Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Travel Treat

We were in Toronto this past weekend. It was a trip planned around hockey (hockey game, hockey hall of fame, purchasing hockey schwag) for my son Myles’ birthday. Even though I was the sole woman on essentially a boys’ trip and the Ontario Science Center isn’t on my bucket list, it’s always nice to be away. I realized one of my favorite things about being away and my young boys realized it too. One of my treasured travel treats is room service. It isn’t so much that the food delivered is outrageously delicious, though I did have an amazing tandoori chicken salad the first night when we arrived late, after all we have some of the most amazing restaurants here in NYC. No, there’s something else that makes room service special.

I snapped the photo above while my family was still sleeping. I wasn’t sleeping because I knew at 8am the doorbell would ring. Sure enough it did ring at 8:01! and in rolled the little room service table/tray. This one had a heat drawer underneath keeping Myles’ French toast…well toasty. My room service breakfast wasn’t necessarily anything I wouldn’t have at home. I had 2 hardboiled eggs (omega 3 eggs no less), mixed berries and coffee. What I don’t have at home is my coffee in a shiny stainless steel carafe with accompanying adorable milk (well cream) pitcher, my eggs in ceramic egg cups and my berries in a little ramekin with a mint sprig. I don’t serve French toast with sprinkled confectioners’ sugar; I don’t make rainbow yogurt parfaits or use my pretty china. I don’t but I could and you could too, right?

Chefs know the importance of presentation and plating when it comes to the overall dining experience. Thanks to the Food Network even home cooks can present a dinner plate with verticality and garnish. For some reason though, we do not tend to pay attention to presentation for breakfast or snacks or when we were whipping something together for ourselves and nobody else. Interested in this room service effect, I have been experimenting. I brought lemon and lime slices to the office and a glass instead of my reusable water bottle. I used my silver and white wedding china for my green tea and sliced my apple, fanned it out, sprinkled it with cinnamon and added a dollop of almond butter for my afternoon snack. None of this was time consuming and yet it felt different. It felt special and I found myself eating in a more relaxed manner. Having taken the time to prepare my food, I was taking more time to enjoy my food. I am enjoying room service right here at home.

Are you a room service fan? Any tricks you have to make food more special? Do you think presentation of food influences your eating speed or enjoyment?

Monday, March 29, 2010

In Session: Tradition

I have to admit, I am not a very religious person. My dad grew up Jewish in Italy and we somehow celebrate Christmas Eve. My mother is the most secular Jew around. I married someone even less religious and he brought a Swedish mother in law and a Jewish father to the diluted religious mix. When we met with a rabbi before our wedding, Marc said and I quote “if religion is like hot sauce with variations of spiciness, I am very, very mild.” Regardless of our lack of temple or church going we still have traditions, food associations with holidays and our grandmother’s recipes. I think most people do.

Last week, I was in a session with a client discussing Passover. For most holidays, I work with clients on creating a game plan for their holiday meals. Passover is especially tricky as matzoh and potatoes are not exactly superfoods. This particular client has older children so their Seder will be small. He and his wife were hosting and therefore in control of the menu. My client, we’ll call him T*, mentioned that in addition to brisket he was considering serving fish as an entrée. T rattled off the other menu items: matzoh ball soup, kugel and matzoh stuffing. I made some suggestions, first I offered up the idea that some sort of a salad or vegetable should possibly be added and second I said “since you have matzoh and matzoh balls, maybe the matzoh stuffing isn’t necessary.” T replied “the matzoh stuffing is my mother’s recipe, it’s a tradition.”

Many of our traditional foods have a great deal to do with what our grandparents and their grandparents had to work with. If you have Eastern European lineage many recipes are high in fat, calories, carbs and cholesterol. Part of this has to do with what was available and part of this has to do with not knowing better. I think there are two schools of thought regarding holidays and nutrition. Some people fall into the “I eat well most days of the year; on holidays I throw caution to the wind.” Others embrace the symbolism of the holiday but try to adapt their holiday meals to their eating habits. I fall somewhere in between. I think traditions and food traditions are very important particularly for children. I like regular, simple stuffing on Thanksgiving and Papa’s Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve (I’m actually not such a cookie person but like the ritual of making and having these cookies around). I don’t however think my grandmother would object to skimming the fat off of the soup or adding a green to her kugel. If Passover celebrates emancipation, can we not emancipate ourselves from egg, potato and matzoh rule and let some other ingredients in? After all, we no longer need extra fat to survive.

I think another issue with traditional recipes is “I'm afraid to change the recipe; it may not come out right!" I completely understand this one. If the whole family likes dense, doughy matzoh balls how will a light and fluffy recipe work? And to this I say, make small changes as these are often undetectable. And you may not want to make an altered version of a recipe the day of the Seder. Another client was working with a healthier macaroon recipe and planned a dry run a few days prior. Or keep one dish, such as the matzoh stuffing in T’s meal, and add in some healthier options around it.

If you think about it, Passover has the potential to be a diet-friendly holiday. For the carb-phobic or gluten intolerant it is a time to abstain from bread (leavened wheat) and also barley, spelt, rye, and oats. In addition, Ashkenazic Jews do not eat rice, millet, corn, or legumes, and there is a concern about eating any type of food that swells when cooked. The more religious turn their houses over keeping only kosher for Passover food. I had to look this up but this symbolizes removing the “chametz.” On one hand chametz refers to non-kosher for Passover foods. On the other hand it refers to removing wrong actions or unhealthy thoughts in order to begin spring with a clean slate. Hmn, now we’re talking.

On Passover part of the Seder is asking of The Four Questions, I have my own 4 questions:
1. Where do you fall on the tradition spectrum, do you feel family recipes should be adapted or adhered to?
2. What are your favorite traditional or family recipes?

3. Do you feel it’s sacrilegious to tweak a recipe?
4. And finally, why are there so many spellings for matzoh (matza, matza)?
Please comment, or I’ll have to ask Elijah.

*Although I use examples from client sessions, client’s privacy protected.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Foodtrainers' Find

Yesterday was a great day. I finished in the office a little early because I had 2 fun activities planned. At 4:00, I picked my boys up and went to my friend Micheline’s apartment. Four moms gathered, each with our 2 children for an Easter Egg Hunt which was to be outside if not for the rain. The moms munched on crudite and sushi and drank white wine with peach slices (yum) and the kids did arts and crafts and searched for Easter eggs. These are not friends I see every day but we’re all good planners and get together every couple of months at a museum or one of our apartments, with the kids, to catch up. And we catch up and laugh and tell stories; I always look forward to these “play dates”.

I had to leave a little early to get to the second activity. My friend Aidan  was hosting something she called Happier Hour. Happier Hour was aptly named as the guest of honor was Gretchen Rubin the author of the Happiness Project. Gretchen spoke a bit about the book and her blog and made me think about happiness and of course it’s intersection with food and fitness (all of which I will discuss in a later post). I mingled a little and then left with my friend Wendy. I arrived home feeling good and inspired and hungry!

I have an assortment of Food Should Taste Good Chips in my pantry. I have written about these chips before in both Ski Lessons and A Day in the Life of Lauren. I have sampled many of their great flavors and love both the jalapeno and the chocolate (sounds strange but very good). I had never had the Lime. I opened the bag not really expecting anything vastly different than the other varieties. I was so wrong. However elusive and hard to define happiness is, I swear I found it in these chips. There was something about this flavor (and I’m sure the 2+ glasses of wine didn’t hurt) that was interesting and refreshing and so incredibly delicious. I counted out 12 (one serving) and sat down to enjoy them.

In case you’re not familiar with these chips. They are gluten free, lactose free, Kosher and have a good amount of fiber. A serving is 140 calories and was the perfect ending to my day.

Any foods or snacks that make you happy? Do you think food can make you happy? Is this a good thing?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dude Food

My boys’ birthday party was winding down this past Friday when my friend’s husband pulled me aside. “You have to talk to S*” he said. “Is everything OK” I asked. “Not really, you need to talk to her about  all this healthy cooking I just need some dude food.” I promised friend’s husband that his wife and I would brainstorm some ideas. Bear in mind my friend S will not even consider moving to the UWS, despite her children attending school here, because her beloved yoga studio is on the East side. She is definitely nutrition-obsessed, which I mean only in the best way, and I’m sure she loves the meals she’s cooking and thinks they’re good for her husband.

Then yesterday, as I was going to bed, I noticed a collection of sorts near my husbands’ night stand. In this collection was his foam roller, those perfect push-up thingamajigs, a pair of dumbbells and an exercise band. I mentioned to husband that these things didn’t belong in our Zen-like bedroom (and also added that they were smelly and ugly and that the housekeeper had just come) to which, as he always does, he said “is it really such a big deal?” Though in retrospect it is not a big deal, the fact that he is regularly using those things as I frantically race to get the kids out of the house or try to sleep is cause for a little tension.

On one hand, eating well and exercising are things we all want our spouses to do. After all, if you love someone, don't you want them to be healthy? Few would argue with that and yet most couples have issues over each others’ pursuit of fitness. I hear it from clients all the time. “I would lose more weight if only my wife would cook a little.” Or, “my husband gives me a hard time if I don’t share a bottle of wine with him.” There are a few different variables at work here. One theme I see is that both men and women resent a sudden change. If your wife was always willing to share dessert and suddenly stops this can be cause for conflict. Problems can also arise when one person’s healthy habits result in increased responsibility for the other. If, for example, your husband is the one to get the kids up in the morning and then starts going to the gym at 7am- find me a wife that’s going to be totally ok with this. I think we want our partners to feel good as long as their regime or routine doesn’t affect us!
Have you ever argued with your significant other over eating or exercise? Do they have healthy habits that irritate you or vice versa?

*Not 100% sure my friend wants to be outed even though we’re only outing her as a healthy cook and yogi.
And for S’s husband, Rocco Dispririto has a great cookbook out called Now Eat This! where he tweaks comfort food favorites from jalapeno poppers to sloppy joes giving them a healthy twist.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Day in the Life of Lauren

I am not very good at receiving compliments. Without fail, if somebody says “I like your shirt” I say “oh this? It’s old.” I once had a friend who gave me a good lesson, she said “how about just saying thank you?” Of course she was right and for about a week I implemented her suggestion. The truth is that I love compliments, when they are genuine, don’t we all? Last week I received this at the end of an email complimenting my blog (which for me trumps any physical compliment):

Anyway, I have a suggestion (because I don't think you have done it already). I have ALWAYS thought that you look great, have a great figure and flawless skin. Is there a reason why you don't get specific about what you eat?
What's a day in the life of Lauren? I could really use a jump start this March!

My reply to this was, true to form “does anyone really want to hear what I eat?” However, because this email was so sweet, I pledged to write about my food. Here it goes.

The alarm goes off at 5:45am. I love the hour I usually have before anyone else gets up. I don’t eat or drink anything until 7ish, well actually 7 on the dot. I’ll make a pot of coffee with either Caffe Mocias  (#1 coffee in NYC in my book) or Le Pain Quotidien beans. This coffee gets a splash of Horizon half and half and a squirt of agave. I don’t eat a lot of dairy after taking it and wheat out of my diet last year. I had been waking up with my eyelids puffy and scaly (so much for the “flawless skin” mentioned above) and after lots of experimentation found that wheat and dairy were the 2 probable culprits. Argh, this is why I didn’t want to write about me. I am not anti wheat or dairy but don’t eat a lot of it.

Most days I take breakfast to the office. It tends to be liquid a lot of days. I love my Breville juicer and will make a green juice (kale, cucumber, celery, lemon, ginger, and apple) or a smoothie. My smoothies tend to be a little weird. On some days I use hemp protein as a base, other days avocado and I may add acai or frozen berries, I love basil or mint and lemon zest for flavor, it’s really a matter of what’s on hand. Hard boiled eggs are another breakfast favorite of mine and 1-2 days a week I’ll have 2 Country Hen hard boiled eggs. Calorie for calorie nothing keeps you more satisfied than eggs. In the wintertime I’ll eat brown rice or quinoa as a warm breakfast option.

My day can easily get away from me when I see morning clients until 1pm. I have learned the hard way that I need to stop and eat a real lunch. I have no issue whatsoever with leftovers. Today I had leftover tilapia and veggies. Another day this week it was leftover scallops and asparagus. Spring vegetables have me so pumped that I’ve cooked a lot this week. Otherwise I always have prewashed greens, avocados, Zoe tuna, Eden canned beans (the only BPA free canned goods) to throw together a quick salad.

From here I’ll do one of two things. My favorite days, for multiple reasons, are the days I am home when the boys have dinner at 530 or 6pm. When I an “early bird” dinner, I feel the best. A few days a week I see clients until after 7 so this plan doesn’t work. On those days I’ll have walnuts or pumpkin seeds around 3:30. We have a ton of delicious snacks for our clients so I also may grab a small bag of Food Should Taste Good chips, a Zing Bar or a Kookie Karma.

I try to cook as many days as I can. We eat a lot of fish, generally with a seasonal veggie. We also love soba noodles, sweet potatoes and squashes and can make a “one pot” meal with some combination of these. One night during the week we’ll order sushi, Thai or Indian and Saturday nights we are generally out to eat. After dinner I may have a couple squares of dark chocolate or medjool dates.

OK, I told you now tell me (briefly) what your day is like.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green with Eating

See that beautiful drink posted above? It's called a Shamrock Shake and I deserve zero credit for it. I read about this shake in a fantastic blog post on The shake has two of my favorite things in it avocado and mint, it's dairy free and delicious. Instead of posting the recipe I encourage you to read the post and enjoy the back story. Since I  am 0% Irish (though many other things)  and already shared one brilliant green recipe that wasn't mine, here are a few more:
These are kale chips. This recipe calls for Tuscan kale a variety that works well raw or cooked. These chips are a home run, a way to get non kale eaters to change their ways.

I love all Spring vegetables but artichokes and asparagus top my list. Artichokes are one of those foods I think some people are scared to cook. This baked artichoke recipe is incredibly easy.

And finally, because it is St Patricks day after all,  a green cocktail

You can replace vermouth with creme de menth in a martini or combine good tequila with melon liquer and lime juice. Avoid any drinks with sodas or juices but experiment and have fun.

What are your favorite green foods? Green Recipes?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ski Lessons

Although our ski season on the East coast is winding down, many New Yorkers will soon head west to enjoy some spring skiing. From December to mid March my family skis every weekend in Vermont. There’s a saying that if you can ski in the East you can ski anywhere. Our children have skied in sub-zero weather, they have skied on ice (is that skating?) and they have skied in rain. When we’re in Utah and there’s a bit of poorly covered terrain a flag goes up to alert skiers, no flags in Vermont when you ski over rock you realize it quickly. As a nutritionist, my biggest ski challenges occur off the slopes. While at Beaver Creek the lodge has sushi and a gold medal salad bar, in Vermont it’s the eating equivalent of skiing on ice. I think, if you can eat healthfully at an East coast mountain, you can eat well anywhere.

Whether you are a beginner skier or expert skier I thought you could use some ski lessons. Many of these "skills" come as a result of falling, no reason you shouldn't benefit from my tumbles:
1. Pre-order groceries
Many ski accommodations come complete with a kitchen or kitchenette. We have a condo set-up in Vermont. And while it’s nice to have a stove and a refrigerator I’ve found the likelihood of finding organic produce or grass-fed meat slim. Vermonters, don’t write to me, I know you have quality food but they do not at our isolated market near the mountain. I do a small Fresh Direct order and take it with us. If you’re traveling out west many hotels’ concierges will stock a fridge so that you have some necessities waiting for you. If you get in late or have small children some healthy cereal, yogurts, milk and fruit waiting can help you avoid ski lodge breakfast (or in ski terms a cliff jump). Consider post ski snacks when placing an order or grocery shopping (see below).

2. If you bring it they will eat it
While there is nothing sexy about toting a reusable shopping bag of food through an airport, eating Doritos from State News or hitting the Burger King near the Vail/Eagle airport is even worse. I have honed my families’ travel menu. While I used to bring adult snacks (nuts, cut veggies, cut fruit) and additional kids snacks (crackers, popcorn, muffins). I quickly realized that if the kids were hungry celery and carrots were gobbled up, berries were exciting and nobody was complaining. While this may seem cruel, not to worry there’s plenty of opportunity for kids' food ahead.
You’ll need: sturdy plastic containers, thin/lightweight ice packs you can get at seafood counters, a reusable shopping bag (much lighter weight than a backpack).

3. Jacket Snacks
It’s always amazing to me when you look around a ski slope that all of the people you see managed to get themselves (and maybe their children) out the door to ski. With the layers of clothing, helmets (much more important that nutrition, if you’re reading this and don’t use a helmet close your computer and get one), gloves and in the east hand-warmers leaving the house requires organization, patience and time. Once you’re out, it’s the greatest thrill ever but after a few runs we’re generally cold and ready for a break. In the lodge skiers are consuming hot chocolate with whipped cream, breakfast burritos, waffles and bacon. All very tempting but there’s no way I am skiing after a burrito or buttoning my ski pants if hot chocolate became habitual. In addition to Chap Stick, tissues and a credit card I always have a jacket snack.
My fave jacket snacks: tea bags (tazo makes a delicious orange spice tea), Justin’s individual packs of almond or peanut butter , Zing Bars, empty altoid case filled with nuts.

4. Don’t let loose at lunch.
If you don’t eat cotton candy at the circus or supersized candy at the movies chances are you're an adult and know that some things aren’t warranted when you care about your health or weight. Bowls made of bread, chili (already fatty on it’s own) with the works, clam chowder from New England can go on that list. No matter how festive and “mountainy” these items feel, skiing doesn’t burn that many calories (thought it’s in the vicinity of 400 calories an hour, in an hour on slopes you probably actually ski 20 minutes tops).
Suggest ski lunches: check out the salad bar (I find there’s always hot sauce lurking and this and olive oil make a tasteless salad enjoyable), perhaps a potato (baked potatoes with veggies, salsa and a little cheese is a decent choice), vegetarian chili or tomato-based soup in a real bowl.

5. Apres Ski= often unhealthy
There's good reason skiers are hungry at après ski time or about 3 or 4pm. If you are jet-lagged you'll feel as though it’s dinner time and then there’s appetite factor after skiing all day, if you ski all day. I have 2 options for après ski. One is to “après” at home. Another, highly strategic, move is to simple make a dinner reservation at 5-6pm so that you sit down to a real meal instead of snacks when famished.
Approved après ski foods: Food Should Taste Good Chips , my absolute #1 chip, olives, lowfat cheese such as Cabot reduced fat cheddar, light beer,wine and seltzer for spritzers.

6. You’ve been eating like an “expert”, only one mogul (or meal) remains.
The nice thing about dinner, while skiing, is that for dinner you are on your own and not in a ski lodge. While heavy foods abound there are many healthy options available. My favorite out to eat rule is 1 or 2 of 4, no more! To me there are 4 areas of dinner to be mindful of: bread, booze, dinner starch and dessert. Pick your pleasure and skip the other areas. Make sense?

It’s so easy to loosen the reins on a ski vacation. I’ve written about my misadventures in Fast Food Slaytons and I’m Fat. I’m hoping the combination of reading about my “falls” and taking note of the “ski lessons” you will enable you to cruise the whole way.

What are your biggest ski-food indulgences? Any ski lessons you’d like to offer?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not That Kind

I love ribs, bacon and roasted chicken. Though I probably have the first 2 items a few times a year, I enjoy them thoroughly when I eat them. I have a hard time saying “never” to foods. I believe most of us should eat less animal protein and better quality animal protein when we do. For many reasons, I do not eat meat or poultry more than once a day…but that’s still once most days. Because of this, I will never call myself a vegan or even a vegetarian for that matter. There was a time when I may have harbored some desire to “go vegan” and there still is a certain appeal to putting only the best food in your body or having unrelenting rules. Regardless of what works for me, I admire people who are passionate about what they eat. You can’t help but notice this passion if you read The Kind Diet  by Alicia Silverstone.

I purchased The Kind Diet after seeing a few of the recipes featured on various TV shows. And I’ll admit I was somewhat drawn in listening to a conversation between Alicia and Oprah about the benefits of plant-based diets and…poop. It's funny for all the promises various diets make you don't hear poop mentioned all that much. If you are considering making the vegan leap, the book provides some compelling reasons (other than poop) and various stages of doing so. For me, I purchased the book as inspiration to learn about new ingredients or ways of using certain ingredients. I found a book written in a very positive, maybe “kind” manner. In the introduction, Silverstone mentions “unlike other diet books, I won’t ask you to freak out about calories, carbs or the glycemic index.” While this is refreshing the book does ask you to freak out about other things so called “nasty foods” (meat, dairy, white sugar, coffee and processed foods to name a few), so be prepared.

One of my issues with some vegetarian or vegan diets is that they aren’t necessarily balanced diets just because they lack meat or animal products. Many vegetarians subsist on grains and not necessarily the whole grain variety. Or, in an effort to get their meat fix or for lack of ideas eat processed soy versions of meat, cheese and milk. Over-soying is something I tackle with my vegetarian clients. The Kind Diet is one of the first, recent vegan books that shifts the focus away from soy. The Kind Diet advises readers to see soy foods as “occasional treats.” Treats? I don’t know about that but I would concur with occasional.

So what did I enjoy or learn from The Kind Diet?
• There are many foods I know but may not cook with. In The Kind Diet I was inspired to use burdock, brown rice syrup, sea vegetables and umeboshi plums.
• Greens! Alicia mentions she eats leafy greens (kale, collards, bok choy, watercress and cabbage) at almost every meal, I average once a day and thought that was good!

• Chewing- eating speed is something many people know is good to keep an eye on but an area that takes time to change. There are suggestions to “ramp up your chewing skills” which I think can help both digestion and satiety.

There were also things I disagreed with or wouldn’t do. Nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) are discouraged. The only population this may make sense for is arthritics, for the average healthy person, I see no need to refuse ratatouille. And while quinoa and oats are among my best friends, I feel most people (especially women) don’t lose weight eating these at most meals when trying to lose weight.

Silverstone is not an R.D. and I know some have pointed this out. I have to say, I loved her casual tone that may have been easier to adopt without the worry of professional nutrition colleagues. I applaud the use of “fartiness”, “flirting” and “freaking out” when talking about food. This is an easy read and a book I’ll recommend. I read it last night after eating (organic) ribs.

What are your thoughts on veganism? Any forays? Or are you a vegetarian or vegan and perhaps want to share your experience? Do you discriminate against carnivores as I do against McDonald’s eaters?

There are a lot of good recipes on The Kind Life’s website, this is one of my favorites from the book (for the sake of space I condensed the instructions).

Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins
Serves 2 or 3

1 bunch collard greens, 2 tbs pine nuts, 3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped, 1 tbs olive oil, 3 tbs raisins, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
*In the book says you can substitute shoyu for balsamic and pumpkin seeds for pine nuts

Cut central rib and stem out of the collards and rinse leaving a little water on the leaves. Toast pine nuts in dry skillet over medium heat approx 5 min or until golden. Shake pan often to keep from burning. Transfer nuts to plate and set aside. Place garlic and oil in large skillet and sauté 1 min or until garlic fragrant. Add the damp collards and stir, cover the pan and let cook 2 min linger. Add the raisins and pine nuts and stir. Cover and cook 2 min longer. Stir in balsamic and cover for a final 1-2 min of cooking.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not About Cupcakes

If this is your first time reading my blog, I owe you an apology. I was to write about The Kind Diet today, I actually have the book right next to me and a fair amount to say but I'm not feeling snarky or especially sharp. I spent a few hours at my son's school and took some nutritional notes: liked that the germy kids were given antibacterial stuff for their hands before lunch, noticed that the only people to really eat from the well-stocked salad bar were teachers and parents and found it especially interesting that not one adult turned down the quarter-sized cupcakes we brought in. But my mind is really not on nutrition today (for once). So please check back if you want my take on veganism or for other dietary discussions. Today I want to write about the days' events and not about cupcakes. Instead a letter to Weston...

Happy Birthday Weston. I just got back from your birthday celebration at school. We were the family of the week, had lunch with your K-C class and enjoyed tie dye and red velvet mini cupcakes. I left school and was struck by the day outside. It’s a perfect spring day. It’s sunny as can be yet there’s still a little bit of winter lingering in the air. You and Myles were each born on days like this. I remember taking you for walks, as infants, in this kind of weather. Today I was reminded of those walks, of those days.

I am a little sad. I know that’s so silly to say given that it’s such a special day but I’m feeling a little guilty that I haven’t sat down in these 6 years to capture some of your special days on paper. I think about you constantly and marvel at your questions and cuteness but unlike our numerous photos, I haven’t written about it and I hope we don’t forget anything. I have this sense you’re growing before my eyes and I want to take it all in.

You are quite a little person already Wes. You play piano and hockey, you ski and play soccer, you love math and workbooks and you do all of this so well. I found out I was pregnant with you after having foot surgery (and pain medication) and was so nervous that something would be wrong with you but not you! You’re a fighter Wes. You like to do things for yourself; you keep up with your older brother and are best buddies largely because of this. You get dressed, often before breakfast, yourself and like trying to tie your shoes.

And yet you’re little. You ride the chairlift with your teacher Janice every time, you don’t like holding your poles yourself, it’s a little scary. When you misbehave and I yell (see I’m being honest here, saying it like it is) there’s waterworks, tears flow from your eyes instantly. It breaks my heart every time but I sort of love how much you want to do what’s right.

While I love you being little Wes, love your baby teeth and your stuffed animals, I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’m so lucky to be your mom my sweet six year old.
Now, can you tell me why you didn't go to the salad bar?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pick Up Lines

I met my husband in a bar. I am now able to admit that thanks to a piece on my friend’s blog where she eloquently confessed to the same thing. Though this was a whopping 16 years ago, I remember it clearly. My friend Asha had suggested that we meet a friend of mine who was with his hockey team at an UWS bar after a game. I obliged, not one to disappoint a “hungry” pal. Once inside, I was introducing Asha to my friend and his crew when Marc (one of friend's teammates and now husband of 12 years) said “who are you?” with a sweet smirk on his face. As a woman in a bar, I had my guard up but as far as pick up lines go this didn’t seem sneaky or threatening. I talked to Marc a bit more that night before Asha and I left.

Last week, the FDA issued warnings to certain food companies for label violations. Marion Nestle provides a complete account of the actions taken on  her Food Politics site. The violations focused on front-of-pack health claims. After reviewing the violations, it is clear where these companies erred. However, there are thousands of products, not mentioned, who are still shouting out for consumers to buy them. There are thousands of products with questionable pick up lines.

When women are in a bar, we have our radar up. There are certain red flags such as a man out with one woman but with a wandering eye, or the guy who has had more than a few too many. On the FDA’s list of violations are products including ice cream and custard pie. If food products are like men (and with these lines they sort of are), ice cream and pie are the philandering or drunken variety. If you choose these foods (or men) don’t you sort of know what you’re getting?

If consumers are confused by products’ claims or pick up lines, what are they to do? First, look at the foods’ peers. If a food is in the ice cream, candy or cookie section it is akin to the guy with loud and obnoxious friends…he is probably loud and obnoxious too. Second, attempt to see what’s really in the food; look at the Nutrition Facts panel. This is the dating equivalent of talking to a suitor for an hour or so. And the true test? Look at the ingredient list. This tells you what went into the food. This is best compared to “meeting the parents.”

Dr Nestle offered “cheers” to the FDA for taking this action and humor aside it is good that they are doing so. However, supermarkets, like bars, are still confusing places and our  “shopping” radar needs honing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quick Fix

March is an important month for me. Both of my boys have March birthdays (though one was due in April and the other February) and my dad’s birthday was the 19th. March 2003 was a year after I had Myles. In my head was always that when the baby turns 1, I would feel myself again. It was that year, at Myles’ check-up, that my excellent pediatrician said to me “please tell me you’re not going to have one of those huge 1 year old bday parties” and though we realized he was right with son #2, the first time the party was big. I had run the NYC marathon that November, spent my days at Foodtrainers dolling out sound, realistic nutrition advice and then, in March, something happened. Logic went out the window and I decided I wanted to up the ante with my food and exercise, feeling “myself” was not enough. For a couple of weeks, I pulled out all the stops, implemented my “tricks”. Now I’m a person whose weight is generally stable. The result  of all of this was probably a 3 to 4 pound loss some body fat, some water weight. I will not lie, at Myles' silly first birthday party I felt skinny; I felt good.

Myles will be turning 8 this month (gulp) and I can sense myself transitioning from February blah to my usual motivated-in-March self. We went to our school benefit last night and I’ll admit my eating was in a higher gear this week. I was drinking my trusted dandelion tea and making smoothies with hemp detox powder. Whether it was running, hot yoga or core fusion  I did something physical every day this week. I cut out the bit of dark chocolate or dried fruit I often have after dinner and kept my Foodtrainers’ journal.

I know there is a difference between how we eat (and how I advise others to eat) week in and week out and short-term eating before a wedding or party or beach vacation. I call it Event Eating. However, I can’t help thinking perhaps losing these few pounds that, let’s be honest, only I notice may be as silly as the big first birthday party... but I still want to do it.

Is it superficial to diet before an event? Should we just follow our routines, if they are healthy, and let that be good enough? Any tricks that you use pre-party?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good For You

There’s something that’s been on my mind lately. It’s not the usual concerns about the kids or my to-do list for work, no its sardines. In Food Rules, Michael Pollan encourages readers to “eat your little fishies.” Sardines have also been named one of the food trends for 2010, one ad agency referred to sardines as “the new tuna.” There’s a reason why sardines are in the spotlight. Sardines, like many other small fish, are low in mercury, they are also high in omega 3’s and plentiful/not overfished. Simply put, sardines are good for you. My only problem? I generally don’t eat them.

Last week, I put the pressure on. I wrote about foods I dislike and vowed to try sardines. I planned to sample sardines in Vermont this past weekend. I purchased 2 different varieties and then forgot (really I did) to pack them with the other groceries. Yesterday became my sardine day. In the morning I dropped my boys at school. Another mother pulled me aside and said “I liked your post on foods you dislike.” I told her I was going to bite the bullet and try sardines. She said “oh I love sardines but only the fresh ones not in the can.” I smiled but panicked. I had purchased 2 types of canned sardines. One of the commenters on the blog had also mentioned, as with most things, that fresh sardines were superior. It’s so sad to admit this but I was getting nervous to eat the sardines.

I did some work at home and actually put the sardines on the kitchen counter to ensure that I ate them. When I went to shower I told my babysitter Louise, who eats sardines all the time, “I am trying sardines today.” “You’ll like them Lauren, they’re pretty good” she assured me in her calm Jamaican accent. As lunchtime approached this was turning into something I hadn’t experienced before. I try new recipes, unusual fruits, condiments and all sorts of food both for business and pleasure. Never before had I been scared to try anything. I was anxious, not unlike the people on that show Fear Factor who eat maggots…but this was just a can of sardines.

I started my preparations. To calm my nerves I decided I would make a sardine salad. I would combine the sardines with more familiar tastes and ingredients just as I offer my children only one new food at a time. So I chopped some Tuscan kale, in my opinion the best kale to eat raw, sliced ½ avocado and a lemon (food stylist I am not) and then there was just one thing missing. I opened up the can of sardines in Piripiri sauce. Let’s be honest folks, they smell. I told myself tuna smells and I eat my beloved Zoe tuna often. I removed 3 of the 4 sardines in the can and placed them in their kale and avocado bed. I squeezed the lemon slices and added a little olive oil. Stalling, I took my Sur la Table salad choppers out and lightly chopped the ingredients rendering the sardines camouflaged.

I sat at the table, with Louise watching, and took a bite. It was ok, between the lemon and the piri piri and the avocado I wasn’t entirely sure I tasted sardine. I ate some more and it was fine. I did it, I faced my ridiculous fear and sampled sardines. Was it love? I can’t say it was. But it wasn’t terrible. And I would be open to trying fresh sardines and maybe even the sardines with turmeric I still have in the pantry. As I mentioned in the polite bite post, I would give sardines a second date.

I nudge clients to eat more fish or try leafy greens. Do you think, as adults, we should eat certain foods just because they’re good for us?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Motivation

As you know, yesterday was the first of March and Monday. It was also the start of National Nutrition Month (which doesn’t mean all that much to me truth be told). Three Fresh starts! I wasn’t so aware I needed a fresh start until I reviewed my resolutions. On the first of January I suggested that we all make a list of resolutions for the year and return to this list on the first of each month. Last month, on the 1st of February, I somewhat smugly posted that I had, that day, signed up for the Chicago Marathon. I also joined a book club and started yoga. It was a pretty good start to the year and I was thrilled to tell you about it.

This month was a little different. While I still plan to run Chicago, I envision starting to train once ski season ends. I have run a handful (well actually only 2) times in February. As for yoga, I have been doing yoga once a week. I found a hot yoga class I like but also inquired about ending my yoga membership as I am not convinced I love yoga enough to pay for a membership at a separate yoga studio. It turns out I may not be able to end my membership and so the yoga continues but not for the right reasons. And the produce offerings in February didn’t get me running to the farmers market. The strange thing about this rather pathetic report is that I didn’t realize I was stuck or stalled. It’s as if I wasn’t thinking about my goals at all. I’m sorry resolutions!

I could complain about skiing and weekly trips to Vermont taking up a lot of my time. Or perhaps it’s that I’m busy at work (a good problem but a time-suck nonetheless) or maybe it’s a February syndrome (read the most hilarious piece on February by Samantha Bee from the Daily Show). While these things could be classified as explanations or excuses I don’t really think it matters. What matters to me is finding a way to muster some March motivation. When clients are floundering, I suggested they pick 1 area of their routine to focus on. In preparation for April and marathon training I am going to make sure I run at least once a week. The hope is that ticking this off the list will lead to progress on other goals. Fingers Crossed.

How was February for you? Are you progressing on your resolutions? Any motivating words you want to share….puleez?