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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Healthy Traveling

Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, can be a fun opportunity to see a new part of the world, enjoy new cultures, and have a break from our normal routine. Unfortunately, a lot of my clients become anxious when they have to travel because they worry about eating healthfully or fear they will get sick while on their trip. I've had to travel a lot for work recently, so I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for healthy traveling.

When it comes to eating while traveling, here are the major guidelines that come from the intuitive eating philosophy (HINT: they still apply while you're in your hometown!):

1. Eat when you're truly hungry. Don't wait too long to eat for fear that you "shouldn't be hungry" or "shouldn't eat." Hunger is your body's internal mechanism that signals that your metabolism is humming and that you need fuel. Most people naturally get hungry every 3-4 hours, but for some people it's more or less time. This is why it's so important to bring snacks on trips!

2. Stop eating when you're comfortably full. It's true, I probably won't have many opportunities to eat Maryland crab cakes, but it doesn't mean I have to gorge myself on them when I have the chance. Fullness is our body's way of saying it has had enough. How else would we know when to stop, right? If you're eating slowly and mindfully and you choose foods you really enjoy (see below), eating until comfortable fullness is usually not difficult, though it does take practice if it's not what you're used to. And those crab cakes? I can usually take them to go and have them at my next meal if I want to. It's not worth the resultant stomach ache and heartburn...I want to enjoy myself, after all!

3. Choose foods you truly enjoy that satisfy you. Does this mean that you'll eat cookies and cake all day long? You could, but you would probably not feel well. Becoming an intuitive eater means listening to your taste buds AND your body, trying to pay close attention to how food satisfies you. Most people cannot thrive on "junk" food alone, but it doesn't mean that on the flip side we have to eat all "healthy" food to be truly healthy. It's all about balancing what our body needs and what our tastes buds crave. In general, aim for healthful foods most of the time and "play" foods some of the time.

4. Eat slowly and mindfully, paying attention to each bite. This is probably the hardest guideline of intuitive or mindful eating, but it might be the most important. The more attention we give to food as we eat it, the more satisfying, tasty, and filling it is. Think about it - have you ever found yourself at the bottom of a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream wondering who ate it all...and it was you? When our minds are not engaged in the eating process, we don't sense hunger or satisfaction very well. When we are truly in tune with how food is tasting and feeling on our bodies, we tend to eat less, enjoy each bite more, and even crave healthier foods.

With all this said, while traveling it's extremely important to be prepared and take care of yourself. You don't want to succumb to an illness brought on by a germ-filled plane and ruin your trip. Additionally, trying to sneak in healthful foods, along with the fun, new foods of your travel destination, helps you feel great while enjoying your trip. Exercise is always important too, but don't get too hard on yourself if you struggle to fit it in. Simply try to walk more, use the stairs, and enjoy your new scenery as much as possible!

Since I have been traveling a lot for work, I have developed somewhat of a system. The hotel that I have been staying in has a full kitchen and laundry machines in each room, plus a gym on the property. During this last trip I traveled alone and didn't want to leave at night for dinner, so I ended up buying supplies for my little kitchen and eating everything from there. This is an unusual circumstance, I know, but I wanted to show you that it can be done!

Here are some things that I have been doing during my travels. Hopefully you can glean some helpful information from my experiences. Of course, you might find that you have lots of business dinners or special meals while on your trips. If this is the case, remember to eat mindfully and enjoy every bite!

Be prepared! Bring snacks on the plane in case you don't get a chance to eat (or if you fly an airline that doesn't serve food, which is almost all of them these days). I like to pack fruit, nuts, Lara bars, and Skinny Crisps, which are gluten-free nut-based crackers. Don't forget some Emergen-C for the plane!

Don't forget the water! Southwest gives water in cans on their planes. Even though I buy water in advance, I usually go through more than a bottle on a five hour flight. When they serve beverages, I order two cans of water and drink straight from the can or in a cup without ice. Air travel can be extremely dehydrating, so drink up...and sit in an aisle seat for bathroom breaks!

Build up your immune system! Traveling often requires early mornings, late nights, stress, and germ-filled, cramped environments. Give your system a boost with vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, and other immune enhancing herbs. I like Emergen-C packs for traveling. I keep Starbucks cups (after finishing my tea) to get my C boost without having to flavor my entire water bottle.

Grab healthy meals when you can! Since most business trips or vacations involve fancy or rich meals, try to add some balance with soup and salad or a sandwich. This was from Whole Foods.

Shop for your hotel! Again, I was eating all of my meals at my hotel and had a big refrigerator, so I was able to buy a week's worth of groceries. Even if you can't store a lot of foods, at least you can pick up some fruit, water, or snacks so at least you have options and don't have to resort to vending machine food.

Fit in exercise where and when you can! Whether it's at the hotel gym...

...your hotel room...

(I take P90X and Insanity DVDs to do in my room):

(watching from my laptop):

("yoga mat"):

...or you take the stairs!

Happy, healthy travels!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Lattes

This post is really exciting for me, because this might be one of my favorite recipes on this blog. The quest for a healthy pumpkin spice latte started when I had this almost $5 drink at Starbucks about 3 weeks ago. I had never had one before, and I went for it. No sugar-free syrup or fat-free milk - it was the real deal, minus the whipped cream. I normally don't drink milk (or coffee, for that matter), and it definitely did a number on my system! I had a stomach ache for a few hours and felt a general sense of "blah" for the rest of the afternoon. The flavor was great, but the feeling afterwards wasn't so wonderful.

My creative coworker Andrea suggested that I try to make a healthier version of this autumn treat using Teeccino, almond milk, and pumpkin pie spice. It turned out absolutely delicious! You can also do this with espresso if you drink coffee, but I try to stay away from a lot of coffee because of its acidic effects on the system. If you really like the Starbucks version, go for it. Just make sure you truly savor and enjoy it as you drink it. But for those of you who are like me and crave that pumpkin-y cinnamon flavor but can't handle the milk-sugar-coffee combo (or the $4.69 price tag!), this is for you.

First, assemble your ingredients. You'll need unsweetened almond milk, prepared Teeccino, pumpkin pie spice, canned pumpkin, vanilla, and stevia:

Teeccino is a coffee alternative that is made from all natural nuts, fruits, and herbs. It tastes, smells, and looks very similar to coffee and is brewed like coffee, but it has an alkaline effect on the system and is caffeine free. To read more about it, click here.

We make Teeccino at work in a percolator, but it can be made in a regular ol' coffee maker.

Next, heat a saucepan on the stove and add a scoop of pumpkin. You might want more or less depending on how "pumpkin-y" you like things.

Add the almond milk and stir to dissolve the pumpkin in the milk.

Stir well and allow the mixture to blend and thicken.

Next, add the pumpkin pie spice, which is basically a combination of many spices (including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.):

Stir well. Add a few teaspoons of vanilla extract. You can also use fresh vanilla bean if you have it.

Add stevia to sweeten. You can also use agave nectar or raw sugar, but I prefer stevia. Avoid Splenda or other artificial sweeteners.

Bring the mixture to a boil so that it foams a bit.

Reduce heat. Pour mugs half-full with Teeccino, then top with the almond milk/pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

My coworker Andrea and I REALLY enjoyed our pumpkin spice "lattes":

This was a delicious, comforting, and fall-fabulous treat for a cloudy work day! Plus, it is full of nutrients, naturally sugar-free, and much lower in calories than the original.



Monday, October 25, 2010

Check it out!

A friend and former fellow dietetic intern from LA County/USC Healthcare Network has a fantastic blog about natural health and wellness. Kathleen is a fountain of information, as well as an adventure-seeker, gardener, and wonderful cook. Check out her blog here!

Here's our crew of dietetic interns from 2006. Now we're all practicing dietitians, 2 in Arizona, 2 in California, and 1 in Washington. Kathleen is the sassy one in the middle, and she lives in Washington. The beauty next to me in the picture is Becky, who is due to have a baby next month. She lives in Tucson and works in corporate wellness. Julie in the green lives in Nor-Cal and works as a clinical dietitian for Kaiser. The spunky lady on the far right, Naoko, got a job at the hospital we all trained at and is now training future RDs as a clinical dietitian. I'm so honored to be part of an amazing, talented group of women!

Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

My friends and clients always ask me how I manage to make time for cooking. Having a full-time job, a few part-time jobs, a husband, two dogs, and a desire to exercise 1-2 hours per day really does make it hard to fit it all in. To be honest, some days I really don't get everything done, and sometimes I just don't want to cook. But I know that I save money, feel healthier, and really enjoy the meals I spend time to prepare myself. The key is preparation.

I wanted to share with you how I plan for my week and grocery shop so I can make sure to have healthy foods on hand. I chose this past week as the week I photographed because it was insanely busy, with a client every night after work, suggesting that even the busiest person can do this if they put their mind to it. Here are the steps I take when planning my week.

1. Do some research.

Pick a few recipes (or maybe just one!) that you want to try. I comb through websites and sometimes cookbooks, and I pick things that sound good, are relatively simple, and don't cost a fortune. Sometimes what I choose to make is something I know how to make without a recipe, such as BBQ chicken, egg salad, or even breakfast for dinner. The most important thing is that you come up with some ideas so you don't wander blindly through the store. My favorite websites are Eating Well, Whole Living, and Cooking Light. Don't forget to check out the recipes on this blog!

This image of my computer shows my research of an authentic Caesar salad dressing on

2. Take inventory.

After you've picked a few things to make, check what you have on hand. Maybe you have some frozen chicken you want to use up, or perhaps you already have black beans or quinoa and don't need to buy it for a recipe you're interested in. I sometimes start with this step first, especially if I'm trying to save money. For example, if I have frozen gnocchi from a recipe I made a few weeks ago, I will decide what I want to eat with it (salad, anyone?).

3. Be realistic.

How many nights a week do you actually want to cook? Most people don't like going all out 7 nights every week. I try to make something from home Sunday through Thursday for dinner and Monday through Thursday for lunch, which I bring to work. This doesn't mean, however, that I make an elaborate recipe every time I make dinner.

If I'm especially busy, my weekly meals might look like this:

Sunday - BBQ chicken with peanut slaw
Tuesday - chicken salad (using leftover chicken)
Wednesday - vegetable omelettes
Thursday - planned dinner out with friends
Friday - date night
Saturday - football game (eat at restaurant)

Pretty simple, no? I don't always plan out my lunches, but I make sure to have lots of salad greens and fresh vegetables, lean protein, avocado, and salad dressings available for lunch. Hopefully I will have leftovers from a prepared dinner to take the next day, too.

4. Make a list.

This is the most important step of the whole process. If you go to a grocery store blindly, you will either buy everything or nothing at all, and when you get home you'll realize you won't have the spice or special ingredient you need. I absolutely detest going to the grocery store for 1 or 2 items, so the list is super important. I usually write mine on Friday or Saturday morning, before I go to the North Scottsdale Farmers' Market, so I know just what to buy. This also really helps save money!

For the week featured in these photos, I had a client every night and didn't get home until 6:30 (or later). Here is what I had planned:

Sunday: dinner out with my parents at Goldie's - ate delicious salmon with steamed veggies and sauteed red cabbage

Monday: leftover frozen Skillet Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and White Beans (reheated in the toaster oven - had my husband put it in while I was still working!), plus a side salad

Tuesday: homemade Caesar salad with hard boiled eggs on top (sounds weird, but it's good!)

Wednesday: BBQ'd chicken, peanut coleslaw, and grilled veggies

Thursday: dinner at my mom's CAbi event (Greg had leftovers to choose from)

Friday: friend's birthday dinner

Saturday: UA football! Dinner at Blue 32 (portobello veggie sandwich with baked beans)

When I made my list, I actually wrote down each night and what I planned on doing. This week was somewhat unusual because I had so many events and busy nights planned. I like making one more elaborate meal, but there was simply no time this week.

Sometimes planning each night doesn't work, as things come up that are unavoidable, but having food for at least 3 dinners in ensures that I will have enough to cook something 3+ nights a week. I always have eggs, tuna, salad greens, onions, Ezekiel bread, raw organic cheese, and canned and dried beans available to make a quick dinner for a 4th or 5th option for the week. With this I can do salad with beans, omelettes, grilled cheese, tuna or egg salad sandwiches, etc., so I always have options and don't have to rely on buying something outside of the house.

5. Shop!

Making grocery shopping a ritual is important. I personally do it on either Saturday or Sunday so I don't have to worry about it during the week. I usually go to the farmers' market and Trader Joes. I will also go to Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Sunflower Market, depending on what I need. If you make one big trip (don't forget reusable, insulated bags and ice packs if needed!), it's not so painful. Take your list, and don't forget a pen.

Cross off items from your list as you go:

6. Cook ahead.

If you're really pressed for time, make a few things on Sunday night. This might mean cooking up hard boiled eggs or chicken breasts, or perhaps you make brown rice or quinoa so it's in the fridge. Wash lettuce, cut up vegetables and fruits, and put together easy dishes like bean salad. I also like prepping for the next day after I've had dinner during the week. This is especially important when making a crock pot meal. The next morning, take the crock pot dish out of the fridge, pop it in its place, and turn on the crock pot. I also prepare my lunches the night before so I don't have to worry about doing it in the morning. It makes for an easy way to put away leftovers, too!

During the week featured, I made hard boiled eggs on Sunday night. On Monday after dinner I whipped up a quick 3-bean salad using garbanzo, kidney, and cannellini beans; onions; celery; dirty salt and pepper; red wine vinegar; olive oil; stevia; and garlic powder. The hard boiled eggs and beans each became parts or my lunch and snacks for myself and for Greg.

7. Ask for help.

Perhaps your spouse, significant other, or roommate can help you shop, cook, or just clean up afterwards. Greg and I have a rule: whomever doesn't cook has to clean. This doesn't mean he always does it cheerfully, but he knows that it's only fair. Additionally, if I'm working with a client or taking a Karve class after work, I sometimes ask him to pop something in the toaster oven, preheat the oven, or start marinating meat or veggies.

8. Find a way to enjoy the process.

Light a candle, pour a glass of wine, or turn on some music while you cook. If you don't enjoy it, cooking will become like any other chore. Additionally, if you're absolutely starving while you start cooking, you will pick and nibble through the whole process. Have a small snack, such as a piece of fruit, some nuts, or some carrots and hummus, before you start. Cooking while ravenous will cause you to rush and not really enjoy making a homemade meal.

9. Go easy on yourself.

If you can't seem to get to the store or make anything at home, don't worry! Each week is different and has its own challenge, and you can try again next week. Even making one recipe at home during the week should be celebrated as a success. If you try to cook at home for every meal after not having done so before, you will likely become overwhelmed quickly. Start small and slowly, and be proud of the changes you're making for yourself and your family.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mini Desserts

Starbucks now has mini desserts! Genius! I have always said I wanted to do some sort of restaurant or concept that has little desserts, since all I tend to want of anything truly decadent is a few slow, satisfying bites. Check out these cute little things! My husband and I tried the salty toffee something or other, and it was very rich and delicious. We actually didn't even finish the teeny thing!

I have no idea what the ingredients are or how many calories are in them, but the important thing is that if you're craving something sweet, these small bites just might do the trick. When eating these or other desserts, make sure to sit down, find a quiet moment, and truly savor each bite. Smell it before you eat it. Taste how it feels in your mouth. Roll it over your tongue and through your teeth. If you take your time to enjoy it, you'll get much more satisfaction out of every bite, and you probably won't need so much to quench your craving.

Also, I hope you like the new blog header. The beautiful Rachel Harding is to thank for that one ;)


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baltimore Farmers' Market and Weber's Farm

I had the pleasure of visiting the Baltimore Farmers' Market today during my two-week trip to this very interesting city. Apparently the market has been running for 30 years, and it was absolutely packed on this Sunday morning in October. Interestingly, it's located under a bridge in a very urban, city area, and if you didn't know it was there you would probably never see it! Here are photos from the market. Enjoy!

Here's an arial view, but this doesn't do any justice to the enormity of this market:

Jumbalaya and other Creole food:

Gorgeous radishes and flowers:

Fresh crepes...apparently they made crepes AND Mexican food. Genius? I think so!

A pickle vendor:

The line for the mini donuts wrapped around the corner:


If my husband saw this, he'd call it arululululugula:

Vendors sell all sorts of meat, including pork, chicken, turkey, beef, bison, and lamb:

Check out these gourds!

Fun 'shrooms:

Amazing maple syrup:

Bye-bye, market!

About 8 miles away was Weber's Farm, an apple orchard, cider mill, and general store. I definitely got into the fall spirit! Weber's Farm has a "boo barn," scarecrow workshop, and hayride area for kids, and it was fun to see their wide eyes and smiling faces.

My partner in crime, Nancy, loved this road:

Another view:

Scarecrow workshop:

Our lunch:

Pumpkins! I'd buy ten of them if I didn't have to fit them in a suitcase...

Happy fall!