Monday, November 30, 2009

Time to work off the turkey!

Now that we've all had our share of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc etc etc (all healthy versions of course)'s time to work off the extra calories and stay on the healthy habit wagon. This is no time to get sluggish or throw in the towel!

So how much physical activity do adults need?

According to the new CDC guidelines, to reap the health benefits, you need:

  • 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups
  • 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
  • An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
For even greater health benefits, it is recommended that you get 500 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous activity PLUS muscle strengthening activities.

I would also like to add my own recommendation for stretching. I think just 10 minutes of stretching a day can make a big difference. Even if you don't do a formal stretch routine, although those are nice, try doing a few moves at your desk throughout the day. For specific suggestions, tune in later or check out my ESMM blog posts.

So what counts as moderate or vigorous activity?

Moderate activities include:
  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Using a stationary bike or biking on a relatively flat area
  • Or anything that gets your heart rate up, causes you to sweat, but doesn't cause you to lose your breath.
Vigorous activities include:
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Riding a bike on hills or taking an indoor cycling class
  • Playing basketball
  • Or anything that gets your heart rate up, causes you to sweat, and causes you to breath should only be able to speak a few words without catching your breath.
So what are muscle strengthening activities?

  • Traditional weight lifting with free weights or gym machines
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, push ups, etc
  • Yoga
  • Or anything that engages specific muscles to the point where its hard to do another repetition or hold on any longer without assistance
So how does one fit in all of this fitness?

Personally, I have found that using my lunch break forces me to get my bootie in motion and helps break up a long day of sitting at my desk. Some days I take a class at the gym (a convenience I know most working people can't afford), other days I get on the treadmill or elliptical and do intervals while watching tv. On nice days, I take a long walk around campus or the surrounding neighborhoods.

Even if you can only get in 20 minutes of walking before chowing down on your lunch, it can count towards your weekly and daily total. You might take 20 minutes during lunch, another 10 during your afternoon break, and then take a walk after dinner.

Or try finding a new activity or class to enjoy. Join a kickball team, join a running group, try a spin class (they are only as hard as you make them), go for a hike, play volleyball, take a dance class, try Wing Chun or another form of martial arts, go swimming, get a fun workout DVD from netflix, walk the dogs, train for a race or event, bike to work.....

Find something you enjoy doing, and do it consistently, keeping in mind the time recommendations from the CDC. It doesn't have to be painful or boring. The health benefits will be endless. AND if you are trying to lose weight, meeting these guidelines will help you on your journey.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Great book!

"Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high..."

I just finished listening to the book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" on CD and I loved it! I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about what it means to eat organically and locally. The author also discusses other food topics including cooking, gardening, vegetarianism, GMOs, etc.

It's a non-fiction work about one family who decided to eat as locally as possible for one year. It is very well written, with good content but also a good story. It isn't preachy, although the authors (the family wrote it together), do express their views on certain political topics related to food. It has a good bit of satire and humor and feels like fiction.

The audio book was great. It was read by the author, who has a lovely voice. I used it to keep me awake and from getting bored during my recent travels. It can be checked out from the local library as soon as I return it. ;)

It has inspired me to learn more about my local farms and farmers, to learn how to make my own cheese (for fun not as a necessity), to make my own bread, and to cook more often with more whole foods, to think about my vegetarianism (although change will be unlikely for personal reasons), and it has inspired me to teach more people about the American food system.

But you don't have to take my word for it.....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pics or lack of a new blogger, I am sure to make plenty of mistakes. You've probably already caught a few typos. Add to the list that I accidentally deleted most of the pictures featured in previous posts. I'll work to get them back ASAP. But for now, if you go back and look or if you are reading some of these posts for the first time, please be patient with the lack of visual stimulation.

Thank you.

That is all.

Eat Smart More More Maintain Don't Gain Holiday Challenge

Join the Eat Smart, Move More... Maintain, Don't Gain Holiday Challenge!

This year's Challenge will run from November 23 through December 31, 2009.

The six-week challenge provides you with tools, tips and ideas to help you maintain your weight throughout the holiday season. Each week, you will receive free weekly emailed newsletters containing tips to manage holiday stress, ideas for fitting in physical activity during the busy season, and resources for cooking quick and easy meals when time is in short supply. A calorie
counter, food log and activity log are also available for download to help people track their progress.

In 2008 over 5,400 people from all 100 North Carolina counties and 47 other states took part in the Challenge. At the end of the program, 79 percent reported maintaining their weight.

Sign up now for the fourth annual Eat Smart, Move More...Maintain, don't gain! Holiday Challenge at

And look for my words of wit and wisdom as the week 6 expert blogger!

I'm baaaaack

I hope you haven't missed me and my poetic ramblings on all things nutrition and food tooooo much. ;)

Where have I been?

Over the past several weeks I was traveling near and far across NC for work purposes.
I visited (not including places I passed through):
  • Fayetteville
  • Lumberton
  • Wilson
  • Asheville
  • Marion
  • Edenton
  • Windsor
  • Williamston
  • Swan Quarter
  • Washington
  • Bath
  • Louisburg
  • Franklinton
  • Chapel Hill
At each place and while on the road I tried to not only eat as healthfully as possible, but also to eat as locally as possible by dining in local establishments and trying local specialties. I also took note of things like the number and type of grocery stores, especially in the more rural areas, the types of restaurants or eateries, and farms.

Here are some of the things I did/tried/saw:
  • In Wilson I was forced to eat at Quizno's. Not exactly a local eatery. But it posed a challenge, and I am always up for a challenge. They didn't have the tomato soup they advertised, so I had to settle for chicken noodle. I didn't get a sandwich, but they do have smaller ones now, for those watching their portions. And you get to tell them what you do and don't want, which is one reason I like these types of can easily leave off the mayo and high calorie extras without being high maintanence.
  • In Asheville I ate at Universal Joint. It used to be a car repair shop! The menu had a great selection, including healthy, local and vegetarian options. They also had a nice selection of microbrews. I indulged in a local pumpkin ale.
  • I didn't eat in Marion, but while driving on the back roads to get there, I saw many a farmer selling his wares. I really really wanted to get some apples, but had no cash.
  • Edenton is a tiny town right on the water. It is very cute. I ate at the Nothing Fancy Cafe and got to have a plate of "sides" and homemade cornbread for $5. I got local greens, bean soup, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Yum!
  • In Windsor, which is in Bertie County, I got to try Bertie county peanuts. They are grown, harvested, prepared and packaged in Bertie County. I went to a warehouse store where I had tons of flavors and styles to choose from. I got sea salt and pepper and a dark chocolate peanut bar. Soooooo yummy! Some of you might be gettin some nuts for Christmas this year!
  • In Williamston I ate at The Hitchin Post. I was glad to see that even at such an establishment in a relatively rural area, the salad bar had mixed greens and spinach rather than just iceberg.
  • I barely made it to Swan Quarter and back. Many of the roads into town were flooded due to last weeks storms. From what I saw, this is one of the tiniest towns I've ever seen. No restaurants, no grocery stores, no gas station, no stoplights. The person I was visiting told me she actually lives 25 minutes away. The grocery stores and Walmart are another 30 minutes away.
  • I got to stay a little longer than planned in Washington or "little washington." The brakes in my state vehicle wore out and had to be replaced. But I still managed to see some sights and eat some food. I got to eat at a restaurant downtown on the water called Down on Main for two meals. For dinner I had shrimp and veggie kebabs. For lunch I had a grilled tuna steak sandwich. It never ceases to amaze me how many places located near water or the beach advertise fresh seafood but serve no such thing. My sandwich tasted ok, but it wasn't fresh fish. I was also surprised by the confusion I caused when I ordered soda water. I even clarified by calling it carbonated water or fizzy water. Neither the hostess who took our drink order or the server knew what I was talking about. Finally, I said, "the stuff that comes out of the drink machine but doesn't have syrup....ask the bartender, he might be able to show you." Finally I got what I ordered. LOL.
  • To kill time I drove to Bath, the place where Blackbeard died. There was only two eateries in the small town. One was closed and the other was a little scary. So I kept driving before stopping for lunch. But the town was very cute. Many houses had pirate flags flying and the ABC store was called "Ye Olde ABC Store."
  • After my meeting in Chapel Hill, I got to visit Maple View Farms for the first time. I've had their goods before, but never been. I bought milk, buttermilk for cornbread and fresh butter. I also had a kids size cup of fresh pumpkin ice cream for $1.25!
During my time on the backroads I saw a lot of crops and farms. I saw lots of cotton and collards. I really wanted to purchase some of the latter, but would have no way to cook them when I got home (see previous kitchen post.) I thought a lot about what it takes to acquire food when you're outside of an urban area, and what it means to eat locally out there. I'm coming to admire traditional farmers and local food makers more and more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How do you cook without a kitchen?

As those close to me know, I have no kitchen at the moment. I mean, I have the physical room, but it has been stripped of almost all appliances, cabinets, and even the kitchen sink. I do have my fridge, thank goodness, and a limited supply of electric outlets.

Some might think this would pose a challenge to a cook such as myself. HA! While it has not been easy, I am managing to "cook" and eat relatively well with limited culinary support.

Here are some sample meals I whipped up/put together:

The Wendy's Special
I purchased plain baked potatoes, one cup of chili and side salads from Wendy's. At home I topped my potato with salsa and a bit of previously made guacamole and Sir Cakewalk's with the chili (he eats meat, I don't). On the salad I used a bottled light dressing and sprinkled it with feta cheese. I didn't have to make or cook anything, it was healthy, it only cost around $5, and I had no dirty dishes to wash in the tub after.

Pizza Night
Last week we bought a small thin crust pizza while it was on sale, knowing we might need it when our kitchen was gutted. We cooked it in the toaster oven, which we plugged into an outlet and rested on our washer in the basement (space is a hot commodity.) While it was cooking, I put some mixed greens into two bowls. The greens were a bag of organic herb mix from Trader Joe's. I'm not usually a fan of salad from a bag. They are over priced and often go bad very quickly. But, sometimes it is nice to use when you can't prep the veggies yourself. On each "salad" I added a little red wine vinegarette from a bottle. We each had a bowl of greens that didn't need any additional veggies (which would've required a cutting board, knives, etc), half the pizza and a glass of red wine from TJ's. Total cost was about $8, including the wine, but not including the dressing because I already had it. It did dirty a few dishes, but it was worth it.

Slow Cooker Soup
I have not made this yet, but I might soon. If I did, I would plug in my slow cooker. Then I would put in a few cups of water and a few bouillon cubes. I would add some frozen veggies like lima beans, corn, or any other veggies from leftovers left in the fridge or maybe a can of tomatoes. I would finish it off with some basic herbs (whatever I can reach from the box where I tossed everything.) Then, I would leave it to simmer while I head off to a hard day's labor.

It's Electric!
If you have an electric wok or skillet, now is the time to use it. These things are pretty cheap appliances and are great to cook with. I love using my wok for a quick and healthy stir fry. You could also use the skillet to make eggs for an easy "breakfast for dinner" meal, to make a sauce for pasta (assuming you have the means to cook the pasta itself), or really to cook about anything you would cook in a standard pot. Most heat very quickly and evenly, are nonstick and easy to clean.

The Last Resort
If all else fails, I can always go out to eat. To save money and watch the portion sizes, Sir Cakewalk and I like to share entrees. If we're looking for something quick, we might share the Blazing Noodles with tofu and veggies from Pei Wei. Otherwise we might split a dish at our favorite ethnic restaurant.

Putting together a healthy meal does not have to be time intensive or require slaving over a hot stove. I mean, that's good fun, but not always feasible, right? So look for easy ways to make a meal at home...even if it requires a bit of "cheating."

Luckily this is all short lived. Soon I will have a beautiful, spacious, new kitchen fully equipped for hosting dinner parties and/or cooking classes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What will be on your Thanksgiving table?

This year I get to host Thanksgiving for the first time. It will be the coming together of two families (mine and Sir Cakewalk's) and their quirky holiday traditions and the beginning of some new traditions.

The primary holiday food tradition in my family centers around one thing: green bean casserole. I know many families include this in their sides line-up, and I know that when made the "traditional" way it's just a bunch of processed and canned junk with little nutritional value, but for us it has special significance. It was one of my favorite dishes made by my grandmother, who passed away over a decade ago. None of my biological grandparents are still living, so keeping any little tradition alive is important to me. (This is also why I might make mincemeat pie this year, which my mom just told me her mom always used to make....even though the name of it scares me.)

But gb casserole has even more meaning for my sister and I. I have been a vegetarian for the better part of my adult life, and my sister doesn't eat read meat. During many a holiday meal, the only thing we really had to look forward to was the gb casserole. Thus, it had to be made exactly to our specifications, which we honed over the years to exactly fit our tastes. To me it is the ultimate comfort food and something I cannot do without during any holiday meal.

Did you know that green bean casserole has only been around since the mid 1900's? Stay tuned for a post about it's history and cultural significance.

I will also be considering all of the personal preferences of those sitting around the dinner table when putting together the menu:
  • Vegetarian
  • No red meat or pork
  • Can't eat peppers
  • Doesn't like mushrooms/onions/brussel sprouts/greens
  • Diabetic
  • Diet friendly
  • And the list goes on.....
But despite all considerations, I have had a tremendous amount of fun putting together my holiday menu. I have allowed for any and all input from participating parties, but made some stipulations of my own:
  1. I want as much of the food as possible to be homemade. Nothing canned, boxed, or pre-fab...within reason. Exceptions will be made for the gb casserole which has to be made with a certain type of canned green bean and a specific canned soup. ;)
  2. I want to incorporate as much local produce and items as possible. I will be using my papa spud's order for this, and also visiting the farmer's market, Maple View Farms for dairy, and trying to find a local turkey if possible.
  3. I want to incorporate as much organic produce as possible. Hopefully, by purchasing some things locally, this will not be too difficult.
  4. I want to put a spin on old favorites (unless it is someone's favorite dish that cannot be altered.) To find ideas, I'm scouring my favorite books and websites including Eating Well, Whole Foods, Animal Vegetable Miracle, The Healthy Kitchen, Best Recipe Cookbook, etc.
  5. Special diets will be considered. If someone is diabetic, watching their weight or vegetarian, I want to make certain they have ample choices for good food.
So without further adieu, here is my Thanksgiving Menu, which still might change a bit here and there. If you'd like to know what recipe I'm using, or if you have ideas to share, please contact me.
  • Turkey (Local or at least free range)
  • White wine gravy
  • Green salad (Local greens and homemade dressing)
  • Light southwestern cornbread stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Homemade mac n cheez (haven't chosen a recipe yet)
  • Homemade rolls.....or rolls from Le Farm
  • Collards from VA
  • Brussel Sprouts sauteed with a touch of butter and light mustard sauce OR Sauteed broccoli with garlic
  • "Light" parmesan mashed potatoes
  • "Light" sweet potato casserole with ginger, spices, honey and orange zest
  • Baked okra (Rice House recipe)
  • Ginger cranberry relish or cranberry/cherry marmalade
  • Mincemeat pie
  • Pumpkin flan
  • Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Looks good, don't it? ;) I can't wait to cook a somewhat FLOW menu for family in my new kitchen and sit down to a scrumptous meal. Then we will duke it out over Tripoley!

What are you having?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food Club

I would love to start a cooking/eating club (once our fancy new kitchen is complete.)

My idea would be to have one dinner at a member's house once a month, with a different member hosting each month. That person could cook something based on the vegetable of the month, or a new recipe they want to try, or a recipe they love to make and want to share. I think it would be fun if some people helped to make the meal and take some of the duties off of the host...making it a more hands-on activity.

The group would be different somehow than just a group getting together to eat....although that is always a nice thing. Maybe by adding a nutritional or experimental element. Or maybe by making it kinda like a book club and having the group do a little research ahead of time on the main dish or some highlighted item.

I think it would be a great way to learn about new foods, try new things and recipes that you might not otherwise try, and have fun with others.

Is anyone doing anything like this now?

Anyone have any other ideas on how to make the group unique and interesting?

Does anyone in the Raleigh/Cary/Durham area want to start one with me?

Ewwwwww!!!!!!!! But true.

This is one way to get the point across. (As seen on the NYC subway.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vegetable of the Month: Greens

Many in the nutrition field affectionately call these guys "green leafies." While all veggies are good for you and you should strive to eat a wide variety of them, green leafies have some of the most nutritious bang for your buck. They provide Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Fiber...amongst other things. They have no fat (unless you use it to cook them) and are very low in calories. Plus they taste great when they are prepared properly.

Growing up I hated green leafies. In fact I hated many vegetables (even as a vegetarian) but that's another story. What I eventually realized is that your tastes can change AND that liking some things is all in the preparation. Veggies taste completely different depending on whether they are canned, frozen or fresh and depending on whether they are overcooked (as most green leafies usually are), cooked with fat, or cooked with various seasonings. Check out the cookbook, "Best Recipe" for information on greens and how to cook the various types. Now, I haven't found a green leafy I don't like, assuming they are made well.

Here are some of my favorites:

Collards are apparently the oldest known greens in the cabbage family dating back to ancient times.

I learned how to cook them by asking the person who sold them to me at the farmer's market the first time I decided to make them myself. It was easy and tasty.

  1. The night before you cook them, pull the leaves off of the center stalks and tear into rough pieces. You don't need to chop them or make them perfectly sized. Rinse them in a colander.
  2. Soak the greens overnight in a large pot of cool, salted water. This will make your kitchen smell! It does not mean the greens have gone bad. And it is not an indication of the taste or smell of the future cooked greens. I promise!
  3. Before calling it a night, prepare the vinegar "sauce." Mix half a chopped onion into a cup of white vinegar. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.
  4. When ready to prepare, drain and rinse the greens, set aside.
  5. In a large skillet with a lid, saute chopped garlic and onion with a little olive oil.
  6. When the onion is soft and browned, add the greens.
  7. Add some broth, either chicken or vegetable. The amount depends on the amount of greens. I usually add a a half cup and make sure that moistens them enough. If not, I add a little more.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and allow to simmer just until the greens start to wilt, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overcook.
  9. Remove from heat and plate up. Allow each person to pour the vinegar/onion over their greens.
  10. Eat!

Swiss Chard
I first had swiss chard in a soupish chicken concoction a friend devised and convinced me to make. Basically, you boil a large pot of broth and add chicken breast chunks, chopped chard (leaves and stem), onion, potato, carrot and whatever else you want. Allow to simmer for awhile until the chicken is cooked and very tender. Drain all of the items unless you want to eat it as a soup. Shred the chicken with a fork, and place some on each plate along with a ladleful of the veggies. This can easily keep for days or can be frozen as a soup and thawed later for more than one meal.

I love throwing chard into a soup or simply sauteing it. Also try Rainbow Chard.

Other greens include:
  • Mustard
  • Turnip
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Kale
  • Beet Greens
  • Tatsoi (see previous post on CSA for a recipe)
  • Spinach (Did you know many kids will eat and love baby spinach if served raw? If you think you don't like it, have you tried it raw?)
So be like Popeye this November and Go Green!

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man,
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm strong to the finich
Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.

Except....don't eat spinach out of a can like he does...YUCK!!!!!!!

Do you eat with FLOW?

Before posting further on FLOW, I would like to get some general feedback, opinions, questions, etc from you. Feel free to answer any of the following questions, or comment on anything else you deem relevant. This will help me gauge where to take the conversation next.

  • Do you care about fair trade?
  • Do you know what fair trade means or how to identify if something is fair trade?
  • Do you try to eat local foods?
  • What does local mean to you? 100 miles? Within the state?
  • Which is more important, eating local or eating organic?
  • Do you know what organic means? Do you understand all the organic lingo on nutrition labels and packages in the grocery store?
  • Should WalMart be allowed to sell organics?
  • Are organics only for the rich?
  • If we try to eat organic, should we also purchase other household items that are organic? Where do we draw the line?
  • Do you try to eat whole foods?
  • Would you like to incorporate more whole foods into your diet but don't know how due to time or monetary constraints?
  • Have you read/seen any of the following? If so, what did you think?
  1. Fast Food Nation
  2. Animal Vegetable Miracle
  3. Omnivore's Dilemma
  4. In Defense of Food
  5. Super Size Me
  6. Food Inc
  7. Slow Food Nation

Alright, shoot.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Go with the FLOW

I have not yet heard or seen the phrase or term used except jokingly by Sir Cakewalk. So I would like to now unofficially coin the term "F.L.O.W." If someone has already laid claim, I extend my apologies.

What is FLOW?

I'll get to that shortly, but first some personal info. I have been received a resurgence of inspiration from the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I have been listening to it on audio CD during my travels around the state this week. It has brought back some of the passion about food and food culture that I felt during my graduate studies. And while I have no intention of becoming as extreme as the author and denouncing all food that isn't produced within a certain radius of my home, I do want to include even more local and organic foods in my meals than I currently do and begin making some food at home, like bread and cheese.

I intend to post more about this topic, how it has inspired me, the controversies and debates it brings about (I know a lot about all angles of the arguments and do not think it is a simple cut and dry matter), my plans and goals, etc. But I will break it up into more manageable bites.

For now I will simply explain FLOW and give you the 2 second wikipedia explanation of each point....again, more to come in future postings.

F = Fair Trade
"Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability."

L = Local
"The local food movement is a collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies - one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place."

O = Organic
This definition will prove a bit tricky. And since most of you have a vague notion of what organic means, or should mean, I will leave it for later.

W = Whole Foods
This definition is also quite tricky. Many define whole foods as just the opposite of processed foods. But any food that has been altered via chopping, cooking, baking, milling, etc has been processed, technically speaking. That is, even frozen vegetables and homemade bread are "processed." The best definition I found stated that whole foods are fresh foods that have not been technologically altered or processed by any means other than those of standard cooking procedures. Or, I like to use another concept that I coined, featured in my thesis, the whole food/processed food continuum. This idea at least takes into consideration that some foods can be mildly processed but are still free from chemical additives or technological alterations and that some foods are just more processed than others.

Now, don't get upset or start worrying that you have to abandon all your current habits and eat with FLOW in order to be healthy. I simply want to start opening the discussion and sharing what I know about each of these concepts so that I can hopefully inspire you.

Monday, November 2, 2009


For most of this week I will be out of town on business. There will be a fair bit of coming and going, so I might have a chance to post, but not as frequently as I would like.

So I would like to give you the floor this week. Please email me or comment on this post with any nutrition / food questions or thoughts you might have.