This isn’t a confessional or a Dear Abby response, and when I say alone, I don’t mean by myself in a dark room watching TV. I mean without the addition of fat or protein… but please read on.
Carbohydrates have been vilified in the weight loss world since the end of the low fat diet era. It was almost like one day someone woke up and realized, when people stop eating fat, they get, well, really fat. About that same time the Atkins diet was on the rise and someone else was trying to make a few million (perhaps billion) dollars by figuring out a quick way to send every house wife in America to the health food store to purchase a wonder food called “protein powder”. This left the industry needing to find another reason to blame for everyone getting fat. In terms of macronutrients: carbohydrates were the only one left. So began the era of low carbohydrate dieting.
Now let’s get real for a minute. Who wants to live forever without pizza, pasta, bread, fruit or the countless other wonderful foods that have higher amounts of carbohydrates? When I was a young child unless a food was white and fully carbohydrate, there was no chance of me eating it. When I say white I mean: mashed potatoes, noodles (with parmesan), bread, macaroni and cheese (you are right, that is yellow), and frozen waffles. I have had a love affair with carbohydrates my entire life. I promise you, it is not about to end here and now.
As a nutrition professional what I understand now is that there really are two ways to alter your diet to induce weight loss: lower your calories OR lower your carbohydrates. The problem with these two approaches is that in most cases they are not long lasting and sustainable. Since this is the case people enjoy weight loss for a season, and then when diet habits change back over time, the weight comes back with a vengeance. Hence, Americas billion dollar industry feeding our yo-yo dieting habits.
The answer to losing weight over time and keeping it off lies not in a simplistic caloric restriction or carbohydrate restriction which are very near sighted and proven not to last. Rather the focus needs to be in speeding up your metabolism. It also lies within telling your body through hormone signals that you don’t need to store fat right now; instead you can tap your fat stores consistently when you need more energy.
Carbs are not the enemy. However, eating carbs alone is the enemy of weight loss. Let me explain why. When you eat carbohydrates alone your stomach empties it’s contents faster into your small intestine where most absorption happens. Let’s call this mostly carb meal white bread and jelly. This type of meal allows for very fast use of these carbs. In all of evolutionary time, this is a good thing, when needing to run from predators or catch a beast for dinner. However, in modern times with very processed food this makes for a huge up surge in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is not a bad thing, but a huge spike in it is. The spike leads your pancreas to excrete a huge amount of insulin to combat the large surge. And insulin tells the rest of the cells in your body to absorb the sugar floating around in your blood. This is what it is supposed to do, however it also tells certain portions of your body to store energy as fat. When it is STORING energy as fat it is of necessity not utilizing fat for energy.
Now consider if you instead of having toast with jelly chose to have toast with peanut butter or a slice of deli meat on it. The fat and protein from the peanut butter or deli meat make your stomach do some extra work as it empties it’s contents. It blunts the effect of a quick raise in blood sugar. This slower increase over time allows your pancreas to produce less insulin. Your body still gets all the necessary signals for it to absorb blood sugar for energy, but it doesn’t send out the entire arsenal of insulin tipping the threshold and making it so your body doesn’t respond by storing fat.
This may seem like a super scientific explanation, but if you think about it you may realize there are many things you eat regularly that don’t have the added combo of protein and/or fat. Something as simple as a piece of fruit.
Carbs are not the enemy, eating carbohydrates alone will cause you to store fat, making it more difficult to lose weight. Eating simple carbohydrates and very highly refined and processed carbohydrates will do the same thing. Think about the difference in the look of a whole grain bread vs. a white bread. You can see the difference with your eyes, believe me your intestines, pancreas and liver can see the difference too. The fiber helps in slowing down the digestion and the added protein and fat from a whole grain provides the added benefit of slowing absorption.
There are foods that have high carb and high fat levels which some of you may be reasoning are still going to be okay to eat. These are foods like tortilla chips, potato chips, donuts. You are thinking, come on there is fat to slow the process down and blunt the blood sugar response. You are right, but they are still providing you little to know benefit in terms of nutrients. You are getting a whole lot of calories without any vitamins and fiber. Say no to these foods more often than you say yes. And join me in not eating carbohydrates alone. Have a handful of peanuts when you eat a piece of fruit, grab a piece of cheese if you are about to have a slice of toast, instead of eating spaghetti marinara add some meatballs to the mix.
Tips for beating the holiday hangover.
As a functional medicine Dietitian I am not encouraging copious amounts of alcohol intake. Alcohol is a neurotoxin and for many individuals it drives hormonal imbalances, liver damage and unnecessary weight gain. The tips in this blog are find for the occasional night out and are meant to help you get back on track again, okay? Agree? Good. Let’s get started.
EAT WELL. Don’t skip dinner (or lunch and snacks for that matter). Alcohol is absorbed more quickly when poured into an empty stomach. Make sure you have a good, well-balanced meal when you are drinking.
SAY NO TO CAFFEINATED COCKTAILS. Walk away from the Red Bull and Vodka. Alcohol is a punch to the liver, don’t mix it with another: caffeine. Allowing your body to detox one major chemical at a time is better than mixing it with caffeine and whatever other crazy chemicals are found in Red Bull.
TAKE YOUR MULTIVITAMIN. Having adequate B vitamins will help your body detox alcohol and can assist in a shortened hangover the next day. Most multi vitamins have adequate amounts of the B vitamins. Take you multi the day you plan to drink and the day after to support your bodies detoxification pathways.
EAT AN ORANGE. You body will also need electrolytes and vitamin C. If you don’t like oranges consider a bell pepper. Or drinking an EmergenC is a good alternative.
DRINK UP THE H20. For every one alcoholic beverage, drink 1 large glass of water or coconut water. Stay away from sugary beverages on a night you drink. These make hangovers so bad.
WAKE UP AND DO WHAT? Exercise, drink some caffeine, try another coconut water and if it’s really bad, pop a few advils.
Alcohol has more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrate. It is also metabolized in a different way than other foods. Because it is a toxin in the body, your body will always preferentially metabolize alcohol, meaning other foods have to wait. Your body will send signals to store other food as fat while it is metabolizing alcohol. It can affect your metabolism for hours even after the alcohol consumption stops. So do yourself a favor and limit the amount of evenings you choose to partake in alcohol. This is for your overall health, but also for you weight loss efforts.
We all have times we really want a specific food. Sometimes it is an unexplainable urge to have a random food you haven't eaten in months, other times it is cyclical and relates to chocolate and hormones, sometimes a visual cue or a smell will trigger a memory that gives way to your want for a certain item.
Whether something is a true craving or just something you really want, don't worry - you are just human. This happens to everyone. There is a theory that cravings are your body’s intuitive needs speaking to you. For instance if you are calcium deficient perhaps you would crave milk. In modern times where most people take vitamins and have a healthy and consistent food supply, this may be less the real cause. It is more likely that in this "instant" world, when you want something, it is most gratifying to get it as quickly as possible. The point I would like you to keep in mind is this: You are in charge of what goes into your body and what is done to your body. You get to decide that the craving for ice cream is worth satisfying or not. You and you alone.
Below are some suggestions for beating the cravings.
Listening to your body is important. It isn't wrong to give in to cravings now and again, but building habits where you can willy, nilly eat anything you want at anytime will quickly derail weight loss efforts and other lifestyle patterns painstakingly gained when investing in your health.
What's your favorite way to beat a craving? Comment below or on my facebook page.
I'm hoping this is my most read blog of the year. Come on, it's a sexy topic, most nutrition professionals wouldn't talk about, or perhaps even research.
Hormone imbalances, low thyroid function and autoimmune conditions provide daily reminders of illness and fatigue. These conditions can influence all aspects of our life both work and play, fun and LOVIN’. Many are too embarrassed to talk about certain life matters like poop and sex. I am not. And today I’d like to talk about hormones, libido and some foods you can incorporate into every day to boost the health of your sexual organs.
In high states of inflammation adrenal glands release more cortisol (the stress hormone) in an attempt to reduce this inflammation. Adrenals also play a major role in synthesis of DHEA, aldosterone, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. All of these hormones depend on a common precursor, pregnenolone. The problem is when cortisol is increased, pregnenolone decreases. This results in a hormonal shift that has a cascade of results. For women, high cortisol production can lower progesterone production. Low progesterone causes an estrogen dominance. This cascade continues, high estrogen can lead to decreased amounts of thyroid hormone. This can cause fatigue, aches and pains, lower mental acuity and low libido.
It sounds so dismal right? With high inflammation, high stress, hormone dysfunction, low energy, then a low sex drive. You might even call it a vicious cycle. It’s actually quite incredible. If you have high inflammation or stress levels that are chronic, maybe it isn’t a great time to get pregnant. This is just your bodies natural way to defend you from a situation which will be taxing to an already compromised body system.
What to do? Try to lower stress and feed your adrenals.
How to lower stress? Sleep more, go for a walk, breathe, sweat, take some yoga, start saying "no" rather than going to every party and friend outing, PRAY.
How to feed the adrenals? Adequate vitamin c, B vitamins, and magnesium daily. Vitamin c is often easy to get with some oranges or tomatoes. Magnesium isn’t too rich in our western diet and may require supplementation. A quality B complex also may be necessary to assist your body and help energy levels.
Food first is a major part of my nutrition philosophy. It takes a level of determination to feed your body for optimal health. Isn't it worth it? When we are talking hormone balance, libido, and sex organs it is crucial that your body has good circulation, so nutrients can make it to these cells and organs. It is also important for long term health to have a healthy amount of antioxidants in the diet to fight exposure to free radicals and help prevent oxidative stress and cancer in these organs. Many of the foods that help with circulation listed below help support healthy blood supply to the sex organs, but some have also been shown to support optimal hormone balance and even increase sexual desire. So let's get down to it....
Foods To Help Circulation, Nutrient Distribution, Hormone Balance, And Libido
Pumpkin Seeds- Zinc is essential for hormone production for men and women. Zinc intake is associated with higher sex drive in both men and women. It is also helpful in quality and quantity of sperm production (if you are working on fertility factors). Pumpkin seeds are a great natural source of zinc. I like to grind them and add to oatmeal, smoothies or homemade granola.
Maca- This is a root found in South America. It is difficult to source in America as a food, however it is easy to find in supplemental form. It is known for enhancing sexual desire in both males and females. It has been known to improve sperm motility, improve erectile dysfunction and balance hormones. It is a supplement to start small with and work up to 2-3 grams per day. If you are interested in this supplement shoot me an email I am happy to share where I recommend sourcing it from.
Dark Chocolate – Bioflavonoids that are found in dark chocolate help keep blood vessels healthy and allow for optimal blood flow to your sexual organs. This blood flow is essential for arousal, lubrication, and achieving orgasm. Dark chocolate (more than 70% cacao) also boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain found in pathways of motivation and pleasure.
Garlic – I know this one doesn’t seem intuitive or synonymous with romance, but an active compound found in garlic, allicin, has been shown to improve circulation by thinning the blood. This aids in tissue receiving nutrients and can increase physical sensation. Perhaps both partners will have to agree on a garlic filled meal, we wouldn’t want intake of garlic for these purposes to be counter-productive.
Celery- This vegetable contains a compound called androsterone that helps your body produce pheromones. You know what those do.
Pineapple- This delicious fruit contains bromelain which is an important enzyme for men increasing testosterone and libido. It also has the added benefit of decreasing inflammation in the body.
Ginger – This herb boosts circulation and thus, sexual sensation. Add some ginger to that cocktail this weekend.
Lentils and Nuts – All contain arginine, which can help boost female libido through the dilation of blood vessels near female organs.
Spinach – High in folate, which helps produce histamine, a compound released from mast cells during sexual arousal.
There is much that may also play a role in low sexual drive that may not have to do with hormones,eating or your physical health. Emotional health and relationship issues and even trauma can play a role in these symptoms. Remember to be patient and understanding with your partner and if you feel this is a persistent problem seek help from a qualified family counselor.
I recently joined a new gym and fell back in love with an old friend of mine, spin class! It didn’t take long for me to find my two favorite instructors at the gym. It’s a mix of a lot of sweat, some high speed yet stationary cycling (just the kind I like, with no cars next to me), good music, and the right words.
The right words is what I would like to focus on in this post. Speaking to yourself kindly, with encouraging and motivating language will help you reach for your goals. Negative self talk and negative views toward yourself, reciting these thoughts to your self will continue to put larger and larger mountains between you and your health goals. Check out these two sayings: ‘Yes You Can’ and ‘I See You.’
One of the teachers will just out of the blue say “Yes You Can”. It’s not that someone in the room has said, I can’t, or I won’t. Maybe she sees it in someone’s face or diminishing energy levels. But, I eat it up. Every time I hear her say “Yes You Can”, I am like “Hell Yes, I Can!”. And just then I have more energy than the second before. I never tire of her saying it. And now even when I don’t take her class and I’m in someone elses class I will say it to myself. “Yes You Can”. It’s this self talk that is so positive. It helps me get through a long, hard workout. I’ve brought it into my business practices too. Whenever I have a moment of doubt that I may be attempting something too big or too far out of my reach I say “Yes You Can”, Sometimes I say it over and over again. I say it until I believe it, and then I push on.
This is something that can help as we make decision by decision for health. Whether it is taking the screens out of the bedroom at bedtime so you can sleep more soundly, or at the grocery store when the amount of produce you put in your cart seems like more than you’ve ever eaten in an entire week before. I want you to stop, and say “Yes You Can”. Make it personal, [insert your name] you can! Caitlin, you can! Jason, you can. Lilly, yes you can. Slowly not only will you realize you can, but you will DO.
The other spin teacher I really like will randomly in class say “I See You”. This isn’t like a mother saying “I See You” as you reach for the cookie jar she told you was not available until after dinner, or the teacher responding to wandering eyes during a quiz. It’s an “I See You Working”. I see that effort! It’s an “I’m Proud Of You, And I’m Telling You!” I love it when he says it. It seems so simple but, when he says it, I feel proud of me too and the work I’m putting in. It is one that feels a bit more silly to incorporate into self talk. But, I recommend you try. When you make the choice of a piece of fruit instead of cookies as a snack or you choose yogurt as a bed time snack instead of ice cream, let yourself know, that you recognize the change and the decision. Let yourself know how proud you are. Reward yourself with these positive thoughts. I promise there are chemical reactions happening in that brain that will increase the satisfaction as you reward yourself with gratitude that is associated with these choices.
I know many of you read this blog to learn about health and nutrition. I want to let you know I will continue to post information… and though I don’t know exactly who is reading, I can tell how many of you are. I see you and I’m proud. Whatever your health goal, I want you to feel empowered to reach for it, Yes You Can! I BELIEVE IN YOU. If you find that you need more help reaching for those goals, consider hiring a health coach. I would be happy to help encourage you, provide you with the education you need and the hand holding, cheerleading and accountability to reach your health goals.
There are over 300 enzyme reactions in the body that magnesium takes part in. It is an electrolyte helping to keep proper pH balance, it helps regulate protein synthesis, takes part in blood-glucose control and blood pressure, insulin regulation, bone health, cleansing and detoxifying processes and vitamin D metabolism. It is a major player in both sleep and digestive function.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be magnesium deficient: muscle cramps or twitching, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, constipation, headaches, kidney stones, and reflux. Research has also linked low levels of magnesium in people with the following conditions indicating it either plays a role in the development of these conditions or with the disease process, magnesium becomes scarce: Diabetes, Obesity, IBS, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety/Depression.
The typical Western (read as American) diet contains very little magnesium. We eat very highly processed, refined foods, white flour, meat and processed dairy. These foods do not contain magnesium. To add insult to injury, alcohol, salt, coffee, chronic stress, chronic diarrhea, diuretics and antibiotics can all lower magnesium levels. It’s no surprise we need more of it in our diets.
Foods high in magnesium include:
If you think you may be deficient, because you don’t eat enough of these foods and you experience some of the symptoms of deficiency – please keep reading.
HOW CAN MAGNESIUM HELP YOU:
Sleep – Studies show Magnesium helps people both fall asleep AND stay asleep. As we know sleep is so important for health and weight loss. Supplementing with magnesium before bed is a great way to relax into a sleep-filled night.
Reflux – Magnesium relaxes the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine. That means it will help your stomach empty so food can keep moving in your digestive tract, decreasing the amount of time in the stomach or the bulk in the stomach to “reflux”.
Say Goodbye to Constipation – Magnesium draws water into the intestine, helping stool from getting too hard and difficult to pass (softer poop). It also helps to relax muscles in the GI tract which can make it easier to go to the bathroom.
More Energy – The energy molecule in our body is called ATP. Without magnesium, you can not convert calories to ATP. Magnesium is essential for the process, so supplying magnesium helps unlock the door to using the energy molecules in the body, taking magnesium can help by increasing your energy levels.
Calming/Soothing – Listen up if you have anxiety, insomnia, or ADHD. Magnesium calms and relaxes the body by slowing the nerve signals from the body to the brain. This will not impair you, it will simply help you to feel calm and relaxed.
There are two types of magnesium I often recommend to patients. If you would like to take a product that will provide help with the above listed items ESPECIALLY constipation, then you should choose a magnesium citrate or oxide. If your bowels are in good working order then I suggest magnesium glycinate, this is a better choice as it has lower incidence of changing stool texture and frequency.
Here are my two favorite supplements for magnesium supplements. Both of which you can find at Wellevate where you will receive 10% off every order!
Information on Egg Labeling in the Supermarket, What is Worth Your Money?
Egg buying has become very confusing, with a large mix of certifications, terms and phrasing on packages- many buyers are left wondering, when and what is worth the extra bucks? Check out my guide below of what the terms mean (or don't mean) and which terms are worth the extra bucks in my humble opinion(denoted by this ***). I also really like this NPR article:
I would pay more for this, it is a very specific term that guarantees the hens are not caged, fed an organic diet, receive no antibiotics or GMO foods.
This term really means nothing, it is not a regulated term so ANY producer can put this term on their label.
Again this is not regulated so any producer can put this on it’s label.
Omega 3 ***
This is also NOT regulated. However it is a great way to get some more omega-3 fatty acids. The hens are fed fish oil or flax oil to increase the omega-3s in the eggs laid.
Another unregulated term, however it means just what it says. The hens laying the eggs don’t live in cages, but this doesn’t mean they are in a “good situation”, or even outside.
So what is the difference? These hens can move around, perch and lay their eggs in a nest, and depending on how many other hens are around, they may be able to spread their wings.
Pasture Raised ***
I would also pay more for this term. Most of these hens spend the balance of their lives outdoors with a good amount of space and access to indoors. They can eat worms and insects along with vegetarian feed. Some producers include amount of square feet per hen. This is a level of transparency I believe in.
This term should not warrant extra dollars from your pocket because it is illegal to give hormones to egg laying hens in the US.
United Egg Producer Certified
Not worth your money or purchasing power. According to the Humane Society. “This voluntary egg industry program permits cruel and inhumane caging and treatment. Hens are confined in barren, wire cages so small the birds can barely move. The guidelines recommend cage space less than the size of a piece of paper—just 67 square inches—for each bird.”
This term means the hens are not in a cage and have access to the outdoors. The extra outdoor space may be a screened-in area on cement or dirt or grass. Even though it may say this, most free-range birds in commercial egg facilities never do go outside. The USDA does not certify this term, so be careful this may not mean your eggs were laid by a hen that ever saw the light of day.
The vegetarian diet contains no animal by-products. Chicken will scavenge in a natural environment eating bugs and vegetarian food. So a vegetarian diet may not actually be best for the hens, but you can know they are not eating other animal by-products. Most hens are fed a vegetarian diet, so I wouldn’t pay more for this.
Many people are starting to raise their own hens and source eggs from their own backyard. Before deciding to do this, check out your local city ordinances to see if your area will allow you to have hens based on city zoning. Even if you don't live in super rural areas, there is often at least 1 or 2 sources of farm fresh, truly pasture raised eggs around.
I also recommend testing other types of eggs: Emu, Goose, Ostrich, Turkey, Quail and DUCK!
Many are quite surprised when they find out that less than 1% of US farmland is certified organic. Yet the market for organics is growing daily (as it should). There is a great amount of adulteration in our food supply from GMOs, large amounts of heavy metals, insane amounts of pesticides, and the health of Americans consequently suffer.
I know that what I am saying is controversial, and people in my own family will not agree that our modern farming techniques and chemicals affect our health negatively. People will say that GMO crops have not been shown to have negative health effects on humans. While some of the health effects of GMOs specifically have on our health is still to be confirmed in the scientific community, there is an interesting New York Times article stating "But an extensive examination by ... indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides." The basic promise of the GMO industry, a more secure supply of food and less need for chemical pesticides has not been delivered even with 20 years of the nations farmers embracing GMO crops.
The NY Times article goes on to explain "An analysis... using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops." If the health effects still require more scientific scrutiny, I would propose we move back to non-GMOs, since we are not gaining any major advantages from crop yields, and we are largely funding a major food superpower Monsanto.
I will leave my very strong feelings towards pesticides out of the post, because I'd like to share about an ad I saw in a magazine last week:
Kashi, a brand of natural and organic cereals, bars and snack foods, whose parent company is Kelloggs, is leading the way in a new certification aimed at lowering the cost of becoming an organic producer. It takes 3 years of farming with organic processes, a lot of money spent on a certification, and increased cost of labor and seed to become certified as an organic farmer. During this period, a farmer can not sell his products as organic. With increased cost without being able to compensate with increased profits, the road is often too difficult and too expensive for a farmer to chance. This new cereal ad above is highlighting a farmer in the midst of this transition process, and is using wheat from a field that is transitioning to organic. The idea is that a farmer can now get this new certification, which is less expensive than the organic certification, and may sell to companies willing to pay a price somewhere in between conventionally grown wheat and organically grown wheat. This cereal is advertised by Kashi to be priced and sold to consumers at a pricepoint somewhere in between a conventional wheat product and an organic product.
Kashi has partnered with QAI and Hesco to create this new logo and certification. What did impress me when I read about this idea on Kashi's website, is that the certification is open to anyone, and in fact Kashi sent information to competitors to promote this new movement and additional supply of safer food in America. This is not the first attempt by a major brand to promote a product "not quite" organic. Whole foods started labeling some products as "Responsibly Grown" for nonorganic farmers who follow certain practices established by the grocery giant. The idea and point is that farmers will not stay transitional, they will become organic, growing our organic food supply and paving the way for additional farmers to begin the process of becoming organic, with a larger market for the "in between" produce.
I recommend getting involved in your local farmers markets, get to know your produce growers, stop at local farm stands. There may be many farmers out there in this process that will not take part in a certification, but still are providing safer food to eat. I promise you will get an education from these farmers, and if they are not yet organic, your voice is heard each time you ask about their farming practices, and if you walk away from a sale, they feel it.
If your food budget is stretched and you don't know where it is most important to focus your organic food dollars, check out this blog post where I review this information.
Where do you spend your food budget on more expensive products? Produce, dairy, meat? What local stores do you source your food. I'd love to hear, comment below or add a comment to my facebook page.
In great health!
We’ve just stepped into the holiday season, November is officially upon us. Most parts of the US are about to participate in setting our clocks back one hour. Up side: extra hour of sleep Saturday night. Down side: it is going to get dark really, really early. This generally leads to people eating more comfort foods, avoiding the gym, and well complaining. November also starts the bustle of expectations in the holiday season. It is often a season with lots of excitement, expectation but can also be marked by a tinge of sadness, anxiety and depression. I would like to take a moment and discuss something that has actually scientifically been proven to help lift the spirits, and it is actually built right into the next holiday: Thanks giving. Expressing your gratitude, research (religion and common sense) all prove that being thankful can lighten the heart and help one become happier.
The word gratitude is from a Latin word gratia, which means: grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Thankfulness or gratitude requires recognizing a source of goodness that lies outside of one self. Perhaps you are thankful for the meal your mother prepared or the sweet trinket your friend sent you. Perhaps you are thankful for the time to surround yourself with loved ones and yummy food.
RESEARCH ON THE TOPIC
Two psychologies, one from UC Davis and another from University of Miami have done studies on gratitude. In one study they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week that would focus on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were thankful for that had occurded during that week. The second group wrote about daily irritations or things that displeased them, and a third wrote about events that had affected them (no emphasis given on positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also reported less visits to physicians than those who were focused on irritants.
There was another study which compared those who wrote about childhood memories with those who were instead told to write a letter of gratitude to someone that had never been properly thanked for their kindness. Participants who were charged with writing the letter exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores.
Another study showed how gratitude can improve relationships. A study analyzed communication between couples. Couples who regularly expressed gratitude towards one another reported feeling more positive toward their partner and even more comfortable sharing concerns regarding their relationship.
You see this in business too, effective managers know how to let their team know how well they are doing and cultivate positive feelings toward each other.
I bring this up especially in this season, but because I know what the Bible says too! A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones. When we approach changing seasons, holidays, and busy times of the year it will be very helpful to stop and remember how much we have to be thankful for. You may be surprised to see how thankfulness begets more thankfulness in yourself and in those around you.
When you approach your food, consider stopping to pray or reflect before eating. Think about how eating each bite gives your body what it needs to turn over cells, for body processes to work, for your heart to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body. If you build a pattern of doing this, you will find it’s harder to think about a Big Mac making your body strong, and it may even help you make more beneficial food choices. If you don't feel like you have a habit of being thankful, just start thinking more thankfully, you will be surprised how it becomes contagious!
Keep it positive people, keep it thankful, keep it healthy!
I’d like to start a series on cooking techniques. I hope to cover information that is helpful for the home cook. How do you choose a certain knife to cut bread, versus fruit or cheese? Which pan is best to cook fish in, or an egg, or pot roast? Why would you put meatballs back in the fridge before cooking? These will be bite-size lessons that will help you refine your skills and be more confident in the kitchen.
The first topic I would like to cover is called “mise en place”. My favorite college professor and the one who taught my cooking classes Dr. Arlene Grant-Holcomb (she also joined in at my graduation party and wedding celebration – talk about an incredible teacher!) would always instruct that a good recipe always starts with mise en place. So what does it mean? It literally means “set in place”. It’s exactly what you see done on all the popular cooking shows where the ingredients and tools are all set out and ready to go. You need onions diced for the recipe? They are diced ahead of time! You need two tablespoons of chili powder, measure it first! The point is to set it all out and then when you are reading through the recipe and doing each step in order, you always have that next ingredient at the ready.
One of my favorite things about Mise en Place is pretending I am a celebraty chef, and say things like "now we will just pour in two cups chicken broth" (then I pour in the two cups of premeasure chicken broth) and I FEEL LIKE A STAR! You may be thinking I'm crazy, but try it, I know it'll put a smile on your face. Even if the dog is the only audience member in the room, he will enjoy the lesson.
As you grow and develop in your cooking skills a strict mise en place may not be as necessary because you will know that you can measure spices as your onions brown, or you will anticipate needing to put an ingredient in the oven to roast for 20 minutes which will allow ample time to measure something else, however for a less experienced cook, or one who is not as confident, setting all the items in order is a crucial first step for any dish. Many times you can even do it HOURS ahead of time or even in the morning or night before to save yourself time when you actually prepare the dish. You’ll just need to be mindful of safe storing practices. Here are some simple tips I use:
COMBINE WHERE POSSIBLE
If all the spices are added at the same time in a recipe, just combine them all in one bowl as you measure.
If you add carrots, onion and celery to a recipe at the same time (or any mixture of veggies) just throw them all in the same bowl.
PEEL, CUT, CHOP, DICE, MINCE
Rinse your fresh produce, and do whatever cutting needs to take place before the recipe.
Measure all dry ingredients, spices, etc.
Measure any liquids, oils, butters, you need.
Look at the recipe and organize your ingredients based on where in the kitchen you will use them or when in the recipe you will use them. For instance if you are prepping chili – the spices should go near the pot.
BLANCHE AHEAD OF TIME
If the recipe calls of vegetables or fruit that is already slightly cooked, make sure this is done by the time you begin the recipe, nothing will slow your groove more than having to stop an entire process to go boil and blanche some broccoli.
Preparation is key to cooking a great recipe, selecting meals for the week and getting the most bang out of your buck at the grocery store. Mise en place can make home cooking more enjoyable as you are actually preparing the dishes and way more enjoyable to eat. It can save a dish that might have been burned while you were prepping other materials, and instead turn it into the most fabulous feast!
Do you mise en place? Take a photo and post it to my facebook wall.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
110 N McClelland Street
Santa Maria, California 93454
Hours: Tues and Thurs 10-5 PST