2016

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Educational Handouts

Holiday Survival: Eat Well, Eat Smart!

Do you equate the holidays with food free-for-all time? Is it possible to enjoy, yet survive, holiday eating? Can you maintain your commitment to optimal health through the holidays? Yes! With a little forethought and awareness, you can eat well, eat smart, and enjoy the holidays. These sensible tips are my holiday gift to you.

Remember the basics:

  • Eat 5 small meals per day. This approach to food is recommended to maintain efficient metabolism and minimize hunger, allowing for healthful food decision-making. You know what happens when you become ravenous—you will eat any and all food put in front of you!
  • Choose from the plant foods. The carbohydrates from grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit are filling. They will take up room in your stomach, perhaps diminishing the chances of choosing high fat or processed foods. Not to mention the many physical health benefits of eating plant foods, such as antioxidant, mineral, and vitamin properties.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water can be filling, also and again, this may diminish hunger and allow for healthful food decision-making. You can dilute juice drinks with water, which will lower the amount of sugar and calories you take in. If you are partying, I recommend alternating water with alcoholic beverages—to prevent overdoing the alcohol as well as decrease your simple carbohydrate and calorie intake (and minimize the morning after headache…).

Survival Skills:

  • Nibble on a healthy fat, 10 minutes prior to sitting down to a meal or leaving for a party to activate the satiation hormone. Examples are 1 ounce of nuts, ¼ avocado, or 1 teaspoon of peanut butter; the richness of the fat, as well as the time it takes to digest, will again, displace feeling hungry and allow for healthful food choices later.
  • Plan ahead, balancing your food intake for the day. If you are going to a party in the evening, choose well for your two earlier small meals and small in-between-meal snacks. If you have had an indulgent family holiday breakfast, eat lean and light for the remainder of the day.
  • Arrive with a success strategy, which will allow you the permission to splurge, but to do so with intention and awareness.
  • State a positive affirmation prior to arriving at the party or family dinner. Consider “I will nurture my health and eat well” or ”I intend to enjoy small tastes of my favorite foods”. Positive affirmations are very powerful and will influence the outcome of your choices.
  • There is no need to deprive yourself! You might however, cruise the buffet table before taking a plate, to increase your chances for choosing wisely. Use a small plate, and take small tastes of several well-chosen foods.
  • Select what you eat wisely. Combine protein and carbohydrates, such as veggies, bean salad, grain casserole, cheese, smoked fish, and chicken skewers from the buffet table. Eat these foods prior to considering desserts.
  • Bring a healthy dish to share, increasing your chance to eat well.
  • Move away from the buffet table. This will minimize the temptation to keep nibbling. My formula is: standing + talking + laughing + nibbling = overeating.
  • Sit down to eat. Create a meal mentality. Eat slowly, savoring the distinct flavors and textures. That old adage to put your fork down between bites really does work!
  • Eggnog and punch or any beverages with alcohol, when consumed sensibly are perfectly reasonable holiday choices. If you have 2 generous portions of eggnog however, you might consider modifying the food choices you make later in the evening, or better yet, have a couple of small sips of eggnog, eat well at the party, and enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal!
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before selecting dessert. This trick will allow time for your brain to catch up with your stomach. You might get lucky and realize that you are not hungry for dessert! If you do have dessert, take a small piece of whatever you choose, and eat it slowly, savoring the flavor.
  • Be prepared with a cheerful retort or two when the hostess or your mother tries to give you seconds: “What a fabulous meal, I am so satisfied”… or “Thank you, I am taking a break to make more room”…
  • Brush your teeth! After you have eaten slowly, and have enjoyed each bite on your small plate, excuse yourself to the bathroom. You will change the flora of your mouth and feel less inclined to eat more food. This works!
  • If it is in your house, it will end up in your mouth! Do yourself a favor and leave the goodies to be enjoyed at the party, restaurant, or someone else’s house.
  • Cultivate mindfulness to balance holiday stress. Find alternative self-soothing techniques such as intentional relaxation or regular physical activity.
Happy Holidays!    

New Pantry, Evansville

Eat Well In Your Busy Life -- Evansville New Pantry!

During a recent presentation at the Evansville Bar Association, I was asked whether I provide grocery shopping tours to better explain label interpretation as well as which brands of basic pantry staples are the "best" choice; while yes, I do take folks into grocery stores as a learning opportunity, I also have this New Pantry list that I have used often in the cooking classes that I teach. Until I coordinate a grocery tour, I have embellished the New Pantry list with the brand names and/or details that I consider in my shopping. I am a dedicated food activist, with strong feelings and opinions about supporting small companies that provide clean, healthy and nourishing foods--and have done so from their initial foray into the food market. This commitment is to be supported, as opposed to many of the corporate food giants who are only now looking at the ingredients in their products, be it GMO, organic, processed, etc. because it's what is being asked for by consumers. By that I mean that small, organic companies have provided healthy and nourishing food because it was the right thing to do--for our health and for the health of the planet, whereas the corporate food companies care not for our health or the environment, but only for their bottom line and profits. They've slowly adapted to what is being asked for not out of concern for us, but because they want a piece of the profits from organic and low-processed foods. While this list says Evansville on it, across the country, all natural foods and Co-op markets will have these products and brand names. The choices are fewer here in EVV than they were when I lived in NorCal, hence the lack of true variety in the brands that I mention. As always, I'll start with the suggestion of shopping at small natural foods and Co-op markets to support local commerce and local farmers. I also suggest organic whenever possible and using/buying glass containers for food whenever possible.

Grains, Breads, Starches

  • Pasta: whole grain products; Bionaturae organic
  • Rice: brown, wild, basmati; choose whole grain, avoid instant and quick-cook rice; buy in bulk, not in plastic sacs; Lundberg Farms
  • Beans & lentils: all kinds; dried or canned, low or no sodium, no added fat; buy in bulk or cans; look for BPA-free cans; Field Day organics
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Bulghar
  • Polenta (cornmeal): coarse texture for dinner, ground texture for cornbread
  • Rolled oats: whole oats, not instant; Bob’s Red Mill
  • Couscous
  • Barley
  • Bread; whole grain; Ezekiel, Alvarado Street Bakery, Dave’s, Rudi’s
  • Crackers: whole grains of any type; avoid white and/or enriched flour products; Mary’s Gone Crackers or Doctor Kracker, Late July PB or cheese crackers
  • Chips: Luke’s, Late July, Lundberg’s
  • Cereal: 100% whole grain; note what type and amount of sweetener and oil; Ezekiel, Nature’s Path, Bob’s Red Mill
  • Yams instead of potatoes

Oils & Fats

  • Olive oil; Spectrum
  • Coconut oil; Nutiva
  • Ghee (clarified butter); Purity Farms, Organic Valley
  • Mayonnaise; Spectrum
  • Salad dressings: Homemade: olive oil, balsamic vinegar or lemon, and spices; plain yogurt/dill dressings; Bottled: check sodium, sweetener, and preservative content; Bragg’s

Nuts

  • All types! 1 – 2 ounces Everyday! sunflower, almonds, cashews, flax, sesame, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin, brazil, and peanuts; avoid salted types or those roasted in oil

Herbs

  • Cumin, black pepper, cayenne, salt, curry, dill, thyme, cardamom, nutmeg …

 Meat

  • All types of wild meat
  • Store bought; consider organic, sustainably farmed and raised; Mumford Farms, Fischer Farms, Stonewall Farms

Dairy Products: organic whole milk products recommended

  • Milk; Trader’s Point, Organic Valley (highly pasteurized)
  • Yogurt without artificial sweetener or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); Trader’s Point; Stonyfield Farms,
  • Cream cheese (Organic Valley)
  • Ricotta cheese (Organic Valley)
  • Yogurt drinks (smoothies) without artificial sweetener or HFCS
  • Butter (Organic Valley)
  • Sour cream (Organic Valley)
  • Crème fraiche
  • Oat, goat, almond, soy, or rice milk in place of cow milk

Instead of the Meat Counter, Consider...

  • Beans or lentils mixed with grains (contains all the amino acids of a complete protein)
  • Fish: avoid farm-raised (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/conservation/research/seafood-watch)
  • Albacore tuna, canned: packed in water, sustainably caught
  • Salmon, canned: packed in water, sustainably caught
  • Eggs: Local, free-range eggs from happy chickens, no antibiotics, avoid GMO feed
  • Cheese: all types used as a condiment; Steckler for local source; Organic Valley
  • Nut butters: grind your own type; or from a jar—without added fat or sweetener, try almond or cashew
  • Soy: non GMO, fermented tempeh and miso

 Condiments

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Tamari (soy sauce)
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Garlic-infused olive oil
  • Salsa
  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts, in that order… 1 ounce per day!
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup (without HFCS)
  • Pesto (home-made—it’s so easy!)
  • Chutneys
  • Red pepper/cashew sauce
  • Jams or jellies (without HFCS)
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • Raisins and other dried fruit without sulfur

 Packaged/convenience foods

  • Frozen, packaged, or canned: avoid sodium over 300 mg per serving and syrup; fruit, veggies, beans
  • Check for ingredients that you cannot pronounce!
  • Leave it in the store: partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil laden foods, as well as those with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup solids, and artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and the multitude of other ingredients that are too difficult to pronounce; avoid caramel coloring!
 

What is REAL food, really?

Eating real food simply means making choices from plant and animal foods that have been cultivated using methods that are minimally intrusive. Choosing vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes and beans, and animal proteins that have not been exposed to man-made chemicals, food coloring, or GMO techniques in the planting, growing, or post-harvest stages further defines REAL food.

All foods are available in this healthful, nourishing, and delicious REAL form. All foods are available in a less healthful, less nourishing, and perhaps less delicious PROCESSED form as well. I am not talking about organic so much as I am referring to foods that, once taken from the land and are being made ready for market, have been laden with salt and other sodium-based preservatives and flavorings, added food dyes, sugars (both real and artificial varieties), and fats--simply to "enhance" the shelf life, flavor, and marketability.

Sometimes REAL food may seem to be a bit more expensive at the grocery store than the more processed version; if this is your perspective, I urge you to consider the long-term expense of your health and well-being...investing your resources and forethought into bringing home health promoting foods as opposed to health depleting foods--now--will provide a benefit to you in the future.

Imagine this: a small plate that is filled 1/2 with fabulous veggies, 1/4 with a whole grain or other starch, and 1/4 with a sustainably raised animal protein. And then, for dessert: a baked pear, a 2-inch square of apple crisp, or a 1/3 cup serving of whole milk organic ice cream...Yum!

Making a conscious decision to avoid commercially processed meats (filled with colorings and high doses of sodium, not to mention growth hormones and antibiotics), veggies and fruits that have sweeteners, salt, or preservatives added, and factory-made desserts loaded with high fructose corn syrup and/or partially hydrogenated oils will get you on the road to eating REAL food. Travel wisely!

5 Tips for Managing the Holiday Goodie(s) Temptation

1.    Accept the fact that in your workplace and friends’ homes, on the counter tops at local markets, and just about everywhere, there will be bowls of candy, plates of cookies and fudge, and a plethora of pot-luck celebrations. It’s not about avoiding these temptations; it’s about creating a success plan that combines pleasure with honoring your health goals and well-being intentions. Give yourself permission to celebrate the season, and know that you can bring balance to your decision-making.

2.    Savor the Flavor! I am especially fond of this mindful approach to holiday splurges.  It’s simple: there’s a plate of homemade fudge at your office reception desk. They are made-from-scratch and chock-full of wholesome ingredients. These cubes of sweetness are likely cut into small squares because they are so rich, but if not, you can make your first mindful decision to cut a tablespoon-size piece. Take it back to your desk or to the break room. Cut it into 10 tiny pieces. Tiny. Admire the bounty of delight in front of you. Lean down to inhale the heavenly aroma. Take the first small piece and place it on your tongue, allowing it to begin to melt. You can see where I’m going with this—you are making the piece of fudge into a sensuous sensory experience, you are inviting your brain to participate by stimulating your senses: Sight, look at ALL those tiny pieces of fudge! Smell, rich, chocolate-y, nutty; Taste, as your tongue comes alive; Sound, as you exclaim your delight! Your brain will be infused with pleasure! Wait 5 minutes to repeat the sensory experience again. And again. And again, until over the course of an hour or more, you have fully engaged in the mindful enjoyment of eating a small piece of fudge. NOTE: imagine the contrast of grabbing a few pieces of fudge as you walk by the plate and take them back to your desk. As your emails load, you pop the entire first piece in your mouth, mildly aware of how good it tastes, prompting you to gobble the second piece, and possibly the third. Within 5 minutes, you’ve eaten three chunks of fudge, your brain has not been invited to the party, diminishing the experience of absolute sensory pleasure, and leaving room for more…and more.  See the difference?

3.    Visualize your success. Before you go to a party, or walk up the stairs to your office, or go to the salon to have your hair cut, see yourself as relaxed and confident. Know your intention: to enjoy yourself while staying true to your health and well-being commitments. A positive affirmation comes in handy here; “I am looking forward to mindfully savoring the foods and treats that I choose well”, or “I will eat and enjoy the veggies and salads that are on the table, then I will decide on what treats to savor.”

4.    Express gratitude, for the abundance of food that is available to you, and more importantly, express thanks to yourself for the savoring of the foods you have mindfully chosen. Say to yourself, “Thank you for taking time to eat that fudge slowly; I like your intention to take care during the holidays”, or even, “Hey, way to go!”. Every time your brain receives positive affirmation for a behavior, you are reinforcing the happy experience, and are more likely to choose that behavior again!

5.    Move your body regularly—walk, pedal, swim, skate, whatever is appealing and available to you. Ramping up your metabolism throughout the year is beneficial, and during the holiday season you will find it even more so. When you exercise regularly, having the occasional mindful splurge will not have as big of an impact as it could if your schedule doesn’t include routine physical activity.

Happy Holidays!

Spring Into Healthy Eating

Spring is upon us! Asparagus is back, so are strawberries—it’s time to start thinking about how to welcome the change of the seasons with a fresh approach to cooking. Chili, soup, and stew are not as appealing when the trees are budding, as they are when the branches are bare.

Planning ahead is the key to success when it comes to eating well.  The warmer temperatures and longer days are marvelous reasons to incorporate the practice of taking 90 minutes a week to prepare food for the upcoming week. Dust off and clean up the BBQ for grilling veggies and fruit to be used later in casseroles, salads, sandwiches and salsas. (of course, you can use the broiler as well—it’s more convenient!). Think: peppers, asparagus, squash, pineapple, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, onions, just about any of your favorite fruit or veggies… when you add one or three to a pot of quinoa or barley, throw in some white beans, fresh parsley, and sprinkle with feta cheese, you’ve got a light, healthful, and delicious spring or summer dinner.

Stay tuned for recipes and yummy eating ideas!

Healthful Behavior Change

Which statement appeals to you more: “I want to lose 30 pounds by July 31, 2010” or “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”?

There is a significant difference between the two statements, in addition to the obvious that one sounds tedious and the other sounds delightful. The weight loss statement is a commonly uttered “goal”, while the dreamy second statement reflects a “vision”; both statements warrant a bit of compassionate exploration.

Many of you have set a weight loss goal or another behavior change intention (“quit smoking”, “get fit”, “eat better”, “learn to relax”) that has been created with a long-term endpoint in mind. While I applaud the decision to pursue your optimal health, I also know that the challenge of an endpoint goal is that success is not achieved until the goal is met. Meaning, until the scale rewards you with the numbers you seek, your sense of accomplishment will be diminished. And how exactly would you measure “get fit” or “eat better”?

The opportunity lies is creating a health vision. As is done with the second statement, “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”. A health vision is a futuristic statement, captured with positive words, that will set the tone for the 3-month long-term goal(s), and the essential daily small-step goals you will write, monitor, and modify throughout the behavior change process—the very change process that will lead to the achievement of your health vision.

Working within the framework of this health vision used as an example, we will break it down into small components:

  • Feel energetic
  • Move comfortably in my body

The behavior change process begins by assessing your current choices, habits, and resources, and builds upon what is already occurring in your life. We will invite subtle, pleasant, and effective small-step daily changes that will support the attainment of your health vision.

Your vision may in fact peripherally include weight loss, but we are not going to measure weight loss! We are going to design a few new behaviors that you can add to the repertoire of choices you are familiar with. We are going to measure your success as you incorporate those new behaviors, one small choice at a time.

We know that in order to feel energetic and to enjoy moving comfortably, a routine physical activity program will be initiated and/or built upon.  For instance, what type of routine physical activity are you currently committed to? Two days a week in the gym? None? Walking the dog everyday? Moderate amounts of gardening? Golf? We will step off from your current routine, which for the sake of this example is walking the dog everyday. We’ll explore what type of physical activity interests you, what is your time allowance, whether this will be a solo activity or one that can be shared with a partner.

The 3-month long-term goals might be:

  1. Lose 10 pounds
  2. Eat 5 small meals per day, 3 days per week
  3. Walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes, without stopping

These long-terms goals are realistic and measurable—the two essential components of successful goal creation.

Now we will write daily small-step goals that will be lead to the achievement of the 3-month goals. These daily goals will be pleasant and subtle, as well as measurable and realistic. A tracking tool will be utilized to assess daily success; if a barrier presented itself and success was not achieved, we will explore that barrier, modify the goal if necessary, and continue to look to future successes.

The small step goals for the first week as a beginner—the dog walker—might look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, twice this week.
  3. Complete a food diary for three (3) full days, email it to my optimal life-management coach.

These three goals may not appear to be meaningful in terms of looking at a long-term goal of 10-pound weight loss. But for the person who is not engaged in routine physical activity, except for the slow dog walking, or for a person who is not eating with awareness, these subtle behavior changes are in fact the perfect small steps toward the future. These goals invite immediate success, and allow for confidence building, as opposed to “I am going to go to the gym 4 days this week”, or “I am going to cut out the junk food this week”—both of which are too big, too loosely defined, and too dramatic in terms of the shift in behaviors. Will this person eventually be at the gym 4 days per week? Sure, it is entirely possible. Will this person be eating far less junk food in the future? Very likely!

Our brain is a marvelous organ and it protects us – from perceived stressors. Big, undefined goals that limit pleasure or add unfamiliar behaviors—too much, too soon— are perceived by the brain as a stressor. This then evokes the fight or flight response and the brain literally will become resistant to that new behavior! When we write small-step daily goals that are pleasant and subtle, the brain welcomes the opportunity to engage in an activity that is perceived as pleasant, which will lead to ongoing engagement.

After one to three weeks of success and comfort with the initial small-step goals, you will be ready to up the ante just a bit, to look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, three days this week; OR Walk for fifteen (15) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, three times this week.
  3. Eat 5 small meals per day one (1) day this week.
  4. Eat a 6-color salads twice this week.

These goals will become comfortable and familiar within a couple of weeks and can be ramped up another notch, then another, and another. Within the first eight (8) to ten (10) weeks, substantial progress will have been made in regards to engaging and enjoying subtle and pleasant behavior change. You are well on your way!


Exercise stimulates the senses, the mind, and the body

A run, after the rain

Late in the afternoon, I was fortunate to find thirty minutes to run with my dog. After the torrential rains, the bits of blue sky visible between the dark clouds lured me outside. The sunrays were beaming towards the ground, creating steam from the wet earth, warming.

Senses alive, I savored every moment of the waning afternoon. The smells are what I noticed first, they were so incredibly rich: an earthy aroma of wet dirt and leaves, a crisp freshness in the air, sweet wood smoke.  I so love that smell, it is somehow soothing in its’ association with the Fall season.

The visual beauty was astounding: raindrops clinging to tree limbs and leaves, catching the sunlight, creating prisms of color; subtle variations on green—the dull green of the oak leaves, the deep green of the cedar and pine boughs, and most amazing of all is the iridescent greens of the mosses. I have long been fascinated by the mosses, particularly after a rain. What hearty life form this is! Dry and dull after a hot summer, having turned stringy and brown, but after a good rain—it’s a miracle! The moss comes alive, turning a gorgeous vibrant color, plumping up with water, resilient and quietly powerful. Other stimulating sights were the reds and yellows of the changing liquid amber tree leaves, the downed branches from the high winds, and most exquisite was the deep red of the madrone trunk, glistening in the afternoon light. Simply beautiful.

I was serenaded by many birds, their melodic songs seeming to celebrate the end of the storm, were music to my ears: piliated and acorn woodpeckers (yes, they have a distinctly different sound), chickadees, kinglets, house finches, and goldfinches. And the sound of the wind in the tall trees, swaying.

My sense of touch was stimulated as the gentle, fresh breeze ruffled my hair and caressed my skin, by the water drops from the tree limbs, plentiful leaves softening the trail, and by the incredibly supple yet tough feel of the mosses and lichens.

The dust is gone, perhaps for the year now, and that is a welcomed transition. I splashed through puddles on the trail. My heart, on a physical level, was working hard for me, responding well to being engaged in exercise. My spiritual heart was filled with joy for the abundant beauty of the woods after a rain storm, and gratitude for my desire to be out in that natural beauty, moving my body, appreciating that movement, and seeing my dog smile.

“Robin brings dedication, focus, passion, and intellect to whatever endeavor she is pursuing. She does not just talk about good health, she practices it thoroughly every day of her life. When she talks to clients about healthy lifestyle choices, they are able to see the effects of healthy choices by observing the woman in front of them!”
Arthur S., Client

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