Tag Archives: Nutrition

Another Year of Growth

This past year has been a year of exceptional growth in my life. For the first time, I have not been bound by the walls of a classroom or a school calendar. This time last year, it was time for me to get my feet wet in “the real life.” In the past year I have gotten to know myself better than ever before. I have fully immersed myself in many aspects of life that had only been a mere thought or desire up until now. The most important lesson that I have learned is that health and happiness are integral with one another and are interwoven with many other factors.

In the middle of May, I started my journey with Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a training course for Health Consultants. The main principle in this program is that we have primary foods in life which are different to ordinary foods. Primary foods are healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, a spiritual practice. It is not only about the foods that we eat. If you are not happy then your health is going to take a toll. If you are too obsessed with nutrition or fitness, it is going to distract you from other aspects in your life that are also vital to your well-being. Each person is unique when it comes to health, we all require different balances. So too with nutrition, what works for one person very likely could be unhealthy for another person.

While we are all bio-diverse (each of us has our own needs) there are some truths that apply to each and every human. Drinking water is better for you than drinking soda for example. Getting exercise is better for you than sitting on the couch playing video games. Healthy relationship with your partner, family or friends is better than abusive relationships.

There are also some truths which I am particularly interested and focused on in relation to the culture of food. Food brings people together. It helps bind communities, build friendships and sustain lives. Whether people are growing food together, cooking or eating together, they are benefiting from their actions. Safe & quality food is going to provide for a better future.

It is my goal, in my 23rd year of life, to get a deeper understanding of my balance so that I can successfully inspire others to live more fulfilled, enjoyable, positive, balanced and happy lives. In turn, I know that each person that I am able to inspire will inspire at least one or two more people.

Let’s go back to some foundations in order to find deeper meaning in the lives that we live and the connections that we make–with other people and nature–along the way.

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Confused about what to buy at the grocery store? Worry no more!

“The news abounds with stories such as countless tales of deadly bacteria-laden meats and vegetables; packaged-food poisonings; estrogen-laced meats; pesticide-enriched produce; more and more irradiated and genetically modified foods; antibiotics in animals leading to resistance in humans.Consumers of food, which is to say all of us, have become concerned that the food supply is no longer safe, may be creating or perpetuating chronic illness, or worse, may be capable of killing us.”

If you are confused about what to buy or should we say what not to buy at the grocery store, you are not alone! With all the fancy packaging, confusing words in the ingredient lists and with so many products to choose from, I don’t blame anyone for being confused or frustrated. There are some simple guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are getting the optimal nutrients out of the foods you are putting into your body. These simple guidelines will also ensure that you are keeping chemicals and toxins-which eventually lead to disease- out of your body.  Let’s go back to the basics.

The term “organic” is scary and expensive for most people. We need to take a step back in order to realistically understand that the pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones that are added to conventional food is the scary part of the equation and that medical bills resulting from food-based disease  are the expensive part. Now that organic no longer means scary and expensive, let’s define what it really means.

In simple terms, organic means that there are no pesticides or chemicals involved in the growing and processing of fruits and vegetables. It also means that there are no antibiotics or hormones added to animal protein.

If there is one thing that you decide to buy organic, it should be your animal products. Without going into the very sad and disgusting details about how animal products are processed now-a-days, I will STRONGLY advise you to buy animal products that are organic. Here are some more detailed guidelines for buying safe food products.

Guide for buying fruits and vegetables

Better to buy organic:More likely to be handled with pesticides, antibiotics & hormones Okay To Buy Conventional:Less likely to be handled with pesticides, antibiotics & hormones
Peaches/ NectarinesStrawberries/ Blueberries/ GrapesApples/PearsCeleryBell PeppersCarrots/PotatoesLettuce/Leafy Greens/ SpinachKale/ Collard GreensBaby FoodMilk and Other Dairy ProductsMeat (Chicken, Beef,Pork)CoffeeNuts/ Nut Butters

Cooking Oils

OnionsCabbageEggplantAsparagusSweet PeasSweet PotatoesAvocadosPineapplesMangoesMushroomsCantaloupeWatermelonGrapefruit

Kiwi

** I keep a small print out of the table above in my wallet. No need to memorize!

What to look for on packaged food labels

First thing I look for is the ingredient list. My rules for ingredients are simple:

1. No more than 3 (maybe 5) ingredients

2. You should be able to pronounce and understand every ingredient

3. Sugar should not be in the first 3 ingredients (if it is even in the list at all is up to you)

This is tricky because there are many different terms to hide sugar. Just stick to rule #2 and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Now that you have checked the ingredients, it is time to refer to the some-what helpful nutrition facts. First look at how many servings there are and what the serving size is. Next look for anything that looks abnormally high. For example, are the carbohydrates, fats or proteins very high in comparison to one another. Another thing I always look at are the sodium and sugar contents in packaged food as they tend to be very high due to the way packaged food is  processed.

It is very hard to find a perfect packaged product because in reality a perfect food does not come in a package, it comes from nature. However, comparing food labels between different brands can help you choose products that are much healthier than other products that are offered to you as a consumer.

What to look for when buying eggs

Simple….Pastured, free-range, organic

What to look for when buying fish

In most cases you want to buy fish that were caught in the wild as opposed to farmed fish. There are a few exceptions so do your research first to make sure that you are buying from reputable sources. As you have probably heard in the news, there is concern with mercury levels in some fish based on which areas they are caught in. Be sure to check the following websites for updated information about responsible/sustainable fish consumption:

http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

You can also buy sustainable seafood from from www.vitalchoice.com

What to look for when buying beef products

Step 1: Make sure your beef is organic

“When you see the green USDA organic label-you know the food is going to be free of pesticide residues-synthetic hormones- antibiotics-and genetically modified grain.”

Step 2: Make sure that the cattle was grass-fed as opposed to grain fed.

Since cattle are naturally meant to eat grain, they have a difficult time breaking down the grain in their bellies. This leads to lower immune systems which require farmers to add antibiotics to the grain feed. Grass fed cattle have proven to produce meat and dairy products that are higher in nutrients. There is also less chance of food-borne illness such as E. coli when consuming grass-fed beef. To find out more refer to www.eatwild.com

What to look for when buying chicken products

This is where things get a little bit tricky. However, if you know what to look for then you will not be fooled by the labeling tricks–aka purposefully misleading statements. For example, “cage free” does not mean that the birds are free-roaming. Birds that are raised in their natural environment AND feed off their natural diet are healthier than the way most chickens are raised now-a-days. Birds that are stuffed into small spaces with no light have high stress levels, leading to low immune systems, at which point farmers introduce antibiotics into their feed to keep them from spreading disease. Another trick in the big chicken-company book is that “anti-biotic free” does not mean that the FDA regulated that product. It must say “raised without antibiotics.” The last thing that you need to look for is “air-chilled.” If a chicken is not air-chilled then it has been dunked in cold water with chemicals to speed up the production process. Last but not least it should be organic. So why go through all of the trouble to identify which chicken to buy?

Industrial farming practices produce unhealthy animals that 500,000 packed together in tight spaces, treated in-humanly, and are fed GMO grains. Conventional poultry can expose you to antibiotics, high levels of arsenic, toxins from fertilizers and pesticides.

The best place to buy your chicken is the farmer’s market. There are also local reliable farms that  you can order from online. You can buy chicken that meets the above criteria at Whole-Foods. I spent 15 minutes today looking at the pre-packaged chicken. After a little chuckle of frustration, I walked over to the meat counter where I found the perfect bird;

  • air chilled
  • organic
  • raised without antibiotics
  • hormone free
  • free range

It absolutely absured that we should have to search for this criteria in order to find chicken that will not contribute to unhealthy reactions in our bodies. Better to spend $18 on a whole chicken than to spend over thousands of dollars in medical bills when you still need money to pay for retirement. OH MY!

It is really sad that we have to protect ourselves from food companies who find it more important to make money than to care about people’s health. You do not have to freak out or be terrified of all the information that I have provided above. The more educated we are about how our food is processed, the more chance we stand to protect ourselves from disease. Making small changes at a time is the most successful tactic. Remember that you have the power in the grocery store. Every time you swipe your card you are voting for what type of products you want the grocery store to offer. More specifically, if there is less demand for unhealthy products, the companies will have to reduce production because they will have excess product which costs them money. Conversely, if there is more demand for healthy products, responsible food companies will have to produce more of the good stuff to keep up with the high demand.

If you have any specific questions, please comment! I would love to help you make more educated decisions in the grocery store.

Sources:

Organic guide for fruit and vegetables: Adapted by Bauman College from the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

www.eatwild.com

http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

Notes from class lecture at Bauman College- Spring 2012 Berkeley, CA.

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Homemade Hummus (Raw)

I am very impressed with my first attempt at making hummus. This is a great dip or spread that pairs up with crunchy veggies as a tasty snack. You can also use this spread on homemade crackers or a great brand that can be found at any health food store is “Mary’s Gone Crackers.”

Hummus

Ingredients

1 16 oz can of chickpea, garbonzo beans (or white beans for those who have a hard time digesting beans)

1/4 cup liquid from can of beans

3-5 tablespoons of lemon juice*

1 1/2 Tablespoons of tahini**

1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

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Procedure

1. Drain beans of choice- I used garbonzo beans for this one- set liquid aside

2. Add remainder of ingredients to a blender

3. Measure out 1/4 cup of liquid from beans and add to blender

4. Blend until smooth

If needed for texture, add 1 extra teaspoon of olive oil

* Lemons vary in size and bitterness. Start with 3 Tablespoons then add more if needed for taste

** Tahini is a creamy puree of roasted sesame seeds. You can use it for a creamy salad dressing.

Garnish: dried parsley & sesame seeds

Raw hummus should last for about a week. Enjoy on a sandwich or as one of the snacks recommended above. So easy, So delicious, So Nutritious!

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What’s In Season?

South Berkeley Farmer's Market

Visiting a local farmers market is the best way to find out what is in season. Second to growing your own food, buying local and seasonal is the most sustainable way to consume food. During the transition from winter to spring people often get sick because they have weaker immune systems. Interestingly enough, it is during this time that nature provides us with citrus fruits which support the immune system through their high levels of Vitamin C. Enough about the transition period, spring is here.. finally! I am not used to having distinct seasons considering that I have lived in Southern California for most of my life. Thus, transitioning from winter to spring has been a beautiful growing experience in Northern California.

Here are some fruits and veggies that I have been scoping out at the local farmers market the past couple of weeks:

What’s In Season?!                                 

Nutrient Content

Health Benefits

Asparagus

Vitamin A, B(s), C, K, folate, iron, fiber

Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, digestive support

Avocados

Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, phytosterols and carotenoids

Heart health, anti-inflammatory, eye health, immune support

Oranges

Vitamin A, B1, C, fiber, folate, calcium, potassium

Antioxidant, lower cholesterol, prevents colds

Snap Peas

Vitamin A,B1,C, K, manganese, fiber, folate

Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Strawberries

Vitamin C, K, fiber, manganese

50th best antioxidant source of all foods

Oranges

Oranges: Use as a snack, juice, in a salad or marinade

Remember that fruits (some more than others) have much higher sugar contents than vegetables. Push the veggies more while continuing to incorporate fruit in your daily diet.

Snap Peas

Snap Peas Great as a snack- alone or dip in hummus

Harvest of the Month is another great resource to find out what is in season.

http://www.harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov/product-list.asp

Strawberries

Strawberries Use in a salad, as a breakfast topping or dessert topping. Delicious because it contains a high sugar content 😉

Sources:

www.naturalnews.com

World’s Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.org

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Perspective on Our Relationship With Food

Each of us has our own unique relationship with food. We all need food to survive. Food can also be used as a form of comfort or a social outlet. There are also many intricate layers within our relationship with food, which include behavioral aspects, physical aspects and emotional aspects. It has been said that changing a person’s eating habits is harder than changing someone’s religion. This sounds absurd yet, take a minute to think about how defensive we are about our favorite foods.

Here is some insight from the book Lost and Found, written by Geneen Roth. Geneen had a very unhealthy relationship with food and dieting for ongoing years. This particular book talks about her relationship with food and money, which have some very fascinating correlations with one-another. She shares her turning point in her relationship with food:

“….Since I was then twenty-eight and had been dieting for more than half my life–seventeen years– the only way I knew to accomplish this was to eat what I hadn’t allowed myself to eat– fattening foods that only men and thin people ate. Chunky cookies and pumpkin ice cream and four-cheese pizza. After a few weeks of vacillating between nausea and giddiness, there was a clunk, a shift in my attitude: I understood that food wasn’t good or bad and eating wasn’t about right or wrong or being loved or rejected. It was only about this body–my body– and figuring out what it needed to move, think, thrive. Removing judgements from food made eating much simpler; it’s not that my crazy eating suddenly disappeared, it’s that my perspective shifted, and my orientation was about what gave my body energy versus what drained it, decisions about cheesecake or ice cream slowly lost their fraught, hysterical quality. Eating became a way to sustain and support my body, not the way I was either trying to prove I was worthy (by denying myself) or rebelling against the internal voice that told me I wasn’t (by bingeing).” p.62

It is very admirable that Geneen is able to open up to other people through her writing in order for others to look into their own relationship with food. Just as s most relationships continuously take some effort and TLC, so does each of our relationships with food. Take some time to delve into your relationship with food. Before you open the fridge or pantry ask yourself “am I truly hungry right now or am I eating for other reasons.” If you are not hungry then find a way to distract yourself until those instincts pass. On the other hand, if you are hungry, you should prepare your food then take a moment to breathe and appreciate the food in front of you before you shovel it in to your mouth. Each bite is a connection between your food and your body. Thus, chew thoughtfully. Work on building your own healthy relationship with food one bite at a time.

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How to Make Pizza A Healthy Option

As we all know, the original form of Pizza is delicious yet quite taxing in the calorie and Nutrient department. Did you know that tomato paste on pizza is approved a serving of veggies for school lunches? (funny, right?) I don’t really want to get started on the politics of pizza in schools however, I do want to provide a healthy option that can be made at home.

The following recipe provides an easy way to make pizza a healthier option while still being able to enjoy the comforting taste.

Zucchini Stuffed Pizza

Honestly don’t worry about measurements on this one. Just choose good ingredients & remember, everything in moderation.. except the veggies!

Ingredients:

2 Large Zucchinis

1/3-1/2 cup Tomato Sauce

Grated Mozzarella or Buffalo Mozzarella

Veggies of your choice

1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

12 oz. Ground Beef, Chicken or Tofu

Directions:

Step 1 & 2: Turn oven on to 400 degrees. Cover baking tray with tinfoil

Step 3: Cook protein of your choice in a skillet. I use ground beef, my friend Lizzy used Tofu

Step 4: Rinse zucchini, cut in half length wise, then carve out center portion

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Step 5: Mix seasoning into tomato sauce

Step 6, 7, 8 & 9: Add tomato sauce & your choice of cheese then load on the veggies + protein

ImageStep 10: Add a layer of sauce to keep the veggies from getting dry in the oven

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Step 11: Pop them in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Good way to check if they are ready is to poke the lighter green edges of the zucchini with a fork. The fork should slide in easily when your pizza is ready. The crust (aka skin on the zucchini) will be nice and crunchy.

This pizza is gluten-free. It can be made vegetarian or lactose free! It’s a very versatile dish that encompasses the oh-so-comforting flavors of pizza.

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Cooking Bender.. On a Good One

My new kitchen has been HOT this past week. I have been cooking up a storm (to say the least) which is even more enjoyable given that I have been able to walk to the local markets in Berkeley to get my ingredients 🙂

Some things that have been mixed into my menu since  I moved in on Wednesday are: quinoa, steel cut oats, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, eggs, turkey burgers, chicken salad (with pecans, grapes & apples), talapia, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil.

For dinner tonight I whipped up a delicious well-balanced dinner which included 1/3 cup quinoa, kale, bleu cheese, pecans and blueberries with a homemade olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper dressing. I added some left over talapia for protein. This salad can be adjusted to your taste buds should you choose a different type of cheese or source of protein. All I can say is that this light meal was Deeelushhhh!

Up on the menu next week:

Salmon patties

Chicken Tacos

Zucchini pizza

and whatever remains in my fridge…

One major cooking tip I would like to share is to cook for two meals at once. This means that you should always be cooking enough for dinner at night and lunch the next day OR dinner for two nights in a row. This will save you loads of time in the kitchen.

Will be sharing my favorite recipe from next week’s menu. I urge you to try one new recipe each week!

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