Cool as a Cucumber

Summer in northeast U.S.A. is the go-to season for healthful, colorful, and delicious fruits and vegetables and a time when families and friends tend to gather regularly for graduations, weddings, picnics, and backyard barbecues. What better way to celebrate being in the company of people you love and feeding yourself well than planning a party of your own?

Living Room Picnic

Creating a menu doesn’t have to be stressful or sinful when you dish out whole, fresh ingredients—served buffet-style—with homemade dressings and dips on the side. Not only will your plates be visually appealing and packed with high-quality nutrients, but you won’t have to break a sweat putting everything together.

Much like designing any healthful meal, the same rules apply: more variety and colors mean more vitamins and nutrients. Include a mix of animal- and/or plant-based proteins (skinless chicken breast, tenderloin, lentils, black beans, and tofu are great options), carbohydrates (brown rice, corn, and quinoa are versatile grains; Swiss chard, beet greens, and eggplant are nutrient-rich vegetables), and healthy fats (think walnuts, ground flaxseed, and olive oil).

Avoid heavy sauces and let the natural goodness of your bounty speak for itself. To start, make a light, but flavorful, marinade or rub for your protein dishes from a complementary blend of dried and fresh herbs and spices like cumin-chili-cilantro or dill-mustard-yogurt. Next, toss up a simple salad of different colored veggies like thinly sliced summer squash and heirloom tomato over leafy greens. Whisk together a light dressing of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. For dessert, consider macerated fruit like peaches and blueberries drizzled with honey and white balsamic vinegar. (Check out Foodily or Yummly for other great recipe ideas.) This entire combination of foods alone offers a beneficial dose of many vitamins and minerals—like manganese, vitamins C, K, and A, dietary fiber, iron, and antioxidants—to support your body systems.

Consider the following:

  • Plan and prepare accordingly by asking your guests or estimating of the number of vegetarians and non-vegetarians attending your party.
  • Serve ingredients separately to accommodate those who may have special diet requirements so they can build their own meals. Label each dish so guests don’t have to guess or ask, “What’s in this?”
  • Provide take-home items. Leftover containers will encourage your guests to continue eating healthfully after they’ve left your party. Stack printouts of your recipes on the buffet table so they can try their hands at creating their own versions at home or include recipe links in a thank-you e-mail a few days after the event.

When the party’s over, revel in the fact that, quite possibly for the first time for many of your guests, nothing was off-limits. Not only will you have enjoyed great company, but you will have served healthful fare to your grateful guests who may want to know when they can come back for more!

[Versions of this article were written for and published on YoffieLife.com on September 1, 2014 and DishWithDina.com on August 13, 2015.]

Summer 2017 promotions

How the heck are we already more than halfway through the year? Yikes! If you’re like me, you may be slightly anxious about not having accomplished certain things on that ever-growing to-do list by now. If one of those things was to engage in healthier habits, then you’re in luck! We have TWO summer promotions you might be interested in:

  1. Receive one (1) 30-minute nutrition counseling session for $25 (valued at $40). Click here to book an appointment. Select the “PROMO! Healthful Lifestyle Coaching (30 min)” option. Offer applies to new clients only and ends 7/31/17. Session must be booked before September 30, 2017.
  2. Starting August 6, keep an eye out for our new “4-Week Fast Track” series. Learn new healthful lifestyle habits, get back on track with ones you’ve lost, and maybe shed some unwanted pounds in the process. Total cost is $28 for 28 days. You must have access to a Facebook account as we will be creating a closed group for all participants and you’ll receive links to videos and materials to help keep you motivated!

And if those don’t strike your fancy, you can always book a *FREE* 15-minute phone consultation to see if there’s a program that works for you.

I look forward to helping you meet your healthful lifestyle goals. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit from our services.

Eat well and be well!

Poetry, Plowing & Politics

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend the NYC premiere screening of the documentary film entitled Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. I had heard of Berry before, but didn’t know much else about him other than he was an Americana author of some sort. What I learned was that Berry spent the better part of 50 years fighting for the rights of homeland virtues, rural communities, and sustainable farming, and against industrialized agriculture.

Wendell Berry

(image credit: http://denverinstitute.org/)

As outspoken as Berry is on these topics, he remains somewhat reclusive, agreeing only to voice-overs instead of making any actual appearance on-screen. I think having Berry’s slow, resonating lilt envelop us while watching the beautiful images of Kentuckian landscape helped the audience get a sense of the harmony that could exist among nature, small-scale farming, and local economies. Through Berry’s words––and interviews with fellow farmers and residents of Henry County, Kentucky––the audience gained a (possibly newfound) respect for the environment and its interdependence with the people who live in this country and on this planet.

At the end of the screening, we were treated to a Q&A session with the filmmakers Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell, Berry’s daughter Mary, and co-producer/actor/woodworker Nick Offerman (whose craftsmanship appeared in the film). The panelists addressed and gave thanks to the farmers and craftspeople whose wood engravings and typography appeared in the film. Dunn pointed out the juxtaposition and challenge of telling an analog story in a digital medium, purposely trying to maintain “slowness” throughout film. Mary Berry spoke of her pride in how the film saluted the tangibleness of farming culture, but also voiced her concern about the ongoing destruction of life sources, namely through GMOs and capitalism, and even how local food movements that try to establish a connection between food producers and consumers inadvertently isolate traditional farmers through usage of new lingo like “biodynamics” and “permaculture.”  One of the audience members mentioned a statistic he had recently read that it would take 4.5 planets to support our current environmental needs, which launched a discussion on preservation and simplicity.

Look and See

L to R: Q&A moderator; panelists Mary Berry Smith, Laura Dunn, Nick Offerman, Jef Sewell

I left the theatre feeling overwhelmed, not entirely sure of what more I could do that I’m not already doing as far as supporting local farmers, composting food scraps, writing my congresspeople about agricultural issues, and generally respecting the planet in any way I can. But I remembered the takeaway message from the panelists was simple: to share the experience of the film with others, which is why I’m writing this post.

To quote Wendell Berry, “Everything turns on affection.” Soil gets tended to and fertilized and, from that, crops grow. With a quiet and open mind, and love in your heart, communities and economies may also grow, too. I encourage whoever is reading this to see the film (and bring a guest), listen to and observe your surroundings, go play outside, and really, truly experience nature in a way you might never have done before,

(To learn more about Wendell Berry’s life and legacy, click here for his Wikipedia page and here for his written works.)

Beating the Barbecue Blues

Ah, summer! Along with sunny days, warmer temperatures, and the urge to want to leave work early come invitations to graduation parties, barbecues, and picnics in the park. Tempting as these may be, you may end up feeling sluggish, bloated, and upset with yourself after indulging in some of the more unfavorable foods served at these events. The best summer party accessory is a healthful-eating action plan.

BBQ.jpg

(image credit: https://static.pexels.com)

On the days before and after, make a conscious effort to eat nutritiously so that, if you do splurge a bit, you don’t suffer guilt (or stomachaches) later. Have a hearty breakfast the morning of your gathering, or a small snack—like whole grain pretzel sticks and peanut butter—a couple of hours before the event. As you’re heading to the venue, visualize your plate piled high with colorful and varied foods. At the very least, most functions will usually have salad fixings, so fill up on the items that will give you the most nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, then reward yourself with a small portion of something decadent. After all, you are celebrating!

Aromas may entice, but barbecued and fried foods like steaks, burgers, pork ribs, and chicken wings can be high in fat, calories, and sodium––especially if accompanied by seasonings, sauces, and buns. (Not to mention the potential food safety issues at these gatherings, when foods that contain meat and dairy have been sitting outdoors for too long.) A basic cheeseburger will run you about 350 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly 25 percent of your daily recommended value. Even a handful of nuts come in at 10 grams of fat, and that refreshing cup of sangria will cost you 20 grams of sugar. You don’t have to cut out everything completely, but keep these numbers in mind before you approach the food tables, especially if you’re concerned about weight management and caloric intake, or have a pre-existing condition like high cholesterol or hypertension.

Consider the following:

  • Plan ahead. Call and ask the hosts what they’ll be serving the day of their event and ask if you can bring a plant-based side dish with you (a three-bean salad, baked kale chips, or carrot sticks and hummus) if there’s going to be nothing but fried foods and salty snacks.
  • Choose wisely. If the venue doesn’t allow for outside food, then make smart adjustments. Forgo the bread; select a leaner meat and omit the toppings; replace anything fried with salad. And always—always—eat off a plate.
  • Keep moving. Mingle, mingle, mingle. Take a lap around the buffet before every course. Engage in a game of volleyball or two in between servings. Each little burst of movement will keep your nibbling to a minimum, and your calories in check.

While you are out of your element, you can still be in control when it comes to your nutrition as long as you plan on being mindful before you even walk out the door. With a healthful eating strategy, you can successfully face that smorgasbord of potentially harsh foods on the other side.

[A version of this article was written for, and first appeared in, YoffieLife.com on June 29, 2014.]