Sunday, September 29, 2013

It’s OK to talk to your daughter (and son) about weight

Over the summer a blog post “How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body” made its rounds on Facebook. Many friends posted it, others reposted or commented, “this is great” or  “loved this”. I understand it was a very sweet message encouraging parents to have their daughters climb mountains, embrace teamwork and cook with 6 sticks of butter. But the advice for talking to your daughter about her body came down to this “don’t talk to your daughter about her body except to teach her how it works.”

Hmn, this is actually good advice for very young girls. When I speak in preschools and Kindergartens children embrace how their bodies’ function- what helps to heal boo boos and what’s good for the sniffles. Sadly, children (girls and boys) leave the cocoon of boo boos and rainbows and receive messaging about their bodies. At a certain point, saying nothing or as the author advises telling your daughter she looks “healthy” or “strong” isn’t going to cut it. And there’s more, I often hear from mothers who say, “she gained some weight but I don’t want to say anything”.  And you know what? The adolescent or teen tells me “my mother thinks I’m fat.” So much for silence.

Talk less, listen more
It’s difficult to give blanket advice regarding children and weight. I recall a meeting at my older son’s school. It was the summer before many children went off to sleep away camp. I was advised to “have the sex talk with your son before he hears it from his peers”. I bought the suggested books, psyched myself up and started reading with him. Two pages in he said “mom, is it ok if I play basketball now?” He wasn’t ready. Trust your instincts. I find a great way to glean information is to ask, “what are your friends saying about” (fill in the blank). This is a way to take a pulse. “Are any of the girls talking about clothes?” “Do boys comment about who is good at sports.” “Do you agree?” You don’t have to say much.
Car rides a great place for these conversations. There are no distractions, it doesn’t feel forced like the dinner table (a terrible place for weight-talk) and if your children are young and in the backseat, they aren’t looking at you. “Do kids say anything about who’s taller or shorter or heavier or thinner?” “Do your friends focus on healthy eating”? Starting with easy to answer questions paves the way for more touchy subjects. Sometimes, you don’t even need to “go there” your children will if they want to talk about something.

Use the D word
I am a fan of realistic advice when it comes to both nutrition and parenting. I know there are parents who don’t curse in front of their children or don’t let them watch the news. Perhaps these same parents nodded along when they read the bloggers (credentials?) advice to avoid the “D” word (that would be diet) and to tell your children that their thick thighs are good for running marathons.
In my NYC office, parents are so scared about “creating eating disorders” that they fail to have important conversations. Tell your children what a diet is, whether it’s a “nut free” diet they may be familiar with from allergic friends or the silly diet someone on a tabloid may have been rumored to try. Show them images before and after airbrushing so they know that most of us, even models and celebrities, have parts that aren’t perfect. And if you’re concerned with eating disorders, shift your concern to connecting with your child. How are they doing socially, academically? In my younger son’s fourth grade class they interviewed each other “what are you scared of?” was one of the questions. Knowing the answer to this is way more valuable than any nutrition facts panel or calorie concerns.

Make Family Style Adjustments
In many families children lie on opposite ends of the weight spectrum. One mom told me she had a “bipolar pantry” with items for her super skinny son on one shelf and others for her newly pudgy pubescent daughter. While we shared a laugh and I understood the mom’s intentions, we need unified family rules. Less sugar, more greens, slower eating and better hydration, to name a few, should be goals for everyone.

None of this is easy. We can dumb it down all we want but kids are smart. They live in the same world we do. As parents or teachers or mentors, let’s guide them with honesty and information rather than glossing it all over.
Have you talked to your children about weight? How have you approached topics of body image, weight and the media? Do you think it's a taboo subject?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Top 10 Things We Learned in Sun Valley

This past weekend Carolyn and I took Foodtrainers on the road and headed to Sun Valley, Idaho for their Harvest Festival. It was a fantastic event in a beautiful location. Here are some of our favorite foods and facts from the weekend.

We learned from fellow food trend panelist and author of Cooking Up A Business (Rachel Hofstetter) that you need to hear about something from three different sources to consider it a food trend.

We learned that LA folks were right Intelligentsia coffee is pretty great
We adored Velocio coffee, coffee bar by day, wine bar by night), a cool concept. And dont even get us started on Noosa Aussie Yogurts.

We learned about the next great sushi roll: smoked trout and mustard at Ketchums 2nd Ave sushi. This may be the new Philly roll especially with Sun Valley mustard

We learned that we like molecular gastronomy done right  (definitely hadnt had it right before) and the magic of liquid nitrogen. We enjoyed Intermezzo of lemon basil sorbet, would’ve love more if hadnt been the palate cleanser after foie gras (not our thing...) For a taste of lemon-basilyness try this Giadaesque smoothie 

We learned that if something doesnt exist on the market, you can produce it yourself. Allison Evanow saw a need for organic spirits and started Square 1 organic vodka
Her cucumber, basil and botanical flavors tasted pretty good at the Martini and caviar party at 8000 feet in the fabulous Roadhouse restaurant. We loved the pour your own shot bar, no mixers required.

Butternut Squash and caviar mini tacos
We heard from an adorable woman who was saddened she didn't bring her Vitamix with the recent SV fires. The Vitamixers mom is 97 and healthy as ever, juicing and smoothing her whole life way before the trend

That hemp can be used to make hollandaise sauce, thank you Glo café
And that fab couple Mike and Autumn from Manitoba Harvest? Love them.

We learned it's best not to wing it mapless when you start a hike
But if you do, wear your Fitbit (20,000 steps = x miles?) and bring a camelback

We learned an arnica massage and a Bowl of Soul (coffee, spice and chocolate) no whip from Java coffee hits the spot after.

We learned of the Restaurant Walk concept as the new pub-crawl. We hit 18 restaurants for their offering of the day: goat cheese and watermelon skewers and organic grilled quail (in photo Carolyn is showing her quail fear) were highlights. Two other facts: you should always seize the opportunity to sit in back of a flatbed and its ok to be pill poppers: Digestive Enzymes and Zyflamend when needed.
So we learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves but would love to hear from you
What do you see as the next food trends? What are you hearing about? 
The winners from last week's giveaways are:
Ginny Bakes Cookies- Nina
Heath Warrior Chia Bars- Amber
Veggie Gos-Emaliah
Thank you for entering everyone.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Are you like RFK?

So tempted to put a subtitle but you have an idea what I'd say

As much as I love new foods and nutrition information, we can’t lose sight of the basics. I am always going to be a fan of proper hydration, vegetables and food journaling. My clients who keep their food journals (aka as food diaries or food bibles) get better results. In an effort to emphasize the positive side of losing weight or changing behaviors, I have some clients keep a “Victory List”.  This list enumerates successful choices in the course of a day “resisted the cookie plate” or “packed lunch for the office”. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the highbrow NY Post. The headline spoke of a sex diary RFK kept. RFK was a serial adulterer and though exact reasons aren’t known his wife took her life last year. At first, I was sickened to read of his conquests with 37 women interspersed with details about his wife and 4 children. Then I noticed a few things. RFK used the word “victory” on the days he resisted the urge to philander. He describes his exploits as his “biggest defect” and was actually content when he is imprisoned (for protesting) because there were no women around him. All of a sudden I was sympathetic. I relate to this; in some ways this is oddly similar to what I hear day in and day out in my office.

Sure, eating a cronut is different from eating…moving on. In most cases, emotional eating, binge eating or simply overeating does not devastate those closest to us. And yet food- resisting food and managing food is an overwhelming struggle for many people. RFK accounted for his affairs with a 1-10 scale. So 10 indicated having sex, I have no idea what that makes a 3. This has a striking resemblance to the minutes of cardio or “b” for binge my clients use.  If you think about it, we also describe “cheating” on our diets (though I don’t love that term when it comes to food).

We each have our defects. While I judged away reading about RFK’s, I never judge my clients. When they stray, I try to redirect them. I would do the same for a friend or family member who struggled with drinking (as Mary Kennedy did), drugs, gambling or any other dependency. Then why, if I envision finding a racy journal like this from Marc do I know I’d go apeshit (going apeshit may be my biggest flaw)?
Do you think sex and food are similar “defects”?  If not, why do we view them differently? Do you keep a journal or food journal? And what is your biggest defect?
Update: the winner of the Quinn popcorn giveaway is Elyse and the winner of the Manitoba hemp giveaway is Jordan, congratulations.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Turns out, the best things in life are free (today anyway)

On Monday we sent out our September “Foodtrainers Fall Finds” newsletter. We only send one update a month and so it is always chock full of information. That’s the good news; the bad news is that while some readers order goodies from us or head to the market, others get angry. We start to field questions “where do I find this product in Plano?” Or the truly testy “you mention these great things and then I cannot find them.” Well that’s not my intention. I don’t like to be the mean girl showing off my super duper gluten free cookies when you can’t have them. I don’t. I want you to have the goodies too. And guess what? It’s giveaway day (actually giveaway week Monday we had hemp goodies and Quinn Popcorn). These great companies wanted to share their healthy goodness.

Ginny Bakes
Once upon a time I was a Samoa girl. While I no longer eat Girl Scout Cookies because they’re full of gluten (among other things), I loved the coconuty taste and texture.  I had sort of forgotten about my Samoa soft spot until I sampled Ginnys. Coconut Oatmeal Bliss. Fortunately, unlike Girl Scout cookies, Ginny makes single serving packs. Ginny, the mother of 4 boys, has a whole amazing line of organic, gluten free goodness. And they’re giving a lucky reader a Ginny Bakes basket.

Health Warrior
Perhaps you’ve been around the health block and think, “I already know about Health Warrior bars.” Well, do you know about their new flavors coffee, banana nut and apple cinnamon? If you’re saying, “actually I do” then you don’t need the 2 boxes they are giving away. If you’re open minded and nice (can you believe I can fight with an imaginary know-it-all reader) I’ll let you know the bars are widely available for sale throughout NYC, including at Foodtrainers, Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market, Juice Generation, Just Salad, and many other independent retailers such as Foodtrainers. They are only 100 calories but chia is a natural appetite suppressant (swells as it digests) so it's a powerful 100 calories.

Naked Edge
While I love, a la Ginny, when someone takes a typical treat foot and makes it healthy using quality ingredients, I also love when a childhood favorite is made over in a grown up version.  Enter Naked Edge’s Veggie Gos. Surely you remember fruit leathers well these are veggie leathers. My boys like Mountain Berry Spinach; I’m partial to Carrot Ginger. Did I mention that they’re less than 20 calories? Or, that the Naked people are giving away a mixed case?

Sure each of these products these are great for kids and  “back to school” but they’re even better for post summer “back to reality” for us adults. Don’t we deserve fun foods too? Yes, so here’s how to get them.

To enter
  1. Comment below, tell us which of these you’ve seen or tried and which you’re most curious about.
  2. Tweet “The best snacks in life are free @Foodtrainers @ginnybakes @thenakededge @health_warrior #giveaway”
  3. And like these 3 great companies Ginny’s, The Naked Edge and Health Warrior on Facebook.
You have until Tuesday 9/24 to enter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Two of our Family Favorites and Giveaways

 I relax some of my food standards when we’re away from home. Despite my best efforts,  you cannot always control everything. Vegetables aren’t always organic, most restaurants don’t cook with coconut oil etc. Additionally, contrary to what my offspring think, my mission in life isn’t to embarrass them in any way possible. Even with the upcoming book, at one of our early meetings when we conceptualized it, my agent looked at me and said “the advice for each scenario cannot be to bring your own.” I agreed. But there are places when you should bring your own and one of those places is the movies.

My children eat candy and have treats but they don’t need sour patch kids the size of a clutch purse or popcorn popped in garbage. They used to give me a hard time over my need to smuggle in my own cinema offerings until I found a solution they adored. The solution’s name is Quinn and this popcorn is insanely good. Aside from the movies it’s now our football snack, road trip snack- we’re pretty into it.

As Quinn says it’s “microwave popcorn reinvented”.  I have many issues and phobias but the microwave isn’t one of them. If you don’t microwave, there are stovetop directions.  The bag is free of chemical coatings and such found in typical micro pop (and also compostable). All ingredients are non-GMO, popcorn is organic. You pop the popcorn, add oil and shake, add the flavor packet and shake again. Our only issue is that we live in a house divided. Two favor Vermont Maple and Sea Salt and two can’t think beyond Hickory Smoked Cheddar.

So there are times when I try to find a family friendly replacement for unhealthy options. Other times, I’m trying to pack the maximum amount of nutrition into our family meals.  One of my favorite ways to do this is with hemp (seeds, oil, powder). Hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds) have a mild flavor and contain a variety of fats making them great for skin, cognition and mood.  They’re also a good source of protein. These go in our school day smoothies and get sprinkled over salads and in yogurt.

From our family (and the Quinn and Manitoba Harvest family) to yours.
Quinn is giving away a 6-pack of all flavors of their popcorn.
Manitoba harvest is generously supplying a lucky reader a hemp starter pack (with hemp oil, hemp hearts and hemp protein).

To be eligible
  1. Comment below (with an email address so we can reach you)
  2. Tweet “@foodtrainers family favorites @quinnpocorn and @manitobaharvest #giveaway"
  3. And like Manitoba Harvest and Quinn Popcorn on Facebook

You have until Thursday September 19th to enter 
How do you maximize nutrition in your meals? Have you tried either of these foods? And where do you try to smuggle food?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Don't Listen to the New York Times

If you’ve been here before, you know I love to myth bust. If you bring up “calories in versus calories out” or sound giddy about a “fat free” product, we’re going to have a chat. However, what drives me  (and weight conscious people everywhere) crazy is when one expert or study comes out saying “sugar is good” or “exercise is useless” or some other sweeping conclusion that puts common sense health information on its head.  While I read through many nutrition research studies each day, I know the  difference between research and reality.

This point hit home a while back when I did a GMA segment in which a few experts were asked for comments. The topic was a popular fad diet and I went straight to the research and blasted it. Dr Oz was asked his opinion and said something to the effect of- if something is working for a large number of people we have to pay attention to that (even if we don’t know why). This stuck with me and when I read the lastest study, I also hold them up and compare to what I have learned from my clients.

This week, the New York Times printed a story questioning whether breakfast eating is beneficial for weight loss. Dr Allison, a researcher out of Birmingham, found fault with the studies used to make this claim.  He then dismisses The National Weight Control Registry which is widely respected and cited because over 10,000 participants have not just lost over 30 pounds each but kept it off. His feeling was that conclusions from this group aren't causal or based on studies. First, I'll point out that 80 percent of National Weight Control registry members eat breakfast. Second, having been in obesity research, I will add that being a "study participant" isn't without its glitches in terms of accuracy.

I’ve been counseling for 15 years and seen thousands of clients, here are some breakfast tips the article excluded:
  • It depends what we eat for breakfast. As I mentioned Monday (in the interview with Food Matters) if it’s a sugar or grain fest it may not be beneficial for your weight or your health. Higher protein breakfasts decrease ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) while high carb breakfasts can do the opposite.
  • The article didn’t address the “when” question. You don’t have to eat breakfast the second you wake up at 5, 6 or 7am. However, your blood sugar is lower after a night of sleep and it will continue to drop. Have something within a couple of hours. I’ve also written about a period of fasting overnight, aim for 12 hours food free between your last bite at night and breakfast.
  • The piece also ignored the behavioral side of meal selections. Skipping breakfast feeds in to the “saving up” syndrome; I promise what is consumed mid afternoon or after dinner carries more risk than that smoothie ever will.
  • With regard to eating and exercise, you don’t have to eat pre working out and if it doesn’t leave you feeling poorly exercising on empty may be beneficial for your weight. Just be sure you eat ASAP after your workout.
Tricia provided great breakfast options in Monday’s post. I’ve written about smoothies, chia pudding and yogurt which all make appropriate breakfast choices. Breakfast, to me, is not the most important meal of the day. It doesn’t have to be large and shouldn’t be overly grainy but if you eat breakfast the right way weight loss will come your way.
Do you skip breakfast? How would you say you feel on days you have versus skip that first meal? Do you change your eating based on a research study? 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Food Matters Breakfast Inspiration and Healthy Donuts

This summer I met with Tricia Williams the founder of Food Matters. We share a handful of clients and a similar sensibility when it comes to nutrition. Tricia came to the Foodtrainers’ office and covered my desk with the most amazing array of dishes for us to sample (my job is rough sometimes). She had already thought of each question I lobbed her way. More importantly, with Tricia’s cooking background she has incredibly creative ways of preparing food that’s so far from “diet food” she could convert anyone, yes anyone.

First, can you tell readers a little bit about Food Matters? Who seeks out your services? Is it on ongoing basis or pre or post events? Food Matters is a highly customized meal delivery service. First, I take a look at clients’ health history and health goals along with their food preferences and then design a menu specifically for them. We deliver to a lot of celebrities when they are getting ready for roles but also cater to individuals with very specific health conditions. We see clients with cancer, thyroid concerns, fertility issues, sleep problems etc. In this case we use the kitchen as pharmacy.

We have investigated many meal services but you seem to have dotted all your healthy i’s. I love that everything is gluten free but it’s also well sourced, can you elaborate? Everything we use is organic and local as much as possible. We don't use gluten, dairy, refined sugar or grain of any kind. All the seafood we use is wild and the animal proteins are pasture raised. All the food comes package in tiffins and pyrex so there is no heavy metal or plastic contamination of the food, and no garbage!We cook in alkaline water and even bottle it for clients.  We also focus on the glycemic index of all our meals and snacks. We try to keep our clients blood sugar balanced all day.

Wow that's impressive and something I aspire to with my own cooking (although I'm not there yet with alkaline water). I loved everything I've tasted from FM but was blown away by your take on breakfast. It tends to be a grain fest for many people, what are some of your ideas for mixing it up?
Ditch the grain flours. Explore some paleo based breakfast recipes. I love almond flour and chia seeds. They make great pancake ingredients. As far as gadgets. I love my vitablender and also my donut maker from Target.

Your food is so beautifully presented, even berries in the little bento box look so appealing. I think we blow off presentation when it’s for ourselves- what should we think about? People eat with their eyes first.  At FM we want people to fall in love with healthy eating . Try to use as much color as possible, this will encourage a variety of veggies on your plate.
Any breakfast foods you feel everyone should swear off?
Processed packaged cereals,  I love telling kids that there’s no fruit in Froot Loops!
I'm with you on cold cereal, they are a "break up food" in my book (LBT). What do you have for breakfast? During the week I’ll make a smoothies with seasonal fruit, almond milk, chia and brown rice protein.  On the weekends I cook a lot with my family. This weekend we made peach and almond meal pancakes with blueberries. Sometimes I prefer savory porridges like oatmeal with spinach, onion and shiitakes!
Savory oatmeal, love it. And finally, I’ve been dreaming of serving your donuts to ski guests in Vermont (and pretty much everyone I know), can you spill the breakfast beans?
Combine all ingredients (specific recipe coming later today) in donut maker.
How can our readers reach you?
Via email, the website or twitter
Readers, what do you have for breakfast? Have you experimented with almond or quinoa flour? Do you like the idea of a healthy donut? Have you ever done a meal delivery service?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Maybe, it's what's on the outside that counts

Tuesday, I noted all of the things we can say “hello” to this fall. Sadly, there’s also a fall goodbye. It turns out “What Not to Wear” is ending its run. If I’m being honest I didn’t even know the show was still taping new shows. And yet somehow when I heard (via The Post) that it was going to be over I was a little sentimental…funny how that works.

If you’re not familiar with WNTW, it was sort of the first of the reality makeover shows. The focus is on clothing and guests who are the ultimate fashion don’ts come to NYC wearing their mom jeans, shoulder padded suits or rainbow awesomeness (above). Hosts Clinton Kelly (perhaps you know him from The Chew) and Stacy London then act as clothing tutors. There's a whole new wardrobe, hair and makeup and the teary reveal. But I’ve always felt it was about more than outfits.

The article I read described the final episode where guests would come back and discuss their lives since they left the show.  They’ve gotten the confidence to leave toxic relationships. They’ve lost a significant amount of weight. They’ve gotten jobs they never thought possible.”

I see this pattern everyday. Weight loss can sound like a fluffy topic. I don’t think I could get up everyday if my biggest accomplishment was helping someone lose a few pounds but there’s more to it. Making a change to our clothing or our weight seems superficial but is indicative of something more. When you decide to change habits or invest time and energy on yourself it’s not about aesthetics alone. Sometimes even when nutrition visits are vanity driven clients will start to derive pleasure from cooking or feel calmer and then parent differently. And yes, changes to your eating can lead to changes with work or relationships as mentioned above. So if it’s less daunting to address what you wear or what you weigh, start there…maybe your ‘insides” will follow.
Do you feel superficial changes can lead to deeper ones? Do you like “What Not to Wear”? Do you ever like the before or "don't" photos? I like rainbow lady, makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I say Hello

Image via Verrle Duoh

I suffer from a constant state of “what’s next?”  This even extends to the seasons. I love leaving the office while it’s still light, a good margarita and travel (Croatia-wow); however, you will not find me uttering “last beach day of the season”. Nope, I’m craving a cup of tea, football and cozy sweaters.  I understand you may be sad to see summer go but I’m ok with it. As the Beatles said “You say goodbye and I say hello”.

Maybe I can get you excited for all that fall offers.

Goodbye to weekends away, houseguests and loosey goosey
Hello (Virgo, hand raised) to routine, schedules and some structure which isn’t a bad thing.

Goodbye to watermelon and peaches (not that we can't get anything, any season but enough already)
Hello to apples, so satisfying and versatile. Ever try to nut butter a peach?

Goodbye "its too hot out" and other excuses
Hello to  crisp morning runs, maybe training for a race

Goodbye to gazpachos and trendy chilled soups.
Hello to chili, lentil soup and other “soups that eat like a meal”

Goodbye to summer squash
Hello winter squash and pumpkin (this one is no contest)

Goodbye to adulterated seafood- lobster rolls and fried clams and other foods that prove summer isn’t really all that healthy
Hello to whole foods: salmon and Brussels sprouts and Whole Foods too if you’ve been out of town.

In our family, goodbye to the dart frog Pirate but
Hello to a puppy hmn…

Goodbye to summer reading (I loved The Interestings, didn't love Middlesteins) hello to cookbook reading (Wellfed, 50 Shades of Kale others)

Goodbye to the BBQ (those grill marks are carcinogenic, can I sat that now that it's Sept?) and please let’s say goodbye to the hot dog for a while
Hello to the slow cooker and roasting.

Goodbye to packing your bags
Hello to unpacking the pounds 

Goodbye to skin cancer (I’m knocking wood)
Hello to the Little Book of Thin  now available in preorder, you can say "hello" to this more than once.

Goodbye to "I'll do it after Labor Day,"
Hello to starting now

And hello to all of you, it's been a nice blogging break but looking forward to writing, connecting and hearing about your fall plans.
Which “fall” items above are you most excited about? Do you prefer summer or fall? Do you think focusing on “what’s next” is a good thing or a bad thing? Have you ordered your copy of LBT?