“VIOLET, YOU’RE TURNING VIOLET, VIOLET!”  

In 1971, when I was 8-years old, the movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, came out. One of the most memorable scenes of the film was when Violet Beauregarde, turned purple. If you are having a memory lapse, Violet was the little a79541866607632a1d9de93c06724ba1.jpggirl who was obsessed with chewing gum. In the movie, she grabbed a unique piece of gum, that wasn’t fully tested. This gum was a three-course meal and when she got to the best part, the blueberry pie dessert, it all went downhill, as poor Violet started turning purple and filled with fluid. She had to be rolled off and pumped. I was horrified.

I can make the case, as someone who is passionate about good nutrition, that the gum was just processed food gone awry. Now, 48 years later, I am just as horrified but for a different reason: Our supermarkets are filled with isles of processed foods, marketed to children, and engineered to light up your brain and to get you addicted. Most people don’t binge on roasted chicken or grilled asparagus but they certainly can on things like Teddy Grahams, Cheez-Its, Animal Crackers, or Doritos. There are chemicals, dyes, and additives in all of these. I have a suspicion that if you ate an entire bag of Flamin Hot Nacho Cheese Doritos, finished the bag, and then started turning a reddish-orange color, you might just think twice about eating them again!

Just saying…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHRIMP AVOCADO SALAD

This salad is not only full of nutrients but GLORIOUS to look at. Spectacular colors, flavors and textures. A perfect dish for the season!

ingredients for shrimp avocado saladShrimp-Avocado-Salad-Recipe-6-600x900

½ lb (3 to 4 medium) Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ English cucumber or 3 smaller garden cucumbers, sliced
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cup corn kernels (from2 fresh cobs or canned drained corn)
1 medium romaine lettuce (5 to 6 cups chopped)

ingredients for the Cajun Shrimp

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp cajun spice
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Pinch of salt

ingredients for the zesty cilantro lemon dressing

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                  ] Juice of 1 large lemon (about 3 Tbsp)                                                                                      ½ bunch cilantro, (½ cup chopped)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

directions

Place shrimp medium bowl, sprinkle with 1 tsp cajun spice, 2 pressed garlic cloves and a pinch of salt and stir to combine.

Heat large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Swirl in butter. Once butter stops sizzling, add shrimp in a single layer and sauté about 2 min without disturbing. Flip shrimp over and sauté another minute or just until cooked through. Don’t overcook shrimp or they can become rubbery. Remove to a plate and set aside to cool.

Chop, rinse and spin dry romaine lettuce. Line the bottom of a large salad platter/bowl with 5 to 6 cups of chopped romaine lettuce. Add remaining salad ingredients and shrimp in rows on top of romaine.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Drizzle dressing over the salad then toss to combine and serve.

(Adapted from a recipe found on natashaskitchen.com)

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NEED SOME REAL COMFORT? DITCH THE COMFORT FOODS

The other day, one of my favorite clients came to see me. She told me that the day before she was feeling sad and stressed. In the past, she had turned to food for comfort and considered herself a “stress eater”. When she said, “You won’t believe what I ate,” I thought that she must have turned to foods like pizza, Chinese food, or ice-cream.  To my delight, instead of turning to these comfort foods,  my client cooked a meal for herself—she made an interesting chicken harissa dish, which was full of great nutrition. After she ate, she felt so much better. I was thrilled!  Cooking for yourself is the ultimate in self-nurturing.

Here’s something ironic:  From a digestion point of view, comfort foods, which are typically rich and high in fat, are far from comforting.  If you feel sluggish or tired after eating these types of foods it’s not in your head—it’s literally in your gut. Of the three macronutrients, fat takes longer than protein or carbohydrate to digest. Fat is over two times more caloric, stays with you longer and keeps you fuller. This is a good thing when you’re eating healthy fats like nuts, avocados or olive oil. But turning to heavy, greasy foods when stressed will NOT make you any feel better.

Bottom line: If you’re stressed and need some comfort, try something choppedhealthy that will make you feel better!

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PEAS, PROSCIUTTO, AND SCALLIONS

This recipe, from one of my favorite cookbooks, was a pasta recipe including both spaghetti and peas. In an effort to lower the carbs, I ditched the spaghetti and made it as a side dish.  Peas are not only delicious but they are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. I also used frozen sweet peas so I was able to whip it up in no time!

ingredientsIMG_0937

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt

small bunch of scallions

12-ounce pack of frozen sweet peas, thawed

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 ounces prosciutto slices, torn

directions

Roughly chop the white part of the scallions. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the olive oil and scallions and cook gently, until softened. Add the thawed peas and a pinch of salt. Simmer gently until the water evaporates.

Add the garlic and parsley. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the torn prosciutto and stir for a minute or so to cook.

Serve warm with your choice of lean protein.

 (Adapted from a recipe found in the cookbook “River Café Cook Book Easy”.)

 

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BE YOUR OWN SMART OVEN

The other day I was at my friend Lydia’s house. Lydia is renovating her kitchen and she now has a makeshift kitchen and portable smart oven. I never saw a smart oven so she was telling me all about it as I stood there in awe. When Lydia puts a piece of bread into the download.pngsmart oven,  the oven asks, “Bread?” Lydia says “YES.” The smart oven then asks “light toast or medium?” When she answers, the oven does exactly what she wants.

For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about this oven. The oven asks questions to get specific information so it can produce the optimal results. To me, this oven is smart because it’s being mindful.  I thought, “if only we could have our own self-smart-oven!” Here’s a scenario:

Oven: Hungry?

You: YES

Oven: How hungry on a scale from 1-10?

You, having to think: 2

Oven: Stressed??

You: YES

With a few quick questions, you’ve realized that you’re NOT hungry, you’re just stressed.  Instead of eating, you would be better off going for a walk. Taking this a step further, the self-smart-oven could also assess when you should be eating,  when to rest, what foods will work better for you at certain points during the day, when you should meditate, or when you need to stretch.  It might even let you know when you’re pushing yourself too hard, so you could avoid becoming rundown.

I’m  reluctant to use the word “mindful”, because it’s overused. Instead, think of mindfulness as simply being aware–it’s being connected to your body and listening, which is the best way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

Bottom line: Your body gives you so much information all of the time. You need to pay attention to those messages and take a moment to ask yourself some probing questions so you, too, can function optimally.

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THE BEST GREEN SALAD IN THE WORLD

This New York Times recipe actually comes from a restaurant in the West Village called Via Carota. Samin Nosrat, who wrote the book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” says that this insalata verde is the best green salad in the world! Just looking at this gorgeous pile of greens makes me smile! INCREDIBLE!!!

download.jpgingredients

2 heads butter lettuce, such as Boston or bibb

romaine heart

1 large Belgian endive

1 bunch watercress

½ small head frisée

ingredients for the dressing

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon aged sherry vinegar, plus additional, as needed

1 tablespoon warm water

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ teaspoons whole-grain mustard

1 ½ teaspoons honey (optional)

2 sprigs thyme, washed and stripped

1 large clove garlic, finely grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

directions

Wash the greens: Fill a sink or large basin with tepid water. Remove any wilted or damaged leaves from the butter lettuce, romaine and endive. Trim each head at the root to release whole leaves. Leave butter-lettuce leaves whole, but halve large leaves of romaine and endive on the bias, then drop into water. Trim and discard any roots and long stems off watercress, and drop remaining leaves and tender stems into water. Trim and discard dark green outer leaves and tops from frisée until only light green and white parts remain. Trim at the root to release leaves, and drop into water. Swirl greens in water, then drain. Wash twice more in cool, then cold, water, then transfer to a salad spinner to dry. Gently wrap in clean dish towels, and set aside.

Place the shallot in a fine-mesh strainer, and quickly rinse with cold water. Allow to drain, then place in a medium bowl, and add vinegar and warm water. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then whisk in oil, mustards, honey (if using), thyme, garlic and a large pinch of salt. Taste, and adjust salt and vinegar as needed.

To serve, gently pile a generous handful of greens into a serving bowl, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and a generous drizzle of dressing. Continue with another handful of salad and more seasoning and dressing, repeating until you have a glorious, gravity-defying mound of salad. Top with a final drizzle of dressing, and serve immediately.

Wrap remaining greens in an airtight container or plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Cover and refrigerate remaining dressing for up to 3 days.

(recipe found on cooking.nytimes.com)

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THE PARADOX OF WOMEN

In 2003, I became a personal trainer and since then I’ve had the privilege of working with many clients, mostly women. Amazing women. Here are some of my observations:

Most women need close girlfriends in order to stay sane while navigating through life. We download.jpgsupport each other in astounding ways. We enthusiastically cheer each other on; We rally around each other in times of need;  We can express ourselves without judgement; We accept each other’s flaws; We see the true beauty in each other; We are loving and kind; We have tolerance and patience.

All of this changes, when a woman looks at herself. When it comes to body image, diet or exercise, women are overly critical, harsh, self-deprecating, and self-loathing. Women say that they are “BAD” when they don’t eat perfectly. They feel GUILT and SHAME when they can’t seem to get into an eating or exercise routine. A woman’s internal dialogue is brutal. She is mean, judgmental, and intolerant. Ironically, she would never treat her girlfriends this way. Ever.

We women are bombarded with ubiquitous messages every day about our image. There are overt and subliminal messages about how we should age, what we should wear, and what our bodies should look like. It is impossible to live up to these standards—especially when there is photoshop erasing our wrinkles and eradicating our cellulite. No wonder we are so harsh on ourselves!

I say: Let’s stop the insanity! When it comes to looking internally,  we need start treating ourselves just the way we would treat our closest girlfriends.  If we do this, we will talk to ourselves with kindness and compassion. We will be more tolerant and less judgmental. We might even start cheerleading. Best of all, we can work hard at achieving (wait for it), ACCEPTANCE.

Who’s with me????

 

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