Category Archives: Healthy

How do you Spaghetti Squash?

This is an engagement post.  Please comment.

Personally, I love to make a roasted tomato-garlic-basil base with an arugula saute layered over pre-baked spaghetti squash.  Using this method, you can carve the squash out of the shell onto a plate or simply spoon out the sauce and arugula directly over 1/2 of the cooked squash and scoop it all out like it’s a big bowl itself.

A few other notables that have caught my eye;

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein by Little Bits Of –  http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

Spaghetti Squash Black Bean Bowls by THE glowing FRIDGE – http://www.theglowingfridge.com/spaghetti-squash-black-bean-bowls/#_a5y_p=5905804

Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns by The Honour System – http://thehonoursystem.com/2015/03/06/spaghetti-squash-hash-browns-vegan-gluten-free/

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Weekend Skillets

I wanted to devote a post to my latest love…  weekend skillets.

What is this? you might ask.  Well, quite frankly it’s a food smorgasbord that a little extra a.m. time on the weekends allows for.  Basically, you chop up, season, and saute a host of different vegetables to pair with eggs and/or other protein rich source (fish, other meats, or something plant based such as edamame or mushrooms), optional healthy grain or seed sources, such as quinoa, and condiments like hot sauce or salsa.  Top this off with a healthy fat, such as a sliced avocado, and there you have it, a skillet breakfast at it’s best.  Sometimes, depending on flavor combination, I even drizzle a little cold olive oil on top of the finished dish for added savor.  Another skillet option is to combine a cooked base with a topping of fresh, raw ingredients.

As part of my personal protocol, I have been focusing on a concept PFFC balance (protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates).  Conceptually, this acronym serves as a guiding principle for planning meals, at a macro-nutrient level.  The goal is to apply the principle to each meal and snack through out the day.  When food options are appropriately selected, such as dark leafy greens for the complex carbohydrate category, micronutrient and fiber intake goals can also be achieved.

The science suggests that following an appropriate PFFC balance across meals and snacks throughout the day can contribute to better hormonal balance and blood sugar stabilization.  Therefore, it is further supportive of optimal health though nutrition.  The skillet presents an easy way to make this happen.  I have also learned that if I eat this in the morning, I can go most all day and only need to rely on snacks.  For my fitness and social activity routines on weekends, this is really helpful.

I found the break down PFC Balanced Eating Part 1:  What is PFC? from Dietitian Cassie clear and easy to apply (2016).

The skillet makes planning PFFC easy.  Not only is it fun to prepare and eat, it also allows me to partake in a fantastic life hack!  It might come as no surprise to you that I am fanatic about brown bag lunches.  Not only does this help me stay on track with my nutritional goals, it is a cost-effective measure.  As a customer of a regional CSA (community supported agriculture) share, I am even more committed to coming up with my own food preparation tactics as well as recipes.  What I have learned when making the skillet, I can easily perform extra chopping to be used in other recipes.  Previously I had been committing a pretty significant block of time on Sundays to do all my weekly food preparation.  However, the addition of a skillet breakfast on Saturdays allows me to split of my prep time and has ultimately saved time over all.

Dietitian Cassie also addresses ways to budget this approach to eating on the Healthy Simple Life website, PFC on the CHEAP part 1 (2014).

REFERENCES

Healthy Simple Life. (2014). Retrieved from PFC on the CHEAP part 1: http://healthysimplelife.com/pfc-on-the-cheap-part-1/

PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? (2016). Retrieved from Dietician Cassie. Real Talk. Real Food. Real Life.: http://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/

More Purple… Recipe Share: Purple Power Salad

If you have noticed a recurring theme of “purple” in my blog, this is no coincidence.  Both red and purple have presented themselves as signature colors in my life.  When I was a little girl, I had to have the pastel lavender option for various toys and products, such as an 80’s style tape recorder “boom box”.  In college, it just so happened I joined a sorority with national colors purple and white, therefore, continuing the theme of purple in my life.  Aside from fashion and home accessories, I love to find the color in nature.  Turns out food is a great place for it (see my 2015 blog post “Blue-Purple”).

…and so, without further delay, another recipe share.  Again, this is inspired by Sarah Britton.  However, as we begin to pull ourselves out of winter and think about Spring, I love to start thinking about salads again.  This one has become a go-to in my life and will, undoubtedly, become a classic as time goes forward.  In addition, the spice and herb focus to the dressing not only brings about a flavorful punch, it is a savvy way to pack in a little extra nutrition.  I highly recommend to try at least a small amount of cayenne pepper, even if you think you don’t like a hot spice.  The cinnamon combination creates a nice balance.  One adjustment I have done in the past is blend figs into the dressing itself.  At certain times of the year, I can find organic green figs in the frozen section for a reasonable price.  Black figs (or Turkish as I most prefer) can be a little pricey.

Enjoy!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/08/purple-power-salad-for-a-picnic/

Purple Power Picnic Salad

 

Recipe share by Sarah Britton – Winter Rainbow Panzanella | My New Roots

One of my favorite food blogs is My New Roots by Sarah Britton, Holistic Nutritionist & CNP.  Fairly recently, she also published a book and last week I discovered it in Whole Foods.

Her work is near to perfect synergy between flavor, nutrition, and food artistry.  She pays special attention to varied food availability or dietary protocols and often provides alternative suggestions.  I relate well to this approach.

Earlier this year, I saved the recipe below to Pinterest.  As we dive into winter, I am reminded of it.  So far my winter CSA has been most regularly dividing up orange and purple carrots, turnips, radishes, a hearty variety of spinach, and a few beets.  #tomatomountain  I can’t help but see making a version of this dish in my near future!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2015/03/winter-rainbow-panzanella/

The 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency · Experience Life (published article, not my own)

I snagged this off a Facebook post which I often approach cautiously as a source. However, this area is so critical and one that I have had on my blog ideas list. It’s a slightly longer read, but worth while.

Admittedly (and with vulnerability to reveal), I scored a 27. I feel it is somewhat accurate because I would be the first to acknowledge certain areas in which I need to work on. However, a few of the questions I felt mediocre with my quantitative reply. I plan to revisit this article over time as part of my own self-wellness journey.

https://experiencelife.com/article/the-5-best-ways-to-build-resiliency/

National Holidays – A pleasant time to remember mindfulness

For many working Americans, a national (or federal) holiday brings about feelings of “yippee”.  It could mean a 3- or 4-day weekend from work, time to take a vacation, or the opportunity to attend a special, themed event.

In reflection of the Labor Day weekend, I am reminded of the idea of mindfulness.  Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as (1) the quality or state of being mindful or (2) the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis (2015).

The idea of mindfulness is referenced often in health and wellness promotion.  We even have a division of medicine exclusively focused on the area; Mind-body Medicine[1].  The concept of mindfulness can be a critical one to incorporate into efforts that support participant behavior change which is particularly relevant to chronic conditions or overall behavior in support of maintaining physiological wellness, absent of diagnosis.  Therefore, I like to find opportunities to link to the concept.

Holidays can be a great time to remind ourselves to slow down, connect with family or social networks, and, overall, find opportunities for joyfulness.  They can also be great times to take inventory of personal priorities.  I have found that 3-day weekends present an excellent opportunity to take a personal productivity day that may not have been available otherwise.  This can help bring about balance to an often hectic lifestyle and, therefore, contribute to greater mindfulness as we move forward into the next days, months, seasons, and/or years.

This Labor Day weekend, I delicately balanced time with friends and my dog with the management of a few personal affairs.  In Chicago, we were fortuned with late summer weather so, naturally, a trip to the Lake Michigan waterfront was included.

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Often, on weekends, I am furiously managing google alerts and personal e-mails not reviewed during the week, running errands, cleaning my apartment, working out and planning fitness regimes, and preparing meals for the next work week to come.

This weekend, however, I powered down for most all of Saturday and Sunday.  Then, used Monday to gradually re-power up, so to speak, and caught up on a few personal affairs.  In hopes to avoid a “case of the Mondays” (only this week on Tuesday), I avoided an excessive, over planned schedule.  This further allowed for awareness of the various moments and presented better opportunity to be fully present within them.

…I hope that many were able to do the same.

In further support of this concept, Raquel Vasallo’s 20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person is a great reminder for a big picture view of living mindfully (2014).

[1] For information about Mind-Body Medicine visit The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s website “about” section; http://cmbm.org/about/what-is-mind-body-medicine/.

References:

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.  (2015).  Mindfulness.  Dictionary.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness on September 7, 2015.

Vasallo, R.  (2014, July 2010).  20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14440/20-signs-youre-a-spiritually-healthy-person.html on August 1, 2015.

Strength of Community and Biba Lips

As a health professional who took a meandering path, one section of the trail was the unexpected diagnosis with autoimmune disease.  Little did I know at the time that there are over 80 of them!  According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, approximately 50 million Americans live with at least one autoimmune diagnosis.  Out of that 50 million, approximately 75% are women (2015).

This personal path took a look at food, environment, and genetics under a critical lens, perhaps even more closely than I had the opportunity to gage throughout a Master of Public Health program.  Last week I had the pleasure to attend a local, community event hosted by Noktivo Natural Nail Salon.  Noktivo is run by a dynamic young professional who has taken a stand against a so called “dirty industry”.

At this event I met many outstanding woman representing “clean” beauty products.  One stood out to me due to personal connection.  The dynamic owner and founder of Biba Lips told me of her diagnosis of Hashimoto’s.  This is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the thyroid.  It is one of personal connection to me as I have observed the diagnosis in both family members and friends.  It is what I would refer to as an “ugly” disease that can cause extreme fatigue and sluggishness as well as depletion of skin and hair quality, among many other things.

Despite the negative side of this disease, I was pleasantly greeted by a most favorable outcome of this diagnosis.  Common to my path, beauty products and the chemical and/or toxic nature had been brought to the forefront of the discussion within overall health and wellness.  The owner excitedly told me about her desire for keeping a little glamour in her life and, as a result, the concept for Biba Lips, a cleaner, healthier cosmetic option emerged.

The empowerment she felt radiated in her smile, words, and facial expressions.  It was both delightful and motivating.  Therefore, I devote this blog post to her.  I give a huge shot out and “you go girl”.  It is also a significant reminder of the strength of community.  As a student, I focused on community health.  It is nearly impossible to measure the strength of community ties to health outcomes (although we try).  This example is certainly a “proof of concept” for me!

References:

Autoimmune Disease In Women.  (2015).  Retrieved from http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/autoimmune-disease-in-women/.

Other Mentions:

Biba Cosmetics LLC, http://www.bibalips.com

Noktivo Natural Nail Spa, http://www.noktivo.com

Blue-Purple

It amazes me how, collectively across faucets, people can spend so much time focused on what goes on their body in order to look vibrant, colorful and full of life, yet may only devote a fraction of that time for what goes inside it.  There is a classic line I learned while working in production planning, “garbage in, garbage out”.  The phrase can definitely be applied to meal planning as well.

Living in a large city brings no shortage for the opportunity to watch people.  All too often, I observe the pinball activity within in the average workday, aka the daily grind.  It is not uncommon to see anxious people knocked back-forth, up-down, and sometimes down the shoot, figuratively of course.  Between scarfing down Starbucks at breakfast, another cup of joe or two at the office, grab’n go at lunch, and then, finishing off with take out for dinner, it is hard to imagine how much, if any, thought went into it at all.

As practitioners, we have latched on to health promotional advice suggestive of “eating a rainbow” and I am not talking through the consumption of iconic multi-colored candies.  Across epidemiologic studies, the approach is consistently favored and most likely achieved through consumption of a diet rich in plant-based foods.  For my science lovers out there, I will include the citations for two reviews of the study data in the references section; Boeing, et al completed in 2012 and Wang, et al completed in 2014.

Despite this commonly accepted recommendation, it can be easy to get off balance.  In fact, some colors are more commonly deficient than others.  According to Dr. Deanna Minich[1], one of my favorite nationally recognized nutrition professionals, blue-purple is the most common deficit in human diets (2015).  Although she didn’t explicitly say it, I interpret this statement to be meant for the standard American diet.  Minich adds that blue-purple colored foods have certain phytonutrients critical for the brain, such as in the support of learning and memory, (2015).

Last week I hit the blue-purple lottery. Summer has seemed to take added time to arrive in the upper Midwest this year.  However, our luck has finally started to change.  The most recent farmers markets were filled with blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cauliflower and I noticed the super market offering US grown, organic blueberries at an in-store price.  Plenty of opportunity to absorb this beautiful color category!

The blackberries, from Ellis Family Farm, more or less melted in the mouth.  I paired half of them with kale and chives dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  In particular, I spoiled myself by using chocolate olive oil that I picked up from the Olive Tap in Manitou Springs, Colorado while traveling.

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I receive a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery from Tomato Mountain Farm in Brooklyn, Wisconsin.  Despite receiving broccoli the past two weeks, I couldn’t resist at least a small cut of the purple cauliflower from Nichols Farm and Orchard that caught my eye as I dashed through Daley Plaza farmers’ market on my lunch break walk.  I used it in a curry recipe.

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On Saturdays, I often walk with some people in the neighborhood and we have started passing through Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.  There, I picked up a small eggplant from Iron Creek Farm which I sliced and pan fried in coconut oil eating half, then saving the remainder to dice up for eggplant-cabbage-mushroom dumplings.

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With the exception of the preparation that goes into the dumplings, none of these cooking/preparation methods are challenging, nor take a lot of time, and should fit into a busy lifestyle.  The salad was a quick toss.  I didn’t even chop the kale, just stripped the leaves from the stems and proceeded to tear apart any pieces that would be too large.

After working out a few great spice combinations, curry has become an easy go to.  Simply simmer the coconut cream with the spice combo then serve over steamed vegetables.  If desired, pair this with a meat option and/or layer over rice or quinoa.  In this case, chopping vegetables becomes the biggest challenge and I can assure you, if that becomes your biggest challenge of the day, you have had a great day!

The sautéed eggplant may take a little finagling to figure out the proportion of oil most preferred (I used a pretty modest amount), but again, the hardest part is likely the time it takes to slice.  I would guess it to take under 5 minutes.

Eggplant Pan-fried Coconut oil

In order to best wrap this blog post up in a pleasant conclusion, my take away of the week is to remember how vital color is for your inside.  I have used blue-purple as an example, but each color category contributes its own set of unique attributes and internal benefit.  The next time you stare down your closet, accessories, make-up, perfume/cologne selection, etc. figuring out how to best highlight your assets and look attractive for the day; please do remember your inner eco-system loves color too.  Make your inside radiate just as much as your fashionable outer self.

[1] For more information on Dr. Minich’s approach to food and nutrition, be sure to check out http://www.foodandspirit.com and if you are stumbling over “phytonutrient”, WebMD has a consumer friendly write up at http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq (Metcalf, 2014).

References:

Boeing, H., et al (2012, Sep).  Critical Review:  Vegetables and Fruit in the Prevention of Chronic Diseases.  European Journal of Nutrition, 51, 637-663.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419346/.

Metcalf, E. (2014, Oct 29).  Diet & Weight Management:  Phytonutrients.  Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq.

Minich, D. (2015, Jan 19-26).  Whole-Self Nourishment for Pain and Inflammation:  A Seven Step Approach to Breakthrough Vitality [Digital slides and audio].  Retrieved from painreliefproject.com.

Wang, X., et al (2014, Jul 29).  Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer:  Systematic Review and Dose Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies.  BMJ.  Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4490.

Other Mentions:

If you preach, be prepared to practice…

I had to chuckle a few weeks ago while taking a morning flight to Denver from Chicago.  Carefully, I had packed my travel snacks such as a bag of loose spinach and kale, an apple, sugar- and salt-free almond butter, mineral water, and, for a treat, crystallized ginger.  Meanwhile, next to me a passenger orders the so called “Happy Hour Special”.  What does this consist of?  …one stiff drink and a “snack”.  She ordered jack and coke with gummy bears.

Can you think of two polar opposite agendas placed right next to one another that morning?  Naturally, the airline will sell it to her and likely make a pretty good mark up on the sale.  I managed to keep a straight face between my combined, yet conflicted, feelings of horror and humor. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “man oh man.”  Most of the people who know me are quite aware that I am not hesitant to voice my opinion.  In this case, the urge to ask her questions and attempt to educate was screaming in my head, but the idea of not over stepping bounds with a complete stranger restrained me.

To my surprise, towards the end of the flight, she decided to initiate conversation with me by saying “you eat so healthy…  I need to do better”.  I cordially said, “I try.”  Meanwhile the inside voice in my head was shouting “YES!”  This experience is in fact a lesson of practice what you preach.  I couldn’t help but to find beauty in the fact that without saying a word, I made a small influence.