGill look at the bacteria from women in California and Canada and played a little genome matching game with bacteria found in beef, pork and chicken. There is E. coli in other meat but it’s good old chicken that most closely resembles that in UTIs.  And the icing on the vile cake? Due to the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms many strains of E. coli are antibiotic resistant. The study was published in the March issue of the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases

From CDC website:
 Every year, 6–8 million cases of uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTI) occur in the United States;  greater than 80% are associated with E. coli. The urinary tract is the most common source for E. coli causing bloodstream infections, which cause 40,000 deaths from sepsis each year in the United States.  Drug-resistant infections often require more complicated treatment regimens and result in more treatment failures.

This "extraintestinal E. coli" is somewhat less lethal than the 0157 strain that is responsible for many food recalls but "may kill you but chance is lower" doesn't reassure me. Additionally, this bacteria can lay dormant for six months before causing problems, what about the effects for children? A friend (who recently mentioned she had a UTI)  upon reading this information said, “Is anything safe to eat?” I hear that a lot and the truth is yes... but you have to do your homework. A few options:

  1. I get it if you’re repulsed. How can you not be? These poor chickens peck at droppings from their fellow birds or drink water contaminated by stool. If sayonara chicken is what feels right, that’s one option
  2. Organic Chicken- chickens are not given antibiotics. Increasingly, probiotics and essential oils are being used to reduce bacteria content naturally. They are also less cramped and therefore much less likely to be contaminated. I will not eat chicken that’s not organic and do not serve it to my family. In addition to organic or the next best thing is  "Certified Humane" . Unfortunately there are many loopholes around "raised without antibiotics." For example, some companies inject chickens before they hatch (seriously). Other producers, same name as a well-known sketchy boxer, use drugs that aren't technically antibiotics but ionophores. Once you're dealing with this kind of deceit, I'm shopping elsewhere. 
  3. Cook properly- this is often put out there as a way to prove sub par chicken is safe. If you just cook it to the proper temperature (165 Fahrenheit for chicken) everything is killed off. Well maybe not everything there’s still the arsenic and antibiotics. Did I mention my husband and I happen to be  doing a raw, vegan week? No "dark" meat chicken for us.
Do you eat chicken? Are you selective about where it comes from? What do you do at restaurants? Which option above 1, 2 or 3 works for you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tips to Go From Fruitless to Fruitful

That black stuff? Not for the next 5 days,   read on for grapefruit info.

Fruit is healthy and of course nutritious but sometimes it's difficult to get people excited over fruit. Carolyn and I were asked to speak about fruit at a breakfast at for Edible Arrangements at Sarabeth's restaurant. Edible Arrangements has new items called their “grab and go collection” at their stores nationwide. I hear clients complain about buying fruit only to watch it rot; so anything that removes a mental barrier deserves a vote in my book. Here were some of our fruity ideas.

What's in it for me?
You’re not alone; most of us are selfish.  And fruit is no exception. I talked recently about pineapple as a mood food and that the core may boost fertility. What about prickly pears helping with elevated blood sugar? Or grapefruit is one of the top fruits a research proven health glow (thanks Jess)? Yup, it’s one of the best edible “beauty tools” (see recipe below).

Be Your Own Sous Chef
You are not going to take a whole cantaloupe to the office. The day you food shop (which according to the Manhattan Diet is every day for New Yorkers) cut your fruit and put it in single-serve glass containers and slice up limes or lemons for water or teas. There are days my children are standing at the door waiting in the morning and others where they aren’t cooperating. Let your fruit “stand by the door and cooperate”. If fruit calls your name when you open the fridge it’s much better than the cheese.

We Do Judge a Fruit By its Cover
Presentation matters so be your own “fruit” stylist. Even if you don’t have arrangement making skills, skewer, make melon balls or use pretty containers. I love ceramic berry containers from Roost.  Include lobster forks in containers for eating fruit on the go.
Go, Go, Go
Thanks to Dr Oz and Oprah, we know nutritionists aren’t the only ones fixated on bowel movements. It’s important to everyone. Berries, kiwi, pears and avocados are your pooping personal assistants.

Fun Fruitensils
I mentioned the melon baller but how about a grapefruit knife or pineapple corer? Nothing like a new gadget to get you “in the mood”.

8 Glasses Isn’t Easy
While I don’t suggest reaching your water goal via fruit alone, watermelon, cucumbers (yes a fruit), oranges and apricots are water-packed fruits.

Doctor (your) Fruit
Trying to tame a sweet tooth? Hooked on Skinny Cows and trying to convince yourself they’re healthy? Make your own applesauce or baked apples, freeze banana slices (or try Yonanas), warm frozen wild blueberries (close your eyes and it’s berry pie) or our favorite broil grapefruit

  • Preheat Broiler
  • Halve a grapefruit and cut inside the perimeter separating the grapefruit from the peel
  • Sprinkle with Coconut Palm Sugar (use approx 1 teaspoon) or brown sugar.
  • I like to sprinkle with ground ginger but cinnamon or cardamom works too. 
  • Place halves in baking dish or on cookie sheet close to broiler
  • Broil 5 min until edge browns a little and sugar caramelizes.
And then try to tell me fruit isn't exciting.
Are you "fruitless" or fruitful? Why do you eat fruit? Any suggestions for making fruit exciting? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Manhattan Diet: Manhattan Women Don't Get Fat

Part of what I consider market research is to periodically peruse the diet section of my local Barnes and Noble. No matter how farfetched a book’s concept is I like to familiarize myself with it. This past weekend, I grabbed a stack of seemingly interesting books and crouched in a window seat overlooking Broadway. I had zero intention of purchasing any of them and briefly thought of Borders going bankrupt and felt a little guilty but continued. I flipped through the first two books; incredibly bored I put them to the side. Next, I opened The Manhattan Diet. Twenty minutes later, I was still reading and decided to do the honorable thing and buy the book.

Eileen Daspin, the author, and self-confessed dieter since age 12, thought of the concept for the book when she heard that Manhattan was the thinnest of New York’s boroughs and the “skinniest of all the sixty-two counties in New York State.”  She proceeded to interview the city’s  svelte-est to distill their habits into something others could learn from or emulate.  I constantly hear from clients "I have a friend who eats _______." this is a compilation of those vignettes. One reviewer on the back cover said, “The Manhattan Diet is French Women Don’t Get Fat meets Sex and the City.”

Some Manhattan Diet tenets:

Be a Foodie- Daspin describes New Yorkers clamoring for reservations at ABC Kitchen or Red Rooster and yet thinking about every morsel they eat. So we differ than the French in that weight is on the radar. However, the similarity is that much of the food Daspin describes isn’t processed, low fat or flavor free. As I read on though, the book seems to have trouble combining the concepts don’t deprive yourself and be extremely weight conscious. Is it “don’t deprive yourself” or “don’t look like you’re depriving yourself”?

Obsess (in a good way) some of the best parts of this book are the portraits of various New Yorkers and their eating and exercise regimes. There are a lot of different approaches but Daspin writes, “The single common thread I’ve been able to discern on this subject is the amount of time they [New Yorkers] spend thinking about eating.” I hear from clients that they wish they didn’t think about food and weight so much. I think this thinking is actually fine as long as it’s positive and leaves you feeling good.

Walk Everywhere- there is no doubt that urban living necessitates walking in a way suburban living doesn’t. Daspin talks about the amount of walking New Yorkers do to get groceries or the subway. She also notes that as you walk down a city street it’s natural to compare yourself to those around you.  I’m all for walking but have plenty of thin Manhattan friends who can make it through a full day while only logging a block or two “taxi please”.

Live in Tight Quarters- Daspin suggests than Manhattanites spend time outside and more active because living space is small. Additionally small refrigerators necessitate small containers that result in eating less. I was intrigued reading this but with talk of CEO’s and butlers in The Manhattan Diet are we really supposed to believe space is such an issue?

Work out when you’re not walking or working or eating at great restaurants many of Daspin’s profiles are of busy, accomplished women. One woman wakes up at 5 to do the Intensity DVDs and another takes three children to school crosstown on scooters. You also hear about the cult that is Soul Cycle and a description of that sign up process “it’s 11:45 in Monday morning and women up and down Manhattan are poised at their laptops. Hand on trackbar, each is clicking anxiously hoping to get a spot.” Exhale, Pure Yoga and Punch also get shout outs.  There’s an exercise as lifestyle message that was interesting to read about.

Choose Thin Friends- it’s well documented that you’re more likely to be overweight if your friends are. Well there’s such thing as positive peer pressure too. Daspin doesn’t expect you to dump your friends; she mentions group exercise classes and stores with communal dressing room to reap the benefits of healthy competition.

It may not sound like it but I enjoyed this book. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and entertaining. Daspin lives in my neighborhood so, like Sex and The City, when you see your markets, workouts and favorite restaurants dished about it’s fun. And just as people from far and wide fell in love with Carrie and her crew you don’t have to be a Manhattanite to eat like one or enjoy this book.

I do have a few issues (I’m a Manhattanite issues are mandatory). First, I don’t know this is a diet book in the sense that people will purchase it and follow it. It’s just a couple of days since I read TMD and I had to look back to recall the advice. The food’s suggested weren’t any I hadn’t heard of. Additionally, I’m not a fan of the concept of eating like someone just because they’re thin. I have thin friends who never work out or eat poorly or smoke (two friends you’ve been called out). Does the end justify the means? If the “end” is small enough, in Manhattan it just may. And finally, of course some Manhattan women get fat, please.
Have you heard of this book? If you live in Manhattan, can you vouch for Daspin's tips? Do you observe the habits of your fit friends and behave similarly?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Kale Becoming A Kardashian?

Photo via EA Stewart, caption mine.
I am concerned for kale. It’s everywhere I look. It’s in recipes in so many magazines and not just the health oriented ones. We can’t keep the Kale Krackers in stock; Carolyn coined it “kale krack”. Clients who don’t even eat greens are chugging kale-containing green juices. Kale may very well be risking overexposure. It can’t be long before there’s a new green on the street- collards or beet greens, maybe even dandelions. Before we kale out, before chocolate covered kale and the inevitable creation of kale in a capsule, I thought I’d share my top kale moments.

Hail Kale Caesar I love this recipe from EA Stewart’s Spicy RD blog, I went crouton-less and cut the cheese (stop) a little and this was well received. It makes a lot and I topped with avocado one day, cooked shrimp another. Bookmark this recipe, it’s a keeper.

Kale Krackers the aforementioned “wack” snack. If you are someone who gets fixated on certain foods, I would advise you to not starting with these. Habit forming. Do you need another habit?

Crispy Coconut Kale from a blog called Holy Kale and the authors name is Lauren. I wonder what will happen to her site if people turn on kale.

Green Pineapple Smoothie-I’m a believer in “greening” every meal; however if you want to add kale to smoothies you will probably need a Vitamix.

Eggs over Kale Hash  who says Rachael Ray doesn't have healthy-ish recipes?

Kale Hazelnut Salad  if you haven't checked out Food52, I highly suggest it.

Green Juice try kale, cucumber, parsnips, pear, lemon and ginger, so good.

Unlike the Kardashians, kale is worth the hype but so are most superfoods, remember acai?
Do you kale? If so, when did you join the kale club? What are your favorite kale concoctions?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring-Cleaning: If It Doesn't Fit You Must Toss It

I’m conflicted about The Chew.  Mario Batali and Michael Symon are fantastic; I love the show's food focus and my good friend’s husband works there.  My hesitation centers on the choice of wellness personality. Daphne Oz is charming, smart and a vegetarian but stumbles over nutrition info and certainly wasn’t cast for her cooking skills. It’s nepotism in action and it is what it is.  Anyway, I digress (so what’s new), I still DVR it and Clinton Kelly consistently cracks me up. Clinton was the host of What Not To Wear. On Saturday,  I watched an episode in which Clinton did a segment on Spring-cleaning your closet. I’m paraphrasing but he said anything that doesn’t fit must go. If it’s too small it’s depressing to think about and why keep “fat clothes” it just encourages you to go back there. He suggested trying on every item in your closet.

This reminded me of a recent session with a client. I was trying to incentify her to lose weight. I asked her if she had any goals she could pinpoint maybe an upcoming trip or a certain size she wanted to be. Without missing a beat she said, “Lauren, I have a closet full of goals.” I think most women have a range of sizes in their closets. When I edit, I generally toss things I no longer love or don’t wear versus the fit. What Clinton said struck a chord, why hang onto stuff that doesn’t make you feel good now? Clinton would be against the concept of reference clothing.

With this on my mind I decided to approach my jeans with the Clinton directive.  I have a favorite pair of Joe jeans I wear with heels and a Current Elliot selection I wear with boots. I consider myself a proud purger. or whatever the opposite of a hoarder is, but there was a full cast of denim understudies still hanging around. I psyched myself up, noting in my head that our bodies change and that certain things may not fit. I tried on the first pair and they looked fine; I started a “keep” pile. This seemed like beginners luck but pair #2 was pretty good too. I don’t know why this was surprising given the fact that I eat very well and enjoy exercise but it was. There were jeans I forgot I had, various washes (don’t judge) and the jeans my husband likes the best. In all I tried on 17  pairs of jeans. One pair is going. They fit albeit snuggly but dug in in all the wrong places.
Bye bye muffin top maker
 Who needs that? There was also one pair I am taking to the tailor, is it possible I was 4 inches taller last year?

While I didn't end up giving away much,  I finished knowing I had options other than my two preferred pairs. I will have no disappointment when I pull something out from the pile ready to wear it and I know what not to wear.
Do you have more than one size of clothing in your closet? Any items you're hoping to fit into in the future? Or any larger clothes "just in case"? And do you watch The Chew?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who's Afraid of Soaking Beans?

A few couple months ago I assigned Cooking Homework. November’s homework was to start slow cooking. I did and use our slow cooker every weekend. I don’t love chopping onions with my morning coffee but a few minutes of work and you have chili, soup or a delicious stew waiting for you. Last month, I vowed to embrace my neglected juicer and to break out unused cookbooks.  I’ve definitely juiced more this month. I would encourage fellow juicers reading this to consider using parsnips, papaya is good too, oh and young coconuts. I’m happy to talk juicing because I didn’t cook anything from Healthy Hedonist or Appetite for Reduction. Nada.

I read something over at Verging on Serious that may explain my partial failure. Cameo wrote a great post on making changes and listed these facts from a video series she watched:
Adoption of one new habit at a time- 85% chance of success
Adoption of two new habits at once- 35% chance of success
Adopting of three new habits at once- 10% chance of success.

In my assignment I did something I urge clients not to, I tried to do too much at once thus I’m in the 65% failure faction. So this month, there’s only one assignment I’m throwing out there, beansBeans would probably make my list of the top 10 healthiest foods; I love Mexican-inspired dishes, bean dips and bean salads. I’m not fond of canned foods so I’ve been using the Fig Food boxed beans. I really should soak and cook my own beans (less packaging, less salt, less expensive) but I don’t. It could be that I lived on black beans and brown rice in college and when I say lived on I mean it.  As scarring as this repetitive eating was the reason I don’t soak beans is really that I’m too lazy. You may have sniffed out that I use lentils and split peas often; they are lazy person’s legumes (no soaking required).

I decided it was time to change my ways reading about bean soaking on More than Cereal. Adele jokes that she used to think of soaking beans as only something a “special” type of person does. However, like other commonly circumvented cooking chores, it’s really not that involved. I did it at 18, in college, and I assure you I wasn’t capable of doing much else at the time.

If you’re contemplating beak soakage, here’s what you do:
Initiate the process the night before (or morning) you plan to cook beans.  Put beans in a large pot, under a few inches of water, and refrigerate. Remove any floating beans as this indicates they’re old. No senior beans allowed. Drain the water (important as you are draining out gassiness), cover with fresh water and cook. I love this slideshow from Serious Eats. Adele and S.E.. concur that cooked beans can be frozen for later use. Love that.

So we have good odds, an 85% chance of soaking success, are you with me? If you’re sitting back a smug soaker, I’m sure there’s something else you been putting off.  What's something you buy that you can make at home or DIY? You have until April.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No Impact Woman

No Impact Woman

Friends gifted us with a Roku player this winter after staying with us in Vermont. I’m not that much a movie watcher but the boys were thrilled. With this contraption, you basically can access Netflix instantly via your TV. One day, when I wasn’t skiing, I turned it on and spotted a food documentary section and sensed an addiction in the making. That night, I treated traumatized my young children with Food Inc. I now think this should be required viewing for all kids as it connected them to their food. It was more valuable than be telling them to eat something “because it’s good for you”. My 9 year old really got it.  This past weekend, the boys were skiing and I turned on a documentary called No Impact Man.

No Impact Man follows a writer and his family, in NYC, on a yearlong experiment to try to have no adverse impact on the environment.  This meant local food, no elevators, no cars or trips. At six months they yanked their electricity eliminating refrigeration and necessitating lots of candles. This couple had a 2-year-old daughter so disposable diapers (and toilet paper for the adults) were no more.  No Impact Man is Colin Beavan, a writer, who wants to veer away from historical writing. For me though, the star of this film is his wife Michelle Conlin who accepts her husband’s challenge and goes from self-confessed reality television, shopping and coffee junkie to no impact woman. When you see someone with no experience in environmentalism making sweeping changes it’s pretty inspiring.

Of course I zeroed in on the food changes invovled:
No meat (responsible for more greenhouse gases than cars) or fish
No food from more than 250 miles away (no such thing as local coffee in NYC), lots of farmers market trips
No packaged food, if it wasn’t from the farmer’s market food came from bulk bins
No restaurant meals because many ingredients come from faraway places
No take out; after all takeout comes in containers
No paper towels, dishwasher.

As you watch Michelle go to work on her scooter, bid farewell to her makeup and eat lots and lots of parsnips and cornmeal porridge you start to think about what you really need. I should also note that her local diet, scooting to work and 9th floor apartment led to a 10-pound weight loss and her pre-diabetic condition reversed. Michelle calls the scooter “no impact Ambien.”

In the film Colin points out that when you insinuate people should “do without” it traumatizes people.  And a lot of the potentially traumatized dismissed these efforts as crazy. I flinched while watching when the point is made that it’s not enough to just bring your reusable bags to the market with you. This stung as I’m a believer in doing what you can do, even if it’s not full force. The truth is, the day after seeing No Impact Man I walked instead of jumping in a taxi, asked for an emailed versus paper receipt, turned down a bag and cancelled catalogs we don’t need (or don’t need multiples of). They real key, says Beavan, is to get what you need in a way that doesn’t hurt the planet versus simply living without. I love this from a blog post Michelle wrote:
What I learned from No Impact was that there is a steep cost to supporting all your stuff. To a life devoted to getting and having. In my days of high consumption, I'd been searching for something. It turned out that it was right in my own home.

My refrigerator and coffee aren’t going anywhere and there’s no composting in my immediate future but I appreciated the wake up call. I liked the perspective to be able appreciate having light and  a dishwasher. We can all pay attention to packaging, walk more, ride less  and encourage our friends and family to do the same. Here are some tips from the No Impact site:
Save the world by improving your diet.

  • Cutting beef out of your diet will reduce your CO2 emissions by 2,400 pounds annually. Will you commit to a week without beef? A month? A year?
  • Giving up 1 bottle of imported water means using up one less liter of fossil fuel and emitting 1.2 pounds less of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Will you commit to a week without plastic water bottles? A month? A year?

  • Don’t buy anything, don't use any machines, don't switch on anything electric, don't cook, don't answer your phone, and, in general, don't use any resources. Do it for a whole day each week to cut your impact by 14.4% a year. Will you commit to one hour a week for a month? A year?
  • If an average family contributes 1% ($502.33) of their annual income ($50,233) to an environmental non-profit, they could offset 40.7 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Will you commit to tithing .5% of your annual income to an environmental non-profit? 1%? 2%?

  • If you can stay off the road and ride your bike or walk just two days a week, you'll reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds per year and get good, healthy exercise and we'll all breathe fewer fumes. Will you commit to using your own steam for one day a week? Two? Three?
  • Take time off from television watching each week and join with others to improve our planet. Spend three fewer hours each day sitting in front of your plasma television and you will reduce your carbon emissions by 550 pounds each year. Will you commit to 5 hours of eco-service a month? 0? 15?
And if this inspires you I would check out the Roku.
What food film has had an impact on you? Any you’d recommend? Do you think you could do a month or a year with “zero impact”? Or what can you see yourself doing to reduce your impact?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pineapple Power and My New Favorite Winter Fruit

Sadly that what my green Strawsome's last stand
I love a big bowl of ice-cold cherries or a succulent white peach but I’m not a summer fruit snob. I spend the winter perfectly happy with Asian pears, Cara Cara oranges, ruby red grapefruits and pineapple. When it comes to fruit, I guess I  have a “love the one you’re with” mentality and I have a couple of current loves.

Pineapple always seems like a treat to me. You can casually buy an orange but when you purchase a pineapple you usually have to have a plan. I’m currently using pineapples in these:

Greek Pina Coladas
1 container 2% Greek yogurt
½ cup fresh pineapple
1 tsp. unsweetened coconut
1tsp. coconut palm sugar
dash of organic mint extract

Stir together the yogurt, extract and sugar until blended. Top with coconut.

Green Pineapple Smoothies (pictured at top)
1 cup  fresh pineapple
optional (1/2 pineapple core chopped)
½ to ¾ cup filtered water
1 scoop vanilla Sun Warrior protein powder
1 handful dinosaur kale
 ¼ cup cilantro
zest ½ lime (use microplane)
Add water and then rest of the ingredients to Vitamix or blender capable of kale crushing. Blend. Thanks to one of my clients for tipping me off to the pineapple/cilantro combo.

When purchasing pineapples keep in mind they don’t ripen off the plant and organic production prohibits ripening agents so a little green hue is ok. And pineapples do more than taste good. They contain bromelin which is approved by German Commission E (aka the herbal authorities) to treat swelling and inflammation following injury or surgery.  If you take bromelin supplements use caution in that it can make blood thinners and sleep aids more potent.

Pineapple is also one of the only foods that increase serotonin levels making pineapple a bona fide mood food. And don’t toss the core. I’m less intrigued that pineapple cores are rumored to be a fertility food than finding a use for this fibrous portion. I use cores in my juicer or as you see above in smoothies too. Try using the core to flavor iced teas or if you’re so inclined to infuse your own vodka.

Then, on Thursday a client came in waving one of these

“You have to try these, they are the best.” This wasn’t the type of person who raves about produce so when I spotted these Sumo Tangerines at Whole Foods, I grabbed a few. I had a friend over and gave her one. We peeled  effortlessly and at the same time said “yum”. They really are the best oranges,  a cross between a navel and mandarin. The season is short so if you see them, give them a try.  They’ll make you forget about affordable berries and love them one you’re with.
With fruit are you a summer snob or love the one you’re with? What’s you’re favorite way to eat or cook pineapple? Do you use the core? And have you tried sumo tangerines?

Friday, March 2, 2012

You're a nutritionist; your family must eat so well.

I’m fairly controlling and love vetting food that is kid-friendly (whatever that means), husband friendly (or “dude food”) and Foodtrainers friendly. I’ll admit I feel a little virtuous when all boxes are checked. Take this past weekend. We packed the car with the coffin-sized cooler. As we made our way North the kids picked at strawberries, Kirby cucumber and cinnamon popcorn I had popped. We stopped at a pizza place that uses a lot of organic ingredients, has gluten free pizza, delicious vegetables and even organic beer for Marc. I then hit the Brattleboro food coop to refill our kombucha and maple syrup bottles -gotta love Vermont. The next day I filled the slow cooker with ingredients for a lentil sweet potato soup. Healthy, organized but this was all going to change.

Tuesday, I had what seems to have been a 2-day migraine or virus. Foolish enough to not let dizziness derail me me, I went to play tennis. I play for an hour with a friend and then they kids come for their after school lessons. As I stumbled off the court I saw my son holding this:
“J’s mother got it for me, is it ok this one time?” It took every ounce of my depleted energy to be dishonest but I summoned up “sure”.  There was nothing about the situation that was going to be a teachable moment and I was feeling too lousy to police. So this neon concoction with high fructose corn syrup as first ingredient and a collection of chemicals and blue dye was ingested by my 7 year old. One saving grace, I don’t think he liked it. Most of it remains. It says, “refrigerate after opening” but I’m fairly certain this blue beverage could outlast me.

The nutrition nightmare wasn’t over. We rushed home because Granny was taking us out to dinner for blue-drinking son’s birthday. His birthday isn’t for a couple of weeks but Granny will be out of the country; you may not know my mother but she and her boyfriend are always out of the country. I only add this because me and my migraine were off to Benihana for a nasty hibachi dinner sure to be chock filled with tidbits about my mother and “Dr Ron’s” upcoming South America adventures.

Marc texted to tell me he’d drive us to the restaurant. In the car, I looked down to grab my blackberry charger and saw this in the ashtray
Maybe it should be called a gumtray
As I glared at the gum, Marc did what any “dude” would do and popped a piece in his mouth. The nauseating faux-spearmint smell filled the car. My head was pounding, my mother awaiting, there was no holding back. “So you don’t drink diet cancer anymore, right?”. Marc ignored me, chomping away. “Do you think gum is any different?” At this point my corruptible birthday boys said “Dad can I have a piece?” The gum gushing was off and it wasn’t going to stop.
I picked up the pack of crap and started spewing facts

SORBITOL sugar alcohol AKA guaranteed gassiness , GUM BASE, GLYCEROL, MANNITOL another sugar alcohol, bystanders beware, NATURAL AND ARTIFICAL FLAVORS, HYDROGENATED STARCH HYDROLYSATE (also polyols and 20% to 50% as sweet as sugar); LESS THAN 2% OF: ASPARTAME migraine trigger, carcinogen and potential contributor to preterm labor ACESULFAME K stimulates insulin secretion, part of the argument that sweet begets sweet. Plus hasn’t been properly tested SOY LECITHIN an emulsifier, to separate this from soybean oil chemical solvents are used, plus should we place bets about whether this soy is non GMO? BHT (TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS) BHT is banned in England, at higher doses causes animals to bleed it brain, can damage heart cells and retard weight gain and as CSPI says “bottom line is that BHA and BHT are unnecessary. There are safer ways to prolong the shelf life of foods." COLORS (TURMERIC, BLUE 1 LAKE). “Blue is for brain tumors” as blue 1 shown to cause in animals. Chew on that.

So yes, my family eats healthy most of the time. In general, I try to offer advice only when we're alone. I know one neon drink, every so often, is to be expected from a seven year old but gum? Totally nasty and I don't think people think about it.
Do you say something when your family members eat something blatantly unhealthy? What food bothers you most? Are you a gum chewer? Had you contemplated the ingredients? And yes, I realize not everyone swallows their gum and I am still anti.