Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Would You Do With An Extra Hour in the Day?

I’m of the mindset that the more you have to do the more you get done. I like a day filled to the brim. I like getting up at 5am, love to-do lists- you get the picture (and I’m sure have a few choice adjectives to describe me and those like me). When a meeting is cancelled or I have “extra” time I generally putz around. I’ll get on Facebook, tweet a bit and check Google analytics. I can waste time as well as I fill time and this worries me. My boys are at sleep away camp for 7 weeks; I warned you I would mention this a million times before August so including Friday’s mention I have 999,998 mentions to go. I have “extra hours in the day” for the next 45 days.

Friends of mine, both concerned and intrigued, have been asking “what are you and Marc going to do”?  I initially felt a little pressure to design some super-duper summer plans to match their excitement. Instead I’ve been saying, “ I’m really looking forward to doing nothing.” This isn’t exactly the truth either. As you can gather, I’m not much of a “do nothing” person. There’s only so much napping and tweeting and reading I can do. I have plans and to me they’re thrilling but I’ll warn you, you’re going to be disappointed.
  • I want a refrigerator I can show off. I don’t mean the actual appliance. I wish I had taken a “before” picture because though filled with healthy food, my fridge a few days ago was utter calorie clutter. Before the boys come home, I will show you my newly organized zen fridge.

  • I’m also working on a book, still in the early stages, but I stalled last summer and I want to get the proposal done and carve out time to write.

  • I work out a fair amount but I want to do things I don't usually have time for. I'd like to play more tennis, allow myself more “double header” workouts and head out for runs in the early evening. This is something I haven’t done in years as that’s cooking time when the kids are home.

  • I had intentions, before the boys left, to cook all these recipes that aren’t necessarily family friendly. Once they left I found myself making  “Smoky Chicken” and other things they love (miss them). My husband’s also on a mission to try all these restaurants- after all no babysitter to be paid. 

I wanted to put this all out there because it’s so easy to let this time or any free time slip away. If you’re concerned I’m spending the whole summer organizing and writing, don't worry we have a couple of short trips planned just don’t expect me to “do nothing” while way.
What would you do with a couple extra hours in the day? Do you prefer when life is busy or more free? Are you good at doing nothing? Do you think my “plans” are lame? What do you think I should do with the next 45 days?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bye Bye Bloat

The 4 C's 

One of the most common words used by clients in by office is “bloated.” Nobody likes to feel bloated, especially during beach and bathing suit season.  I spoke to Tanya Rivera, of GMA Health, about the bloating basics and thought Monday, post weekend, was a good day to debloat with you.

Bloating is swelling due to fluid or gas. Eating salty or processed foods, eating too fast, for some lactose or sweeteners can all cause bloating. While women have the bonus of hormonal bloating, not to worry, men bloat too. If bloating persists or intensifies it is worth looking into but more often than not bloat is just unsightly and annoying.

If there’s an event you want to feel your best for or you simply want to debloat. My starter tip for bloat is to remove the 4 C’s. I’ve mentioned them before but these are:
  • Carbs- especially the white ones hang onto water as they digest, whereas protein uses water
  • Canned Foods-even healthy canned foods such as beans or tuna cause bloat (and may contain BPA’s) think jarred foods, rinse well in a colander or skip.
  • Carbonated Beverages- yes seltzer and something I’m totally against soda will bloat you. All those bubbles end up in your stomach and it’s often not pretty.
  •  Chewing Gum- seems innocent but you swallow air constantly. Gum chewers are amazed when they find this one out.

The Tummy Trifecta
Too many raw veggies aren’t part of my prescription but there are 3 I call “The Tummy Trifecta”.

  •  Dandelion greens are good in salads or in teas, they are also in season now but need a good washing when you use them
  • Asparagus aren’t only a diuretic food they are also anti inflammatory due to their saponin content and a prebiotic food.
  • Parsley- a great anti gas and diuretic food, I love parsley in green juices with ginger and lemon

Debloating Drinks

Lemons have been used for centuries for all sorts of medicinal applications. Lemon is a natural diuretic and a couple cups of lemon water a day may keep distention away.  Our clients also love a green tea-based drink called EBoost Yogi also makes a delicious detox tea that’s great iced in the summer time. You can also take fennel and caraway seeds and boil them for a homemade tea.

High Potassium Foods

Sodium and potassium work in a balance. To debloat, potassium (in food not supplement form) can help.  Cantaloupe, coconut water, oranges and avocados are excellent choices and sources I prefer over the banana when it comes to bloat. Even one day of incorporating these debloaters can make a difference. Then I’ll tell you the second most common word in my office, any guesses?
Are you bloat-prone? What do you do to improve it? Which of these foods are you ready to incorporate? And how bloated do I look in that segment next to tiny Tanya?

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Idea of Stadium Food

Last weekend, a friend emailed asking if my son would like to go to the Mets game with her son and husband on Tuesday (notice she wasn’t going).  There was no need to consult my son, I replied and accepted on his behalf. My husband said “we should get tickets and go to the game too, it’ll be fun.” When I woke up Monday morning, I spotted something in the printer. There were Mets e-tickets husband had printed, I counted and there were 3.  I had optimistically assumed  the “we”  had meant husband and 7 year old, it never crossed my mind I was part of this Citi Field plan. I could’ve weaseled out, could’ve invited a friend for my son. I didn’t go this route because my boys are leaving for 7 weeks today. I’m sure, the few of you who read this blog, will hear more than you want to about this but for now let’s just say I was apprehensive enough  about their departure to miss a new episode of Chopped and eat stadium food. Even I can be a good sport.

As a nutritionist, stadiums in some ways are enemy territory. I always feel as though I have my "fists up" and need to be ultra-vigilant with the various dietary obstacles I'm sure to encounter.  There are people who feel soft pretzels, beer and hot dogs  are part of the baseball experience. I am not one of those people.   Knowing this, I did some pre-eating before we left the house. I had ½ an avocado and some leftover roasted asparagus acknowledging this was likely the only green I would see (I was wrong the Oakland A’s actually have green on their uniforms).

After dropping my son off at his friend’s apartment we made our way to the game.  We arrived early and decided to walk around for a bit. There’s a great area for kids  at Citi field with batting cages and dunking booths. I laughed that the Shake Shack burger line was easily 75 people deep,  the line for the batting cages? Three people.  While we waiting for my son’s turn, I made a comment to my husband about healthy food. The woman in front of us  eavesdropped overheard, she turned and said “I think the healthiest thing are the hot dogs, if you look at the calories they’re pretty good.” I passed on this “teachable moment” but people are really confused about nutrition when hot dogs are described as “healthy”.
There was a gluten free booth at the stadium featuring “gluten free hot dogs”, “gluten free hamburgers” and “gluten free sausage”.  I wasn’t intrigued by the gluten free junk and settled on a sushi roll. I picked a cooked shrimp roll as  Anisakis isn’t the way I’d like to drop a couple of pounds.  My husband had a pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke.  Clearly he and the hot dog fan have similar notions of what “healthy” means but he returned from the bar with Absolut Pear “on the rocks”  for me so I will not be too critical.  I’m sure the pretzel people would think eating sushi and drinking vodka at a ball game is sacrilegious  but I was thrilled. I’d even go again (when the kids get home in 7 weeks).
When was the last time you were at a stadium? Did you pre-eat beforehand? What did you eat at the stadium? Any healthy stadium finds?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just how bad are pesticides?

Last week EWG came out with their annual “dirty dozen” (and here’s a CBS segment on the subject I was interviewed for).  The dirty dozen summarizes the most highly contaminated produce and there’s also a “clean” list.  Jenn, of Peas and Crayons wrote a terrific post on the subject. I’m always curious if consumers really take action based on the results. Sometimes it seems as though there’s  the “already organic” camp who go organic to whatever extent they can afford. Then there’s the “organic schmorganic” camp (my mother is a member of) who dismiss the notion of organic is optimal. In the Venn diagram of produce purchasing the “Schmorganics” have substantial overlap with “organic = exorbitant”.  Perhaps, if we stop and think what pesticides have the potential to do to us, people would be swayed. So, just how bad are pesticides?

“Cide” means to kill. When we, or our family members, ingest pesticides we are in ingesting something designed to kill. Sure, they are designed to kill pests but you would you take a hit from an exterminator’s can? As I said to CBS, every bodily system is affected by pesticides. From cancer to Parkinson’s the research is grim. A few examples:  

Pesticides may harm your children, even if they’re not born yet
Pesticides kill insects by attacking their brains and nervous systems, it’s not surprising they affect the development of children’s brains. One study showed ADHD may be cause by damage to neurotransmitters that are affected by pesticides.

A study in the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives  also suggests pesticides may be associated with the health and development of children. “Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides -- widely used on food crops -- is related to lower intelligence scores at age 7.”
What made this especially concerning was that  the results were similar for the NYC children studied at Mt Sinai Medical Center as they were for the children in California living in an agricultural center in Monterey.

Pesticides can make you depressed and less fertile
Pesticides can affect your mood with studies showing depression associated with chronic pesticide exposure. Pesticides can affect those spermies and fertility. I always talk about pesticide exposure when I see clients who are TTC. 

Pesticides can make you gain weight
We think about how certain medications make us gain weight, ever think about how each of the chemicals on your produce affect you? There's an herbicide called atrazine that causes weight gain in rodents. The mice gained weight and in  particular gained visceral fat that increases risk of heart disease. Atrazine is on of the most common pesticides used on crops, particularly on sweet corn.

Purchasing certified organic ensures that no pesticides are used.  You want to eat your fruits and vegetables without a bad taste in your mouth…and those pesticides? They taste like crap too.
Are you “already organic”, “organic schmorganic or organic = exorbitant?  Do you use the dirty/clean dozen to guide your decisions? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Psychology of the Candy Bowl

unrealistic that the hand appears to be taking a singular candy
For years. I have seen entries like this on client’s food journals “2 mini Reese's” or “4 Starbursts”.  I know full well the source of this candy and it’s not the vending machine or a well-planned treat. “Tell me about the candy” I usually say. Clients then describe that person in the office with the candy bowl. Don’t we all know that person?  Please correct me, if I am making assumptions, but I believe this person is generally female, her desk is in full view of others, she is outgoing and you know what? She doesn’t really eat the candy.

This candy bowl received some press recently. In April the Wall Street Journal ran a piece entitled “The Battle of the Office Candy Jar.” Brian Wasink, author of Mindless Eating, was quoted saying "even for a person with the greatest resolve, every time they look at a candy dish they say, 'Do I want that Hershey's Kiss, or don't I?' At the 24th time, maybe I'm kind of hungry, and I just got this terrible email, and my boss is complaining—and gradually my resolve is worn down." It seems that the converse of “out of sight out of mind” or “in sight on your mind” is true with food. Research, yes research, has shown a transparent container or bowl and candy “within reach” further increase candy consumption.

From my vantage point, the candy bowl owner has always been a bit of a foe. My motivated clients set off for work with their crudité and food journal in tow. Sure, we’re all responsible for what ultimately goes in our mouths but the candy bowl doesn’t help. I’ve viewed  the candy bowl person as a saboteur right up there with the “friend” who brings a pie to your house knowing full well you’re trying to lose weight or mothers or MIL’s who ask you to “try a little” of weight gain food A or B.
Last week, I met with a client I hadn’t seen in some time. We exchanged pleasantries and  it wasn’t three minutes before the candy bowl came up. The twist is that my lovely client had become the candy lady. She explained that having the candy (did I mention the client cooks every night and only uses organic produce?) in her words “helped foster a sense of community at work.” Her superior actually asked her to remove the bowl as children were coming in to eat the candy (her office is in a school). My client didn’t budge. And to bust my earlier theory she did eat the candy. We joked; I asked her if a fruit bowl would build community, perhaps a healthier community? She said they did have bananas and oranges but kept the candy there too.

I advise clients to enforce a no candy bowl eating policy (and I'm here to help just #TIDEI or tweet it don't eat it). It's not that a couple pieces of candy will ruin any food plan. It's that the couple of pieces and a couple more add up (to what estimates suggest is over five pounds a year) and are rarely satisfying. A well planned treat, of your choice, in a social setting is much more strategic. And I'm still hopeful the communal fruit bowl (or nut bowl) takes off. If you try it, please let me know how it goes.
There’s more to that little bowl than meets the eye and we all have candy bowl memories. My grandmother had a bowl of those coffee candies (black and white wrapper) whose name I can’t recall. And my dad was a Werther’s guy. There’s something inviting about that bowl and, as I’ve learned, the candy bowl owner is fully aware of that. 
Have you been in an office with a candy bowl woman? Or is the candy person ever male? What do you think is the psychology of the candy bowl? And can you help remind me what those coffee candies are (not nips)?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Popsicle Test Kitchen

photo by Ali Schalop (Samantha's sister), pretty, right?

In our June newsletter we discussed many of our favorite summer treats. While we mentioned some of our favorite store-bought brands, we’re huge fans of making your own popsicles. You can control the ingredients assuring they’re all pronounceable, organic and fresh. You can also get creative testing out flavor combinations.  If you haven’t made popsicles before it’s pretty simple you blend ingredients together and pour them into the molds. Leave ½ inch of space at the top as they’ll expand with freezing. The hard part is waiting the 4 hours it takes for them to set (truth be told one impatient 9 year old and I found out 3 hours is fine for the small molds). Our fantastic summer interns Sam and Brittany conducted a popsicle test kitchen last week.  Here are their results:

Brittany used the Tovolo Jewel Pop Molds available at Whole Foods Market and at Zabars in NYC.  We got the idea from Nourish and Flourish when she talked about these ring-pop like molds (fun). Samantha used the Tovolo Groovy Pop molds. Both are BPA free and easy to clean. We had them rate their creations on a scale of 1 to 4 “pops”.

Both recipes were easy and not very time consuming. However, I found the product a bit difficult to pour into because of the shape. Also, the molds were a bit small. I preferred the pina colada popsicles over the blueberry yogurt popsicles.

Pina Colada Pops 
Fresh  pineapple, a banana, ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes.
The pina colada popsicles were delicious. The flavor was tropical and the banana gave it a smooth almost ice-cream texture.
 I would rate the pina colada a 3.5 out of 4. 

Blueberry Yogurt Pops
1 cup frozen blueberries, Siggi’s vanilla yogurt, agave nectar.   
 The blueberry yogurt popsicles were a bit tart. I did not love the vanilla flavoring. It needed more sweetening. 
All in all, I would rate the blueberry yogurt popsicle a 1-2.

I had one major hit and a couple of misses.

Avocado Coconut Pops
We had high hopes for these from the tiny morsels blog:
1 ripe avocado, 3/4 cup light coconut milk, 1 tablespoon agave nectar filtered water, as needed
 This sounded good but seemed to have too much coconut milk, 1 give it 1 pop.

Healthy Veggie Pops
This recipe was from nature moms blog:
Baby spinach blended with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, 1-2 tablespoons of raw agave nectar, and fresh squeezed orange juice.
These were perfect! I give them 4 pops.

I made Sam’s Veggie pops and I cannot tell you the delight I was filled with when my boys asked for “Spinach Pops”. I also added some fresh mint because everything is better with mint. We had some testing at our house too with Blueberry Lemonade Ring Pops and Watermelon, Lime (zest) Groovy Pops. I can see making post-workout pops with a little protein and even happy hour (I vote sangria) pops as well. Sara, at nourish and flourish,  called herself a ring pop addict, I may become a frozen pop fiend before labor day.
What’s your favorite flavor pop? Have you made your own pops? Any flops? What can we do to improve this avocado dessert situation? I’m on a misson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Have you lost your freshman 15?

Thigh (not mine) post freshman year
Exciting news, we have a new Foodtrainer. Her name is Carolyn Brown. She’s a Tulane grad and has taught nutrition at the NYC Greenmarkets, she’s a blogger and a dodge ball player, smart and snarky. She’s running our 4-week “Summer School Course” for students and grads of all ages. I asked Carolyn to blog about that clichéd Freshman 15 and whether we tend to lose it or keep it as a collegiate souvenir. I’ll let her take it from here:

I’ve never liked talking about the freshman 15 – maybe because for me, it was more like 20. I’m seriously grateful it was in the pre-Facebook era. But as a freshman 15 alum I know that the freedom college offers (not unlike loosey goosey summer eating Lauren wrote about) may be great for your social life but the lack of structure can lead to a lasting “hangover” as in hanging over your pants. It isn’t always immediate; it can show up a little later as the sophomore surplus, the junior jiggle, or even the post-college pudge.  

All joking aside, the problem isn’t so much the weight gained (assuming you’re still around a healthy weight). Research shows that women tend to lose most of it with time. The real issues are why it was gained in the first place and the eating patterns that may be repeated for years to come.

Some reasons for the freshman weight gain aren’t surprising buffet style dining halls replace mom’s well-balanced meals, high school sports no longer provide built in activity and then there’s the drinking. And when you drink more, you eat more – and make less intelligent choices. Would you really need the cheese fries, onion rings and mozzarella stick trio sober? It’s not all a lack of self-control though, so give yourself  (or maybe your college-aged children) a break. In your late teens growth slows down—and so does ones metabolism. Add in inconsistent sleep and associated hormonal changes that affect hunger and fullness. And alcohol it’s is a depressant and in this way influences eating.

For many, college is the first time they gain a noticeable amount of weight and it’s also their first foray into dietland.  College girls resort to dangerous methods to lose weight. It’s now a far cry from Weight Watchers. Extra popular before Cabo-bound spring breaks are starving, binging/purging, obsessive exercise and the use of “appetite suppressants”: cigarettes, Adderall, laxatives and diet pills. Eek.

But there are healthy ways to lose that stubborn freshman 15 even if it’s stuck around long enough to make it to a few reunions. Exercise is crucial. Yawn, I know, but there are actually ways to make it less of a chore. Lazy friends rub off, so try seeking out active friends who will drag you to a spin or dance class. Peer pressure can be positive and works at all ages. Another great way to get moving is to join your city’s “social sports” leagues. Teams are based on skill level and age (and are usually co-ed, wink wink).You don’t want your exercise merely burning off the booze, your total drinks for the week needs to be a single digit and I suggest at least 3 “dry” days. Treats (pizza we’re talking to you) should be no more than once or twice a week.

My freshman 20 came off slowly. Leaving the dorms for a house with a kitchen helped. Also I took Intro to Nutrition class learned low calorie doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and completely changed my relationship with food. This led me to a Foodtrainers-bound career path sans post-college pudge.
Are you a freshman 15 alum? When did you lose the weight? Was college the first time you dieted? Any scary weight loss regimes to share? Do you feel friends affect your eating or exercise?

Monday, June 13, 2011

What I Wish LeAnn Rimes Would Say

I first remember seeing LeAnn Rimes accepting an award for her rendition of Blue. She was 13 or 14 and wearing a white strapless dress. She looked so young, had yet to be made over and still had that “baby” fat I see in my photos from that age. Only I wasn’t getting up on any stage and only my family saw the pictures. Well that was a long time ago. Leann has grown up. She was married, had a well-publicized affair, divorced her first husband and remarried. She’s also lost a ton of weight.

Unlike many shrinking celebrities. LeAnn has been quick to defend herself.  She’s also fueled the fire a bit posting photos of herself in teeny bikinis via Twitter. I read a brief Q and A with her. I do not know which magazine it was but it was one of the “manicurial” titles even I will not pay money for. It may have been Life and Style. In this article LeAnn first said something to the effect of “I eat but I eat very cleanly”. She went on to say she at mostly protein and vegetables. Try a couple of days on fish, egg whites and greens and let me know if you feel this is “eating.”

There was also the requisite quote from LeAnn’s trainer.  He came to her defense (after all we know where his paycheck comes from) and said she was healthy and worked hard in the gym. I was about to dismiss this as the typical celebrity cover up for diets gone too far ala’ Nicole Richie or Calista Flockhart.  I then read something else. LeAnn said that people criticized her for being chubby all her life. She said now they’re criticizing her for being too thin.  It sounded honest.

LeAnn has responded to people’s tweets about her body.  Granted her replies have been defensive “they’re called abs not bones” was one I read. LeAnn also tweets a fair amount about food. I wish, perhaps naively, that Leann could say something to the effect of “I’ve always felt pressure to slim down and have finally done so” and “I may have gone a little far.” I’m not sure Leann realizes the last part yet.  Previously, LeAnn Rimes has not really been a role model in many peoples’ eyes but I think she has an opportunity here.
Do you think LeAnn should respond to people's comments about her weight? What do you think she could say that is honest? Do you think it's good that she now feels good about her body (as she's said) or is that just sad?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Let Summer Make You Loosey-Goosey (or just "Loosey")

For the last 9 or so months Friday morning for me went something like this. Wake up at 5:00am, finish up the day’s blog post, return emails, hop on a phone session with a client in Taiwan, get the kids up, take them to school and go for a run. Today is a little different and not only because I “slept in” until 5:30. Today is different because there is no school. Our family is in that post school year purgatory period where academics are over but camp has not started. I was reminded of this when I read a post on Vicarious Chelsea aptly titled “routine” where she expressed excitement in all that comes with summertime but also fear that her productivity would cease with the school year.

Regardless of whether or not you have kids, most of us find our routine changing. One of our interns (the best part about summer) told me she enjoyed a recent post on weekend eating. She was a little concerned because “now that I graduated every day, over the summer, is like a weekend.”  Summer invites us to relax, to spend more time outside, to go to barbeques and out after work. In the summer we go away more and we (ok I) drink more. You know
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swingin' swayin', and records playin” 
but I digress. It’s just so easy to get charmed by summer and all its perks but Chelsea was fearful for a reason, summer has a dark side.

You see in my world and my client’s worlds routine is good. It’s good to know what and when you’ll eat and when you will exercise. In the summer you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules and menus and margaritas. In the summer we often wing it. Winging it and weight loss don’t go together. If this is all sounding fatalistic, don’t worry. Once you identify a potential (3 month) pitfall you can take steps around it.
  • Summer is a great time to train for a race. Whether a 5K or a sprint triathlon, a training schedule can be a great way to organize your workouts.
  • Instead of ice cream, experiment with DIY popsicles, we’ll be featuring some in our June newsletter so be sure to sign up.
  • Healthy BBQ- not everyone wants a giant burger and nitrate-filled hot dogs when they come to your house.  I wrote about Hardwick beef and my favorite turkey burger and tuna burger, branch out a bit.
  • Use the additional hours of daylight to do something active after dinner-a walk or a bike ride is a great way to end the day.
In many ways, over the summer, you’ll do best if you make a new routine versus being loosey-goosey (or just loosey).
Do you find summer is less rigid or routinized? Do you like loosey goosey? Do you gain weight or lose weight over the summer? What are your slimming summer strategies?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Superfruits or Super hype?

Source: NY Times, is this in your fruit bowl?

Recently, I was contacted by one of my favorite writers who was working on a story about superfruits.  She asked me if I had time for an interview and said “I'll be talking to some hard core sciencey types, but also was wondering if I could get your Laurenly real world insight (a la, "do you really think a Dunkin Donuts Acai Slushee will keep cancer at bay?"). While I was fairly very insulted not to be regarded as “hard core and sciencey” (why did I bother with the whole Masters of Science? Do I need a PhD?) I obliged. My Laurenly opinions:

Most fruits are super:
When it comes to produce (and not gummy candy or “juice” drinks) brightly colored means beneficial. There are food trends much like fashion trends. While we’re hearing about maxi skirts, minis are just fine. The same goes for acai and blueberries. Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is inferior.

Don’t look to vodka for your vitamins:
Did you see the article, last month, in the New York Times about Dragon fruit? There’s a new superfruit on the block (see photo above, not sure I want to eat that). “Skyy is introducing a dragon-fruit-flavor vodka spring. Celestial Seasonings, the Colorado-based stalwart of herbal infusions, recently began pairing powdered dragon fruit with green tea. There’s a Sumatra Dragon fruit version of Bai, a thirst quencher made from the unroasted fruit of the coffee plant; a line of Lite Pom that blends a few swigs of dragon fruit with pomegranate juice; and a new pitaya-tinged cream liqueur called Dragon Kiss.”

This is where popularity turns into perversion. To answer the question above, nothing at a doughnut shop is improving your health. The same goes for flavored vodka with a smidgen of fruit (the real sign a superfruit has arrived). Quality counts and if you sample superfruits seek out a something as close to the original source as possible.

Superfruits and foods may be new to us but not necessarily new:
Though superfruits may seem to suddenly pop up, many of them have been consumed for thousands of years. I am a big Goji berry fan (though a client almost ruined them for me saying they taste like feet). Lest you think superfruits are only about heart health and cancer prevention gojis are also sexual tonics. I wrote about them last year for Valentines Day. I love the cocoa dusted gojis.

Pomegranates are also on my shopping list when they are available. With a family history of heart disease, I put on rubber gloves and shell those slippery seeds. I also add an ounce of pure pomegranate juice to seltzer every so often.

What ever happened to eating seasonally and locally?
It’s strange to me that on one hand we’re encouraging people to shop at farmers’ markets and join CSA’s. In another breath we’re mentioning mangosteen. There’s no mangosteen at my local market or anywhere close. There are delicious fruits and vegetables that I recognize and can pronounce. 
It’s fine if you want to try dragon fruit (though the Times didn’t rave about it’s taste despite its “good looks”), just don’t forget about the plums, blackberries and cherries that are all “super” right now.
What’s your verdict on superfruits- super or hyped? What’s the most silly superfruit use you’ve seen? Have you tried goji berries, acai or dragon fruit?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shallow and Selfish

Would be sort of nice if there weren't a million people, a roof overhead and germs lurking
We all go through life assuming we are good people. Perhaps I should only speak for myself. I have always felt I was a good friend, a good daughter (year 14 an understandable pubescent exception) and a good mother.  I have also believed I was an introspective person, some would even say deep. These assumptions have been shaken in the past week and I’m now thinking I’m sort of shallow and selfish too.

A year and a half ago I started yoga. It took a while but I grew to love it. It has been the one time where I don’t think about my to-do list or potential blog topics and always feel great afterward. I’ve made some progress too though I know it’s non-yogi to think in those terms. Recently a new barre class was added to the schedule at the yoga studio I go to. I had been doing Core Fusion prior to yoga and liked it and liked the results. Lately, with running and yoga (and a looong ski season) I had been feeling a little thicker. I tend to feel this way as my running picks up. Well I tried the Figure 4 classes and after a couple of weeks saw the difference. I felt leaner and lengthened and I liked it. Given the choice I was picking Figure 4 over yoga and chided myself for this. I am still doing yoga twice per week but I’m not so proud of my reasoning. I’m choosing body over mind and skinny over sane; it seems I’m not so deep after all.

So I headed into the weekend, newly aware of my shallowness only to find out I had other poor qualities lurking. My husband and a friend of ours were doing a triathlon. There were not many great local lodging options and they decided it would be fun to stay at this “family friendly”  (scary words) resort. It wasn’t my first choice but I went with it. The kids would love the activities and we were only a 20-minute drive from the race location. Saturday morning the boys were begging to go to the waterpark, yep waterpark at the hotel. Marc said he would take them over as I was doing some "work" and I would meet them. Our friends and their kids headed over too. 

When they got there Marc emailed a few pictures. The boys were having a blast. I opened a picture and saw my friend Diane smiling away about to go down the big water slide. I was going to go over and meet up with everyone but I wouldn’t be participating. At 7 and 9 my kids can finally go alone though they also would’ve loved mom coming too. It wasn't going to happen. I was in a hoodie and shorts while my friend greeted me with a huge grin and non-skid pool shoes! I posted on Facebook “am I a bad mother for not going on waterslides with my kids? Tell me what you think, I’m still not going.” I loved one friend who said, “I would rather have a colonoscopy,” I completely agreed.

Many of us strive toward self-improvement. I have built a business around this. Yet I’m also a fan of being realistic and feel it is important to, as the Greeks said, “know thyself.” It seems my self is shallow and selfish. Oh well.
Ever realize you weren’t as great in certain respects as you had hoped? What’s your Achilles heel? Are you shallow? And would you go on the waterslides: germs, crowds, swimsuit and all?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Not ready to jump on the MyPlate bandwagon

Did you hear? I realize that everyone’s  life isn’t nutrition and food centric but there’s some pretty big news in my world. When I first read the news, on my Kindle as I sat in my in-laws kitchen, I wanted to cue Kool and the Gang. I wanted to celebrate. The food pyramid, my professional equivalent of my mother singing along (not quietly) at school concerts when I was younger, has been retired and replaced.  What would succeed this “learning tool” telling Americans at one time to eat 6-11 servings of bread and pasta a day? It would be a “plate-shaped symbol” and we wouldn’t know more than that until the reveal on June 2nd.

Blogs and tweets were abuzz with speculation. What would it look like? Would it be similar to plate diagrams we already knew of? Would it be more user-friendly than the ridiculous pyramid? It has to be, right?  Marion Nestle even posted other organization’s “plates” before the USDA announcement. Some of my colleagues headed down to Washington and the hashtag #foodicon seemed to be all over twitter.

I was working when the USDA unveiled the new logo. As soon as I had a break I opened my laptop, giddy with anticipation. I then sat there for a minute rather deflated. Was this plate (seen above) the USDA was suggesting bad? Nope not necessarily. Was it clear? You could say that. Was this going to really help Americans make better choices? Not so sure.  I will preface my thoughts my saying that many experts are full of praise for the plate. I see where they are coming from. With people drowning in a sea of nutrition confusion anything clearly stated is welcome. And I’m happy that grains are no longer regarded as the largest component of our suggested diets. However, this plate, to me, is telling Americans “eat your fruits and vegetables” and I think we already know that.

There’s no mention of food quality. Is the grain on my plate to be a pop tart or quinoa? They’re both grains, right? Yes, the instructions accompanying the plate says “make at least half your grains whole grains”, does that meat ½ pop tarts and ½ quinoa? The same holds for protein, can I fit a 5 Guys Burger in ¼ of my plate?  And what to do with combination foods? Do we dissect the said burger to put the various parts on their corresponding plate locations? Hmn.

I read one post that praised the plate, after all, it said,  we all eat on plates.  I actually think starting with “eat food on a plate” would be a good opener. We eat in our cars, we eat at our kitchen counters. Use plates, that would be good advice. What I’ve learned in almost 10 years owning Foodtrainers is that many people know what to do, it’s figuring out why they aren’t doing it. Andy Bellatti, who has guest posted here before, raised some great (and controversial) points on his blog yesterday. He said, “as long as people live in environments that are not conducive to making healthy decisions, can we really expect an illustration of a plate to achieve anything?” So true.

 So MyPlate isn’t bad I’m just not sure it’s going to do that much. I’m still happy the pyramid is gone.
What do you think of MyPlate?  Were you a fan of the pyramid? What do you feel was omitted? Do you always eat off of plates?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do cooking shows make us cook more or eat more?

I received the following question via email:

I was at the gym this past weekend and on the TV was Hungry Girl doing her cooking show.  I am a HUGE fan of the IDEA behind Hungry Girl, but once you really take a look at some of her recipes, you will find that there is a whole bunch of CRAP in them (egg beaters, fat free half and half !?!?! sugar substitutes etc.) which all made me think.....WHAT WOULD LAUREN WATCH if she were running on the treadmill right now and she wanted to watch a cooking show?

This is a great topic and I love that you are exercising while watching cooking shows.  I can’t say I do the same but have four cooking/food TV shows that I watch. I enjoy Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa as her recipes are the ones I go back to time and time again. They always work and work  particularly well for families and groups. You have to pick and choose though. One day Ina can be making her Lemon Chicken Breasts (one of my staple recipes) and the next day there’s two sticks of butter getting tossed into the food processor (those aren’t Foodtrainers-friendly). 

I am also a Giada fan and DVR Giada at Home. I believe the show is filmed in Malibu. If it’s not it’s another incredible beautiful California oceanside location. The photography is so appealing. I love Giada’s philosophy, learn a lot from watching her cook but don’t always feel her recipes deliver (although this tilapia was a recent keeper).  I have noticed that both my husband and sons enjoy Giada when I am watching (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that one).
The show that probably comes closest to my food and nutrition philosophy is Ellie Krieger’s 
Healthy Appetite. Ellie is an RD and her shows are chock full of nutrition information. Ellie is always looking for a way to add flavor without adding calories and to ensures her recipes pack a nutritional punch. I know some friends who don’t love Ellie’s show or manner and I would encourage you to try her cookbooks in that case.

My favorite food TV show isn’t necessarily healthy. I actually thought of it when I read a recent article entitled “Do Cooking Shows Make you Fat”?  The show is called The Best Thing I Ever Ate. On each episode food personalities (there is now such a thing) gush on any given topic from “foods in a bowl” to “snack foods”. This is food foreplay. It makes my mouth literally water and if you could “click to order” the food discussed I probably would. I was sick in bed watching one episode and went downstairs to Google McClure’s pickles.  I do think food and cooking shows can increase your appetite. This show definitely turns me into a “hungry girl”.
What are your favorite food TV shows? Do you cook what you see being prepared? Does it change your eating in any way? Does it make you hungry?

Congratulations to Sam (Mom at the Barre) for winning our Purely Elizabeth Giveaway.