Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Be flexible and ready for anything!

Be flexible and ready for anything!  This is my life motto and it serves me well in times of crisis.  For example:  I am a career academic who is being fired mid-year because of budget cuts.  The likelihood of my finding a job teaching Latin, Greek, German or a combination of these languages and cultures in the middle of an academic year is very slim.  Rolling with the punches, I've enrolled in the H&R Block tax course so I have that option come January.  It's the responsible thing to do, to ensure I remain a contributing member of the community.  We'll see what direction my life takes after April 15, but in the meantime you can find me making sense out of 1040 tax forms!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Feel Good Food

I don't know about you, but my comfort food is usually very unhealthy (a box of macaroni and cheese; chocolate donuts).  But there's at least one healthy dish I crave to boost my well-being and my creativity:


One bulb of fresh fennel (should be white, no brown/yellow spots, with plenty of green fronds on top)
One orange
½ a small red onion
Juice of ½ a lemon or to taste
1 tsp of honey or to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the bottom of the fennel bulb which is woody and tough.  Cut off the top stalks of the fennel, reserving some of the feathery green fronds to garnish the salad.  Slice the fennel bulb into paper thin slices.  Slice the red onion also into paper thin slices.  Peel the orange with a knife and cut into clean sections, so that only membrane remains left over.  Put the fennel slices, onion slices, and orange slices into a bowl, and squeeze the remaining orange juice from the membrane over the vegetables.

In a cup, mix oil, honey and lemon juice until it is emulsified.  Pour over the fennel mixture.  Season with salt and pepper, garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.  Can be refrigerated, but should be served at room temperature.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tips for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between

BREAKFAST:  Should include whole grains, fresh fruit, dairy product (milk or yogurt), and water.  Add protein (ham, turkey, egg or egg substitute) a couple of times a week.
TIP:  I am wild about Chobani Greek yogurt.  Unlike most fat free yogurt, it's sweetened with sugar, not Splenda or Aspartame.

SNACK:  Dairy (1/2 cup cottage cheese or 1 cup yogurt) or a small handful of nuts, fruit.
TIP:  Substitute peanut butter for nuts.  Spread on apple halves.

LUNCH:  Lean meat and low fat cheese OR soup and whole grain crackers, combined with fresh fruits and/or vegetables (potatoes!), water.
TIP:  Soup can be very healthy and filling.  Just resist the urge to add salt before you taste it!
Meat portions should be no larger than a deck of cards.

SNACK:  Baked tortilla chips and salsa OR veggies and lowfat dip OR trail mix.
TIP:  Tortilla chips are considered whole grains!  Who knew?!

DINNER:  Stirfry (3 oz meat & 1 cup veggies) over brown rice OR 1 cup pasta with sauce OR beans and rice.  Balance with fresh fruits and vegetables (potatoes!), skim milk
TIP:  Barilla makes Pasta Plus with whole grains, fiber and omega-3.  Looks and tastes just like regular pasta but a healthier choice!

SNACK: Frozen fruit bar OR lowfat pudding OR whole grain crackers with cheese.
TIP:  Have you tried Edy's Antioxidant Fruit Bars?  In pomegranate and acai blueberry!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jell-O is not a vegetable!

Once when I was feeling a little depressed, I went to the doctor who first asked me what my diet was like.  I told her, and instead of prescribing pills, she told me to change my diet for a couple of weeks.  If I didn't feel better, we could talk about pharmaceutical options.

Changing my diet worked wonders.  Instead of pre-packaged foods and junk and canned soda, I started eating more balanced meals, healthy snacks and drinking lots of water. I felt much better in body and soul.

Years later I learned about a European wellness philosophy known as the Kneipp system.  Sebastian Kneipp recommended a way of living that incorporated care of the body inside and out for maximum physical and emotional well-being.
Hungarian Madonna Fountain, along the Kneipp-Meditation Path, 
St. Radegund, Austria

The first tenet of the Kneipp philosophy is water.  Drink the purest untreated water possible, but also indulge in cold water baths that promote circulation and bolster the immune system.  Water and herbal teas are the only recommended drinks according to Kneipp.  Not surprisingly the second tenet of the philosophy is the use of healing herbs:  not as processed herbal supplements but as teas, herbs added to food, or bath preparations (Kneipp makes several herbal bath products, including Sleep Well with Valerian, Hops, and Lavender).

After exercise comes diet, and the Kneipp recommendations are a little different from the food pyramid in the U.S.  Whole grains are highly recommended as the foundation of daily diet, but so are potatoes (not in the form of French fries!).  Fresh fruits and vegetables of local origin are next, followed by dairy products including milk and yogurt.  All meat, fish included, should be eaten in moderation, as should fats and sugars.

Apple harvest, 2007, Irdning, Austria

In other words, we should be eating as healthfully and naturally as possible, which is difficult in today's society.  Prepackaged meals, while convenient, contain high fat, high sugar, high salt and flavor enhancers that leave you begging for more, and no one's really sure about the longterm effects of gentech ingredients or artificial sweeteners.  So many people today are concerned about their metabolism and the right fad diet for their body type that they have forgotten these simple truths:  If you consume 2x the daily recommended calories, you can expect to gain weight.  And if you eat too much meat, your intestines will start resembling sausage.

So today's balancing act is to plan one week of healthy eating, for you and, if you can manage it, for your family.  I'll post some tips and recipes to get you started!