Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy intuitive eating this holiday season!

Just wanted to post a quick note to wish everyone a happy holiday!  This holiday season, I hope that you can eat intuitively, and enjoy all the wonderful food that this time of year has to offer without guilt or remorse.  Just try to relax, taste the food you're eating, and listen to your body's signals telling you when you've had enough.  And try your best to ignore well-intentioned but misguided advice (such as from this article: "Tips for surviving the holidays emotionally intact and without weight gain"- wearing tight clothing most definitely will not keep you from eating too much!  If anything, it will have the opposite effect of making you focus more on the parts of your body that you're not happy with, causing you to feel terrible, very possibly resulting in a rebellious binge eating episode).  

Most importantly, be kind to yourself.  Get lots of rest, take care of yourself, and if you overeat or eat something when you're not hungry, it's okay!  Sometimes there are circumstances where we have to eat out of obligation (or risk offending Aunt Betsy by refusing to try her creamy green bean casserole!), even if we're not hungry, and these seem to come up even more frequently during the holiday season.  Just remember: No one meal or snack will cause you to gain weight.  It's what you eat over the long term (over several days or weeks) that's important.  

Also, with the New Year approaching, it's tempting to make resolutions that involve dieting.  But, as I've said before in a previous post, these don't work, and can often do more harm than good.

Anyway, enjoy the holidays!  Stay tuned in 2013 for more exciting posts on!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quality vs. quantity

One of the things I love about Intuitive Eating is the idea that satisfaction and pleasure are important tenants of the philosophy, arguably even more important than actual nutrition.  That may sound can you place pleasure above nutrition and expect to be healthy and fit?  Here's how: When you experience satisfaction in your eating, you tend to need less.  Satisfaction means eating what you truly want, and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience of eating it.  When you eat what you think you should eat, you might get the same amount of calories, but you won't feel satisfied, leading you to look for satisfaction elsewhere, which could result in overeating.

This article talks about how foods we would traditionally think of as "off-limits" in a healthy diet can actually be enjoyed regularly (and, I don't know about you, but the way they describe the foods in the article totally made me drool!).  By using quality ingredients, preparing the food with care, and truly paying attention to the food you're eating (also known as mindful eating), you can absolutely include these foods as part of a balanced diet.  It reminds me of the experience I wrote about of eating chocolate beignets in San Francisco.  Had I been eating a pre-packaged donut, I very likely would have finished it, while the freshly-made beignets, which were likely made with high-quality ingredients, satisfied me in just a few bites.  

So, instead of worrying about calories and fat in the foods you eat, try to focus more on flavor, and the quality of the ingredients used in making the food.  You may find that, when you allow yourself to actually taste and savor these rich foods, you end up eating less of them, as opposed to filler foods made with lower-quality ingredients, which are easier to fill up on without feeling true satisfaction.  Including some decadent foods in your diet may actually be the best thing you do for your health.  

What are some deliciously rich foods you include in your diet?  Do you notice the difference in satisfaction when you eat them?  I'd love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Intuitive cooking

A friend, classmate, and fellow intuitive eating enthusiast occasionally teases me about the fact that I'm a great intuitive eater, but a terrible intuitive cook.  What she's referring to is the fact that I religiously follow recipes when cooking, and am reluctant to stray from the prescribed ingredients or cooking instructions.  I figure if someone took the time to write it down, then it must be good, right?!  Why mess with what works?!  I even tend not to make recipes that include ingredients that I don't like (such as whole tomatoes or mustard) because I'm afraid that cutting these ingredients out will change the whole recipe and essentially ruin it.

Anyway, her friendly chiding has led me to make attempts to be more intuitive when I cook.  More and more, I've tried to experiment with swapping out ingredients that sound like they will be more pleasing to my palate on that particular day, or that will make the recipe more nutritionally complete.  Recently I had some kale that I needed to use, and I found a recipe for a bacon, kale, and goat cheese quiche.  At the time, my intuition was telling me that putting goat cheese in the quiche was not going to satisfy me, and that a melty, gooey cheese would be better.  In addition, I enjoy bacon, but I didn't want all the fat that comes with it.  So, instead of goat cheese I used swiss cheese, and in the place of regular bacon, I opted for turkey bacon.  Below is what I came up with:

Swiss Cheese, Kale, and Turkey Bacon Quiche

Basic Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Large pinch sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
5 to 6 tablespoons chilled water (I put an ice cube in a glass of a water)

Dump flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment in place.  Process for a few seconds to mix.  Add chilled butter cut into small pieces, then pulse in small bursts, until the butter is incorporated into the flour, and it has the texture of cornmeal with a few larger lumps.  Add the first 5 tablespoons of ice water, and continue to pulse in small bursts until the mixture begins to form into larger clumps.  Add the additional tablespoon of water if necessary.

On a well floured work surface- dump your dough out, and form into a ball.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll out your dough until it is the desired size and thickness to fit your pie plate.  Transfer to plate, and form dough to fit.  Pinching off overhanging dough, and shaping edges.  Prick the dough a few times with a fork, then freeze for half an hour, to an hour.

Preheat oven to 425 F, and bake pie crust for 15 minutes.  Remove, and leave oven on.

Quiche Filling:
6 large eggs 
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4 oz fresh kale leaves 
6 slices turkey bacon
4 oz grated swiss cheese

Cook bacon, and set aside to drain.  Using the same pan with bacon grease, add kale leaves over medium high heat.  Add a splash of red wine or water, and cover with pan lid.  Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, until kale is wilted and reduced to about 1/3rd original size.  Set aside.  Dice cooked bacon into 1/4" pieces.

Whisk eggs, cream, and milk in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour a little more than half of your mixture into your pre-baked crust.  Sprinkle bacon, kale, and small chunks of swiss cheese over the top- evenly distributed.  Add remaining egg mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the quiche no longer wiggles in the middle when you shake it. It should be puffed and beautifully golden brown. 

Allow to cool 10 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.

I must say, my intuitive cooking creation was fantastic!!  In fact, I was so pleased with this experience that it emboldened me to make it again and make even MORE changes, this time substituting half of the all-purpose flour in the pie crust for whole wheat flour instead (so 3/4 cups each of all-purpose and whole wheat flour).  While it was still really good, I would maybe do a 1/3 swap next time (using half a cup of whole wheat flour, and a cup of all-purpose flour) so that it wouldn't affect the flavor as much, while still enjoying the health benefits of fiber and whole grains.  Because that's what intuitive eating is all about-- honoring your health by making good food choices, while also honoring your palate and the pleasures of eating by making sure the food actually tastes good too!

Feel free to try this recipe and make changes where you see fit, whether it be changing the turkey bacon back to regular bacon, reducing the amount of heavy cream it asks for (I was afraid this would affect the taste too much!), or using some other vegetable instead of kale.  And if you figure out an even better combination, please leave a comment so that the rest of us can try it out too.  Get creative, and follow your intuition!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reframing diet "failures"

Big news...the third edition of Intuitive Eating was released last month (click the image below to buy it on Amazon)...yeah!  I'm super pumped to read it, because it's been completely revised, and there are even two new chapters: one about raising kids to be intuitive eaters, and another about the science behind why intuitive eating works.  If you haven't purchased the book already, I highly recommend doing so.  As I've said before, this philosophy has been absolutely life-changing for me, and I just know that it can help so many other people out there who are fed up with diets and obsessive thoughts about food and their bodies like I was.

When I was reading the "Reject the Diet Mentality" chapter the other night, I stumbled upon a concept that really struck a chord with me, and I thought I would share it to see if it makes sense to my readers as well. In the chapter, the authors talk about how following a prescribed diet or eating plan requires a person to be obedient.  Often times, people find that they rebel against this structure by binge eating, or "cheating" on their diet.  Most people see this as failing, and bemoan their lack of "willpower."  However, as the authors explain, we all have personal boundaries, and letting a person or diet plan dictate what we eat, when we eat it, and how much of it to eat is a clear invasion of these boundaries.  I mean, how on earth could another person or diet plan know how much food I need to satisfy myself?  Or what will be pleasing to my palate at any given moment?  When these personal boundaries are crossed, we as humans have a natural reaction to reclaim our autonomy, and this is why most of us unconsciously rebel against diets (remember, only 3-5% of people actually maintain weight loss from a diet!) by binge eating or "cheating" when subjected to the strict rules of dieting. 

Most of us see this rebellion as a "failure," but I feel that talking about it in terms of personal boundaries provides a whole new perspective, and explains why it is, in fact, a completely normal response.  Rather than seeing it as a lack of willpower, or some inherent weakness within ourselves, instead this "failure" to stick to a diet shows us that we have a strong need for autonomy and for protecting our personal boundaries, which is a healthy thing!  You know what kind of people have weak personal boundaries and little need for autonomy?  The kind of people who are sucked into joining cults, or who are incapable of saying no to people, even when asked to do something that is against their own interests.

Now, I'm not saying that the 3-5% of people who succeed at diets in the long term are going to run out and join a cult.  I'm just illustrating the point that those of us who have "failed," which is the vast majority of us, aren't flawed individuals.  In fact, we are psychologically healthy, and are reacting in an absolutely normal way to the crossing of our personal boundaries.  

So instead of thinking of your previous diet "failures" as the result of some sort of weakness or lack of willpower within yourself, instead realize that your rebellion against the rules of dieting only demonstrates your strong sense of autonomy, and the fact that you'll be damned if someone crosses your personal boundaries by dictating what, when, and how much to eat! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"A Fat Rant" rant

I'm in the process of becoming a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor (yay!), and while listening to one of the required recordings, this YouTube video was mentioned, so of course I had to watch it.  I found it pretty interesting, so I thought I would share.  Here it is:

Some parts (like the beginning, for example) are a little strange, but I'm loving the overall message-- your life isn't over just because you're not a size 0-6!  And don't let anyone tell you that it is!

Some of the comments posted about the video criticize it for basically promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.  But the woman in the video clearly states that she agrees that exercise and proper nutrition are important, but if you're already doing that and you're still overweight, then move on and accept yourself!

She makes a good point that the best way to stay thin forever is to choose 2 thin parents, or ideally 4 thin grandparents.  Obviously, none of us can actually choose the gene pool from which we emerge, so the only thing you can do is live within the confines of your genetic destiny.  You have to be aware of the things you can and cannot change, or else you will be fighting a losing battle your entire life, which is a miserable way to live.

I also appreciate that she mentions the statistics on diet success rates.  As she states in the video, 95-98% of people who lose weight from a diet regain every single pound within 3 years.  So, if pretty much everyone is failing at sustained weight loss, then why bother?  As she says, "Success is practically a freak occurrence!"

I'm not encouraging people to go out and get fat.  But if you don't have what society considers to be an ideal body size, realize that much of this is outside of your control.  If you're eating a balanced diet (which means a variety of foods, including "play foods" every now and then), staying active, eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full, then it might be time to simply love and accept the body you've been given.  Life should not be put on hold until that "one day" when you're suddenly thin.  Live life in your here and now body!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chocolate beignets and mindful eating

I've written about mindful eating in a previous post, but the concept seems to be gaining some traction these days, as I'm finding more and more articles discussing this philosophy in recent months, so I thought I'd revisit the issue.  I read this article titled Think as you eat to get more from less from the Detroit Free Press, where the mindful eating philosophy is explained in a way that makes it clear that it is a close cousin to Intuitive Eating.

One of the ideas discussed in the article that is also an important principle of intuitive eating is that eating should be pleasurable, and that once you notice that you are no longer deriving pleasure from the eating experience, you should stop.  As the article asks: "Ever notice that the 10th bite of cake never matches the taste of those first few?"  You might not realize this subtle decline in pleasure if you're distracted and not fully present while eating, and you may just keep on eating unconsciously.  Practicing mindful and intuitive eating, however, allows you to stop eating a food you never thought you would be able to put down because you are able to acknowledge the point at which the experience of eating it is no longer satisfying to you.

This reminds me of a mindful/intuitive eating experience I had recently that made me feel really good.  My husband and I were eating at a restaurant in San Francisco called Brenda's French Soul Food, and we ordered some chocolate beignets, which are basically fancy donuts filled with melted chocolate (I'm salivating just thinking about them!).  They arrived warm and doughy, with a slightly crisp exterior.  I bit into one and I swear I saw God.  Okay, maybe that's exaggerating...but it was definitely a party in my mouth!  Seriously, I could hardly speak (and it wasn't just because my mouth was full of chocolatey, doughy goodness!)!

The experience of eating the beignet continued like this until I was about halfway way through finishing it, and then I started to notice that it wasn't doing it for me anymore.  Yes, it was still good, but that initial wave of pleasure that I had felt upon my first few bites was no longer there, and it felt like I was just going through the motions to finish it.  Because I was so present, or mindful, while eating the beignet, I decided to acknowledge this feeling and put it down.  I sort of surprised myself when I did this, and it felt great!  Because of this, rather than remembering how full and sick I felt from indulging in such a rich, heavy food, instead I remember how wonderful each and every bite tasted, and I have only positive memories of the experience.  And I never got to the point of feeling sick or overstuffed, because I put it down before that could ever happen.

I can't say I always eat mindfully, but I've been trying to do it more lately, because it really does feel great.  Can you think of a time when you've eaten mindfully?  Do you think this is something you could do at least most of the time when you eat?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Organic and "clean label" food choices made simple

One question I've often been asked, and something I myself have been figuring out over the past few years, is how big a role organic foods should play in our diets. Because I try to avoid black and white thinking ("this is good for you, this is bad for you"), I try not to let myself be overly concerned or obsessive about eating only organic foods. In fact, this obsession with organic foods or so-called "healthy" foods is considered by some to be an eating disorder in and of itself, called orthorexia (here's an interesting article about orthorexia from the Huffington Post). 

First of all, I should start with a little introduction about what organic means.  When something is stamped "Certified Organic," it means that the USDA has inspected the farm or facility where the food item was produced, and confirmed that it complies with the guidelines necessary for organic certification.  This means a whole list of things, including the fact that synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge (umm...eww!) may not be used in the production of the food item.  It's important to note that "organic" and "natural" are not synonymous, so don't be fooled by this tricky labeling tactic!  "Natural", according to the USDA (explained here) means that the product is minimally processed and does not contain artificial ingredients.  However, this only applies to the processing of meat and egg products, so there are no standards or regulations in place for any other type of product that makes this label claim. In other words, a product labeled "natural" may or may not actually mean that it's minimally processed, because there's no regulation of this whatsoever! Those tricky bastards!

When it comes to making food choices, I try to do my best without getting too obsessed with it.  While I feel that it's definitely important to be aware of what you're putting in your body, I also understand that eating small amounts of processed or not-so-organic foods will not kill me, and that stressing about it will probably do more harm than eating them.  One thing I've been trying to do lately is look for foods with "clean labels."  This means checking out the ingredients label and avoiding ones that are excessively long and contain ingredients that are hard to pronounce, sound "chemical-y", or say things like "hydrogenated."  Instead, I look for foods with a short list of ingredients that I can actually recognize as real food items.

Wow! That's a lot of ingredients! And what the heck is sodium stearoyl lactylate?!

This is more like it! Any of these items could potentially be found in your pantry.

Again, I try not to get too obsessed with the whole organic thing, because I realize that eating a few highly-processed, long-ingredient-labelled foods won't immediately make me unhealthy.  Basing your diet heavily on these items (as many Americans seem to be doing these days), however, can certainly be detrimental to your health, as our bodies are much more adept at processing real, whole foods, than they are at breaking down foods with chemicals or ingredients that are modified in a lab.

So, where do you go from here?  I would recommend starting by taking a critical look at the ingredient labels of the foods you buy, avoiding those with crazy long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, and opting for those with ingredients you can actually recognize.  Next, I would start buying the organic versions of foods that are known to be heavily processed or that contain higher amounts of pesticides, including meat and poultry, as well as certain fruits and vegetables.  Buying organic meat and poultry assures that the animals are fed what they should be, aren't given hormones or unnecessary antibiotics, and are treated more humanely.  These products also contain higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and are just generally healthier for you, as well as for the environment.  As for fruits and vegetables, beware of the "Dirty Dozen", which are those known to contain higher amounts of pesticides (and not ones you can wash off!).  Below you'll see the Dirty Dozen list, which are items that you should try to always buy organic, as well as the Clean 15, which are fruits and vegetables that are lowest in pesticides, and therefore not necessary to buy organic.

Making these simple changes-- buying "clean label" foods, opting for organic meat and poultry, and choosing the organic versions of foods on the "Dirty Dozen" list-- can have a real impact on your health.  I also like to think of my organic purchases as a "vote" for retailers to carry more of these types of items-- the more people "vote" for these kinds of foods, the higher the demand will be, and the lower the prices.  Also, buying at local farmer's markets is a great way to get quality produce (sometimes not "certified organic" because it's rather expensive for some small farms to get this certification, but you can ask the farmer directly about the use of pesticides) at reasonable prices, while supporting your local economy at the same time.

The take home message is this: "Healthy" eating, whether you're talking about fat and sugar content, "clean labels", or organic foods, doesn't have to be all or nothing.  Making small changes and trying to make the bulk of your diet come from whole, minimally-processed foods should be the goal, and small amounts of packaged, processed foods can have a place in a well-balanced diet without adversely affecting your health.

Monday, May 7, 2012

School Lunches: Attempt #2

As mentioned in a previous post, I am constantly searching for tasty, satisfying, portable lunches to bring to class with me.  Lately, I've been so busy that the old standby, PB & J (which in my case is really Justin's Maple Almond Butter and jam on Ezekiel  bread), has had to suffice, but I get pretty sick of it after a few days, so it's nice to mix it up and eat real food every now and then. 

Recently I made a recipe using arugula from my Farm Fresh To You box. Once again, I was faced with the challenge of making something from a veggie that I'm not too familiar with, and I wound up using it to make something that I actually LOVE and will most definitely make again (in fact, I've already made it twice!)!  The recipe is Farro and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Arugula Walnut Pesto, and I found it on  Besides disovering a new use for arugula, I was also introduced to farro, which is an Italian whole grain with a nice nutty flavor, and slightly crunchy texture.  I found a site explaining how to cook it (How to cook farro), and while I opted to soak it over night, it's apparently not absolutely necessary if you're short on time.  This recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked farro, which is about 1 cup of the uncooked grain.  Here's the whole recipe, along with a couple photos of how mine turned out:

Farro and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Arugula Walnut Pesto

For the pesto:
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (I put raw walnuts under the broiler for a couple minutes to toast them)
1/4 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
For the salad:
2 cups cooked farro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced (I used fresh mozzarella "pearls")
  1. With the exception of the olive oil combine all the pesto ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it a few times to form a paste.
  2. With the processor running drizzle in a 1/4 cup of oil and blend. If it seems wet enough do not add more oil but if it seems dry add a teaspoon or two.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  4. In a mixing bowl combine the farro with half the pesto and mix it to combine. Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, lemon juice, chives, and mozzarella. Toss the salad to combine and taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary or add more pesto if you think it needs it. Serve.
Packed and ready to be eaten for lunch!
This one I made without tomatoes (because I'm  not  a huge fan of the slimy suckers).

I absolutely LOVED this recipe, and I savored every bite of it when I was happily chowing down on my lunch during class.  My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it right now (note to self: make this again next week!).  For me, this recipe is perfect: it has "healthy" elements to it (the whole grains from the farro, the walnuts, plus the veggies from the arugula), without tasting healthy.  Instead, it tastes rich and flavorful, and every bite is like a party in my mouth! 

I'm realizing lately that my tastes are becoming more and more discerning, and I think it has a lot to do with being an intuitive eater.  When you eat mindfully, and savor every bite, your standards are higher, and you start to insist upon fresh, quality ingredients, instead of just eating whatever's in front of you.  When I make something that's just "okay" (which happens, especially when I'm trying a new recipe), I'm disappointed, because I believe that eating should be a pleasurable experience, and something that provides more than simply physical nourishment. 

That being said, as much as I'd love for every eating experience to be "wow!" instead of "okay", the reality is that sometimes we need to eat for practical reasons, and seeing as I'm not a chef, nor am I rich enough to throw out every food that doesn't totally turn me on, sometimes I have to settle for "okay" eating experiences.  However, I refuse to accept this as my constant reality, as some "healthy" eaters seem to do, and I will forever strive for eating experiences that tick all my boxes: something that is pleasurable to eat (check!), that makes me feel satisfied after eating it (check!), and that I know is nourishing my body with all the nutrients it needs to feel its best in the long run (and check!).

Friday, April 13, 2012

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Sorry for the long hiatus from blogging.  Things have been hectic with the start of the Spring Quarter, so it's been difficult to blog regularly.  However, I recently found this article, and I thought it would be a great way to reconnect with the philosophy behind this blog.  In the article, dietitian Michelle Neyman Morris is interviewed, and so much of what she said resonated with me and seemed so in line with the message I'm trying to get across here on Eat With Your Gut.  Here are just a few things I loved about what she had to say:
  • Ms. Neyman Morris' definition of healthy eating: "Healthy eating means nourishing yourself with a variety of foods, eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and also giving yourself permission to find pleasure in food and sometimes eating for reasons other than physiological hunger. It also means being mindful while you’re actually eating, as well as regarding where your food comes from, the people and processes that allow it to get to your table. Ultimately, flexibility around eating is paramount. While it’s important to consider sustainable food practices I think that can be another slippery slope to black and white thinking about eating that stresses people out."
    • There are so many things I love about this, I don't even know where to start!  First of all, I love that she talks about variety.  Healthy eating isn't just about eating fruits and vegetables and food items labeled "healthy" in the grocery store.  It's about eating a large variety of foods, even if that means including some empty calories in there every now and then.  Of course, I also love that she acknowledges eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full-- it's such a simple concept, and yet so difficult for many people to actually follow.  She even mentions that it's okay to sometimes eat for reasons other than physiological hunger-- this is normal, and as long as you're able to acknowledge that this is happening (i.e. it's not done unconsciously) and it's not happening all the time, then it's fine!  She also mentions giving yourself permission to find pleasure in food, which is so right on for me. I feel like many people (and this was me many years ago) view food as the enemy, and feel that if they could just see food solely as fuel, then all their eating and weight problems would go away.  The truth of the matter is that we're humans, not machines, and eating isn't just about nourishing our bodies, it's also about the experience of eating, which should absolutely be an enjoyable one!  I also appreciate that she mentions considering sustainable food practices, but that going overboard with this can lead to black and white thinking.  This is something I've been meaning to blog about for a while now, so expect something soon! 
  • She talks about disordered eating as a "continuum":  "There’s a continuum of disordered eating in our culture, and make no mistake about it, much suffering is experienced by many who are not clinically diagnosed with a full blown eating disorder."
    • This is precisely the reason I wanted to pursue a career in nutrition.  I feel that so many people believe that their struggles with weight and dieting are normal and simply a part of life, when really they are suffering immensely inside.  I don't think this is acceptable, and I want people to reject the idea that this needs to be their reality and seek help for themselves.  By pursuing this career, I hope to someday be the person who can help these people to free themselves from this madness that they might have otherwise accepted as their fate.
  • She mentions some of the political influences and conflicts of interest in regards to nutrition education and information:  "You have to be a critical consumer of nutrition information. The food industry has a lot of money for lobbyists and unduly influences nutrition policy and nutrition education programs in this country. The USDA, while responsible for many of the nutrition education programs and guidelines on healthy eating (myPlate), is also responsible for supporting food industry. It’s not a subtle conflict of interest that I bring to the attention of my students. And if private industry is providing the nutrition message, it’s always good to ask, whose bottom line is being served by this information? Nutrition materials that promote high protein consumption, for example, may have a vested interest in touting the benefits of beef, or the “other white meat” pork. Or they may not; the point is to ask the question. You’re the expert on your body and how foods in varying amounts make it feel. I’d recommend never giving away your power to make critically informed choices that nourish you and that are aligned with your values."
    • I love that a dietitian, who was undoubtedly indoctrinated with USDA recommendations as a nutrition student and expected to pass it along to her clients, is questioning it all.  Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming upstream as I study nutrition, and it's good to know that there are other nutrition professionals out there who aren't ready to accept conventional wisdom as absolute truth.  This doesn't mean that all the information coming out of the USDA should be completely disregarded.  It simply means that it should be taken with a grain of salt, and that one should consider the context in which these recommendations are made.  As she points out, only you are the expert on your body and what foods make it feel it's best, so you're better off trusting your own experiences and perhaps doing some of your own research when making decisions about how to nourish your body.
I hope these ideas resonated with you as much as they did with me.  I feel like Ms. Neyman Morris' definition of healthy eating is exactly what I've been trying to say all along, simplified and beautifully phrased in just a few sentences!  Do you agree with this definition?  What is your personal definition of healthy eating?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

And the beet goes on

Just wanted to post a quick update on my veggie adventures.  Last week I received beets in my produce box, which was a little scary because I've only ever eaten them in a restaurant, but in a way I was kind of glad that I was forced to learn how to prepare them.  And it turns out they're not scary at all!  The other night I made a Tart with Beets, Figs, and Chevre (goat cheese), a recipe I found on, a really fun site where you can search by what ingredients you have, as well as put in what you don't like (so I won't get any recipes that have mayonnaise or mustard in them...yuck!).  The tart turned out really good!  When I first saw the size of it, I was afraid it wouldn't be enough for two people, but because the crust turned out to be more like pie crust, the richness of it made it so that we only ate about two-thirds of it (because we were eating intuitively and stopped when we were satisfied).  Here's the full recipe, as well as some photos I took of my beautiful creation:

Tart with beets, figs, and chevre
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbs. cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 3-4 Tbs. ice cold water
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt to combine. Then, pulse in the butter chunks until you have a mixture that is a coarse meal that still has pea sized pieces of butter in it.
  2. Pulse in the vinegar and the water one Tbs. at a time until the dough just starts to come together. Then, turn it out and press it into a ball with your hands.
  3. Flatten the ball of dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. You can prepare the beets while the dough refrigerates
Beet and fig tart
  • 3 medium beets
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • tart dough (from recipe above)
  • 6-8 oz. chevre (soft goat cheese)
  • 1/3 cup dried mission figs, stems removed, sliced into thin pieces
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (I used already-reduced balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
  1. Preheat your oven to 425F. Wash and peel the beets, then slice them into rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Toss the beats with a splash of olive oil. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (you may need to use 2 baking sheets) , then sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool briefly.
  3. Turn the oven down to 400F. When the tart dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 1/4 inch thick (or a bit thicker). It can have ragged edges, that’s fine, but fix any cracks by pressing the dough together with your fingertips.
  4. Crumble the chevre into small chunks (this is a slightly sticky process) and sprinkle half of the cheese onto the tart crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
  5. Sprinkle the sliced figs on top of the cheese, then follow this by layering on the beets (still leaving a 1-inch border). Sprinkle the rest of the chevre on top.
  6. Fold over the edge of the tart, toward the center, folding and overlapping the dough to keep it circular-ish. Slide carefully onto a baking sheet (if it is lined with parchment paper, it makes things – especially clean-up – easier) and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
  7. While the tart is baking, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer, then cook until thick and syrupy and reduced by about three-quarters, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside. (I skipped this step because I used already reduced balsamic vinegar purchased from my grocery store)
  8. When the tart is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Before serving, drizzle the balsamic syrup all over it and sprinkle the mint leaves on top. Slice the tart into thin slices to serve as an appetizer. Or have bigger slices accompanied by a green salad for lunch or dinner.

From the looks of it, this recipe seemed pretty involved, and I assumed it would take me a really long time to prepare it.  It turns out it was fairly easy (especially since my awesome new food processor did all the work in preparing the dough for the crust!), and the actual hands-on time was less than an hour. Not too bad for a gourmet-ish meal!

Sometimes, however, I can't afford to make something that requires an hour of hands-on time, so I like to have go-to meals that are quick and tasty. One standby dinner we've been making a lot lately are tostadas.  My husband grew up in Mexico, where these were a staple in his household, usually topped with things like beans, ham, cheese and avocado.  Tostadas look like hard taco shells flattened out, and can be topped with almost anything you want.  I believe they also sell a whole wheat version, but I have yet to find them in my grocery store.  When we make tostadas, we usually start with a base of refried beans, and then throw on some sliced avocado and panela cheese...two of those are usually enough for me as a meal.  Last week we mixed it up a little and used chopped up green leaf lettuce from our produce box, as well as some leftover crockpot chicken my husband had made (basically just chicken breasts, whatever salsa you like, throw it in a crockpot and cook on low overnight) to create a sort of taco salad tostada.  They were super quick, and really yummy!
My husband added hot sauce, which looks really pretty, but I prefer it without (I have wussy taste buds!)
I'm realizing that preparing a delicious, well-balanced, satisfying meal doesn't always have to be super involved and complicated.  However, sometimes it's fun to challenge myself to try to make something new that might take a little more effort. Either way, I'm happy to avoid having to order in or eat out as frequently, because as long as I'm eating at home, I'm not only saving money, but I can also have more control over what's in my food.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Paddy's Day and the giant chocolate bar

I went out briefly last night for St. Patrick's day (I had to debut my awesome O'bama t-shirt!), and ran into a friend who confessed that he had been reading my blog.  He said it was good, but, "I just can't do that right now."  I asked him what he meant, and he said that he couldn't eat whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it, because he would eat crap all the time and be enormously overweight.  I think that's a common misconception about intuitive eating, and one that I hope to dispel in this blog.  I'm realizing that it's quite difficult to explain the entire philosophy in short blog posts (you really should read the book or listen to the CDs in order to truly get it!), but I suppose I can be more clear about this particular issue.

So let me say this once and for all: intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want!  It's about giving yourself permission to eat anything you want, whenever you want it.  Allow me to explain the difference: by giving yourself permission to eat all the "bad" foods you've never allowed yourself to eat (without enormous guilt or a promise to run 5 miles the following day), the food no longer has control over you, and when you encounter a previously forbidden food, you may find that you'll be more likely pass it up or only eat a little bit of it, rather than go on an all-out binge, because you'll know that you can have it whenever you want.  Sure, maybe in the beginning when you give yourself permission to eat any food you want, you might find yourself eating cupcakes and pizza all day every day, but after a few days, these coveted foods won't excite you as much.  It's called habituation -- repeated exposure to a "forbidden" food item eventually causes you to grow tired of it, and you no longer desire it as you did before.

A great example of habituation happened in our household over the holidays.  A friend of mine gave my husband and me an enormous block of really good quality chocolate as a Christmas gift.  I'm not joking when I say this thing was huge-- it literally came with a little hammer to crack pieces off of it!  During the first couple of weeks of having this thing on my kitchen counter, we would crack off pieces of chocolate every day, often more than once a day.  After a couple of weeks, it came to the point where a day would go by without having a piece, and then sometimes a few days would go by without any chocolate consumption.  Eventually, a couple months later when we were about two-thirds of the way through it, the size of the remaining chunk of chocolate seemed to remain constant for a few weeks.  The chocolate was still really good, but it no longer held any power over us.  We would only have a piece when we really wanted it, as opposed to just eating it because it was there.  That's what habituation and unconditional permission does.
My husband ready to chow down on our enormous chocolate bar!
The other thing that I perhaps haven't been clear enough about on this blog is that intuitive eating isn't just about eating whatever you's also about listening to your body to see what makes it feel its best, and eating accordingly.  If you only ate what you wanted based on taste, you might think that you would eat hamburgers and cookies all day every day.  But the truth of the matter is, if you listen to your body, after a few days you'll be begging for a salad or some steamed veggies, because you won't be feeling too hot if your main source of fuel comes from these high-fat high-sugar foods!  Once you've given yourself unconditional permission to eat these foods and experimented a little with varying amounts of them, you'll very likely find that you can still feel good while enjoying them on occasion and perhaps in smaller quantities, and maybe paired with something not quite so rich in fat and/or sugar.

I hope that clears things up a little.  I know that the idea of "eating anything you want" is completely foreign to most people, and it seems pretty counter-intuitive as a way to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  But within the context of the entire philosophy of intuitive eating, it really does make sense, and I truly believe that adopting this way of thinking can help you to achieve a balance in your life that will ultimately lead to improved physical and psychological health.  It certainly has for me!

Now that I've clarified things, do you think this could work for you?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Veggie adventures

Recently my husband and I signed up for organic produce delivery from Farm Fresh To You.  I had known about this company and ones like it for a while, but had resisted signing up for it because the idea of having random fruits and vegetables delivered to my house kind of stressed me out.  What if I got something I didn't like and/or didn't know how to prepare and it went to waste?!  I just knew that having a bunch of vegetables sitting in my refrigerator would be super stressful, and I didn't want to deal with it.  However, when a woman approached us near the entrance of our local grocery store and said they were offering a promo, my husband got really excited and before I knew it, we were members.
Produce at my doorstep
The contents of my latest Farm Fresh To You box
The great thing about this company (and maybe others like it...I'm not sure) is that you can go online to select items that you never want delivered, as well as check to see what's being delivered in the next box so you can call and make changes to the contents if necessary.  I've only set a few exclusions (things like kohlrabi and collard greens that are a bit too foreign to me!), and I have yet to call to make any changes, because I'm kind of liking the idea of being forced to prepare and eat vegetables that are a bit unfamiliar to me.  I tend to buy the same vegetables every time I go shopping, but now I have a refrigerator stocked with things like leeks, radishes, bok choy, and romanesco, and I'm learning to use them to make some pretty yummy dishes.  Even though it's been a little stressful because I'm pretty busy with school and work these days, I must say it's turning out to be a fun experience trying new recipes and discovering what vegetables I like that I had never considered preparing before.

In the process, I've also rediscovered a pretty amazing book I've had for many years that had been collecting dust on my book shelf.  It's called Vegetables Every Day, and besides containing recipes for almost any vegetable you've ever (or never) heard of, the book also explains how to store each type of veggie, how to prepare it, and during what time of year it's available.  From this book, I found my first successful recipe using two items from my produce box: leeks and red potatoes.  Here it is:

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Freshly group black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream (I happened to have half-and-half in my refrigerator, so that I used that instead)
1. Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leeks.  Remove the roots along with a thin slice of the nearby white part.  Halve the leeks lengthwise and then cut them crosswise into thin strips.  Wash the sliced leeks in a large bowl with several changes of clean water, or until no grit falls to the bottom of the bowl.
2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven.  Add the leeks and saute over medium heat until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. (Do not let the leeks brown.)
3. Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
4. Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. (Do not puree any longer than necessary or the potatoes will become gluey.)  Return the soup to the pot and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream and the parsley.  Bring almost to a boil, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of this soup, but I can tell you that it was quite good with some french bread dipped in it.  Yum!  And it tasted even better the next day when all the flavors had had a chance to meld together.

As I've said in my previous blog post, I'm not the biggest fan of vegetables, but something like this makes trying new vegetables fun, and I believe that eating should be a fun experience, and it's even more enjoyable when you're challenging your taste buds to try something new.  I'm certainly not forcing myself to eat these vegetables (that wouldn't be intuitive!).  Instead, I'm simply expanding my horizons, hoping I find more food items that I like so that when I'm hungry, I might listen to my gut and decide that a dish made with leeks or bok choy is exactly what I'm craving.

I'll keep you posted on all my other veggie adventures as the boxes keep coming, and next time I'll try to take photos of my veggie-based creations.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spreading the word

For my Community Nutrition class this quarter, I was tasked with implementing a nutrition-related intervention within a community.  While most students assisted with already-existing programs, I decided to take a chance and design and implement my own intervention, with my nursing co-workers as the victims/beneficiaries (depending on how you look at it!).

I've been working with these amazing people for the past 4 years, and during that time, I've seen them lose weight on diets, and then gain it back again, all the while blaming themselves for their lack of "willpower."  To be honest, witnessing their struggles over the past few years is large part of what inspired me to pursue a career in nutrition, because they are precisely the type of people I feel can benefit from an intuitive eating philosophy, and it breaks my heart to see them suffer.   I often see my former self in them, and knowing how much intuitive eating has helped me to heal my relationship with food and my body, I feel that they, too, might be helped by it.

So yesterday I headed to the hospital and set myself up in the break room to present a PowerPoint introducing the intuitive eating philosophy to my co-workers.  I did two sessions-- one at 2pm and another at 3pm-- and a total of 16 people attended, which I thought was pretty good!  I think some people were a little weary of a "nutrition presentation," as they assumed I was there to tell them what to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it.  I think a lot of people think that this is what nutritionists and dietitians do, and it's because of this that when I tell people I'm studying nutrition, they suddenly become very self-conscious about what they're eating, and feel like they need to justify it ("I usually don't eat like this!").  As a side note, that's one thing that bothers me about studying nutrition, and in fact, sometimes I hold off on telling people about it because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel bad about themselves!
My 3pm session
Anyway, I made sure I told my audience right off the bat that my belief, and what intuitive eating believes, is that we are all born with all the knowledge and insight we need to know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it.  The trick is to get back in touch with that innate intuition, which is easily lost when you've dieted or listened to external messages dictating your eating behaviors for so many years.  I hoped that explaining this would disarm them a little, and make them more receptive to hearing my message, and I think it did.

Throughout the presentation I saw lots of head-nodding and "I-never-thought-of-it-that-way-but-that-makes-sense" expressions, which made me feel really good.  Of course, it could just be that these people are extremely nice and supportive and they were trying to make me feel good, but I'm hoping it's also that they were truly getting something out of it.

For the presentation, I brought along some healthy, but delicious snacks, including the Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad that I've blogged about before.  I also tried a new recipe from CookingLight for Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies that I was afraid would taste too healthy (the trick is for something to be healthy without tasting healthy!), but were actually quite good and got rave reviews!  Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
1 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
Cooking spray (I used parchment paper instead)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; add brown sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined.  Fold in chocolate.  Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray (or parchment paper). Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm.  Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Even though it was a lot of work (and slightly terrifying having to present something to a group of people who might be totally against what I'm proposing!), I hope to be able to do more presentations like this in the future.  If I got through to even just one person yesterday, and made them consider giving this intuitive eating thing a shot, then it was well worth all the time spent preparing the presentation, as well as the nervousness I felt going into it.