Category Archives: Food

Of Mice, Bikes and Keeping goals in mind

Hi guys, I’m back after a rough couple of weeks. As a mentioned in my last post, change is never easy; it is wrought with many uncertainties and inherently involves some degree of risk. Sometimes things work out as or better than you expected, but other times the road is a little bumpier. I guess my road has started off a little bumpier than I would have liked, but that’s part of life!   The first week (Oct 6 – 10th) I had an unwelcome visitor in the form of a mouse (ugh). This past week, my bike, along with three other bikes in my apartment building, was stolen. I found out later that it actually happened on Wednesday night but I didn’t notice till Thursday. I ended up filing a police report, but then by a bizarre sequence of events, my bike was recovered! (Long story short, my movers accidentally bent the rim of the tire and so the back wheel wouldn’t turn; thus the thieves left it behind and my super put it in the basement). Anyway, Thursday night (when I thought my bike had been ripped off), was not pretty. I was really distraught about a whole series of things that had gone wrong since moving back, and was just an emotional wreck.

Through all these ‘festivities,’ and the roller coaster of emotions I was feeling, I found myself questioning a lot of decisions I had made – about changing careers, moving, relocating etc. I started questioning many decisions and asking a lot of “What if..” questions. Making a career change mid-life was not and is not an easy decision. You give up so much, including financial stability, a regular income and time, and put other things like relationships and life events on hold in order to pursue your dreams and goals. It is hard work and requires a huge investment of time, money and sacrifices – but it’s also so worth it to know that you are pursuing your dreams and not settling for anything less than exactly what you want. This past week, when things weren’t turning out to be quite as I had expected,I started comparing my life to those of others around me who have very successful careers and certainly a much larger bank account than I do right now. However, this comparison did nothing but augment my anxiety.  Thankfully, I have an amazing group of friends who are like family to me, and wonderful parents who were so supportive and talked me through the rough times. The odd recovery of my bike was also a nice sign (NYC’s way of saying “Welcome back – but you have to go through a period of hazing before you get settled in.” Don’t worry – I still love you NYC). So I am back, and looking forward to good things. I spent a lovely Saturday at a food festival with some dear friends, and had a great run around Central Park today – and loved every minute of it 🙂 And I keep in mind why I chose to do what I do – because I love it. That’s why. I have a dream and I am pursuing it, and at the end of the day that is what I have to remember when things get a little rough.

This little episode did however get me thinking about our tendency to compare ourselves to others in different areas of life. For some it may be comparisons related to finances, lifestyle, careers etc, while for others it may be comparisons around body image, looks or athletic abilities. Whatever the comparison may be – is it really worth it?? Is it really necessary? And what exactly does it achieve? Not much, except for causing unnecessary mental anguish and preventing you from recognizing and celebrating your own accomplishments and abilities.

One area in which I hope to help my clients in the field of nutrition and health is dealing with negative self-talk and comparisons surrounding food and body image. Food can be such a sensitive subject for many individuals; eating a “bad” food can lead to a downward spiral of negative self talk, comparisons to other individuals with supposedly “perfect diets” and “perfect bodies,” and a great deal of mental anguish and distress. And yet the comparison is unjustified; it is a disservice to your own self, to your body and what it can accomplish, and to your lifestyle and needs. While comparisons can sometimes be a positive thing and drive us to make changes for the better (for example, make healthier food choices, exercise more consistently), they can become crippling if they prevent us from doing what is best for our own body. Someone else’s diet or exercise program may not be right for you, because your life is different; you are different. So that is one area in which I really hope to help individuals who are seeking to change their diet and/or lifestyle. To find what works for them, and to help them live their healthiest life.

What about you? Do you often/sometimes find yourself making comparisons between yourself and other individuals, and if so in which areas of life? Career? Finances? Social life? Fitness? What helps you break out of this mode of thinking?

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Adjusting to life in NYC

Phew – I’ve been back in NYC and in my new apartment ( a studio) for a little over a week now – and yet I still have unopened boxes everywhere. So much for unpacking as soon as possible! Oh well – I will try to get most of it done this weekend. This past week has been busy (when is life in NYC not busy??!) but part of the reason that ‘unpacking’ was put on hold was because I had an unwelcome visitor in the form of a mouse haunting my apartment. I guess most New Yorkers would just say “Well that’s part of living in the city,” but it was such a gross shock to me. I hadn’t encountered any mice when I last lived in NYC, and certainly not in my suburban abode in Massachusetts. Anyway, the mouse fiasco occupied a large portion of my evenings – with calling and meeting with my superintendent, laying out traps, throwing away an entire pan of vegetables (including the pan) thanks to the  mouse ( I will spare you the gross details) and then finally dealing with the creature when it was caught. Hopefully that nightmare is over and not one that recurs (please, please, please!)

Despite the mouse saga, I did get in some quality workouts after work and make some quick, easy and delicious dinners this past week. I had done some food prep last weekend by roasting some sweet potatoes, carrots and an acorn squash, washing and drying lettuce for salads, chopping some vegetables to quickly saute or steam, and stocking up on almond milk, fruit and other staples. I had also portioned out some fish and chicken to grill or pan fry during the week, and made a batch of tuna salad and hard-boiled eggs for a few lunches so that I had healthy foods on hand for quick meals. Doing just this basic food prep saved me so much time and money during the week – and enabled me to eat some great, healthy meals, so it’s definitely worth it!

Three dinners that turned out great and were amazingly quick to throw together were: (you may recognize a couple from my Instagram feed):

Poached cod, sautéed rainbow chard, roasted acorn squash, salad and a side of salsa for dinner

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Chicken Kabobs with grilled zucchini and carrots, and sautéed Swiss chard topped with tomato and avocado.

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And a simple dinner of pan-fried salmon, sauteed vegetables and sliced tomato

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All three were simple, healthy and required minimal ingredients and time to put together. It was also much cheaper (and tastier and healthier!) to make these dinners at home rather than ordering or eating out. I will do a future post on how I put together these dinners after coming home from a long day, walking the dog, answering emails, and going to the gym – but for now I’ll leave you with the images for some inspiration. You can also follow me on Instagram @farahz78 for some quick breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas!

What about you? What kind of meals do you put together after a long day? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Lemon Mint Green Juice

Morning! It’s freezing here in MA. Woke up to – 6 F and thought it was a nightmare, and that I should go back to bed and wake up to warmer weather (wishful thinking). Two of my friends are in San Diego and Miami right now and oh, what I would give to trade places with either of them. Anyway, I busted out my juicer again today (I’m telling you I’m hooked!!) I even went to the grocery store to buy lemon and mint just to make some fresh juice – and this is in 2 degree weather (that’s Fahrenheit FYI). So here it is, a lemon, mint green juice and it totally hit the spot. As a note, I refrigerate my juice for a few minutes while I clean my juicer; this serves 2 purposes – cools the juice down a bit so I can enjoy it and gets the clean up done without leaving it till later. So here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it….Hope you’re all having a great (and warmer) weekend!

Lemon Mint Green Juice (serves 1)

Ingredients:

2 stalks celery, washed

1/2 apple

1/4 lemon, peeled

1/2 cucumber

handful spinach

a few sprigs mint (2 -3 branches from bundle)

Method:

1. Juice all ingredients in a juicer. Enjoy immediately with a few ice cubes or refrigerate for a few minutes to cool before drinking.

green juice

So far so good!

Woke up crazy early to a snow day today. Went to an awesome hot power yoga class at 8:45 am (yes, in the snow). This was my 3rd yoga class this week so I’m off to a great start for 2014 (does this give me 2 “free” weeks if/when I’m not able to make it to a yoga class in 2014?? 😉 Doubt I’ll be able to do 3/week (or afford 3/week!!) once my rotations start next week but it felt GREAT this morning. Plus, something I always forget and that I’ll have to remind myself of this year is that – you never leave a yoga class in a bad mood or stressed out. Yoga always has a calming effect on me – whether it’s a super hard or an easy class – and makes me feel more relaxed for the rest of the day/several days. Must remember that when I’m stressing out about my graduate oral and RD exams this year, and trying to find a job post-graduation.

In light of it being a snow day, I also busted out and used my juicer!! I bought it off Craig’s List months ago but never got around to using it. I have this one – a centrifugal juicer and not one of the super-fancy masticating ones. After some checking of the manual, produce washing and fiddling, I made a glass of celery, carrot, apple, cucumber and ginger juice (lemon would have been a nice addition). Verdict: the color wasn’t very pretty but it tasted delicious!! And so, so, so refreshing. Totally see the hype about freshly pressed juices now 🙂 I probably won’t juice more than once or twice a week but it was definitely worth getting the juicer (esp. on Craig’s List!) to try it out. Just wish I had a dishwasher to deal with the washing up part (tho honestly, clean-up is super-quick).

Now I’m off to do some studying and then enjoying my last few days of freedom before final semester of grad school & internships begins.

Have you tried juicing? Or had freshly pressed juice before? Thoughts?

Pumpkin Smoothie

Had a major craving for a smooth, cool and creamy pumpkin smoothie for lunch today. Had this with an egg white sandwich and half a banana with the obligatory peanut butter 😉

Pumpkin Smoothie (serves 1)

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 frozen banana

1/2 Tbsp ground flax

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder

3-4 ice cubes

Method:

1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Serve with sliced banana, more ground flaxseed, chopped walnuts or more pumpkin if desired!

Note: Double the ingredients for a larger portion or 2 servings.

Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free)

Good Morning! Summer is over (blah!) and I guess I’ll have to reconcile myself to cooler weather approaching (still in denial). Anyway, I woke up super- early this morning with a major craving for pancakes – which almost NEVER happens. I’ve read (and tried) random recipes for 2 ingredient, almond flour and coconut flour pancakes but many of them end up either being too crumbly or too banana-y. So I threw together this concoction and the result was surprisingly (miraculously??) quite good – by my standards anyway! 🙂 So without further ado, here’s the recipe for my version of Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free) and yummy! Makes 2 servings; 3 pancakes/serving.

Coconut Flour Pancakes (gluten free) 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut flour

1/2 cup eggbeaters

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond mik (or other milk of choice)

1/2 mashed banana

2 tsp. ground flax

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking soda

pinch salt

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, or use a food processor (easier and faster!)

2. Spray a non-stick frying pan or griddle with cooking spray or oil, and heat on medium heat.

3. Use 3 Tbsp batter for each pancake. Let the pancakes form and cook on one side (1-2 min) before flipping. Cook on the other side for 30 seconds – 1min. Repeat with remaining batter.

4. Top with peanut butter and banana slices (my preference!) and devour.

Nutrition (per serving of 3 pancakes – no toppings): Approx. 100 calories; 12 g carbs; 7.5 g protein; 1 g fat

Grain-free Granola

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Grain-free Granola

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sliced almonds + 2 Tbsp whole almonds roughly chopped

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup walnuts coarsely chopped

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 chopped dates (could use dried cranberries instead)

1/4 cup egg whites

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients above until thoroughly combined. Spread onto a large baking sheet lined with foil (use a cooking spray or coconut oil to grease the foil so that the granola doesn’t stick).

3. Spread mixture onto the foil and bake for 18-20 minutes, removing once to stir at 10 minutes. Check the granola periodically after 15 minutes to prevent burning.

4. Allow to cool completely before storing in a jar/tupperware container in the fridge (maintains crispness).

Makes about 11-12 1/4 cup servings, about 130-140 calories each (Total calories for recipe = 1520)

Topping ideas: sliced berries, bananas, coconut or almond milk, or yogurt!

Thoughts on Paleo

Good Morning! Hope everyone is having a great summer and a fabulous weekend! My summer has been filled with grad classes, some pool-time, work and some messing around in the kitchen. Some of you may know that I’m doing a graduate degree in Food & Nutrition and am in a Dietetics program to be an RD. If all goes well, I’ll be done next summer – and then comes the big job hunt and move (hopefully to Florida!).

Anyway, being in the field of Nutrition I’m always fascinated by any developments in this area – and lately I’ve become more curious about the whole Paleo Lifestyle. Now I’m not saying that I’m suddenly “going Paleo,” – all I’m saying is that I’m intrigued about really understanding the science behind it. I whole-heartedly support the idea of eating minimally processed food and avoiding packed goods as much as possible. That being said, I also know that with our busy lifestyle it’s almost impossible to cook form scratch all of the time – and we inevitably end up buying and consuming some packaged and processed items. Keep in mind though that we also live a very different lifestyle from our “Paleolithic ancestors”…They didn’t have modern technology or office jobs and packed schedules – and for them, survival was the primary goal. WIth that in mind, I often question some premises of the popular Paleo diet – specifically the move towards consuming more animal fats and saturated fats.  I don’t think I’m quite on board with it simply because our lifestyle is so different – I’m not out hunting for my food or dragging carcasses home for dinner, nor do I wonder about when my next meal will be. I don’t need to “starve” for long periods of time due to a lack of food…so do I really need to eat like my Paleolithic ancestors? Shouldn’t I just try to eat more whole foods…like vegetables, meat, fish, fruit nuts etc but not necessarily as much saturated fat?Bottom line is –  I don’t think we need to try and emulate our ancestors to a T, but eating less processed foods is certainly a good idea!

I’m also intrigued by the argument that grains and legumes lead to inflammation in our bodies (an argument presented by some authors of Paleo books), and that the insulin response is what leads to obesity. Actually – insulin is not the bad guy here. Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps certain cells (those with insulin receptors) remove glucose from your blood and use it for energy. So if  you are about to embark on any exercise, supplying your cells with energy is a good thing! Perhaps what the authors are arguing is that we consume too many carbohydrates (particularly processed carbohydrates) in our diet and have excessive glucose-insulin responses in our body….(?). To be fair, I haven’t read any of the books on Paleo yet – but I ordered a couple yesterday to really try and understand the authors’ viewpoint. Once I’ve read them and thought about it, I’ll follow up with another post on this subject.

In support of Paleo though, I do believe that we should consume more of our carbohydrates from unprocessed sources such as vegetables and fruit and less from processed flours. There seems to be an increase in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in the last few years as well as allergies to peanuts etc, and I wonder if it’s due to the high degree of processing in our food industry. I’ve been eating gluten-free for the last couple of years and have noticed a huge difference in how I feel – no more chronic fatigue, anemia or migraines and that’s why I’m also really curious about the premise behind a grain free diet. I may actually try an experiment and go grain-free for a couple of weeks – just to see how I feel on a more “Paleo” diet (though I will still be eating legumes I think). Anyway, one of the recipes I’ve had on my mind for a while is a Grain-Free Granola (nothing new…there are a whole bunch of recipes for Grain-Free/Paleo granola on the internet). But I made a batch this morning after looking at a few recipes and then coming up with my own. (I’ll post it shortly in a separate post). It was actually fairly easy to make and isn’t as dense as some of the Paleo Granola recipes out there. Yet it was surprisingly quite filling with some berries, sliced banana and coconut milk…so it may become more of a staple in my breakfast (need some variety from eggs and smoothies!)

Anyway – enjoy the rest of the weekend and look out for my granola recipe. I’ll be back at some point with my thoughts on Paleo – after I’ve read a few more books on it!

Summer Lunches

I recently saw a tweet about having a smoothie for lunch during the hot summer months. Smoothies are usually more of a breakfast or lunch “add-on” for me  (I eat a lot) 🙂 but they can certainly make a meal – or at least a large portion of it if you use the right ingredients. They key to a good smoothie – one that will keep you satisfied for a few hours, is to use a combination of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein in your concoction. Toppings can then include some more healthy fats in the form of nuts/seeds/nut butters, or some more carbs in the form of granola, cereal or sliced fruit. You could also pair the smoothie with a slice of whole grain or gluten-free toast w/an egg or egg white, some sliced fruit & nut butter or a hard-bolied egg for some added nutrients and satiety.

Here are some tips on making a satisfying smoothie:

1.  Choose your base: 1/2 cup almond/soy/dairy/coconut milk + 1/2 cup water (can also do just 1 cup of your milk of choice)

2. Add in your fruit and vegetables. Some possible combinations are:

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup baby spinach (or kale); 1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, OR

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2-3/4 cup sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen), 1/4 cup fresh blueberries (optional), OR

– 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 pineapple, 1/2 cup spinach

– 1/2-3/4 cup frozen or fresh pitted cherries, 1/4 avocado

– 1/2 cup chopped mango, 1/2 cup chopped pineapple, 1/4 avocado

Tip: Using a frozen banana or avocado makes the smoothie really creamy. The avocado adds healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals too…and the banana is a great source of carbs and potassium!

3. Add in your protein option: 1/2-1 scoop of a protein powder, or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4. Add in your healthy fats: 1/4 avocado, or 1 Tbs nut butter, or 5-6 almonds, or 1 Tbs flax or chia seeds

5. Add in a few ice cubes and blend away!

Top with: 1-2 tsp chia or flax seeds, 1/4 cup granola or cereal, or 1 tsp nut butter w/sliced fruit, or 1-2 Tbsp walnuts

Enjoy!!

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Peanut and Cashew Butter Cookies

I am not a baker. Yet over the last few days I’ve made a batch of Gluten Free Almond Butter cookies form this site (I halved the recipe, used 2 Tbsp of eggbeaters and added 3 Tbsp chocolate chips too), and just now, put a batch of Peanut and Cashew Butter Cookies (recipe follows) in the oven. Who am I??? And why am I making cookies??? Anyway, enjoy!

Peanut and Cashew Butter Cookies (makes 18 small cookies)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup natural Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp Cashew Butter

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp light brown sugar

2 Tbsp egg whites (or egg beaters)

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Shape into 18 small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 8 mins. Allow to cool before removing and eating!

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