Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Happy & Healthy New Year!

Last week, I treated myself to one of my very favorite indulgences.

 I got my nails done just in time for the holidays.

As my polish was being painted on, I sat next to the sweetest (and spunkiest) elderly lady who happened to choose the exact same sparkly red color for her fingers. I soon found out that this woman was 98. Ninety-eight.

In previous blogs, we’ve talked about the secret to longevity. The Okinawan Study suggests having a sense of community, belonging and purpose are all key factors. Sharon Palmer, the author of one of our favorite books, The Plant-Powered Diet summarizes that eating more whole plants is the dietary secret to lively a long, healthy life. We’ve also talked about the benefits of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine – even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

While we continue to do more research about the secret to living until your 98, Lisa and I think you should at least strive to live a happy, nourished one.

This includes giving in to a few indulgences once and awhile. And, keep in mind that not all indulgences need to be guilty ones; many can help you feel happy, foster good relationships, and lend yourself to living a healthy life.

Here are some ideas:

Call your best friend.
Buy yourself a new perfume.
Sign up for a new fitness class, go on a new hike, or run an extra half mile.
Get a massage.
Sleep in.
Go to bed early.
Take a nap.
Have a hot bath.
Write in your journal.
Go a walk.
Have a dance party.
Organize your closet and donate your old clothes.
Decorate your house with fresh flowers.

What will you incorporate into your life for 2013 to help you feel happy and healthy?
We’d love to know.

And wishing you a wonderful, nourished New Year!

McKenzie & Lisa

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Diet is a Four Letter Word

Since the holiday season is the unofficial time of year dedicated to excess, it’s not uncommon for many people to fear what seems to be the inevitable holiday weight gain. But there are ways that you can still enjoy all the delicious food the season has to offer without adding any inches to your waistline or compromising your health.

Our very best piece of advice?

Simply plan on NOT dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for over-doing it during the holidays.
Does this sound familiar? “After all, if I’m never going let myself eat this again after Jan. 1st, I might as well eat as much as possible now!”

But, don’t even get us started on diets. Let us explain why.

What’s a diet? To us, “diet” is just a four letter word. It’s also a recipe for disaster - and it’s miserable.

According to its definition, to diet is to: Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight. Example: “It is difficult to diet in a house full of cupcakes.”

You’ve probably been able to relate to this at some point in your life. And you’re not alone. Dieting seems to be an American pastime. According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans diet every year and spend a total of $33 billion dollars on weight loss products. On the flipside, two-thirds of our country is struggling with overweight or obesity. Diets and weight gain often go hand-in-hand.

Confused? We’ll explain.

While restrictive diets can work short term, they’re hardly sustainable for very long. Depriving yourself of foods you truly enjoy or foods essential for adequate nourishment to your body often results in overcompensation after the diet is done. Diets set the foundation for a vicious cycle with your body and with your self-esteem.

What’s more upsetting? This vicious cycle ultimately impacts children. According to an article in Time Magazine, 80% of children have been on a diet by the time they reach the fourth grade. Dieting at such a young age – or any age for that matter – has been linked to disordered eating behaviors, low energy, suppressed immunity, reduced self-esteem, irritability, social isolation, depression, increased food cravings and increased risk for obesity.

If we could shift our preoccupation on restrictive dieting (and the subsequent over-indulgence) to a focus on developing healthy habits, our time would be much better spent. By practicing moderation, moving your body every day, and exhibiting self-compassion – you’re developing the habits for a lifetime of health and happiness.

Here are our Fad Diet Red Flags. When you see an eating pattern supporting one of these philosophies, we encourage you to ignore it and practice our (non)diet philosophy instead.

 Red Flag #1: Foods are characterized as “good” or “bad”
Since diets tend to categorize certain foods as “bad,” “wrong,” or “off-limits,” they set you up for failure or guilt. It’s when we’re able to allow all foods into our eating world, that we are finally able to relieve ourselves of unconscious feelings of deprivation which often leads to subsequent overeating. How many times have you broken your diet and thought “I blew it anyways, so I might as well have more…”?

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods mindfully. You’ll be less likely to over-indulge in the long run.

Red Flag #2: Eliminate an entire food group or component of food.
Whether it’s carbs, fat, animal products, gluten or sugar – deprivation isn’t fun. It also restricts your body of some important vitamins and minerals essential for internal processes. Unless you have a food allergy, eliminating a food group or component of food does more than set yourself up for increased food cravings. It can actually be dangerous to your health.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: When it comes to eating for health, variety is key. Eating well isn’t about what you can’t eat. It’s about what you can eat. Appreciate all the wonderful benefits carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide.

Red Flag #3: It’s a quick fix.
Calories, the energy derived from food, are fuel for your body. When you’re nourishing your body in reasonable portions with an emphasis on real foods, calories are meant to help feel energized. It’s when we’re taking more calories in than what our body is using that we notice an increase in weight. So, any diet which creates a calorie deficit results in weight loss. When you’re significantly restricting calorie intake, you may see some pretty fast results. But, don’t be fooled. Depriving your body of too many calories can actually work against you. Your body will resort to using energy from your muscles, causing your metabolism to slow down. This quick fix is just not worth it.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: In general, a one pound weight loss per week is equal to a 500 calorie deficit per day. Focus on the healthy choices you can make and the activities you can engage in. Keep your energy level high, your body well fueled and your metabolism working in your favor by nourishing your body every 3 to 5 hours with well-balanced meals and snacks. And get moving.

Red Flag #4: Claims sound too good to be true.
We’ve all heard those crazy claims that promise to help you shed unwanted weight. Is it really shocking to hear that swapping your normal diet for one consisting of only cabbage or grapefruit will help you lose extra pounds? Living on these foods is hardly sustainable or enjoyable – and would result in severe malnutrition if carried on for too long.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: While it is true that these foods are low in calories, there is no scientific evidence that backs up the claims that they are “fat burners.” Food does not burn fat. Moving your body does. Legalize all foods in your diet. If you’re aiming to lose some weight, focus on keeping active and eating a variety of real food.

Red Flag #5: Dessert and sugar are off-limits.
Sugar has a bad reputation, but believe it or not, it’s actually part of a healthy diet. Sugar occurs naturally in some foods such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables and is broken down during the digestion of carbohydrates. These sugars are essential for your brain and body. While it is important to be aware of consuming too much added sugar in the form of “empty calories” from packaged foods like cakes, cookies, and candies, it is equally important to keep in mind that not all sugar is bad.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: Take advantage of eating foods with naturally occurring sugar such as fresh fruits and starchy veggies, breads and yogurt. It’s also important to balance nutrition with pleasure. When you have a craving for something sweet, allow yourself to have a serving of something you really enjoy. Restricting yourself will only cause you to overindulge later.

To learn more about our (non)diet philosophy, visit me (McKenzie) at my next workshop at 24 Hour Fitness in Santa Clarita, California on Thursday, January 17th from 4:30pm-5:50pm where I'll be sharing my basic non-diet strategy for achieving optimal health. I'll also teach you how to keep a well-stocked (and healthy!) kitchen & pantry, and how to turn the most nutritious ingredients into a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a snap!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Homemade Gifts for the Holidays

We love nourishing homemade gifts, from photo albums filled with memories to cookies baked with love, a gift created from your own hands says, “I love you.”

Here are some of the gifts we’ll be giving to loved ones this year.

Our signature granola makes a perfect gift.  Healthy and delicious, it’s great with yogurt, milk or on its own.  It looks beautiful packaged in a jar with a bow and a personal note.  See below for my favorite version, made with less sugar than our original recipe and studded with pecans and currants.

Who doesn’t love to receive cookies?  Our no-fail signature oatmeal cookie recipe, made with chocolate, cherries and hazelnuts, has been known to win hearts.  You can feel good giving this gift to absolutely anyone—while the cookies are incredibly delicious, the whole wheat flour, oats, nuts and dried fruit also make them a healthy treat for the holidays.

Another healthy treat, our Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread, looks beautiful wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow.

And this year, we have a new edible gift to add to our repertoire—Cranberry Apple Champagne Sauce.  It’s incredible easy, low in sugar, and equally delicious on ham as it is on leftover turkey sandwiches.  Your friends and family will love this addition to their holiday table.

This is a very forgiving recipe.  Change the ingredients according to your whim or fancy.  Like it sweeter?  Add more honey or jam.  Like it spicier?  Add more chili flakes.  Don't have oranges on hand?  Use apple juice.

Sauté the apples in a little butter.
 Add the rest of the ingredients.
Simmer over low heat until the cranberries pop and the sauce reaches your desired consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Package in a jar and tie with a bow.  I was too busy getting ready to leave for Maui to photograph this step—but I did give my Mom a jar before we left.        

Happy Holidays and joyful gift giving, from our hearts and kitchen to yours!    

Cranberry Apple Champagne Sauce   

Makes about 3 cups

1 teaspoon butter
1 apple, diced
1 bag fresh cranberries
Zest and juice from one orange
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fig jam, or honey
1 – 1 ½ cups champagne or Prosecco

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  Add apples and saute until the apples just start to soften. 

Add all the other ingredients to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, until cranberries have popped and the sauce reaches a desired consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes. 

Let cool completely.  Spoon the sauce into a glass jar and tie with a bow.  Give to someone you love.

Nourish Granola

Makes 45 servings ¼ cup servings

4 cups whole rolled oats
2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
2 cups pecans
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup grapeseed oil or melted butter
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
2 cups dried currants

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.

In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, pecans, sea salt and cinnamon. 

In another small bowl, whisk together oil or butter, maple syrup and brown sugar.  Pour the maple syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well, being sure to coat all of the dry ingredients with the maple syrup mixture.

Divide oats mixture among two large rimmed baking sheets and spread to a thin layer.  Place baking sheets on two racks in the oven and bake, about 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes, or until deeply golden brown.  Halfway through cooking time, switch the placement of the pans to the other rack.

Remove from the oven and pour into a large bowl.  Stir in currants.  Let granola cool completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Party Food, Nourish Style

The holiday season has arrived, with all of its glitter, musical soundtracks and traditional favorite family dishes.  Love it or dread it, you’re probably going to host—or be invited to—many festive gatherings this month.  Whether creating holiday menus of your own or contributing to potlucks and parties at the homes of friends, why not escape from the same old cheesy artichoke dip or pastry-wrapped brie and try some fresh, new recipes this year?
Here are a few ideas for starting your holidays—and your parties—off on a healthy, lighter note.  And there’s not a carrot stick in sight.

1. Individual endive leaves make perfect vehicles for a variety of fillings—think about them as mini individual salads in their own edible cup and then let your imagination run wild.  Beets and toasted hazelnuts with blue cheese, tiny cubes of parmesan cheese tossed with walnuts, celery and aioli or a farro salad studded with toasted pecans, dried cherries, lemon and olive oil.  Depending upon the fillings you choose, endive spears are also an easy way to make sure you have a gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan appetizer option on the table.

          2. Like endive spears, firm polenta can be a vehicle for a variety of toppings.  Just cook polenta according to package directions and then pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate until firm.  Once firm, polenta can be cut into squares or circles, warmed in the oven, and then topped with wild mushrooms sautéed with fresh thyme or braised leeks or even your favorite slow-cooked pork or beef brisket.  See a recipe here.

          3. Instead of slaving away in the kitchen making individual appetizers, set up a bruschetta bar with a variety of toppings and let your guests build their own little open-faced sandwiches.  Bruschetta can be much more than tomato and basil.  Put out bowls of braised chickpeas tossed in an anchovy vinaigrette, garlicky ribbons of kale drizzled with good olive oil, or oil-packed tuna tossed with olives, capers and spicy preserved peppers.  Serve the toppings with lightly toasted bread—just slice a crusty baguette on the diagonal, drizzle with olive oil and toast in a hot oven until golden.  See a recipe here.

          4. Forego the usual tray of crudités, and try a twist on this classic with a platter of roasted vegetables—fingerling potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, delicata squash.  Choose from a variety of winter vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast in a 450 degree oven until caramelized.  These are delicious hot or at room temperature, served on their own or with something to dip them in.

          5. And speaking of dips, there are limitless opportunities to create new and interesting dips and spreads for crackers, bread or vegetables.  Try blending roasted eggplant with garlic and olive oil, mashing beets with lemon juice, roasted shallots and olive oil, or creating a creamy sweet potato spread by blending smashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic, olive oil and herbs.  Here's a recipe for an eggplant dip.

Happy Holidays!  We hope you're sharing this holiday with the people who nourish you through and through.