I know it’s June, but I’m still on an oatmeal kick at breakfast most mornings. (It’s still a little chilly here in Seattle.)
Oatmeal is endlessly versatile – and great with summer fruit on top! – so I never get bored. And it’s pretty quick if you use the prep tricks below.
Plus, nothing keeps me full and moving along all morning like oatmeal. Even eggs don’t do the trick (not for me, at least).
Here’s how I keep things interesting.
Oatmeal with fresh peaches and pecans…my favorite in the summer.
First things first: Skip the instant/quick cook oatmeal. From a nutrition and energy perspective, you might as well be eating air. Not to mention that the consistency and flavor is, well, ick. In fact, if you “hate oatmeal” but only eat instant or quick cook oats, I encourage you to give one of these a try before you declare your final hatred of oatmeal.
Use either whole rolled oats or steel cut oats. (I know, I know…they take too long to cook…just hold your horses for a minute! ;) You’ll get a sustained energy boost that will last you all morning plus a bowl full of fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, and other heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering yumminess.
How to make oatmeal quicker (without using quick oats)
Make “soaked oats.” Put rolled oats in a container with milk or yogurt + dried fruit and nuts and let it sit overnight. (FYI: This won’t work with steel cut oats.)
Cook more oatmeal than you need and reheat for a few minutes the next morning by puttin it in a pot with a little water and steaming it with the top on.
Pre-soak steel cut oats overnight to reduce cooking time in the morning to about 10 minutes (vs. 30)
I’ve always believed – even before I knew I believed it – that true health is about much more than what you put in your mouth and how you move your body.
That stuff is so, so important; but if everything else in your life is falling apart (or even just a little out of balance), I’d bet my favorite pair of Stuart Weitzman pumps that you’re struggling to reach your health goals.
So, today, I want to ask you about one of the other parts of true health: Are you connected?
I don’t mean in a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, networking sort of way. I mean in a deep, inner, connected to yourself and your needs kind of way; and in an equally important connected to your friends, family, and community and their needs sort of way.
One of my “words of the year” for 2013 is Community. Six months into the year, I’m seeing how incredibly important that word is and how my community (or my people, as I like to call them) bolsters my health in a way that food and exercise alone never could.
A few thoughts on how to strengthen connection in your life – to yourself and to your “people.”
Your body will thank you when you do. I promise.
Say yes more. I’m a pretty opinionated girl (if you hadn’t noticed). If I don’t agree with you, you’ll hear about it. ;) While having an opinion is fine, I’m learning that finding agreement – even when you disagree with someone – does wonders for your relationships. Think about the last time your best friend or partner said or did something you didn’t love. What if, instead of jumping right to “No, you’re wrong.”, you took a few seconds to reframe things and chose to say instead “Yes, that’s an interesting angle/way of doing it. I also think…”. No one’s right; no one’s wrong. “Yes…and…” is additive instead of destructive. And things are rarely as black and white as we think. Living in a place of agreement is a state of mind, one that I’m pretty sure we can learn with enough practice. (I’m workin’ on it!)
Listen more. Oh boy, is this a tough one. How often are you “listening” to someone when you find yourself wrapped up in your own thoughts, waiting for your chance to chime in? Not so great for connecting with the person across the table from you, huh? I sometimes think I have a harder time with this by virtue of the fact that my job is 90% about listening to my clients. It’s as if, by the time I get to my personal relationships, I’ve “used up” all of my listening skills! My best advice for you here is to practice being present every moment of your day. Do whatever you have to do to bring your mind back into your body (instead of floating out in space) by wiggling your toes or noticing how your fingers feel as you type on your computer or taking a deep, belly breath and really feeling how the air moves up through your body to your lungs. It’s a constant struggle; but if you can stay present on your own, you’ll be better able to stay present with others.
Be strong…and gentle. My friend Kathy and I were lamenting over this one the other day: “Why is it so hard to be strong AND gentle at the same time?!,” I asked. As independent women, we struggle with this one every day: How do I stay true to who I am and also find gentleness and compromise when it comes to other people? I’m all about feminism to a point; but, like any ideology, it can be taken to the extreme. Kathy’s analogy to water sort of summed it up for me: Water is gentle and malleable (like a babbling brook); it’s also strong and powerful (like a river carving its own bed over thousands of years). Being both helps us bring value to the lives of our people while simultaneously allowing for deeper connection when we’re gentle enough to bend a little. (Kathy’s other analogy came via text the next day: Jello squares. It’s like Jello squares…they’re soft and flexible, but they still keep their shape!) :)
Practice yoga. At the risk of sounding a little hippy dippy, yoga is the best way I know to find enough stillness to get clear about my own needs while simultaneously opening my heart to the needs of others…and to receiving their efforts to connect with me. (Receiving is sometimes tougher than giving, don’t you think?) In an effort to be a little less stressed out and a little more pleasant to be around, I just committed to 30 days of yoga. Every day in June. Join me?
Cultivate grace. I love the word “grace.” It just sounds so lovely; and to me, it implies a state of stillness and redemption…a respite from chaos meant to help you sharpen your focus on what’s important so you can move through whatever challenges you’re dealing with and come out the other side happier and healthier…and more connected to the people in your life.
Feeling connected may actually be the single most important ingredient for health. (I’m sure there’s some research somewhere to back that up. Feel free to share it in the comments if you have a link.) The midpoint of the year seems like a good time to recommit to getting better at it, don’t you think?
Tell me in the comments:
What connections/relationships in your life could use a little attention right now?
What’s one thing you can do this week to strengthen those connections?
With gratitude for having you as one of my people,
How stressed out are you right now? On a scale of 1 to 10?
Okay. Write that down…and sit tight for a minute.
I don’t know about you, but stress and anxiety can be a real buzz kill for me some days.
I’m plugging along, doing my thing, when all of a sudden a thought pops into my head about something I need to do or something I haven’t done that I was supposed to do or something someone said that pissed me off or any number of other random things that make my blood pressure shoot up.
Next thing I know, my brain is in a tailspin and I can’t focus on ANYTHING, let alone figure out what I SHOULD be focusing on.
Chronic stress is pretty much par for the course for most of us. And we know it’s not doing us any favors in terms of our health. (Hello, high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes!)
But who has time to drop everything and meditate in the middle of the day?
In this week’s video post, I share three of my favorite stress-busting exercises – things you can do in just a few minutes, wherever you are, to turn off that “monkey brain,” loosen up your shoulders, and get back to your day.
Try one next time you’re stressed out (i.e., now!). Then, leave a comment telling me what you tried and what happened to that stress number.
P.S. For more info on the techniques I mentioned in the video, follow these links:
You know that annoying friend at work? The one who always has amazing, healthy, home-cooked leftovers to bring to the office for lunch?
She’s clearly a closeted Food Network chef, right?
Probably not. She just knows where to find the good stuff.
I do too. And I’m willing to share. :)
Check out my top sources for quick meal inspiration, a few of them right in your pocket.
Cookbooks. That’s obvious, right? The key is to have no more than one or two go-to cookbooks, books that allow you to turn off your brain and flip to any page, knowing that you’ll find something reasonably quick to make. I’m a total Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks devotee (I really should branch out a little, shouldn’t I?); Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home and Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites are my top two. With simple ingredients, short ingredient lists, and accurate cook time estimates, I use these over and over again. A few of my favorite recipes from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (for their storage and stretching-into-other-meals value):
Fish in a Packet – p. 244
Red Lentil Soup – p. 36
Seasoned Tempeh – p. 85
Websites + Blogs. I’m about 80% digital when it comes to recipes. Three of my favorite sources for quick, healthy meals:
EatingWell.com. This website does a pretty good job of posting healthy and simple recipes. Watch out for packaged/processed food short cuts in the ingredient lists, though, and substitute with more natural ingredients when you can.
101Cookbooks.com. One of my favorite food blogs, as much for the gorgeous photography as for the recipes. The recipes tend to be a bit more complicated, so I use this site when I’m feeling creative or want to try something new.
Epicurious.com. For some reason, whenever I search for a new recipe using a particular ingredient, recipes from this site pop up. I guess being affiliated with Bon Appetit and Gourmet Magazines has its SEO benefits. :)
Apps. You already know about Evernote if you read this post a couple of weeks ago. I also love Jamie Oliver’s Recipes app (formerly Jamie Oliver’s 20 Minute Meals). Jamie isn’t known for low calorie meals, but he will always hook you up with fresh, REAL food. The free app includes “recipe packs” for purchase (a free starter pack is included when you download the app), a shopping list feature that makes it really easy to get what you need, and step-by-step instructions for every recipe (including videos of basic cooking techniques and other goodies for cooking newbies).
CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets. If you’re not already a member of a CSA (community-supported agriculture), sign up now! Summer is the time to take advantage of meal inspiration from all of the yummy fruits and veggies coming into season. Many CSA’s and farmer’s markets provide recipes for members/shoppers – use them to banish the stress that can come with “what am I supposed to make with kohlrabi?!”. :)
Healthy Restaurant Menus. I love recreating – or attempting to recreate – simple meals that I have out, particularly at restaurants who specialize in simple and healthy meals (much easier to pick out all of the ingredients). This recipe came out of a visit to Chaco Canyon Café in Seattle’s University District. (My man makes special requests for this one on occasion. :)
Black Bean Sesame Rice Bowl
Cook Time: 10 – 40 minutes (depending on whether or not you have pre-cooked rice on hand) Makes 4 servings.
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can no-salt-added black beans, drained
1/2 cup tahini
1 carrot, shredded
1 bunch baby bok choy, chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
avocado, chopped (optional)
sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients – except avocado – in a large bowl. Serve in individual bowls topped with chunks of avocado if desired. May be served warm or at room temperature. For a warm dish, heat the beans and cooked rice in a touch of sesame oil and water before combining with other ingredients.
Elimination diets are a hot topic in health and nutrition these days. Gwyneth Paltrow even uses the term in her new cookbook, It’s All Good (which I haven’t checked out yet, but hear is quite, well, good, if not all that practical).
I get questions about them all the time from confused clients and readers.
If you’ve ever wondered if an elimination diet is for you, read on.
WHAT is an elimination diet?
Wikipedia defines an elimination diet as “a method of identifying foods that an individual cannot consume without adverse effects. Adverse effects may be due to food allergy, food intolerance, other physiological mechanisms (such as metabolic or toxins), or a combination of these.”
The idea is to remove “target foods” to see if your symptoms – or “adverse effects” – resolve; and then reintroduce each food to see if the symptoms reappear. Symptoms could be anything from general stomach upset to low energy to joint aches to skin issues to “brain fog.”
These food experiments, as I like to think of them, can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months, depending on your goals.
WHY would I do an elimination diet?
If you suspect that you have a sensitivity or intolerance to a particular food or group of foods, you could use an elimination diet to see if your hunch is correct. A typical place to start is with common food allergens, like nuts, dairy, soy, shellfish, caffeine, and gluten. Many people also like to cut out refined sugar and sometimes corn.
Even if you don’t suspect an actual food sensitivity or allergy, doing an elimination diet is a great way to get clear about the “ideal” diet for your body, the way of eating that will make you feel best. (Not to mention that cutting out things like caffeine and sugar for even a short time can reduce cravings.)
HOW do I do an elimination diet?
If you’re just doing it as an experiment, an elimination diet can be a do-it-yourself project.
Start by eliminating all of your “target foods” to see if you feel better. Then, introduce each one back into your diet, one at a time…and remove it again before you add the next food. Note in a food diary what you ate and how you feel – your mood, your energy level, any physical changes/symptoms – with each addition. The idea is to get a sense of how each food affects you on its own, using this process of elimination to determine which foods you might want to minimize or avoid going forward.
If you suspect that you might have a true food allergy – or a more serious medical condition like celiac disease – it’s a good idea to work with a health coach and/or a doctor who can advise and monitor you during your elimination diet.
What can I EXPECT from an elimination diet?
It’s best to go into an elimination diet WITHOUT any expectations. If you can leave behind any assumptions you might have about what’s going on with your body, you’ll likely find truer answers. For example, if you’re convinced that you’re gluten-intolerant before you even begin an elimination diet, you may see things that aren’t really there. (Basic psychology, really.) Best to keep an open mind and see what comes up.
Some places to start + my elimination diet experiment
My favorite elimination diet – and one that you’ve likely seen me mention before – is Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger, M.D. While Clean is set up to be a full 21-day “cleanse,” you can use the elimination diet list of foods to eat and not to eat as a starting place for your own elimination diet, however you decide to structure it.
You can also do what I did a couple of years ago and just eat according to the elimination diet for a while to see how your feel in general. (I eventually did the full Clean program – it’s the only cleanse I recommend to clients – and found that my energy level was better, my skin looked better, and I felt more alert and focused.) You can read more about that experience here.
For more information and resources about food allergies, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is a good place to start.
So, tell me in the comments:
Have you ever tried an elimination diet?
Why did you do it?
What benefits (or side effects) did you experience?
Who says you can’t have eggs for dinner? Easiest thing in the world…and a great quick meal at any time of day. Oh, and by the way: Ignore the “omega-3″ thing in this recipe. Use eggs. Plain and simple eggs. All of them have omega-3s in them, even if the package doesn’t scream it out. (Gotta love marketing. ;)
Versions of this recipe show up in a lot of the Moosewood cookbooks, including my favorite. Get creative with herbs and different veggies. You can really make this whatever you want with whatever you have on hand.
Add some beans to make this one a full meal. Or just get your greens on as a side dish.
My Secret Recipe-Saving-and-Organizing Weapon
Evernote. A genius cloud application that let’s you clip things directly from your browser (or create text, photo, and audio notes on the go) and view them on any of your linked devices. Create a recipes “notebook,” use tags to add more details (like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, asparagus, cookie, smoothie, etc.), and never be without a meal idea again. I use it for EVERYTHING, not just recipes. I can’t recommend it highly enough for organizing your life…and banishing those little scraps of notepaper forever.
Where do you find your best dinner ideas?Share your ideas in the comments.
This is one of my favorite times in the city. Central Park is in full bloom. And going for a run along the Hudson is no longer a fight to the death with the wind. (If you’ve ever run or biked on the west side of Manhattan in the winter, you know what I mean. ;)
It was around this time of year about 10 years ago, that I started experimenting with cleaner eating.
NYC’s first Whole Foods Market was just around the corner from my apartment in Chelsea; and, in addition to loads of organic and natural foods, they also carried “natural” house cleaning and body care products.
I’d been reading lots of articles about the scary chemicals in our environment and was pretty grossed out…especially when I came across this lovely term: body burden.
Body burden refers to the amount of chemicals accumulated in our blood and tissue, the “burden” created by consistent exposure to industrial chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetics, body care products, and a bunch of other random things in our homes and in our general environment.
While there’s no definitive research on which, if any, of these chemicals cause health problems, I just like the idea of “getting back to nature” when I can.
But if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I’m a pretty practical gal. Going to extremes just isn’t my thing. I like balance.
While I’m willing to make some sacrifices to feel and be healthier, everything I use has to pass my “I still need my house to be clean, my body to smell good, and my skin to look fabulous” test. ;)
So if you’ve toyed with the idea of “going natural” with your house cleaning and/or body care products, check out my short list of non-toxic product swaps to get you started.
Shower gel and hand soap with Castille soap. Castille soap is the most underrated body cleaning product ever. Not only is it a plant-based, non-chemical cleaner, but just a few drops will clean your entire body, making it easy on the wallet too. My favorite comes from Oregon Soap Company in “flavors” like Ginger Grapefruit and Pacific Northwest Lavender. I use it in my shower sponge in place of soap every day and diluted in a hand soap pump in both my bathroom and kitchen for washing hands.
Antiperspirant with deodorant. Yeah, yeah, I know. This one makes me sound like a serious hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;); and it’s not a swap I would have made in my 20s when my hormones, well, made me sweat a lot. (Is that too much information?) A couple of decades later though, I kind of love that I don’t need to clog my pores with aluminum to smell good all day. Turns out that research from a few years ago showing a connection between aluminum antiperspirant usage and things like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease was largely unfounded; but my skin likes plain old natural deodorant better than harsher antiperspirants. I opt for Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant Stick most days, and use something more powerful only when the situation calls for it (my Flywheel buddies appreciate that during our 45 minute rides, I’m sure). ;)
Harsh chemical house cleaners with natural cleaners. I can hear you asking “But do they really work, Lara?”. Yes. And I’ve tried everything over the years, so I promise the ones I recommend actually do clean stuff. It may take your nose a little while to stop equating Pine Sol scent and chlorine bleach fumes with clean, but I can’t even express how lovely it is to walk into your home and smell an honest clean. Technically, you could get by cleaning your house with only baking soda (for scrubbing) and a white vinegar/water mix (for wiping down counters and cleaning glass); but I like these three products too:
Murphy’s Oil Soap. An oldie but a goodie, and still 100% natural vegetable soap. I use it mostly to clean my wood floors, but it also doubles as an all-purpose cleaner when diluted with water.
Scented moisturizer with Boomsilk.Boomsilk is a 100% natural, all-over body moisturizer created by Ford model Cindy Joseph. I met Cindy a couple of years ago through a mutual friend and have been using her Boomstick Color – for adding natural-looking color to both cheeks and lips – ever since. Boomsilk is her newest product, a luxurious but not-too-expensive concoction of olive oil, beeswax, chamomile, honey, and other straight-from-nature ingredients sourced in Hawaii (while I don’t recommend it, I think you could probably eat Boomsilk and be just fine) intended to moisturize your whole body. I’m completely obsessed with it!
What about you? Have you made any natural product swaps recently? Tell me about them in the comments.
Do you eat “snack bars” (or energy/fiber/nutrition bars…whatever you call them)?
They’re so yummy and so convenient. But soooooo full of calories (and sugar and other icky stuff sometimes). And they’re not technically a “whole food.”
So what’s a health conscious, on-the-go snacker to do?
If you wonder about your snack bar habit, watch this week’s video to learn four questions to ask yourself when choosing a snack bar, how often to eat them, and a few ideas for other snacks that might satisfy your cravings too.
Plus, I’ll share my favorite snack bars to add to your shopping list.
Tell me in the comments:
What are your favorite snack bars and why?
What’s one “whole foods” snack you’d like to try this week instead of going straight for the bar?
P.S. If you’re not getting my free updates – where I share goodies and personal insights that you can only get there – sign up for them here. Would love to have you!
I’ve been talking about food a lot lately. Yes, I know…that’s what I’m SUPPOSED to do. :)
But something you may not know about me…in addition to being a health and nutrition coach, I’m also a certified Pilates instructor. I’m pretty convinced that Pilates is one of the keys to eternal youth. (Sunscreen is the other. Seriously.)
Staying flexible is undeniably important to keeping your body young, whether you do it with Pilates, yoga, or just plain old stretching. Can you touch your toes? Put your hands flat on the floor when you bend forward? Do the splits, even? (Yeah, that would be “absolutely not” on the splits for me too.)
Age-related stiffness doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of life. I’ve seen 70 year-old Pilates clients with more flexibility than I have – and you know what? – they move like they’re 20 years younger. If you’re an athlete, the benefits of being flexible include improved athletic performance, increased range of motion, and injury prevention.
To get you started, here are some stretches to address one of the most common areas of inflexibility: the hamstrings. Tight hamstrings – something I saw in countless Pilates clients – can contribute to lower back pain and knee injuries.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Standing, extend one leg slightly in front of you with your heel on the ground and your foot flexed.
Bend your other knee and lean gently towards your extended leg, hinging at the hips. Make sure your standing foot is pointing forward and that your knee doesn’t extend past your toes. You should feel the stretch in the back of your front leg.
Hold for about 30 seconds.
Switch legs and repeat.
Crossover Hamstring Stretch
Cross one leg over the other at the ankles.
Gently roll down through the spine with legs straight, bringing your hands as close to the floor as possible. You should feel the stretch in the back of your back leg.
Hold for about 30 seconds.
Roll back up to tall and cross the other leg in front.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
And here are couple of my favorite stretches for the spine (among other things), with links to videos walking you through each of them. Try them whenever you’re feeling a little stiff. Pay as much attention to the breathing cues as you do to the stretches themselves – taking a deep breath and exhaling into a stretch allows you to go even deeper (isn’t oxygen great? ;).
Do you stretch every day? What benefits do you notice? Tell me in the comments.
About Lara Dalch
Lara Dalch holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia. She is a Certified Pilates Instructor – with certifications from both Core Pilates NYC and Power Pilates – and received her training to practice health coaching via the State University of New York and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.