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

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's Your Nutrition Transition?

The real purpose of this blog is to inspire others to make a change, however small, in their nutrition and health habits. That's why it's so freaking rewarding to receive photos of dishes that friends-slash-readers have made as a result of reading the blog, or of nutrition-inspired photos people have taken while traveling the globe. Keep the photos a-comin'! It keeps this (sometimes tired) girl chug-chug-chugging along...

Here's a dinner made from vegetables and 100% grass-fed beef from the
North Scottsdale Farmers Market:

A shot of a reader and her husband's Cabbage and Apple Slaw:

Same couple's Crockpot Chicken Curry:

(The reader's hubby joked that it looks kind of questionable in the photo but awesome - and tasty - in person! It's hard to do food photography with an iPhone.)

Also, check out this post to see another reader's Mediterranean Quinoa.

One of my favorite readers went to visit her boyfriend's family in Texas and took pictures of their beautiful vegetable garden:

Who is that hiding in the plants?

These guys are awesome:

If you make something from the blog and want to share it, send me a pic!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vitamin D Deficient? Me too!

OK, I'll admit it. I ask all of my clients to get their 25(OH)D (vitamin D) levels checked at the doctor...but I hadn't gotten mine checked until this week! It's a simple blood test that takes just a few minutes, and it is the only way for you to know your vitamin D status. My level? A measly 27.1. Though most labs recommend a range of 30-100 ng/mL, research from the Vitamin D Council suggests a year-round blood range of 50-80 ng/mL, with levels not going below 50. Oops.

Why should I even care so much about vitamin D? Straight from the Vitamin D Council's website: "Technically not a 'vitamin,' vitamin D is in a class by itself. Its metabolic product, calcitriol, is actually a secosteroid hormone that targets over 2000 genes (about 10% of the human genome) in the human body. Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more. Vitamin D's influence on key biological functions vital to one's health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health."

Convinced? You should be! And the evidence is mounting every day.

Also known as the "sunshine vitamin," many of us have thought that if we live in Arizona or any warm-weather state, we don't need to worry about vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesized through the skin when it comes into contact with UV rays. Unfortunately, in efforts to reduce our skin cancer risk or prevent wrinkles, we put on sunblock, which prevents the skin, kidneys, and liver from making vitamin D.

The USDA raised vitamin D recommendations from 400 IU (international units) to 800 IU per day, but many experts are recommending 2,000 IU to 5,000 IU and more. To give you some perspective, we synthesize 10,000 IU through uncovered, mid-day summer skin exposure (without sunscreen!) to the sun for 20-30 minutes.

Obviously, sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D. If you live in a warmer state, regular mid-day sun exposure for most of the year (preventing burning) is your best way to get enough vitamin D. However, if you work indoors, live in a state farther north than Georgia, or avoid sun exposure for any reason, supplementation is absolutely crucial. Vitamin D can be found in certain foods like egg yolks or fortified milk, but it's best to get it from a high quality cod liver oil, such as Carlson's, or through vitamin D3 supplements. Make sure you get D3, not any other form.

How much should you supplement? It depends on your blood levels, skin color, latitude, and sun exposure. The farther away you live from the equator, the darker your skin, and the higher your weight, the more vitamin D you may need.

The first step is getting your vitamin D checked through a blood test of your 25(OH)D. If your levels falls below 50, which is becoming the generally accepted minimum level for optimal D status, consider supplementing with 2,000 - 5,000 IU vitamin D per day until your levels are above 50. Don't worry about toxicity. No known toxicity at levels of even 10,000 IU have been reported, and our ancestors, who were outside many hours of a day, synthesized far greater levels of vitamin D on their own. Of course, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any supplementation.

If you're an expectant mother, you may have heard that breast milk tends to be low in vitamin D. The only reason for this is that most women are deficient in D themselves, so not enough is transferred into their breast milk. Optimize your vitamin D levels before getting pregnant, and continue to supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding to protect yourself and your child.

I was taking 2,000 IU most days and trying to get a little sun every day (about 10 minutes), but obviously that's not enough for me! I'm very curious to see if I start to feel better as my vitamin D levels increase. Will keep you posted.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Should You Take Fish Oils?

As promised, here is some more information on omega-3 fatty acids. I am a guest blogger on Get In Shape Arizona, a blog for EduFit Personal Training Studio, so please go to their site here to read more about these amazing - and essential - fats! Learn what they are, where you get them, and whether or not you should take them. Of course, talk to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.

Additionally, please remember that while walnuts and flaxseeds have omega-3's, they are in a form that is not fully converted to EPA and DHA, the two essential omega-3 fatty acids. This does not mean that we should avoid walnuts and flaxseeds; recent studies suggest they still have great heart promoting benefits. The take home message is that fish and nuts, as long as you're not allergic to them, are both important parts of our diet. If you don't eat fish, then fish oil supplementation is recommended.

I personally take two fish oil supplements: Carlson Labs Norwegian Cod Liver Oil and Carlson's Very Finest Fish Oil, both of which can be purchased on Amazon.

I take 1 teaspoon of the cod liver oil with food in the morning. It tastes like lemon and doesn't have a fishy aftertaste. It also has vitamins D and A, along with essential fatty acids DHA and EPA.

I also take 2 capsules of Carlson's Very Finest Fish Oil, which is orange flavored, in the morning or at night with food. Both supplements together provide about 2,000 mg omega-3 fatty acids per day.

If you take any supplement, I highly recommend good quality fish oils and cod liver oil, such as Carlson's or Nordic Naturals. I personally aim to eat fatty fish 2-3 times per week and eat walnuts, flaxseeds, or almonds on a daily basis. These fish oil supplements help me cover my bases when I can't seem to get in enough wild salmon or mackerel.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sablefish BBQ

I bought wild Alaskan sablefish (also known as black cod, though it's not technically cod) at the North Scottsdale Farmers Market on Saturday from Alaskan Pride Seafood. Sablefish is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been highly publicized for their anti-inflammatory, disease preventing effects, and I will post later on them this week. Sablefish has about 2 grams (2,000 mg) of these super fats per serving, which is the same as taking 4 high quality fish oil pills. This is up to 50% more omega-3's per serving than salmon! I like purchasing fish from this vendor at the market because they use sustainable fishing practices, avoid farming, and offer fish that's lower in PCBs and mercury than conventional versions.

Because of its high oil content, sablefish has a buttery, rich taste and is highly prized in the Japanese fish market. It's about $20 per pound at the market, which is cheaper than wild Alaskan salmon. Since it is very flavorful on its own, I only seasoned it with sea salt and pepper.

My husband, the grill master, BBQ'd the fish, marinated portobello mushrooms, and pesticide-free corn (all purchased at the market). I prepared a quick salad of greens, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and goat cheese. The tomatoes were grown in a French-inspired garden only 1 mile south of the market, and they were spectacular!

Delicious sablefish, thawed in the refrigerator:

Whole corn, pre-peeled:

Post peeling and cleaning:

Portobello mushrooms, marinated in organic cold-pressed olive oil from Queen Creek, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano:

Salad prior to goat cheese and dressing:

The fish is really easy. Place it on aluminum foil skin side down and season with sea salt and black pepper:

Place the fish and veggies on the grill and close the lid for 5 minutes:

You will know that the fish is ready to be turned when you can slide a spatula between the flesh and the skin and it peels off easily:

You might need a few utensils to flip the fish entirely:

You can simply turn the fish over, place it on the skin, and cook for another 2 minutes. This is what it all looked like when Greg brought it inside:

And here's the finished plate:

It was absolutely spectacular! The fish is pretty rich, so I could only finish half of it. The rest will be great atop a big salad for lunch this week.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day in the Life...

A lot of my clients ask me what kinds of foods I eat on a regular basis. I wanted to share with you what I ate today.

Firstly, I have to say that I try my best to be an intuitive eater, which means that I honor my hunger, fullness, and satisfaction signals. This means that I don't eat "100% healthy" all the time, but that I try to eat mostly healthful foods because they make me feel good, and I only eat the foods I truly enjoy. It also means that if I'm craving Cold Stone ice cream or pizza, guess what? I eat it! I just try to really focus on the food as I eat it, taking small bites that I savor and listening to my body when it says it has had enough. Am I perfect at this? No. I'm still learning what intuitive eating means for me, but I am much farther down the path than I was a few years ago.

I read recently that there are two ways to become a more mindful eater that have really helped me:

#1 Take a few breaths before each meal to center yourself and be grateful for the food you are about to eat. It might help you slow down and actually enjoy and pay attention the food, instead of wolf it down while you watch TV or play on the computer.

#2 Love your food. If you love something, you pay attention to it. You don't eat it standing up in front of the fridge, and you don't use it to abuse your body or as a way of ignoring your emotional needs.

Secondly, I aim to eat mostly natural and unprocessed foods. I still eat out (more on weekends) and sometimes rely on convenience foods when I don't have a lot of time, but for the most part I really enjoy whole foods. In fact, I crave them. It doesn't mean that I have a ton of time to cook, however. I spend about 20 minutes over the weekend planning meals for the next week, and I try to cook double recipes so I can refrigerate or freeze them for later. I then shop at a farmers market and Trader Joes and/or Whole Foods every weekend. Having food in the house is essential; otherwise, it would be far too easy to eat out for every meal. I actually bring my lunch to work 4 days a week, enjoying lunch out with friends on most Fridays.

So here's what I had today, in case you were curious! All fruits, veggies, dairy, and meat were organic. Also, I don't measure my food, but here is an estimate just so you have an idea if you wanted to prepare it yourself!

5:30 a.m. - banana with ~ 2 tsp. almond butter

5:40 a.m. - 7:30 a.m. - 1 hour walk/jog with the pups; P90X Chest and Arms

7:40 a.m. - smoothie made with 1 scoop Sun Warrior chocolate raw vegan brown rice protein powder (, 1 T raw hempseed powder (Whole Foods), 1 T peanut butter, 3/4 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

(I haven't tried the vanilla yet - I get the chocolate flavor, which is sweetened with stevia)

9:00 a.m. - Kombucha (yes, I still have a few left!)

10:30 a.m. - 1/2 sliced cucumber with sea salt

12:00 p.m. - Leftovers! Salad made with romaine, onions, avocado, and Bragg's Organic Healthy Vinaigrette; Crockpot Turkey with Bulgur and Feta leftovers (see this post) and iced tea

3:10 - 6 oz Greek yogurt with almonds, fresh raspberries, and stevia after a 15 minute walk
6:15 - Tuna salad (chunk light tuna, olive-oil mayo, grain mustard, diced onions, relish, sea salt, pepper) on top of a bed of spinach with Skinny Crisps and cilantro-jalapeno hummus from a local vendor

7:00 - glass of merlot with a few episodes of True Blood

Water: approximately 100-120 ounces of mineralized, clean water

Supplements: Dr. Ben Kim's Greens, Carlson's Fish Oils, Carlson's Cod Liver Oil, HMF Forte probiotics, Douglas Labs CoQ10, Pure Encapsulations MSM powder, Standard Process Antronex and Allerplex (for allergies I have to my dogs)

Sunlight: 1 hour in early morning, 15 minutes at 3 p.m. (for vitamin D)

As you can see, I try to eat often (every 3-4 hours) based on hunger. When I exercise a lot, as I have been doing lately in my 3rd month of P90X, it's especially important to fuel my metabolism and honor hunger when I feel it. I never focus on calories or worry too much about serving size. I serve myself lots of veggies and reasonable portions of protein and healthy fats, and if I am still hungry when I finish the food, I serve myself a bit more of what I'm truly craving. Let me know if you have any questions!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farmers Markets

My idea of a fantastic Saturday morning is visiting the local farmers market and picking out fresh produce, grass-fed beef, and locally produced olive oil for the week. There are so many reasons to shop at farmers markets:

1. Health: Many farmers are certified organic growers and/or do not use synthetic pesticides or other chemicals to grow their food. Organic certification is an expensive and lengthy process for a small grower, so oftentimes they cannot afford to become certified. However, there's a good chance the farmer will be selling his fruits and vegetables himself, so you can ask him how he cares for his crops. Same thing goes for beef, chicken, and pork stands at these markets. I had a lengthy discussion yesterday with a cattle rancher about how he tends for his 100% grass-fed cattle...and I bought ground beef for $3 less per pound than I can get at Whole Foods!

2. Environment: Produce found at farmers markets comes from a local farm, not across the country (or world!) to get to your plate. That means your food doesn't "cost" as much to the environment to be produced. Furthermore, because these farmers rotate crops to avoid depleting the soil of vital nutrients, they retain the integrity of the land. This also means that more nutrients are in the food they grow.

3. Cost: Because you buy fruits and vegetables directly from the grower, you don't pay the overhead required at large grocery chains. You might notice that produce is cheaper at markets than at the grocery store. Farmers really want you to learn how to cook with their produce, enjoy what you have purchased, and subsequently come back next week, so they'll oftentimes cut you a deal at the point of purchase.

4. Taste/Freshness: Locally-grown fruits and vegetables are picked only days (or sometimes hours) before you buy them. This means that they haven't been sitting on a truck or in a warehouse for weeks, slowly losing nutrients, taste, and freshness. Furthermore, because they are sold so quickly, farmers can pick these fruits and veggies when they're ripe (instead of weeks before they ripen), so you get the maximum amount of nutrients and taste from these foods. You simply cannot compare organic corn, berries, or tomatoes from a farmers market to what you can buy at even the fanciest grocer.

5. Economy: It is especially important now to support our local economy. When you buy fruits and vegetables (and other artisan products) at a farmers market, you are helping local business grow and thrive, and you're not sending your money to another state or another continent.

As if these reasons weren't enough, the North Scottsdale Farmers Market just popped up in North Scottsdale on Shea and 94th Street (in the parking lot of Ling and Louie's). It has only been opened for 3 weeks so is a bit small, but it's rapidly growing and will be a big success, in my opinion, given its location. Even better, all produce, flowers, meats, and cheese are sold indoors in an unfinished commercial space for the summer to ensure the quality of these products.

North Scottsdale Farmers Market
Every Saturday
7 am - 11 am
94th Street and Shea

Check it out, especially if you live close by.

Even better, if you were a fan of the Scottsdale Farmers Market in Old Town, get pumped: instead of closing for the summer, they have moved into the Scottsdale Stadium on Osborn and Drinkwater through August.

For more information on Arizona Farmers Markets, click here.


When many of the farmers markets in Arizona are closed for the summer because of the suffocating heat, the rest of the country's markets are thriving. We went to La Jolla for the 4th of July and had the pleasure of shopping for our holiday meals at the La Jolla Open Aire Market, which is open on Sunday mornings. It was purely a feast for the eyes (and tummy!).

This market, which is located on the grounds of an elementary school, is absolutely stunning, and there is so much to choose from. There are at least 20 produce vendors, plus a plethora of dessert, hummus, olive oil, clothing, coffee, and arts and crafts vendors. They even have a food court with dozens of prepared food vendors. Dogs are not allowed inside so customers tie them to the fence and they lounge under the trees (and no doubt receive a few scraps from passer-bys).

As you can imagine by the pictures - and the quantity of them - I was in absolute heaven.

View from outside the fence:

Just gorgeous:

One of my favorite all-time vegetables:

This is the farmer's way of saying that they don't use pesticides on this corn (which is hard to find!):

Variety of different greens and beets:

Black radish - I've never heard of one!

Various sprouts and micro greens:


Check out this zucchini:

Gorgeous, huge bouquets of mixed flowers:

Dainty daisies:

Round squash:

Three baskets for $, perfectly ripened, and absolutely delicious:

Conventional peaches are very likely to sprayed, so buying them in season at a farmers market from a grower who doesn't use pesticides is a great they taste amazing!

I'm assuming you can eat the flowering part but don't quite know how to use them...

Nothing says "summer" more than fresh green beans:

Absolutely stunning heirloom tomatoes:

This local baker makes red velvet cake from scratch using all real ingredients.

We sampled some of the red velvet and took a few pieces home for 4th of July dessert:

Look how delicious these look:

Some vendors sold potted herbs and plants so you could grow some at home:

Some people managed to sneak in their dog:

We grabbed lattes and topped them with raw sugar and cinnamon...a nice treat on a cool, cloudy morning:

This local shop sells salsas, tahini, hummus, and various other salads. We picked up 3 different types of hummus and fresh pita bread:

These pups had to wait for their owners to finish shopping. I don't think they minded lounging in the grass, enjoying the cool air:

We left Lucy in the Jeep with the top down. She seemed pretty happy to see us:

Later that day, we enjoyed organic grass-fed beef burgers on bread that was baked that morning with my peanut cole slaw, grilled squash, and non-sprayed corn (with organic butter!). The dinner was absolutely amazing, and I am confident it is because the ingredients were so fresh and well-prepared. The company wasn't so bad either :)