Sunday, January 31, 2016

That's A Keeper - 5

I’ve come a long way in the kitchen.  Back in my college days my mom used to have to write the brand name she’d buy next to the ingredients on my recipes.  What can I say?  I was challenged when it came to shopping at the store.  I still have to look at a recipe 20 times or so to make sure I’m doing it right (no I can’t make things up on my own…I wish!)  But needless to say I’ve progressed in my cooking.  I have always thought that my food tasted good, but when others are now trying things out and they say it tastes good, it has to be good, right??  I still dream of the day of maybe opening up a restaurant where all the food is healthy, tasty, and homemade goodness.  We used to say that my brother would catch the seafood, my mom would do the bulk of the cooking and I would do the nutritional analysis.  That dream could still be a possibility one day.

Little by little I’ve started to make things all homemade.  I made ketchup recently.  So simple and no need to add the sugar that they do to the bottled stuff.  I also made marshmallows the other day.  No need for them, I just wanted to be able to see if I could make them homemade.  A little challenge for myself if you will.  I can check that off the list.  If I ever come across a recipe that includes them, I can easily whip them up (yes, they’re not that hard).   Bread is still on my list of items to make homemade.  But I’ll be honest.  There have been a few failures with bread that I try not to talk about.  I will attempt more times this year, because I really do want to make my bread homemade.  Have you ever taken a look at some of the nutrition labels for bread?  Too long a list and too many names my grandmother wouldn’t recognize.  It’s incredible.  So, yeah, bread is definitely on my list to conquer.  If anyone has an easy starter one, let me know!

Over the last couple of months I’ve been cooking up a storm!  As I always do, I weed out the good from the bad so you don’t have to.  If you’re new to the blog here is my definition of a “Keeper” - a recipe that I’ve tried and that can be a repeat recipe.  The key word being repeat – I haven’t repeated any in quite a few months, but I know I have my tried and true recipes when/if needed.  Here are a few of the latest rounds of keeper recipes. 

Cashews might be one of THE most versatile nuts/seeds out there.  I love turning cashews into “cashew cheese” as well as turning the cashews into a savory/sweet dessert.  Yes they do that too!  Over the holiday break I stumbled across a program on Create TV (my public broadcasting station here in Miami) that featured 3 vegan chefs on the program).  I had never seen the program and decided to watch.  That particular day was a lady named Tony Fiore.  She whipped up a cashew “mascarpone” cheese.  I will tell you that I love cheese.  I often think that’s one of the reason I can’t completely go vegan.  I just love cheese so much.  But this version of cashew cheese was PHENOMENAL!!  I loved it so much.  The sundried tomato pesto enhanced it quite a bit along with all of the fresh herbs.  SUPERB.  DELISH.  I can’t wait to make this again! 
Snack: SuperfoodChocolate Quinoa Bark

Quinoa made its way into being popular a few years back and it’s still hanging around.  And with good reason!  Quinoa is technically a seed.   It comes in three varieties, white, red, and black.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse.  One cup contains 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, iron, magnesium, folate and some omega-3 fatty acids.  It is also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.  So nutritious.  This bark mixes the quinoa (uncooked) along with almonds, cashews, and a mix of hemp and chia seeds.  The binding agent is maple syrup mixed with a little coconut oil and then you bake it in the oven.  Once out of the oven you melt the dark chocolate and spread it over the top.  Throw it in the fridge to set and voilá – start breaking apart the bark into small pieces.  Crunchy, delicious, and nutritious!
Snack:  Roasted BeetHummus

I have made homemade hummus before.  If you pass by the hummus section in the grocery store these days, there are a lot of flavors now making plain hummus sound boring.  I stumbled upon this blog, Half Baked Harvest, the other day and after making her quinoa bark, thought I’d give her beet hummus a go.  The color is stunning.  I just wasn’t sure if the flavor would be great (beets are super earthy tasting to me and they are not my favorite thing – I try to like them and embrace them, but they’re just not my favorite).  Needless to say the flavor is on point.  A mix of the chickpeas, tahini, and almond butter really does mesh with the beets in a way I wouldn’t have thought it would.  The recipe states to peel the skin off of the chickpeas for a smoother hummus.  I’ve never had a smoother hummus before in my life.  I’ll be honest, I’ve never taken the time to peel the skin from the chickpeas.  This is a must step and one you won’t regret!
I’ve listed three snack type foods for you all to have.  The Super Bowl is next weekend and these might just be a few good recipes to have in your arsenal, healthy yet tasty!

Traditional Thai flavor cooked in your home in right about 30 minutes.  Okay it might have been 35 minutes with all of the slicing (for the vegetables), but dinner in 30 minutes?  I’ll take that.  I always tell people to eat a colorful array of vegetables and while I didn’t plan on my picture looking like a rainbow, it kind of does, doesn’t it?  Simple yet flavorful.  I added tofu to my dish to keep it vegetarian, but feel free to add the protein of your choice to make the meal fully balanced. 
CondimentBerry ChiaJam
Berries, chia seeds, and maple syrup.  That’s it.  You’ll have your own homemade jam in 10 minutes.  Pretty sure I’m never buying store bought jelly/jam again.  I told you I was taking this “make everything homemade” thing seriously!  So simple and so flavorful.  I made this jam for the complete recipe below, the vegan wagon wheels, but I’ve since made the jam just to have on hand.  The vegan wagon wheels are out of this world.  If that sounds up your alley those are a keeper as well, by the way.  But I truly believe the wagon wheels’ main attraction and why I liked them as much as I did was because of the jam.  The cookie dough wasn’t bad either J
Dessert:  Clementines, Dark Chocolate, and Pistachios
This is actually a simple concoction of my own.  No recipe required.  Simply melt some dark chocolate and dip the clementines into the chocolate.  Mash up some pistachios and then dip your clementines (with the chocolate side) into the pistachios.  Let them sit in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to harden some.  And voilá, a little bite of heaven.  That chocolate with orange flavor, magnifique! 
So there you have it – a few more recipes that have recently made it into my “keepers”.  I hope you see a recipe or two that you might like to try.  My stack of “recipes to try” keeps growing.  I wish they ALL were keepers!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Small Changes, Big Difference

I hear it all the time in my office – “I’m not sure why I can’t lose weight.  I’ve tried anything and everything and still, no weight loss.  Sure a few pounds here and there and then I’ll gain it back”.  I really could put this story on repeat.  I’m not one to doubt people, and I’ll be honest, I don’t have the magic pill that people can take to help them have sustainable weight loss, but…the other day a lady came into my office and had NO clue how many calories she was eating daily.  (I don’t teach people to count calories, but I do have them log occasionally what they’re eating to gain perspective and insight into where they need to make changes).  Having said that she only needed 1,400 calories/day and was eating close to 2,400 calories daily (and I was being generous with her portions where she quite possibly was eating 3,400 calories for all I know).  This was an easy a-ha moment for her.  She could see where she needed to make changes and I used real life examples with what she was currently eating.  Then I began to show her other ideas of areas in which to change and she did seem motivated.  I’ll see her in a couple of weeks for follow-up and find out.

This is what I teach my patients – one change at a time.  Don’t go trying to do: a three-day juice cleanse, a go to the gym every day for an hour, or NO CARBS EVER – because real life will sneak up on you and before you know it you’ve inched back into your old ways.   These quick fixes don’t work in the long-term.  I believe that people have good intentions and it’s not always about one’s will power.  Truthfully I believe the reason that “diets” bomb is because of this “all or none” mentality.  And it is a vicious cycle where it may work for a little while and in the beginning one is all gung ho, but then give it a bit of time and one’s good intentions start to falter and you feel demoralized and end up doing what you’ve always done.  The truth is that sustainable weight loss lies somewhere in the middle ground – choosing one small healthy habit, implementing it and then moving on to the next – you start small without feeling like you’re changing EVERYTHING all at once.  And the key is to find the small change that you need to make as no one small change will work for everybody.  These small changes can add up to big changes!  Here are a few suggestions for some small changes:

Track your food intake.  Don’t change a thing of what you’re currently eating, but simply begin to measure the amounts.  After a day or two look back over your food intake to reflect and see what it is that you’ve been taking in.  Periodically check back into yourself and start to log the food intake again - The simple act of writing this information down has proven to be one of the most powerful weight loss tools.  The act of writing it down is about holding yourself accountable.  You might also want to note how you were feeling right before you ate it.  Were you angry, sad, or bored?  We often focus so much on foods and calories, but our emotions are a huge part of our eating habits.  (With many of the current applications, Fat Secret, My Fitness Pal, or Lose It, they will help calculate out your estimated caloric needs based on your height, weight, age, and estimated desired weight loss.  This will give you an idea of what your estimated nutrient needs are to be able to see how on point or how not on point you are). 

Track Your Sleep.  You may have heard that there’s a link between sleep and weight – and there is!  Losing just 30 minutes of sleep each night can lead to long-term weight gain in adults (not to mention a range of other ailments:  diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, stroke, and cancer).  Adults typically need between 7-9 hours of nightly sleep (according to the CDC).  If you know you’re lacking sleep, aim to get at least a little extra each night.  Incorporate a soothing nighttime routine – meditate, have a warm bath (make sure to turn off your tablet – the blue light from the screen can disrupt your circadian rhythm).  The key is to settle your wakeful brain to sleep mode – and aim for consistency. 

Eat More Vegetables.  You’ve seen the USDA’s “My Plate” where half the plate is vegetables?  Well, eat MORE vegetables.  I often call it the “fiber factor” with my patients.  The fiber does a critical job in your body.  Most people associate it with “aiding in digestion”, which it does, but more than that, it slows everything down and can give you a sense of fullness.  This is critical when it comes to helping one eat fewer calories at a meal (as vegetables are often lower calorie).  Let’s be clear when I say EAT more vegetables (I did say eat, NOT drink) – the non-starchy vegetables:  Lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, onions, and more.  (Starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, peas, and the winter squashes are technically classified as carbohydrates.  They work quite differently than the non-starchy vegetables in the body).  I’ve been challenging some of my younger patients, the kiddos (and even adults) to try one new veggie a week and try it in all different forms to maybe find the form they might like.  For instance, with cauliflower, try it raw, steamed or roasted.  You can even turn the cauliflower into cauliflower “rice” or make a cauliflower crust.  The key is to think outside the box when it comes to veggies and begin to incorporate more in for the fiber factor.

Move More.  The latest trend has been and still is fitness tracking devices.  They count your steps all day (and some even measure your heartrate!)   I’ll admit, I’m a little bit obsessed with my Fitbit.  Obsessed in a good way.  When I first got my Fitbit, I started to notice that by the end of the workday I’d be averaging 3,000 steps in a day (just while at work).  If I did my morning run I’d tack on between 5,000-7,000 steps on those days, but on the days when no exercise was happening, I was at less than 50% of what the recommended goal is of 10,000 steps/day.  What I started doing over this last year, was beginning to incorporate a morning walk, a walk at lunch, or an evening walk.  The key for me was simply moving more.  I was conscious of the fact that my job was sedentary but seeing the steps was the motivation for me to use those 10 minutes I’d arrive at work early to go for a quick walk.  The lunch time walk is important for me to simply get out of the building and get some fresh air (many times people think that they’ll get more work done if they eat their lunch at their desk.  Sadly, that’s not the case.)  Since this New Year started I’ve gone every day except for two on a lunchtime walk and I can honestly say I’m more productive and feel better when I do get my mid-day walk in.  Remember, small steps.  If hearing 150 minutes/week sounds like too much and un-obtainable, simply aim to get 10 minute intervals in when you can.  The movement makes a difference. 

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.  And I’m talking hydrate with WATER.  We’ve had an unseasonably hot and humid winter thus far in Miami.  And with that humidity needs the replacement of the water loss daily through sweating, etc.  More so, water is calorie free and the only drink that can truly quench your thirst.  The patient I mentioned above was having 2 sodas daily (the 20 ounce bottle size).  She admitted to being addicted to soda, but that was an additional 500 calories daily that by simply removing would allow for her to lose a pound/week.  She knew that they were extra calories, but wasn’t quite sure of how to eliminate them completely.  She wasn’t willing to eliminate them completely (too extreme), so I explained that maybe the way in which she could begin to make the change was to simply change the size of her soda.  Instead of a 20-ounce, 240 calorie drink, could she be satisfied with their 8-ounce, 90 calorie drink.  Remember, small changes.  Sure I’d love for her to completely eliminate them but I also need to be realistic.  She was willing to work on the amount that she was taking in when she realized I didn’t tell her to eliminate it completely.  Believe me, the end goal is to remove sodas completely, but it’s all in how you approach it.  We cut back 300 calories alone just with her drinks.  I then proceeded to show her other ways in choosing healthier options at the restaurants she was eating at to cut back even more.  Working where she was at and beginning to make small changes. 

When making dietary changes, start small and set realistic goals.  The path to a healthier lifestyle begins one little habit at a time.  Make the commitment to making healthy changes and by this time next year, you’ll be in a much better place.  Balance, moderation, variety, and one step at a time.  It’s not a diet; it’s a way of life.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fuel Happiness

Fuel Happiness
A few weeks back while scrolling through Twitter I saw a picture posted by Lululemon:

I re-tweeted the picture and challenged people to write down three things they were grateful for.  Little did I know all that was to unfold just from a simple re-tweet (more on that later).  Over this last year I’ve been writing down daily at least two things I am grateful for:

I’ve always seen the gratitude jar and the idea surfaces each New Year, but have never really committed to doing so.  Last year, I decided I was going to do it.  I started reading through all of my notes (from this past year) on New Year’s Day and there were days as I am looking back that were just simple entries, “birds chirping, sun rising, and the smell of fresh cut grass (seen on my run)” and then there were days that were a little deeper, “thankful my friend made it out of surgery – while it was more intensive than previously thought, she’s going to be okay – grateful for her friendship and all that she means to me.”  It’s hard to put into words how the gratitude jar changed me.  But it did do just that, change me.  The simple truth is that each and every day there is something to be grateful for.  I’m blessed with a good job, a family that loves me (and friends too), and my health.  I believe the change came in looking at challenges/stresses that I would face as growth and opportunities to learn versus having a negative attitude/reaction about them.  One example is that I had my purse stolen the day before Thanksgiving.  The gentleman came into our work area under the premise that he had just been diagnosed with diabetes and what was he going to do as it was the day before Thanksgiving.  He said he needed “help”.  A thief preying on our good nature and the essence of what we do, helping people.  Having my purse stolen before I probably would’ve reacted by letting it ruin my whole day.  As it was, I definitely had a moment right after it happened (he used the card at the Dollar Store for $337 – how did they not check his ID with that big a purchase?!) but within an hour I was already reflecting on the good – I was safe, my purse/license, etc. could be replaced, and this gentleman was obviously stealing because he didn’t have enough.  Total different reaction than what I would’ve had before.  I’ve been using this as my mantra:  “gratitude always in all ways” – in a weird way I was actually grateful my purse was stolen.    My purse was/is just a material possession and everything that was in there was able to be replaced.  Sure we’re a little more careful around the office and close our doors and lock them whenever leaving the area.  But even though this gentleman preyed upon us by using the “recent diabetes diagnosis”, I knew that I can’t/won’t change who I am as a person – the next person that walks through the door really might need help with a recent diagnosis of diabetes.  This one rotten apple won’t spoil the whole bunch – I’m grateful that I am able to educate people and help them with their diagnosis.  This thief was good but he won’t leave me jaded.  The gratitude jar allowed me to start my day with something that I was grateful for and also end my day with something that I was grateful for.  Even on those tough long days I always made time to reflect on the day.  It would have been easy to skip the jar, but reflecting at the end of the day I always was able to see the good in the bad (as they say). 
After I re-tweeted the picture from Lululemon it began to create a dialogue with one of their employees through email.   As part of the picture and the tweet I said something to the effect that meditation helps me to be grateful.  She asked me how I meditate and what has been my experience with meditating? I told her my goal is to meditate daily, however, my struggle has been with consistency.  Let’s be honest, my mind races!!  It’s hard for me to sit still and just be.    There are times when I’ll sit at my desk at lunch (another unhealthy habit I plan to work on in the coming year) but where I take a moment and just sit and breathe and block everything out.  Sometimes my meditation is just for a minute or two.  And while this allows me to focus and work on the rest of the day, by the time I do get home I’m exhausted.  If I close my eyes, I might be down for the count.  So, consistency in meditating has been my challenge.  The Lululemon representative wrote back and told me to be on the lookout for a “surprise”.  A week or two went by and lo and behold there was a surprise in the mail.  Enclosed in the package was a letter giving me a year subscription to Headspace – a meditation app.  The letter said that Headspace is an app that “offers support in practicing mindfulness which is so important to maintain over the holidays” – um, just what I needed!!  Again, I am no expert when it comes to meditation.  I call it an exercise in breathing and doing nothing to help you focus when it really matters (with your mind wandering and re-focusing as many times as needed).  I know I’m not the only one, but as I said, my mind races all the time.  During my yoga teacher training, my teacher made me cover my eyes with a scarf because obviously I was looking around at everything (my mind racing).  Taming your mind is hard work!  The app has helped me to be more consistent.  I would meditate before, but just wasn’t truly consistent and so every time that I would start would be like starting over for the first time.  Meditating is truly just that – breathing and beginning to focus, getting lost and starting over, and then getting lost and starting over all again – it’s what we do!  But the important part is I’m aiming now more on my consistency.   Meditation is a bicep curl for the brain.  My hope is that with consistency in meditating I get stronger and will truly be more present and “in the now”, simply put, being focused and present in all that I do.  I’ll keep you posted. J
The next little gift that was enclosed were a deck of cards enclosed with a separate note.  It asked, “What if the only thing you practiced this holiday was happiness?”  It went on to say that “happiness is a practice” and said that there were 35 research-based practices on the cards that can help to fuel our happiness this holiday.  One card for example was labeled “Positivity” –

This past week I gave up listening to music.  It might sound like that’s an easy thing to give up (and I thought it was something easy I was starting with).  But for me, when I’m cooking I listen to music.  There’s been a lot of cooking this past week (I’ve been off from work) and with no music it gave me a LOT of time to think.  Today when the week was up, I played some music while cooking and believe me when I tell you how MUCH I appreciated having the music play J   Now to think about what I’ll give up next month for a week.  I am looking forward to continuing this month after month to get the full effects as they say.  Cultivate positivity.  Try giving something up. 

I’m not one to set “resolutions” in the New Year.    However, I do sit and reflect on the past year to see what changes I will make to help better myself in the New Year – I’d rather call it an aim or an intention.  In my professional life this past year, my intent was to learn and soak up as much as possible at work and aim to take the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) exam.  I did just that and PASSED! Yay!!  I think there is always more to learn and while I now have this title after my name I truly believe that I was a CDE even had I not passed the exam.  Luckily I passed J  So, it got me thinking about this next year.  What would be my intention?  The gift from Lululemon made it clear and evident.  First and foremost, meditate.  I have a tool (the Headspace app) that enables me to focus and improve on taming this mind of mine.  I look forward to hearing the 10-minute sequence that is set before me each day.  I started before the New Year in hopes that I would truly begin to be consistent.  I’m currently on Day 13.   There hasn’t been an easy day yet.  But that’s okay.  I’m exercising my brain and that takes work.  My goal is simply to be more focused and really truly present when I’m engaged in different activities.  Secondly, I’m going to work on “fueling my own happiness” – I know that happiness is a skill, a practice, something that I can train (meditation suggests so).  It doesn’t mean that my external circumstances aren’t going to impact my happiness.  It just means that with meditation it will help me to navigate it with a little bit more ease.  Where will I start?  How does one “practice being happy?” That deck of 35 research-based cards (given to me) will be a start.  They have ideas of ways that can help “fuel my happiness” that have been proven to boost my mood and truly help me to flourish.  Why wouldn’t I try some of these out?  “Fueling my happiness” will make my days happier, interactions with others happier, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll spread happiness to the people in my life.  I’ll share throughout the year (Twitter and Instagram) some of the ways I’m fueling my happiness J
So, again, it’s that time of year when you take time to reflect on the closing year and begin to make resolutions, goals, intentions (whatever you care to call them).   You probably have already done so, but let me challenge you to include one of the concepts I’ve presented to you today:

1.       Keep a gratitude jar (or journal)

2.       Meditate.  Breathe.  Focus.

3.      Fuel Happiness – find what fills you with passion and purpose.  It’s all up to you.  Ignite a ripple effect in your community.