Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Healthy Meals in NO TIME AT ALL!

A few days ago, I posted the following question as my Facebook status:

What roadblocks keep you from eating (or feeding your family) healthy?

I received a slew of responses (thanks for that!), all essentially saying the same thing: a lack of time, menu ideas, cooking skills, and motivation prevent us from eating healthfully.

Oh my. First, let me say, I have struggled with these, especially, the lack of time and menu planning. And, as my family loves to remind me, my first attempts at cooking were less than stellar. It took me a while to learn to cook well, a practice I am forever refining.

But I assure you, these are not insurmountable obstacles, and with a little planning, some guidance, and an open mind, you can eat healthfully and feel great WITHOUT SPENDING HOURS IN THE KITCHEN! Honestly, I just don't buy the time excuse; it can take longer to order and pick up a pizza, or heat up some ultra-processed "chicken" schnitzel than to cook a simple, whole foods meal.

Today, after a crazy start to the week (working two jobs for three days in a row, multiple appointments for the kids, repairmen in and out of the house, etc.) I made a healthy and delicious lunch in UNDER 8 MINUTES. What's more, this mean was totally not pre-planned; I thought of this idea on my bike ride home from work!

The result? Coconut Rice With Chicken that everyone scarfed down!

Here's how it went down:

1. Turn on oven and reheat leftover chicken.
2. Heat coconut oil in skillet. Chop onions. Sautee onions and spices (cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper)
3. Wash, soak and check 1/2 head of cauliflower
4. Pour can of coconut milk into the skillet. Heat for 30-60 seconds.
5. Add precooked brown rice (leftovers from last night). Stir to mix and heat for a few minutes.
6. Add cauliflower. Cover and shut off heat.
7. Let rest for a minute while the cauliflower steams a bit.
8. Spoon rice mixture into bowls with some shredded chicken on top; then eat and enjoy

See? Quick, easy and healthy! And yummy! In under 8 minutes. Clearly, the speed was the result of having 2 components already cooked (the rice and the chicken) and the other ingredients on hand (the coconut milk and the veggies). I'll talk more about how to make that happen in future posts. But for right now: What do you have in your pantry or fridge that you can transform into a quick and healthy meal today?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Embracing the Season

Finally. Fall has arrived here in Israel, and with it, cooler temperatures… and some wind. While most of us welcome this respite from the heat, seasonal transitions can be very taxing physically and energetically. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are deeply affected by the changes in our environment, including the seasonal ones.

As fall settles upon us for real now, have you noticed you’ve got:
skin problems: acne, eczema, rashes, dry, dull or oily skin?
congestion: sinusitis, asthma, allergies, runny/ stuffy nose, or a cold?
an overbooked to-do list or calendar? (I consider this just another form of congestion, really.)

If you answered 'yes' to any of the questions above, then it’s crucial to adjust your diet and lifestyle to align with the season. Doing so will help you create health and balance and build strength for the upcoming winter. Better to act now than wait till later. A cold that lingers from fall to winter could easily morph into a sinus infection or pneumonia as the weather turns cold.

So, how do you make that happen, when you've already got so much to do? The key lies in embracing the season. Here in Israel, we’re blessed that it’s fairly easy to eat seasonally. The produce available to us is what’s in season, and, as they say “zeh-ho”. If it’s not in season, then you won’t find it in stores. You’ll notice when produce is not quite at its prime because of the price (more expensive) and well, the taste (not so great). When the season is over, you simply can’t get it anymore. This is in sharp contrast to many Western countries, where, if you fancy watermelon in the dead of winter, you can get it. Pineapple in January? No problem. Food is shipped from where ever it is seasonal to wherever you want it. The problem is, while your taste buds may want that food, your body really doesn’t. Your body wants to align with nature; that’s what it was designed to do. Eating and living “out of season” can lead to physical and emotional illness and intense food cravings.
You see, there’s a reason certain foods grow in certain seasons. With each new season comes a fresh batch of foods designed to support your body during the new season. Therefore, it's important to change the foods you eat every time you transition from one season to another. Changing the foods you eat will help reduce food cravings and balance your body and moods.

Enough theory... let's get practical! What does seasonal eating look like in the Fall? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, fall foods are designed to cleanse and rebuild your lungs and large intestine, as well as all the health problems that arise when these two organs are overburdened.

Fall foods are often white in color and sour or pungent in taste. You’ll also want to add more warming and moist, cooked foods to balance the effects of the weather. Some fall food suggestions:
Put sliced apple or pear over your breakfast cereal or oatmeal; ginger tea flavored with a slice of lemon, lots of garlic and onion in general, soups and stews, especially with root veggies like carrot, turnip, beets, celery, etc.; baked sweet potatoes or pumpkin with cinnamon sprinkled on top, whole grains like barley and brown rice, and good quality oils like olive, sesame, and coconut.
Daily Lifestyle Routines

Just as important and what you eat is WHEN you eat. Now’s the time to establish a regular eating schedule; it’s exactly what we need to calm our over stimulated nervous systems and regulate our digestion. Try consistently eating a light breakfast about an hour after you wake up, a heavier lunch, and a light dinner, ideally before 6pm. Honor your body’s need for more rest in this season by going to bed before 10pm and getting up rising before 6am. I totally acknowledge how challenging this is; do the best you can to at least establish a regular routine, no matter what it is. Getting up early one day and sleeping in the next or eating at 6pm one day and at 10pm the next, all promote imbalance and poor digestion (and elimination!).

Sounds simple? It is! And yet, simple changes can produce big results! Dr. Elson Hass says it so well in his book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons:

“Eating and living habits are crucial to your well-being and important for your growth. It is time to assume total responsibility for how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Health begins with becoming aware of your energy and its balance-what you take in and what you put out. What’s important is learning to listen to yourself from the inside so you do not have to become ill to change your life. Keeping your body and mind open and clear makes the way for positive thoughts and visions, and the love from your heart will fill every part.”

Amen. So it should be by all of us...