Saturday, March 31, 2012

Green your Clean: save your hands, lungs, and the environment

It's that time of year when many people are spring cleaning their homes. Sounds like a weekend project to me. But it's time Spring Cleaning gets Clean.

Green cleaners can be just as powerful as all the ammonia, bleach and chemical cleaners and disinfectants out there (and they cost wayyy less). Using natural, organic products is much less caustic to your skin, lungs and body - they don't expose you to toxic chemicals and you can rest assured knowing your home environment is naturally clean, fresh and nontoxic. Anywhere and anyway you can avoid more chemical exposure, the better. Plus, the outside environment appreciates less chemicals too!

Check out this Dr. Weil Tip on how to green your clean...

Some key green cleaning ingredients to have on hand:
  • White vinegar (general disinfectant and cleanser, I have a dedicated spray bottle)
  • Baking soda (amazing for scrubbing bathtubs and grout, removing any grime)
  • Lemons (similar uses to white vinegar, while smelling much nicer)
  • Old rags, sponges and toothbrushes (keep a bucket for giving your used items a second life)
If you're not ready to dive into the do-it-yourself cleaners, look for natural, biodegradable bottled options in the grocery or hardware store. Many cleaning services now offer or specialize in "green" cleaning options as well.

The internet is a wealth of resources for every kind of cleaning project or problem you can imagine, as is the library! One of my favorite books on the matter is Ellen Sandbeck's Organic Housekeeping (In Which the Nontoxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve You Health and That of Your Family While You Save Time, Money, and, Perhaps, Your Sanity).

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hungry for Change

The online premier for this new film, Hungry for Change was yesterday.

If you're interested in:
- taking your health into your own hands
- knowing why most "food" today is NOT just "food"
- uncovering the traps of the diet industry

...then check out this trailer!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One-Day Mini Cleanse

Your Clean Reboost-Revamp
& Feel-Amazing-Again Day

So we all know we should eat better. More veggies, less red meat. Well, what if you chose to commit to one full day (or a weekend!) of clean, healthy eating. You will be amazed how energized and light your body feels and how your mood will follow suit. Here are some basic guidelines about what "clean" eating means...

On your Clean Day:
  • Have foods that are pure, wholesome and unprocessed. Eat as many vegetables - especially raw and green veggies - as you can. Unprocessed means it's not from a package, but a whole food source (ex: steel cut oats vs. a boxed cereal).
  • Drink lots of water and herbal teas to flush out toxins.
  • To alkalize your body (too much sugar, wheat, meat and caffeine can majorly throw off our body's pH), start your morning with a big glass of warm lemon water - with a dash of cayenne if you're feeling zesty.
  • Green smoothies, if you have a blender, are also amazing alkalizing drinks. Getting your body to a more alkaline state will help your cells and blood renew and cleanse, while neutralizing any crazy cravings you might be having because your body is off balance.Little Smoothie

Some food ideas for a clean day include: Greens at every meal! Fruit and veggie smoothies, fresh fruits and raw nuts, miso soup, steamed vegetables with hummus, lentil or another hearty veggie-filled soup for dinner, squash and sweet potatoes, whole grains and beans. It could be a great day for homemade bean burgers over a crunchy rainbow salad. Anything and everything green is great for boosting your nutrition. Onions, garlic and ginger are also very powerful cleansing ingredients. Browse the recipe section of my website (and your other favorites) for ideas! The internet is an amazing tool for recipe research. 

Additionally, any fermented or probiotic foods and drinks are great to have, as they will boost your digestion and immune system. Some of my favorites are sauerkraut, kombucha, miso soup, kefir, and fermented ginger beer, but a probiotic pill (good quality probiotics generally have multiple strains of friendly bacteria that number in the billions) can be your most powerful option. 

You might also want to try herbal teas to help support your immune system and flush out toxins. Traditional Medicinals is one of my favorite brands. Good options include Roasted Dandelion Root (supports the liver), Nettles, Kukicha Twig Tea (alkalizes the blood), or one TM's everyday detox blends.

It is important to stay away from sugar (fresh fruit is fine), alcohol, caffeine*, and processed, fried or fast foods like take-out, pasta, breads and packaged foods. If you can avoid all meat and dairy for the day, even better - but don't be afraid to have some yogurt or high-quality lean protein if that is what your body does best with and keeps you feeling satisfied and balanced. 

Try it and let me know how you did and how it felt for you!

*If you tend to rely on caffeine to get your day going, you may try going without it for a day and seeing how you feel. It's ok to take time to wake up in the morning. Try a black tea or yerba mate instead, as they are less acidic and more balanced for the body. But don't suffer. If you get a headache, it is probably your body responding withdrawal-like symptoms. Be aware, get in touch with where you are (and know that wherever you are is ok!) and decide what will make you feel best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easiest Cleanse Ever: Seasonal Spring Foods Do-It-For-You

OK, I'll admit it. One of the big reasons I moved to California was for the produce (although there are seasonal treasures I miss from New Jersey!). Every March I really get to taste why. Fresh, sweet spring vegetables and fruits begin popping up in grocery stores and at farmers' markets! Check out Local Harvest to find a market, farm or store near you.

Benefits of seasonal eating:
  • You are more in touch with the world around you, the time of year, the changing weather.
  • Keeps your body fit for the season (you eat more heavy foods in the winter to keep warm and lighter foods in the spring and summer to cleanse and cool you).
  • Produce is fresher and more nutritious! Food simply tastes better right off the vine or straight from the soil! It's also at its peak of nutritional value (and living enzyme activity) when it is freshly picked. This means more energy delivered right to you!
What's in season now?
It depends where you live, however some of my favorites you can find 'most anywhere are:
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb (at the same time? how perfect!)
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuces
  • Green garlic (an early milder version of the garlic plant, before the bulb has formed: see my all-time fav. recipe below)
  • Spinach
  • Asian greens like bok choy and tatsoi
  • Spring onions
Spring foods tend to be light, energizing and naturally cleansing, which is important after our more dormant living, and heavy winter foods. It's a time of year when many people participate in spring cleanses, food-based detox programs that usually last a few days to a week. If you missed my post-New Years one-day "mini cleanse" ezine, stay tuned later this week for a reposting!

The best news is that if you focus on celebrating spring with as many spring foods as you can, your body will experience a natural cleansing. There's not much better than greens, garlic and onions for cleansing and detoxing your body.

Try my all-time favorite greens and garlic recipe complete with step-by-step pictures and instructions! It's an amazing flavor combination for any dark leafy greens, but also amazing with broccoli and asparagus.

A really fun, community-oriented publication and website that celebrates local seasonal food is EdibleCommunities, featuring farms, events and restaurants specific to your area.

How do YOU celebrate the seasons through food? What are your favorite recipes?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

6 Healthy Ways to Eat Pasta

Let's face it – pasta is delicious and is a really convenient, simple and low-cost base for a meal. Quality low-glycemic load carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your carb intake, to help avoid rapid spikes in your blood sugar levels. While pasta doesn't usually fit the “healthy” bill and can spike your blood sugar if you eat too much, there are some things to know and look for if you (like my Italian pasta-loving self) want to have your pasta and eat it too.

It is good to read the label on your pasta box to see what's in there. Most pasta is made with bleached white flour and enriched with a few vitamins and minerals (to make up for all the nutrients that are lost when turning whole wheat flour into white flour). Look for whole grains, watch out for all those chemical additives. Choose pastas with few, simple ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce.

Here are some ways to feel good about having your pasta in a healthier, more balanced way:
  • Choose organic whole-grain pasta, rice noodles, quinoa and corn-based pasta, kelp noodles and noodles such as Japanese udon and soba, which are part whole wheat and part buckwheat.
  • Cook pasta only until it is al dente (barely tender). Cooked this way, it has a lower glycemic index than fully cooked pasta because the grain flour breaks apart more slowly in the stomach. (Low glycemic-load carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your carb intake to help minimize rapid rises in your blood sugar levels.)
  • Ladle on the traditional tomato-based sauces and skip out on the creamy ones - they are often a source of unhealthy fats and almost always contain more calories.
  • Ramp up the veggies – broccoli, peppers, eggplant, dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, asparagus, artichokes, olives, tomatoes, zucchini – for more flavor, fiber, vitamins, minerals (and fullness). Try making veggies the main fare, with a side of pasta and a lean protein, instead of the other way around.
  • Aim for two - three servings per week
  • Know the appropriate portion size: one serving is about 1/2 cup cooked pasta, about the volume equivalent of a lemon or tennis ball (most restaurants feed us at least six times this amount). A little secret here: eat your pasta from small bowls or plates - the size of your dish makes a big impact on how much and how satisfied you feel. Need convincing? Listen to this except from Brian Wansink's book Why We Eat More Than We Think.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spaghetti Squash: An Aptly Named Alternative

Spaghetti Squash

This is one of my favorite foods to prepare for other people (I've featured it during most of the retreats I have cooked for). It's often something new, its flavor is very likeable: sweet, crunchy and light, and it is a stellar alternative to pasta for anyone looking to cut back on gluten or processed foods.

In addition to being delicious, it's also got some nutritious tagged on to boot. One cup of cooked spaghetti squash only has about 42 calories and is low glycemic load, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar.

It is also a very good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C, along with Niacin, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese. (Read more on its nutrition.)

The best part is how simple it is to prepare:

I usually (very carefully!) hack it in half on a cutting board with a large chefs knife (though this takes some arm muscle and you CAN bake it whole, it just takes a bit longer) – if you get struck on the stem, you can cut into the flesh in order to cut it off.

Place it cut side down in a baking pan with about ½ inch of water. Bake in a 357F preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until “fork soft” (a fork slides into it easily).

If baking the squash whole, make sure to poke holes in it with a fork before baking for about 1 hour or until fork soft. Water in the baking pan is unnecessary.

When finished baking, carefully flip the squash over and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, scrape out the “spaghetti” strands and serve.

Spaghetti squash is great with a traditional tomato or marinara sauce, butter and herbs, olives, roasted peppers, or I love to serve it with a Mediterranean chickpea stew with spices and tomatoes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dry Brushing: 5 minutes for smooth, soft skin

Self-care for 400, please... What is Dry Brushing?

We're all looking for healthier, smooth, shining skin, especially now that warm weather is on its way.

Winter clothes can be stifling to our skin, trapping sweat, bacteria and dead cells on the surface. It's hard to take the time to care properly for our skin in the winter when it's chilly and no one's seeing much of it (including yourself)... Mostly I just hate being cold so I cover myself up as quick as I can!

Dry brushing is one of my favorite ways to exfoliate my skin – it's quick to do right before a shower, I notice a difference right away, and it feels like scratching every little itch you could ever imagine – so satisfying! In a nutshell, it increases sensation and circulation, is detoxing and boosts your immune system, reduces cellulite and stress, and revives your skin to be smooth and supple.

So what is dry brushing? It's a technique (also called skin brushing or body brushing) for exfoliating the skin and increasing circulation using a dry, natural bristle brush to gently brush the skin.

What will dry brushing do for me?
  • promotes healthier, smoother skin by removing dead skin cells on the surface
  • stimulates and increases new skin cell production, giving you a healthy glow
  • increases blood flow and circulation, enhancing detoxification through your skin and boosting your overall immune system
  • calms and invigorates like a mini massage with both gentle pressure and brushing sensations
  • reduces cellulite through an increase in blood circulation and removal of stored toxins in your legs and hips
  • relieves stress through the stimulation of nerve endings in your skin, which in turn helps to rejuvenate your entire nervous system
Dry brushing is an invigorating way to start the day – you won't believe how smooth, soft and healthy your skin will feel and look.

Here's the best method I've found on How to Dry Brush. There are a few different designs for brushes out there on the market, check them out and see what you like.

*Be cautious and consider consulting with a skin doctor if you have any severe skin irritations, such as acne, rashes, eczema or open wounds.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

If you are what you eat, then EAT your Energy!

Food and Mood

We hear a lot about what we should look for in our foods: the vitamins and minerals, the daily value percentages of fats and carbs, the calories... But we don't often consider the energetics of food. Have you noticed that your body, energy and mood feel very different when you eat red meat and potatoes versus fish and fresh greens? A jelly doughnut versus an apple?

"Virtually no one in the field of health and nutrition speaks about the concept of food having energy, but if you stop and think about it, it intuitively makes sense. Vegetables have a lighter energy than proteins. Animal meat from tortured animals has a different energy than meat from animals that lived a peaceful existence." (Joshua Rosenthal, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness) Think about your tense shoulders and sore neck after a hectic work week. Our body quite literally becomes a warehouse to store our stresses, our fears, our pain - why would it be different for other living organisms?

Understanding what to eat for your own body, whether you are interested in losing weight, increasing your energy, or beating sugar cravings, all starts with awareness of how different foods make you feel. If we don't have this personal awareness, it can be impossible to get the results we want.

For example, if I listened to my cravings for bread (heavy, dense, baked, processed) every time I was feeling low-energy, I'd probably always be low-energy. Although it might give me an initial boost, wheat takes a lot of energy for my body to digest and usually leaves me feeling sluggish and slow. On the contrary, when I feed my energy-craving body with a fresh salad with seeds and fruit (green, oxygen-rich, sweet, hardy), my body, energy and mood feel refreshed, alive and clear for hours.

Steve Gange, author of Energetics of Food: Encounters with Your Most Intimate Relationships, writes about how all foods have distinct qualities and energetic properties, depending on where, when and how they grow, as well as how they are prepared. Consider where, when and in what direction your plant food grows:

Greens (such as kale, collards, spinach, romaine, bok choy) reach up toward the sun to make chlorophyll. Eating foods rich in chlorophyll provides our blood with oxygen, which is a powerful way to enhance our mental clarity, to boost our mood and to lift the spirit.

Sprouts are literally bursting with growth and spring-time activity, rushing with sweet sugars, nutrients and activity, to create new life. Eating sprouts can make us feel clean, light, alive, alert and ready to go.

Squash and gourds (zucchini, pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash) grow in the autumn, as we begin to take stock and settle down for the winter. They grow level with the ground and have natural comforting sugars, helping us balance our moods and energy levels.

Root vegetables (like potatoes, yams, beets, parsnips, carrots) grow down into the ground and absorb their nutrients from the soil, therefore having a strong "rooting" or grounding energy, helpful for when we feel stressed, overwhelmed or frazzled.

Any insights? What here makes sense to you? Have you felt the effects of different types of foods before?

This week, start to notice how the foods you eat make you feel. Observe your own energy and moods and experiment with changing the energy of your food to help you feel how you want to. Share what you find! What foods make you shine?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Protein: the Tempting Tempeh Way

Tempeh is a great source of protein if you're looking to expand your repertoire or eat less meat. I love it's firm and chewy texture. It's a fermented soy-based product, sometimes combined with other grains. You can find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, usually near the tofu. Although soy can be hard to digest, the fermentation process helps break down the beans and make it easier on your belly. Still, if you're new to tempeh, start slowly. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to eat it and goes with almost anything.

Baked Maple Mustard Tempeh

Steamed tempeh puffs up, allowing it to absorb more flavors and making it a nice complement to dark leafy greens. If I can keep myself from eating the tempeh straight out of the oven, I like to serve this dish with whole grains and vegetables of stuffed in a sandwich with watercress, grated carrots and avocado.
2 8-ounce packages tempeh
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup or molasses
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons tamari

Slice tempeh across into ½ inch strips and steam 10 minutes.

In a shallow baking dish, whisk together oil, garlic, mustard, maple syrup, lime juice and tamari. Place steamed tempeh in marinade and flip to coat each side. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425F.

Place tempeh with marinade in oven and roast 10 minutes. Remove from oven, flip tempeh and return to roast another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, serve hot or refrigerate for later use.

Serves 4.

From Terry Walters' Clean Food.

*Pictures show a half batch recipe, which I was sorry to have made... I wished I had more leftovers! What was I thinking??

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Missing the Point (with Paula Deen and Diabetes)

I found a Time magazine opened to an article about Paula Deen in the bathroom today. I know the story of Paula's announcement about having Type 2 Diabetes has been all over the media since January, but after many frustrating searches, I feel like most of the media voices have missed the point. Or they're afraid to have an opinion about it.

I can completely understand Paula keeping information about her personal health private until she felt ready to bring it into the public eye. She deserves her privacy and personal life, as we all do. What bothers me, though, is that her very personal announcement was made simultaneously another about her new partnership as the spokesperson for diabetes drug-maker Novo Nordisk. Yes, I understand that it's another way to make money off of what life has handed her (and yes, she has also said she is donating an undisclosed portion of that profit to the American Diabetes Association) BUT is making another million on top of her millions more valuable than using her fame to really help spread the word about the true causes and roots of our diabetes epidemic?

"I will have a broader platform now, trying to do something for everybody," she said. "But you know, I'm Southern by roots. I was taught (to cook) by my grandmother and nothing I can do would change that."

I'm not asking you to change or stop loving and honoring your roots, Paula, only to examine whether the way we've been taught is the best way to live full, healthy and happy lives!

My work is centered on helping women who are struggling with sugar and our unhealthy food norms and ways to find an alternative way of eating and living that will make them feel energized, sexy and full-of-potential rather than out-of-control, confused, exhausted and dissatisfied.

It's hard for me to respect a response that embodies the American industrial way of making money off of both creating and then treating a disease. I realize she probably had no idea she was helping to fuel a food culture of disease, but upon being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes herself, I would have hoped she'd take the opportunity to learn (and then share what she'd learned) from her life journey, her grandmother, her own cooking and eating experiences and history.

Instead, she (and we) are continuing to ignore what is at the root of the problem of the obesity and diabetes epidemic which is dawning on us: our unbalanced way of eating and increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

The story of Paula Deen makes me sad, but it also revs me up knowing there is another way to fight diabetes that is cheaper, natural, doesn't involve drugs, and can save us from disease in the first place.