My Winter Veg Obsessions!

By: Kristina Tortoriello

winter veggies 2

Admittedly, I’m tickled by in-season produce. It literally delights me to bring home goodies that are winter-grown. Does that make me a weirdo? Hey man, I just appreciate feeling connected to my food. Prepare for some propaganda on why shopping seasonally is the best!

For winter, a few flavorful favorites are as follows: clementines, winter squash, beets, kale and escarole, certain onions, horseradish. As you can tell, my palette generally runs from sweet to spicy, and everything gets satiated this time of year! So no matter the weather outside, I’m a happy girl in the kitchen.

Savory Grass Fed Yogurt from Blue Hill!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Blue Hill Yogurt

Blue Hill can pretty much do no wrong in our eyes… from the unique, menu-less, quintessential farm-to-table dining experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns to the delicious comestibles and agriculture-themed goodies in their market.  So we got pretty pumped when we read about the debut of Blue Hill All-Natural Yogurt, from grass-fed cows, in a variety of yummy savory flavors like tomato, beet, and carrot.  Considering the dubious health-factor of most sugar-laden flavored yogurts on the market, it is certainly about time an unsweetened, but super flavorful option joins the ranks.  Can’t wait to try them all!  The website offers lots of delicious mix-in ideas, as well as some great recipes like Minted Carrot and Cabbage Slaw and Roasted Beet and Yogurt Soup.

If you’re going to do dairy, grass-fed is the way to go.  Loaded with omega-3’s and a much richer and more complex flavor than factory-farmed dairy, dairy from grass-fed cows raised on small, family-owned farms is also devoid of the antibiotics and hormones that make most dairy such a problematic food.

Available at Whole Foods Markets across New York State.

Is Your Food Raising Your Stress Level?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Did you know that your food choices can have an impact on your stress levels?  I know, it sounds like a stretch, but your diet might be full of foods that are making you feel more stressed out throughout your day.  The foods below create inflammation in your body and cause your whole system to work harder to process it.  This makes you a lot less able to handle the normal stressors that come your way, leading to heightened feelings of overwhelm, overburden, and, yes, stress!   Avoiding these foods is not only going to help lower your stress levels, but it will also improve your overall health, improve sleep and digestion, combat anxiety, and improve your mood!

The Power of Ritual

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ritual

In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care.  Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.

In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds!  The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!).  Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.

Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness.  When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy.  The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation).  Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.

Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!

  • Morning rituals:

    • Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up.  It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!
    • Meditate
    • Spend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffee
    • Move your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morning
    • Listen to music
  • Rituals before a meal:

    • Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!
    • Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!
    • Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.
    • Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.
  • Rituals before meditating:

    • Light candles or incense.
    • Water your plants.
    • Do some stretches.
    • Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.
    • TIP:  I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items.  I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.
  • Bedtime rituals:

    • Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
    • Sip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy time
    • Take time for a bathroom pampering ritual
    • Take a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender
    • Slip into something that makes you feel sexy
    • Read a great book
  • Other self-care rituals:

    • Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual.  Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.
    • End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home.  Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.

What are your favorite healthy rituals?  Share them in the comments below!

Twinkies Are Back on the Shelves.. Why You Should Stay the F* Away!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

TwinkiesAfter a brief hiatus, Hostess Twinkies made their (unfortunately) much-anticipated return to convenience store shelves today, and I felt compelled to put in my two cents.  I know Twinkie fans aren’t kidding themselves into thinking a Twinkie is a healthy food option (it’s really not actually even a food item at all!), but the treat has such strong nostalgic associations that they still hold a fond place in the heart of many Americans.  More than most other, equally unhealthy packaged, processed Hostess treats, Twinkies evoke memories of childhood and simpler times.  Maybe dad would let you get one while he filled up the gas tank (don’t tell mom!), or maybe grandma would sneak you one when you came to visit.  Hell, maybe you even grew up in a household where Twinkies weren’t relegated to secret, special status, and you got one in your lunchbox every day.  Along with all the other changes and responsibilities that come with adulthood, comes the begrudging need to eat better, watch your calories, and stay away from trans fats.  So it’s understandable that treating yourself to this symbol of easier times can come with a sizable, if only temporary, emotional payoff.

Now I’ll admit, I’ve never tasted a Twinkie in my life.  I wasn’t allowed to eat junk food as a kid, but even more than that, the weird, somehow alien looking pseudo-food wrapped in clear plastic never appealed to me.  Now, as a holistic nutritionist, I know full well all the reasons why my mother forbade us to eat packaged foods like this, but I realize that even this rationalization isn’t always enough for some.  So I’m going to appeal to your reason AND your emotions, to help you come to the same conclusion.  Eating a Twinkie just isn’t worth it, and it’s not going to make you feel better for long.

They’re not even food!

As evidenced by Steve Ettlinger in his book, Twinkie, Deconstructed, even the “vitamins” listed among ingredients in this pseudo-food are derived from petroleum.  In China.  Yes, that folic acid and what apparently passes for B vitamins amid the 37 ingredients in a Twinkie are derived from natural gas and other industrial ingredients.  Whatever real food ingredients may have at one point been a part of the lab creation of a Twinkie, they have been bleached, processed, chemicalized, and reconstituted beyond all recognition.  Even the water in the water they use is heavily processed and laden with chlorine!

They make you fat and sick.

A Twinkies ingredient list reads like a who’s who of the worst bad baddies in the world of food.  Tons of processed soy (read: carcinogen); artificial colors and flavors (read: super carcinogen); not one but three different forms of sugar (processed, bleached white sugar, corn syrup, AND high fructose corn syrup); all kinds of processed corn products (six in total) that are genetically modified, and contribute to so many people’s mysterious, chronic ailments; and a slew of toxic chemicals.  These puppies are a one-way ticket to obesity, love handles, digestive problems, chronic inflammation, fertility issues, and yes, even cancer.

They actually don’t make you feel any better.

I recognize that many people reading this article know full well of all the horrible effects foods like Twinkies have on their bodies, but in the moment, choose to eat them anyway.  Whether it be a desire for comfort, a nostalgic connection to your youth, or just a quick rush of sugary serotonin, the effects of a Twinkie just don’t last.  You eat it, you get that momentary rush of whatever it is you’re cravings.  And then you go back to feeling like crap.  Actually, you’ll probably feel even worse as your body comes down from that quick sugar rush, or as all those toxic chemical start doing their dirty work, or worse yet, as you start to feel guilty about having eaten something so god awful.  As I say to my clients every day, it’s not actually that Twinkie you’re looking for.  You’re looking for happiness, or comfort, or connection, or FUN.  But I’m sorry to say none of that is found within a Twinkie wrapper.  So instead of even entertaining the notion of eating that piece of non-food, do something to bring up the desired emotion instead.  Call your mom or your best friend from childhood.  Play with a puppy.  Go for a walk.  Dance around.  Laugh.  Any number of actions will actually give you a lasting positive sensation, without all those terrible side effects.

Really craving the taste?  Make your own, healthier version!

{Images: Marketing Pilgrim, Finally Fit After 55Multianimous}

A New Snack to Bug Out On

By Callie McBride

A snack to bug on

It’s no secret that the world population is continually on the rise. Just look at any Starbucks on a Monday morning, the 4 train on a weekday at 5:30pm, or even your local DMV. In all seriousness, the world is constantly expanding, which calls into question how accommodating our planet is to such growing numbers. As plants, animals, and the nearly 7.1 billion people on this earth currently share worldly resources, the prospect of more of each becomes daunting. How will we feed and nurture all living things on planet Earth 10 or 20 years from now, when we struggle to do so today?

There just may be a solution, but its a little buggy. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, could be the answer to our food supply worries. In fact, they estimate that currently 2 billion people in the world already munch on insects as part of their daily diet: fried locusts in Thailand and beetle larvae in Australia, for example. Okay, if that grossed you out, don’t worry. Think of it as less of a scene from “Survivor” and more of an off-beat but healthy snack, like Seaweed Snacks.

In the newest information pamphlet, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security”, constructed just this year, the FAO of the United Nations is crediting edible insects for their nutritional value, environmental impact, economic improvement, and betterment of livelihood throughout the world. The FAO states that locusts contain loads of iron, even more so than beef. Eating insects could also positively affect our environment, as insects require only 2 pounds of food to  make 1 pound of bug meat, a huge difference from the 8 pounds of food that cattle need to make 1 pound of meat. This means more food for everyone!

If you still aren’t convinced, think of our funky food history. As humans, we went from eating real and wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables from the earth, to highly processed and refined white foods such as bread, cheese, and sugar. A healthy take on food is certainly back on trend, with an emphasis on all natural and organic foods grown straight from the ground. Those carrots you love to munch on were picked out of soil, and so would a grasshopper, should such an item fall into your palate!

The trend, which may seem strange, isn’t all that new. San Francisco restaurant La Oaxaquena serves up toasted grasshoppers, known as “champulines“, and the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans offers insect cooking demos and tastings-mealworm salsa, anyone?

This new global topic may open the doors to controversy, as people with food allergies or preferences may not stomach the idea. For instance, how would a vegan approach the prospect of eating insects? Does she set them apart from animals, or group them all together? Moreover, would a health-conscious person only be struck with eating insects that have been deep-fried and salted? There are many questions that arise with such a lofty proposition, but we can certainly expect answers as the need for food security continues and a solution is sought after.

For more information, visit FAO.org and search “edible insects”.

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Organic Beauty on the 4th

By Callie McBride

Independence Day is here!

Backyard barbequing, boating on the lake, sitting poolside with friends, or marching through a parade; whatever tomorrow’s festivities bring, we have 5 organic beauty tips that will fit right in with all the fun and fireworks.

1. Classic Red Lip

courage3Vapour Organic Beauty’s new Siren Lipstick “Courage 406” is perfect for the 4th. Its made with 70% organic ingredients and 30% of essential vitamins and minerals. $22, www.vapourbeauty.com

2. Electric Blue Nails

Vapour’s Vernissage Nail Laquer is non-toxic, cruelty-free, and paraben-free, boasting only of natural and safe ingredients to give your nails a gorgeous sheen. Try “Ether 524” to add a pop of blue to your look.

3. Festive Hair Accessory

Whether you’re in hot and humid New York, sunny California, or anywhere in between, it’s gonna be a hot one. Ditch the hair straightener/curler, opt for natural wave spray (Josie Maran makes a great organic version), and add in a fun red or blue accessory to beat the heat and stay stylish. We love that this Marc by Marc Jacobs hair pin comes in the two holiday colors, red and blue.

 

4. Beer Alternative

Not to ruin anyone’s fun, but beer, a widely popular drink on the fourth of July, can often lead to bloating, stomach pains, and general discomfort, especially those that contain gluten. If you plan to sip throughout the day, you may as well do it the right way! Enter Kombucha, the best and most beneficial alternative to beer; its fizzy, delicious, and cleanses your system with each gulp.

5. A Vegan Treat To Share

Possibly the most exciting accessory to your fun fourth, here are some simple ideas for snacks to bring to the party: strawberry + blueberry skewers; raspberry + coconut yogurt parfaits; watermelon slices; red, white, and blue homemade popsicles using crushed berries and soymilk; the list goes on!

Make sure to pack enough water, sunscreen, and snacks for the day. Slap on that red lip, wrap up your healthy treat, and have a safe 4th of July!

Quick Raw Summer Gazpacho

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

This delicious raw gazpacho is an amazingly detoxifying dinner for a hot summer night.  The garlic, onion, and jalapeño add some bite, while the fennel and bell peppers bring out even more sweetness from the fresh tomatoes.

Quick Raw Gazpacho

Serves 4

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 yellow bell peppers, cut into chunks

1 red onion, chopped

2 stalks of fennel (not the bulb), with leaves, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 jalapeno pepper (optional)

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup water, low-sodium vegetable stock, or water with 1-2 tbsp of Seitenbacher vegetable broth powder

Sea salt to taste

Directions:

Blend or food process all the ingredients, add a little water if you need it for consistency.  Garnish with basil or cilantro.  Serve chilled.

Quick White Bean and Kale Soup

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

This quick and delicious soup makes for a hearty and healthy dinner.  A rainbow of colors tells you you’re getting tons of yummy vitamins, and the beans mean everyone will feel full and satisfied from a vegetable protein that won’t weigh you down!

Quick White Bean and Kale Soup

Serves 4

Cooking time: 30 min

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 (32 oz) carton of low-sodium organic vegetable broth, or 4 cups of water seasoned with Seitenbacher broth powder

4 cups packed chopped kale

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

1 (14.5 oz) can of organic, unsalted cannelini beans

1 (14.5 oz) can of organic diced tomatoes

Directions:

Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another two minutes.  Add carrots and cook another minute.  Add broth, tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Add beans and kale and cook until kale is tender, about another 5-7 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.  Serve with rye or multigrain toast.