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Thursday, September 22, 2011

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. In light of the black out in Southern California and the numerous tornadoes and flooding across the country this year, I thought I would come up with some healthy alternatives to the typical pantry fare of processed foods.
It is always a good idea to keep your pantry stocked with plenty of nuts, dried beans and grains. I keep all of my dry goods in glass jars that I refill from the bins at one of a couple of local health food stores. In the event of a blackout, most likely the gas would still work. Assuming you have a gas cooktop or a camping stove, you would be set to make a meal of beans and rice, and snack on nuts and popcorn.
I always keep a supply of Barilla Plus pasta on hand. It is made with a grain and legume flour blend of: lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt, oats and egg whites, so it is a good source of protein and has plenty of fiber. Both of these are important to keep you feeling full longer and regulating your blood sugar. The great thing is, they taste no different than regular pasta. My kids love this! Keep a jar of marinara in the pantry and you will be set for dinner.
Brown rice is a great staple as well. Throw 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water in a pot, bring it to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes. It takes longer than white rice but the benefits are worth it. White rice is brown rice that has been stripped of all the the nutrients and just the starch is left.
Steel cut oats are my favorite breakfast these days. I like to add some vanilla and mashed banana while they cook and top them with fresh fruit, cinnamon and almond butter. In the event that you don't have fresh fruit to work with, you could always add cinnamon with raisins or any dried or canned fruit you have on hand.

When stocking your pantry for emergency food, be sure to have plenty of canned fruit and vegetables, dried beans and grains and nuts. Canned soup is a good emergency staple, but be sure to look for low sodium varieties. It goes without saying, that any well stocked emergency stockpile will have plenty of bottled water, and candles with matches or battery powered candles (great in dark kids rooms!) with plenty of batteries. A battery powered AM/FM radio is a good thing to have on hand for emergency updates. Have extra blankets available, a first aid kit and make sure you always keep your cell phones charged. You never know when the power could go out!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Healthy lunchboxes

As a mom, one of my top goals is to make sure my kids eat a healthy diet, full of plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. I try to avoid artificial flavors and colors and most processed foods. I say "most", because at times, I do send processed snacks that my daughter picks out. I don't want her to feel left out at the lunch table when all of the other kids are opening their pre-packaged Oreos, Cheetos and the like. I buy the Annie's brand Cheddar Bunnies, Chocolate Bunnies and Graham Bunnies. They come in small, kid size portions and are made with whole grains. They don't use artificial colors or flavors and the sugar content isn't horrible. It is also important to watch the sodium content in processed foods.

For my daughter, meat is not an option. Most days, she has a peanut butter sandwich. We use whole grain bread and sandwich thins. Since she doesn't like jam, some days I slice fresh strawberries or bananas into the peanut butter. I am happy to sneak in more fresh fruit! I try to mix it up and give her hummus and flat bread as well. She always gets a vegetable and fruit (organic when possible as pesticides have been linked to ADHD) with her sandwich as well as some nuts and/or a "treat". For her, the treat is one of her Annie's bunny packets, a chocolate rice cake, trail mix or a few chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe's (yum!). The vegetable is usually carrots, but sometimes she requests frozen peas. The fruit options are a little more plentiful-apples, grapes, mandarin oranges, strawberries and peaches. My daughter is a little picky, so my options are a bit limited. I let her help pack her lunch each night which is a real key in getting your kids to eat what is in their lunch box. I am happy to say that she never comes home with wasted food in her empty lunch box!

Here are some healthy options that your child might like:

Nut butters with jelly/fruit on whole grain bread
Hummus with flat bread
Nitrate free turkey breast with cheese
Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese
Pasta salad made with Barilla Plus multigrain pasta (a favorite around here!)

Carrot sticks
Sugar snap peas
Cucumber slices
Broccoli or cauliflower with ranch dressing
Sliced sweet bell peppers
Grape tomatoes

Mandarin oranges
Orange Slices

Annie's Bunnies
Chocolate rice cakes
Trail mix
Trader Joe's Cat Cookies

Whatever you choose to put in your child's lunch box, please be sure it is a whole food, the less processed the better. We really are what we eat, so give your kids the best!

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Newsletter

 Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.


Deconstructing Cravings

The body is an amazing source of intelligence. It is always there for you, pumping blood, never skipping a heartbeat, digesting whatever food you put in it and maintaining homeostasis. Is this reliable, intelligent bio-computer making a mistake by craving ice cream or a hamburger or chocolate? Are cravings due to lack of will-power or discipline? I’d like to suggest that cravings are not a problem. They are critical pieces of information that tell you what your body needs.

The important thing is to understand why you crave what you crave. Perhaps your diet is too restrictive or devoid of essential nutrients. Perhaps you are living a lifestyle that is too boring or stressful. Your body tries to correct the imbalance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs.

No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.

The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness. Try these tips to respond to your body:

·      Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.
·      Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit and sweet or root vegetables.
·      What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving?
·      When you eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect. Then you will become more aware and free to decide if you really want it next time. 

Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners
Who among us doesn’t love sweets? The sweet flavor releases serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Since refined sweeteners have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things.

Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less. You can find them in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids.

Raw Honey
Everyone seems to love honey, one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Agave Nectar
Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus. It does not stimulate insulin secretion as other sugars do, so it does not create a "sugar rush." It has a delightfully light and mild flavor.

Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best.

Adapted from "The Cane Mutiny," New Age Magazine, March/April 1999.

Recipe of the Month: Maple Fruit Compote with Honey-Ginger Toasted Nuts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4
2-3 apples
2-3 peaches or pears
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup raisins
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup walnuts or nuts of your choice
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons honey

1.   Wash, core and chop fruit into slices or chunks.                                        
2.   Place in a large saucepan with 1/3 cup of water. Add the maple syrup and raisins.  
3.   Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
4.   Add lemon juice and cinnamon. Cook for another 10 minutes, until soft.
5.   While fruit is cooking, place chopped nuts in a skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
6.   Drizzle honey over the nuts and add ginger, but keep stirring since the honey can easily burn.
7.   Top warm fruit with toasted nuts and enjoy!

Forward to a Friend
It’s such a pleasure to help those closest to us become happier and healthier. Please forward this newsletter to friends, family members or colleagues who might be interested and inspired by it.