Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Defense of Resolutions

I feel badly for resolutions. It seems there’s a counter-resolution movement going on. Members of this movement claim resolutions don’t work, people set unrealistic resolutions and that by February any resolutions made on New Years have fizzled along with the champagne. Well I have a confession, I like resolutions. I like the burst of motivation and the desire to change that comes with the New Year. I make resolutions and encourage my clients to make them too. And even if resolutions don’t last 12 months, perhaps the key isn’t to stop making resolutions but to make them continually throughout the year. Setting a goal is powerful and sometimes it’s figuring out why it didn’t pan or fine-tuning your original goal that’s most enlightening.

First, take stock of the year that’s ending
I’ll admit,this tip is not entirely mine. I read on Alicia Silverstone's, author of The Kind Diet, site that she and her husband write about the year that’s coming to a close and all that has happened. I like the idea and would tweak it a bit. As the year comes to a close note your victories from the past year. You can pinpoint anything but I, of course, suggest incorporating something about your fitness and nutrition. Did you try any new sports or workouts? Did you cook more or decrease anything unhealthy in your routine? Or, did you feel less guilt when you ate a treat or skipped a workout. I am a big believer in noting your victories and commending positive action. You will need this ability as you make your road map for 2010.

For example, this past year I wiped artificial sweetener out of my house, cooked significantly more,ran my first race in a while (even though it was a 10K) and started yoga and snowshoeing. It took a while for me to make this list so give yourself a day or 2 for items to come to mind for your victory list.

Next, make resolutions (plural)
Some may think making a resolution means narrowing yourself down to 1 goal, I say dream big and make a list of resolutions. Think of this as a to-do list of sorts. When you make a to-do list you don’t tick every item off every day. There are some items you immediately tackle and others that may remain on the list for a while. I like the list of resolutions because you can address different areas of your life. Also, at different times of the year you can focus on different areas. This will give your resolution more longevity. A word of caution, try to avoid items such as “lose weight” or “be more fit”. To me, those are results and I would encourage trying to tap into how you will lose weight, the support behaviors. If your goal is to shed some lbs, you may concentrate on purchasing more produce, being more mindful of portions or eating 1 meal a day grain free (these are just examples).

In 2010 I hope to:
• Run Chicago Marathon in October
• Visit the farmers market more and more farmers market
• Continue with yoga, though I am intimidated
• Read more for pleasure
• Learn more about tea
• Be more patient

Monthly Review
I’ll agree with the cynics, for every person strong out of the gate on January 1st there’s almost as many hitting a roadblock in February. Let’s plan for this. Set a reminder in your blackberry or iphone for February 1st entitled “review resolutions.” Take your list out a read it over. Do you want to adjust anything? Maybe you planned to work out daily and you now feel more confident about 4 workouts a week. Or maybe you wanted to skip the alcohol for January and the superbowl got in your way. This is all ok. The only mistake is jumping ship and abandoning your list. Again, ask yourself what the month’s victories were, you are trying to gather all those victories for December 2010. I find the greatest skill with wellness is the ability to regroup.

So…anyone from the counter-resolution movement ready to convert? I'll check back with you on 2/1/10.

What are your victories from this past year and what’s are your resolutions? I’d love to know.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How Split Peas Split

We’re in Vermont for the holidays. Yesterday it was 1 degree out when we woke up. As tempting as it was to bundle the kids and send them to their ski groups, we make the humane decision and kept them at home. The four of us prepared for a lazy day at home. What does one do with a day in the house? If you’re 5 and 7 you play indoor soccer, indoor hockey, the wii and do a lizard puzzle. If you’re a housebound nutritionist you make a feeble attempt at an indoor workout, catch up on some emails and then start to get stir crazy. I was getting grumpy until I found some split peas in the pantry. I decided it was a good day for split pea soup. This wasn’t the first time I would be eating split pea soup; however, perhaps because I had nothing to do but cook and think I found myself, for the first time, contemplating split peas.

I know some people may tackle bigger, broader topics such as the meaning of life or the definition of happiness but in my food-centric mind I was wondering only one thing…how do split peas split? As you gather with friends for New Years, maybe you’ll be searching for a conversation starter. Do me a favor, ask those around you just how split peas split. I would be willing to bet most people don’t know. Is there a splitter somewhere? Someone who’s profession is to split the peas? Or maybe a machine was engineered for this purpose. Are you curious, dying to know? I was and went in search of the answer. Before I divulge, I will tell you some other split pea particulars I unearthed:

• Split peas have a long history and have been used in many cuisines as early as 400-500 BC in Athens where they were sold by street vendors.
• A cup of cooked split peas has around 200 calories, 16 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber
• Split peas are members of the legume family counting lentils and black beans as relatives
• Split peas are high in trace mineral called molybdenum. Molybdenum helps you metabolizes sulfites. So…if you get headaches from red wine or dried fruit, split peas may be an antidote.
• Split peas are high in purines and should be skipped by those with gout or prone to kidney stones.
• Unlike other beany family members, split peas require no soaking before cooking
• Like other beany family members, you should pick through your split peas and toss any stones or dirt before cooking them.
• Cook 1 cup of split peas in 3 cups water for 30 minutes or until soft.

I realized I was low on soup ingredients (no ham, no stock) and decided to throw it out to the twittersphere and ask for split pea soup suggestions. The twittersphere answered with recipes and ideas. One person suggested a prosciutto bone, another bacon salt. After almost a week of heavy mountain food, I decided this was going to be a vegetarian creation. I settled on a recipe from a blog called Adventures of a Food Slut. Though the recipe was easy and required few ingredients, it turned out I still would need a trip to the store for thyme and an onion.

Truth be told, the going to the market on a one degree day didn’t happen (though husband is on an ingredient run as I type). Since I can’t share with you the details of my “slutty soup”, I can at least inform you for your New Years’ discussions. The answer is there isn’t a pea splitter, neither a human nor a mechanical one. One of my favorite websites, Worlds Healthiest Foods informed me once dried and their skins removed peas split naturally, simple as that.

What other food mysteries are you curious about? What are your split pea secrets? Let me know, I am making my soup today.
P.S. I did make the soup, as promised. We headed out for dinner that night but I've enjoyed it for 2 lunches. It's nice to have something healthy and home cooked after skiing.  I took a photograph but split pea soup isn't that beautiful, you'll have to trust me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Foodtrainers Find: KOR ONE

I don’t know if you read my tweet (what? you don't read everything I write?) about the romantic holiday gift my husband gave me. Now there are some men, so I hear, who buy jewelry and others who buy flowers but not my husband, oh no. My husband buys snowshoes. And as much as I was being sarcastic when I called them romantic, I was dying for snowshoes and very excited to receive them. I really thought they were going to go down as my favorite 2009 gift until I received my KOR.

KOR makes the greatest water bottle ever. Picking a water bottle these days is a little complicated but KOR is BPA free, dishwasher safe, charitable (each color supports a different water-related cause), spill proof and great looking. And as if that’s not enough, when the cap flips up a message is revealed, KOR calls it “your stone.” My stone now says “find balance.”

Although I am cooped up in my office right now, this weekend I will snowshoe and drink from my pretty bottle (both the KOR and more) and on my way to finding balance.

Are you finding balance? And what have been your favorite gifts to give or receive?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The best place to eat a cupcake

The snow is falling, if the experts are right we’ll be getting a lot of snow in NYC today. I’m inside, here with my Vaio and a cup of Harney mint tea. Earlier today, before the snow, my husband, sons and I went to Brooklyn. We had the pleasure of attending a birthday party at Wollman rink in Prospect Park. Everyone there knew the storm was coming, so why not skate and celebrate before heading indoors? And so there was skating, hot chocolate, pizza and cupcakes from Buttercup bake shop (for husband and sons). I had the pleasure of watching the son, of my best friend for a million years, blow out a Darth Fader candle on his blue frosted cupcake at his 6th birthday party.

Soon enough the party started to wind down and I helped my best friend for a million years clean up. It was then that I noticed something. My tall and skinny friend was packing up cupcakes for guests to take home. After all, she isn’t skinny for no reason…actually she sort of is one of those skinny people who eats anything…but that’s a post for another day. My friend remarked “I have no issue eating the cupcake at the party but taking a dozen home with me is another story.” And then I thought about what she said and realized it was similar to a conversation I had with a client on Friday.

My client had been having a massive craving for toffee. She ignored this craving for days and eventually caved and purchased toffee after a bad day at work. She went home and it wasn’t pretty. This client said “I have been thinking a lot about what you say about treating yourself in public and I think it would have been better in this case.” To fill you in, I feel there’s a big difference in social eating versus the eating we do in private. If my client had purchased a reasonable amount of toffee and shared it with a friend at work, she would have satisfied her craving and been able to move on, guilt free. Instead, she raced through the toffee, finishing all she had purchased and felt a little embarrassed. She shouldn’t feel embarrassed though, this is exactly the type of eating we can all do behind closed doors. This is the type of eating my tall and skinny friend was trying to avoid.

So I’m not here to advocate a diet of cupcakes and toffee all consumed in public. However, I think there’s a difference between a treat and a cheat and that difference just may lie in where we eat our cupcakes.

What are you doing on this snowy day? Any treats or cheats involved?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For Women Only (I think)

Last night I went out to dinner with an old friend. We had a lovely meal of baby artichokes with mint and beets with walnut pesto, mussels for the entrée and a lovely glass of dolcetto. We were very excited to see each other and enjoy endless time to talk. Having both lost our fathers our conversation quicky shifted to loss and grief. And yes there were tears and in retrospect maybe more tears than I would normally shed. After talking and talking, my friend got in her car and I walked home. When I arrived home, I checked on the boys and caught up with my husband. I walked into the kitchen and noticed a bakery box on the counter. Now, on a typical day, nothing from a bakery would get a second look from me. My “desert island foods” don’t include sweets, except maybe chocolate. I opened the box and was reminded my mother had brought cupcakes for the boys. The cupcakes called out to me and I gave them a second look…but ultimately headed to bed.

Fast forward to this morning at breakfast. My older son said “I’m not hungry.” He may have not been very hungry (and this isn’t a post on children’s eating) but I know for sure he knew we were rushing. Let’s put it this way, he was less interested in rushing that he was eating. On a typical day, and to my knowledge this was another typical day, I would have encouraged him to eat a little something and left it at that. Today was different; my buttons were pushed. I told him he needed to cooperate, I threw in the “I’m going to have a talk with your teachers,” I was livid and over what, cereal and a banana?

You’re probably thinking what do crying and cupcakes and yelling have to do with each other? It’ll all make sense soon, I promise. With the kids off to school, I headed to Exhale for a core fusion class. I take these classes 2-3 times a week so there wasn’t anything atypical about that. A few minutes into class, the instructor told us to engage our core, in layman’s terms to suck it in. I tried and I tried but it was as though my core had left the building. My core was gone or it was sleeping or…maybe this wasn’t a typical day. And then it hit me; I had PMS!

Now, never did it cross my mind when I decided to have a blog that I would be blogging about PMS. And there is nothing in my descriptions above that is at all unique. The question I had for myself, the question I think is worth contemplating is why, after 22 years of something happening every month, was it such a surprise? I own a calendar, I can count to 27 or 28, why don’t I know this is happening so I can brace for it (and warn my family)?

If you are craving foods you don’t normally crave and crying and or yelling, I hope this post serves as a reminder. And if you’re not, be thankful that it’s a typical day for you!

Ladies, am I alone in this monthly shock? Do you think PMS gets worse with age? Don’t be shy, it’s only me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Foodtrainers Find: the Perfect Chocolate

I am in love (again). I know, a few months back, I said the same thing. And really, at the time that Kookie was rocking my world. And don’t worry Kookie and I are still friends. Foodtrainers’ clients love Kookies and Kookie makes its way into my afternoon snack regularly. Truth be told, that was a little out of character for me, to have such strong feelings for a Kookie. I am really more of a chocolate person. And it’s the Holiday Season and chocolate is festive.

So you know I am in love with a chocolate but you don’t know which one. OK, you may know if you can read the fine print in the picture but you don’t know why, I’ll tell you:
This chocolate is not too big and not too small. The portion I suggest for regular dark chocolate bars is one row. I suggest one row and can eat one row but there are always those other rows beckoning from the package. Regular bars are too big. There are smaller options, I like Hershey’s Bliss in dark chocolate too as you know. The portion for those bite-sized chocolates is 3 to 5 pieces. The problem there is that 3 pieces doesn’t seem like a lot. For many, Hershey’s are too small. The chocolate I love is just right; the whole bar is 100 calories.

This chocolate is good quality. When judging dark chocolate, percentage cocoa content is an important feature. I generally advise 70% cocoa content or higher though anything above 50% is good for novice chocophiles. The chocolate I love comes in both 60% and 75% cocoa content.

This chocolate comes in a nice package (I did not say has a nice package, easy). I’ll admit it; I am the person who chooses wines with a pretty label. I am an advertisers dream. This chocolate comes in adorable individual boxes. It is great to travel with and the perfect purse snack.

And because I am not possessive, I am willing to share my new love with all of you. Bissingers 100 Calorie dark chocolate bar is available at Foodtrainers.

Do you have any new food loves/obsessions? Please share, I just opened up to you after all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does Size Matter?

It may come as a surprise but, like many of you, I watch the Biggest Loser. There’s a lot I like about the show. I like watching someone take the reins of their life; I like witnessing their transformation. I like knowing contestants learn about what got them heavy in the first place. NBC has announced that this season the contestants will be bigger than ever, that is they will weigh more. And though I consider myself a fan of the show, I have to take issue with this.

There have been some great stories on the show. I wept while I watched Abby, a contestant on this past season. Abby had lost her whole family in a car accident. Her weight was a visual representation of her grief and loss and her feeling lost. As a mother, it’s also heart wrenching to listen to contestants describe loveless childhoods. Whether overweight or not, many of us can identify with these struggles. But are we more captivated by these stories if these contestants are larger? Or is this where the line is crossed into making a spectacle of vulnerable people? Should a 500 plus pound person run a mile or workout hours a day?

I know full well, from taking about weight and life all these years with clients that one’s problem’s or issues aren’t proportional to the pounds they need to lose. Pain and also progress are size blind. And then I need to remind myself this is TV and reality TV and the audience is made up of people who love the American Idol try outs and the jilted bachelorettes. I just don’t think being 500 pounds is a laughing matter.

Do you like The Biggest Loser? Would you be more likely to tune in with larger contestants? I’m curious to hear.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fast Food Slaytons

Our family travels to Vermont (from NYC) almost every winter weekend. Interstates can present a huge challenge for healthy eating. Since the ride is only 3.5 hours, on a good day, I generally come armed in order to avoid stopping for food. This past Friday, we picked the kids up from school. I had apples and bananas, carrots and celery, almonds and some popcorn. It’s a little cruel but I’ve found that when trapped in a car and hunger sets in even crudite becomes a hot commodity. We arrived in Vermont for dinner and everything worked out as planned.

Yesterday was a little different. We skied in the morning, had a nice lunch afterward, packed the car and headed home. The problem is that it was snowing fairly heavily. As we entered Massachusetts the snow turned to sleet and a little further south torrential rain. After watching James and the Giant Peach and taking a long post-ski nap the kids were hungry. It was 7pm and we were over an hour from home. The arsenal of healthy snacks was exhausted, as was my husband aka the driver. “There’s a _____ in New Haven, we should try it” says tired husband (and no, he didn't actually say "blank") . “Do you know what I do for a living?” I ask. “This is pretty good actually, let’s try it. Without outing the restaurant, let's just say even President Obama is known to be a fan. Anyway, you know where this is going.

I was elected to go into _____ and pick up our dinner. I decided it was a challenge. I have had a McDonald’s salad, a Wendy’s baked potato and felt fairly confident I could navigate any menu. That is, until I saw this menu. The menu is a very simple: burgers, hot dogs and fries. There are no attempts at health, no salads, and no apple dippers. I decided it was one meal and choices were limited. I did a silent anti-e coli prayer and placed the order. I ordered the little burgers for the kids, I ordered “a burger all the way” for my husband, as he requested. I ordered fries, a weakness of mine, and the person taking the order said “just one order of fries with 3 burgers?” I said yes, that would be fine.

I was handed a receipt; we were number 38. I was directed to another counter to wait for our order. I generally love an open kitchen, love to see the behind the scenes details, that is until last night. As I took my place at the counter I saw an employee hoisting a bottle the size of Clorox bleach, a large handled plastic bottle. She removed the cap and proceeded to pour gallons of something into an opening. I looked closer and the jug was oil. I could’ve turned away but of course didn’t. One station over from the oil was the grill. I looked at the grill which had at least a half inch of…oil on it. The burgers were almost floating like mini sting rays on the surface. I couldn’t believe others were watching this undeterred. Didn’t Elie Wiesel say one of the worst things you can do is witness something terrible and do nothing? In my defense, I am doing something now (I am blogging about it).

After about five minutes (_____ prides itself on being made to order), number 38 was called. I was handed one brown bag with the burgers. I was passed another brown bag, about half the size of a grocery brown bag. The server said “these are your fries.” Polka dots started to make their way through the bag (with I kid you not 5+ cups of fries). These were oil polka dots of course.

I got in the car and started handing things out. The boys opened their little burgers and my husband his “all the way” burger with a diet coke as per his request. After all, why not have a little cancer with your heart disease? I took a handful of fries, some pathetic celery stalks still in the snack bag, my water bottle and decided this probably wouldn’t kill me. Because I am here typing, you know I did live but that doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer. My 7 year old started the chorus, after his burger he had the burps. Husband then remarked “I always get this sharp pain in my stomach after eating this food”. My little one then said “excuse me” which only follows one bodily function. And me? I felt like Morgan Spurlock in Supersize Me…only I hadn’t had anything supersized. I had a headache, my stomach was doing flips- it wasn’t pleasant.

But how did it taste? Was it good? Here’s the deal, despite doing what I do for a living I can admit, however bad for you, when something tastes good. I even have a list of bad-for-you foods I like and wish was healthy. The boys, they liked their burgers and also liked what they knew was a break from our routine. My husband admitted “it’s really not the burger I would have if I had to choose.” As for me, the fries were undercooked, very salty and, sad to say, not worth it. That’s the part I most regret. My advice to clients, my mothers’ advice to me has always been “don’t eat it if it’s not delicious”. Next time, I will bring snacks and a meal for all. And if _____, who has America’s attention, wants to make a nod in the healthy direction, I’d be happy to help.

What do you arm yourself or your family with when you travel? How do you feel after you eat fast food?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby it's Cold Outside

OK so maybe it's not freezing today but it's not as though those feet or fireplace belong to my family, just go with it.  Think winter and cold and what are the first 3 foods you think of? Mashed potatoes, chili and hot cocoa were the top 3 answers in my informal winter food survey. Wintry foods tend to be cheesy, meaty, creamy or chocolaty. There is some scientific backing for these cravings due to less sunlight on cold, winter days. However, I find a lot of these cravings have more to do with associations and memories. When you were little and came in from playing in the snow, what do you eat? Chances are you still crave some version of the soup or hot chocolate or macaroni and cheese that was served to you at 6, even though you’re now thirty-six.

The good news is that you can enjoy these foods and the memories associated with them, with a few simple tweaks (tweaks to the foods, the memories we’ll leave as is):
Meaty cravings
Meatloaf tops the list of winter comfort foods. The problem with meatloaf and other meaty foods is…well the meat of course. Most meat used is beef and even 85% lean cuts are still 15% saturated fat.
• Use leaner meat. I suggest 92 or 96% lean (beef, chicken, turkey or pork). When you can, choose grass-fed beef and free range poultry. You may, in meatloaf or meatballs, have to compensate with more liquid in your recipe to add moisture
• The breadcrumbs used in meatloaf to hold it together are not particularly nutritious. Try using whole wheat bread crumbs or, my favorite, oats instead.
• Eggs in meatloaf are used to bind the ingredients. You will not sacrifice taste switching to egg whites and you will cut the fat which is already high enough.

Creamy or Carby Cravings
Is there a person out there who doesn’t desire mashed potatoes or French onion soup when the mercury drops? OK there may be a few but not me! I haven’t met a creamy, mushy food I don’t like. For clients who come in craving mashed potatoes and pasta here are my 3 standbys:
• Mashed Cauliflower- cauliflower is very low in calories and becomes very creamy in soups when mashed. Mashed cauliflower is a great mashed potato stand in. I love a Whole Foods Market recipe that doesn’t use any dairy. You blend the cooked cauliflower with olive oil instead. This dish passes the husband-who-likes-the-real-thing test.
• Spaghetti Squash- the only drawback to spaghetti squash is that baking and making it takes a little time. You can cheat and microwave it, if you are a microwaver. The benefit is, once cooked, you can add tomato sauce, pesto, parmesan cheese or any other pasta type sauce. It’s delicious and low in calories (sans sauce).
• Sweet potatoes also have to be on the healthy winter carb list. You can mash them, roast them and fries out of them.

Chocolaty Cravings
Hot chocolate, smores, chocolate pudding are also on the cold-weather craving list. The problem with most hot chocolate and puddings are that they are often made from pre-fab mixes and the quality is poor andfat content is high.
• Use unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder and sweeten yourself with agave nectar or organic cane sugar
• Use low fat organic milk or rice milk for creaminess
• Extras- try peppermint extract, cayenne, cinnamon or ginger to give your hot chocolate a little zip.

These recipes are perfect after a long winter walk, skiing, skating or snowshoeing hint hint. What are your favorite winter foods or recipes?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reality Bites

I am fairly certain what I’m about to say will offend some of you. Consider yourself warned but also know what when we are offended it’s usually because some part of what we heard is true or at least hits close to home. So here it goes. There is so much in my arena, the arena of food and nutrition, focused on holiday eating: what to eat at holiday parties, how to avoid gaining weight over the holidays, the average person gaining 5 pounds over the holidays, surely you’ve heard much of this. And I have delivered my share of quotes on holiday eating, I’ll admit it. I then had a friend say something that struck a cord, something that knocked “have a glass of water for every glass of wine” on its head; she said “people get fat over the holidays because they expect to get fat.”You know what? She may be right.

After all, why is it that people who would never eat a pig in a blanket at any other time of year feel its ok over the holidays? Why, if you are always a Sauvignon Blanc girl is egg nog suddenly on your radar? And don’t explain this away with “these foods are only here only one time of year”. First, we live in a world where you can get strawberries in January; we can in fact get most foods all year round. And second, at holiday parties we tend to see these special treat foods again and again, so we see them multiple times this month alone.

The other argument for holiday eating is that we partake in certain foods to avoid offending our host or hostess. Again I have to cry foul because any host or hostess isn’t perched on your shoulder watching you all night. And even if you are right next to the host, did a friendship ever end because someone declined a mini quiche? My 5 year olds school has a policy in classrooms that encourages them to take a “polite bite” of foods offered. After that, they aren’t compelled to eat any further. Kindergarteners don’t eat the foods they aren’t truly interested in and adults shouldn’t either.

So, what I am saying is that our rules shouldn’t change because there is Holiday music playing. You can enjoy your favorite holiday food (that is food singular) and savor it but be selective. If you are someone who is focused on healthy eating, keep it that way. The season is festive; your eating doesn’t need to be.

Where do you fall in all of this? Do you plan to “get fat” over the holidays?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Vegetable of the Week

This year, for Thanksgiving, I was put in charge of sides. I made Brussels sprouts hash, I made string beans and I made something new… When I arrived at my sister’s house I left my new creation on the counter as we finished preparing other parts of the meal. “What are these” my brother in law asked as he tasted my new creation and “yum, these are good” remarked my niece Sam. The next day, my new creation received the ultimate vegetable vote when my sister wrote in an email “oh and I need the _________recipe, those were a hit.” So what was my well-received new creation? It was roasted parsnips with parsely and while I cooked it, I can’t take credit for creating it- Bon Appetit did.

Recently, we blogged about cauliflower. Whereas most people know about cauliflower, I am not sure everyone knows what a parsnip is or could identify them. Parsnips look like whitish carrots. They have a unique flavor (good unique) and get fairly sweet when cooked. In fact, parsnips been cultivated for over 2000 years and were used as a sweetener for jellies and cakes before sugar was on the scene. Parsnips are a winter vegetable and will only get better later in winter as sweetness increases with frost.

• When purchasing parsnips look for firm parsnips that aren’t too large

•To prepare trim both ends and peel (like a carrot)

• Use parsnips raw grated in salads, roasted or in soups

• I asked Market Melissa and she told me parsnips (per cup) have 100 cals, 6-7g fiber and are a good source C, folate and potassium.

Roasted Parsnips with Parsley (4 servings)

2 pounds parsnips peeled and cut into ½ inch thick slices (don’t slice too thinly will burn)
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1tbs butter (optional, I have made with and without…)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 450. Toss first 3 ingredients in a bowl and spread on a rimmed baking sheet, if using butter dot with butter. Roast 20 minutes and turn parsnips with tongs. Roast another 15 min or until browned but soft. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with parsely.

How do you like to prepare parsnips? We would love to hear.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fit to Graduate?

Have you heard of Lincoln University? Perhaps you haven’t. Have you heard of the college denying diplomas to a portion of their senior class because they are obese? If you haven’t you will soon. To fill you in, Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, implemented a fitness class as part of their graduation requirements. Many colleges have requirements for P.E. and health, there is nothing new or newsworthy there. What makes this different though is that Lincoln University’s “Fitness for Life” class is mandatory only for students with a BMI (body mass index) >30, only those who are obese. More than 20 of the obese students refused to take the class and will not graduate because of this.

I am a little torn on this one. On one hand, I commend L.U. for understanding the import of health and fitness. L.U. is a historically black college and there is a higher obesity rate among African-Americans and a host of potential health problems faced once obese. If college prepares you for life beyond college, it seems health education is a reasonable component. On the other hand, requiring running for the rotund seems to be a misstep. For one thing, the selection criteria is problematic because BMI doesn’t necessarily coincide with fitness. If the class is to achieve fitness proficiency, perhaps a measure of fitness should be used to decide who is in need of it. Students could be asked run or walk for a certain distance and those unable would then be enrolled in the class. However, if the purpose of a class is to improve one’s health every single student should be taking it. The skinny doughnut eater and the chain smoker undoubtedly could also use some help.

If we delve deeper into this, this “Fitness for Life” class ,which consists of water aerobics, Tai Bo and dance a few hours a week, it isn’t necessarily going to lay the groundwork for lifelong changes. I would propose a seminar. All students would be required to attend the seminar. These students, after all, are adults, they should hear the statistics about their weight and health and, let’s be honest, how their weight can impact interviews and prospective employers. Nutrition and fitness information can be presented in a user-friendly manner. I would even volunteer to teach the seminar and to be available, on an ongoing basis, to follow up.

Lincoln University is justified in viewing health as part of the future success equation. As the chair of Lincoln’s Department of Health and Physical Education said “we, as educators, must tell students when we believe, in our hearts, when certain factors, certain behaviors, attitudes whatever are going to hinder that student from achieving and maximizing their live goals.” Hopefully once the uproar dies down there can be further discussion over just how Lincoln and other schools can do this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Empathy for Elin

I know infidelity isn’t a natural match for a nutrition blog. But hey, it’s my blog and I think there’s something interesting to write about, please bear with me. Like many of you, we had more than a passing conversation about Tiger Woods and his “alleged” affair this weekend. We did our share of detective work trying to figure out what happened or didn’t happen. Beyond the gossip, there was big part of me who was really sad for Elin (Tiger Woods’ wife), sad for her experiencing what many women fear so much.

I was still thinking about all of this when we returned home Sunday and watched HBO’s special on the Rock and Roll hall of Fame Concert. During the concert we watched Fergie, in her thigh high boots, give Mick Jagger (who she performed with) a run for his money with her moves, her talent and her presence. And I realized she too has a husband who had an “alleged” affair recently, hmn. Here were two beautiful and sexy women, two women many women would love to look like and two women who may very well be heartbroken right now. Yes, as an adult I know infidelity (and all of this unconfirmed) isn’t prevented by beauty or talent but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.

Then my mind went back to my clients, as it often does. I thought about clients who postpone dating until they lose weight. I thought about many people’s expectation that with weight loss comes happiness. From counseling all these years I know weight loss isn’t a prescription for success in relationships or happiness. Yet, while we know thinness or good looks aren’t guarantees for happiness, many of us, in various ways, strive for them. We all do judge books (and people) by their covers to some extent.

So where does this leave us? Should we toss our trainers or forego food journals? Not from what I have seen. As clients work on their fitness or their weight, some gain confidence, others see health benefits or mood benefits providing incentive and a reward for their efforts. I, for one, am not divorcing my flat iron or relinquishing my morning run any time soon. But as we continue in our pursuit of pretty, we have to remind ourselves of its limitations. We should spend much more time enriching our minds, spending time with those we love and working on our golf swing….because you never know when your cheating husband's SUV is going to be in your way.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How to avoid blowing up (like a balloon) on Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving morning and here I am at the computer (what can I say? I’m thankful for technology). I am due for my Foodtrainers’ 31st Grade Reading Journal entry in which, like my second grader, I write about the book I am currently reading. I could take the easy way out and say “no homework” it’s a holiday but I’m taking the easy way out, in another way. Instead of writing about the book I’m reading “Eating Animals” which is just not appropriate on turkey day, I’m going to tell you about one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time.

In “Food, Kin and Tension at Thanksgiving” (in this Tuesday’s NYT) Tara Parker-Pope perfectly captures how challenged family relationships find their way into our food. Parker-Pope writes “the combination of food and family often brings out longstanding tensions, criticism and battles for control.” I have been discussing these concepts with Foodtraininers’ clients this week and last. Many clients, on a typical day, make good food choices and work to keep themselves healthy but are thrown off today. And it’s not the allure of stuffing or pumpkin pie.

At Thanksgiving, many are confronted with what I refer to as the family food pusher. This person takes great pleasure in seeing other people eat what they cooked, or even dishes they had nothing to do with. The food pusher is the enemy for someone trying to lose weight. Parker-Pope quotes an eating disorders specialist who had a patient “whose mother scolded her for not eating her homemade cookies…as a result, the daughter relented and took a cookie. But when she then reached for a second, her mother scolded her again.” This time, the mother was upset with the daughter needed a second cookie.

Many of these comments, no matter how hurtful, are not surprises. My husband often asks me “if this happens every year, why don’t you change your expectations?” Easier said than done but, as you make your way to the Thanksgiving table today, mentally prepare yourself. Who is it that can make you uncomfortable? In what way to they express themselves? Is there anyone else in the family you can recruit as an ally? And what might you say as if someone comments on your weight or your eating or your children’s eating? Make a game plan for your eating so that your anxiety doesn’t lead you straight into the cheese plate. And try to exercise this morning. Remember, as one of my clients said “my sister may not be my friend but stuffing isn’t either!”

Read the full article at:

Any fun Thanksgiving food stories to share?

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Session: Local Apples

My plan for today was to write a post about eating local. I did a segment on NBC Friday night, with Chuck Scarborough, about going local and locavores for NBC’s Green Week. I was going to tell you about it and post the video clip from the segment. And it’s not that I don’t have convincing reasons why everyone should eat local foods and support local farmers but I’ll save that for another day. Today, I want to write about something even more local, something that happened in my own office.

My husband always jokes “don’t people know what to eat” and my reply is “you tell me, do you know what to eat? And do you always eat it?” The truth is, most of us know what to eat until life gets in the way. I have a longtime client, who of course will remain nameless for this post, we’ll call her C. C first came to me when I had a luxurious (wink wink), subterranean office at a fitness club we’ll call E. My memory tells me it was around 2000, though it could have been 1999. Over the years, C and I have talked a lot about food journals and calories but we’ve also laughed (negotiating the number of margaritas she could have on a New Mexico vacation) and cried a lot too.

C has known me through 2 pregnancies, the opening of Foodtrainers and the loss of my father. In the time I’ve known C she has bravely battled breast cancer, purchased a new home and devoted more and more time to her painting. One thing that’s been steady, over these past 9 or 10 years, has been C’s employment at a large company (that, you guess it, will remain nameless too). That is, it was steady until October of this year when I received an email from C asking for an early appointment, she didn’t need to work late because she was let go.

I can remember where I was (on Columbus Avenue outside the shop Greenstones) when I talked to C about her breast cancer and I remember staring at my computer screen, frozen, when I read the news about C’s work. Even in the midst of all of this C had her humor “the good news” she wrote “is that I’m too nauseous to eat.” It took me a few hours to muster up a, far from eloquent, reply but I know I wrote something about her focusing on her painting and some other comments trying to cushion the blow.

Today C showed up for her 1pm appointment. I rushed to the waiting room to find out about the mammogram she had earlier today (it was clean!!) but she was preoccupied with a package she was holding “I have a present for you, I was cleaning out my office, you can open it but WE’RE NOT CRYING TODAY, OK?” I unwrapped the present and saw the most beautiful painting and my new favorite, local apples. With Thanksgiving a few days away, I want to say that I’m thankful for C. and thankful for all of my clients. Clients often come in to talk about food and nutrition but end up sharing so much more. So thank you C from the bottom of my heart.
And if any of you are still interested in hearing a bit about local foods, here is the video clip.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Veggie Stepchild

As we head into December, something is about to start and it’s pretty exciting. I’m not talking Christmas, Hanukah or even winter….are you stumped? I’ll end the suspense (unless the photo already did). Folks we are embarking on peak cauliflower season which lasts until March. We all have our families and cauliflower belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables which includes broccoli, cabbage, kale and collards. However, while many of us will be serving our children broccoli today and kale makes us feel virtuous eating it- when was the last time you showed cousin cauliflower any love?

I asked Market Melissa to make a case for cauliflower. She pointed out that cauliflower is a protector. It contains a phytochemical called sulforaphane which takes toxins, that normally turn cancerous, and sweeps them away. And cauliflower isn’t demanding, to reap cauliflower’s benefit you only need 3 (1-cup) servings per week! Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C (think immunity), folate, and dietary fiber and has only 25 calories per cup. I can’t vouch for your family but if in my midst was someone who protects me, doesn’t demand a lot of me and helps me stay thin…..well I think we should all reconsider cauliflower.

Try mashed cauliflower for a healthy comfort food, or roast cauliflower and toss with pine nuts or enjoy in crudité with your favorite hummus or salsa. Here is a link to another great recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, also known as ‘Cauliflower Candy’ Enjoy!

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say one more thing. I had the great pleasure of chaperoning a kindergarten trip to the Union Square Green market this week. We had a scavenger hunt and one of the children’s questions asked them “how many colors of cauliflower are sold at the market?” My group raced over to the cauliflower stand and correctly answered the question (3 colors) and then politely posed for a photo next to the cauliflower……at which point, almost in unison, they sneered and said “the cauliflower smells.” And so, like all family members with many good qualities, it seems nobody’s perfect.

What other veggie stepchildren are there? Any cauliflower creations you’d like to share?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Foodtrainers 31st grade reading journal: The Jungle Effect

For those of you who missed last week, I am adopting my second grader’s assignment to read for 20 minutes a night. For accountability and because most of my reading is food-related I plan to blog about my reading once a week. I have to admit that I am not blogging about the book I am actually reading this week. I happen to be reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran but just can’t post my thoughts on this book the week before Thanksgiving. For something more appropriate, I  picked a book I read recently called The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller.

The Jungle Effect presents the value and wisdom of traditional diets around the world. Dr Miller chose certain areas of the world that seem to be “cold spots” for disease and examined their diets. Copper Canyon in Mexico was chosen as a cold spot for diabetes, Crete for extremely low incidence of heart disease, Iceland for low, low levels of depression, Cameroon for scant colon cancer and Okinawa as a cold spot for breast and prostate cancer.

It’s interesting to see the overlap in certain of these diets. Reading the book I also thought about my family’s traditions and the live-habits my children would adopt. Here are some of my “clippings”, as my kindle calls them, from the Jungle Effect:

“Food is a powerful medicine. After all, it is the medicine that most of us take willingly at least three times a day without skipping a dose.”
So many of us are concerned with what we shouldn’t eat. This book highlighted the foods to seek out and the importance of taking time and effort to obtain and prepare these foods.
“When cholesterol-lowering medications were compared head-to-head with a diet like the Mediterranean diet (plus 30 minutes of exercise four to five days a week) they both had similar benefits in terms of preventing heart disease.”
I don’t think many Americans would believe this to be the case. Dr Miller points out diet should at least me the first weapon used (before resorting to medication).

“Virtually every cold spot culture I discuss in this book places a huge emphasis on communal eating.”
This is so often overlooked as we fixate on what we eat, how we eat matters a great deal.

Countries with low fish consumption have highest rates of depression. Aim for 3 servings of low mercury fish per week or a fish oil supplement daily.

• Black and green tea contains numerous health benefits including anti-depressant capability. And with Thanksgiving looming have to point out potatoes are also mood boosters.

Fermented foods (such as miso and sauerkraut play an important role in many cold spot diets. Another group of foods worth considering are prebiotics. Foods containing prebiotics raise the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and chicory are all in this category.

The Jungle Effect also contains shopping lists from each country with native ingredients, recipes by region and cooking tips for working with some, perhaps unfamiliar, ingredients.

Learn more about the Jungle Effect at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Training

This week clients will come in and we’ll most likely discuss their Thanksgiving plans. Will they be hosting? Traveling? Are they in charge of bringing anything? I find a lot of nutrition advice for Thanksgiving focuses on the calories in various components of the meal. While it’s important to know that stuffing and sweet potatoes are caloric, I think most people already know this. In my opinion, it’s not so much the foods we eat for Thanksgiving but the way we eat them (plates piled high) and the number of days we eat them for. And so I offer my 5  Thanksgiving training tips:

1. Take Sides! Volunteer now to bring a veggie side dish. I was meeting with a client last night and asked what she brings to Thanksgiving and she said “I am the cupcake girl.” While I am sure her cupcakes are delicious they don’t help her weight loss goal. I told her she should be the Brussels sprouts or green bean girl instead. Cooking a veggie side dish is a great way to test new recipes and it also, selfishly, ensures a healthy component in the meal.

2. Whatever way you slice it, Thanksgiving is a heavy meal. Plan for this by exercising 30 minutes, minimum, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Most gyms are open Thanksgiving Day and spinning or running a great use of your day off. No gym? No need to worry, your 30 minutes can be walking outside or dancing while you get dressed. Try to recruit other family members and make it a new tradition.

3. I was watching Ina Garten, on the Food Network, fielding Thanksgiving-related questions on her show. One question was what to serve before sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner. Ina said keep it simple before the meal and advised not serving guests too much. I couldn’t agree more (maybe for different reasons). If you are hosting, shrimp cocktail, crudite and a dip and olives are all nice, lighter choices. If you are a guest, minimize your nibbles, you can easily eat a typical dinner’s worth of calories in hors d’oeuvres.

4. There is a Japanese saying “hara hachi bunme” that translates to eat until you are 80 percent full. One of their traditions is not to be stuffed. In my opinion, Thanksgiving is a time to samplein foods you may not have at other times of the year. Compose your plate with small portions of treat foods but bear in mind a one plate rule. You would never ask for second helpings at a restaurant, practice “hara hachi bunme” and aim to be satisfied but not stuffed.

5. Thanksgiving is one day, Thursday, not Thursday until you go back to work on Monday. If you are a leftover person stick to Turkey, veggies even cranberry sauce. Keep pie and stuffing to holiday itself. I have one client who has pretty containers and makes care packages for guests to bring home.

Any healthy holiday habits you want to share?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foodtrainers: 31st Grade Reading Journal

At back-to-school night, for my second grader, the teachers explained that each child was to read for 20 minutes nightly and keep a reading log. Rather than fixating on the inevitable nudging I would have to do to ensure compliance with this, I was jealous. I always loved the structure of being a student. I liked the accountability of having to do certain work by a certain time and the feeling of accomplishment that came with completing it. And so to channel my jealousy, I have decided I too will read for (at least) 20 minutes per night. I promise not to bore you with daily entries. Rather, I will summarize some of my highlights in a weekly post. Welcome to the first entry in my 31st grade reading journal.

One of the first books I uploaded to my kindle was a book called Spent. Spent is a book in which tips are offered on everything from posture to pesticides in the hope of feeling better and….less spent.

Spent: Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Feel Great Again by Frank Lipman (like my second grader, I do know book titles should be underlined but cannot accomplish this on Blogger....maybe my next book read should be about blogging).

• One great suggestion in Spent is for those of us who spend much of our day sitting. Dr Lipman advises a break every hour or two. Walk around, go outside, “these little breaks are potent healers. They get us breathing and the blood moving again.”

• Another good reminder was to take your shoes off when entering the house. “Most dirt, pesticides and lead come in on your shoes.” If you are resistant to do this, another option is to place floor mats near the door
• And Dr Lipman advises us to ask dry cleaners to skip the plastic wrap. “Plastic wrap traps the dry-cleaning chemicals on clothes.” And let your dry cleaning air out before storing it
• And finally a great smoothie recipe Greeno Mojito Avocado Smoothie:
¼ avocado, 3-4 tablespoons vanilla or plain whey protein powder, 2 teaspoons greens powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, juice of 1 lime. Blend all ingredients add filtered water to thin or ice cubes to thicken.
I like that the focus of Spent is not on weight loss or getting leaner but on very manageable steps to improve how you feel.

Have you read this book or any other interesting wellness books? Any tidbits you’d like to share?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Market Melissa: Pumpkin Passion

Melissa O'Shea (aka Market Melissa) tackles Pumpkin.

On Market Foodtraining tours, I encourage participants to buy one new fruit or vegetable each time they are at the farmers’ market or supermarket. What inevitably happens is that I then receive questions such as “what does one do with purple kale?” I decided it would be fun to pick a vegetable, pretend I am the client, and see what I could find. Since Halloween was only a few days ago and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, pumpkin was the first veggie to come to mind.

Pumpkins (a winter squash) are loaded with beta-carotene which is a potent antioxidant and a precursor for Vitamin A (needed for healthy vision). One cup of cooked pumpkin has only50 calories, 3 grams of fiber and zero grams of fat. And don’t discard the seeds, they are loaded with protein, healthy fats and zinc, which is good for immunity.

When cooking, pumpkin certainly isn’t just for pumpkin pie! Try adding pumpkin puree to oatmeal or bread mixes, toasting some pumpkin seeds and adding them to salads, or carving into the pumpkin flesh and using it in soups or roasting it in the oven and enjoying it as a side dish.

To broaden my pumpkin horizons, I made two recipes this weekend. First, a Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Soup and then a Turkey Pumpkin Chili. Both were delicious and easy to make. You’ll Find the Chili Recipe below, which I adapted from a few that I found in my search.

Turkey & Pumpkin Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground extra lean turkey meat
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid (I like Bionaturae)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not sweetened pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Place turkey in pot and cook until brown with a little bit of the garlic. Stir in onion and cook until tender.
Pour water in pot. Mix in tomatoes, pumpkin, beans and garlic. Season with rest of ingredients (chili powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper). Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Simmer longer for a thicker consistency.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe to share?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Flu-flighting Food

Whether you’re pro flu shot or against, whether you lean toward the swine flu shot or the regular flu shot it’s hard to escape the concern over this season’s bugs. Rather than panicking about the flu, why not take action to keep yourself and your family healthy? After all, the best defense may be to protect yourself from the inside out. We’ve found, on our Market Foodtraining tours, participants are very curious about natural flu-fighters, so we’re sharing our 4 favorites:

1. White Tea
Everyone knows about black tea and more recently green tea but if you’re interested in immunity white tea is your beverage. White tea is much less processed than green tea and this results in a higher antioxidant content; white tea is a better bacteria and virus fighter than other teas. It’s also lower in caffeine and less bitter than green tea. Do not add milk to your tea though, casein a protein in milk binds to some of the phytochemicals and makes the tea less effective. Try for 2-4 cups a day. I love the Republic of Tea  and Harney brands.

2. Red Bell Peppers
Chances are when you think of foods high in Vitamin C you think citrus fruits. Red peppers actually have more than double the Vitamin C of a large orange. Vitamin C is important because it increases levels of interferon. Interferon is an antibody that coats cell surfaces (think of it like cell armor) preventing the entry of viruses. Vitamin C is also found in broccoli, parsley, kiwi and melon. Aim for 2 fruits and 2 vegetables per day as many fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C.

3. Pumpkin Seeds
If you still have your pumpkins, do not toss the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc. Zinc is needed to make the immune system’s t cells and zinc increases our number of white blood cells. Zinc is actually not common in many fruits and vegetables so you can eat a healthy diet and not get enough zinc. Zinc is abundant in many animal foods so vegetarians, in particular, need to seek out sources of zinc. Oysters, crab and legumes are other non-meat zinc sources.
If you are pumpkin-less you can purchase pumpkin seeds, I really like a brand called Gerbs.

4. Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and Kefir contain probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our intestines and support our immune systems. Our digestive tract is actually our largest immune organ and what goes on in there is a good indication of what is going on with your immunity in general. Probiotics occur in other naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, natural pickles and miso.Look for yogurts with lactobacillus or bifidobacteria on the ingredient panel, there’s also a great kid’s product called Pro Bugs.

And finally watch alcohol and sugar, each of these makes you more vulnerable to the flu. As little as a couple of tablespoons of sugar can decrease immune function by 40 percent!

What are your favorite immune boosters? Any tricks you’d like to share?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mandatory for Marathoners

Foodtrainers’ 4 Fueling Facts will help you avoid miles of mistakes

I recently read an editor’s letter in Runner’s World where the editor, in training for the Richmond Marathon, committed to do everything right in his training this time, to do the things he always knew but rarely did. This rang a bell for me because much of what I tell Foodtrainers’ sports nutrition clients or what I write here isn’t new, exciting or unfamiliar. In fact, most of it you already know. So then, you may ask, why should you waste your time reading any further? And the answer is because this time I implore you to actually do it.

1. Heed the Holy Grail of marathoning. Let’s poll 10 marathoners and ask them what’s the worst thing they can do in terms of fueling, chances are most will probably recite “do not do anything during a race you haven’t done in practice.” Then, race day rolls around and there is someone handing out raisins or a new energy bar and many assume eating these un-practiced foods will be fine. I will let you know I was once guilty of this. I was running a marathon and was a little past the halfway point when I spotted a woman on the sideline. This smiling spectator was grasping a platter of orange wedges. I, who have M.S. and R.D. after my name, grabbed one orange wedge. I didn’t even finish eating it but tossed the remainder and continued running. And then I regretted it, I regretted it because I soon felt as if someone had sliced my stomach open. I was no longer worried about a PR or negative splits; I was worried my race was over. Is this meant to scare you? Yes, it is but you have a choice. You can follow the Holy Grail or blunt fact #1,

Eating anything untested may end your event, stick with what you know.

2. OK so maybe I scared you into shunning strange snacks but we’re not done. We need to talk water. Chances are you’ve been consuming more water as your training has progressed, you may own reusable water bottles or a fuel belt, and you think you’re all right in the hydration department. Well, here I am again the negative nutritionist about to dish up some more sad news. Most marathoners consume a fraction of the water their bodies need, particularly early in the race. Early in the race you don’t feel t thirsty and don’t want to be slowed down for fuel stations. However, you need to drink early and drink enough. How much? 12 to 30 ounces of fluid per hour (4 to 30 marathon Dixie cups) and slightly more if you sweat a ton.

3. Fueling fact #3 is to avoid TMI. And no, we’re not talking about too much information but rather the mistake many marathoners make, in an effort to ensure they eat enough, the mistake Deena Kastor made in Chicago earlier this month. This mistake is TOO MUCH INGESTED or even ingesting your tried and true pre-race meal too close to the starting time. This was Deena’s error, she was jet lagged and didn’t eat early enough. She then battled stomach cramps and needed to relieve herself during the race (OK, is this now too much information?). You can practice pit-stop prevention with this simple guideline:

1 hour before race 100-200 calories

2 hours before race 200-300 calories

3 hours before race 300-400 calories

For a full meal you need 3-4 hours to really digest things.

4. I recently attended a screening of a documentary about marathons. The film tracked the history of marathons and viewers saw what happened when marathons were run P.G. (pre Gatorade). What happened was that many elite runners became disoriented, some running the wrong direction, others were slowed to a walk and some fell down and were removed on stretchers. In marathoning terms, these runners “hit the wall” their fuel tank was depleted. These runners didn’t have Gatorade and Gus but you do. And 30-60 grams of carbs consumed (per hour) will help avoid doom.

I happened to be in a lecture yesterday and I was told to give people advice in “3’s” but I needed 4 fueling facts which I think you can remember. You have the running watch and the proper sneakers and you have trained hard. Don’t eat the orange slice, don’t wait until you feel thirsty, don’t eat too much or too close to the start and don’t hit the wall. Oh and do enjoy yourself because if you follow the facts above you really can enjoy yourself….if your shoes aren’t too new and you get a blister.

Any marathon stories to share? Any race day superstitions? Please share them here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Market Melissa

Melissa O'Shea (aka Market Melissa) and I have developed an off-shoot of Foodtrainers called Market Foodtraining. Melissa guides small groups of participants through various NYC markets offering her expertise on organics, ingredients and more. I had a few questions for Melissa  and she will offer weekly tips, so check back with us!
Lauren: You’ve been touring around groups for your market foodtraining tours, what do people have the most questions about?

Melissa: What foods to buy organic is always a question I get and also how to work organics into their budget. On the tours, I give participants the organic do’s and don’ts. For example, DO buy the in-store organic brand, this can shave 20% off your grocery bill.

Lauren What’s exciting that’s in season now?

Melissa: I feel like in summer we all go crazy for the delicious variety of fruits in season, but in the fall some of my favorite veggies are in season. I am making soups and chili with butternut squash, pumpkin and kale and love roasted sweet potato fries. These ingredients make the chilly weather not seem so bad.

Lauren: You’re always tweeting (@marketmelissa) about ingredients and food-shopping, any tidbit you’d like to share?

Melissa: Oh there are so many to share! A recent one I found was that the average carrot travels 1,800 miles to your dinner table. We grow carrots in NY! It seems silly when we can get them from a farm that is less than 100 miles away.

Lauren: I love when you say “these jarred tomato sauces are great, I can’t use jarred ones, I have an Italian husband.” For those of us who don’t, what is your advice for making things from scratch?

Melissa: Oh I still remember the look on my husband’s face the first night I made pasta with jarred tomato sauce. What does an Irish girl know!? While I admit I was intimidated at first, it isn’t as hard as it seems. My husband’s grandmother says “if you have good ingredients, you can’t go wrong.” And she’s right, I now make all own soups and salad dressings…I’ve come a long way.

Lauren: Any favorite new product/discovery?

Melissa: I’m usually not a huge fan of cottage cheese, but I have to say Rachel’s ( now makes ones that come in flavors like cucumber dill and pear mangosteen…yum!

Lauren: What’s new in market foodtraining?

Melissa: In September and October we were doing a lot of ‘back to school’ tours with parents on what’s to pack in school lunches and easy weeknight dinners. As we transition to winter, we are going to focus on flu-fighting foods, as well as comfort foods made healthy and winter produce. I am always looking to keep the tours fresh and exciting. Blog readers, come check them out!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Foodtrainers Five FNCE Finds

I spent 90 minutes this afternoon at a lecture on social networking for nutritionists. There are few things I am more interested in, or I’ll be honest obsessed with, than food and facebook so it seemed like a session tailor made for me. And it didn’t disappoint, I learned about slideshare and celebrity twitter, about BlogHer and blog glossary and I was told that you have to have your own voice and subject matter you are passionate about for your blog. One thing that I am passionate about is our Foodtrainers’ Finds. Foodtrainers’ Finds are food products that I would recommend to Foodtrainers’ clients. These products use wholesome ingredients, have nutritional merit and of course taste great. I also learned that people scan blogs versus reading them so I’ll cut to the chase and let you know about my five favorites from the FNCE conference.

1. Food Should Taste Good Potato and Chive Flavor (
Food Should Taste Good makes tortilla chips that are gluten-free, high in fiber and lower in sodium; however, nutritional virtues are meaningless unless the food, as the name implies, tastes good and these taste great. Potato and Chive, one of the new flavors, will appeal to the sour cream and onion lovers (you know who you are) but I have to give shout outs to chocolate, jalapeno, cinnamon and olive each of which holds a special place in my heart and my pantry.

2. Sunshine burgers- falafel flavor (
Sunshine burgers have been my go-to veggie burger for some time now. Most veggie burgers contain soy and the soy in veggie burgers is highly processed. Sunshine burgers are soy and gluten-free. This falafel burger had me double dipping with my toothpick.

3. Hershey's Bliss dark chocolate (
I have to admit, I am a little bit of a chocolate snob and wouldn’t usually consider Hershey’s for my flavanoid fix. I then found myself at the Hershey’s booth and learned the Bliss darks are 50% cocoa content (not the 70% I seek out but fairly close) and that they’re 3 for 100 calories. I was intrigued but not convinced until I removed the purple foil and popped it in my mouth….you guessed it Bliss.

4. All Sport Zero zero sports drink (
This is a sports drink sweetened with Truvia (stevia). I hear some schools in Chicago are offering these in the vending machines. I would love it if my sons’ hockey rink offered them and will certainly be suggesting it. I sampled the strawberry flavor and was pleasantly surprised.

5. Just delicious Soups (
These soups are the closest you can get to homemade without making them at home. Just delicious makes soup mixes that are salt and MSG free and I hate to sound repetitive but delicious. Soups come in a bag with the legumes or spices and you simply add water and voila- have soup to feed 4. Red lentil is my favorite but there are many great flavors to try.

Do you know any of these foods? Or do you have any recent food “finds”? Please let me know because the only thing better than a food find is a blog comment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

R.D. (relaxing detour)

Every year, I travel with my friend and colleague Keri Glassman M.S, R.D, CDN to the ADA (American Dietetic Association) conference. Sure, we need our continuing education credits but we also both need a little time away from it all. Keri and I met in grad school and while we both have private practices and our profession in common, when we’re together we rarely talk shop. So over lunch I took the opportunity to ask Keri a few food questions.

Lauren: Keri, you certainly wear a lot of hats: you counsel private nutrition clients, you are an author (of The Snackfactor Diet and the upcoming O2 diet), you’re on TV, you have 2 adorable children- what advice would you give my (numerous) blog readers about managing your food when you’re busy?

Keri: Plan, plan, plan. Twenty minutes of prep work in the beginning of the week can save you thousands of calories. For some specifics, I would suggest portioning out nuts, slicing fresh vegetables and planning your dinners.

Lauren: Speaking of the 02 diet (which focuses on high-antioxidant foods). If people were to incorporate two high- antioxidant, perhaps less common, foods into their routines, what should they be?

Keri: Artichokes and pistachios, artichokes are a big part of the 02 Diet and pistachios are a favorite nut of mine. They are the lowest fat nut. For more information go to

Lauren: And for times when artichokes aren’t in season?

Keri: There is a company I love called Monterey Farms ( that has delicious sealed/packaged artichokes in a little olive oil. You can find them at Whole Foods markets.

Lauren: And the ADA conference, what’s your favorite thing about the conference?

Keri: Spending time with my friend Lauren of course, oh and learning new information and having a nutritionist watch my every move.

Lauren: OK I think we should break (our salads arrived). I will say, for the record, we’re eating salads with spinach, pistachios, chicken and green apples. And Keri is drinking Tazo’s Refresh tea which is a mix of mint and tarragon.
It's time to eat, this was fun (and a little dorky).

What are your favorite ways to spend time with your friends? And also, what are your favorite high-antioxidant foods?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Foodtrainers Find: Rocal Beets

I love beets. When beets are on a menu, there’s a fairly good chance I will be ordering that item. I like beets roasted, I like beets steamed, beets make me happy. I realize there’s about a 50 percent chance you think I’m crazy because I think for every person who agrees with me, there’s someone who absolutely hates beets. I don’t think there’s a middle ground here. Brussels sprouts also fall into this category of foods you either adore or despise but I’m not writing about them today. Back to beets, if there is one thing I don’t like about beets it’s the mess. I wear rubber gloves and an apron but beets are messy……except for the neat beets I found.

I found the “neat beets” at Fairway Market. These beats are cooked (steamed I would guess), peeled and packaged without any additives, salt or anything else, just beets. They are made by a company called Rocal (from France) and come in organic and conventional varieties. I just had some in my salad….yum.

Neat Beet Salad

2-3 Rocal beets

1 can Flott tuna in olive oil (2.8oz can) or Zoe tuna

2 -3 handfuls lettuce (I used Bibb)

½ avocado

1 kirby cucumber

Juice half lemon

Olive oil

Kosher Salt and pepper

Chop all ingredients with Sur la Table salad chopper

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where's the Beef (Coming From)?

I’ve received a lot (22 to be exact) of emails about Sunday’s NYT cover story “The Burger That Shattered Her Life” I thought both the article and its front page placement was commendable. This time, the food politics isn’t an elitist issue or a question of optimal food, it’s a matter of food safety…or in this case a lack thereof.

In case you haven’t read it (and if you or anyone you love eats beef you really must), the article tells the story of Stephanie Smith, who was 20 years old when she was stricken with a “severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli.” The source of the E. coli was a hamburger. Ms. Smith will likely never walk again due to the nerve damage caused her infection. While her story is an absolute tragedy, the article goes on to trace how cows from slaughterhouses end up as the burgers we eat. The picture painted isn’t pretty and though the extreme nature of Ms. Smith’s case remains rare, it’s a wonder it’s not more common.

I read the article, on my beloved kindle, on a train to meet my husband Sunday. I got off the train, worked up in a frenzy, and quickly summarized the article. My husband, who always craves the bottom line and has grown accustom to my rants said “so what does this mean that nobody should ever eat a burger again?” And although this may have been my initial reaction, I love a good burger, once or twice a year, and I’m not willing to rule out the option. And my children, not vegans or vegetarians, are they to live out their childhoods burger free? I try to be an “everything in moderation” parent, how would this work?

While I was formulating my plan of action, I was surprised to hear from some clients who felt getting E. coli poisoning from burgers was akin to the risk of crashing in a plane. One even said “life involves risk and we can’t lock ourselves up in fear of everything.” And while I am by no means alarmist, I disagree with those who think that just because something isn’t common doesn’t mean we shouldn’t actively try to prevent it. And, to be blunt, even if I never get sick from eating hamburgers doesn’t mean it’s ok to eat feces or tushy meat (quite a scientific term I know)!

So what are we to do? Here are a few solutions:

• Grind own meat with a meat grinder or food processor. It is revolting (and should perhaps be illegal) that the meat in 1 burger can come from multiple slaughterhouses and even multiple countries and thus decrease the ability to trace outbreaks and contain them.
• No meat grinder? Have your market grind a steak for you for burgers.

• Purchase grass fed or pasture raised meat. E coli really stems from cows eating corn, not what is natural for them to eat. and being raised in small and confined spaces.

• Eat less meat. To combat the fact that organic, grass-fed meat is more expensive, eat it less frequently.

• Use meat thermometer and cook to 160 degrees which kills E. Coli

• Though organic beef is more expensive the NYT states that it would only cost companies 30 cents a burger to ensure ground beef came from whole cuts of meat. Look for “100% whole muscle means no trimmings.”

• Let the USDA know that inspections are important to you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Foodtrainers Find: Kookie Karma

“Where do you find these things” a client… well in all honesty my mother asked when I handed her my latest discovery. It’s an interesting question, especially interesting coming from my mother whom I only gave my latest discovery to because a) she is not a client b) loves great food and makes even greater food and c) has zero interest in anything overtly healthy…especially in a package. So…if my mother, who has zero interest in anything overtly healthy but knows what’s tasty, likes one of my discoveries, chances are others will too.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, I was going to describe how we locate our Foodtrainers’ Finds, the foods (I hate to call them products) we suggest to our clients and peddle in our offices. The truth is, we have to do the food-equivalent of kissing many frogs. A lot of what is sent to us or we find in stores or at shows tastes like….well let’s just say you’d probably rather kiss an actual frog versus eating them. But every so often, the healthy food-equivalent of a prince comes into our lives and we fall in love.

I am in love. I am in love with what may be my favorite new snack of the year. I am in love with a cookie, but not just any cookie, it’s a Kookie Karma. Kookie Karma ( comes in many delicious flavors but I have never been one to play around (high school friends shush), I have only one prince and my prince is named Holistic Chocolate Chip. He, I mean it is “vegan, gluten free, high protein, no soy, low-glycemic and low net carbs.” It comes dressed in a handsome brown and white package (did you know my wedding colors were brown and white, truth). Even with all these outward attributes, we all know you can’t judge a book by its cover (though I still pick the wine with the prettiest label). So how does it taste? By now, at the end of this love letter, you’ve probably guessed that I wouldn’t be gushing about a kookie if it didn’t taste good. And you’re right, it’s what’s inside that counts. And what’s inside is a dense, delicious, slightly coconut, moist creation that you will fall in love with too.

And as much as I’d like to end this post by telling you that my mother fell in love with the same prince I did (or some less Mackenzie Phillips-esque version of that)….at press time she said she forgot the kookie was in her purse!

To order kookies from Foodtrainers please email or check kookie karma’s site for retailer information.

What is your favorite new snack?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Session: Treats

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

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

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

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

*Name has been changed to maintain protect privacy

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kids and Kale

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Jenna at

What are your favorite family recipes?