On MindBodyGreen: Nutrition Lessons from Italians

MindBodyGreen Nutrition Lessons from Italians When I was 22 I bought a one-way ticket to Italy. For one year, I worked in Florence as an assistant to the amazing Judy Witts at Divina Cucina. Not only was it the beginning of a long, deep, rich love affair with Italian ingredients and techniques in the kitchen, but it formed my touchstone for how I believe one should value food - in life and in the world. In the New Year, the new currency of food is about Values. Both consumers and some visionary companies are rewriting the values formula of our food system. The Italians, of course, have long held their food unapologetically to a higher standard than we have. There's no elitism or snobbery around it, rather a different vision - shared by seemingly everyone in that boot shaped paradise - all around what matters most. I distilled what I believe are the top four nutrition lessons from Italians - those that still drive my thinking and my messages today with MindBodyGreen.

And, I fished this photo out of a photo box (remember those?) from the very first day I spent in Florence over 20 years ago.

Read the full blog on MindBodyGreen, Nutrition Lessons We Can All Learn From The Italians!

 

 

5 Must Have Items For A Sustainable Menu: The New Menus of Change 2014 Report from the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard

Menus of Change 2014 What is the future of food in 3-5 years?

In 10-20 years?That’s the question I spent the last 3 days grappling with at the 2014 Menus of Change Summit, a ground-breaking conference that sought to tackle the most critical issues sitting at the intersection of human health and environmental sustainability (disclosure: I was given a free Media pass to attend).

A joint venture between the Harvard School of Public Health  and the Culinary Institute of America, Menus of Change is trying to lay out a new vision for what two-time James Beard Foundation award winning chef Michel Nischan called “our brittle food system”. Seeking to de-silo the worlds nutrition, foodservice, culinary and tech, the ultimate goal is threefold:   to forge a new dynamic, viable roadmap for serving food that’s utterly craveable and compelling to customers, in a way that is attractive to investors and business, but that’s  also sustainable and driven by health and nutrition. In other words, to really plumb the often preached...but less often practiced triple bottom line of “People, Planet, Profits.” And to attach hard, measurable metrics rather than soft, feel good language.

It’s a tall order, to be sure. And it was apparent that some of the companies present were more tied to the teat of the current status quo than others (for example externalizing costs associated with cheap livestock production that enables a $1 burger or soda). But to have the honest conversations, even if tense at times, was refreshing.

5 Must Have Items On A Sustainable Menu

To usher in the New Face of Food, to truly drive meaningful change and not just tinker at the margins, the group sought to identify targets that are  focused, clearly defined and transparent. In the ultra distill version, conference organizers challenged the audience to adopt the following 5 specific metrics in their Report:

  • Add 10% more produce every year (year over year) for the next 5 years. This will not only increase customers’ access to vegetables and fruits, it will likely reduce sodium levels.
  • Reduce meat portions in half of your menu items. Introduce recipes and concepts where meat plays a supporting role-leverage strategies from seasonal/local flavors to regional cuisines.
  • Always offer a 50 to 100% whole grain option with rice, pasta, potato, side dish and bread choices.
  • Tell your beverage suppliers that you want more innovative, natural, and less sweet beverage options-or better yet, craft them yourself.
  • Raise your standards for protein sourcing, including supporting producers who don’t administer antibiotics to healthy animals and doubling the different kinds of fish and seafood you offer, sourced from sustainably managed fisheries.

Rodale Organic Farm and Institute

A Taste of What’s to Come: Higher Quality Protein. More Produce + Whole Grains. Less Sugar.

You can read the CIA-Harvard 2014 Menus Of Change Report here . A blend of East Coast effeteness and West Coast innovation, it highlights the hot button issues at the crossroads of health, sustainability, and the business of food-including top nutrition concerns including sugars, whole grains, and the protein problem, which I've blogged about here. For a quick snapshot, check out the Principles Infographic here.

Memo from Millenials: “Share Not Just My Palate, But My Values” Millenial preferences are disrupting the landscape of corporate concepts and legacy brand. The quest for shared values is one of the top drivers of the mighty Millenials purchasing decisions (they will soon overtake Boomers in their buying power). And millenials have moved the consumer from being reactive to proactive: with today’s instantaneous access to information and social connection, brands need to be especially cautious-these values can’t be green washed and simply slapped on a label, they must be authentic, verifiable, and true to the brand’s core. Or Millenials will sniff them out, and fast.

To meet growing consumer expectations on cleaner, greener, leaner food-check out this a specific list of step by step principles developed by Menus of Change.

At the closing comments, Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes said simply: "Unlike many industries facing today's new world of resource constraints, climate uncertainty and economic risks, our solutions don't require massive investments in new capital or political legislation. We have only to change our menu."

You can check out all the conference discussion on Twitter at #CIAMOC.

Winter Barley Risotto with Carmelized Onions and Roasted Mushrooms

Winter Barley RisottoI am always in search of a hearty, filling, warming meal in winter that isn’t chock full of over-the-top rich ingredients that leave me wanting to take a nap. And this Winter Barley Risotto fits the bill beautifully.
Packed with chewy, nutty barley instead of white rice or pasta, this high fiber, low glycemic load supergrain helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. And if you haven’t yet been seduced by mushrooms-their rich, meaty flavor, their stellar nutrition credentials, or their supreme versatility in the kitchen-that’s about to change.

 

Winter Barley Risotto

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2 in dice
1/2 cup (about 1/2 oz) dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp freshly chopped sage (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup diced celery
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 pound sliced white mushrooms
3 tbsp best quality butter
.

 Directions:

  1. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add onions, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, raise the heat slightly, and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring, until onions are nicely browned.
  2. Meanwhile, place dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Bring 1 cup of water to boil. and pour over mushrooms. Set aside.
  3. When onions are browned, add tomato paste, rosemary, sage, and stir into onions for 1 minute. Add wine and cook another minute, scraping up any yummy browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add celery, carrots, barley, the broth, and the reserved soaking mushrooms and all the liquid.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, covered, until barley and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. (Note: You can stop here and chill until ready to use).
  5. To serve: melt butter in large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Place mushrooms in a single layer over pan and don’t stir! Let them brown nicely that way (shaking pan every so often) for 2-3 minutes. Flip, and cook another 2 minutes.
  6. Ladle about 1.5 cups barley risotto into serving bowl and top with a handful of roasted mushrooms.

 

Serves: about 6

On the Dr. Oz Blog: 2014 Nutrition Trends

herbal-tea-638x425.jpg

What's Next in Nutrition for 2014? 

2014 Nutrition Trends on the Dr. Oz Blog
In addition to the ongoing clamor to establish a definition for "natural" (which the FDA has declined to do), and GMOs generating intense debates (the latest one being Cheerio's decision to move to non-GMO... sort of) , look for these other 4 top nutrition trends to play out in the year ahead.
.

Check out my top 2014 nutrition trends on the Dr. Oz Blog here!

What’s next up in 2014 for food? Here were four of the big trends that seemed to be everywhere at the most recent annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that are poised to play out in the year ahead... Read More...

 

On the Dr. Oz Blog: 7 Delicious Ways to Switch Up Your Cooking Oils

AP_12_06_2012_30740466_L-248x334.jpg

7 Oils to Try Now As we head indoors with the cooler fall weather, many of us begin to fire up the stove again after a blissful summer at the barbeque.

While you're making this shift, let me ask you a question: when was the last time you shook up the kinds of cooking oils on your shopping list? To roast, saute, stir fry or add flavor or swirl a tasty few drops of at the end of a dish? Most of us succumb to being on autopilot, sticking to the same oils month after month, year after year, and (if we’re really being honest) decade after decade.

While you may have some fabulously healthy staples in your pantry (i.e. extra virgin olive oil, which a landmark study earlier this year found slashed the risk of heart disease risk by a whopping 30%), check out my recent Dr. Oz blog to discover a few deliciously healthy oils you can add to your shopping list to boost flavor and nutrition- I promise they will perk up your pantry and your taste buds.

If you're really adventurous, check out these uber new fun oils to try (including avocado, hemp, red palm and hazelnut oil) by my colleague Matt Kadey at Shape.

Have other oils you want to share with me? Like you, I'm working on settling into a healthy, fresh, yet sane back to school fall routine-and I've love to hear and tips you'd like to share.

 

Eat Like a Roman: The Mediterranean Diet

roasted-calliflower.jpg

While your friends may be pushing Paleo, there’s another “ancient diet” that has been basking in a renaissance of its own, and with good reason. Called the “Gold Standard” of healthy eating, the Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that has been practiced since the dawn of the Roman empire. . A recent flurry of research has brought this style of eating back to the headlines. Earlier this year a groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine  made the Mediterranean Diet new around the world when it found that subjects following a Mediterranean diet (specifically looking at nuts and olive oil) reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  

Score one more for the Mediterranean Diet when a study published in Neurology in April concluded that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil, fish and chicken (as opposed to fatty meats and dairy products typical in the American diet) resulted in a clearer mind – specifically a 19 percent drop in risk for thinking and memory problems. As there aren’t currently well established strategies to successfully treat dementia, delaying it’s onset is key. In this sense, the Mediterranean diet may be a useful tool for aging boomers – “food as medicine” in the truest sense of the word.

Need more good news? It turns out that the “Gold Standard” of eating is also deeply green. Just this month, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition launched their Double Pyramid tool in the U.S. to show consumers how this age old dietary pattern is not just good for you, but good for the planet (see image above). This infographic (developed using life cycle analysis), shows how key foods of the Mediterranean diet – such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil and pasta – are also some of the most eco-friendly foods to produce due to smaller carbon, water, and land footprints. (Full disclosure, I have a relationship with Barilla).

Frankly, as an Italophile and a green eating advocate, I couldn’t be happier with all of this much ado about something.

It’s worth noting that these are large, rigorous studies conducted over longer periods of time and published in peer reviewed journals. They reinforce and fine tune what a growing body of evidence suggests is one of the planet’s most delicious paths to a vibrant, long life. While it may not feel “new” enough to some as to merit a second look, in America’s current chaotic eating landscape, to me it feels like a merging of science and sense. Oh, and taste, too.

This is a bright spot in the sea of constant fad diets (the current crop including Paleo and intermittent fasting).  It reminds us that rather than obsessing over a handful of superfoods, there’s immense, synergistic power in an overall healthy eating pattern, day after day. And I love its key components – from fish, olive oil, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, legumes, and yes, even pasta.

So use the end of May (which happens to be Mediterranean Diet Month) and beyond to freshen up your food routine as seasonal produce begins to hit its glorious stride. Yes, you can slim down, while greening up your diet and bringing your family back to the table. If you’re swayed by the lure of ancient diets, remind yourself that this is the stuff that fueled Roman legions. The best part? Wine, in moderation, is included.

Here are my other two fantastic recipes to get you on a path to vibrant eating!

 

Elbows with Roasted Cauliflower - Kate Geagan and BarillaElbows with Roasted Cauliflower, Lentils and Herbs

A protein-packed dish with elbows pasta and lentils!  This is easy to prepare if you have extra cooked lentils on hand. The leftovers make an absolutely delicious and nourishing lunch!

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 40 min, Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Elbows 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small approximately 1 inch florets 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 Tsp salt freshly cracked pepper to taste 1.5 cups dried French green lentils

Sauce 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed 2 Tbsp chopped red onion 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 1/4 Tsp salt fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preparation:

PREHEAT oven to 450ºF.  SPREAD cauliflower on a roasting pan DRIZZLE olive oil on top and SEASON with salt and freshly cracked pepper. ROAST in oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is cooked through and has a nice brown roasted color. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of cold water and lentils. BRING to a boil, REDUCE heat, and SIMMER for 25 minutes until lentils are tender. DRAIN and set aside. PREPARE elbow pasta according to package directions. DRAIN reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor COMBINE parsley, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and PULSE until it becomes a smooth green sauce. In a large mixing bowl combine cauliflower, cooked pasta, lentils and green sauce. ADD reserved cooking liquid and gently mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. SERVE warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 470 calories, 15 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 12 g fiber, 300 mg sodium

Slow Cooked Ratatouille - Kate Geagan and BarillaSlow Cooked Rotini Spring Ratatouille with Basil and Pine Nuts

This is surprisingly simple! Don’t be fooled by the long ingredient list. The magic of this delicious dish is your slow cooker does all the work! The anchovies are the secret to the rich bodied flavor and added health benefits of omega-3 fats, protein, and vitamin D from a sustainable seafood (you can omit them to make this vegetarian).

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 6 hours, Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Rotini 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut 1 inch dice 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 inch dice 1 large red pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 large yellow pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thin 1 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced thin 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 anchovies packed in oil, chopped 1 tsp Italian seasoning, spice mix 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes and juice 1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and rinsed 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted small bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces or julienned

Preparation:

GENTLY mix diced vegetables in slow cooker and COOK LOW for 6 hours overnight or while at work. TASTE and ADJUST seasoning to taste. PREPARE rotini according to package directions. SERVE by placing 2/3-1 cup rotini in a bowl ADD 1 cup ratatouille on top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 410 calories, 12 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 11 g fiber, 720 mg sodium

4 Slimming Pasta Recipes For Mediterranean Diet Month

pasta-recipes.jpg

Mediterranean Diet Month Pasta RecipesI love the push I’m seeing back to actual cooking as a cornerstone of vibrant health. Across the country, leading nutrition experts are staging “Eat Ins” (like Dr. Mark Hymen’s here)  to bring people back to the table (and the stove). And last month Mark Bittman dished with with Michael Pollan - the godfather of this food movement - about his latest book, Cooked, and updated what has become the rallying cry of food lovers and health enthusiasts alike:

“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. And cook them.” 
"And cook them." Three little words. But for many of us - aye, there’s the rub.
.
Are You Cooking?
Hectic lives filled with multiple responsibilities, family and work commitments, and limited budgets can make cooking feel like a drudgery rather than a pleasant daily habit. And let’s be frank, who isn’t strapped for time these days? But cooking is really the fourth pillar of a lean and green diet, right after a diet brimming with whole, minimally processed foods, that features at least 3/4 plants and 1/4 high quality animal products, and with the right portions to avoid both obesity and food waste.
.

To celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month, I’m bringing you 4 fresh seasonal pasta recipes that couldn't be easier, or more delicious and healing. I’m sharing 2 of them below, and 2 in my next blog. While one features all the best of spring farmer's markets, the other is an insanely good, omega-3 fatty acid-rich dish you can literally make from ingredients in your pantry. In full disclosure, I developed these pasta recipes for Barilla to help them celebrate their Double Pyramid coming to America to help consumers understand how the Mediterranean Diet is good for you and good for the planet.

Let me know what you think! These are teeming with delicious, good for you ingredients, many of which are just coming into season.

Gorgeously Green Penne Spring Pasta - Mediterranean Diet Month Pasta Recipes

Gorgeously Green Penne Spring Pasta

This is a spring fling with your farmers market! The bold, fresh flavors of spring vegetables are brought to life with lemon zest. The peas and walnuts pack added protein for staying power.

Cook Time: 20 min, Prep Time: 10 min Makes 7 Servings

Ingredients

1 box penne 3/4 cup walnuts 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (or panko) 2 lemons zest 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped Pinch of salt 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 medium leek, thinly sliced 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 1.5 cups) 2 cup fresh spring peas (or frozen) 1 large zucchini, julienned 1/2 Tsp salt 1/4 Tsp fresh cracked pepper 2 Tbsp fresh mint, julienned 2 Tbsp fresh basil, julienned

Preparation

PREHEAT oven to 400ºF. TOAST walnuts in oven for 5 - 8 minutes until the walnuts are lightly toasted.  In a food processor, PULSE together bread crumbs, walnuts and zest from 1 lemon. POUR into a medium dish and TOSS with parsley and a pinch of salt. SET aside.

PREPARE penne according to package directions. DRAIN reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While pasta is cooking, POUR olive oil into a large sauté pan. ADD the leeks and asparagus, and sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes until they start to soften. ADD the peas and the zucchini, salt and pepper, and SAUTE another 5 minutes until all of the vegetables are slightly softened.  ADD zest of SECOND lemon and reserved cooking liquid and STIR gently until combined.  DRAIN pasta when it’s al dente and return to cooking pot. ADD vegetables to pasta and TOSS to combine. GENTLY stir in mint and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  SERVE 1 cup pasta mixture into serving bowls.  Top with 2 tablespoons of the walnut mixture.

 Nutrition Information (per serving): 410 calories, 16g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 8g fiber, 220mg sodium

Zesty Tomato Spaghetti with Tuna and Black Olives

Zesty Tomato Spaghetti with Tuna and Black Olives

This is the ultimate quick cook meal! All of the ingredients are from the pantry, perfect to have as an on-hand/“standby” meal.  The tuna adds protein and is rich in heart healthy omega 3 fats.

Cook Time: 15 min, Prep Time: 10 min Makes 7 Servings

Ingredients

1 box spaghetti 1 jar marinara sauce 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into lengthwise slivers 1/8 Tsp red pepper flakes (more to taste if you like spice) 2 cloves garlic, sliced 2 Tsp capers, drained and rinsed 1 cup pitted black olives, sliced in half (about 2/3 of a 6 oz. can) 1 jar/can sustainable tuna * packed in olive oil, drained (use 2 jars if you want heartier tuna portions) Handful of arugula for garnish (optional)

*Sustainability in seafood depends on where you live: visit here to see which type of tuna is the best choice for you.

.

Preparation

BRING a large stockpot of water to a boil, and COOK spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, ADD olive oil, onions and red pepper flakes, sauté over medium heat until onions are softened, about 5-8 minutes. ADD garlic and sauté 1 minute more.  ADD a jar of marinara sauce, capers, olives and 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water and STIR to mix well. DRAIN the pasta, and ADD to saucepan with marinara sauce. Use tongs to gently toss together until combined.  SERVE by placing 1 cup of the pasta in a bowl. TOP with a couple pieces of tuna, and a handful of arugula.

 Nutrition Information (per serving): 400 calories, 14g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 7g fiber, 690mg sodium

 

Looking for more Mediterranean cuisine inspiration? Check out my post, Eat Like a Roman, for other recipes, including Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Lentils and Fresh Herbs, and more!

5 Health Secrets of Living at your Highest Energy and Fullest Engagement in 2011

Happy_New_Year_2011_.jpg

5 Health SecretsTrue confession: I love the idea of using the New Year as a starting point to clean out your diet, your body, and your attitude towards your own health. I love how it provides a specific emotional point that many of us crave to take on new challenges, not to mention perfect timing to refresh your body after all the food and drink fests that we cram into December. And this year, I’m taking on a big one: total HEALTH.  So here’s my definition of HEALTH for 2011: It’s broader, deeper, and richer than what most of us typically think of (seeing a specific number on a scale, meeting a certain metric in weekly gym visits, or ingesting a certain volume of vegetables a day). Actually, it’s Andrew Weil’s definition, but it’s one of the best I’ve seen:

“Health is more than just the absence of disease. Health is wholeness and balance, an inner resilience that allows you to meet the demands of living without being overwhelmed. If you have that kind of resilience, you can experience the inevitable interactions with germs and not get infections, you can be in contact with allergens and not suffer allergies, and you can sustain exposure to carcinogens and not get cancer.  Optimal health should also bring with it a sense of strength and joy, so that you experience it as more than just the absence of disease.” - Dr. Andrew Weil, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health.

Your health is a dynamic, flowing state-its abundance or its absence will have a profound ripple effect across your whole life - your level of performance, your level of engagement, and most of all, your sense of joy and purpose in the daily actions that make up your life. With that in mind, here are 5 Habits that I’ll be following this year as a blueprint to HEALTH.

5 Health Secrets for 2011

Secret #1: Eat Food. Mostly plants. Michael Pollan said this beautifully and perfectly in his wonderful tome In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Eat real food that’s minimally processed or refined. And following a plant based diet is not only greener, it’s a hallmark of one of the healthiest diets on earth.  Pack your plate with plant foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds) at every meal and snack to start creating your best health at the deepest levels.

Secret #2:  Every 3-4 hours. As they say, timing is everything. No matter how hectic or harried your life may be (my problem), or if you’re trying to skip a meal or snack in the name of “dieting”, eating regularly pays off in higher energy and better performance throughout the day. You should eat every 3-4 hours, 3 meals and 2 snacks. I promise, promise you-if you are currently a breakfast skipper, you’re paying for it somewhere later in the day by eating too much (and often being so hungry you’re eating the wrong types of food). Jumpstart your metabolism and your energy levels with a breakfast within 1 hour of waking-and pack high energy snacks  like fruit and nuts, Greek yogurt, or a mini whole wheat pita with turkey and chopped avocado. And just as with meals, when it comes to snacks, it’s real food-not junky snack food-that will most powerfully nourish you between meals.

Secret #3:  Eat until you feel satisfied, not stuffed. There’s a big difference between eating until you are full, versus eating until you are no longer hungry. Americans like full- but a better strategy for optimal energy is simply eating to feel satisfied.  The Japanese call it “Hara Hachi Bu” - eat until you are 8 parts full.  This does two things: first, it gives your brain time to catch up with your stomach. Second, it ensures you don’t overeat to the point where you feel sluggish and lose your energy while digesting that mega meal.  How do you do this? Stop multitasking and eat slowly so your body’s natural signals can kick in telling you to stop eating, enjoy meals on smaller plates, and order half portions at restaurants when possible. And most importantly, the signal "I'm finished, the meal is over" should come from YOU, internally, not external cues like the food finally being gone, or when your dinner mates clear their plates.

Secret #4: Sleep and Rest: Aim for 7-8 hours a night. Food is only part of the picture, of course. Rest is another cornerstone to thriving at your optimal HEALTH. And I’m talking about high quality rest-sleep-not zoning out in front of the TV or YouTube.  Sleep is also a key to staying slim.  It’s a critical time of rest, repair and renewal for your body-skimping on it is a surefire way to undermine your energy for the entire day. Lack of sleep has also been linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes.  And most importantly, I find that many people engage in late night couch eating- a double whammy for both energy levels and health. Set up a nighttime ritual that ensures you carve out space for rest-it will powerfully reward you with benefits ten times over, and is a cornerstone of health and healing.

Secret #5: Joy and Renewal. In what turned out to be the perfect year end gift to myself, I just finished a revolutionary book: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz of the Human Performance Institute. In it they share their powerful concept living a life of Full Engagement - which requires us take time to renew at regular intervals during each day and week. It’s a radical shift from the way most of us schedule in time for ourselves - in annual vacations, holiday weekends (which usually aren’t very restful), or a weekend trip to the gym. By fully engaging for periods of time, and then fully disengaging for even brief recovery periods during the day, (doing something that brings us joy, renewal or physical activity)  we tap into significantly greater quantity and quality of energy available to us - with a powerful ripple effect across all aspects of our lives. Indeed this practice of cultivating joy and renewal daily is one of the keys to finding that elusive “balance” many of us crave but feel absent in our overscheduled, overconnected lives, and a true sign of HEALTH at a deep level.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? I’d love to hear about them!

5 Things NOT to Serve for a Lean and Green Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.jpg

Green Thanksgiving Looking to make your Thanksgiving lean AND green this year? Check out my 5 things NOT to serve so you can have a lean and green Thanksgiving.

.

Instead of: That gooey cheese appetizer with crackers.

Smarter Swap: Endive boats. Endive is a great way to incorporate some in-season produce into your holiday meal, without sparing the calorie costs. Try mixing up some low-fat cream cheese, green onion, chopped red bell-pepper, chopped pimento-stuffed olives, Tabasco sauce, and topping off some Endive leaves with the mixture for a tasty pre-turkey snack that your guests are sure to enjoy.

Instead of: Whipped cream. Skip the cream to skim on calories and eco-impact.

Smarter Swap: Scattering of chopped nuts with savory/sweet contrasts all the craze, a smattering of toasted pistachios or walnuts is the way to go.

Instead of: Sausage stuffing.

Smarter Swap: Try mushroom or dried fruit stuffing in place of the traditional sausage stuffing to decrease your food "footprint." Since meat and dairy make up roughly 50% of a family's "foodprint," and typical sausage contains a whopping 37 grams of fat, switching to vegetarian stuffing is great option to lean AND green your Thanksgiving plate.

Instead of: A turkey from your local supermarket.

Smarter Swap: A meat-free Thanksgiving ultimately has the lowest environmental impact, but if turkey is the tradition, try swapping that bird that's travelled across the country for a locally bred turkey. Local farms raise small flocks of organic turkeys that are truly free-range. Check out the Local Harvest site to find local breeders in your area.

Instead of: Plastic silverware.

Smarter Swap: Every year, Americans throw out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Sacrifice ease of clean up for easy on the environment by using regular silverware, cups, and plates for mealtime. It's more eco-friendly, and it also turns an ordinary meal into a special occasion.

Got any other swap ideas to make your Thanksgiving more lean and green? I'd love to hear them!

4 Tricks to a Healthy Halloween (With a Bit of Green, Too)

Healthy-Halloween.jpeg

Healthy HalloweenSure, we know gobbling candy isn't really a healthy choice, but it can be hard to fight the tide of treats that starts rising in early October, and seems to slide well into the Thanksgiving and December holiday seasons (how many offerings of candy corn have you already seen? I am at 8 and counting...). But a new study found that a shocking 40% of our kids' calories are coming from junk food. In other words, nearly half of all the calories our kids are eating are undermining their health. So some limits are clearly in order. What to do? I have a 3 and a 5 year old, and struggle as much as any parent when it comes to the sheer VOLUME I'm up against. But here's my roadmap to having a healthy Halloween:

Trick #1: Treat it as a Holiday.

  • What's Scary: Letting your kids consume vast amounts of candy at multiple parties, trick or treating events, school activities, doctor's offices, and everywhere in between.
  • What's a Treat: I love this particular idea, from my friend Ashley Koff, RD, in a recent blog - Teach your kids that Halloween is ONE DAY, not a Treat-A-Palooza that goes on for days, weeks, or even months.

Take Action:

Having boundaries makes everyone feel better because they know what to expect in advance. In the days leading up to Halloween, talk with your kids about what they can expect; namely, that it's a fun day, they can eat "lots of candy," but no, they won't be allowed to stash piles of treats under their beds to eaten in the days and weeks ahead. Then you can relax on the big day, and let your kids splurge on their favorites without too much worry. I always try to serve some high protein foods at meals and snacks on Halloween day to even out blood sugar, such as eggs, grilled tofu, hummus, Greek yogurt, or chicken kabobs.

You can certainly enjoy multiple festivities, just switch the focus to things that don't involve treats: hold a scary-story writing contest, read a Halloween book by flashlight, create Halloween masks, download the Monster Mash and have a dance party, or organize a costume parade around the neighborhood.

Trick #2: Avoid Scary Sugars.

  • What's Scary: Artificial sweeteners and highly refined sugars (such as high fructose corn syrup). While these ingredients aren't the sole cause of obesity (of course), in my opinion they are ingredients to minimize or avoid in your diet.
  • What's a Treat: Look for naturally occurring sugars (i.e., dried fruit, honey sweetened, etc.), fruit juice concentrate, and organic or fair trade sugars. While all sugars contribute calories to our diet and can lead to tooth decay, these at least are, in my opinion, the best of the bunch as they are more likely to be found in either healthier, or more eco-friendly treats. For instance, I have never found a product that uses organic sugar but also has artificial colors, trans-fats, BHT, or preservatives.

Take Action:Justin's Nut Butter Packets

If you really want to pare down the treats:

  • Give out little boxes of organic teas (my daughter loves these for her tea parties!),
  • Provide packets of Justin's organic nut butters (check with parents to be sure there are no food allergies first),
  • Offer single serving packets of popcorn (a healthy nosh as its 100% whole grain) from Annie's or Lesser Evil
  • Choose stickers, stamps, or other spooktacular things that kids love that are calorie free
  • Check out Green Halloween for dozens of fresh tips of eco-friendly eats kids will love

Trick #3: Keep Treats a Healthy Color.

  • What's Scary: Artificial colors, including Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2. Not only are many food dyes petroleum based, most people would be shocked to learn that these have been banned in Europe starting last summer, or must carry the warning label that they "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."
  • What's a Treat: Naturally occurring pigments in dried fruits, dark chocolate, or veggie chips, or all-natural added colorings from fruit or vegetable extracts (such as annato, beet juice concentrate, pumpkin or carrot extract). These carry none of the potential concerns for behavior or health risks that the scary ones do.

Take Action:

Read food labels and avoid anything containing artificial colors. Download "Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks" if you want more information, not just for Halloween, but for food choices in general.

Candy CornTrick #4: Don't Spook the Planet.

  • What's Scary: Single-serving conventional candy. Conventional candy often contains fillers, waxes, trans-fats, and other unhealthy ingredients.
  • What's a Treat: Chocolate that's fair trade and/or organic. Because chocolate is grown in areas that are typically rainforest-rich, conservation and proper management is critical to making it a greener choice, and these two claims ensure your chocolate is more eco-friendly by a wider margin than conventional chocolate. To reap the true health benefits of chocolate, choose some that contains at least 70% cocao. This is perhaps the "healthiest" of all the choices given that dark chocolate at least provides some cardiovascular benefits, especially in a modest 1 oz. portion.

Take Action:Taza Chocolate

Make it a point to find fair trade or organic dark chocolate when stocking up. Taza Chocolate, located in Somerville, Massachusetts, has a rich history and relationship with their farmers, as well as a wonderful variety of flavors. Trans Fair USA also provides a great online resource to help you locate fair trade certified™ chocolate, in addition to a number of other fair trade products. If you're buying good quality chocolate, then you can even stretch my holiday rule a bit and enjoy 1 oz portions a few days in a row with a clean conscience.

Have any other ideas for keeping your Halloween green and lean? I'd love to hear them!

StandUp2Cancer with Food

StandUp2Cancer.gif

StandUp2CancerWith the StandUp2Cancer telethon today, the "C" word is on everyone's mind and if you're like me, in many hearts too (I lost a dear friend to brain cancer earlier this year). So after you've gone online to make your donation, fix yourself a cancer fighting meal or snack- while it certainly isn't a silver bullet for many of the cancers that plague our friends, families and communities, still the power of your plate can significantly tip the odds in your favor of keeping you free of many of the leading cancers. Based on the latest science, here are some of the top things you can do to dramatically slash your risk.

  1. Aim for an Organic Diet

    In May the President's Cancer Panel issued a report that specified choosing organic food produced without any chemical pesticides or fertilizers as one of the leading ways to cut your risk of many cancers.

    Take Action:Dirty Dozen - StandUp2Cancer

    If you're watching your greenbacks at the grocery store (as most of us are these days), start where it counts most: choose organic animal products, including meat and dairy. Then move onto the Dirty Dozen the Environmental Working Group's list of most contaminated produce. You can also find several organic brands carried at Wal-Mart and other budget friendly stores, and many supermarkets now carry affordable organic lines of their own – simply ask your manager. As Michael Pollan recently wrote Pay More, Eat Less. It can do wonders for the quality of your diet (and your waistline too).

  2. Go Au Natural with Your Meat

    Choosing organic does more than just help you feel good about the conditions Daisy was in before she ended up on your dinner table – it helps keep you from ingesting antibiotics, hormones, and even (indirectly) toxic runoff from large livestock operations-3 specific items cited in the report as possibly raising cancer risk. Remember, animals are what they eat, so you want yours eating as cleanly and healthfully as possibly.

    Take Action:

    Buy USDA Certified organic beef, pork, poultry and dairy products.

  3. Pack Your Plate with Cancer Fighting Plant Foods

    Plant foods are not only eco-friendly and weight-loss superstars, but these foods pack a dizzying array of phytochemicals that do things like mop up free radicals, encourage apoptosis (cell death of unhealthy cells), and slow or stop tumor growth.

    Vegetables - StandUp2CancerTake Action:

    Packing 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans at meals and snacks. And load up on color! Dark greens like kale, chard and spinach, brilliant oranges in butternut squash and sweet potato, and gorgeous American beauties like cranberries, cherries, blueberries and pomegranate (no need to ravage remote rainforest in the name of cancer fighting fruits) contain a host of dark pigments that pack vast armies of cancer fighting potential. Visit the American Institute for Cancer Research for helpful tips as well as complete summaries of the latest science concerning diet and cancer.

  4. Drink Filtered Water and Green Tea

    Drinking filtered tap water is not only much cheaper than bottled water by a factor of thousands, but it will minimize your risk of consuming endocrine disrupting chemicals and numerous other known or suspected carcinogens, and was another key suggestion of the President's Cancer Panel.

    Why single out green tea? It's packed with a class of flavonoids called catechins (green tea has about three times as many as black tea), which has shown strong promise for its anti-cancer potential. Regular use of green tea has been associated with lower risk for bladder, colon, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, and lab studies have found green tea slows or prevents cancer development in colon, liver, prostate and breast cells.

    Take Action:

    Invest in a good filter such as PUR or reverse osmosis for your tap. Enjoy a few cups of freshly brewed green tea daily.

    Got other tips or ideas? I'd love to hear them.

10 Sustainable Snacks for Summer Road Trips

Sustainable-Snacks.jpg

Sustainable SnacksAh, the summer vacation road trip - an American staple. I know we've got several on the books - which got me thinking - with studies showing that a higher number of families this summer are ditching flights in favor of hitting the open road themselves to save money, here are some super convenient, tasty lean and green sustainable snacks that kids and parents alike will love-that will also have you SAVING Green when you hit the open road. My criteria? They had to be eco friendly, healthy, tasty and fun. My "car picks" must withstand searing hot car temps for a day or two. And couldn't require fussy utensils or other tricky setup that seems impossibly difficult at 70 miles an hour.

For the Cooler

  1. Falafel balls dipped in organic Greek yogurt (you can also serve with whole wheat mini pita). These high protein treats are super healthy and fun-and likely available in your local market's refrigerator section.
  2. Cherry tomatoes. Summer's perfect Ready to Eat Food-they are in season, come in a container already and pack a day's worth of vitamin C). Go great with above falafel.Falafel
  3. Persian cucumbers at farmers markets - these small, finger sized cucumbers can be found at your local farmer's market - no peeling, no pits, no mess! Just wash and pop into cooler-and pass to the back seat with no fuss. Also go great with above falafel.
  4. Edamame. Soybeans are the only "complete proteins" of the bean family-meaning you get all the essential amino acids-they come in convenient portable containers in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets-or you can buy them frozen and boil and toss with a bit of sea salt before you pack them. Less mess than hummus!
  5. WatermelonWatermelon or cantaloupe cubes- These summer wonders are some of the most economical fruits to buy in summertime-and simply scoop them with a spoon (or melon baller) into a portable container-summer's best seasonal picks that have a real high water content to help keep kids hydrated no messy pits to eat around (and drip in the car), and stand up to car travel better than berries. You can eat volume, refreshing, and rich in potassium, beta carotene, lycopene vitamin C.

For the Car

6. In Shell Pistachios: Did you know people eat about 1/2 as many nuts when they are in the shell than not? So this works for moms and dads looking to control portions, as well as kids who are bored. Take longer to open, keep them busy!

7. PB& J burritos. Use a whole wheat tortilla, and wrap 'em in wax paper-no mess, kid friendly, wax paper is more eco friendly than plastic and can stand up to high heat better than many other high protein fillings. Almond butter works great too!

8. Air popped popcorn - will give you crunch! A recent study found that popcorn (which is a whole grain) pack 5 x more antioxidants than crackers or tortilla chips. Plus you can eat VOLUME-3 heaping cups counts as a serving of whole grain-and help you stay lean while you munch for boredom for miles. Bonus points? Popping it yourself helps you save green.

9. Kid's Custom Trail Mix: my kids love building it themselves - they are more likely to eat it and even try new things: Line up a counter with little bowls of Dried Cherries or cranberries Sunflower seeds, almonds, pepitas or pumpkin seeds, even a few  dark choc chips. Healthy, tasty and customized.

10. Sigg water bottle - beat the heat, save money and sip sustainably by filling your reusable water bottle before you hit the road. It will help keep your water cool longer in the heat won't give you that aluminum taste and protect you from BPA.

Got any other delicious snacks you crave on the road? I'd love to hear about them.

4 Easy Ways to Whittle Your Grocery Bill This Summer

GroceryEven in this depressed economy, did you know that the typical American family of four throws away roughly $600 in groceries every year? That's right-and a recent UK study found that Brits were just as bad- tossing about 1/3 of the food they purchased-that's equal to 1 in 3 bags of groceries landing in the trash. Here are 4 easy ways you can reclaim that $600-which translates into an extra $50 per month-freeing up your budget even more for healthy eating. What's not to love?

 

4 Easy Ways to Whittle Your Grocery Bill

1. If You Buy It, Use it.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It should be. But for most of us, simply letting food spoil in our ginormous American fridges before we get around to cooking it is a big reason we waste so much food.

According to the UK study, fruits and veggies that had spoiled  before being eaten were the #1 source of food waste in British households. I suspect it may be the same on this side of the pond too-after all, while it can feel good to buy healthy-sounding food with best of intentions ("I can't wait to make kale for dinner tonight!") , actually ushering it onto the dinner plate is another matter. So if you're loading up your reusable bags at the farmers market or stockpiling your cart at the supermarket in a moment of health zealotry, be sure your enthusiasm doesn't fizzle before you actually serve it. While certainly not an excuse to stick to a "produce-free" diet that's dietitian approved, the simple act of planning and following through will save you money (and time too-no more fishing out foul stuff from the produce bin).

 

2. Eat in order of most perishable first.

Decide what needs eating first-and be sure they're in easy view in your fridge. For instance-fragile berries are most perishable, so serve those first. Heartier summer fruits like melon can last a bit longer, so save those for later in the week. Baby spinach or arugula gets eaten before heartier veggies like baby carrots or fingerling potatoes. And so on.

If you're buying at the farmers market, ask if you can have a few ripe fruits (i.e. peaches), as well as some that will be perfect in a few days-one of the bonuses of buying directly from the farmer.

.

3. Don't Supersize It.

Unless your family resembles that of John & Kate plus Eight, buying large amounts of food, especially perishable food, can backfire-and if you toss it before you eat it, you aren't actually saving money then, are you? Don't confuse bulk shopping with smart shopping- evaluate your bulk purchases (or runs to the Big Box Store), or other value driven pricing if it causes  you to (1) blow through the food more quickly or (2) means your tossing portions of it out due to spoilage.

 

4. Serve Smaller Portions.

Supersizing our plates not only has the potential to supersize your backside (which I am guessing you knew), but also contributes to another reason we toss out $$... all that plate waste. The heaps of food scraps and mishmash at the end of a meal that gets tossed in the trash is money down the drain. It's also another reason we have an SUV diet of eating styles- as all of that food waste, when it gets to the landfill, releases the potent greenhouse gas methane-which is 23 X more warming than carbon dioxide.

You should finish a meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed. Smaller portions will help you keep your diet and your budget on track. And save leftovers, no matter how small-for a snack or to be part of the next meal.

 

Got any other ideas or tips? I'd love to hear them!