Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Antioxidant Rich Foods

Berries

I know you've heard all the buzz about antioxidants in the last several years, but do you know what an antioxidant is?  It is a substance that helps protect and repair natural oxidation (caused by free radicals) of your bodies cells.  This can happen through exposure to things like cigarette smoke or sunlight but also is part of the processes of the body (like inflammation and metabolism.)   So basically, there is no way to avoid the bombardment of free radicals we all face each day.  Enter the antioxidants.

There are plenty of medical studies out there that say that people who eat antioxidant rich foods live longer and have less incident of illness (like cancer, Parkinson's, heart disease, Alzheimer's and more.)  Less conclusive are studies that use supplements as the source for the antioxidants.  I tend to believe, as I think Micheal Pollan once said, that there is more magic in the carrot than just the beta-carotene.  Taking just one piece out of the food may be dangerous, or at least, destroys the completeness of the solution.  (If you want more information on this supplement vs food idea- look here.)

All those musings aside, let's talk about the ways to get more antioxidant rich foods into your day:
First thing to do is add color to your plate.  The more colors you eat the more antioxidants you ingest.  And, so tasty!
Berries are notoriously high in antioxidants- raspberries, blueberries, black berries and strawberries are a good place to start.  Goji berries and cherries are delicious sources as well.  Also leafy greens like kale and collared greens, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.  And don't forget orange foods like sweet potato, carrots and grapefruits.  Really- just about any food with a (naturally) bright color is bursting with goodness for you.  Nuts and legumes are also full of antioxidants.

So, how do you get more of these into your diet?  For me it goes right back to the first post in this series.  Of course, add these foods to meals.  Kale in your eggs and berries on the side for breakfast.  Raw carrots with lunch served with hummus.  Cashews sprinkled over your dinner.  Almonds in your salad.  To really boost your consumption though look to snacks (or turn these smoothies into part of your meal.) Adding a smoothie in the afternoon will really energize you at the time when most of us want to take a nap.  Here are two ideas:

A green smoothie:
2 cups kale
1 sliced up apple
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1 spoonful of nut butter (like peanut)
1/2 cup water, coconut water or other natural juice
1/2 lemon sqeeezed in
Blend adding more liquid as needed

A berry smoothie:
1/2 cup strawberries (or cherries if you are allergic like me)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup yogurt (resist the urge to use nonfat yogurt)
1/2 cup water, coconut water or other natural juice
1/2 cup ice cubes

A few notes:  Feel free to substitute like crazy here.  There is no wrong answer unless your taste buds are repelled.  Using good quality frozen berries keeps the cost lower and reduces the need for ice.  You need fat to absorb some vitamins and minerals so don't skip on the yogurt or nut butters.  Because you are eating all raw food in these smoothies you are getting the most out of the foods.

If you have any left over (yeah, right) or are feeling industrious pour these blends into ice pop molds and toss them in the freezer.  I got these very cool molds for John for Father's Day.  They have been quite the hit around here.

So- what are your favorite ways eat berries?

PS- Here is a great in depth article on antioxidants if you want to know more.

{picture by Dan McKay.}

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: In the Kitchen

Squash


One of the biggest struggles for me as I changed over from almost never cooking to being expected to cook all the time was figuring out how to organize.  I knew how to cook, I wasn't afraid to experiment but I was spending too much time figuring out what I was going to make and when.  And when I finally figured out what I wanted I didn't have the ingredients.  Pair this frustration with a very strong dislike of being stuck in the kitchen for any amount of time and no wonder I hated cooking!  It was a tortuous adjustment with many bumps along the road.  We are still working it out a little but I can tell you three things that really helped:

1. A good, seasonally arranged cookbook.  A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends was it for me.  This was the first cookbook that I had ever seen that I wanted to make more than three recipes out of.  Having the dishes organized by season made sure I wasn't searching for asparagus in November.  Some of the recipes I follow to the letter (very strange for me) but most of them I use the basic idea and adapt it.  We all really love the tastes that come from this book.

2. Delegating out the parts I absolutely hate.  I hate doing the dishes.  I hate getting my hands wet.  I am not sure if this is left over from being a shampoo girl at a salon and having my hands in and out of water till they cracked but whatever it is- it is strong.  It has probably been the source of the most fussing in my marriage.  When John said I needed to start cooking dinner if I was going to be home all the time the only way I could possibly manage it was to have him wash all the dishes.  Luckily, he agrees it is a fair trade. (Most of the time.)

3. A plan.  I wanted a single sheet of paper where I could write down dinner for the week and have my shopping list.  This was so important in shifting me from feeling overwhelmed to confident.  I found it hard to find something pre-made that fit me just right so I asked John to make one up for us according to my specifications.  As a special gift to you all I have put it up so that you too can use this simple and wonderful little tool.  I hope it will help you feel more confident too! (Please let us know if you use it and like it!  It was so great of John to take the time to draw each little place mat.  Talk about above and beyond!)

What makes your life easier in the kitchen?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

GSC Ending

I have a confession.  I started buying clothes again.  It started last month.  I feel like 10 months is pretty good...  Especially since I didn't make nearly the amount of things I expected.  I blame this on school and the small one.  But mostly, it was because I was lazy.  I need to find a new word for lazy.  One that isn't negative.  Because I like that I don't take life at a full out run. 
Anyhoo-  Here is a simple summer nightgown I made this week.  I saw this last week and felt like I could just make it.  So simple right?  I happened to stumble across this tutorial and though the sexiness is way off I went with it.  I, of course, messed with the basic idea.

Nightie

I lined it because my fabric is sheer.  I made the straps wider and made them cross over in the back.  I made the upper piece and the lining from bed sheets so it is super, super soft. 

Nightie detail

It is also pretty long, below the knee.  There went the rest of the sexiness.  Ah well, there is always next time...
You may recognize the fabric from all that time ago.  It takes me a while.

Wellness Wednesday: Hydration

Dive Right In

Last week the temperatures stayed in the 95-100 degree range all week.  It was a little brutal and just a taste of what July and August will be like.   We hid inside with the air conditioners on and tried to keep from overheating.  And we drank lots and lots of water.  And brought it with us every time we ventured out.  No matter if we were going around the block or to another place to use their ac.  When it is hot like that we don't have much trouble remembering to drink our water because we can see and feel it leaving our bodies so rapidly.  I find, the hard time to keep up with hydration is when the temperatures are a little less extreme.  When we are just coasting along, this is when we "forget" to drink.
The standard recommendation for water is about 64 ounces a day.  It sounds like a lot, but on a hot day it is easy to manage.  On a cool day (like today, thank goodness!) it gets a lot harder.  It also fails to take in consideration any variables.  Are you working inside, in dry air conditioning?  Outside in the sun?  Are you eating lots of water rich fruits and veggies?  Are you absorbing any (enough?) of that water?  Or is it just passing through you?  I got really interested in this a few months ago when I realized that I had been dehydrated since- oh, maybe forever.  At least as long as I can remember.  My lips had always been dry and cracked.  My skin almost always needed lotion.  And why?  Was I really not ever getting enough water?  Ever?  That seemed crazy.
I decided to try something other than water and see if it helped.  I asked around and found coconut water.  Drinking just one glass of this a day (in addition to regular water) seems to help right away.  I also heard a lecture from John Douillard about the Ayurvedic idea of hydrating and flushing the system.  This involves drinking hot water regularly for a couple weeks straight.  Since it was cold out it seemed like a great idea.  After a couple days my lips had puffed up and felt like I'd gotten an injection to make them full and soft.  (What a better return on investment!!) In the end though, chasing a toddler around, I found it pretty unsustainable as a practice.  Adding in another glass of coconut water helped.
What is really amazing is that we trick ourselves into thinking we have "quenched" our thirst with things that are actually stealing water from our cells.  Sodas and coffee and even many "sports" drinks are wet for sure but they rob us.  Not that we can't have those things- just so we remember they aren't replacing the water we drink.
I'll give you one other trick that is easy as pie to get you jump started on hydration each day- put a full glass of water by your bed each night.  Drink it when you wake up.  Before you even swing those feet over towards the floor.  You'll be one step ahead all day!
What do you do to keep hydrated in the summer?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Summer Snacks

 Fresh cantoloupe

I was trying to figure out what was a perfect first topic and looked down at my hand to find the perfect inspiration.  Summer is the best time for fresh food.  And so, the snacks are good.  Really good.
Today I cut open a cantaloupe with the Bug jumping up and down under my elbow asking over and over for "Mel! Mel!"  It is so refreshing when the thermometer is going up and up.

I love being able to pull something simple out of the fridge and being ready to go for snack time (which, you know, with a toddler comes every few minutes ;-)  I am lucky that the Bug isn't too picky an eater.

Here are a few of the things we have in regular rotation right now and some things I want to add more of:

Hummus with just about anything.  He even puts grapes in it.
Crackers- we are all a little addicted to these which I love because they have only about four ingredients.
Grapes/melon/blueberries or other berries.  He would eat the whole container or melon so I have to hide half of them.
Frozen pops.  Here is a little article on making them at home. I got some green juice at Trader Joes today and will be freezing that into pops.
Smoothies.  Almost always with a kale base and then apples, lemon, banana or whatever is around.  I keep frozen blueberries on hand at all times.
Carrots and cucumber slices- with hummus, laughing cow cheese or olive oil and vinegar.
Cheese sticks- I don't love these for him (and I don't eat them at all) but he really likes them and he doesn't drink milk anymore so I don't feel too bad about it.
Nuts- any kind- raw- yum!
Bananas.
Apples with nut and seed butters.

I try to keep the snacks to a ratio that is over half raw fruit and veggies.  As an adult eating fruit and veggies all day pretty much makes sure I don't add on any extra pounds and helps keep my blood clean.  For the Bug, it also gets him a lot closer to 6-8 servings a day than we could ever get with meals alone. On occasion we also give him this green food powder which he loves and will roll his fruit in or eat by the handful.  It tastes great in drinks too.

So, what is your go to snack in the summer?  Does it energize you?

{picture from ktylerconk}

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ideal Wellness Coaching

Veggie market

I have a secret to share with you all.  I am a Health Coach!  Wait- you already knew?  It can't be because I told you!  Okay, I am kind of kidding here.  Kind of.
The truth is I have been in school since October at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition but I have hardly talked about it here.  I haven't written once about a health or nutrition topic.  I haven't told you once how excited I am to to have this new area of exploration.  Why?  I'm not sure exactly but I have a few thoughts:

1) I don't have strong opinions about nutrition.  You eat meat? Dairy? Donuts?  You drink coffee and alcohol?  Do you feel good? Yes- great! No- call me!  It would be hard for me to work with someone who ate fast food three meals a day and didn't want to change but other than that I'm just not that judgmental about (or sold on) any particular eating style or habit.  Each person is bioindividual.  Each person eats differently for optimum health.
2) I have been unsure how to best express what I do.  Here is my best go: I help people to learn to enjoy life more by improving relationships with food, stress and the people you love (including YOU!)
3) I have been waiting endlessly, dithering, about my website.

So here is my plan to stop the madness and get on with life.
1) Here is my website.  Please go visit it.  Tell me what you think.  (It isn't quite done.) Fill out a form if you want to talk, for one hour straight about you, your health, your goals and what makes you happy or is holding you back.  I promise to listen, without judgement, and support you any way I can.
2) Wellness Wednesday.  Here on this blog (and on the website) I promise, every week, to have some topic about wellness, food, movement or relationships to discuss with you. I hope you will comment and join the discussion or share it with your friends!

Thank you so much for your support and love.  It means the world to me!
{photo via flickr