Smooth(ie) Away Stress with Greens

Spring is my favorite time of year. Aside from celebrating my birthday in April, I watch in awe how beautifully our natural environment changes as buds and flowers begin to bloom. Living in Washington, DC has an added benefit of cherry blossoms decorating local suburban streets as well as the monuments downtown.

As a home gardener, we have an overabundance of dark leafy greens in our vegetable beds this time of year. Springtime is such a stark opposite to the winter months when not too much grows in our yard. These days, we head outside almost daily to pick vegetables for a salad or to enjoy in a smoothie.

This time of year can also be stressful, especially in the Jewish community. Balancing large Passover meals, guests, children off from school, travel and work can be a challenge even for the most organized among us. April is National Stress Awareness Month, and it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.

When the going gets tough, many of us head to the pantry. Busy holiday times hit us hard in areas that trigger mindless, stress-related eating. Late nights preparing and then enjoying the holiday can set our bodies off balance.

As a teacher of mindful eating, I encourage my students to identify their biggest triggers for stress-related eating. I know that mine is always tiredness, but for other people it may be boredom, sadness or procrastination.

I like to leave myself reminder notes in strategic places, such as my planner or on the refrigerator door, that simply say “Tired.” This allows me to pause and remember that I am having an off day before I mindlessly head to the refrigerator or pantry.

Our busy modern lives are full of day-to-day stresses. National Stress Awareness Month is a great time to take note of those stresses and also to work on coping tactics. Keeping a journal this month of your stress-related eating cues can help you re-direct when you notice them in the future.

Another important part of this month is identifying things that can help to lower your stress level. Enter overabundance of available dark leafy greens. There is no other food that every doctor, dietitian and chef can all agree on to improve your overall health, not to mention your stress.

Increasing your intake of greens can be easy if you include them in a smoothie. My favorites in smoothies are bok choy and swiss chard because of their mild flavor, but you can experiment with the wide variety available this time of year. Sip with breakfast or as an after-school snack your whole family can prepare and enjoy together.

Reprinted from the Jewish Food Experience Newsletter

 

Two Ways to Start Your Mindful Eating Practice This Spring

Picture two quiet, introspective days at Pearlstone Retreat Center.  On March 5-6th - thirty women joined together to turn inward and to focus on changing their relationship with food through mindful eating.  In the days since our retreat - many have asked - what's next?

Watching our group transform over two days was very powerful, but our work isn't done.  Mindful eating and meditation are a journey - and I hope to help you as you begin.

I will be offering two mindful eating course options this spring.  Starting April 26th, I will be hosting a weekly morning class, Mindful Eating Wednesdays, at Yoga 4410 in Chevy Chase.  Yoga 4410 has offered all participants two free yoga classes as an added bonus.  

On Sunday May 21st, I will be organizing a Mindful Eating with the Seasons workshop at Blue Heron Wellness in Silver Spring.  For more information on how to register for the workshop, visit Blue Heron's site at www.blueheronwellness.org.  To register for the weekly class, please send me an email at sara@yourinnerkitchen.org.

 

 

How to Mindfully Eat a Chanukah Latke

For as long as I can remember, celery has been my favorite food. No kidding. I am more likely to pile my plate high with vegetables than any other food. My second favorite food group has always been dessert. This leads me to wonder, is it possible to have a healthy diet and also enjoy treats?

Our world today is bombarded by diet books, gurus and social media posts touting the best way to eat. Some ask us to cut out carbohydrates. Others tell us that sugar is as addictive as illegal drugs. Many suggest that we use points systems, powders and supplements to teach our bodies how to eat right.

This leads me to my next question. If we tune out all of this external eating advice, do our bodies know how to intuitively eat correctly? You better believe it! As a health coach focusing on mindful eating, I have the privilege of telling people on a daily basis that they are the experts on how to best nourish their bodies.

Mindful eating in a non-diet approach to eating. By tuning in to our body’s needs through meditation exercises and meditation practice, we are able to re-connect with our body’s innate hunger and satiety cues. For many people, it is life changing to understand what it feels like to be hungry and how to re-direct their attention when they are full.

I am often asked how mindful eating can fit in to an Orthodox lifestyle. With so many holidays, Shabbat, and semachot, there is always a reason to eat! The best way to start is by thinking about making small changes. Mindful eating is called a “practice” because it is something that we all have to continue to work on throughout the year.

There is no better time to start a mindful eating practice than Chanukah. I recently took a poll of clients and found that many are concerned about not being able to keep their eating under control with two crowd-pleasers: latkes and sufganiyot. They are by design both fried and very high in calories, and many of us have been told to take them off of our acceptable eating list.

While I am a big fan of baked latkes made with sweet potatoes and whole grain dough versions of sufganiyot, there are times when newer versions of old standbys just don’t hit the spot. Instead of depriving myself of foods I really love, I focus more now on eating them in moderation. It is equally empowering to pass on a holiday treat when I realize I am just not hungry as it is to eat the real thing with pleasure.

To help you in your first Chanukah mindful eating experiment, I have devised the perfect recipe for mindfully eating latkes at your next family gathering:

1. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. You can also take a few deep breaths without closing your eyes if that is more comfortable for you.

2. Think about how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10. If you are very hungry, give yourself a number close to 10. If you are not very hungry, give yourself a number close to 1.

3. Serve yourself a portion that fits with the number you have in mind, but try to serve yourself a slightly smaller portion than you would usually take.

4. As you eat the first latke, take in all of the flavors you love. Maybe it is the potato or the onion that peaks your senses. Try to chew slowly to enjoy these flavors.

5. Mid-way through your plate, take a break. Take another deep breath or two and note how hungry you are now. If you are almost full, take a few minutes to see if you still want to finish the remaining latkes. You might be surprised that taking extra time to eat left you full!

6. Alternatively, since you took a smaller portion than usual, ate slowly and savored that delicious latke, take a bit more if your food break left you with a rumbling tummy.

Most people find that once they are given permission to enjoy the foods they love, they eat less and feel more satiated. While I am always in favor of a pile of vegetables on my plate, I also do plan to mindfully enjoy real-deal fried latkes this Chanukah.

Reprinted from JA online, Jewish Action Magazine.

Cultivate True Nourishment at Jewish Women's Retreat

Picture the scene. There are no children, spouses, friends, bosses or distractions. You are in a serene retreat center surrounded by nature and taking time to connect with yourself and to discover a new relationship with food. Now, imagine that you don’t have to travel far to enjoy this experience. It’s happening right in your own backyard on March 5 and 6, 2017!

Searching for a chance to turn inward, meditation retreats have become popular for everyone from young millennials to grandparents. I am often asked what all the buzz is all about and if meditation and mindful eating are a passing fad.

Mindfulness practices can be found in almost every faith-based tradition, but it is only in the last several years that secular meditation has become popular in the mainstream. From hospitals to the military, we now have scientific proof that spending time slowing down with meditation can benefit all of us.

Combining mindfulness meditation practices with eating awareness provides a fresh approach after years of conventional dieting. The idea that we can eat without being governed by a set of rules, points and powders is liberating. It gives us a chance to heal our relationships with our bodies and to adopt a non-diet mentality.

Now, back to that serene retreat. Cultivating True Nourishment at the Pearlstone Retreat Center, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, will offer women who are new to meditation and mindful eating and others who hope to enhance their current practice a chance to share two days to learn and grow together.

Retreat speaker Andrea Lieberstein has led meditation and mindful eating programs at Kripalu and Spirit Rock Centers and the Omega Institute. A registered dietitian and meditation teacher for over 25 years, she also leads a certification in the Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training Program.

Participants will learn meditation and mindful eating techniques to jump-start their own practice and to bring home to their family and community. Learn how to eat mindfully at a buffet, holiday or Shabbat meal. Taste your food without guilt and baggage. Experience what is means to be hungry, full and satiated. Send the food police on a permanent vacation!

In partnership with the Soul Center and the Jewish Food Experience®, this retreat is just the beginning. Other events throughout the year will support the learning and sense of community built at Pearlstone. The Soul Center’s focus on mindfulness, healing and rejuvenation will offer programs for everyone from meditation sittings to cooking classes, and the Jewish Food Experience® offers recipes and helpful tips for foodies everywhere. Learn more and register for Cultivating True Nourishment on March 5 and 6, 2017 at the Pearlstone Retreat Center here. The early-bird discounted registration deadline is December 4th. - See more at: www.yourinnerkitchen.org/retreat.  

Heading Back to the Garden and to Class

There are so many reasons why I love having a vegetable garden.  I appreciate that if things don't go my way (like maybe an uninvited guest eats half of my crops!) - I can always start over again. Planting a seed and watching it take off never gets old.

In addition to planting some new vegetable beds this week, I am also beginning a 4 month training course that I hope will help others plant their own healthy eating seeds.  The Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) program is the perfect combination of meditation and healthy eating habits.  

Based on NIH research by Dr. Jean Kristeller, our class will focus on getting back in touch with what our bodies want and need to eat.  I am excited to offer this course in addition to health coaching. Stay tuned for updates on Facebook (www.facebook/yourinnerkitchen) with our class progress and for my MB-EAT course offerings later this fall.

 

Nothing Beets a Good Summer Salad

Home gardening this summer has been a bit of a roller coaster.  We started the season with more vegetables than we could eat!  Our most recent harvest fell short due to (ahem...) a hungry groundhog.  The good news is that it left us with a plethora of greens to experiment with.

I am always looking for ways to incorporate more dark leafy goodness into my diet, and this harvest provided the perfect opportunity.  The greens from our carrots and parsnips will be simmering all winter in my soup stocks.  And, the beet greens have become my "go to" green for my summer salads.  They are a nutritional powerhouse and mild tasting enough for salads, soups and smoothies. 

Nothing "beets" a salad with beet greens!  

Enjoy!

The Best Cleanse Ever

I recently went on a 2 week family vacation and decided to use the time to embark on the best cleanse ever.  As someone who used to check her juicer in extra luggage for vacations, this cleanse was far easier.  

There are so many reasons to start a cleanse.  Maybe too much sugar or salt has crept into your diet?  Or maybe in my case.. too much media.  At the end of the school year I realized that facebook, texting, and surfing online were taking up too much precious time.  I decided that our family vacation would be the best time to hit the reset button.

I came home after a major media break feeling relaxed and more focused than I have in a long time.  Below are some ways that I got ready for my best cleanse ever.

1.  I spent a few hours online unsubscribing from every single newsletter and store email that I don't need.  An unclogged email box is one that I don't feel I need to check often.

2.  I stocked up on good reads.  Instead of grabbing for my phone waiting for our rental car or tour guide, I pulled out a paperback.

3.  I left my laptop, iPad and iPhone off and at home.  It was like shedding extra weight without having to skip dessert.

4.  I bought old fashioned cameras for all of us to use so that I wouldn't be tempted to post anything online.  

What things would you need to do to cut down on your time spent online?

 

Dinner Just Tastes Better on the Back Porch

Of all of the lessons I learned in my childhood - one always stands out in the springtime.  Dinner just tastes better on the back porch.  I grew up (ahem...) as a bit of a picky eater, but I didn't seem to notice the rice my mother snuck into my meatballs when we were outside.

I use this same tactic with my own family now.  I get eye rolls just like everyone else when I announce that I'll be serving leftovers for dinner. And yet, I served these leftovers OUTSIDE last night, and they were gobbled up pretty quickly.

Here are a few of my favorite backyard dinner ideas to get even your pickiest eaters excited about dinner.

1.  Add some color.  Look at what you have to serve, and think about what colors are missing.  I was about to put out baked chicken and quinoa, and added colored peppers and carrots to make the meal look more pleasing to the eye.

2.  The rules don't apply outside.  Want to run around in your pj's after dinner?  Great.  Want to sit in the hammock, picnic bench or rocking chair?  As long as you eat nicely...I am on board.

3.  Take a cue from my mom and try to sneak in a new dish now that you have a diversion.  Eating outside makes everyone happy, and they might not notice that you have swapped an ingredient or two.

Enjoy!