Think for a moment of a food from your past, one that makes you feel great after you eat it for no specific reason. Maybe it is macaroni and cheese, slow-simmered tomato sauce, ice cream cones or potato pancakes. Eating comfort foods (every now and then) can be incredibly healing, even though your rational brain might not consider it highly nutritious.
Food has the power to impact us on a level deeper than just our physical well-being. What we eat can reconnect us to precious memories, like childhood playtimes, first dates, holidays, our grandmother’s cooking or our country of ancestry. Our bodies remember foods from the past on an emotional and cellular level. Eating this food connects us to our roots and has youthening and nurturing effects that go far beyond the food’s biochemical make-up.
Acknowledging what different foods mean to us is an important part of cultivating a good relationship with food. This month when we celebrate lovers and relationships, it’s important to notice that we each have a relationship with food—and that this relationship is often far from loving. Many of us restrict food, attempting to control our weight. We often abuse food, substituting it for emotional well-being. Others ignore food, swallowing it whole before we’ve even tasted it.
What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would treat your beloved – with gentleness, playfulness, communication, honesty, respect and love? The next time you eat your soul food, do so with awareness and without guilt, and enjoy all the healing and nourishment it brings you.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is a nutritional powerhouse with ancient origins. It was originally cultivated by the Incas more than 5,000 years ago; they referred to it as the “mother of all grains.” It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in magnesium, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese, riboflavin and zinc.
While quinoa is widely considered a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant called Chenopodium or Goosefoot, related to chard and spinach. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain and has a similar effect as other whole grains in helping to stabilize blood sugar.
It has a waxy protective coating called saponin which can leave a bitter taste. For best results, rinse quinoa before you cook it or even soak it for a few hours or overnight. When cooked, it has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Try it in soups, salads, as a breakfast porridge or as its own side dish.
For quinoa, and whole grains in general, the majority of digestion occurs in the mouth through chewing and exposure to saliva. For optimal nutrition and assimilation, it is vital to chew your grains well and with awareness. A great meditation is to find a calm place, without distractions, to sit down for your meal. Make it a habit to chew each bite 20 times or more. See how this simple practice can help your digestion and overall focus for the rest of your day.
Recipe of the Month: Quinoa Pilaf
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup quinoa
2 1/4 cups water or stock
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
pinch of salt
Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer until water runs clear.
Boil the water and add quinoa and salt, cover and reduce heat.
After 15 minutes add cranberries and walnuts to top; do not stir.
Cook 5 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat, add parsley and fluff with fork, cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes and serve.
When it comes to increased health, it’s not just what we eat but how we eat. Digestion actually begins in the mouth, where contact with our teeth and digestive enzymes in our saliva break down food. But these days most of us rush through the whole eating experience, barely acknowledging what we’re putting in our mouths. We eat while distracted—working, reading, talking and watching television—and swallow our food practically whole. On average we chew each bite only eight times. It’s no wonder that many people have digestive problems.
There are many great reasons to slow down and chew your food. Saliva breaks down food into simple sugars, creating a sweet taste. The more we chew, the sweeter our food becomes, so we don’t crave those after-meal sweets.
Chewing reduces digestive distress and improves assimilation, allowing our bodies to absorb maximum nutrition from each bite of food.
More chewing produces more endorphins, the brain chemicals responsible for creating good feelings.
It’s also helpful for weight loss, because when we are chewing well, we are more apt to notice when we are full.
In fact, chewing can promote increased circulation, enhanced immunity, increased energy and endurance, as well as improve skin health and stabilize weight.
Taking time with a meal, beginning with chewing, allows for enjoyment of the whole experience of eating: the smells, flavors and textures. It helps us to give thanks, to show appreciation for the abundance in our lives and to develop patience and self-control.
The power of chewing is so great that there are stories of concentration camp survivors who, when others could not, made it through with very little food by chewing their meager rations up to 300 times per bite of food. For most of us 300 chews is a daunting and unrealistic goal. However, you can experience the benefits of chewing by increasing to 30 chews per bite. Try it and see how you feel.
Try eating without the TV, computer, Blackberry, newspaper or noisy company. Instead just pay attention to the food and to how you are breathing and chewing.
This kind of quiet can be disconcerting at first, since we are used to a steady stream of advertising, news, media, email and demands from others. But as you create a new habit, you will begin to appreciate eating without rushing. You have to eat every day—why not learn to savor and enjoy it?
Our local Lululemon show room hosts a number of free yoga classes and last night the Hubz and I decided to take advantage of one of them. We tried a new yoga class called Groove Yoga (sometimes known as DJ Yoga Flow- when there is a DJ) at Laughing River Yoga; also a new to me studio. According to their website this is what Groove Yoga is:
Experience the energy of music and prana (life force) in a new way. Open your heart, quiet your mind, and be led on a journey of movement and music. In groove yoga you will explore the relationship between inner awareness and outward expression as you surrender to a meditative yoga groove. Draw on your intuition and spontaneity as you move through postures with breath and music as your guides. Music will range from upbeat to ambient, trance, and downtempo grooves.
*I tried to find videos on YouTube that would give you an idea- I found two that give you a short sample but they don’t really show you everything.
From this description I thought we would be going to a class that was going to be a mat based practice that would be incorporated with “upbeat to ambient, trance, and downtempo grooves.” Well I was only half right….you may say that really I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
We arrived early to class not knowing how busy it would be because it was free (to those who mentioned being referred from Lululemon) and because we had never been to this studio before. The instructor was outside waiting for the current class to finish and we talked a bit with her and she gave us a description of the class. I really wish I could remember what she said exactly but it was something to the effect of letting the music take you and getting up off your mat and letting the music move your body all around the room. Fear shot through my body and I could tell the Hubz was ready to turn and run especially when she made reference to no one else being there and how it might just be the three of us. But I stopped myself from leaving because I’d feel like a jerk and said might as well do it; take advantage of the 90 minutes to at least get a good workout in.
Eventually more people showed up and my nerves started to calm down a little, not much, but a tiny bit. As I rolled out my mat and took a seat I looked over at the Hubz and whispered – “if you want to go tell me now”; he said no and we stayed. Then I told myself to embrace this experience otherwise I wasn’t going to get anything out of it and would leave even more stressed out than I already was upon arriving there. I attempted to open my mind and be in the moment.
Okay so this didn’t all happen at once. We started the class with a mat workout that incorporated movement with traditional asanas. I started out slow and cautious, and nervous. I really didn’t want to look foolish but eventually I looked around the room and well everyone else looked a little silly too. I guess at that point I looked more foolish not joining in so I let it go and joined.
We moved from sitting poses to standing and that’s when we started moving around the room. Again a little nervous and withdrawn for the first few minutes but then music I know and love to dance to came on and I just couldn’t help but want to dance. Once I finally let my insecurities go I began to feel really good and feel so much more energized and couldn’t help but smile.
By the end of the class I felt amazing, a little silly but happy that I could laugh at myself when I had a hard time going around the room putting my opposite arm and leg up at the same time (I kept having to stop and get myself back on track – lack of coordination I guess haha). I also felt super peaceful and de-stressed and just so much more focused. I really surprised myself and went into the class thinking I wouldn’t ever want to do it again and now I can’t wait until next Fridays class!
I found that this genre of yoga embraces the spirituality of yoga along with music and dance to give you peace of mind as well as an amazing cardio workout- without making you feel like you are working out. It was great with the music the instructor chose but I bet it would be even better with the live DJ.
After this huge post I feel like I finally learned something new about myself, if I just let go I can have an amazing time and find something new that I love. I need to get out of my head and just relax more! I need to thank Lululemon for having this free class, Laughing River Yoga for having a vague description of the class and myself for embracing the situation ….oh and the Hubz for bearing through it (not his thing at all especially being the only guy).
I leave you with this: over the next month try something new, different, strange or that scares you and open your mind and give it a try. Come back here and tell me about it! Or if you have done this already tell me about your experience.
The Hubz and I have been feeling a little bit of the winter blues and bored with our current workout routines as well as a lack of motivation. With summer around the corner we are getting excited for hiking and gardening but until then we need to get ourselves in tip-top shape so 15 mile hikes don’t make us feel like we were hit by a truck the next day. In addition to changing up our routine we are also working on an incentives program to help motivate us to stay on track.
For our incentives program each month we have a set of goals to help us stay on top of being active as well as to track our workout progress.The incentive part of it is that at the start of each month we will each be eligible for $50* of fun money, to be paid out on the last day of the month IF we accomplish our goal. The goal:
Work out 80% of the days in the month OR 70% of the days in the month and 1 hour for everyday missed from the 80% (example: March 80% plus Hours goal–>Must workout 25 days and Total of 15.5 hours OR 70% plus Hours goal–>Must workout 22 days and 15.5 hours PLUS 3 hours for the 3 missed from the 80% days so total of 18.5 hours)
2. Work out an average of 30 minutes per days in the month (October-May) and work out an average of 60 minutes per days in the month (June-September)**
March 2011 Goals
Must workout 25 days
Total of 15.5 hours
Must workout 22 days
Total of 18.5 hours
So far this month I am on track with the 80% however since I only have 1 off day left I may be turning to the 70% plan this month…..we’ll see. This is where I am at as of yesterday:Today:
Currently my workouts include yoga, walking, elliptical, weight training and most recently Insanity- have you tried this with Shaun T? What did you think? As soon as the sidewalks and bike path clear out I am determined to start the Couch to 5k again as well. What do you do to keep active? How do you stay motivated?
Lastly I’ll leave you with my current workout playlist (it’s a work in progress):
What are your workout tunes?
*In case you are wondering why cash? Well Neil and I have a tendency to not spend money on ourselves even when we need to. This money that we earn will be $50 we can use guilt free towards whatever we want. Originally we were going to set a specific item/service as our goal but then decided that for us it just din’t make sense. It works better for us to make a decision when the time comes based on what we need then. Additionally the money allows us to save up for more expensive items such as Lululemon clothes or hiking gear.
** June-September is the time of the year that we do hiking, biking, gardening and (hopefully) running so there are days that we may be active as many as 8-10 hours on a hiking trip that is why there is the increase of total hour goals.
Avoid processed sugars and products made with process sugars. When you crave sweets try eating sweet veggies such as sweet potato, red bell pepper, corn and carrots. Substitute brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, stevia or agave for processed sugars; and yes that includes brown sugars. When eating baked goods look for ones made with whole grains and sweetened with fruit juice.
Recognize your cravings and try these alternatives:
If you’re craving Salt: high-quality sea salt (just a dash on your food)
If you’re craving Bitter: Dark leafy greens
If you’re craving Pungent: ginger, cayenne, scallions, onions, garlic, pepper
If you’re craving Spicy: Cayenne, hot chili oil
If you’re craving Creamy: oatmeal, porridge
If you’re craving Crunchy: carrot sticks, whole grain pretzels or natural baked chips
If you’re craving Liquid: WATER!
If you’re craving Crispy & Dry: Rice Cakes or Sesame Sticks
Eating a healthy vegan diet isn’t as complicated as you might think with a few key tips you can be on your way to eating a healthy, balanced and delicious vegan diet. The key to eating a healthy vegan diet, or any diet for that matter is to keep it simple. I know that there are a number of great vegan cookbooks and recipes blogs out there with elaborate vegan dishes which can be intimidating. However eating vegan doesn’t have to be complicated; keep it simple and save those more elaborate dishes for parties and weekends when you have more time to fuss over your meal.
What does keeping it simple look like?
Cook up a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, kasha, or millet. Some Whole grains take a while to cook so try cooking up a bunch at the beginning of the week and keep it on hand for meals throughout the week. To reheat just add a little water and steam the grains until they are warm and fluffy again or cut up veggies and tofu and sautee with a little oil and add the grain, soy sauce to taste and dash sesame oil to create a great fried rice/whole grain.
With the whole grains steam up your favorite vegetables and add to a dish. Top with your favorite protein such as tempeh, tofu, beans, nuts or seeds. Then add your favorite condiments such as nama shoyu, sriracha, sesame oil, hot chili oil or balsamic vinegar. A great option is to have a lazy suzanne of condiments on your table which allows you and your family to dress up their meals with the flavors they love.
For a balanced breakfast that keeps your full and energized mix whole grains, fruits/veggies and protein; try oatmeal with chia seeds, cinnamon and top it with a spoonful of nutbutter and half a banana or my favorite a smoothie with 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup berries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 cup of baby spinach and 1 tablespoon of Living Harvest Hemp Protein. For a savory breakfast whole wheat couscous with spinach sauteed with garlic and 1/4 cup of beans makes a yummy nutritious breakfast for those who like to keep things savory.
When you keep things simple it only takes a matter of 10 or 15 minutes to make a healthy, nutritious and delicious meal. When you do want to spice things up a bit and try that really great recipe you found take the time to do it when you have the time. Make sure when you are picking recipes look for ones that are low in sugar, fat and other processed ingredients. I also recommend eating organic when possible especially keep in mind the “dirty dozen”http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214 the most contaminated vegetables. I know that cost is a concern but a great way to eat organic vegetables for less and support local farms is to find a CSA in your area or visit a local farmers market; you cut out the middle man which lowers the cost to you.
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Remember that any advice, tips, or recommendations you receive from this blog are not to be substituted for professional advice, please consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise or diet plans. Visitors should take action based on the information provided at their own risk, as the blog owner is not responsible for any losses, damages, or injuries, that occur as a result.