Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat Your Trees

I can't remember where I heard this phase, though it was probably a line in a movie. A mother or babysitter had recited this to a little girl who didn't want to eat her broccoli. I found the line amusing. Like the little girl I don't always want to eat my I usually juice them when possible.

My new year's resolution list is not yet complete but a high priority is, as was last year, to eat more fruits and veggies. This year I will focus on more green additions. Since I have this week off from work I am planning to get on the right track before the new year. Here's what I worked on today:

5 kale leaves
1 pack of celery stalks
2 cucumbers
1 red apple
1 green apple
2 small punches of parsley
1 lemon
3 handfuls of baby carrots

In just 15 minutes I made 42 oz of moderately yummy but majorly good-for-you green juices, cleaned the juicer, and more than covered the 7 fruits/veggies a day recommendation. Hot damn, that's efficient! And productive. And healthy. Yay!

P.S. Here's what the juicer left behind. This would have taken all day to chew!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Research Methods and Bar-Hopping

What do these two things have in common? Research and bar-hopping are tons of fun when:

a) They are combined for the purpose of rating smoothie and juice bars.
b) You are a holistic health junkie and are subsequently turned on by such research.
c) You are a geek (for being turned on by any research).
d) You are conducting the research with an uber cute fellow geek, a man we'll call "C."*

We met up on Sunday to hash out the details. We plan to visit a variety of randomly sampled Philadelphia blending establishments and evaluate them on the following variables and merits:

Quality of ingredients
Atmospherics (Friendliness of staff - Ambiance - Clientele)

Note 1: "Company you keep" will not be factored into the equation as a cute man friend would surely confound the results.

Note 2: We haven't entirely decided if juice concentrate automatically lowers the quality rating. Your thoughts?

Here's the scale we are working on to rate the bars. These will likely require operationalization.

1) Orgasmic
2) Dreamy
3) Average Joe
4) Buyer's Remorse

The equation for final calculations is currently under review of a trusted mathematician and will be published here shortly.

We welcome your input before implementing this very important research project. We got so excited that we forgot to do a literature review.

*Editor's note: It is with sadness I inform you that "C" is no longer with HHJ. He had an unfortunate accident involving some rabid flamingos and Tina the polar bear at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Cute research partner "S" will be completing the project with me (Yum!).

Stay tuned...

Be Prepared

That's the girl scout motto. "Be Prepared." I chuckled to myself tonight as I recalled my girl scout days and this saying. I can be meticulous when it comes to preparedness. But such attention to detail and follow through have, for me, always been dependent upon the topics or tasks at hand. I've come to realize that my ever-changing food philosophy and my food plan could use some predictability. They needed to get better acquainted and live together in harmony. The missing link? Preparedness. With a bit of leeway for transgressions.

O's blog post (VitaMix Love 12/7/09) documented her own food philosophy and it also summed up mine. When reading her entry I thought, "That's it! That's what I am!" I'm a raw foods hopeful who on occasion will dabble in vegetarian and vegan foods but has "omnivore guilt." I'll add that I love enriched pasta and I am still in love with cheese and coffee. Shhh. Don't tell the kale.

When I last blogged about food plans I was attempting 50% raw and 50% cooked meals. But for the past few weeks I've slipped into a funk with food. A busy work schedule hasn't helped it. I tend to eat the worst when I have to put in longer hours at the office. The weather is also effecting the food plan. Summer and Fall were great seasons for juices and smoothies galore but now that it's getting colder I'm reluctant to blend even lukewarm elixirs on a regular basis. Sudden drops in blood sugar have also left me leaping for the nearest food-like item, which is usually pure crap (candy, cookies, etc).

Aside from these being bad excuses for poor food choices, I realized that these situations had other things in common: a lack of preparedness and a need for balancing consistency with creativity. Here are some goals I'm working on to fix my food plan and prepare the way for better health:

* Compile juice recipes; research and experiment regularly
Kristen Suzanne's blog is chock full of them.

* Have some quick fix meals or shakes that are always ready at home - Frozen berries, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade soups, nut butters, and nut milks will have me covered.

* Store healthy snack options at work
Herbal teas, nuts, fruit bars (Larabars rock!) should do the trick.

* Explore healthy variations on less healthy food cravings - Anything involving cheese substitutes hasn't held up - if you have recommendations please send them! The search continues (as does my love affair with the real thing).

* Make weekly goals for health contributions - This will motivate me to focus on food preparation.

This weeks goals include:

1) 2 green juices
2) 2 leafy green salads
3) flax meal/seeds, chia seeds, or hemp seeds daily
4) make 1-2 smoothies this week

I'd love to hear suggestions and tips that work for you and keep you motivated!

Happy prepping!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adventures in Blending

Christmas came early this year thanks to Olivia! Her enthusiasm for health is infectious (in a good way, of course) and it was awesome to have her literary contributions at Holistic Health Junkie. What's not to love? Handsome man friend + top notch blender + adventure abroad!

Olivia's blog post got me thinking about what I've been feeding my Oster (that's not an elaborate word for "mouth" - just my blender). Here are a couple new items I've included in recent smoothies. I'm going to try some of O's suggestions as well!

Pictured from left to right:

Hemp Seeds (from Nutiva via Whole Foods) - provides a nutty taste and 2 tablespoons will get you 11 grams of protein!!!! Added bonuses: omega 3, zinc, magnesium, and iron. It also tastes great on pasta and salads!

Flax Seeds - Essential. Fatty. Acids. (and fiber).

Chia Seeds - 2 tbsps offer 10% of daily calcium needs, omega fatty acids and 6 grams of dietary fiber!

Maca Root Powder - (contents not pictured) helps with stamina, libido, and fighting stress and fatigue. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Whole Foods sells flax seeds in bulk and they are very inexpensive. You can also snag your hemp supply there for around $10/8oz bag. I store the hemp and flax in the fridge. The chia seeds and maca powder are available at Nativas Naturals online store. A health food store in my area happens to carry their products (Yay!). The Navitas website includes a store locator.

My favorite blends to date:

Blueberry + raspberry + strawberry + frozen acai + chia and flax seeds

Banana + hemp seeds + oat milk

Any smoothie can get old over the course of time. If you find yourself in this predicament I recommend the Smoothies Bible. It contains over 300 recipes and they are organized by health topics. Hung over? Have a headache? Want to boost immunity? There are specific recipes for them all. No excuses for boredom either! The smoothies in this book are mighty tasty!

Next adventure: Smoothie and juice bar-hopping...with a cute and saavy research partner.

Keep in touch!

Monday, December 7, 2009

VitaMix Love ~ by Olivia

The ever-wonderful Jen invited me to guest blog ages ago, and I'm excited to finally share a bit of my story with you, her readers. This is a passionate, international love story (the unabridged version--whoops!) involving a girl on a mission, a very handsome man, and a blender. Yes, a blender. A VitaMix to be exact.

I had been coveting a VitaMix ever since I first began really exploring the raw food lifestyle about two years ago. Those suckers are impressive! It seemed you could add just about anything to a smoothie in those canisters, and within seconds, it would be silky goodness. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Sadly, even used models were a bit (ha!) beyond my very, very modest budget. Health was a priority, and I’m a first-rate foodie, but I also had nearly five figures of credit card debt, and I just couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a blender.

Enter: very handsome man. About a year ago, I begrudgingly went on yet another date through In fact, I was so reluctant to meet this guy that I showed up on time, went to the bar next door, had one more glass of wine, and then, newly fortified, entered the original meeting place and introduced myself. Had I known what was waiting for me, I would have gotten there early. Sitting on a bar stool, sipping a beer, was a tall (6’4”!), handsome, well-traveled aspiring writer. In short, my dream man. Here we are on a hike in Busan, a coastal town in South Korea:

What does this have to do with a blender, you ask? Well, this wonderful fella challenged and inspired me. Within months, I had arranged to join him for work in Korea for a year. A job that would allow me to travel and pay off that crushing debt. After the summer crunch, I decided I deserved a treat. Keeping my three priorities for the year in mind (1. Health, 2. Paying off debt, 3. Savoring this new part of the world), I decided I would finally splurge and buy myself a VitaMix. Used. Through eBay. And it works like a charm.

(For any of you out there struggling in the VitaMix v. BlendTec debate, I encourage you to check out the ever-amazing Kristen Suzanne’s review on Kristen’s Raw. She also has a stellar review of juicers, which makes me covet the Hurom. Maybe that’ll be my next splurge when I return to the States.)

One of my dearest friends from the States was coming to visit, and offered to lug the HEAVY blender 8,000 miles for me so I didn’t have to pay international shipping. In a bittersweet twist, the handsome man broke his jaw the day before my friend was due to arrive. Although his surgery and hospital stay complicated the visit, we were brilliantly lucky to have the VitaMix. I was able to make a host of different veggie-packed soups to help keep him nourished while his mouth was wired shut. It may have also held up to a twice-daily peanut-butter-and-chocolate milkshake habit.

Thankfully, the wires are off, the milkshakes have stopped, and the VitaMix is now mostly fulfilling a single role: making my super-delish green smoothies. I am not raw vegan, even though I feel best when I do follow that lifestyle. I’m not even vegetarian, despite my omnivore guilt, compounded by staying informed through sources like Food, Inc., Tom Robbins’ Diet for a New America, and the amazing resources over at CrazySexyLife. But I do believe in Sarma Melingalis’ approach. To paraphrase: rather than panicking about not being raw, just try to add more raw food to your diet. Add more good stuff, and soon you’ll be craving more good stuff. Start a good cycle.

I can’t seem to get in the regular practice of yoga and meditation, but I have gotten into the green smoothie practice. And man oh man is it great. I was skeptical at first. I mean, drinking kale? Really? But I wanted to give it a shot. So the first chance I got, I cut up some kale, threw it into the VitaMix with some fruit and flax seed and green powder, turned thing to high power and…blew a fuse. I had plugged it into our transformer, but it just couldn’t handle the full power. We finally figured out a way to make it work (unplug everything else, save the router, and only turn it on half-way), and I have been savoring my green smoothies ever since. I still can’t wait to be back on American soil so I can see what this machine can do at full power, but this is working great for now.

Because systems and routines and simplifications make it infinitely more likely for me to stick to healthy habits, I’ve stashed all my smoothie making goodies together in the fridge:

And in the freezer:

A typical smoothie starts with a heaping scoop of UltraInflamX, a special enzyme and protein powder prescribed by my naturopath. Apparently I’m missing an enzyme that helps me process fruits and veggies (I don’t remember what enzyme it is). Although this powder carries a hefty price tag, I haven’t found anything else that works anywhere near as well. Right now I don’t take the full dose, largely because of the difficulty and expense of having it shipped to me in Korea. Thankfully I have a generous and loving mother who helps with the logistics. And sticker shock.

I add ground flax seed and bee pollen, and I’ve recently added Flax Oil to the mix as well. It is rumored to help with seasonal depression, and I do feel brighter since adding it to my regimen, which is great. I top it off with a big scoop of SuperGreens. I buy all of these through iHerb*, which has stellar international shipping rates and policies. At the suggestion of another friend/health junkie, Eve, I also ordered Maca powder, which I’m eager to try.

Once all the superfoods and extra boosts are in there, I cut up some super sweet baby kale leaves, though I am going to start rotating my greens, per Kristen Suzanne. This week: spinach. I top it off with frozen fruit. Here, I’m using strawberries, blueberries, and mango:

Cover with water, crank on the VitaMix, and a minute or two later, you’ve got some super delish, health packed smoothie to start your day. I’m in the process of trying to wean myself off sugar – again – and have found that starting with a green smoothie makes all the difference in the world.

Trying to get and stay healthy thousands of miles away from the world you’re used to – especially when you don’t speak the local language – certainly has its challenges, but with some persevering and planning, it’s possible. You don’t need the Cadillac of blenders to make it happen, though it’s certainly nice. And fun. Seek out what the locals eat, and you might discover a whole new set of health benefits. I’ve fallen absolutely in love with kimchi, which is chock full of stuff to make you feel good. (That's what I'm about to sip on in that photo up top.)

To read more about my adventures in Seoul, complete with reflections on my health and travel photos, visit my website at The View from There, or follow me on twitter at OliviaLindquist.

Cheers to your health!

*If you’re new to iHerb, use the code XIM000 at checkout to receive $5.00 off your first order.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Babes that Blog

Olivia and I first met while serving on the Philadelphia board of the Younger Women's Task Force, a national networking/advocacy group for women (and nice man friends) with chapters across the country. One of my favorite projects that we collaborated on was a holistic health event, which included contributions from a nutrition counselor, an acupuncturist, and a reiki/massage therapist and skincare specialist. It was one of the most rewarding programs we produced.

The event was born from conversations about our personal health issues, which we continue to explore together. A year ago we joined a group that experimented with an elimination diet to identify suspected food sensitivties. If you ever conduct such an experiment it makes a world of difference to do it with a friend. Olivia and I commiserated with each other about missing the bad foods and celebrated our accomplishments as we plugged along through our new food plans.

We were recently emailing about enzyme suppliments, our love of blenders, and the challenges of sticking to food plans when traveling. We certainly talk about other things, topics that most people would deem "saucy," but I think Olivia would agree with me when I say we also get off on health talk.

Did I mention that Olivia moved and is working in Korea?! I was interested in learning more about her experiences with health and food abroad and asked that she share it here. You'll undoubtedly find her stories intriguing and inspiring.

Drum roll please...

Welcome, Olivia, contributor extraordinaire on holistic-health-junkie! Stay tuned for news from Korea!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Food Fight

My current line of work involves visiting high schools and talking about university admissions and programs. While most of my high school visits entail a classroom presentation in front of students or discussion with a guidance counselor, I sometimes get the opportunity to meet students in the cafeteria during lunch room sessions. It's places like these where I get really passionate about holistic health and food quality.

This semester I surveyed several school food menus. They included:

French fries
Pepperoni and cheese pizza
Chicken caesar and ham/cheese salads
Coldcuts/sandwich station
Chicken fingers
Cheese sauce
Soft pretzels
Juice and fruit drinks

Some of the schools also had an adjoining snack bar for chips and candy. There may have been fruit but I really can't remember. I sure hope there was something remotely healthy!

This set-up and menu reminded me of my high school's offerings...10 years ago! Soft pretzels were uber affordable and, to my limited judgement in food choices, were not going to make me fat. I consumed them regularly for lunch, not yet realizing that there was more to the health equation than just calories. Laffy Taffys topped off the "meal." I'm a little nauseas just thinking about it.

As I sat in the cafeterias I wondered how the students felt after eating the "food" they purchased. Did they feel energized? Did they feel irritable? With record cases of childhood obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, I wondered how such products could be so widely distributed. Yes, students can choose to eat or not eat these foods. They can pack lunch. But when virtually all food being sold in a school lunch program are nutritionally deficient what message is being sent to the consumers of that food?

How many of us would seriously choose a piece of fruit or salad over a cornucopia of processed foods? From what I saw there were few healthy food options in site. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Two Angry Moms is a documentary that explores this very issue. It highlights the importance of a school's role in promoting healthy eating initiatives. Wholesome bagged lunches appear to be no match for the temptations available in schools. School food reform is essential to helping youth with good eating habits and preventing diet-related illnesses.

Two Angry Moms has a website with a variety of links on food politics, health, and revolutionary school lunch programs. I also stumbled upon the Real Food Challenge, an inspiring organization comprised of college students who are reforming food services in higher education. Check them out!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eat Well Everywhere

This Fall I blogged about my frustration in maintaining healthy eating habits while on the road and away from home (see "Ms. Crabby" 9/27/09). I had not a clue as to how many healthy food options would be available at my travel destination. Were there area restaurants and nearby stores serving organic, wholesome and local foods?

I prepared as much food as I could beforehand but eventually ran out of my homemade juices and meals. Now you might be wondering why I didn't use the "I'm on vacation card." I was on work assignment and this fact was all the more reason to take better care with healthier food choices.

Had I discovered the Eat Well Guide prior to this trip I would have planned accordingly. The Guide stores a list of restaurants, farms, co-ops, bakeries, organizations, and stores that provide local and sustainable foods. There's no excuse for not cultivating good health while away from home, whether the trip is to last a weekend or several weeks. The Eat Well Guide has you covered!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Corporations in the Kitchen

In my neck of the woods the day has been a rainy one. You know what that means. Perfect excuse to lounge around and movie-watch. I knew that when I decided on Food, Inc., a documentary released in June 2009, I was in for more educational than entertaining fulfilment. Food, Inc. examines the U.S. food supply, it's quality, it's sources, and it's impact on consumer health, consumer rights, the environment, animals, and small business owners. The documentary addressed key issues facing consumers today. Here were a few:

1) Factory farmed meat can be dangerous and the corporations that mass produce meat can legally keep consumers in the dark on food safety.

2) The U.S. food supply is not as diverse as people may think. We have thousands and thousands of "food" products and yet a handful of multinational corporations run the show that provides these products.

3) Genetically modified foods can be found in 90% of processed foods and don't require a warning.

4) Key players in the FDA, USDA and even the Supreme Court had past employment with corporations whose investments placed profit over consumer health and safety. Such game players are now influencing policies that profoundly effect consumer rights and undermine food safety, human health, and farmer's rights.

5) Government subsidies keep junk food costs low and more affordable than nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.

6) The USDA does not have the authority to close down production sites with continuous food safety violations. A congressional bill to be named "Kevin's Law" would have given USDA such authority but it never made it to the House for a vote. Kevin was a 2 year old boy who died from ecoli in his hamburger. The company that produced this meat knew about the ecoli but waited over two weeks to recall it.

7) Food Libel laws (a.k.a. veggie libel laws) exist in 13 states to protect corporate interests and intimidate consumers who might otherwise speak out about or even remotely insinuate that their product poses a threat. Think Oprah vs. the beef industry.

The list goes on.

I found these issues to be disturbing and infuriating and yet, at the same time, the documentary was enlightening, informative, and empowering. Food, Inc. shared the story of a Virginia farmer producing meat the old-fashioned way. Cows were eating grass, chickens grazed freely, and pigs embraced what he called their "pigness." The animals were well-cared for and free of antibiotics, hormones and chemicals. And people appreciated this respect for their health so much that they invested in his business. It proved that food production for meat eaters could be health-centered, consumer-centered, and profitable.

There were many other take-aways from this movie - implications for school lunch programs, worker's rights, consumer environmental foot-prints, and a list of things people can do today to improve the food supply and their health. Food, Inc. is a documentary everyone should see and pass on.

Ok, now It's time to catch my entertaining movie of the evening :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Any Given Sunday

I found heaven today and it couldn't have come at a better time. After working 12 hour days this week I vowed for a work-free weekend (after completing a Saturday morning presentation). I headed for Manhattan to catch up with gal pal Nirali and her beau Ambrish.

On Saturday night we celebrated a belated Diwali with saris, garba, and dandia. It brought back great memories from Diwalis past! Did I mention that dandia provides a great workout?

Sunday brought about another enlightening experience. I had been itching for months to visit Pure Food and Wine restaurant to delve further into raw foods exploration. As far as raw foods go I've experimented with juices, ice kream, "cheese" and other snacks. I figured it was time to take the next step and if I could fall in love with high-quality raw dishes it might jumpstart more complex culinary adventures. It turned out that the restaurant was opening later in the evening. Thankfully, One Lucky Duck, the take out option via PFW, was open!

Nirali, Ambrish and I had a hard time picking just one item off the menu. We ended up choosing the following super fabulous raw/organic shakes:

* Banana Nut (we all agreed this was our favorite of the three)
* Avocolada
* Blue Sunset

Check out the link above for ingredients and more tasty treats.

We walked off the smoothies on the way to the uber yummy Hummus Place for fresh chickpeas, pita, and falafels.

We finished the meal off with some orgasmic treats: One Lucky Duck's moon pie, mallomar, and tiramisu. All were incredibly divine. I think Nirali's moon pie selection was the most decadent although you can't go wrong with the others. Unfortunately I carried the desserts around NYC for much of the day and some of them got tossed around a bit. I lost the opportunity to take pictures of them while they were still intact and presentable but found another blog post with pictures of these luscious desserts.

I also purchased the high-in-demand cheesy quacker crackers. Having loaded up on raw foods treats I decided to pace myself and try them another day. More on them later (probably tomorrow :).

All in all it was one of the best weekends ever - fabulous friends, spirited Diwali, amazing Fall weather in a great city and superb raw foods!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ice Ice, Baby

What do you get when you blend and freeze coconut oil, lime juice, agave, cashews and a little H2O?

Super delicious ice kream bars, of course!

I was a little skeptical that a raw foods dessert would turn out to be so delectable. But this dairy free and easy-to-make recipe, courtesy of Ani Phyo, is a dream come true!

For more raw treats check out Ani's Raw Food Desserts: 85 Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Narberth Noshes

First I want to give a big thank you to Melinda, fellow blogger and holistic health junkie, for sharing her story from Basel, Switzerland! Prior to her family's work assignment in Europe, we shared many hikes in Valley Forge park and discussions on health and nutrition. I've learned so much from her and was excited to read her post on What the World Eats!

I am following Melinda's lead and posting a picture from today's trip to the grocery store. In recent months with a heavy focus on juicing I've found it most convenient to hit the Whole Foods in "European style" - ie buying produce several times throughout the week. The picture below is a representation of one such trip (multiply the produce by two or three on a good week).

Weekly vices not pictured here: potato chips and bacon sandwiches. I usually grab these at the student center where I work.

What's on your table?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What the World Eats ~ by Melinda

What the World Eats – What We Eat
By Melinda Taylor Schoutens

I recently stumbled across a great article that profiled families from around the world and what they consumed during the course of a week. Each family was asked to display their weeks worth of groceries on their kitchen table for all of the world to see. The pictures were quite humbling. Some of the Western Countries’ tables were filled with processed and fast foods and the third world countries were filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Quite the contrast.
The contrast I imagine stemmed from convenience, income levels and deep imbedded traditions. To be honest, some of the families’ choices saddened me. Processed food sprayed out on the table for the world to see. Fast food littered not only the table, but also their bodies.

It made me think – if I were to take one weeks worth of groceries and spread them out on our table, what would the picture look like? Would I be happy with the snap shot of our weekly consumption, or would I cringe in disbelief? So, I took a picture and this is what it looks like.

I do have to add a disclaimer here. Because the European refrigerators are so small (and I currently reside in Switzerland), we shop three to four times per week at our local grocery store. Having that said, it made it rather hard to display one picture that represents a single week.

I have an interest in nutrition because I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. The curriculum was rich with every nutrition guru in the world who opened their minds, their hearts with theories, practices and wisdom. At the end of the program I found myself overloaded with information wondering, what in the world are we supposed to eat? After my dizzying head came to a stop, I realized it is rather quite simple.

Eat more real food – meaning whole foods – foods that come from the earth in their natural form. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, etc. should make up the majority of our diet. This isn’t to say that I do not appreciate some good Swiss dark chocolate (and at times, really wish it were a whole food!) a nice cup of coffee or a pastry, but for the most part, I want to be conscious of what I consume and what fuels not only my body, but also the bodies of those I love.

Good eatin’ everyone!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Spice of Life

To celebrate Autumn, the eve of Diwali, and a newfound interest in cupcake making I cracked open a killer book with a kick-ass and super easy recipe for Chai Latte Cupcakes. Check. It. Out.

No matter what your food philosophy is, unless you're going raw 24/7, you'll find yourself a little piece of heaven with the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Here's a couple recipes in the queue:

* Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes
* S'mores Cupcakes
* Coconut Lime Cupcakes
* Tiramisu Cupcakes
* Cappuchino Cupcakes with Espresso Creme
* Margarita Cupcakes
* Lemon Macademia Cupcakes
* Apricot Glazed Almond Cupcakes

*Be sure to check out the book for 66 additional recipes!

Must go eat more cupcakes now.

The desi festival-of-lights dancing will convenienty balance everything out.

UPDATE: Had to share a picture of the smores cupcake! Delish!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gut Reaction

Last Wednesday I sat in on an amazing teleseminar with Liz Lipski, a clinical nutritionist who specializes in integrative medicine. The topic of discussion was digestive wellness, something I've been working on for the past four years. Liz is a great resource on all things gut-related especially because she recognizes the significant roles that stress and food play in illnesses, ranging from celiacs disease and parkinsons to migranes and asthma.

Liz started the conversation on the "second brain" and gut bacteria - its role in metabolism (huge!) and its subsequent effect on brain function, immunity, and cell energy. This gave meaning to the old adage "you are what you eat" especially when what you are eating might might be leaking into your bloodstream.

I would imagine that people who feel great/healthy might consider this topic to be a snoozefest. I would too if that were my experience. But I was loving every minute of the seminar. It's so fascinating how complex our gut really is and how intricate of a role it plays in vitality and health. It was also comforting to be in the company of a professional who specializes in holistic health practices and has a success record in treating people within this framework. Over the years I've consulted with GI physicians, all of whom were trained with the Western medical model. I hate to stereotype because there are some exceptional doctors. But most of the GI docs I've seen have been quick to write prescriptions and forgo a more holistic approach. Food had little to do with their recommendations for wellness. It was a strange omission.

Enter Liz

The most profound part of the seminar was when Liz said, "we are what we eat, absorb, digest and excrete." Much of my focus to date has been on what I'm eating. And I still don't feel 100% despite having eliminated all my trigger foods. I am planning to see a doctor with a practice in functional medicine to help fill in the gaps and get a better picture of what's happening, particularly if and how food is being absorbed and how my body is processing it.

If you are interested in improving your digestive health I recommend Liz' resources: her book, Digestive Wellness, her Innovative Healing website, and her free iTunes podcasts. Her podcasts share information on detoxification practices, metabolic testing, vitamin and herb suppliments, and much more! They are short and chock full of useful info...perfect for people on-the-go (ie all of us)!

What is your gut telling you?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home-Away-From-Home Stew

Emek's dish was my one and only home-cooked meal during a week of work travel. It went a long way, especially since it was healthy AND tasty! It's also uber easy to make!


1/2 pack of frozen peas
3/4 onion
1 can of crushed tomatoes
Little bit of cooking oil
2 Potatoes
3 Carrots
Black pepper and salt to taste

Chop the onions and sautee them in olive oil. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the chopped carrots and diced potatoes, cooking until the veggies are tender. Toss in the peas and some water. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown rice or anything that strikes your fancy. Make yum yum noises.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crash and Burn (Then Get Back Up)

I recently completed a series of "7-days-without" stints to boost my immune system. To ensure success I felt it best to start with short term goals. I finished a week without cheese (a food trigger for me), a week of upping fiber intake (a.k.a. week without any processed junk), and a week without coffee. Small goals. Big results. I felt so good I extended the coffee cuts to almost 30 days!

During my days "without" campaign I made some investments too. I juiced raw fruits and veggies daily and the payoff was huge. I had energy that lasted for hours and less brain fog. People started complimenting me on my skin and said I was glowing.

Aside from feeling great there's nothing better than someone telling you how great (ie healthy) you look, especially when you've worked hard to achieve it. Now imagine the frustration I felt when a little indulgence in coffee on a recent work trip proved to mess with my clear skin and general well-being.

Business conference + (lattes x 3) = yowza to my health plan.

The facts on caffeine should have been convincing on their own. The drug inhibits the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, overworks the adrenal glands, can weaken the immune system and ages the skin. If that wasn't enough the lattes left me feeling jittery and made my stomach mad. I think the caffeine was also contributing to a heightened response to other food triggers. The message was loud and clear. Caffeine could no longer be my friend.

I'll manage without it. It's been nine days since my last latte and my skin is getting it's glow back. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ms. Crabby

I have a whole new appreciation for the saying "There's no place like home." Especially after being away from a home that houses my juicer and my organic fruits and veggies. For the past week I have been on work assignment in Baltimore. While I usually feel good getting out of the office from time to time a week proved to be too long for me. I found many hurdles to keeping on track with my 50/50 raw and cooked food plan while away from home.

Naturally I started missing my bed after a day. But on day one I was already loathing the ever-present temptation of the chips, cookies, pretzels and legal addictive stimulants laid out at the work and conference events. Everybody was partaking. The coffee was calling my name. My willpower was compromised half way through the first day.

It didn't help that there were few healthy food options in the vicinity. The closest thing to health foods I could find were the Naked juices in a convenient store, the smoothies in the hotel and inner harbor shopping areas and the salads in the hotel restaurant. The "fruit" smoothies came from a box and the salad couldn't have been whiter - iceberg lettuce, baby. I got frustrated. I wanted to scream.

I prepped as much as I could beforehand, packing fresh green juices and raw food snacks from Awesome Foods and storing them in the hotel fridge. But eventually I ran out of them and began eating foods with mayo and cheese - two culprits that are hard to avoid, especially when I am also trying to avoid eggs and other fermented foods. Even the salad had cheese! I removed as much as I could like a crazy picky eater.

A few days later I did start to feel better about food options. I got to visit some friends from grad school who provided home-cooked and uber healthy turkish meals. Thank you, Emek and Mehmet!

Despite beautiful weather in the inner harbor and plans to site see on my last day all I wanted to do was go home. I didn't feel 100% and wanted to get back on track with my food plan. No more temptations, thank you very much. My first orders of business upon return were to rest up and make a trip to Whole Foods. I loaded up on produce and soups. I began to feel normal again.

Time to go and juice!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stress Reliever Numero Uno

I had been meaning to get back into charity work but with the economic times being what they were I was apprehensive about writing any checks. Then the light bulb went off. Pay it forward in time and attention to a cause. I instantly knew what I wanted to do.

I had been itching to get a dog for the last few months but hadn't really made room for one financially. It didn't help that my current apartment has a 35lb restriction and a $350 non-refundable deposit. Dog friendly? I think not! What's a canine-loving girl to do?

Spend some quality time at PAWS in Old City, of course!

It felt great to share in the mission of this awesome organization, which is a no-kill shelter. In just three years they upped the rescue rate from city shelters from 11% to 60%!

As part of my employer's Day of Service six of my co-workers and I fundraised, advertised, cleaned kittie playrooms and walked adorable and well-behaved pups. I'm definitely going back for more. I left with a sense of ease too. Puppy love is a great stress reliever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting Off on the Right Foot

After a fabulous dinner with Archna at Midtown I got propositioned. My friend Ed asked if I wanted to 9:30 tonight. The weather couldn't have been better. And I dig all things impromptu. The Universe was also sending me a message: "Earth to Jen, this is the week you're supposed to exercise." With my self-tested theory that a person can stick with anything for a week, I did a week without cheese and several weeks sans coffee. Last week I roughed it and included more fiber in my diet. It was time to bite the bullet and put off further procrastination. Darn. Exercise, here I come. Please be nice to me.

I needed some inspiration. Enter Ed. Here's the thing about Ed and running. He can finish a mile in 5 minutes...without any help. It's tremendous. And he's so in love with running. I thought maybe his addiction would rub off on me. It hasn't yet. I'll give it a little more time. Maybe a day or two.

Twenty seconds into our run he started goofing off. I couldn't stop laughing. He didn't hear me. His iTunes was on full blast. He zigged and zagged through the streets and I wondered if I'd make it through all this ridiculous fun. My inner mantra was less than stellar: "You are not cut out for running. You won't make it." But make it I did...a whole mile to Border's with a long break in between...and a mile back. It wasn't pretty. I wanted to hurl. My head throbbed. The ears were aching. Did I mention I wanted to hurl? I guess no exercise in months will do that to a person. Yikes!

I'm nevertheless thankful to my running guru for getting me off my you-know-what and making it burn. We'll see if I fall in love with running. I'll probably just fall. But I'll have a lot of laughs while doing it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get Glowing

Tonight was date night. With myself. I really needed an evening of doing nothing after work. I asked. I received. That was easy!

I am in a state of bliss after an impromptu spa night.

Ingredients for low-budget-high-quality naked time:

* Epsom Salts ~ for the bath
* Turkish bath scrubby (thanks, Emek!)
* Honey ~ for the face - after 30 minutes things were oh-so-smooth.
* "The Glow" juice ~ a recipe from Sarma's new book (see 9/4 post) - citrus fruits, cucumbers, and carrots, oh my!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Despite daily temptations I successfully avoided putting cheese in my mouth for 7 days. Hoorah!

I celebrated guessed it. Nirali was in town with her man-friend and I wanted to take them to my favorite pub-food spot. Everything there has cheese. I got a scrumptious sandwich with a little boursin on top. It wasn't too much. It was just the right amount!

The thing is that, during my friends' visit, I also had coffee...with cream. This drinking of addictive stimulant followed a 48 hour headache and many many advil. The small coffee did the trick in an instant! And there was no crashing!

My point: I plan to practice everything in moderation. I will continue to ease up on my incessant homage to fromage. I will continue to drink my Dandy-blend coffee substitute. But I will not beat myself up when I have the occasional cheese slice or cup o joe. Having seen the effects of forgoing them both (less brain fog, less fatigue, no stuffy nose), I feel that I can successfully pick up where I left off and practice some intermittent abstinence.

I subscribe to a wellness list serv and read a post of a woman going cold turkey on meat, coffee, etc...I could relate to her interest in getting healthier ASAP. But I knew from experience that going from one extreme to another overnight wouldn't work. And staying at the extremes is just pure punishment!

When my previous attempts to completely rule out cheese failed time and time again, I set the goal for one week. I did the same with coffee. The cheese strike lasted 7 days and I was coffee free for 27!! Next challenge: exercise. On second thought, I'll put that off for one more week :) This week: Fiber intake. Yum! I've been juicing a lot and reaping the benefits but I need to give my grains and whole fruits/veggies some love and attention. Brown rice, anyone?


Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tastiest Smoothie in the World!

No, I didn't mash up these cute baby key lime pies! But the quest did start with a hankering for them. As I'm avoiding eggs and milk and cream, I was sh** out of luck for a quick fix. Then, the Universe answered my prayers!

I was flipping through some raw "cook" books at Border's last night and randomly came across a key lime smoothie recipe. I had tried a raw and alkalizing recipe for key lime before and it was not working out. I experimented with the ingredients and all I got was chewy avocado cucumbery mess. Blech. The latest recipe is not completely alkalizing but it is raw. And it is mighty tasty!

If you like key lime pie you must check out the smoothie recipe in Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma is also partner and executive chef of Pure Food and Wine restaurant in Manhattan. I plan to check it out this month!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eye on the Pies

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm obsessed with the ABC show Pushing Daisies. I actually discovered the forensic fairy tale very late (pun intended) in the game and after it had been cancelled. Thank god for DVD and iTunes!

Of course, if you too were a fan, then you know all about the craze over cup pies ~ those small individual servings of heaven.

I decided to make them vegan and started with this pie crust recipe. After some trial runs with canned fruit, I made some concoctions of my own. It turns out there isn't much variety in the canned food section, even at Whole Foods. And fresh is better anyway, right? Um, yeah!

I started with canned cherry and pumpkin fillings and then moved on to fresh whole peaches. In homage to PD, I made Chuck's pear pies with gruyere.

The picture doesn't do them justice!
Next on the list: strawberry pie and mixed berry. Yum!

Pie Filling

* 2 1/2 cups of luscious (and organic) fruits
* 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar
* 2 tbsp. cornstarch
* 1/4 cup cold water

In a saucepan combine the fruit and sugar; stir for about 10 minutes. Mix the cornstarch and water; add to the saucepan and stir until the filling thickens. Voila!

I like to make openface pies for the visual effect. They are so colorful! I use a mug to make the pie crust circles and simply fold them into the cupcake/muffin tins. From that point you just add the filling and cook on 325 for about 15 minutes.

When making the pear with gruyere, I put grated cheese in before the filling or sometimes just add it on top.

Cup pies are so simple to make and have been a huge hit at parties!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Say Cheese!

This picture was taken at the end of Day 2 of my "no cheese week" challenge. No worries. I held my ground. I'm into day 3 and the score is Jen: 3 Cheese: a big honking ZERO. Note to those forgoing food triggers: start slowly and with reasonable goals. They're easier to meet.

Now with that said, I almost did buy swiss-pressed decaf coffee. I'm eliminating all coffee for now. My friend Susan snagged the last of a scrumptious smelling blend called Sleepy Hollow. With Halloween right around the corner I went to see if there was a bag with my name on it. Susan, without missing a beat, said, "Don't even think about it." She is now my coffee sponsor too. :)

I actually went to the market to sample cashew cheeze:

It was super yummy! I also made Kristen Suzanne's Army Green Juice recipe. Delicious and energizing vegan dinner!

Check out Awesome Foods' website for their cheeze and other fabulous products!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Seeking Immunity

So much for new year's resolutions, well, at least the one that involved blogging regularly! As you can see it's been 7 months since my last entry. That sounded oddly reminiscient of a catholic confession. Here's my confession: I've missed writing and my holistic health junkie-ing. It didn't help that a science dude I had dated missed the quirkiness that was my soon-to-be post on water quality issues. I thought a chemist would appreciate musings on H2 the Izz-O. Water is, afterall, pretty cool. I interpretted his response as a sign of disinterest. I took a writing hiatus. It was a stupid excuse.

I should also mention that I have been and continue to be in a little bit of a health and dietary funk. After several additional tests and follow-ups I haven't pinpointed the cause of my skin condition, which is slowly improving but not there yet. That's sexy, huh? Let's talk about skin. On second thought, let's not.

Over the next few months I'll be experimenting with a 50/50 raw and cooked food plan to build immunity. I'm also going to ease into my commitment to laying off the dairy, which is both my love and my enemy. I've started making more green juices and am 21 days into my no-coffee-right-now challenge!

Reacting to black coffee was the worst, considering that I was just starting to like black coffee. I used to be a little-coffee-with-my-cream girl and had weened myself off yummy but uber bad non-dairy creamer....and then the real cream too. Seeing that I have been reacting to virtually everything I eat, it's time to work on my immune system. Bye bye caffeine, hello hot water with lemon! And hello, exercise! I haven't seen you in ages? How have you been?

I coaxed myself into morning walks with the goal of strengthening my immune system. Plus the air was crisp and I am in love with this time of year. In addition to the "not now" to coffee, "yes" to working out, and more green juices I'm starting September with no cheese for a week. Setting a longer goal has not proven successful. Actually, attempts failed on every day 1. Today is my new day one. Temptation du jour: Feta cheese that came with my brown rice nut salad. My dear friend Susan offered to be my cheese sponsor. We played out the scenario:

Jen: "Susan, I really need some gruyere. It's been three days!"
Susan: "Put down the fucking cheese."
Jen: "Ok. Thanks, Susan."

This might pan out :)

More on all this later. It's still day 1.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eating Like an Ape

I was uber excited to find episodes of The Truth About Food on the Internet. I first saw the show, which aired in the US on the Discovery Health channel with Mehmet Oz. Unfortunately re-runs were sparse and the DH website was stingy with clips. Had I known then that the BBC produced the original series, I would have found the video and posted it a long time ago!

The series includes 40 different investigations/experiments on food and it's relation to health, sex, beauty, weight, you name it! My favorite episode Can Eating Like an Ape Save Your Health? demonstrates what a raw food diet can do to improve quality of life and reduce risk of some major illnesses in just 12 DAYS!

Does it mean that you should to go completely raw? Not necessarily. But it's empowering to know how much we can personally effect our overall health with real food. And the experiment, at the very least, will inspire people to eat their veggies. If the participants could eat 11lbs of raw food, surely the rest of us can eat our recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies!

And if you're tired of the same old produce or think you've tried it all, mix it up with this abundant food list.