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 entrĂ©e 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.