Food for Thought


Posted by karen
karen's picture

The 2011 calendar will soon be wrapped up. Have you thought about - or made - any nutrition resolutions for your fitness and athletic activities? Maybe they look like these:

-- gearing up for a month-long digestive cleanse and decreasing exercise intensity

-- launching into a vegan diet

-- testing out what eating raw is all about

-- cutting out caffeine for a month

Or maybe your "extreme" resolution is to figure out how to fuel yourself properly while training for your first marathon.

Running happens to be my favourite fitness gig - but whatever the exercise activity, our performance and experience will show whether our eating choices have been left to chance.

Goals are good.

If you've not yet decided, and don't want to be left out of the resolution loop, check out the following list. These all carry a worthwhile nutrition objective - and benefit.

Avoid diet sodas and foods with Aspartame and other synthetic sugars.

-- consuming Aspartame also includes ingesting methanol (wood alcohol) which is a dangerous neurotoxin and a known carcinogen.

-- one of the many negative side effects is the harmful effect on the nervous system

-- synthetic sugars contribute to acidity, a condition which leads to (1) inflammation, and (2) the body creates fat cells to store that extra acid so that, ironically, consistent consumption of Aspartame could add to your weight.

Avoid refined sugar - only a few of the reasons why:

-- refined sugar weakens the immune system by stealing your white blood cells' ability to destroy bacteria 

-- can encourage addiction to eating foods devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre - when our body really needs and wants those nutrient-rich foods

-- upsets mineral relationships in the body, e.g. messes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium

Eat more greens and veggies for antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega 3's

-- a hefty daily serving of greens

-- a generous daily serving of coloured veggies and bright-coloured fruits, berries

-- a hearty daily portion of sulfur producing veggies - e.g. cabbage, broccoli, turnips, onions, garlic, etc.

Make your own power bars and gels.

-- the nutritional value of processed energy bars is often the equivalent of candy bars. Home made bars and gels with nutrient-rich calories are less expensive and easy to make. The recipe for the gel is in my post about dates (you'll have to scroll down a ways to find it).  I shared some of this power gel recently while running with a friend. She's hooked. So much tastier than the gels you buy - and made with real food ingredients.

Protein Bar Recipe

1 cup protein powder (hemp, soy or whey)

2 cups rice bran

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup hemp seeds

Mix above and add:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 - 3/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

Mix thoroughly and form into balls or press into a pan to cut into bars.

Store in refrigerator or freeze.

This recipe came from a colleague who makes them for a pro sports team. Convinced?

Eat more fermented foods - e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi

-- the healthy bacteria in these foods speed up digestion and assimilation of nutrients

-- fermented foods help reduce sweet cravings (and when you do indulge, fermented foods help digest the sugars)

-- fermented foods contribute to an alkaline state, as compared to an acidic environment, which is responsible for an increase of free radicals and a decrease in the production of cellular energy

-- bonus - you can easily make it yourself, see how to do it here

Log your food intake - what you eat every day and when you eat it.

-- the timing of your food intake affects how you feel when you exercise

-- tracking food you eat along with your exercise performance can be a helpful fitness nutrition tool - especially if you want to notch up your activity for competition

 

I challenge you to choose at least one New Year's nutrition resolution.

You never know what rewards could await you in 2012.

I'd love to hear from you - what are your nutrition resolutions?

Posted by karen
karen's picture

We don't have to expect dietary damage control in January.

We can plan to prepare and eat healthy foods for our holiday-Christmas eating.
 

My Healthy Holiday Eating Workshop will help you to be ready:

 
--when you're the hostess - healthy nutritional alternatives
                                                 - accommodating food sensitivities
                                        
--when you're the guest - tips on 'holding your healthy line'
                                             - suggestions on offerings you can share  
 
--for the days in between 'the parties' 
 
 
 

What you can expect:

 
--tasting and sampling
 
--gluten-free options
 
--flavorful, sweet treats - without refined sugar
 
--take-home recipes and nutrition notes for the above
 
--to have fun
 
 

When and Where:

 
--Monday, December 12
--6:30 - 8:00-ish
--Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia
 
Contact me for registration and information. Limited seating - register early!
 
 
 
 
Some of the fixings for quinoa - roasted squash salad. It is fresh, flavorful - and festive (taste and see the finished product at the workshop - my photo accidentally got deleted from my memory card :(
 
 
Give yourself a Christmas gift...set yourself up for Healthy Holiday Eating.
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Hold the line on healthy.

 
We're marching into the season where schedules and life get busier, and if we're not intentional about it, healthy eating patterns and food choices can end up somewhere "down there" on the list. 
 
It's not the time to opt for nutrient-deprived fast food, to stock up on processed "easy meals," or fill up on the goodie trays in the coffee room at work.
 
Flu bugs and colds are not taking a holiday. Stress and sleep slip out of balance. 
 
 
This is the call: strengthen the ramparts on healthy eating.
 

Here's my defensive eating plan.

Greens

Greens are on the menu - every day, at least once a day. In a salad, a green smoothie or transformed into a "hot dish." Please read more about  these super foods and find recipe ideas from my "gotta have greens" article on active.com.
 
 

Miso

A cup of miso soup will be my hot drink choice for some of my "tea breaks". Miso is a fermented product with probiotics (aids digestions), it's also good for circulation, blood pressure and resists toxins. Miso makes a tasty, nutritious addition to all kinds of dressings, sauces and dishes. It's interesting trying a variety of misos - pictured below are brown rice and soybean.
 
 
 
 

Easy peasey cup of soup, perfect for an appetizer too.

Pour boiled water into good-sized mug. Stir in 1 tsp miso. Add chopped green onions, snippets of dulce, finely grated carrots, (opt - tiny cubes of tofu). Stir thoroughly, let sit for 2 - 3 minutes and enjoy.
 

"I'd like to bring something."

This will be my answer when invited to a party. One idea for an appetizer: a veggie tray and healthy dips . It's a great way to introduce a nutritious buffet option, besides knowing the list of ingredients:) The following guacamole recipe has a different taste twist, with some bonus nutrients.
 
 
 
 

Miso Dulce Guacamole -  great for fresh veggies or tortilla chips, or as a spread on wraps with fresh veggies

2 well-ripened avocados, pitted and skins removed, *save pits
1/2 tomato, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped dulce or nori
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbsp. miso paste (brown rice or soybean)
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
olives for garnish
 
Mash all the ingredients together or process in a food processor. Best if eaten the same day. *Putting the pits back into the dip until time to eat will help stop the dip from turning brown.
 
(Nutrition notes: avocadoes are full of healthy fats, garlic and onion: antioxidants, 
 
(adaptation from Thrive: the Vegan Nutrition Guide by Brendan Brazier)
 
 

Avoid refined sugar.

Okay, refined sugar is really hard to escape at this time of year.  I know I'll be indulging sometime. 
 
That's the key. Sometime - which doesn't mean sampling everything on the dessert tray.  Choosing something special that I really want to taste.
 
I plan to be extra diligent in my own kitchen, where I have the choice, the ingredients and the tools to create sweet treats without refined sugar.
 
Both for eating at home and sharing with others.
 
 

I have a simple plan. Now, to move forward with courage.

I live a real life in a human body and like everyone else,  I live in a nutritional "war zone".

But I have a plan. Do you too? Let me know!

Posted by karen
karen's picture

My house is a maze of boxes and suffused with the energy and excitement combo that accompanies an approaching change. No, I'm not in one of my rare seasonal house-cleansing frenzies. This weekend our daughter and family are moving out and forward, on to their next life adventure, ending their six-month transition period of living with us. A season where our house has pulsed with the activities and kafuffle generated by five people (and one cat) – added to our mix of two.

No surprise that the kitchen has been the hub – and a huge amount of gratitude goes to my daughter, Renee, who's masterminded (and implemented) most of the healthy feeding program to sustain all the creative and physical energy.

One person can't – or wouldn't want to – do such a task singularily. Renee's husband, Damien, has 'done' most breakfasts and I've taken some shifts as head or sous chef, cleaner-upper and filling in other gaps. Celine, Laurent and Brienne – aged 12, 10, and 8 – have had their daily kitchen chores plus food prep as requested. They're proficient in cutting and chopping veggies, concocting delicious salad dressings (move over, olive oil and balsamic vinegar), and blending super smoothies – all adding to the wake of accumulated food bits and pieces scattered on the kitchen floor.

My body has probably never been happier with iself – fuelled mostly by fruits and veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, dried fruits instead of sugar. Meals and snacks (a favorite part of the food plan) have been just out-and-out delicious and nutritious....

African Peanut-Potato Stew...Tortillas...Pumpkin & Black Bean Casserole... Falafel...Simple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...Slow-Cooked Tofu in Pineapple Barbecue Sauce...Creamy Cashew Lemon Pie...Easy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna... Hearty One-Pot Meal Miso Soup...Raw Peanut Butter Cookies...Buckwheat Hazelnut Pancakes...Grated Beet & Carrot Salad... Chickpea and Roasted Tomato Salad...Savoury Millet Stew...Breakfast Rice Pudding...Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad...Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge...

But even when it's great, we can have our moments when we want a change of menu. This week for Celine, that meant finding an alternative breakfast recipe that she could make for the household. This health-aware pre-teen found one, tweaked it to use ingredients she had available – and we ate it this morning! Yum yum.

 

The Recipe: Pomegranate Muesli

Ingredients:

2 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup steel cut oats (could also use old fashioned oats – not quick or instant)

1/2 cup each sunflower and pumpkin seeds

4 apples, peeled and grated

1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

5-6 cups fruit – combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

2-3 Tbsp. hemp hearts

Instructions:

Soak oats and seeds in pomegranate juice overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning, stir in remaining ingredients. 

 

Note – add or substitute other fruits.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Nutritrient Notes:

-- soaking the oats and seeds overnight contributes to better digestion

-- pomegranates - high in vitamin K, contain vitamin C, choline, magnesium, potassium and calcium

-- hemp hearts - high in protein and fibre

-- flax seeds - omega-3 fats, selenium, fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants 

 

Celine's Dad peeled the apples (to helped speed up the operation) but she did pretty much everything else. When it came time to dish up our breakfast bowls, it wasn't only Celine who appreciated something new on the breakfast menu! 

The youngest cook in the house, Brienne, is not one to be left behind - in anything. You have to check out her Miso Soup Recipe - and try it. It's sure to become a lunch standby.

Cooking healthy meals takes planning, time and work - at any age. Inviting and allowing young cooks to mess about in the kitchen is messy. But it's fun - and offers them the pleasure of creating, and eating, nutritious food. A gift that will come back in spades - for their own healthy food habits and opening a window for future shared cooking experiences. 

When these young cooks are your grandkids, the pleasure is especially sweet. Who helps you in your kitchen?

 

(Photo thanks and credits to Fimby.)

Keeping a Food Log

06 Sep 2011
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Have you ever thought about what - and how much - you eat and drink in a day, in a week? For too many of the world's population, the answer to this question is a painful and unjust reality of our global food distribution. For those who live in the affluent Western world, however, this revealing exercise could prompt us to change our tune if (when)  we say "I eat very little refined sugar"  - and to adjust our gratitude meter when the local market has run out of our favorite lemon basil but yet has five or more varieties of greens.

In the general sense, record-keeping has merit.  We (should) track things like what we earn and spend - and many of us keep diaries or journals of events and activities. Their purpose can be intended for pleasure or need-to-know information: useful tools for review and direction. Most of us know at least one shutterbug who thinks, "...if I don't photograph "it", "it" didn't happen..." Well, things do happen regardless of whether or not we snap that picture. To sustain life we all consume food and drinks - most of us do so several times a day. Recorded or not, "it" happens.

This daily fueling routine is anything but a ho-hum occurrence. What we consume (and what our body absorbs - but that's a whole other post and more) isn't just to stop the gnawing sensation in our belly. Indicators we get - fluctuating energy levels, see-sawing moods, cravings declaring control, not to mention how our clothes fit and the number on our bathroom scale - are affected by all those items recorded (or not) on a food log.

It takes courage and commitment.

A (truthful) food log is a useful tool in my job as a holistic health coach, helping to assess nutritional imbalances, sports nutrition requirements, food sensitivities, allergies, etc.

I recently filled out one of these for myself because I was upping my running mileage and was curious how many calories/day I was consuming. I kept the log on the fridge so I wouldn't forget - if you're sensitive about curious onlookers you might want to find a different handy spot. To tell the truth, after the week was up I got busy doing work and living life (like running and taking grandkids to the beach) so the calorie calculations haven't yet been done. But the log has still been helpful: something I changed after that was to eat more daily servings of veggies than fruits, rather than the reverse. I still cringe when I see this entry: 15 (!) chocolate-covered almonds. I don't even like them and the sad part is that they had awful chocolate! Overall, my breakfasts were pretty 'strong' but I decided I have to be more intentional about enough nutrition for lunches that I pack along. Just a handful of fruit doesn't cut it.

Expect some temptations during your "Dear Food Diary" week

to avoid or cut back on certain foods or drink.

- to change your mind about consuming something ("for this time") because of the hassle of having to remember to write it down ( the list is at home...

- to "fudge it" on serving sizes, or "forget"  to include certain foods you consumed - even if you're the only one privy to the list.

Look for some clues from your Diary

- food choices and eating patterns you weren't aware of  - e.g. an automatic default of diet pop accompanying any meal that has the same ingredients as pizza

- which foods - or combination of foods - leave you feeling yucky after you eat

- what kinds of foods/meals do or don't give you enough umph to do your next fitness workout 

Seeing it all there in "black and white" can be surprising and frightening - but also enlightening.

If you're up to the challenge, print out the PDF file provided to get you started.

I dare you. Do the diary.

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