Monday, April 30, 2012

Everything's fine until 4pm

Love that she has this snack crazed look on her face
In the comments section of our Hail Merry Snack post last week, I was asked:
Do you have any tips for people who overeat between work and supper? Because I have a...ummmm...friend who does this sometimes. And I...I having a hard time figuring out what kind of afternoon snack will hold her over so that she doesn't eat the caloric equivalent of an extra meal or two between 4:00 and 5:30

This question is just a taste of one of my favorite blogs Clay Baboons. Many of us have “a friend” just like this.

My clients and I’m sure most of you can tell me what you generally have for breakfast, perhaps lunch is organized too and then mid afternoon hits and all bets are off.  Sign a presnack-tual agreement. Each week, pick two items you’ll have mid afternoon, write them down and stick to those. For example, maybe one week your two choices are veggies and guacamole or kale chips. The next week you can rotate to yogurt or a bar.  Too many choices can lead to too much eating.

Let’s say you have your bar and you want something else. Midafternoon for many of us can feel like the Depeche Mode song "Just Can’t Get Enough". You know “When I’m with you baby I go out of my head, I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough."
If this isn’t ringing a bell here’s a little 80's refresher. Perhaps you've always assumed this was a song about a person. I say it could just as easily be about peanut butter.
If you’re used to serial snacking, it’s very likely that one snack will feel like the first course of a tasting menu. "What’s next?" that tired part of your brain will say. If you really want to reform your snacking habits veggies are next. Your snack is now a 1-act play and if you want an encore it’s cut up peppers, celery, jicama, grape tomatoes or radishes. We often do what we're used to doing. By making the choices concrete and then defining the sequence of options you can see real change. Veggies aren't exciting? Feeling in control is.

It’s also hard to satiate yourself once you wait too long. If lunch is at noon. Try having your snack at 3:00 or 3:30. If you wait until 5pm, it’s almost dinnertime. And speaking of dinner, the early bird is special. If you find yourself eating “the caloric equivalent of a meal” as Stephanie’s “friend” does, maybe you should have a meal. I can hear jeering from the peanut gallery (or the eat-too-many peanuts gallery). “My husband isn’t home yet” or “I’m still at work”. Your husband really wants you to sit with him and you’re not going to enjoy the meal if you’ve had 500 calories an hour earlier.  And if you’re still at work, if you have time to eat snacks, you have time to eat a meal. I’m happiest when I can eat dinner by 6pm. Give it a try. If you can’t have dinner at 5 or 6 maybe have part of dinner, a salad or soup.

Sometimes it’s not really food we need. In the fall, I posted “The Cure For Afternoon Munchies”. The cure the title alludes to is a nap from I now see an afternoon nap as a treat and on the days I have early clients will lie down for 15-20 minutes before I start to write or return emails in the afternoon. I also put my head down on my desk for a few minutes when I’m at work to disconnect and unwind. 

So Stephanie, let me know if your friend finds these tips helpful. I’m sure you’re a rock star at 4pm but maybe a pre-snacktual agreement, earlier dinner or nap would help you too. When it comes to food, we’re all pretty similar.
What time of day are you most likely to overeat? Can you see yourself trying any of the strategies mentioned above? Do you know the Depeche Mode song? 

And, speaking of 4pm,  congratulations to Gina, The Candid RD (and another great blog) you’re the winner of the Hail Merry giveaway. Please email us your mailing info

Friday, April 27, 2012

Healthier Than Thou

Do you have a list of books you want to read? I have  a lengthy one in the memo section of my Blackberry. Some books I save for a vacation or weekend away, others I never get around to. And there’s a third category that don’t make the list because I purchase them immediately. That’s what happened with A.J. Jacob’s Drop Dead Healthy.

In this book Jacobs, a writer for Esquire goes “on a quest to become as healthy as humanly possible.” After all, as he says, fifty percent of health is determined by behavior. In two years, this New Yorker, husband and father tries everything from barefoot running to raw foodism. However, this is not just an account of all  the things tried, this is entertaining and very informative.

Sit Less
The reason sitting is bad goes beyond the fact that when we’re sitting we’re not doing more active things. Lipase helps muscles absorb fat. When  we sit, we don’t produce lipase so fat can “go off and do naughty things”. Sitting is a problem even for those who go to the gym . Sitters have 64% increased chance of fatal heart disease.  Even standing is better but Jacobs takes it one step further and gets one of my longtime dream items, a treadmill desk. Actually, he gets a treadmill and fashions it into a desk.. He logged many miles writing this book.

Ice, Ice Baby
While some tips are straightforward, as Jacobs says “diet defies reductionism”. In commentary on superfoods, readers are encouraged not to forget about Clark Kent foods apples and oranges are still super. I love advice that doesn’t  take that much to accomplish. How’s this one…ice. Your body expends energy to heat an ice-cold beverage. It’s about 1 calorie for every icy ounce. If you drink 8 glasses a day that’s 70 extra calories burned.   I cranked up our ice machine after reading this. Next, I’m switching to iced tea.

Down with John Harvey Kellogg and the Potato
While most of us know the “whites” such as white bread, white potatoes, white rice aren’t healthy, if you’re like me you put the baked potato in its own category. It’s a whole food, has some fiber, notable potassium, I can clearly make a case for them. One of Jacob’s salient dietary lessons  listed in the appendix includes avoiding potatoes. We are told “the venerable baked potato increases blood sugar nearly as fast as table sugar”

And if there were parts of the book that made me rethink certain things, there was lots of confirmation for health behaviors I support.  Jacobs jovially points to John Harvey Kellogg for causing obesity epidemic. The truth is,  we would all be  better off we’d be without cold cereal. I’ve long been a fan of protein breakfasts and the cereal aisle, with the exception of oatmeal, is probably one to skip.

We Must Floss
As I was reading this book, I had a client come into the office suffering from periodontal disease. She’s a health nut, watches everything she eats but says “with all the things I did I didn’t floss.” Sure enough, Jacobs tackles dental health even checking out a “dental spa”. Flossing can add 6.4 years to your life. And if you need some motivation how about “you need to clean your tooth cracks before thousands types of bacteria migrate into your bloodstream”. For the overachievers reading this, you should floss before brushing. This way you dislodge the bacteria and then brush it away.

BPA Poetry
There’s lots of food information about toxins and germs. After reading, I removed showerheads and cleaned them with wire brush. I also washed my hands the way you’re supposed to wash them versus the quickie version. I  have yet to wash underwear separately from other laundry but I’ll let you surmise why that’s suggested. As for BPA’s in plastic, try this poem “four, five, one, and two/All the rest are bad for you.”

As Jacobs adopts more and more healthy behaviors, he observes himself judging others.  He becomes self-righteous glaring at Europeans smoking Gigantes and correcting people’s eating.  In the course of experimenting Jacobs also lost weight, improved his blood lipids and decreased his body fat. I really enjoyed this book but I would caution reading it if you’re vulnerable to this sort of advice as I am. I am now thinking about my Blackberry and brain cancer, noise pollution and whether I’m harming myself running on the West Side Highway breathing in car fumes (you are more vulnerable to fumes while exercising).  Perhaps I need to reread the chapter on stress.
Do you floss? Drink icy beverages? What health behavior could you focus more on? And what books are high on your reading list?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cooking Crew and Sensational Salad

Trio of salads, recipe for one below

Last Friday, I got together with my Cooking Crew. Three to four times a year we get together and take a cooking class. This time, the class was with Myra Kornfield, cooking instructor, chef and the author of one of my favorite cookbooks The Healthy Hedonist. Myra sent over some menu options in advance; we all knew we were in for a treat.

We cooked for four hours, made seven recipes that I know I will make again. However, my favorite part about cooking with friends are those little information nuggets you know will stick with you.
Do you "dashi" I do now, first time making what is basically a fish stock.
Check your soy sauce ingredients- two of the recipes we made had Asian lavors and Myra advised us to use shoyu which is better quality than typical soy sauce.  I use a wheat free tamari but know condiments are where lots of preservatives, coloring and sugar can sneak into our diets.  Be sure any soy product is organic as most soybeans are GM. And while we’re talking ingredients, never use “cooking wine”. Use a wine that’s leftover and passed its prime instead.

Ginger Experience
Do you know the “ginger smash”? Ginger is one of those things that can turn into a mess when prepping it. Myra showed us ginger root could be smashed much like you do a garlic clove. You peel garlic and then turn your knife with the blade horizontal and smash, after give a quick chop whenever ginger is called for.

Kale Secret
Kale Massage
How many times have you burned kale chips? I hear this complaint all the time from clients. Myra says to check kale chips every 5 minutes and pull them out as they get done. Kale cooks unevenly and if you wait for all of the pieces to be done some will burn.

No More Kosher Salt

I think I own every kind of salt white, pink, black you name it. I do fall back on kosher salt while cooking just because I’m familiar with it. Myra’s not a fan of kosher salt and uses Celtic or Himalayan for everything because of the taste and mineral content. Now I have to figure out what to do with the gigundo box of kosher salt, exfoliation perhaps?

A Kitchen Essential

I have a "lime" version of this. Myra points out you only really need the lemon as it fits both lemons and limes. 

This salad is delicious, I made it sans feta with the salmon dish (pictured above) last night.

Turkish Chopped Romaine Salad with Dill and Scallions
6 cups shredded romaine
¾ cup chopped dill
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
Salt *see above and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkling feta cheese, optional

In a large bowl mix lettuce, dill and scallions (this can be done in advance and kept). Whisk garlic, lemon juice and olive oil together or shake in a small jar. Right before serving sprinkle greens liberally with salt and pepper, add dressing to greens and toss together. You'll use less salt if you salt the greens versus adding it to the dressing.
As we were leaving we thanked Myra and told her we couldn’t wait to attempt the recipes on our own. “Do it sooner than later so you remember what we did.” More great advice.
How often do you cook with friends? What's the best info nugget you've learned? And what is your essential kitchen gadget or gizmo?
orange blossom water, we used in a dressing
I am no longer intimidated by baby artichokes, for record different than baby carrots
poking the broccoli 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Foodtrainers Favorite Snacks and Giveaway

There’s a certain selection process we go through when choosing snacks for our clients; at times we feel like admissions officers.

Nutrition- as nutrition nerds, we first look at nutrition. In the Foodtrainers’ admissions office this category is the “transcript”. What are the ingredients? Where does it derive its sweetness? Is the ingredient list short and in “English”? If we need to Google ingredients, it’s not looking good.  How much fiber, protein and sugar are in a food? And it’s not so much making sure that there isn’t “too much” of something but more about how is this going to satiate us?

Gluten - after basic nutrition, we look at other areas. Increasingly, it’s important to us that products, particularly items in the Foodtrainers’ store, are gluten free. Many can call gluten a fad and just because something is GF doesn’t make it healthy but less gluten is a good thing.

Taste- this is akin to the interview. Many people and products look good on paper, their scores and numbers sound right but do you want to be around this person? Are they bland? Too aggressive? Or, enjoyable and fun? We’re Tulane girls and to us well roundedness is everything; many snacks do not pass our Foodtrainers’ taste tests. We get a lot of applicants and while we don’t send rejection letters per se, if you look in our recycling bins, you’ll know not everyone is admitted.

Abusability/Bingegibility- some snacks are good, maybe too good. We’ve held off on some of our favorite companies because we had concerns. Oftentimes it’s “servings per package” that we see as a red flag. It’s the dietary equivalent of the smart student who’s disruptive in class.

What kind of a company do they come from? We have personal relationships with the companies we work with. Many are founded by passionate people who care about food and spreading the healthy word. The food’s “family” and background story matters a great deal to us.

We’re thrilled to “admit” Hail Merry Individual Nut/Seed Snacks to Foodtrainers,
We’re so excited about these products that we’d admit them “early”.
Nutrition: stellar ingredients and preparation, nuts and seeds are soaked and then dehydrated.
Gluten: not only are these gluten free they’re raw, vegan and kosher.
Taste: first we sampled the Salt and Pepper Sunflower Seeds, the pepper was unexpected and delicious. Then came the Vanilla Maple Almonds- sweet but not too much so, reminiscent of NYC street nuts but these have “living enzymes” versus well we’ll avoid guessing what’s really in those nuts, they smell good.
Abusability: none, these come in single serve/eat the whole thing 1oz. beautiful packages. No cause for over-graze control, no snacking red flag.
Family: we have nothing but good things to say about Hail Merry. And they were so excited for one of you to sample their goods that they have a giveaway or "snack scholarship" in one of our lucky reader’s names. To be eligible be sure to comment here and either like us on Facebook or tweet about this by Thursday night 4/26 (there’s always some jumping through hoops involved, right?).

Giveaway goodies: Hail Merry "one of each" Product Assortment, t-shirt and tote bag
From Hail Merry’s site:
 “Hail Merry is about the journey to higher health and the unique path we each must take to achieve our goals for a happier, healthier life with friends and family.”
What criteria above is most important when you choose a snack? Any applicants you'd like to suggest to us? Are you familiar with Hail Merry?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Carrots and Beets, Have One and Skip the Other.

It’s no secret that I love to juice. I understand green juices aren’t for everyone and  there’s so many things to juice that aren't green. A recent study showed beet juice to be an excellent exercise aid. Cyclists who swigged beet juice (2 cups) before workouts were able to cycle 16% longer.  Beets are high in nitrates which increase nitric oxide relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow. Another study in Hypertension, based on this same effect, showed beet juice lowered blood pressure.  If you’re thinking nitrates sound familiar, you’re right. Added, inorganic nitrites (hotdogs, cured meats) can react with compounds in protein called amines and produce carcinogenic compounds. Naturally occurring nitrites in beets and also radishes do not react in the manner and are in fact good for your heart and exercise. Beet juice is intense, I like to juice beets, cucumber, celery and ginger.

And now for the “bad”, not to worry I’m not one of those people who think carrots have too much sugar and therefore should be expelled from the vegetable bin, puleez. I do have a carrot issue and that’s with these
These don’t exist in nature. Baby carrots have greens attached to their tops, they’re not these uniform nubs which are actually “baby-cut” carrots. They’re large carrots that have been peeled, cut and washed in a chlorine solution (of course claimed to be safe) and then packaged. If it’s been a while peel an “adult” carrot, cut it up and do a taste test. You’ll never eat babies again.
Have to tried beet juice? Any foods you swear by for energy? And adult or baby-cut carrots, what do you prefer?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Boston (but no marathon)

Thank you for those who tweeted "are you running?" Um no.
I’m in Boston for Dr Weil’s Nutrition and Health Conference. This is a conference I look forward to and have attended twice before in New York and also San Diego. Presenters, at any event,  are always a mixed bag and sometimes the sessions you expect to be best are not the highlights. Dr Robert Lustig opened the morning yesterday. His name may sound familiar as he figured prominently in 60 Minutes sugar segment; he’s also the endocrinologist quoted in the NYT early puberty article. Dr Lustig presented on fructose. I was really excited but not for the biochemistry lesson he started in with. There were two fun facts, after 45 minutes, first that 80% (wow) of supermarket items have some sugar. And second, Lustig’s “4 foods of the apocalypse”
Trans fats
Corn Fed Beef
Ethanol (alcohol)
No surprises on the list but imagine if America worked on decreasing all of these…

The highlight of the day was a seminar on food and fertility by Dr Victoria Maizes who works with Dr Weil at the University of Arizona and I’ve seen present on diet and cancer before.  She is a fantastic speaker and offers suggestions versus mandates.  It startling when you look at the fertility data. Many women postpone having children to focus on work while fertility starts to decline in our 30s. As far as diet, it matters more vis-à-vis fertility as we get older, if that makes sense. So what’s been associated with decreased fertility?
  1. Cereal- many foods were tested and cold cereal, likely because of glycemic index, decreased fertility more than most others
  2. Nonfat milk- you know, if you read regularly, I’m not a skim fat but while nonfat milk decreases fertility whole dairy improves it.
  3. Trans fats – a 2% increase in trans fats was associated with a 73% increase in infertility, think packaged products and read labels for hydrogenation. Trans fats were on Lustig’s list above and they really are about as bad for us as we thought, it not worse
  4. Soda but not necessarily all caffeine

What foods improve fertility?
  1. Whole Dairy
  2. Fish/omega 3's- many women cut out fish due to mercury phobia and this is a mistake. Omega 3’s decrease miscarriage risk, postpartum depression and certain pediatric cancers.
  3. Prenatal vitamins- I am not such a multivitamin all in one fan but feel strongly, after this presentation, that both men and women trying to conceive should be taking one (though not the same one).

What happens in utero and what women do before they conceive really, as Dr Maizes said “wires you for the rest of your life”. So I can focus on my mother and how screwed I am or I can try to pass this information on.  And finally, infertility isn’t always discussed and has to be one of the hardest things to go through. I have a sister to struggled with IVF and I tried for a long time with my older son. Dr Maizes reminded us of the compassion needed. I also think “tools” are helpful so please, if appropriate, pass this information along. And congratulations to all the Boston runners, well done.
 I have to get over to the Westin for today’s sessions. I’ll tweet @Foodtrainers about  them if you want to hear more.
Are you eating much of the apocalyptic foods? Or are you limiting fish due to mercury concerns? What do you think makes a good speaker or presentation?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Is There A Stigma Surrounding Watching Your Weight?

Wednesday’s post ended up focusing on whether behavior change should be sweeping or small but I started out discussing the gap that sometimes exists between how we want to be (in my case patient and go with the flow) and how we really are (maybe uptight and rigid is extreme but close enough).  Today, I was talking to a client about her plans for the week. She mentioned a luncheon and I asked her certain questions “will there be wine served?” “will there be a set menu or will you choose?” “Do you plan to taste dessert?” and  “will you be having bread?”  There is no right or wrong answer to these questions but I assess what is it clients wish to eat and then how we achieve a level of satisfaction and weight loss (if that’s a goal). My client’s answer surprised me.

“With this group, I’ll be having bread.” My first thought was this was a bread-eating bunch and in those situations it can be difficult to be breadless. I’m not saying I feel we have to eat how those around us eat; I’m perfectly comfortable eating how I want to eat but then again, the nutritionist is sort of expected to eat well. However, her reasoning didn’t have to do with eating how the others eat. She said, “I don’t want people to think I’ve lost this weight never eating bread.” Aha.

She didn’t want to appear a carb eschewer. The truth is, bread hasn’t figured prominently in her year of wholesome eating. In other sessions, this same person has said that she feels better not eating “the whites”.  My first thought was of celebrities who claim to eat everything. They are teeny tiny and are photographed eating plates of pasta or ice cream cones and claim their favorite foods are pizza and French fries. Sure, the “eat everything and don’t gain weight” people exist but it’s a load of baloney that these actresses all sport turbo metabolisms.

Then I thought about my example from Wednesday. I plan every part of a party or get together I host but would love things to appear effortless. There’s a certain appeal to doing things with ease and not coming across compulsive. There’s a degree of smoke and mirrors but there’s more to it. In my case and in my lovely client’s example there’s something else operating. I don’t need to appear like Superwoman and in fact I’m quick to point out my faults. I really don’t want guests or friends to feel I spent too much time or energy and then possibly feel guilty. The bread example is similar. If you are perceived as healthy and successful with weight loss, shunning bread or dessert could imply others should do the same. Then again, as my client concluded, “who are we kidding Lauren, people are much more concerned with themselves than whether I have bread.”
Do you think there’s still a stigma around watching your weight? Is it more acceptable to mention a rigorous exercise regime than a stringent food plan? Why do you think, in different arenas, many of us want results to appear effortless? If at a luncheon, someone skips the bread offered would you notice?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I am not this person.

In a massive case of Spring-cleaningitis, I initiated a major kitchen purge. Dishes, serving trays, pantry contents and spices were removed from their homes so that I could decide what stayed and what went. What stuck me most, other than the fact that most people probably don’t have 15 varieties of salt and 4 types of cinnamon, was the items in my possession that do not reflect my style or who I am;  the majority of these things were acquired from my bridal registry.  I’ve always had simple, modern taste but I guess at 23 (yikes) when I got married I assumed that you have kids and you learn to like fussy crystal. It hasn’t happened yet and I can say with conviction, it never will. And then last week, my son had a sleepover with a couple of friends. In my head, I want to be the mom who can have a million kids over messing everything up without me batting an eye or in my case raising her voice. I do love guests but I’m way too anal to roll with all the punches. It’s just not who I am. I will have you over, feed you well but it’s all planned out and when things don’t go as anticipated, watch out.

So the question is, do we “know thyself” for who we are, in my case impatient and anti-crystal, or do we try to nudge ourselves in a different direction? These are insignificant examples but I confront food-related versions of this with clients all the time. If someone tells me they hate exercise, I’ll often suggest a nonthreatening amount to embark on but an incident with a friend made me rethink things.

Marc and I were at an event last Wednesday.  During dinner, someone we know really well sat down with us. This woman is thin, beautiful and always put together but we’ve never talked nutrition in the 18 years I’ve known her. She sat next to me and said “I stopped drinking soda and cut out sugar completely, I don’t even want it anymore. “ She was on a roll and proceeded to tell me all these sweeping changes she had made with her diet, her enthusiasm left me excited for her.  Had she been a client in my office I would never have proposed as many concurrent changes as she undertook on her own.

So while my life will not be significantly different based on my choice of serving pieces, I don’t think acquiescing and accepting our habits is always the answer. Sometimes sweeping changes work quite well. Non-exercisers can run marathons and meat and potatoes people may love green juice. Don’t rule it out.
Are you a fan of slow and steady change or major shifts? Did you register of items you never use? What would I be surprised about if we emptied all your kitchen cabinets?
Full disclosure, the bowl above belonged to my Grandmother but I only realized that after writing the post. And I am aware of the weird font, blogger is very uncooperative today (some things do not change).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Xenoestrogens and Early Puberty Not Just A Girl's Issue

I missed a recent NYT article  Puberty Before Age 10: A New Normal” as we were away. I had a chance to read it thanks to electronic edition’s “most emailed section" (love that section).  The article refers to 2010 research confirming 10% white girls and over 20% black girls have breast development by 7. This presents potential problems with growth, bone health,  and if accompanied by early periods breast cancer.  However, this isn’t only a “girl” problem the same factors causing this can result in increased risk of fertility and sperm problems for boys and a higher risk of prostate cancer. And in case you come to the table from a vanity perspective, the things disrupting endocrine function in our children increases risk of obesity in adults.

These “things” I so scientifically mentioned are environmental factors that mimic estrogen and known as xenoestrogens (xeno meaning foreign or different, xenophobia that great SAT word meaning fear of foreigners). It turns out we need to be skeptical and xenophobic when it comes to these “foreigners” and our bodies and our families’ bodies. It’s not just one source but the cumulative effects of so many estrogen mimics in our environment that’s so hazardous.

The more I research this topic the more concerned I become. And because my intent with this blog is not to incite fear, I always return to the question what can we do to minimize risk? While many feel the most crucial period is in utero, there are improvements we can all make.  Short of moving to an organic farm a la Woody Harrelson, here are my suggestions:

Crucifers or cruciferous vegetables are one of your best nutritional defense tactics against xenoestrogens. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are rich in a compound that's abbreviated I3C. I3C converts to another substance that can block some of these harmful estrogens. So sauerkraut, kale chips, and healthy slaws should definitely have a prominent place in your diet and make sure you’re purchasing organic produce because pesticides are a source of xenoestrogens.

Exercise- exercise is one of the only tools with the potential to delay early puberty. It lowers estrogen levels and can reduce body weight. Increased weight increases the hormone leptin which increases estrogen. Dr Lustig the endocrinologist quoted in the NYT article explains “higher estrogen levels leads to greater insulin resistance causing more girls to have more fat tissue, more leptin and more estrogen, the cycle feeding on itself.”

Sunscreen and lotions- of all personal care products the ones absorbed and therefore most toxic are topical creams applied to the skin. If you are going to make one change with “cosmetics” start here. There are many carcinogenic and hormone disrupting ingredients such as oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate in sunscreens. Make sure what you’re using isn’t in the Sunscreen Hall of Shame from the Environmental Working Group, many popular brands are on this list. I used  Viva Sana on our recent trip; Badger, Kiss my Face and Aubrey Organics are other good choices. As far as lotion Weleda and Hugo Naturals are two reliable companies. I mentioned some other favorites in “Is Your Food Organic but Moisturizer Carcinogenic” post. If you’re already on the good sun protection bandwagon, toss your conventional dryer sheets (another source of xenoestrogens).

Plastics and cans- perhaps most of you know not to microwave plastics (do you all know?) but I cringe when I see all the plastic people are still drinking out of and transporting food in. Drink water from glass bottles and invest in glass food containers. The less plastic the better, even at room temperature chemcals from plastic leaches into the water. My current favorite are the Takeya bottles.

Meat-  was that Easter ham or Passover brisket organic? Cows and chickens are fed estrogens to increase milk and egg production. Organic animals are not allowed to have hormones administered. And less hormones administered means less circulating in our environment. Hormones in meat are especially concerning because estrogens are fat-soluble meaning they accumulate in fat tissue of animals. Aside from organic meat, we can all benefit from less meat in our diets.

I heard the term “toxic soup” and it’s easy to feel that applies to our environment. Our governmental agencies aren’t proactive in limiting our exposure to these hormone disruptors (recently denied BPAs are problematic). It’s really up to each of us to make decisions to improve our health and spread the word to friends and others who may not be aware of the problems lurking in their food and home products.

Did you read the NYT article? Were you familiar with the term xenoestrogen? What measures have you taken to decrease your exposure or your families' exposure?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nutritional Harrassment: Is Your Boss Making You Fat?

Most of us can pick healthy items from a menu. Eating well gets a little harder if you are not the one doing the “picking” and things enter especially dicey territory when the “orderer” is your boss. Wednesday I was interviewed for an upcoming story in Weight Watchers Magazine  about lunch and the issues one faces when trying to be healthy in the workplace. Oftentimes, it can feel as though there are two choices healthy or keeping things harmonious but I don’t feel it has to be one of the other. So, what do you do if your boss suggests a steak lunch or pizza for “the team”?

  1. Supplement versus Squabbling there are times “I don’t eat pizza” isn’t going to be well received. Suggest a healthy addition. For example “can we order a green salad with the pizza?” Chances are others will partake once it’s there and may have just been nervous to say anything. Once food arrives you can have salad and a little pizza or just salad if you so choose.
  2.  People look at what you order not what you eat (for the most part) when your boss invites you for a glass of wine or steak lunch, sometimes you can “go along” and if you’re not interested in what’s in front of you, you can control calories by sipping or nibbling rather than finishing.
  3. Emily Post Could Order What She Wanted and flattery may get you somewhere. “That looks amazing but I’m going to try the fish” or “Thank you so much for the invitation but I need to get some work done”.
  4. Doctors Orders whether it’s reflux or cholesterol if someone can try to steamroll you into eating junk you can push back with “I’m not allowed to eat short ribs with my cholesterol level”. At times little white lies are better than lots of white food.
  5. Befriend a Broccoli Buddy or an Unsweetened Union- you don't want to be the onlyseemingly squeaky wheel or rotten apple. Instead, seek out like minded coworkers and rely on each other for positive reinforcement or as a buffer between the boss.
If these strategies sound a little manipulative, think about what’s involved with using your power to coerce someone into eating or drinking the way you do.  With some forethought “promotion pudge” is avoidable. And kudos to the bosses out there encouraging employees to exercise and eat well. In my opinion, that’s power put to good use.
 Have you ever been in a work situation where your "superiors" pressured you to eat or drink things you didn't want to? What did you do? Ever experienced nutritional harrassment?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The (Secular) Passover Diet

Recently I suggested the concept of NRL (Non Religious Lent). It has a big hit with our clients; regardless of religion clients are shunning stairs, sugar, office candy or alcohol. Fun. Sadly, Lent is coming to an end but have no fear Passover is here. What? You’re not Jewish? The word Gefilte scares you? Not to worry, we have a Passover primer and, of course, what would be a holiday without a food challenge?

First, Passover Vernacular
Seders- celebratory meals held on the first and sometimes second nights of Passover (Friday and Saturday). Here is a great NYT article on Seder specifics.
Key Components:
Matzoh  cracker-like unleavened bread (see above) that can constipate you like no other food
Seder Plate- more symbolic than celebratory you’ll see a plate that’s reminiscent of those toddler plates with sections for different foods such as an egg and parsley.
Haggadah- the Passover story book, some families read for hours making this meal looooong, others do an abridged version.

The foods specifics:
  • Matzoh Ball Soup- this is the matzoh holiday after all. Love  “not your mamas” gluten free version.
  • Charoset- there are different versions sweet or spicy with fruits and nuts, a “wet” trail mix if you will.  My favorite combo is: pitted dates, chopped
 figs, chopped, sesame seeds, 
ground or fresh ginger and a splash (optional) of 
red wine. Coconut is nice too (optional).
  • Gefilte Fish- ground poached fish. This is a modern interpretation and so delicious 
  • Desserts- we can take a vote in the comments section but most Passover desserts go into the “not worth it” category with the exception of macaroons.  Try Danny's Macaroons, they're made in NYC, gluten free and the salted caramel variety will rival any Easter Bunny (not trying to spark any sort of conflict).

There is a huge spectrum of religiousness and how Passover is observed. Without getting too deep the food rules for Passover involve refraining from anything containing barley, wheat, rye and oats, specifically no leavening is allowed. Does this sound familiar? Um to those who are gluten free there’s a huge overlap. 
NRP (Non Religious Passover):  want to show some solidarity to your Jewish friends? For one week starting Friday skip bread, pasta, cakes and cookies made from wheat. Most people eat too much wheat and even whole-wheat matzoh isn’t worth it nutritionally. A wheat free week, c’mon…or simply try one of the recipes.

Are there other holidays with dietary restrictions I may not know about? Do you celebrate Passover? What are your favorite recipes? Up for NRP?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Avocado Brownies (with Walnut Butter Icing)

There’s a difference between sneaking vegetables into food, so that children will unknowingly consume them and packing recipes with nutrient-rich and unexpected ingredients to “up the ante”. We could debate which approach is better but frankly I’m all for anything that results in an end product that’s healthier assuming it’s just as tasty.  Carolyn’s blog and twitter handle is OneSmartBrownie. Her last name is Brown if you’re trying to connect the dots “one smart cookie” ok hopefully you get it. Anyway, we thought it was time for C. to tackle her namesake food and make it Foodtrainers’ friendly. She played with ingredients and came up with these Mung Bean, Avocado Brownies. Don’t knock them until you try them; I tried them and I’m glad the portion left in my office wasn’t too large.

No pressure, Lauren suggested I come up with an amazing brownie recipe "something people haven't seen before" oh and "gluten free" with attributes beyond deliciousness. I had heard of black bean brownies so I figured sprouted mung beans would work. Mung beans cook quickly, have amazing nutritionals and we use them on our Dine and Detox program. Why not detox while brownie-ing? As for avocado, I was late to fully jump on the avocado bandwagon. It took me a whlie to like texture but it's one of my 2012 obsessions.
I’m not going to lie, I was shocked these were so good. But because people don’t trust nutritionist's taste buds so I brought them to a concert and my friends demolished them. Who knew mung bean brownies were the new bar food?

Avocado, Bean Brownies with Walnut Butter Icing

1/2 c sprouted mung beans (used TruRoots)
1/2 avocado
1/4 c dark brown sugar (used Muscovado)
3 organic omega 3 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder (used Equal Exchange Organic)
1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips (used Sunspire)
2 tbsp. organic virgin coconut oil (used 365 organic)
Pinch Himalayan sea salt

Walnuts (DIY walnut butter) or Artisana's Walnut Butter for "icing"

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tins with oil.
  2. Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil. Boil mung beans for 4 minutes and then remove from heat. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Drain any remaining water.
  3. Place beans, avocado, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, oil, eggs and sea salt and in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Add chocolate chips and pulse until broken into tiny small chocolate bits.
  5. Pour evenly into mini muffin tins and bake for 10-14 min.
  6. Let cool, then "ice" (lightly) with walnut butter.

2 mini muffin brownies with walnut icing 125 calories, 2 grams fiber (sans icing 90 calories- quite a “100 calorie pack”)
Two Smart Brownies 
Do avocado brownies scare you? Any healthy baking tips or swaps? What do you think of "upping the ante" of recipes or sneaking veggies in?