Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Want Happiness?

Want happiness?  Don't buy more stuff- go on vacation.  That's what Gary Belsky & Tom Gilovich say in a recent Time magazine article

Basically, the gist of the article can be summarized in these 3 sentences:

"For most people, money is finite and there isn't enough to do all we want, so we must be selective.  The crucial question then becomes: If we want to maximize the happiness or satisfaction we get from our money, how should we spend it?... When people are asked to recall their most significant material and experiential purchases over the previous five years, they report that the experience brought more joy, was a source of more enduring satisfaction and was more clearly 'money well spent.'"

On that note, I'm off to Montana for vacation.  Be back next week!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Now what?

If you're like me, when you find a new hobby or interest, you dive in head first.  You get every book ever written about it, read every review and article available online, buy all the latest and greatest equipment and talk to everyone you know that has any connection to your latest passion.  You then promise yourself that you're going to dedicate yourself to your new found love until you've learned everything there is to know about it and mastered every skill.

I've done this many times... like when I wanted to learn Italian.  I had to go to the bookstore immediately to buy one of those programs that promises fluency in any language as long as you follow their plan.  I spent 2 hours looking at all of the options.  I finally chose one, brought it home, listened to the cd's for a week and never listened to them again.  Then there was the time that I was going to start my own business and had to buy 4 books on how to write a business plan.  I got half way through each book but never wrote a sentence of an actual business plan.

My most recent experience with this was when I started reading about nutrition.  I read about organic foods, super foods, foods that are anti-inflammatory, foods that contain anti-oxidants and everything in between.  The next time I went to Whole Foods and the Farmers Market, I bought every new food that I had read about or that sounded healthy, was grown locally or promised to provide me with much needed vitamins and minerals. 

Needless to say, we ended up with far more food in our fridge than we could possibly eat in a week.  I was just so excited about trying all of these new healthy foods that I repeated what I had done in the past whenever I had a new interest... I bought anything and everything related to it.  The difference with this situation is that food will spoil.  So, now what?

In order to avoid having to throw out all of this excess food, I had to find a way to store it until we were ready to eat it.  I came across this helpful list from Janice Revell (cofounder of in Fitness Magazine.

You can also save money and trips to the store with these tips and tricks from Rebecca DiLiberto’s Penny Saving Household Helper. You’ll be surprised how simple it is to keep food at its best.

1. Line the bottom of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with paper towels. They’ll absorb the excess moisture that causes vegetables to rot.

2. To keep herbs tasting fresh for up to a month, store whole bunches, washed and sealed in plastic bags, in the freezer. When you need them, they’ll be easier to chop, and they’ll defrost the minute they hit a hot pan.

3. A bay leaf slipped into a container of flour, pasta, or rice will help repel bugs.

4. Stop cheese from drying out by spreading butter or margarine on the cut sides to seal in moisture. This is most effective with hard cheeses sealed in wax.

5. When radishes, celery, or carrots have lost their crunch, simply pop them in a bowl of iced water along with a slice of raw potato and watch the limp vegetables freshen up right before your eyes.

6. Avoid separating bananas until you plan to eat them – they spoil less quickly in a bunch.

7. Put rice in your saltshaker to stop the salt from hardening. The rice absorbs condensation that can cause clumps.

8. Stock up on butter when it’s on sale – you can store it in the freezer for up to six months. Pack the butter in an airtight container, so it doesn’t take on the flavor of whatever else you’re freezing.

9. In order to make cottage cheese or sour cream last longer, place the container upside down in the fridge. Inverting the tub creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil.

10. Believe it or not, honey is the only nonperishable food substance, so don’t get rid of the stuff if it crystallizes or becomes cloudy. Microwave on medium heat, in 30-second increments, to make honey clear again.

11. Prevent extra cooked pasta from hardening by stashing it in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerating. When you’re ready to serve, throw the pasta in boiling water for a few seconds to heat and restore moisture.

12. Keeping brown sugar in the freezer will stop it from hardening. But if you already have hardened sugar on your shelf, soften it by sealing in a bag with a slice of bread – or by microwaving on high for 30 seconds.

13. If you only need a few drops of lemon juice, avoid cutting the lemon in half – it will dry out quickly. Instead, puncture the fruit with a metal skewer and squeeze out exactly what you require.

14. If you’re unsure of an egg’s freshness, see how it behaves in a cup of water: Fresh eggs sink; bad ones float. is a  great resource as well.  You just plug in the food you want to know about and it will give you tips on storage and tell you how long it will last in a variety of situations.

While I still think it's important to be curious and interested in new things... when it comes to food, it's best to be thoughtful and plan ahead because even though your Rosetta Stone Italian language CD's may last forever... your tomatoes won't.

~Have a Healthy Day~

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Sweetness...

A friend of mine recently told me about a blog called erineverafter.  That's where I saw this picture...

...and I haven't been able to stop thinking about drinking one of these ever since!

  I do have to get some work done today though so, unfortunately, I can't indulge in a cocktail just yet.  Here's a version I came up with that you can enjoy any time of day.

1 cup of coconut water
1 peach, washed and sliced
8 strawberries, washed
1/2 lime, juiced
1 cup ice
2 mint leaves
1 tsp Agave Nectar or Honey (optional)

Blend.  Pour over crushed ice.  Garnish with the fruit of your choice.

This recipe makes enough to serve 2 so invite a friend over and enjoy!

~Have a Healthy Day~

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dip into this...

I've been really into making dips and spreads over the past few weeks.  I've always been big on condiments, but dips are like condiments on steroids...  you can still add them to anything, but they are also flavorful enough to build a meal around. 

Now, I have to caution you, I'm not really one to follow recipes.  I may start with a recipe as a guideline but then 3-4 steps in; I usually start improvising and adjusting.  So you have to bear with me as I share my "recipes" with you.  Honestly, sometimes I'm not even sure I know exactly how I end up with the finished product.  However, the great thing about these dips/spreads is that you can substitute and experiment with different ingredients and chances are that you will still end up with something yummy!

1.  Summer "Pesto"
Conventional pesto is generally made with basil, olive oil, nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic.  In this recipe, I replaced the cheese and nuts with an avocado.  It gives the dip the same creamy texture plus it's packed with nutrition!  You will also notice that I used garlic scapes (the flower stalk of the garlic bulb that is trimmed off to allow the bulb to continue growing).  Normally I would have just used garlic but since I got the garlic scapes from my CSA, I figured I would use them instead.  They are slightly milder in flavor than the actual garlic bulb but are still quite flavorful.
  • 5 Garlic Scapes
  • 1 Avocado
  • A Handful of Fresh Basil (adjust to your taste)
  • 1/2 Lemon (juiced)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Cold Pressed Olive Oil (depending on desired consistency)
  • Salt & Pepper
 Blend the garlic scapes, avocado, basil and lemon juice in a Cuisinart.  Slowly add olive oil as you blend.  Stop when you reach desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

This would work as a replacement anywhere you traditionally use pesto but I think it would also be a great dip for raw vegetables.

2. Avocado & Chick Pea Dip
My Mom is worried that I'm not getting enough protein in my diet because I don't eat meat and I eat very little dairy.  As a result, I came up with the following recipe.
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 can Chick Peas (a good source of protein)
  • A Handful of Fresh Cilantro (adjust to your taste)
  • 1/2 Lime (juiced)
  • 1Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (another good source of protein for vegetarians)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Cold Pressed Olive Oil (depending on desired consistency)
  • Salt & Pepper
Blend the avocado, chick peas, cilantro, lime juice and nutritional yeast in the Cuisinart.  Slowly add the olive oil as you blend.  Stop when you reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I spread this over lightly toasted sourdough bread and topped with a tomato.


 I found this recipe for Mmmm Sauce on

•1/4 c. canola oil (or oil of your choice)
•1/4 c. almonds
•1/3 c. water
•1/4 c. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
•1/4 c. nutritional yeast
•2 1/2 T. lemon juice
•1 t. minced garlic
•1/4 t. salt
•3/4 t. curry powder
•1/2 t. dried oregano
•1/2 t. dried cilantro

I started out fully intending to try the recipe exactly as is because of all the rave reviews... however, I had to make some adjustments when I realized I didn't have any chickpeas... and then again when I accidentally turned my Vitamix on before I was ready... and before the lid was on.  So, I had to estimate how many almonds and beans were now on my counter instead of in my blender and try to replace that amount.   Here is how my version of the recipe turned out:

•1/4 c. canola oil (or oil of your choice) olive oil
•1/4 c. almonds
•1/3 c. water
1/4 c. chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1/2 can red kidney beans
•1/4 c. nutritional yeast
•2 1/2 T. lemon juice
•1 t. minced garlic clove of garlic
•1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. curry powder  4 basil leaves
1/2 t. dried oregano 5 dashes of Cholula hot sauce
1/2 t. dried cilantro ground pepper

It was a little thick initially, so I added about a 1/4 cup more water and the consistency improved.  I have to say that this sauce turned out to be really good despite my mishaps along the way.  I ate it over quinoa, kohlrabi (another CSA score) and the remaining 1/2 can of kidney beans.  There is a lot of sauce left so I have a feeling I'm going to be eating this on just about everything this week: as a dip for raw vegetables, as salad dressing, over brown rice and stir fried vegetables, as a spread on sandwiches or in a veggie wrap... the possibilities are endless.  Next time, I'm going to follow the recipe exactly (we'll see how that goes) and I will let you know which I prefer.   

Not following recipes word for word means that nothing turns out exactly the same twice, which can be disappointing if it's not as good as you remember.  But on the other hand, a lot of times things turn out better the second time around.  Not being a perfectionist in the kitchen allows for happy accidents and can lead to the creation of lots of fabulous new combinations and flavors that you never imagined when you set out.  I think having fun in the kitchen and being open to new ideas makes the entire cooking process more enjoyable.  So, don't order in or throw a frozen dinner in the microwave next time you don't have all the ingredients a recipe calls for.  Use what you have, improvise, have fun and enjoy the experience!

Have a healthy day!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Smile... for $25 or less.

This post isn't going to help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol or run faster.  These are simply 5 things that make me smile.  And didn't we learn last week that Health isn't just about the food we eat but that it's also about our happiness and well being?

So, I figured I would lighten things up today and share some amazing finds that are all $25 or less.  These not only make great self purchases but, if you are lucky enough to be invited to a friend's beach house or country cottage this summer, they would also be charming hostess gifts.  Don't you agree?

At $19 for a set of four, these adorable jute wine bags come out to less than $5 a piece.  That leaves plenty of money to pick out a tasty treat to go inside. 


$25 will get you a set of 2 of each of these summer staples.

With a pitcher of lemonade and 2 glasses, the only thing you're missing is a front porch swing.

Fill with fresh flowers and this vibrant vase becomes the perfect pick-me-up for your desk at work or a bedside table.

This linoleum block print would be a welcome addition to any beach house.

Have a Healthy Day!

PS- Even I have to admit that this next tidbit of information doesn't really have anything to do with Health (other than the fact that I was exercising when it happened).  When we were out for our run this morning, we saw Heidi Klum walking on the river.  See... even celebrities have to work hard at staying fit. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lose Weight Without Changing Your Diet!

Unfortunately, I don't have a magic pill for weight loss.  Believe me, I wish I did...  I would be a lot richer and probably living on the beach in the south of France right now if that were the case.  But in all seriousness, the reality is that taking control of your health requires commitment and discipline.  Sorry, but that's the truth no matter what anyone tells you. 

There is some good news though... even if you aren't ready for green smoothies, farmers markets and herb gardens just yet, there are a few simple changes you can make that will help you lose weight and start you on your journey to regain (or sustain) your health.

1.  Replace All Of Your Non-Alcoholic Beverages With Water
Replacing empty calories from soda, juices and sports drinks with 0 calorie water can help reduce your overall daily caloric intake and keep you hydrated.  When consuming adequate amounts of water, you may find that you eat less too, as often times thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
2.  Put Your Fork Down Between Bites
Take a bite of food and then put your fork down.  All the way down.  I mean let go of it entirely.  Don't pick it back up again until your mouth is empty.  This is a great trick, as most of us hold our fork in our hand with the next bite cued up and ready to go before we have even finished chewing what's in our mouth.  According to "It takes at least 20 minutes after eating for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. But most of us finish a meal in 10 minutes."  If you eat while watching TV, reading a book or checking your email, you probably mindlessly shovel forkful after forkful into your mouth without stopping to enjoy each bite or asking yourself if you're even still hungry.  By really being present while you are eating, you will not only enjoy your food more, but probably find that you end up eating less too.  If you're up for a bigger challenge, try using chopsticks.  They will really slow you down.

3.  Chew Each Bite 25 Times
There is nothing special about the number 25, but if I just said "chew your food well", you would probably think that you already do this and just skip to the next tip.  However, next time you eat; really focus on chewing each bite 25 times.  Chewing your food well aids in nutrient absorption and digestion.  And again, you will most likely find that you eat less as you are giving your brain time to catch up with your stomach.

4.  Use Smaller Plates
The larger the vessel the more you are tempted to eat.  A lot of times we trick ourselves into thinking we aren't overeating if we eat just one plate of food and don't go back for seconds.  But, just because it all happens to fit on the plate, doesn't mean it's an appropriate serving size.  For our wedding, we registered for new dinnerware.  When I opened the dinner plates to put them away in the cupboard, they didn't fit.  I couldn't close the door because they were too big!  Apparently, even plates are super-sized these days.  We returned them and we eat all of our meals on salad plates now.  We're eating less, but feeling equally satisfied because we get to fill our plates without feeling guilty or overeating.

5.  Prioritize Sleep
Getting enough sleep will help you feel more energized and focused.  I also find that I tend to make better food choices throughout the day when I am well rested.  But here's something I bet you don't think about:  Sleep also helps you fight off common colds and flu.  I was at a lecture the other night given by Dr. Peter Bongiorno, N.D., L.Ac., and he mentioned a study that had been conducted at Carnegie Melon.  Researchers found that quantity and quality of sleep is directly related to your immune levels.  Get this... the study showed that adult men and women that got less than 7 hours of sleep per night increased their risk of getting a cold by 300%.  In other words, getting 7+ hours of sleep a night reduces your risk by 300%.  Isn't that crazy?  Those odds are better than any flu shot or medicine out there.  300%!  So make sure to catch your zzzz's.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Buy Organic?

I think it's fair to say that we have all stood in the produce section of our local grocery store and debated whether we should buy the conventional apple or the organic apple. Is it really worth spending the extra $ to go organic? Does it really make a difference? 

Most conventionally grown commercial crops use chemical pesticides.  These pesticides help ensure that farms will yield the crops they demand by killing bacteria, fungi, bugs and insects.  But, what effect might these pesticides have on our own bodies when we ingest them?  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a significant one.

As acknowledged by U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including:
•brain and nervous system toxicity
•hormone disruption
•skin, eye and lung irritation

Although the effects of these chemical pesticides on humans and the amounts needed to be detrimental are not entirely clear, just the possibility that I am increasing my risk of cancer (or any of the illnesses listed above) is enough to make me want to err on the side of caution.  Wouldn't you agree?

Understanding Organic Labeling
Organic agriculture is regulated by the USDA Organic Rule that was instituted in 2002.  It provides the parameters for the production, labeling and marketing of organic products.  Organically produced agriculture is prohibited from using long-lasting pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and may not use any genetically modified seeds or crops.  There are also rules governing the treatment and management of livestock that is labeled as organic, including the use of organically-grown feed and prohibiting the use of antibiotics or added growth hormones.  The rules also encompass food processing practices to protect the integrity of the product, ensuring that it stays "organic" even after it leaves the farm.

All products using the "Organic" label must comply with the standards set forth by the USDA Organic rule.  The chart to the left is from the USDA website.  It's an easy reference guide to help you understand the different labels used.

When it comes to produce, the EWG has a list of the produce that is most likely and least likely to be contaminated with pesticides.  They use 6 main criteria to rank the levels and rates of contamination.  If you're interested, you can find out more about the methodology used to rank contamination on their website. 

If you can't always buy organic, the EWG has created this handy shopping guide that you can cut out and keep in your wallet.  No more standing around in the produce section debating whether to buy organic or conventional! 

EWG's 2011 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

In case it's not clearly marked, here's a handy shopping tip to identify produce as organic, conventional or genetically modified (yuck):

Conventional produce uses a 4 digit PLU code (produce lookup code).
The PLU code for organic produce always starts with a 9. 
The PLU code for genetically modified produce always starts with an 8 (avoid these!).   

PLU for a conventional banana is 4011
PLU for an organic banana 94011
PLU for a genetically modified banana 84011

Ideally, all foods would be produced organically so we wouldn't have to make the choice between organic and conventional every time we set foot in the supermarket. However, this is not the case, and probably won't be for a very long time as the farming industry is largely controlled by corporations that place higher priority on their bottom line than on the health of the consumer or the environment.  So, until then, I encourage you to buy organic when you can, with a focus on the Dirty Dozen. 

I realize that the cost of organic foods is more expensive in most cases, but wouldn't you rather spend your money in the grocery store than in your medicine cabinet and on doctor bills?  Let's use our buying power to create more demand for organically produced agriculture and animal products. We have to hope that this will have an effect on the supply and, ultimately, the price. 

If you're still not convinced to buy Organic... Whole Foods has 11 more reasons:

•Organic farming meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.
•Growing organically supports a biologically diverse, healthy environment.
•Organic farming practices help protect our water resources.
•Organic agriculture increases the land's productivity.
•Organic production limits toxic and long-lasting chemicals in our environment.
•Buying organic supports small, independent family farms.
•Organic farmers are less reliant on non-renewable fossil fuels.
•Organic products meet stringent USDA standards.
•Buying organic is a direct investment in the long-term future of our planet.
•Organic farmers preserve diversity of plant species.
•Organic food tastes great.

So, back to the questions from the beginning of this post:  Is it really worth spending the extra $ to go organic? Does it really make a difference? 

What do you think?

Monday, July 11, 2011


Several people have asked me how I came up with the name Fresh Equation for my blog, so I thought I would share the answer with all of you. 

But first, I want you to answer a question for me:

A Healthy person is someone who:

A. exercises and is in good shape

B. eats healthy foods

C. is happy

D. has lots of energy

E. is supported by friends and family

F.  enjoys his/her career

The answer is none of the above.  Health isn't any of these things.  Health is ALL of these things. 

This idea that health is more than just following the latest fad diet or putting in 30 minutes on the treadmill is what attracted me to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN).  Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of IIN, sums up this philosophy very well in his book Intergrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness. 

"Our personal tastes and preferences, natural shapes and sizes, blood types, metabolic rates and genetic backgrounds influence what foods will and won't nourish us.  So, when the experts say 'tomatoes are goods for you' or 'read meat is unhealthy,' it's too much of a generalization.  One person's foods is another person's poison, and that's why fad diets don't work in the long run.  They are not based on the reality that we all have different dietary needs... The more I observed human behavior, the more convinced I became that the key to health is understanding each person's individual needs, rather than following a set of pre-determined rules.  I saw plenty of evidence that having happy relationships, a fulfilling career, an exercise routine and a spriritual practice is even more important to health than daily diet."

Please don't misunderstand, healthy eating is very important. But think about it, if you're stressed out at work or don't have a strong support system, it's going to have a negative effect on your health... no matter how much broccoli you eat. 

So, when I was on a run one morning, I was thinking about all of the things that really influence our Health:  Food, a Fulfilling Career, Relationships, Relaxation, Exercise, Spirituality and Sleep.  If you really examine each of these areas, you can usually find the answers to fix whatever is "ailing" you and keeping you from being healthy. 

Food/Fulfilling Career, Relationships/Relaxation, Exercise/Emotions, Spirituality/Sleep/Stress Levels = Health + Happiness

Taking this holistic approach will lead you to a happier, healthier and more balance life. And that's the Fresh Equation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Garden in the City

There isn't much that New York City doesn't offer.  There are great parks, museums, shops, restaurants, theaters and so much more.  You can do just about anything at just about any time of the day.  But, there is one thing that is hard to come by in this city and that is space... inside and out.  Space is definitely a commodity here.

So, when I started thinking about how I could have more control over my food and where it comes from,  most people I spoke to and most books, blogs and magazines I read, naturally suggested that I plant my own vegetable garden. 

We had a garden in our backyard when I was growing up.  I have fond memories of going out there early on summer mornings with my sister and eating peas right out of the pod and of pies made from fresh rhubarb picked straight from the garden.  They were delicious. 

Planting my own garden was a fabulous idea!  Except for one thing... I didn't have the space for one.  So what did I do?  What I always do when I have a problem... I called my Mom.

She told me that I didn't need to plant my own vegetable garden because I am lucky enough to have an amazing Farmers Market right outside my building.  Twice a week. Year-round. 

And, on top of that, I joined a CSA (more on that next week) and would be getting fresh vegetables, fruit and bread from local farms and bakeries once week.

My Mom was right.  I didn't need to plant my own vegetable garden, but I still wanted to.  She suggested I try growing some herbs.  This seemed like a reasonable compromise since I have a terrace and enough space for a planter or two.  Because I had never really grown anything before, my Mom walked me through the basics and sent me a few links (think gardening for dummies) to prepare me for my herb "garden".

That Saturday afternoon, I went to the hardware store and bought a plastic planter box, a metal holder and some organic soil.  Then I stopped at the Farmers Market and bought chives, cilantro and sweet basil.  I planted them when I got home and haven't really had to do much for them since.  Lucky for me, herbs are very resilient and don't need much attention. 

I put atleast one (and sometimes all) of my herbs on just about everything I eat now. 

I use my cilantro in homemade guacamole and in my green smoothie. 

I made homemade tomato sauce with my fresh basil (in my vitamix) and of course I use the basil in my green smoothie as well.

I put the chives on salads and on roasted vegetables.  The other day, I cut a zucchini in half, drizzled it with olive oil and salt & pepper and baked it in the oven.  Then I garnished it with a little parmesan cheese and fresh chives.  It was soo good.

My favorite snack uses all 3 of my herbs.  Wasa crackers with avocado, sliced tomato, lime juice and fresh basil, chives and cilantro.  Yum.

Although I could just buy fresh herbs at the Farmers Market, there is something really satisfying about eating something homegrown.  I like the idea that it goes from my "garden" to my plate in less than a minute... talk about fresh!

Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reuseable Bags

If you read my post yesterday (as I'm sure you all did), and you're thinking about trying a green smoothie on your own (which I'm sure you all are), you're going to need some fresh ingredients from the farmers market.  You're also going to need a way to carry them home.  Here are 5 reuseable bags I love.  Just click on the links below to buy your favorite!

Why I Love It- It's machine washable

Why I Love It- It's durable yet chic at the same time
Why I Love It- These bags are entirely handmade of organically dyed materials.

Why I Love It- It folds up to fit inside your everyday bag so you have it with you whenever you need it

Why I Love It- It has a front pocket and is made from 100% organic cotton

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going Green

Until I really started researching nutrition this past January, I didn’t truly understand that food is nourishment and fuel for my body and not something to be eaten out of convenience and boredom, when I 'm having a bad day or as something to do while I watch TV.  It took me a while to really grasp this concept, and even then, I knew it was going to be a challenge to change my eating habits.  

In order to “get healthy”, I would have to give up my daily Snapple Ice Tea (too much sugar), my butter spray (too many chemicals) and my nightly bag of microwaved popcorn (we'll get into my issues with corn and microwaves in another entry).  The bottom line… this wasn’t going to be easy.

I decided that I would start by eliminating the foods in my diet that didn’t provide any nutritional value.  This meant the Snapple and butter spray had to go immediately.  I replaced my morning Snapple with a small cup of black coffee.  It’s an improvement, but I know the coffee eventually needs to go too.  I replaced the butter spray with olive oil on breads, with coconut oil for cooking and with flax oil on steamed vegetables.  All of these replacements have actual nutritional value… a step in the right direction!

Next, I focused on processed "foods"… meaning pre-packaged foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce or preservatives that will allow these foods to last longer than I will.   If you take the time to read the ingredient list, you will be surprised what you find lurking in these foods.  Although it made sense to me that I should stop eating these processed foods, this step was harder because they made up a larger part of my diet.  I couldn’t just eliminate processed foods without replacing them with something else or I would have nothing to eat!

While having lunch with a friend (who happens to be a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition), I learned about green vegetable smoothies.  A green smoothie is a tasty and easy way to get all of the nutrients and fiber that vegetables have to offer.  I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing)... "There is no way I'll drink a green smoothie!  First of all, it’s green and second of all, it can’t possibly taste good.”  I'll admit it, I was skeptical at first too, but then I tried it.

Here is my recipe:

½ cup water
2 large kale leaves (with stalks removed)
2 large swiss chard leaves (with stalks if they are white)
1 large handful of spinach
2-3 stalks of celery
1 medium cucumber with skin
1 sliced apple with skin
1/2 carrot
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp minced ginger (you can buy this in a jar already minced)
2 Tbsp crushed flax seed
1 tsp of coconut oil or olive oil
fresh basil
fresh cilantro
a sprinkle of celtic sea salt

Combine all ingredients and blend in your Vitamix*.

This recipe will make 2-3 cups of green smoothie.

I won’t lie to you and say that it tastes like a chocolate milkshake, it doesn’t.  But it’s really not bad!  I promise.  If you need to, you can add a touch of agave nectar or some strawberries to add more sweetness at first.  Once you become accustom to the taste, you can reduce the amount of fruit.  I try to keep the ratio at 4:1 (4 vegetables for every 1 piece of fruit) because, although a great alternative to what I was eating before, fruit contains more sugar than most vegetables.

Although I love the convenience of a smoothie, somtimes I want a “real” meal and don't want to just sip one through a straw.  On these days, I pour it into a bowl and eat it like soup.

To enjoy your green smoothie, you will have to do some prep work. This can’t be avoided, but I try to limit this time by shopping and prepping for 3 smoothies at a time. Here’s how:

1. Thoroughly wash and dry all vegetables when you get home, even if you buy organic. They may not have been grown with pesticides, but they can still harbor bacteria.
2. After washing, dry the spinach, kale and swiss chard in a salad spinner or with a paper towel. 

3. Remove the stalks from the kale.

4.  Tear or roughly chop the greens into smaller pieces. No need to take the time to cut them nicely and precisely because you're going to blend them up anyway.

5. Wash all 3 apples so they're ready to go, but don’t slice them until right before you blend your smoothie.

6. Wash and cut the cucumbers, carrots and celery.  I leave the skin on the cucumbers.  You can do the same with the carrots and celery, but I prefer to peel them. 
7. Juice 3 limes and 3 lemons. I squeeze the juice into a measuring cup and then pour it into a small pitcher with a lid.

Once I have done all of this, I separate the greens into 3 large zip lock bags (or Tupperware containers).  I add ½ carrot, 1 cucumber and 2-3 stalks of celery to each bag and then I put the pre-packed bags in the fridge.

When I'm ready for a smoothie, all I have to do is dump the bag into my Vitamix and add the remaining ingredients. 

I top it off with fresh cilantro and basil from my herb garden, blend it all together and in less than 5 minutes, I have a green smoothie or a bowl of real vegetable soup.  Green smoothies have really helped me to transition from unhealthy processed foods to an alternative that is chock full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

Think of my recipe as a guideline.  If you don’t have all of the ingredients above, don’t let that stop you from making a green smoothie.  No swiss chard?  Just add more spinach or kale.  If you don’t like basil or ginger, don’t put it in.  If you want to add a dash of cinnamon instead of salt, be my guest.  The point is to increase your vegetable intake and to replace some of those empty (and possibly harmful) calories with something healthy and delicious.

*This is the one caveat to making a green smoothie... you will need a Vitamix or a powerful blender.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome to my new blog... fresh equation.

In January of this year, I made some pretty simple, yet significant, dietary and lifestyle changes. The positive results I experienced inspired me to learn more about how the choices I make on a daily basis can really improve my overall health. This led me to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) where I am currently studying to become a certified Holistic Health Coach.

Not only am I learning to improve my life, I am also receiving very detailed and careful instruction on how to counsel others around food and lifestyle choices and how to support them in creating a happier, healthier and more balanced life.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you through my blog and through my monthly newsletter that will be coming out later this year.

Happy July 4th!