Tuesday, May 31, 2011

breakfast shake

Back at home after my travels I'm re-adjusting to the local time zone and wondering why the laundry fairy never shows up when I'm not home.

I enjoyed a number of fabulous meals while I was one the road with family in Northern France.  I indulged and ate outside my usual patterns.  I am a big believer in taking the time to enjoy the culture and opportunities that travel offers you and I certainly wasn't going to pass up some of the delicious experiences.  Who knows when I will find myself back in Northern France again.

One of the big changes was breakfast in a Chambre d'Hotel.  A Chambre d-Hotel is often a room available  in someone's house (although a few of them had a separate building) that you can rent.  There are little signs on the street indicating if someone has a room to rent in their house.  You drive up and inquire if there is space for the night (or if you plan ahead, you can call and make a reservation).  We did not plan ahead which meant that some days we looked at several places before finding one.

The prices seem to vary widely  depending on the size of the room, if there is a suite arrangement, the location of the town, etc.  Each place offers breakfast with the chambre.  What is for breakfast varies.  Every place offers fresh baguette and cheese plus jam.  Most of the time the jams were homemade and absolutely fabulous.  Each place also offered juice, coffee and tea.

Some of the different items in addition to the above which we had for breakfast (it depended on where we were and what they wanted to serve):  different breads or baked goods, sliced ham, cold cereal, yogurt served with stick packets of sugar, or fresh fruit.

Overall the breads were delicious and the yogurt that I ate there was fabulous.  I don't normally drink milk however it was so good that a couple of mornings I had a bowl of warm milk with my breakfast, something I don't normally do at home.

Now I'm back in my regular surroundings and getting back to my normal routine.  Part of that includes eating more in the pattern which works best for me.  I usually don't eat gluten as I find my system works better if I avoid it.  I do not have celiac or other illness that require me to be gluten free which is a good thing because in the French countryside I think that would have proven to be quite problematic.  I also tend to eat a high protein breakfast, again because that's what works best for my body.  Truthfully I believe it's what works best for most people, we need that protein boost in the morning to stabilize our blood sugar after our overnight sleep-fast.

After 12 days away from it I'm really enjoying my morning smoothie again.  It's such a great way to start the day, filling and delicious.

Morning Smoothie

1 cup plain organic whole fat yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
1 cup fresh spinach (pack this in well)
1 small banana (or other fruit)
1 tablespoon unsweetened raw almond butter
1 tablespoon fresh ground flaxseed

Place all the ingredients into a blender and whir together until well incorporated

Makes two servings

As a side note, whenever I share this recipe I always get at least one person who says "Spinach in your shake?  Seriously?"  Yes, seriously.  It is delicious and gives a great boost to the shake.  Truly, aside from the color, you won't know it's in there as the other flavors hide the flavor of the spinach.  If you haven't tried it before I think you should, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  It's a great way to get some veggies into your system first thing in the morning.

Monday, May 30, 2011

seasonal eating

fresh tomato | photo: xandert
I regularly teach a class on seasonal eating.  What the benefits are and why we should look to consume more seasonal (and local) produce.   Obviously part of the benefit is that seasonal foods are picked when they are fully ripe, especially if they are local, rather than being picked under-ripe and either stored or transported before being force ripened.  This means that the nutritive value of the food is fully developed as well as it's flavor.  Anyone who has ever eaten a truly fresh tomato knows what I am talking about.  Eating seasonal, locally produced fruits and vegetables also helps reduce the environmental impact of your food.  If you think about it, why eat tomatoes from 2,000 miles away when you can get better tasting ones closer to home without burning massive amounts of fossil fuels?

At my last class I got a question that I've gotten a couple of times before and I wanted to address it because I think it's an issue that tends to get a little confusing for folks sometimes.  It's about the seasonality of food.  I live in the Eastern Piney Woods region of Texas.  We have a very different growing season here compared to most of the rest of the country, with the equivalent of two spring-like seasons with a very hot season sandwiched in between.  Learning to grow food here has proven to be a bit of a challenge as I was raised in Connecticut.  Luckily I have several local CSAs and Farmer's Markets that help supplement our supply of seasonal foods with their expert skills.

This season is vastly different than what we experienced when our family lived in Vermont.  I remember once taking a garden tour with Shepherd Ogden, President and Founder of The Cook's Garden seed company, who jokingly claimed that Vermont should be renamed the Green Tomato State since the growing season was so short.

So the question that comes up is about what constitutes a season.  The answer?  Well, it depends on where you are living.  I think the first, most important place to start is to understand the concept of seasonal eating and decide if this is something that you want to follow.  We try to do so in our house for most things because we then get the ripest, best tasting produce by waiting for the season.  It also means that we more fully appreciate our food by having to wait for it.  I'm going to be honest and put in a disclaimer here to say that there are certain foods that we do not eat seasonally because we use them too much (such as onions, garlic, carrots, and celery) but in general we eat berries in the spring and summer, squashes in the winter and so on.

In addition to learning to appreciate the seasonality of your food you need to learn what exactly your seasons are.  The National Resources Defense Council has made it easy by putting together a Smarter Living - Eat Local web page.  It even has a helpful Farmer's Market listing which, while it doesn't list all Farmer's Markets (at least not in my area) should be good enough to get you started.

If you want to learn more about seasonal and local eating here are some great books to get you started:


Thursday, May 26, 2011


For those of you who don't know, I"m a vegetarian.  I became one back in 2005 due to health reasons.  I felt so much better that I've never looked back.  It does however, at times, become a bit of a problem.  Finding vegetarian choices in the United States is not so much of a problem but when traveling it can be more of a challenge.

Currently my husband and I are on a ten day tour of Northern France, enjoying the sights, sounds, and history of the Picardy and Normandy regions.  Sadly I've discovered that many times there is not much of an option for vegetarians.  I've eaten a lot of salad crudite, pain et fromage, and green salad.  All, I must confess, quite delicious, but sometimes it gets boring to eat the same thing over and over.  When asking at a restaurant if they serve vegetarian meals and having the hostess start with poisson -- fish -- is not a hopeful beginning.  I did have one bad aftermath from a meal of vegetables that apparently were cooked in a meat broth, I paid for that the next day with abdominal distress.

So tonight was an absolute delight.  We stopped at Restaurant de la Halles in Lyon de Foret looking for dinner of some kind.  Our server inquired of the chef if he could accomodate a vegetarian.  His proposed menu was a dish of asparagus and green beans accompanied with a leek and potato creme fraiche gratin.  Delicious?  This meal was wonderful and one of the most satisfying I've had on the entire trip.  I ate every bit and seriously wanted to lick the dish that those potatoes were cooked in.  My husband had a fish dish that he said was very delicious.  Thank you sir for a delicious meal and for being so thoughtful.  Thank you also for the amazing Poire belle Helene that I shared with my husband for dessert.

I don't limit my travel due to my dietary restrictions, however I am always pleased when I find a restaurant that is willing to be so accommodating (and creates such good food).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

asthma and nutrition

asthma inhaler | photo: mendel
Asthma is on the rise. Scientists quoted in this article appear to be wondering why.  They posit that this should not be the case since air quality has improved and less people are smoking. Those are environmental factors which, while very true, don't paint the whole picture.

Here is different article which brings up scientific evidence showing that mothers who take fish oil have a reduced incidence of asthma in their offspring.  In yet another article the evidence appears to show an asthma reducing effect in children whose mothers ate apples during pregnancy.

This is the effect of nutrigenomics and it is a powerful force. One that is being recognized more and more as vital not just to our health but to the health of future generations.  As Dr. Robert Roundtree says, "Would really rather have broccoli or a sticky bun talk to your genes?"

We can't continue to eat garbage and somehow expect that it will not have an effect on our bodies or those of our children.  It is important to eat well so that we can be well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

your right to choose

I just finished attending the annual conference of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP), held in San Francisco, CA,  where I met up with many wonderful "nutrition nerds", learned an amazing amount of information, and enjoyed fabulous food.  The NANP is the premier organization within the U.S. guiding standards for holistic nutrition.  Part of the requirement for professional membership is the continuation of our education, whether through conferences or other sources, we are all committed lifelong learners.

When I work with a client in my capacity as a Certified Nutrition Educator I am always careful to let them know that I am not a doctor.  I do not diagnose anything, I do not treat anything.  I do, however, know a lot about food and it's effects on the body; I am always engaged in learning more so that I can teach my clients how to meet the needs of their bio-individual bodies.

Along with all of the amazing and exciting information about nutrigenomics, epigenetics, and more I was shocked to learn about pending legislation in the State of California.  Under pressure from the American Dietetic Association, California is considering Assembly Bill 575.  As I understand it this Bill, if it passes, would mean that without ADA credentials, non-Dieticians would not be allowed to practice any form of nutritional therapy.

There are several problems with this legislation as I see it:

1.  Dieticians and Nutrition Professionals do different things.  Most Dieticians work in clinical settings, offering acute care.  Nutrition Professionals tend to work with clients from a more holistic point of view, providing education and support for chronic health issues.  There is a much needed and valuable use for Dieticians, but I believe what they do is frequently different from Nutrition Professionals and therefore we need both.

2.  The ADA has several major corporation such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Mars, and Hershey on their board.  I do not believe they are unbiased against the suggestions and education offered by many holistic health professionals which in turn potentially impacts their products.

3.  This type of legislation could potentially prove devastating to a client's ability to seek integrative health care.  It would remove the right of choice.

California is not the only place where this is happening.  Similar legislation is being considered in Nevada, New York, and New Jersey.

I was horrified to learn at the conference that one of my heros in the nutrition world, Dr. Liz Lipski, has been issued a Cease and Desist order in the State of North Carolina and is no longer allowed to practice. This is a woman who holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Nutrition, an M.S. in Nutrition, is credentialed by two different boards, is a respected faculty member at several different universities and institutes, and has published a number of books.  However she has been deemed by the ADA as unqualified.  According to information found on her website someone with a BA in Dietetics, 6 nutrition courses, and no further experience is more qualified than she is from the ADA perspective.

I find that to be simply unbelievable and quite frankly disturbing.  As I mentioned above, there is a need for both.  This is not an either or issue.  Unfortunately I believe it is corporate bullying on the part of the ADA and possibly some members of it's board.  I also believe that the public has a right to choose.

This issue is on-going and likely to change rapidly.  If you live in one of the affected states I urge you to write to your Representatives and let them know that as a consumer and a constituent you are asking them to protect your right to choose.  Ask them to consider the position of the State of Colorado which in 2007 decided that this type of licensing did not meet the needs of it's citizens (letter found here).  If you do not live in one of the currently affected states it is important to be mindful that the situation could change.  Additionally there may be other action items that can be taken down the road so keep your eye out for further news and legislation.