Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Arizona Foothills Magazine Feature

Check it out! An article I wrote was featured on Arizona Foothills Magazine. Thanks to Claire, a friend and fellow Karver, who made it happen :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken

Tonight I decided to make a recipe from "Fitness" magazine. I don't always like their recipes, as they tend to use lots of low-fat (read: fake) foods or soy, but this one seemed rather reasonable. It was quite delicious, and I look forward to having leftovers tomorrow for lunch! (Mike and Meesh - you will get to enjoy this tomorrow on our "swap" while we have your turkey meatloaf - thanks!)

Mediterranean Chicken
4-6 servings (depending on the size of the thighs and how many you want)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil (use cold pressed EVOO)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8-10 skinless organic chicken thighs, bone in (I could only find skin on, but it keeps in the moisture as you cook it, and you can peel it off before you eat it)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup organic chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives (I used one jar)
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup whole wheat couscous (I used brown rice)
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
1 tsp lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof (NOT non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.


Add chicken to pan, meaty side down. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 minutes more.

2. Pour out any excess fat. Return pan to burner; stir in broth and wine, scraping up any brown bits. Scatter garlic, thyme and olives on chicken. Lay one lemon round on each piece of chicken.



3. Place skillet in oven. Roast chicken for 17-20 minutes, or until juices run clear.



4. Prepare couscous according to package directions and steam asparagus until crisp-tender. (I roasted mine in the oven with some carrots. I just sprinkled then with salt, pepper, and olive oil and put them on the bottom rack of the oven as the skillet was on the top rack.) Serve chicken over couscous (or rice); place asparagus on the side and sprinkle with lemon zest.


This is Greg's plate...note the 2 chicken thighs.

This recipe is easy to make and pretty inexpensive! It tastes great, too :)

*M*

Sugar Sugar SUGAR!

I promised the 15 attentive, health-minded women who attended the Karve Scottsdale Sugar seminar yesterday that I would put up the tips, tricks, and products I recommend for reducing the processed sweeteners we eat and picking some healthier options. Here are some things I recommend:

1. After a meal, drink herbal ginger tea. This helps you digest your food better, as ginger is a digestive tonic, but it also places some space between the meal and a potential dessert. By the time you've finished enjoying the tea and go for the sweets, you might not really want them anymore. Like always, listen to your body and give it a chance to tell you what it really wants. I especially like Yogi Tea's Ginger Tea (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Sprouts).



2. Go for GT's Kombucha to alkalinize the system and support general health. The mild sweetness and natural fizziness (from fermentation, not added carbonic acid) mimics a soda feel without the junk and is full of probiotics, enzymes, and amino acids. My favorite flavors are Trilogy (a raspberry, lemon, and ginger blend), but many people really like Grape and Cranberry too. Get them at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Sunflower, and AJ's.

**Aisha, one of the participants at the seminar, informed me that if you get the Sprouts weekly coupons, about once a month you can get coupons for Kombucha for $2.50 each! Thanks, Aisha! **



3. If you really can't get off diet soda and want a relatively healthy alternative (though Kombucha is better), check out Steaz 0-calorie soda. They are sweetened with stevia and erythritol, a sugar alcohol (but not artificial sweetener). My husband loves the raspberry flavor, and having them in the fridge ensures that he won't reach for the diet soda! Now if I could get my father-in-law, who's visiting this week, to drink them instead of diet pepsi I'd be REALLY happy...Find them at Whole Foods, and look for coupons...they're often on sale!



4. Want a substitute for less healthy desserts that are full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes? Check out Innocent Indulgence! The owner, Alisha, is a registered dietitian who loves sweets and wanted to make them both delicious and nutrient-rich. My all-time favorites are her "cookie dough" and peanut butter squares, both made with sweeteners like agave, stevia, and honey, as well as fruit, nuts, and coconut oil. YUM! Check them out here.



5. If you want to make some of your own raw, natural desserts to keep in your freezer, look at Dr. Ben Kim's dessert section of his website here. I love the raw fudge the best...not quite as good or pretty as the Innocent Indulgence desserts, but still very satisfying when you need something sweet in a flash. Buy raw almond butter at Trader Joe's (only $4.99), and get everything else at Whole Foods or Sprouts.

6. When you're picking the healthier sweeteners to add to coffee, Teeccino (a healthier coffee alternative that's all natural and made from fruits/nuts found here or at Whole Foods), tea, oatmeal, desserts, or anything else, make sure to get them as natural and unprocessed as possible. Go for raw honey and agave nectar, and look for organic plain stevia extract...no need to spend money on fillers or "patented" stevia blends. I get raw agave nectar and honey at Whole Foods and organic stevia and maple syrup at Trader Joe's.


Well, that should be all for now! If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment, feel free to email me at megan.mcnamee.rd@gmail.com. Looking forward to the sugar seminar at K Pilates and Karve Mesa on April 24th!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Sichuan Chicken Deliciousness

I love cooking Asian dishes, but it sometimes be a daunting task to try to procure the necessary ingredients. Luckily, I was able to pick up just one unusual item (dry sherry) for this Sichuan-Style Chicken with Peanuts. Notice all of the ingredients, below. Almost all of them are kitchen staples and can be easily found in grocery stores or specialty stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. I already had stevia (instead of sugar), sesame oil, chicken broth, peanuts, balsamic vinegar, Noma Shoyu (instead of soy sauce), and garlic in my kitchen.


The recipe is from Eating Well and can be found here. I also listed it below:

4 servings, 1 cup each | Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Sichuan Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Chinkiang rice vinegar, (see Note) or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I used stevia)
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce (I used Noma Shoyu, a fermented soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch (organic only! Most corn is genetically modified!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more to taste

Chicken

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, or thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon Shao Hsing rice wine, (see Note) or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (use olive oil instead)
  • 2 1/2-inch-thick slices ginger, smashed (use powdered if you don't have any - I forgot it!)
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas, (8 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 scallion, minced

Preparation

To prepare Sichuan sauce: Whisk broth, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch and crushed red pepper to taste in a small bowl.



To prepare chicken: Combine chicken, rice wine (or sherry), soy sauce, cornstarch and garlic in a medium bowl; mix thoroughly. (In the picture, I show what it looks like just after I transferred it to the skillet...because I'm wok-less.)



Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl oil into the pan, add ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Carefully add the chicken mixture, spreading it out. Cook until the chicken begins to brown, about 1 minute. Using a spatula, stir-fry for 30 seconds. Spread the chicken out again and cook for 30 seconds. Continue stir-frying until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Add snap peas and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir the Sichuan Sauce, swirl it into the pan and stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened and glossy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Note: when you use a skillet instead of a wok, you will need longer to cook the dish.)



Transfer to a platter (discard the ginger) and sprinkle with peanuts and scallions. Serve immediately. Here it is with brown rice and a big salad:



In this shot, notice my monkey-dogs sitting all nice as if they were actually getting a plate of their own.



Nutrition

Per serving : 273 Calories; 12 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 6 g Mono; 66 mg Cholesterol; 11 g Carbohydrates; 28 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 177 mg Sodium; 427 mg Potassium

1 Carbohydrate Serving

Exchanges: 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat, 1 fat

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare Sichuan Sauce (Step 1); cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  • Notes: Chinkiang is a dark, slightly sweet vinegar with a smoky flavor. It is available in many Asian specialty markets. If unavailable, balsamic vinegar is an acceptable substitute.
  • Shao Hsing (or Shaoxing) is a seasoned rice wine. It is available in most Asian specialty markets and some larger supermarkets in the Asian section. An acceptable substitute is dry sherry, sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store. (We prefer it to the “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets, which can be surprisingly high in sodium.)

Make sure to buy only organic chicken breast to avoid hormones and antibiotics. It's worth the extra few dollars! I paired this delicious dish with brown rice and a big salad made of organic, locally grown butter lettuce, scallions, avocados, zucchini, goat cheese, and Bragg's dressing. It was mostly an all green salad, which is a definite no-no when it comes to presentation and color, but it tasted amazing! Greg even commented on how good the lettuce was. My parents are going to enjoy this dish, as they're getting it for the weekly swap. (Yes, Dad...this is for you!)



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Lunch

Today has been a fantastic day so far. I took the dogs for a long walk filled with intervals (they get confused by the speed changes but love it nonetheless); I was so sore and tired that my muscles shook at an amazing Karve class; and I had an incredibly treatment with my wonderful acupuncturist, Joshuah Kim. To top off a great morning, I needed a delicious lunch, right?

My Nature's Garden Delivered organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetable box arrived yesterday morning, so I had crisp, fresh spinach and beautiful bell peppers for a salad. Note the sprinkle of goat cheese for some fat and flavor.


If I don't make my own salad dressing, I love to use Bragg's Healthy Vinaigrette or Ginger dressings. They're made with organic olive oil and all healthy ingredients (read: no soy or weird fillers). It's a great option when you want a quick, tasty dressing that is actually real.


The soup is made in the crockpot and is the brainchild of my coworker, Janet. It's so easy and delicious! I sprinkled it with hemp seeds for some extra texture. Here's the recipe:

Crockpot Great Northern Beans

1 lb great northern beans (or any white bean you like)

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (I use 4-5 carrots)

2 ribs celery, chopped (I use 4-5 ribs)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 heaping tablespoons of vegetable bouillon seasoning (I used Organic Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base from Whole Foods)

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Night before: Sort, wash and cover beans with water to soak. Chop onion, carrots, celery & garlic and store them in the fridge until morning. The veggie amounts are suggestions - if you like one more than the other add more.

In the morning: Rinse beans. Add to crockpot with veggies, bay leaf, vegetable seasoning, butter, olive oil. Cover with about an inch of water. (I measure out 6 cups of water total.) Turn crock pot on low and cook all day. You might find that you need to add a little more water toward the end on the cooking process so if you can't get home during the day to check you might want to add a little more water in the beginning. You want it to be a thick soup, but you don't want it to look like a bean side dish!

Just before serving - take out about a cup of beans and puree in a food processor and stir back into crock pot. This process will help thicken the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. Serves 6.

Megan’s version: Place all ingredients in crock pot the night before and refrigerate, covered. In the morning, cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread or pan-fried organic polenta.

I'm off to TJ's and Whole Foods to get food for the week, including ingredients for the dishes I'm making at tomorrow's big Sunday brunch. We're having up to 20 people over to our house, and it's going to be a wonderful brunch pot luck! Pictures to come...

*M*


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When to Eat

As a dietitian, I work with clients on how to eat almost more than what to eat. Sound surprising? Think about it. How often do you eat until you're "too full"? How many times during the week are you so hungry that you shovel everything in as fast as possible? Your body has many ways of telling you when you're hungry, when you're full, what kinds of foods you need, and what foods really taste best to you. We were all born with the wherewithal to properly nourish ourselves, but somewhere along the way we lost our ability to self-regulate eating. Perhaps it was when we were required to finish our plates, or maybe it was when we were told we would get some candy for good behavior. Most of us began associating food with some sort of emotion or reward (eat your veggies and you get dessert!) at a pretty young age. No wonder we have difficulty knowing how much to eat and how to listen to our bodies!

The first principle of intuitive or mindful eating that I work with my clients on is eating when you're hungry. Hunger is how your body tells your brain to start eating. It's a survival mechanism; without it, we would have no drive to eat and would starve to death. Unfortunately, in this diet- and weight-obsessed world in which we live, hunger has become something feared. "What if I get hungry?" people ask, or "I always get hungry in the afternoon. What should I do?" Do you know what I say? EAT! Hunger is a sign that your body needs fuel. Most people get hungry every 3-5 hours (more or less depending on your individual physiology). If you're never hungry, it's either because your metabolism has slowed so much that your body requires less fuel, or (more likely) because you're so mentally preoccupied or stressed that you almost "forget" to eat. Hunger is a GOOD thing. It means that your body is working through the fuel it has been given and that your metabolism, or the rate at which you use fuel, is kickin'.

What does hunger feel like? For some people, it can be sensed as an uncomfortable feeling or "rumbling" in the stomach. For others, it comes along as a headache, irritability, or crankiness. The most important thing is that we don't let ourselves get TOO incredibly hungry. Why is this? Because when we're really hungry, we tend to feel like we need to eat everything but the kitchen sink to feel satisfied. Thus, we eat foods that we might not normally eat, and we eat really quickly. If you start to identify what true hunger is (about a 3 on a scale of 1 - empty - to 10 - stuffed), you can have a better idea of when to start eating.

What about snacking? Snacks are a great way to give ourselves an energy and nutrient boost between meals. We don't have to eat until we're full (more on this later) if we're having a snack; we just want to ward off hunger for a few more hours until we can have a more substantial meal.

Sometimes, however, it's not convenient to eat as often as our bodies ask. That's why it's important to have foods that are more satisfying and have better "sticking" power. High fiber foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa, and sprouted whole wheat) are great options. Balance is also important. When choosing meals and snacks, aim to have some protein, fat, and carbohydrate to feel most satisfied until your next meal or snack. Organic apples (carbohydrate, fiber) with raw almond butter (protein, fat) or carrots (minimal carbohydrate) with hummus (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) are great snack options.

Another reason why recognizing hunger as the main driver for eating is because sometimes we eat when we're not hungry. This can happen when we're bored, stressed, upset, tired, or even happy. Sometimes we look at the clock and decide that it's time to eat, or perhaps we smell cookies baking in the oven and all of a sudden want food, even though we're not necessarily hungry. The main difference between intuitive eaters and everyone else is that hunger is almost always the drive for eating.

It may take some time to get used to eating when you feel true hunger instead of waiting until you're starving, but when you start practicing this technique, you may notice that you choose healthier choices and don't get too full after each meal. Similarly, if you're used to eating when you're bored or upset, it can be challenging to find substitutes for food. The most important thing is that you begin to recognize your motivation for eating. Ask yourself if you really are hungry, and if you are, what do you really want to eat? When you eat when you're hungry, you're honoring how your body is meant to work: when your blood sugar drops and all of your fuel is used up, you get hungry, and you eat. Sound simple? It can be...with a little practice!

In upcoming posts, I'll talk about three more principles of intuitive eating that I use with every client. I wish you happy, healthy eating - when you're hungry!

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Fried" Chicken and Cole Slaw

I find that a lot of Self Magazine's recipes tend to have foods I try not to eat (such as fat free cheese or tofu), but I must say I really enjoyed this Unfried Chicken with Cabbage and Apple Slaw. It got the official husband approval, meaning it's guy (and foodie) friendly. Here are some shots of the process:

I make my own breadcrumbs by putting Ezekiel sprouted bread drizzled with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder in my toaster/convection oven.

(I think I need to clean my toaster oven...)

Next, I put the cooled, toasted bread in my little hand chopper that came with my Cuisinart immersion blender. You can also use a food processor, but I never registered for a new one and my old one is, well, not the greatest. Turns out I didn't love cooking like I do now when we registered for our wedding. Anyway, here's a crude picture of my little chopper.



As the recipe says, combine the breadcrumbs with all the herbs and some dijon mustard. Dredge the organic chicken in organic buttermilk and then in the breadcrumb mixture.



Next, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the coated bone-in chicken on the sheet. The recipe says to put them on a roasting rack above a baking sheet, but I think they turned out just fine this way.



While the chicken bakes (about 30 minutes at 400 degrees), make the coleslaw. This can also be done in advance. The dressing is so simple and so healthy! Apple cider and balsamic vinegars, honey, dijon and grain mustards, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, parsley...I made extra because I had more cabbage than called for in the recipe. I forgot to buy the lemon, so I used freshly squeezed orange juice to keep the apples from browning. Apples are low in vitamin C, which prevents oxidation and browning, so to keep apples looking fresh, just sprinkle them with fresh citrus juice!

Here's the beautiful cole slaw:



Once the chicken is cooked, serve with the cole slaw and enjoy! Like I said, this was a truly spectacular dinner. (I think my parents will be excited because they get to enjoy it tomorrow! This is the recipe I made for our weekly "swap.") Bon appetit!


Really Yummy Cauliflower Recipe


Cauliflower is in season from October to April, making it a great cruciferous (read: healthy!) veggie to add to your side or main dishes. My new favorite cauliflower recipe can be found on Eating Well's website here. It uses balsamic vinegar and (organic) parmesan cheese. Yum! I even got my father, who "hates" cauliflower to eat it. Great success.

Karve It Out


I'm sore. It's a good sore, but it's still sore. I've been the dietitian for Karve Studio as a consultant for almost a year now, and even though I do it three times a week almost every week, it still keeps challenging my muscles every time. Karve is based on the Lotte Berk Method and is similar to the Dailey Method or the Bar Method (though I've taken both of them and think Karve is much better!).


In a Karve class, which lasts an hour, you work every single muscle group using basic gym moves, pilates-inspired exercises, and stretching and strengthening at the ballet bar. Grippy socks are a must; no shoes are worn. The Karve "style" includes Lululemon Athetica apparel, which they also sell. The studio is carpeted, so at first you feel like you're going to be really comfortable...until you feel like your arms (or butt or legs or abs or...) are going to fall off. The weird thing about it is that it's addicting. You don't want to stop going because you are almost competing with yourself. The instructors are super fun and sweet, and even though they push you they're not scary or intimidating. You can always go at your own pace, and it can be done by any fitness level, including beginners. The owner, Kendra Jordan, is absolutely amazing and supportive of nutrition...which is why I love working with them!



I encourage you to give it a try if you want to have a great workout that truly changes your body. They have two studios - Scottsdale and Mesa. The Scottsdale studio is celebrating its first anniversary on March 20th, and they have a free class at 12:30 if you want to check it out. I'm giving a "Sugar" seminar on Saturday, March 27th at 12:15 at the Scottsdale location. Check it out if you want to be sore every day...like me.



For more info, visit their website here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good eats...and what's in my fridge right now


So yesterday I met up with a good friend a Wildflower Bread Company. I absolutely love their soups, but after looking at the ingredient list online (which is linked directly from their soup list), I was a little hesitant to get it. Most of their soups had at least 20-30 ingredients, and many contained soy and even sulfites. Eh, I'll pass. I went with the Chopped Salad (hold the cranberries, dressing on the side), which has arugula, salmon, dried corn, sunflower seeds, parmesan, bell pepper, and Israeli couscous. Yum!



My mother-in-law would be proud: Greg and I just got our first installment of Cutco knives that we paid for ourselves! Greg's side of the family introduced us to Cutco, and they got us our main set for our wedding. We decided to add on with fun ones - a cheese cutter; an ice cream scoop with metal that somehow stays cold and melts the ice cream as it scoops through; a peeler that peels both ways (up and down); a curved knife used for cutting the tops off of produce while holding it (like strawberries); kitchen scissors; and a "thwapper" (a sandwich spreader that's serrated on one side for cutting). We're hooked. I'd rather buy new kitchen knives than clothes.

The cheese knife was perfect for cutting my just purchased Kilaree Cheddar from Whole Foods. It was only $2.40 for a big block, and it's made from milk from grass-fed, organically raised cows. There was a $0.55 coupon for it, too! Score.




For lunch I had a quinoa patty and raw kale salad from Whole Foods, plus a few pieces of this amazing cheese. It's never too early to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Irish cheese, right? Besides, my married name is quite Irish...

You can make the quinoa cakes yourself with the recipe found at here. They're super awesome heated in a toaster oven, and they taste creamy and flavorful. Quinoa is a whole grain that is more alkaline in nature and is relatively high in protein and fiber. I absolutely love eating it in the "cake" form!



So after my trip to Whole Foods (but before I go to Trader Joe's tomorrow to get some more organic produce for the week), here's what my fridge looks like right now:


Those drinks on the right are GT's Synergy kombucha in Trilogy flavor. To the left of these wonder drinks are Steaz sparkling green tea, raspberry flavor. My husband's New Year's resolution was to stop drinking all soda (including diet soda - yuck). I like the Steaz for him because it's made with stevia, a natural, 0-calorie sweetener, and green tea. I don't like that it's still carbonated, but if I can get him off soda, then we're half-way there. (Eventually I'll get him to drink kombucha...well, maybe...) On the top shelf you'll notice probiotics and cod liver oil, and the produce bins are somewhat full with organic fruits and veggies. Organic raw and (unfortunately) pasteurized cheeses, as well as goat cheese, go below, as do organic meats. My fridge will fill up once I start making some great recipes this week and have some leftovers!

Off to wash my car outside (it's 70 degrees!) and get a massage. Hope your Saturday is full of healthful eating, relaxation, and some fun.

*M*

Three Crazy Remedies that Might Just Work

It has been a few years since I have stopped seeking conventional treatments and pharmaceuticals for any ache, pain, or scratch. But that doesn't mean that I don't want relief when dealing with everyday health nuisances. Here are three products that I have found quite helpful:

1. Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar


This "miracle" tonic has been used for years by alternative folks as a "detoxifier," to treat acne or skin issues, or even for weight loss. I don't have personal experiences in those areas with ACV, but I have used it quite successfully for the treatment of heartburn. Sound counter intuitive? The theory is that we often have heart burn because we don't have enough stomach acid (due to pharmaceuticals, aging, stress, or eating less healthy foods that use a lot of stomach acid to digest). Our stomachs almost "over-react" to lack of stomach acid by pumping out almost too much acid. The interesting thing about it is that when you add acid in the form of 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar mixed in at least 4-8 ounces of water to the system, it closes the feedback loop and calms the system. ACV has also been shown to have alkaline effects on the rest of the system, which is considered more ideal.

Of course, this is not recommended for persons who are still on H2 blockers or proton-pump inhibitors (like Nexium or Prilosec), as it just worsens the problem in this case. But if you are having some digestion issues and acid reflux, try 1 tablespoon of Bragg's apple cider vinegar to cold, warm, or even hot water, add a little honey if you can't stand the taste, and drink. It can be taken with or without food, and many alternative practitioners even recommend doing it at night away from food before you go to bed.

Before you go away thinking that I'm absolutely nuts, three quick stories:

a) A medical doctor came into my office, talking about how he practices medicine by seeking the cause of problem, not by just diagnosing drugs. He said, "For example, most people have heart burn because they don't have enough stomach acid, so I usually recommend betaine HCl {basically hydrochloric acid, which is similar to stomach acid} or raw apple cider vinegar."

b) My oh-so-lovable-but-somewhat-stubborn husband was apparently popping 6-8 Tums per day and even had heartburn from drinking water(!?!?). He finally cave and did ACV every night, and within two or three days had almost complete elimination of heartburn. After two weeks, he didn't notice any at all. In my opinion, this is much easier, more effective, and cheaper than OTC drugs for heartburn!

c) One of my best friends starting using ACV, as recommended by her dad, because she had heartburn from eating onions and other seemingly benign foods. After a week, poof, no heartburn!

I have used ACV for a few years and have complete relief. At one point in my life, a gastroenterologist told me I would have to be on Aciphex (a prescription drug) for the rest of my life.

As you can see in the newly added statement at the bottom of the blog, I am not a medical doctor, and this advice is not used to replace that of your own physician. If you want to try it, however, give it a few days (you might feel some slight heartburn at first as your body readjusts), and see how you feel. You might be pleasantly surprised :)

2. Listerine


I'm sure some of you use Listerine for bad breath, but it may actually help with cold sores! My boss recommended it to me as something she has used for years to prevent them before they get big or at least shorten their course. I woke up a few weeks ago with a big, ugly sucker on my lip...I was apparently sleeping during that "window of opportunity" when it's just tingling and you can still do something about it. For the next few days, I soaked a cotton ball in Listerine and pressed it to my lip. It eased the swelling, helped it run its course faster, and made my breath smell good! I don't really know how it works or if any dermatologist would recommend it, but my boss' parents, who were pharmacists, swore by it.

3. Black Tea Bags


After the cold sore incident calmed down, I managed to get a stye on my left eye. What is a stye, you say? It's a bacterial infection caused by staph aureus that can inflame a parts of the eye or eyelid, and in my case it's always at the lash line. I get them when I'm sick or, in this case, when I'm taking certain supplements that are trying to support my immune system by killing little bugs that live within all of us. Lucky me. I read online that regular black caffeinated tea bags, when wetted and placed over the closed eye, can really minimize pain and inflammation. I did it a few times during work (for about 10 minutes at a time), and then for each of two nights I taped it over my eye, and within two days the stye was completely gone. To do this, get a black tea bag, run it under purified water to wet completely, and place it over the closed eye. Cover with a few layers of tissue paper or gauze. Place tape over the tissue and go to sleep. You might be surprised at what happens by morning!

Remember, only you are in charge of your health. I encourage you to think outside the box, do your research, and see how your own body responds.

In good health,
*M*

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Art (and Science?) of Meditation

I've been trying to meditate and do guided imagery for a few months, and I've been pretty consistent with doing some of the "courses" provided by The Daily Om (http://www.dailyom.com/). I see these courses as "training wheels" since they're guided meditation and not self-propelled, so I was intrigued to read an entire chapter dedicated to the importance of the mind and its relationship to health, disease prevention, and general well-being when reading parts of Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD. I read a really great description of how to best teach oneself to meditate (and I think I'm going to use this very specific advice, as I tend to have problems getting my brain to quiet down!):

"Begin by sitting comfortably, with your back straight, in what the Tibetan master Sogyal Rinpoche calls a 'dignified' posture. It gives full freedom to the flow of air that slips down through the nostrils toward the throat, then the bronchi, and finally to the bottom of the lungs, before reversing its route. With your attention focused, take two deep, slow breaths to begin relaxation. A sensation of comfort, lightness, and well-being will settle into your chest and shoulders. As you repeat this exercise, you will learn to let your breathing be led by your attention and to let your attention rest on your breath. As you relax, you may feel your mind become like a leaf floating on the water, rising and falling as waves pass underneath. Your attention accompanies the sensation of each intake of breath and the long exhalation of air leaving the body gently, slowly, gracefully, all the way to the end, until there is nothing more than a tiny, barely perceptible breath left. Then there is a pause. You learn to sink into this pause, more and more profoundly. It's often while resting briefly in it that you feel in most intimate contact with your body. With practice, you can feel your heart beating, sustaining life, as it has been doing indefatigably for so many years. And then, at the end of the pause, notice a tiny spark light up all by itself and set off a new cycle of breath. What you feel is the spark of life, which is always in us and which, through this process of attention and relaxation, you may discover for the first time.

"Of course, your mind is distracted from this task after a few minutes and is drawn toward the outside world: the concerns of the past or the obligations of the future. The essential art of this 'radical act of love' consists of doing what you would do for a child who needs undivided attention. You recognize the importance of these other thoughts, but while patiently promising to attend to them when the time comes, you push them to the side and come back to the person who really needs you in the present moment, that is, yourself."

What a beautiful way to describe, in detail, what so many people never do: show the love to ourselves that we would to our family, our kids, our spouse, our friends by spending part of each day in meditation. This can be prayer, or even a few deep breaths; it doesn't have to take hours each day or require you to dramatically alter your life. Even the word "meditation" sounds kind of weird or even scary, especially when we associate it with yogis or shamans or 'new age' people. I have just found that it is imperative for my state of mind to turn my brain off for a few minutes, even if I only do it once or twice a week at first. It helps me focus at work, center my thoughts, and not become stressed when new things are piled on my plate.

As my acupuncturist, the uber-talented Joshuah Kim, always says: "When you turn off the brain, the rest of the body can work like it should." Easier said than done, but certainly worth it.

*M*

Let the Food Photography Begin



Tonight I decided that even though I was going to heat up (on the stove - no microwave here!) some leftover chili for a quick dinner, I still had a beautiful bunch of organic, locally grown kale from my Nature's Garden Delivered box. What to do with these beautiful leafy greens? I'm actually a fan of the raw kale salad at Whole Foods, and I love juicing with Kale or even adding it to recipes, but I had never actually cooked it alone. Kale is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (a.k.a. really good, healthy, cancer-fighting properties), and it would be a shame to let the bunch go to waste in my crisper. I found a simple recipe from www.drbenkim.com, one of my favorite natural health resources. The olive oil I used is from the Queen Creek Olive Mill (thanks Mom and Dad!) and is cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Here is the recipe:



Ingredients:
1 bunch of organic kale, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced (I chopped)
1-2 cloves of garlic, mined or finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water (I used organic chicken broth)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or pan. Add onions and cook for 3-5 minutes or until slightly translucent. Stir frequently to make sure the onions don't burn.

Add the garlic and kale and mix them together with onions.


Allow garlic, kale, and onions to cook for one minute before adding broth and cover pot or pan for 4-6 minutes. Check kale from time to time, starting at the 4 minute mark, to check tenderness.


Once kale is tender, add sea salt and just a few drops of lemon juice. Give it one last stir and serve. Be sure not to add too much lemon juice, as it can make the dish sour.

Serve with a bowl of brown rice or quinoa and avocado, or perhaps a small piece of grass-fed beef. It was absolutely delicious and a little prettier than my amateur photography skills can give it credit :)

So it begins...

I've been meaning to do a blog for a while, but last night I was inspired to start writing for two very specific reasons:

1. I forced my very patient husband to finish watching "Julie and Julia," starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, with me. I had seen the first half on our cruise in December, and since I wanted to know how it ended, I rented it again. Since Blockbuster has quietly rescinded its promise of no late fees and the big DD (Due Date) was fast approaching, I knew that I had to know what happened to Julia Child and her faithful, decades-later follower, Julie Powell. I was not so impressed with the movie's ending, but I liked the idea of sharing my cooking experiences with friends and family through a blog like Julie's.

2. I was reading from "Self" magazine, a publication I used to like but now sort of hate because of its dieting undertones, and I learned about a registered dietitian who has blogged everything she eats for the last four years. She includes pictures and everything. Though the thought of agonizing over EVERY meal (and sharing each bite with the world) sounds a little involved, I thought it might be helpful to share the day-to-day trials and tribulations of an RD who is trying her best to take care of herself...whether that means experimenting with new, locally grown veggies or enjoying a really good slice of cheesecake, slowly and mindfully, when a big craving hits. I think people need to know that it's not easy for anyone, even so-called experts, but trying and learning is the best we can do. (Plus, I was a little annoyed that she, like most conventionally-trained RDs, was advocating eating 3 servings of low- or non-fat dairy daily, when I think pasteurized, low-fat dairy can be rather inflammatory to the system. More on that later.)

It's not just about cooking and healthy, natural foods, though; I myself have struggled with balancing being healthy but not bordering on crazy-about-food. As a dietetics student, I was your classic restrictive eater. I actually thought everyone should be constantly counting calories and obsessing over the scale. How did you know how much to eat if you didn't count and measure? Furthermore, how in the hell did people who just ate "normal" foods stay healthfully thin without even trying, while the rest of us slaved at the gym and agonized over each morsel eaten? Then, like in a movie where the clouds open up and the sun finally starts shining through, I heard about Intuitive Eating. What a novel idea, right? Eat when you're hungry? (What if you get hungry when it's not "time"?) Oh, and this stop when you're comfortably full jazz was interesting. (What if there's still food on my plate?) The hardest part was respecting the "eat the foods you truly enjoy" part. (Aren't cookies evil?)

I had the pleasure and honor of working with Dr. Carol Koprowski, a nutrition professor at USC and an Intuitive Eating convert herself, who introduced me to Elyse Resch. Elyse co-authored "Intuitive Eating" with Evelyn Tribole after years of recommending "conventional" weight loss approaches that just didn't work. Almost simultaneously, I was connected with a physician at USC who specialized in pediatric endocrinology and was looking for an RD to help co-author a guided imagery study utilizing Intuitive Eating concepts. Turns out it was Dr. Marc Weigensberg...Elyse Resch's husband. The universe could not have been more obvious, right? This was the direction I was supposed to go. I had to become an IE convert.

I had more bumps and bruises along the path of getting where I am today, especially in rejecting a lot of conventional nutrition and health recommendations due to my own experience and dissatisfaction, but I will leave those for another time.

As for now, I wish you happy, healthy eating and a few moments of time today to just be...

*M*