Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Balance Project

Is this balance? If so I'm super balanced, you?
I don't remember my reply when Susie asked to interview me for The Balance Project but it was something to the effect of "get ready for your first mom who knows nothing about the subject". The series of emails showed me who this Susie is and she's awesome. Fortunately for me, the fact that I'm unapologetically out of balance wasn't a problem.  I really enjoyed answering this series of questions.

A little about the project in Susie's words:
 I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire do “it all” (or at least try to). So I asked them. And as I suspected, no one really does. Or even really wants to. Every Friday I’ll feature a new interview. Here’s what Lauren Slayton had to say…

Here is the rest of the interview:
Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
Age: 40
Where I live: NYC
Job: Nutritionist (founder of Foodtrainers) and author of The Little Book of Thin
Ages/genders of kids: 2 boys ages 9 and 11

Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
I opened Foodtrainers in 2001 when I was pregnant with my older son (what was I thinking?). Fortunately, it worked out. As the boys got older, I started the blog. And the book sort of fell into place.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?

I believe in juggling. Having it all sounds off-putting. I want to throw darts at having it all. At the same time I’m grateful for my family, for my business, and now for my book.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?

I think part of having your own business sort of means you’re always at work. I envy those people who don’t email on the weekend or who can put their phones away when they get home to their children. I have a hard time turning that mental to-do list off. I also wish I read more, other than the newspaper or Facebook links.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?

I am getting better at enjoying things. I am getting better at patience. Let’s be real though, I am basically an impatient perfectionist. My mother once said the second you feel you have a good marriage or sing your husband’s praises you will go home and get in a fight, so I’m hesitant to remark on what’s better because all of a sudden it’s not.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…

From a mentor/co-worker? I worked with another nutritionist when I was just out of grad school. I was ready to show the world how much I knew, and she pointed out how much people want to be listened to and supported. Despite all the money paid for nutritional biochemistry, you can’t replace support.

From your mother? From my mother and my grandmother I learned what it feels like to be fiercely loved. My mom and I are very different. I love lists and plans but my mom has taught me to “just go.” When I was younger she’d rent out our apartment and rent a house in Spain. When I was contemplating having kids she said “don’t wait until you’re ready or you’ll be waiting a long time.”

From your kids? My kids have shown me what it’s like to love someone so much it hurts and how valuable it is to spend real time. Being at their piano lessons, helping with the homework, those snowy days when we freeze on the way to school—I am cherishing them all.

I should add I cannot stand “it goes by so fast” because that seems so hopeless to me. One client said “every stage is great” and that’s how I approach parenting. Sure, my kids are less adorable at 9 and 11 than they were at 4 and 6 but we can go places and eat anywhere, and I refuse to mourn for the time when they were little—the truth is that was exhausting and horrible at times.

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
An hour? I’d take 15 minutes. I love a bath, I love a book, but I want a whole afternoon with a book. I also love the time to be able to leisurely get somewhere; it feels luxurious.

What would you have told yourself…

20 years ago? To appreciate and protect my skin.

20 years from now? I can’t say but I do hope I don’t let aging and the fear of aging take up too much mind time.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?

I outsource it all, ha. Really though, I can cook and all of that, I am just not a good cleaner, I swear I’m not.

Whose job do you wish you had?

Travel writing seems sexy.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?

I almost went to med school, and I’m glad I did not.

Favorite book?

I have so much trouble answering this question; I can never recall my favorites. My favorite writing is usually a little snarky. I love Nora Ephron everything.

What are you reading right now?

Just finished Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and I adored it.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Are we talking reality TV? Taxi taking? Yelling?

Food? I am pretty much a nutrition nerd but also love great food. If life had no rules, there would be more cheese, more cocktails, and chocolate that wasn’t always 70% dark.

Website? Oh god, I can get sucked in. I am reformed, but I have spent hours on Reality Steve, there I said it.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?

I get up at 5-something but I’m usually asleep by 11 if not before. So that’s 6-7, 7 being what I suggest others shoot for.

What do you read every morning?

Instagram. I read the New York Times and The Post daily, but not necessarily in the morning.

Complete the following sentences:

I think I: make myself crazy.

I wish I: could feel proud more often.

My kids: are amazing and I’m not just saying that because they’re mine (or maybe I am).

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?

My friend Jen Linn’s passion was fearlessness. I am not there but in moments where anxiety is taking over I try to remove it. I try to enjoy. I try, and I’m not there yet.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Very random anecdote but let me say this… In our 20s we lived across the hall from this couple. She was gorgeous and had a great job and he was gorgeous, had the job, etc. The “perfect” couple, right? My husband and I are both feisty, and astrologers say we’re a nightmare combo, but we’ve been together since ‘93. So we go to dinner with the “perfect” couple and minutes in, she looks at us and says, “Okay guys, admit it, do you hear us fight all the time?” She wasn’t saying they were miserable, but they thought we heard their “imperfection” and we, of course, were convinced they heard ours. Couples fight, kids have issues. I have arrived at the office with one of my puppies’ poop bags in my purse (yup). Someone I met said “I have life envy after looking at your Instagram.” Maybe I should post poop pics.

Be sure to check out the balance project and because I understand the importance of supporting authors and preorders, Susie's book On Grace (I did).

PS I really took this to heart. I had a trip for the book to Chicago this week and rather than picking apart how I did or how successful it was I enjoyed the opportunities and tried to be proud...tried.
Where do you feel you could be more balanced? What's the best advice you received from your mother or family member? Favorite book? Isn't this fun?

Monday, February 24, 2014

I don't take a lot of vitamins but always take this

I love a good green juice and enjoy taking healthy “shots” but when it comes to vitamins you may be surprised to know I take relatively few. If I can get a nutrient via food in a reasonable manner, that’s what I prefer. Some nutrients are difficult to get via diet and that’s why Evening Primrose Oil is one of my dailies.

Evening Primrose Oil contains a few types of fat,  the one it is known for is GLA (black currant seed and borage are in the same category) It’s a good (anti-inflammatory) omega 6, I know, I know it’s confusing. The important thing to note is that in many people the conversion to GLA is lower than others

Evening primrose is used for:
Skin: for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis but also for dry, itchy skin. Interestingly GLAs are found in breast milk and it’s been suggested that infant eczema seen after switching to formula may be because it lacks GLAs (please don’t ask me about EPO and infants).

Hair and nail health: EPO can slow hair loss (more so in women for some reason) and improve hair texture.

PMS symptoms- women with PMS symptoms often have imbalance of fatty acids and low (or undetectable) levels of GLAs.

Weight- in addition to GLA, Evening primrose oil (EPO) also has type of fat  (linoleic) found in safflower sunflower seeds that is linked to body fat loss.

I take the capsules from Barleans (1300mg total) 2/day but for serious skin conditions it’s suggested to double this amount.  These are organic EPO which isn’t easy to find. It’s suggested to take EPO (and most supplements) with food. Be patient though, it can take 8 weeks to really see a difference although I have to say in my first month taking EPO I noticed dry skin (backs of arms) and hormonal symptoms (pain/cramps) better. I think some studies that have concluded EPO wasn’t effective simply because the study duration wasn’t long enough. You can get GLAS from a couple of foods such as oats and spirulina…while spirulina in in my cabinet; it’s hard to consume enough. I don't know if everyone should rush out and start EPO but if one or more of the items listed above (skin, PMS) need addressing it's worth a try and can make a big difference.
Have you heard of EPO? Do you take vitamins? What are your dailies? 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Your partner is putting on weight, should you go there?

Flipping through Fitness magazine an article entitled “Don’t Go There” drew me in.  In the piece, the author recounts seeing a nutritionist who made some rather rigid suggestions. The women shares the nutritionist’s recommendations and her concern over sticking to the plan with her husband. He roots her on, encourages her to give it a try and she flips out. Subtext to her was maybe you should try a little harder to lose weight. After the scuffle that ensues the husband declares weight an off limits topic in their relationship. He concludes that whatever he said was taken the wrong way. For them this was the right decision. She went on to build a healthy routine and lose some of wedding weight.

This got me thinking. I do not think there’s any place for harsh or critical weight commentary in a relationship but the notion of an off limits topic doesn’t sit well with me. I may fall too far in the “better to say it” camp but I think with weight it in can be just as damaging to say nothing. So how do you say something without wreaking havoc?
  • First, don’t have this conversation when someone is getting dressed, about to leave the house etc. While there may be no perfect time, right before you leave for a night out or work isn’t best. It's also not best right before or right after sex unless of course you never want to have sex again (with that person).
  • Second and I’ve said this before “how do I look?” isn’t really a question. “How do I look” is praise seeking. When faced with this request, whatever it is find something to compliment the other person on and move on.
  • It’s crucial to make sure your wellness or weight commentary is about the other person even if it in turn affects you. Have you noticed your partner is more self-conscious? Dressing differently? Super stressed? So busy that workouts are marginalized? If so, these are great points of entry. You don’t have to say much, sometimes a question is enough to plant a seed or get a conversation started in a gentle manner.
Weight gain doesn’t exist in a vacuum and support, genuine concern and help when needed can make a big difference and I think a much better way to go than doing or saying nothing.
If faced with this situation, would you “go there” or steer clear? Do you think weight can be discussed in a nonthreatening manner? Has anyone/ a partner ever discussed your weight in a hurtful manner? Have you heard phrase mixed-weight relationship? I just did for first time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Parents magazine says processed foods are “best”

Nutrition confusion abounds. I’m often asked “what should I look for on a food package?” Aside from choosing fewer foods that come in packages I usually suggest looking at the ingredient list. It’s also easy to trust a publication or expert and get sucked into “best of” lists. Sadly, the criteria for these lists is often some numerical cut off- making sure there isn’t too much sodium or too much sugar or fat in a product. I’d suggest turning this logic around. If a magazine is going to suggest something ask yourself what does this have in it or what nutrients or benefit does this offer me? It’s not enough for a food to be better than the worst of the worst.  That’s setting a very low bar for consumers or in this case parents and children.

So when this list of Parents magazine 25 best packaged foodspopped into my inbox I looked. And I found
Jif Whips

 “Families are so busy that it's more important than ever to ensure that our kids eat quality, healthy foods at home and on-the-go,” said Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief, Parents magazine. “We were impressed by the variety of packaged-food options at the supermarket that tasted great and had a good nutritional profile.” 

I know Dana, she's super smart but are parents so busy that they need sugar and bad fats “on the go”? Yes, there are a variety of packaged foods at the supermarket even one from a company on this same list, Smuckers, and the ingredients for their peanut butter? Peanuts and salt.

What other quality foods should our kids eat according to this? Parents magazine says processed cheese and Tyson nuggets. I get busy, I get easy but peanut butter doesn’t need processed fats, cheese ingredients can look like this Pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes (thank you Cabot) and doesn’t need to be from Laughing Cow. That’s not “fast and fabulous” as the online headline reads.

Sure there were a few organic items in the 25. It was nice to see Applegate listed even if it was for their bacon. There is a place for a healthy snack or even cookie but the options with the best ingredients, for my children and yours or for you and me, aren’t made by Keebler and Newton’s.
What do you do when you come across sub par nutrition advice? Do you mention on social media? Let the publication or person know? What are your favorite fast and fabulous foods?
For the record I wrote in to Parents and said this

I was happy to see your "25 Best Packaged Foods" in my inbox. I wasn't happy about what I saw. I understand busy and the need for convenience but I don't understand sub par ingredients certainly not on a "best" list from such a reputable publication. My thoughts are in this blog post. As I said here, it's not enough if an item isn't the worst of the worst (even though some listed well…) it needs to offer our children (or us) something. Let's set athe nutrition bar higher and perhaps say "maybe you will not purchase or require all 25 of these foods" but here are crackers or snacks with more fiber or non-refined grains etc"
Lauren Slayton MS RD
note: I initially indicated the Jif had trans fats (partial hydrogenation) it does not this is a processed fully hydrogenated fat- still far from the "best" and my fault for posting quickly.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cleavage and Advice

I am always intrigued by how experts resonate with people. Sometimes it’s warmth, I think of my friend/nutritionist Keri Glassman who has a fantastic smile and interest in people that comes across when she’s on TV or sitting at lunch. At times intellect does it, think Alton Brown or Michael Pollan. They say things that we remember or say things in a way we haven’t heard. Other times it’s passion, if someone feels so strongly about his or her subject matter then I often feel maybe I should too. But there’s another trend I’m noticing and that’s sexiness bordering on porn-iness and not just where you'd expect it. I understand swimsuit models or actresses playing the sexy card but experts? Or maybe a new type of  “sexpert”?

At a recent nutrition conference, a lecture on blogging encouraged nutrition bloggers to make content sexy and “sex it up”. At Foodtrainers, we always try to fun it up, even snark it up but sexy smoothie advice?  No thanks.
Then, I was forwarded this. The content (about nasty ingredients in Subway bread)
 is actually fine but the “expert’ rolling around on the ground, breasts front and center?  We actually looked and liked much of what the “Food Babe” had to say on her website but “babe”?  Can you imagine for a second Dr Phil looking sexy (see above)? Is it that brains-only work only for men?

There’s also Tracy Anderson, I really do admire the business she’s built and I get that a fitness professional is often in very little clothing (thank goodness I’m in nutrition).  This (see photo) is more than just a workout outfit and it’s not that I’m jealous I don’t have “more” to offer (my "offerings" will never be on full display). I'm the first one to raise my hand and say I wouldn't want an out of shape fitness instructor but this is a whole other subject.

Obviously I get the appeal of these images to men (maybe) and I understand sex sells. I fully appreciate that looks matter and that doesn't bother me. But where do you stand on experts and sexiness or cleavage? Does it matter to you? Do you think it’s a good thing? Or does it “turn you off”?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forget the Oscars, Introducing the Ch-oscars

 Every February our offices turn into a chocolate tasting lab. We try the unusual, we had truffles made with sorrel and matcha salt and chocolate with mushrooms. There were superfood chocolates and drinking chocolates all in the name of finding the best, healthy chocolates around. And we did it,  for a complete list of our Chocofacts (the darker the chocolate, the lower the sugar) and Chocowinners (debloating chocolate anyone?) click here.

I thought I’d cherry-pick my personal favorites from the tasty group:
Matcha Cacao
You know from my Golden Milk post I love warm drinks. This powder is adult hot-cocoa mix. You take 2 tsp of the powder (it comes in other flavors too but matcha is amazing for your metabolism) add water as if you’re making tea and then top it off with frothed almond milk.

Sunbiotic Bar

I love probiotics and I’m not sure many people would say that. I think they’re one of the foods we all need to focus more on. Why? They help our mood (much of our serotonin is produced in our guy), our GI function and help our immune systems….. In LBT I also explain how this group of foods help sweet cravings. Sunbiotic offers all of these benefits in a not-too-sweet chocolate bar.

The Best Healthy Chocolate on The Planet
This bar from Hu Kitchen (pictured above) has a cult following. Clients talk about it and friends hoard them. It’s not only like some evolved form of adult Reese’s. It has creamy almond butter and quinoa for crunch and texture.  Plus, it’s dairy free, gluten free, soy free, vegan and uses no stabilizers. If you love someone and gift them this, they’ll love you back. If you taste this bar you’ll understand why.

Chocolate Mug Cake
Oh boy do I need food photography tips, have any?
I was late to the mug cake party. It was really the winter and this newsletter that made me give it a whirl. Since I’m not much of an after dinner eater- I had this for breakfast. I justified it by saying some of the ingredients go in my smoothie anyway.
Here’s what you do, combine
1 tbs almond flour (haven’t tried coconut flour)
1tbs cocoa (you could use cacao but I thought would need more sweetening)
1tbs almond milk
1 egg
1 tsp coconut oil
½ to 1 tsp honey (or maple or liquid stevia)
Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe mug. Cook for 60 to 90 seconds and check because you can go from perfect to dry and nasty quickly. Optional tsp almond butter on top (I opted for this you’ll see). I never have cakes so for me this was a complete treat, you can make sweeter or add different extracts for a mint, coconut or cinnamon flavor.
Are you a chocolate person (if you say no, please explain I don't understand how this is possible)? What's your favorite dark chocolate? Have you tried any of these selections? How can I take better food photos?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Maybe the Broncos need Golden Milk, do you?

Mug via David's Tea, mess behind this photo my own
I’m in a warm drink phase that may be an adult food jag. I love matcha lattes made with almond milk. Then I discovered matcha cacao lattes (details in Thursday's newsletter), I soon jazzed these up with cardamom and cinnamon. Last year I was fixated on bulletproofcoffee but this year? I’m all about Golden Milk. What’s that you haven’t heard of golden milk? Well has its roots in Ayurveda, it’s a warm beverage made with a turmeric paste. Turmeric is one of the most powerful nutritional mood boosters (on par with medications, yup), it’s also a potent anti-inflammatory and what we call a “delicious debloater”. So whether you didn’t eat that “super” last night or if Monday or everyday blues have taken hold, read on.

There are many versions of Golden Milk, I tweaked a couple coming up with this:
1/8 tsp turmeric
½ cup water
pinch black pepper (I added this as pepper increases the effectiveness of turmeric)
1 tbs coconut oil (traditional recipes call for almond oil which I didn’t have)
½ tsp manuka honey (an anti-inflammatory)
few drops Nu Stevia (optional)

Simmer turmeric, pepper and water for 8-10 minutes until mixture thickens.
At the same time, in another pot (you could do in the same pot as turmeric once it thickens) heat almond milk and oil. 

I kept this at very low heat as I didn’t want to boil the manuka. Add honey and stevia to taste toward end of cooking. Transfer turmeric paste to the milk.  

This drink is satisfying enough to be a breakfast. I also enjoy 4 ounces in place of my nighttime tea.  I do want to try the almond oil and also saw a recipe with molasses (loaded with magnesium) that’s I’d like to test out. And not to worry, I have saffron in the back of my head as the research is impressive there too.
Have you heard of golden milk? Any warm drinks you’re loving?  Interesting uses for turmeric?