Get Your Plate in Shape

March 1, 2012

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is encouraging everyone to include healthy foods from all food groups through this year’s theme: “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

“Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products contain the nutrients we need to maintain healthy lifestyles,” says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. “Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions. USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool to guide and help us be mindful of the foods that make up our balanced eating plan.”

Giancoli offers the following recommendations to “Get Your Plate in Shape”:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas.
  • When buying canned vegetables, choose “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” whenever possible. Rinsing whole varieties like beans, corn and peas can also reduce sodium levels.
  • Dried and frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juice are good options when fresh varieties are not available.
  • Make sure every meal and snack has at least one fruit or vegetable or both.

Make at least half your grains whole.

  • Choose brown rice, barley and oats and other whole grains for your sides and ingredients.
  • Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers.
  • Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.

  • Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and fewer calories.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Vary your protein choices.

  • Eat a variety of foods each week from the protein food group like seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.
  • Eat more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, whole grains and whole soy foods like tofu and edamame.
  • At least twice a week, make fish and seafood the protein on your plate.
  • Keep meat and poultry portions lean and limit to three ounces per meal.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks like regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened teas and coffees. Choose 100-percent fruit juice.
  • Compare sodium in foods and choose those with the least amount listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
  • Season foods with spices or herbs instead of salt.
  • Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Use heart-healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oil in place of butter or shortening when cooking.

Giancoli offers a slow food recommendation by suggesting we cook more often at home, where you are in control of what is in your food. “And don’t forget that exercise and healthful eating are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Giancoli says. “Choose activities you enjoy like going for a walk with your family, joining a sports team, dancing or playing with your children. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, carve out 10 minutes three times a day. Every bit adds up and health benefits increase the more active you are.”

As part of National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month website includes helpful tips, recipes, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources, all designed to spread the message of good nutrition around the “Get Your Plate in Shape” theme.

The folks at Self magazine gave me a preview of their February issue, which provides various beautiful people doing squats and lunges with thighs made of steel. It’s easy to say “Puh! That’ll never be me. I mean look at her. She’s obviously a model. And no one —  absolutely no one — has skin that glistening.”
It’s important to keep things in perspective. Like a lot of people, I workout regularly, but lately I’ve been feeling the need to change up my routine a little bit. The truth is wellness and fitness require a holistic approach. As I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere, you are what, and how, you eat. (See this great New York Times article on mindful eating). You are also comprised of all the decisions you make, large and small.

So I decided to take a closer look at what Self is trying to say. And they have a lot of good tips to help shake up said routine to bring in new wind into a dulled wellness regime.

Tip#1: Place your leftovers and other food in glass containers in the fridge. You can only eat what you see.

Tip#2: Shop and chop once ~for the whole week. Do food prep ahead of time so you don’t have to dirty your kitchen over and over again.

Tip #3: A little movement can go a long way. It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. The following program will help you trim up with a slow burn. Integrate your fitness in small choices such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator. And follow the outline they provide here if it works for you (personally, I’m not ready to give up on my health instructor yet!) Every little bit counts so get up and move.

Tip#4: This one’s borrowed from the mindful eating article I read in the New Yokr Times ~ eat in silence at least once a week. You wouldn’t believe how much more enjoyable it is to unitask at the table. So unplug the electronica and just eat, for pete’s sake. You may actually notice what it is you’re putting inside!

Remember: life is a dance so shake it for all it’s worth!

Want more info? Check out Tiffani Thiessen’s Prep Once Lose All Week Diet.



Why We’re So Fat

January 30, 2012

Fat. Now there’s an ugly word. The truth is one in three Americans is considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control. 17% of all U.S. children are too. It’s an astounding number. How has it come to this?

According to FastCompany, our brains aren’t prepared to handle the all-you-can-eat variety of food intake. Based on the primordial need to stuff our faces while we can, we often do. Our brains, apparently, are designed to prepare for rough winters and starvation. So we gorge ourselves, thinking it’s normal.

It’s not. We just don’t realize when to stop because our brains say it’s somehow okay.

Portion control is a term I learned while working on a campaign for Yum Yum Dishes, a fabulous company that creates ceramic dishes to provide acceptable food portions for weight control. We are not only what we eat; but how we eat it too.

So if you’re tempted to belly up to the next buffet and scarf a bit more than you should, think again. Eat a little less than you normally do and see how it feels. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food. If you do, you might notice that less is actually more. Let’s bring down that national statistic with a little more mindfulness.

Courtesy of

Meditation is typically something you think of as a strategy for quieting the mind. But apparently, it can quiet your appetite, too.

According to recent research reported by the Harvard Health Letter, mindful eating can lead to weight loss and an increase in food enjoyment.

No kidding. Slurping in front of the tube isn’t the most mindful way to ingest your food (and I’m guilty of it sometimes, too). Apparently, there is indeed a mind-gut connection. It takes about twenty minutes for the gut to tell the mind it is full. So people who slow down their food ingestion actually eat less.

Like the fork method that I laid out in The Power of Slow (in which you actually use utensils to eat, placing your fork down between bites), the Harvard Health Letter suggests the following tips:

  •     Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.


  •     Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.


  •     Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.


  •     Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.


  •     Take small bites and chew well.


  •     Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.


I would add thanking the Earth for producing the food before you even begin eating. It heightens your awareness about the food itself and places you in a space of gratitude, thereby heightening the experience and underscoring the truth that less truly is more!


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Oxygen magazine’s executive editor, Diane Hart, recently released  Pick It, Kick It, a book that weighs in on American eating habits. She told me that , “Eating right doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive – it is a simple matter of making the right choices and that comes from knowing what foods are better than others.” Sound simple, right? She was kind enough to offer a few tips for my Power of Slow readers on how to eat mindfully.
Fact: Since the 1970’s, portion sizes in restaurants have increased up to five times. And, with the USDA reporting a 22 percent increase of added fats and oils, Americans are getting more than they pay for.
Follow Diane Hart’s 10 tips to ‘know the skinny’ at any restaurant:

1.    Stick to restaurants known for their healthy food options
2.    To cut down on fat intake, order low-fat salad dressing on the side, and then dip your fork between bites to get the flavor without the extra fat
3.    To cut calories while keeping taste and nutrition, mix your OJ and other fruit juices with equal amount of mineral water, plain water or seltzer and give the other half to your dining partner
4.    Avoid bagels and muffins: Portion sizes have doubled in size and calories over the years, while muffins contain the bad stuff
5.    Swap artificial sweeteners for honey, a half-teaspoon worth is just the right sweetness
6.    Takes up to 20 minutes for food to digest: chew food thoroughly and slow down
7.    Don’t “save your calories” by skipping meals: Not only will you slow down your metabolism, but you will be famished by the meal and most likely overeat
8.    Anything “creamed,” “scalloped,” “au gratin,” “sautéed” or “breaded” is most likely loaded with fat: Go for “smoked,” “barbecued,” “roasted,” “grilled” or “broiled”
9.    Buffet-Style Dining: Avoid it but tips if you must-Do an initial walk around and find vegetables and other clean etc., next get the small plate and load up on the proteins and other clean foods. Watch out for sauces and fried foods, skip breads and pastas
10.    Portion control: Most people underestimate the calories in a meal by 150 to 400 calories; box off half of your meal for leftovers, less calories and two meals out of one saves money

Remember the power of slow principle: You are what, and how, you eat!

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My fork sliced the pork tenderloin so poetically on Saturday I almost wept.

pigIn honor of spring, we selected a few recipes that had been buried in the back of our long-forgotten cookbook: pork tenderloin in mango sauce. I dashed (slowly) to the local butcher shop located directly on a pig farm. The food tasted better for one simple reason: it was fresh and stress-less. We weren’t eating the stress hormones induced by mile-long commutes to the slaughterhouse. The animals were treated well, had plenty of fresh air and exercise.

It’s simple. Slow food, grown locally, is joyful. After a meal of home-grown goodness, you feel less stressed, too.

I used to work as a PR consultant for Deborah King, author of Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You. She recently published an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, addressing Oprah’s weight challenges and Deborah’s beliefs about its underlying causes.

I was moved by Deborah’s courage and also by Oprah’s shame. With her truth-healspermission, I will quote what Deborah says about balance:

“”You speak of balance in O magazine, and external balance between work and the rest of our lives is important, no doubt. But, first and foremost, the balance of our own energy field is vital if we are to be healthy and happy.”

Looking at the underlying causes of our choices is immensely important. Deborah herself has dealt effectively with her own addictions, stemming from childhood trauma, as Oprah’s food addiction does, too.

What does this have to do with The Power of Slow?


It is about our choices. Whether we choose to address dark issues or choose to ignore them, everything we do has an impact.

Everyone has issues and challenges. The question is what will you do with them? I find myself dealing with thirty-year-old issues that are resurfacing as I watch my daughter go through similar things. It is amazing how children won’t allow your soul to slumber.

I embrace people who find the courage to face their shadows and who do good for others in the process. Blessings upon you all whose pain lurks just beneath your skin. You are not alone. And never will be.

Taking Relief Time

December 17, 2008

About a year ago, I was approached by the most interesting person,  Svetlana Konnikova, who had written a book, Mama’s Home Remedies: Discover Time-Tested Secrets of Good Health and the Pleasures of Natural Living. It is based on home-made remedies she had learned from her mother and grandmother while growing up in Russia. Today, I found her blog, which talks about taking relief time, a perfect topic for The Power of Slow.

Around the holidays we tend to overeat or not eat well. Svetlana offers the mamas-home-remediesmost mouth-watering ideas to fill your tummy while you fill your soul. She’s the one who told me about the power of pomegranate juice in the winter time. I’ve been faithfully buying what I call my ‘wellness drink.’ Luckily, my daughter likes it, too!

Relief time means eating mindfully. It is tempting to eat in front of your computer or on the run. Take one day this week to eat a meal in peace, and at pace, with your resting heartbeat!