Better & Bolder the Blog

30 Days of Produce


I wrote for all 30 days in June about produce -- fruits and vegetables. While it’s very, ummm, fruitful to write every day, I’m going to be really glad when we get to July and I’m not writing every day and I’m not always writing about fruits and veggies. Truth. 

Here are a few tidbits that got left out this month. Did you know that if you turn a pineapple over that it will ripen more quickly? Now I just have to remember that the next time I bring home a pineapple. 

I wrote about smoothies this month. I really like how this author created a formula -- how much fruit, how much liquid. 

Remember that your smoothie can be frozen into a popsicle, too. 

Use fruits or vegetables as the base for lots of stuff. Making brownies or cookies? Look online for a recipe that includes fruits and vegetables. Carrots, zucchini and sweet potato are all excellent to add in. Sweet potato brownies? Yes please. This is a cheesy cookie for dinner. 

The posts online about adding in fruits and vegetables are always, like, “Hey, your kids won’t eat enough veggies so sneak them in this way,” and I’m, like, as if. As if most of us are eating tons of veggies and it’s just our kids who need to sneak them in. There are some pretty good ideas in this post

Remember when you eat your veggies to mash them, smash them, mix them, stir them, cook them, and eat them up crunchy. Keep it varied. Get out of the stir fry mindset or the clump of spinach on the side of the plate next to whatever is the main dish. Incorporate the vegetables into that main dish and get creative with it by changing up how you cut them and cook them. 

I tried a bunch of new veggies this month. Because watercress was rated so highly (see the June 11 post), I brought some home from La Montanita coop. While it’s not my new favorite, I was glad to try it. 

I also gave fennel another try because the farmer was so passionate about it.  Plus, Dean Karnazes, an ultra runner, recommended it in his post about interesting foods he’s added to his diet. 

Actually, he didn’t recommend it. I mixed up fennel and fenugreek, which is what he recommended. 

Besides fenugreek, which he eats because it’s good for blood-sugar levels and helps with serotonin uptake for a happy mood, he eats a berry called Hippophae Fruit for stamina; Rambutan for recovery and its anti-oxidative powers; Camu Camu for vitamin C; and mastic because he’s an ultra runner and he’s weird, in a good way. 

A food I almost never eat is coleslaw. A coleslaw is usually raw, shredded cabbage, possibly with other vegetables, and with some kind of vinaigrette dressing. Someone brought it to our house one weekend, though, and I dug into the leftovers the next day for lunch. And it was fabulous. Keep trying new things. 

Here for you now, my parting but not last words on eating a ton of produce: 

Unrules for eating produce

  • If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.
  • If you haven’t tried it in a while, try it, just a bit. You might like it this time. If not, go back to #1. You don’t have to eat it. 
  • Go local and organic when you can.
  • When you’re maxed out, let someone else do it for you. Buy prepared vegetables or meals that include produce.
  • Tired? Hummus and carrot sticks do nicely for dinner. Really, don’t worry about making every meal a big deal.
  • Sometimes, make it really beautiful. Take care with how you present everything. Use your nicest dish. Enjoy and savor it with your eyes. 

day 29 Breakfast

I hadn’t realized salad for breakfast was a “thing” until I looked it up on the internet. I expected to find a few references. I’d first read the idea from a vegan athlete.  

But, no, breakfast salads are now a trend and I found plenty of recipes.   

If you’ve never had salad for breakfast, try it to see how you like it. Because a salad usually includes raw vegetables, this might be the perfect nudge your digestion needs to get you moving for your day. It could be pleasantly refreshing. It could make you crave vegetables all day. 

If you don’t like eating breakfast, it could be because breakfast food in the US often is heavy, creamy, and full of carbohydrates (toast and pancakes, for instance). Salads are light and quick to make. You may find that salad for breakfast is the change you needed to enjoy eating in that first hour or two after waking.

I like cooked vegetables with a grain for breakfast. When I have granola or yogurt and fruit, I feel too buzzed and unsettled. I tried salad for breakfast, and it’s too cold for me. A friend found that oatmeal with fruit was her perfect breakfast. Experiment with different options, including the breakfast salad.

Gina Biancaniello blogs on The Kitchn about how to make a salad feel more like breakfast. She includes 5 tips, the best of which I think is to add some satiating (and satisfying) fats. Adding in protein --  nuts, seeds, eggs, leftover meat or fish from the previous night’s dinner -- not only helps us feel full but also fuels us for longer. Add in grains or sweet potatoes for the steady fuel that these carbohydrates provide. 

Now that we’re in the hot months, I’m waking with the sun (like it or not) so I get up and eat breakfast early. In about two hours, I’m ready for a morning workout (run or Elliptigo or practicing Nia). When breakfast is mostly vegetables, I feel fueled for my workout and not weighed down by breakfast. 

If your breakfast isn’t satisfying you, try something different this summer. It’s a great way to set up a new routine or establish a summertime pattern.

day 28 I Am

day 28 I am

I don’t think of myself as a cook. Most days, however, I cook all my three meals, and that seems to be a more rare thing in the US. 

Vegetables are why I cook. I used to make sandwiches or burritos, throwing food together, and now I cook because I like to eat vegetables. I like how vegetables taste and I like how they fuel my body. I keep it quick and easy most of the time with a stir fry. 

Recently I made a dish for a potluck, and, truly, it was beautiful. It wasn’t rave worthy and no one asked for the recipe (which is good since I made it up as I went). However, it was gorgeous and enticing enough that there was not much left over at the end of the night. I call that a win.

I realize, it’s time to start calling myself a cook. I don’t have to be a great cook. I don’t invest a ton of time or energy into becoming a better cook, and that means I’ll probably never be a great cook. That’s okay. I can be a runner without being a great runner, I can be a reader without reading whatever Great Books that readers are supposed to read, and I can be a cook without being a great cook. That’s okay. I’m gonna own it. 

On June 23, I wrote that I don’t use cookbooks and recipes much, and it’s true. Over the years, though, on my long slow journey to becoming a more conscious eater and becoming a cook, I have found a few cookbooks that have inspired me, even though I don’t use their recipes often.

I don’t know if I’ve used any of the recipes in Ed Espe Brown’s books but I soaked up his comments on cutting techniques and reveled in his stories and reflections. He taught me that cooking is a skill that can be learned and that eating, too, is a skill that can be expanded. He whispered in my ear that cooking could be beautiful, even spiritual.

I loved reading Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America because it was filled with stories, and I use her Jewish Holiday Cooking for the items I make once a year, such as matzoh balls. Food has not just a physical function but a historical place. Part of the spirit of a recipe is its history. In honoring recipes, I’m honoring the cooks before me. 

The Self Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner changed how I thought about food. Now I think of food in terms of how it affects my energy and emotions, not just my body. 

Turner takes a gentle approach to food, suggesting we experiment and see how we feel. She warns some food may bring high drama, which was the first time I considered that foods weren’t good or bad but all have consequences. When I make a choice (any choice, not just food), I can choose to consider the consequences as well. Sometimes, I do. 

day 27 Live Long and Prosper

This is a follow up to several other posts I’ve made this month.

First, I’ve been telling you that eating produce is good for you, and this long-term study (one of the best kind) shows how good.

According to The Week, April 18, 2014, “Tracking the self-reported eating habits of more than 65,000 people over 12 years, researchers at University College London found that those who consumed seven or more daily portions--each roughly half a cup--of fresh fruits or vegetables reduced their risk of death during the study period by 42 percent, The Washington Post reports.”

Yesterday’s post said that eating vegetables helps prevent heart disease, and this study confirms this. “Consuming that same amount dropped the specific risk of dying from cancer by 25 percent, and from heart disease by 31 percent. ‘The size of the effect is staggering,’ says researcher Oyinlola Oyebode.” 

The effect size is one way we can tell how strong the data is, and Oyebode is saying it’s very strong. The study’s authors remind us that the study shows correlation, not causation. Eating fresh vegetables is associated with good health, but the study can’t say for certain that the vegetables cause that good health. Studies such as these control for other factors, though, and we know how important the nutrients in produce are. It’s not a big leap to conclude that eating produce is an important part of our good health.

While eating 3 1/2 cups of produce (primarily vegetables) daily is best, this study showed, “Even minimal consumption had a measurable impact: Eating one to three daily portions cut the risk of death by 14 percent.” Even eating 1/2 cup a day will make a difference. 

Another point I made in yesterday’s post was that it was better to eat than drink our vegetables. This study confirms we want our veggies fresh. 

We also should avoid commercial juices, which are not fresh and are primarily fruit instead of vegetables juice.  The study also found that fruit juices did not have an effect on our health. So drinking fruit juice may be fun, but it won’t improve our health, at least according to this study. 

When we add sugar to our fruit, the study shows a negative effect on our health. “Fresh vegetables provided the biggest benefit, with each portion reducing overall risk of death by 16 percent. Consuming canned fruits, however, actually increased the statistical risk, likely due to the added sugar used in processing. Fruit juices had no effect at all.”

day 26 fresh juice, your heart, and sex

This Reader's Digest article is called “Heart Attack Prevention: What Docs Don’t Learn.” His first point is that food is the most powerful medicine. The author, Dr. Joel Kahn, says we should have at least five cups of veggies a day. That’s not five servings. It’s five full cups. Start munching.

Kahn writes, “Two of the largest studies examining how eating habits affect chronic disease have found that people who ate eight or more servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who consumed one and a half servings or fewer. So eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables a day. My patients find it easy—and tasty—to drink some of their servings by making a greens-based juice (with fruit) in a blender.”

Whenever possible, eat your servings of vegetables. You’ll get lots of wonderful fiber out of it. However, if you don’t like eating vegetables or you don’t make a habit of it, fresh juices will deliver lots of healthful nutrients. It’s gotta be fresh, though, so either buy it some place where they make it fresh for you or consider investing in a juicer. It takes about 10 minutes to prep veggies and fruit, juice, and clean up. 

My favorite resource on juicing is Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet. She’s funny, she’s warm, and she knows her stuff. I don’t agree with everything she writes (for instance, I don’t think she gives adequate information about the Glycemic Index, I think food combining is whack, and please ease waaaay back on the supplements). Nevertheless, I like her energy and found her highly motivating.  She recommends particular juicers and explains why each one is good. 

I recommend a Vitamix. You’ll get all the pulp. It will be thicker than juice; however, it’s very easy to strain out the pulp (some or all). The Vitamix can be used for so much that it’s a worthwhile investment.

In Albuquerque, both La Montanita Co-op and Squeezed Juice Bar makes juices fresh for you. They may not be organic, so ask if that’s important to you. Squeezed is opening a location in Nob Hill (first week of July). Let them know you want organic options. 

I don’t think Keva or Jamba Juice is squeezing fresh juice, which means their products are lacking most of the nutrients. Avoid them or get the smallest size because they’re really really sweet. A 16 ounce smoothie from Jamba Juice has 67 grams of sugar. The light version has half that, 36 grams.  

According to this Rodale article, “the World Health Organization has just announced that it is halving its recommended sugar intake for adults, from the original 10 percent of total daily calories to 5 percent. For a normal weight adult, that's about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day.” 

12 ounces of orange juice has 28 grams of sugar. An orange has 9 grams of sugar. That’s another reason I suggest eating your fruits and veggies. Prepared juices usually are sweeter than what you might make at home. They are mostly fruit juice.  At the Co-op, I can ask for which vegetables I want and I can use carrots, beets, or apples to make it a bit sweeter. Notice that Khan recommends a greens-based juice that is lightly sweetened with fruit. 

You can read Khan’s article for more great tips on preventing heart disease, including which fish to eat, how to eat your meat, and why fasting for 11 hours every night is helpful. After discussing food, Kahn reminds us of some other powerful medicines:

  • Practice yoga
  • Practice acts of kindness
  • List something you’re grateful for every day
  • Have sex. Have sex again.

day 25 RIPE

I love watermelon. My husband loves cantaloupe. I never know if I’m picking a good one. 

Avocados are easy. They’ll get slightly soft to the touch when ready to eat. Remember that it will go from perfectly ripe to past its prime pretty quickly so once it’s ready, eat it up!

Bananas are visual. Green means no, yellow means go, and brown means peel it, bag it, and freeze it for your next smoothie. 

Soft fruit, such as strawberries and peaches, should be slightly soft to the touch and smell yummy. 

A good pineapple smells a bit sweet, not vinegary.  I also use the pluck test (if I can pull out a leaf easily, it’s good to go). Huffington Post says the color should be brown, without much green at the base. says this about determining whether melons are ripe.

  • Ripe melons have a hollow sound when you tap or slap the outside.
  • Look for the patch where the melon would have been on the ground (called the field spot). If it's a yellow color, it’s probably ripe. If it's white, it's probably not.
  • It should feel relatively heavy when lifted.
  • Unfortunately, melons don't continue to ripen once picked, unlike fruits such as apples and bananas, which contain ethylene. 

HuffPo says to press slightly at the stem end of a cantaloupe. It should give just a bit when it’s ripe. It should smell a little sweet, not too much, which could mean it’s over ripe. 

Not all fruit will continue to ripen after they’re picked. That includes cherries, oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit, cucumbers, grapes, pineapples, pomegranates, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelons. That means buy them ripe and eat them soon after. Refrigerate the berries, grapes, and cherries to keep them fresh if you don’t devour them immediately.

day 24 Cool Summer Soups and other ways to fuel a run

There’s a saying that you can’t outrun a bad diet. That means that no amount of exercise will keep you thin or keep you healthy if your diet is poor. Eventually, a poor diet will affect your exercise, too.

This doesn’t mean exercise is unimportant. Exercise often is the thing that motivates us to eat well. We feel good because we’re exercising so we want to keep doing good things for ourselves. There are times I decide not to eat something that I know my body doesn’t like because I’m planning a run for the next day and I don’t want to deal with the negative effects of not having fueled myself well. 

Exercise is extremely important to good health. It isn’t less important than good nutrition. That saying -- that we can’t outrun a poor diet -- just means that nutrition is more than calories in and calories out. It’s not about the quantity of calories but the quality of those calories. 

According to this article in Runner’s World, these foods below interfere with a body’s ability to heal optimally.

Studies show that consuming alcohol after an injury reduces your muscles' protein-building ability, leading to more severe muscle atrophy.

While healing from an injury, your body isn't as efficient at processing sugary carbs, which may raise circulating levels of fat in your blood.

These foods contain oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (which can increase inflammation) and few omega-3s, which help with healing.

For muscles to recover well from exercise, we need hydration. This article explains why. 

Most sources are going to discuss how much water to drink. The other way to work with this is to eat our water. 

This Runner’s World article includes yummy ideas. Leslie Goldman writes, “Toss strawberries into guacamole. Or make a cool soup: Blend together peaches, cantaloupe, peach nectar, lime juice, and sea salt, says culinary nutritionist Jackie Newgent, R.D.” A cool summer soup -- that’s brilliant. 

Here’s a lovely article about cool summer soups. Here’s another one that includes links to recipes that don’t need any cooking at all.

Other suggestions from that Runner’s World article include adding grapefruit to a stir fry or “combine kiwi with greens, avocado, pistachios, and onion.”

If your healing is going slowly, or you're stuck, see what happens for you if you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and decrease some of the more intense foods that may be undermining your healing efforts. 

If you’re looking for maximum performance, if you’re very active in summer, see what happens for you if you pay special attention to how much water you’re getting in your food. 

And if you’re feeling a bit bored with your meals, try some unexpected combinations, like those strawberries in your guac, grapefruit in your stirfry, or experimenting with cool summer soups. 

day 23 Imagine the Future

I’m not a foodie. I don’t adore good food prepared well. I don’t use cookbooks much. In writing these 30 days of blogs, I can’t write as a food writer does. I don’t have a lot of insights born of being a cook, and I’m not fascinated by trying out recipes. I’m an eater, and I write about that experience.

Yesterday, I almost didn’t write a blog, even though this is 30 days of Produce, meant to be posted daily through June. 

I was wiped out yesterday. Instead of embracing that, I fought it. I have posted in my office a quote from a competitive triathlete who said, “You don’t have to push past your limit - you just have to reach it more often.” I love that idea, but the reality of being at my limit was still upsetting. Instead of saying, “Great! My limit! Time to rest, and I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow,” I felt fear. I imagined a future in which I was always this wiped out.

Physically, I was toast. My butt and calves were so tight, they ached. I had so little energy that I don’t know if I could have run if a bear were chasing me. So after lunch, instead of, oh, say, resting, I ate ice cream and cheese cake. For me, this is not a healing diet and does not lead me to health and happiness. 

You know we eat what we see, right?  After days of staring at cheese cake in the fridge (my fault - I brought it home and thought the guys would polish it off in a few days), I was tired enough that I stopped making choices with my long-term health in mind. Think of will power as similar to muscles. They are not infinitely powerful; they work hard and then they stop working and need to rest. They need both fuel and rest, and so does our willpower. One week of staring at cheese cake + an emotionally and physically rich yet draining weekend = my prefrontal cortex simply could not do its job for me. 

I almost didn’t write the blog but I did. I’m so glad I wrote when I was too empty to write. The most interesting things can come up when I think I have nothing to say. When I was emptied of all ideas, the idea came to me. Food has a spirit, and I’m not paying attention. 

Check out this website. According to this site, “Almonds are sacred to the gods Thoth, Hermes, and Mercury and are said to bring wisdom and prosperity by stimulating intuition and insight through the Third Eye Chakra. Magical wands are often made of almond wood.” 

I have no idea if this writer is making it all up, but it’s fascinating anyway. This morning I ate a handful of almonds, and I didn’t once think about my intuition or insight. I didn’t begin my meal with a prayer. I didn’t infuse my cooking with spirituality or my eating with spirituality. My breakfast was functional, mundane, though pleasurable. 

Maybe that’s what’s waiting for me. Maybe that’s what’s next: eating with spiritual intention, with expanded gratitude. I could be listening not just to my body and my emotions, not just to my spirit, but to the spirit of the food, too. 

That sounds challenging. That sounds, like, umm, way too deep. Even still, I can see that future. I can imagine that future in which honoring my spirit and honoring the spirit of the food becomes easy and constant. Maybe that’s where I start, with imagining. 

When I was a kid, I ate very few fruits and vegetables. I ate carrots, ice berg lettuce, and apples. That’s it. In college, I began to expand. Now, each year, I add new fruits and vegetables to my Like list. I don’t suppose 15 year old me could have imagined a future in which the bulk of what I would eat would be fruits and veggies. 30 year old me might not have imagined the breakfast I had today, kale and millet with olive tapenade followed by fruit, nuts, and coconut yogurt.

Maybe you can’t imagine, yet, meals with so many vegetables or snacks filled with fruit. Maybe you can’t imagine eating based on intuition, or emotions, or spirit, or desire, or function. It’s an interesting part of getting older. Instead of thinking I’ve seen it all and know it all, I’m much clearer that there are surprises in front of me and that, no, I haven’t gotten to my limit. 

day 22 Spirit

What if all foods were sacred? What if each food had some essential spirit or essence, and eating that food transferred that essence to us?

I wonder if we’ve forgotten about the power of food. I wonder if we think, oh, it’s just food, and it doesn’t matter if it’s McDonald’s or an apple or ribs. Or the nutritional quality counts, but that’s it; it’s just nutrition. What if a food isn’t just how it tastes and how it influences our physiology and our minds? What if foods exert an influence on our spiritual state? 

What if we ate in order to bring out certain aspects of ourselves? I want to be light and refreshing, so I choose to eat grapefruit. I want to be creative, so I ingest eggs. I want to be sweet, so I’ll eat dates. What if we infused our eating with those intentions? 

If you were a vegetable, which vegetable would you be? What about a fruit? Which fruit is most You? Do you have a spirit fruit or spirit vegetable the way that some people have a spirit animal?

Sometimes, I do not treat food with respect and reverence. I forget its spiritual power. Most days, I’m focused on mundane things. What if meal times were opportunities for spiritual reflection, spiritual choices, and spiritual fuel?

Summer Solstice

Summer solstice marks the longest day of the year. Cait Johnson and Maura Shaw in Celebrating the Great Mother write, “Summer is a celebration of the earth’s incredible bounty.”  

Bushes, they write, are heavy with berries, and the mulberry tree is dripping with fruit. On my walks in the bosque, I can pick the mulberries straight off the tree, and they are superbly rich and sweet.

Tomatoes ripen and “zucchini appear magically overnight in the garden.” There’s magic everywhere in this sweet, perfect ripening. Sometimes, we’re not sure it will or can happen, and then, there it is. The harvest reminds us of this -- tells us to nurture and be patient, to be attentive and hopeful. 

The peak of the sun’s strength reminds us to consider our own strengths, our own peaks, and to recognize how we’ve grown, ripened and matured. 

Johnson and Shaw write, “It’s a good time to remember that we, like the sun, contain the power to nurture and sustain, and that we have a responsibility to burn as  brightly as we can.” 

Please indulge heartily in summer’s harvest. Today, mark the shift into this season of abundance, this time of fulfillment, this super hot and super intense time that calls us to play and rest in equally lusty measures. 

day 20 Who Knew?

You probably knew a tomato is not a vegetable but a fruit. But did you know eggplant was a fruit too? Nooooo. And cucumber. Squash. Even pumpkins. That just blows my mind, that a pumpkin is a fruit. Avocado is a fruit. 

HuffPo sez: Mayo Clinic botanists define fruit as: "the part of the plant that develops from a flower. It's also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. The other parts of plants are considered vegetables. These include the stems, leaves and roots -- and even the flower bud.” I’m not sure I can let go of the idea that a fruit is something juicy and sweet. 

By the way, a banana is a berry. But a strawberry isn’t a berry. Watermelons and tomatoes are berries. Even bell peppers and chili peppers are classified as berries. Here’s the article that explains this one.

Finally, watermelon may be grown in square molds in Japan because it’s easier to stack and store them in that shape. There are heart molds for fun, too, and the small ones cost around $200, large around $350, says this article. 

Watermelon sounds fantastic right around now, actually, and I’ve got a small one rolling around in my fridge right now. Salud!

Feasting on Green, feasting on each other

cottonwood tree 4639s copyright chrisazimmer

Part I Feast of Movement

Wednesday’s run was hard, and I am feeling some despair. My achilles aches the whole time I run now. It feels better when I pick up speed, and I don’t have the stamina yet to maintain that faster pace for all 8 miles.

I do my best to act as if I’m hopeful: pushing myself to keep running past the point I want to give up, adding on miles with the Elliptigo, stretching and using the massage ball to keep the achilles happy. This feels important to me, to be able to run farther and faster, and I am aware that it is trivial. I read recently about a woman, 38 weeks pregnant, who finished a half marathon (her midwife running beside her) in under two hours. Shit. I read this and go into comparison mode, and comparison is the death of happiness.

At one point in that difficult run yesterday, I looked up. The cotton from the cottonwood trees was floating above me, dancing against a backdrop of brilliant turquoise sky and absolute white clouds. It was magical, and I thought, well, if I weren’t out here running, I would not have seen that. I remembered to feel blessed. 

Once I got home, I drank some water and talked with my daughter, who just got home on Monday night after nine months away at UCSC. She does not go back; she is stuck here in ABQ, stuck at UNM. She loves Santa Cruz, loves her friends there, her boyfriend there, the campus in the forest, the beach. The dry desert should no longer be her home. She could choose to be bereft and instead chooses to grieve and then -- keep busy. Our house is a wonder land - the punching bag, the jump rope, the Elliptigo set up on a trainer, the yoga swing -- all sorts of toys to keep up her mood and help her be distracted. 

After that long run, I maybe should have put my feet up but instead I went back out on the Elliptigo for another 30 minutes. It feels good to push myself, though the wind was fierce enough that I had some regrets. We feast on this work. We feast on pushing ourselves, sweating, going hard enough to feel just the right bit sore the next day.  We feast on the beauty of a blue sky, green tree, white cloud, and cotton flying from the trees.  We feast as if we’re hopeful. 

That section of my run, underneath the flying cotton, made me Queen of the Mountain for a kilometer, meaning I ran it faster than the other 6 women who use Strava and also have run that route. An email tells me this is so, though I have not been tracking it. Today, my achilles is not worse, and I feast on that, too, once again believing it’s possible that I can do this, that I will improve, that I can become stronger, that I can go faster, that this tendon can heal. It is easy, easier even, to despair when I am wounded. Like a baby, every twinge worries me -- what’s that? what’s happening to me? I need a distraction from my distractions. I desire to focus on something more important than myself. 

Part 2 In heaven, they feed each other

An hour or so after lunch yesterday, I was feeling odd, a little unsettled. I didn’t know if I needed more food or a rest. 

It turned out I needed to go to Target with my daughter and try on really bad swim suits and have fun doing nothing important. I feasted on our unimportant time together. 

We made dinner together once we got home. It’s not that it’s much quicker when two people prepare a meal together. It’s that much more fun. It feels easier and lighter. After a year away at UCSC, my daughter came home with a new found appreciation for onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini, and I feasted on that. 

This morning I strapped Tobey Jack to my chest while Diane snuggled Liv in a complicated, cozy wrap. We walked along the bosque trail, feasting on green trees and blue skies, nurtured by conversation rather than coos. When we got home, my daughter heard us talking and burst out of her room, eager to hug Diane and meet the twins. I feasted on that, too, and then watched her hold an infant for the first time. She even fed Liv her bottle while Tobey nursed. 

Liv defaults to happy. She smiles as she sleeps. She enjoys every stretch. She makes those satisfied groans as she nurses. Life is a sensuous experience for Olivia, and she is wholly unafraid of that.

Tobey defaults to wonder, and he looks slightly awed or slightly worried much of the time. He’s working really hard to figure it all out. His arms flail and he punches himself in the head, again. My daughter, holding him, exulted in his smiles; she said it’s like a reward and it’s been earned. What can I do to make Tobey Jack smile? It doesn’t take much actually. He loves to smile and to talk.

I asked Diane if she wanted me to fix her some lunch, though I wasn’t really going to let her say no. It was simple: beans and rice, avocado, kale, chard. I held Liv, Bon held Tobey, and Diane ate. I feasted on that. 

For three hours this morning, life was about keeping two 8 week old infants mostly happy. The only thing on my To Do list was getting a green meal into my friend Diane. 

You know that story, right, about the only difference between heaven and hell? In both places, there are huge feasts of food, tables laden with the most wonderful stuff, all of which must be eaten with a fork that’s several feet long. In hell, they go hungry, unable to manage the forks to feed themselves. In heaven, they have the same forks, and so with smiles and great pleasure, they feed each other. 

If you can’t quite muster the energy to take good care of yourself, find the person or being that needs your care and offer it. If you find yourself despairing or unhappy, feed someone else. This will shift you away from your own concerns, giving you sweet relief from whatever stories or difficulties may haunt you this week. When in doubt, nurture others. This will feed and nurture you.

everything you need to know

 I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about nutrition, right here, right now. 

1. We all were born to be eaters. It is one of the most important things we do, and we are driven to do it. Deal with it.

2.Your nutritional needs and desires will change over your lifetime. They may change week to week or hour to hour. Be willing to adapt.

3. Everyone needs fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. These needs also change over a lifetime. No one else can tell you how much of each you need, so do your best to ignore all the studies, diets, and articles that explain why everyone needs X or Y or why no one should eat this or that.  

However, do figure out what you need by experimenting. Try a bit more or less of something to see what difference that makes. Try different types of proteins (animal or not, for instance). Experiment with a variety of sources of fats, and consider cooked versus raw as you do so. Be patient and observant. Remember #1 and #2 as you do so. Remember to love whatever you choose. 

4. Every diet, every nutritional program, says we should eat a lot of produce, especially vegetables. No matter how these diets vary -- high animal protein, no refined carbohydrates, no animal protein -- they all agree (and studies support) the value of eating mostly vegetables. When in doubt, eat more veggies.

5. When you’re out of balance, eating too much of one food or too much or too little of everything, listen to your whole life -- your past, your present, your stress, your sleep patterns, your emotions, your ideas, your stories, your feelings, your body’s needs. 

6. Be willing to give up eating something that makes you feel terrible. Be willing to eat food with gusto. Every great relationship comes with a great big heaping dose of willingness.

7. Have fun. Whatever you eat, it will be gone, out of your body, in a day or two. Your body adapts beautifully to the demands you place on it. Trust your needs and desires. Be kind to yourself. Listen deeply and then listen again. Keep experimenting and adapting. 

day 17 mindless eating - make it work for you

Brian Wansink wrote a great book called Mindless Eating. He discusses the interesting research he’s done at the Cornell  University Food and Brand Lab. One of his studies showed that people associate popcorn and movie watching. Because of that association, those with a strong popcorn/movie watching habit ate as much stale, week old popcorn as those who got a fresh bag. 

In general, doing other things while we eat, especially watching a movie or watching something on TV, will keep us from being aware of how our food tastes and noticing how satisfying it is. We’ll eat until whatever in front of us is gone.

There are all sorts of lovely tricks to keep from mindless eating (larger fork, smaller bowl, eating with our non-dominant hand) and several that are focused on changing our environment (get enough sleep, put the treats out of sight because see them will cue you to eat them). 

But here’s a trick on the trick. If I offer my son and husband a slice of apple while they’re watching TV, they almost always say yes. I keep bringing apple slices. They eat them until they’re gone. 

Use the association with watching TV and eating food to get in additional servings of fruits and vegetables. Sit down with a big bowl of munchies -- carrots, peppers, jicama -- and maybe a dipping sauce or hummus. Then go at it. 

Day 16 Sensuous

Today’s post is a simple reminder. If you don’t like it, don’t force yourself to eat it. Really, give yourself a freakin’ break.

I don’t like purslane. I don’t like mustard greens. I just eat other good stuff. 

I don’t know why I don’t like peaches, but I don’t. I didn’t used to like watermelon and now I love it, so I’m open to the possibility that one day, I’ll like peaches. I’ll probably try a bite of one this summer. 

We are so lucky to have such bounty of fresh produce. We get apples flown in from half way around the world when it’s not apple season here. I ate a banana yesterday (okay, I made ice cream and used a banana, and, by the way, it was fabulous) and that banana was neither local nor organic. Most of what I eat in summer is local and organic. Sometimes, I make other choices. Because there are so many wonderful options, I don’t stress that I enjoy blackberries but not blueberries and that I enjoy the occasional plum but never a peach. 

Be kind to yourself about food. Open up to the possibility of really enjoying everything you’re eating. Notice the qualities of what you eat, the different textures and tastes, and when you can, slow down as you eat. Smell as you eat. Use your fingers as you eat. Eating is one of the most human things we do. It’s one of the very first things we do. It’s a sensuous act we are invited to perform daily and we are welcomed to do so with pleasure.

June 15 On the Grill

Are you grilling this summer? Here are some tips for grilling veggies.

First, add some oil because the heat will dry out the vegetables.  Also oil helps herbs cling to the vegetables. Toss the vegetables in oil or use a spray. Keep it light.

You can place larger vegetables directly on the grill, on a skewer, or use a grill basket. Our favorite way is to wrap them in tin foil and lay the foil packets on the grill. If you want a How To and picture, go here. I like the ideas on this site. Maybe in your foil packet you’ll add nuts or salsa or jalapenos. Try grilling mushrooms and broccoli for a change. Pour on sesame oil instead of olive oil on baby bok choy. Remember you can grill fruit too -- rhubarb compote or apple dumplings. 

I’m ready to give up on zucchini and summer squash on the grill. It gets too soggy. Tomatoes too. But onions? Oh goodness they get perfectly sweet. I adore sweet potatoes on the grill because they, too, get sweet and sometimes just a bit wonderfully charred. Bell peppers work well with the onions in the same foil packet since they both cook more quickly than the potatoes.

It can help to slice the vegetables thinly so they cook more quickly and evenly. Also remember that some vegetables will take longer than others so some packets may go on before others do. Depending on the grill, plan on about 8 - 10 minutes per side with some needing half that time and some, like sweet potatoes, needing twice that time. It’s fun to experiment, though remember it’s easier to eat vegetables that are slightly undercooked or they can be tossed back on the grill.

June 14 Chocolate and Kale

Here’s what I ate for lunch today: a small handful of almonds, several large handfuls of potato chips, and a bag of Organic Chockalet Chip Kale Krunch. No, the potato chips don’t count as vegetables and the Kale Krunch doesn’t either. 

It was a strangely satisfying lunch, eaten in the car after a happy, sweaty, expressive Nia class. I was surprised that it gave me enough energy to go shopping to find at REI a better hydration belt for running and to get what we need at Costco. Then I came home to ride the Elliptigo for 30 minutes in the wind. I got a lot of energy and focus out what was probably 600 calories of fat. With salt.

I was plenty ready by late afternoon for a different kind of meal: calabacitas using squash from this morning’s farmers’ market, aduki beans, brown rice, and guacamole, topped with chopped cucumber (also from today’s market) and parsley. This was also quite satisfying. 

When your body craves something - salt or sugar or kale or cucumber - listen to the craving with respect and interest. 

the 13th Fresh and Local

It’s especially fun to eat food that is both local and organic. 

Here are 10 reasons to eat what’s local and in season. The best reason is that it’s freshest, which means it tastes great. We’re often more inspired to try a variety of items and to experiment in our cooking. 

This site lets us know what’s growing each month in New Mexico, though going to the Farmers' Market and talking with the growers is the best way to know. 

Here’s the site that tells you which markets are open in NM on which days and times. For instance, the Downtown Market is on Saturdays, 7 am - 1pm, behind Java Joe’s at 906 Park SW. There are artisans and cooks as well as farmers and usually musicians playing too. 

If you’re on FaceBook, friend your favorite market. Not only will they tell which which fruits and vegetables have come into season and what special events will be held, but seeing this in your feed will remind you of the lusciousness of produce waiting for you. 

We’re all on the See Food Diet. Seeing pictures on FB of beautiful produce will spur you to want to eat more of it. Put fruit on the counter, too, and make sure you have some beautiful vegetables staring you in the face each time you open the refrigerator. 

Eating locally (and organic or pesticide-free when possible) is good for your body, good for your community, and good for your environment. 

I was thinking recently about times when I have been eating too many processed foods and too little produce. My mood falls and I end up feeling tighter, meaner, and less generous in spirit. I’m not as patient and I’m not as energized. 

It seems to me that I owe it both to myself and to those around me to do a good job of eating lots of produce and far fewer processed foods so that I can be my best and be my most kind and generous with others. I owe it to my community and the environment to make as many good choices as I can. I like this reframing. I don’t eat well just for me. I eat well for everyone’s benefit. It’s more responsibility, which means it’s easier for me to commit. 

The reward is enormous -- a great time at the market talking with farmers and being inspired by beautiful food, a great time making meals with fresh and local produce, and feeling great because I'm energized and fueled by not just the food but also the connection to the people who grew the food. 

Day 12 Wrap it Up

I love the ease of a wrap. I’m guessing every culture has some version of a wrap, a burrito, something yummy and filling on the inside that’s wrapped up so it’s easy to hold. 

One way I like to wrap is using large lettuce leaves. Instead of mayo, I might use hummus or pesto or green chile. I add sliced turkey or chicken or fish. Some people like using collard leaves instead of lettuce. Collard greens will hold up better if you’re using a filling that’s been cooked and is still warm.

Another way I wrap is by cutting up a large bell pepper.  I like to stir fry some finely chopped vegetables, add rice, and then use this warm mix inside the raw, crunchy pepper. Guacamole and salsa are nice additions.

When I was in California last winter, I discovered Wrawps. These are raw, dehydrated fruits and vegetables in a sheet. They’re not as tender and pliable as lettuce (or a tortilla). I heat them for about five seconds on the stove, which softens them nicely. Sometimes I eat them as a snack with salsa, hummus or butter, and sometimes I fill them with cooked veggies.  I haven’t found them in local stores so I’ve ordered them online. They’re not cheap and they have to be bought in bulk (6 packages). The Original flavor is made with “Organic Zucchini, Organic Apple, Organic Onions, Flax Seeds, Coconut, Oregano, Turmeric, and Black Salt.”  They are different, though, and they’re fun.

day 11 Super Foods to the Rescue

Popeye had spinach. What’s your Super Food?

My super food is parsley. It’s so green  and rich. Whenever I eat it, I feel as if I’m transfusing myself with green, alive goodness. 

Time magazine’s  “41 Superfoods, Ranked by How Healthy They Are” (umm, guys? you meant “healthful”) reports on a study by an associate professor of Sociology (ummm, guys? anybody concerned that there’s one researcher and nutrition is not her field?). 

Jennifer Di Noia ranked food by “17 nutrients considered by the food experts at the United Nations and the Institute of Medicine to be important to good health and to lowering risk of heart disease and cancer: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K. She then combed the scientific literature to calculate how many nutrients they contained per calorie of energy they provided (based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet); the higher the value, the more of a powerhouse food it was.” 

Using calories is one way to calculate but I’m not clear why she didn’t rate by consumption.  In other words, imagine a food that is 100 calories per four cups and another that’s 100 calories per two cups. To get the full nutritional value, I gotta eat all four cups, using Di Noia’s rating.  I don’t eat foods by calories. I eat them by amounts and some are more calorie dense, particularly foods with fats such as avocados or nuts. I  think Di Noia’s ratings are better considered Super Vitamin foods. She’s telling us which foods have the most vitamins.

She also chose not to rate phytochemicals, which meant blueberries didn’t make the list. Phytochemicals are responsible for the color in food and that’s why you’ve been advised to eat the rainbow. Phytochemicals are thought to help protect against cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol. They’re supposed to be good for our bone health, eye sight and skin. It is unclear why Di Noia didn’t factor phytochemicals into her rating system. 

At the top of her list is watercress. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten watercress. If it doesn’t show up at the farmers’ market or my local co-op, I might miss it. 

So what should you do with this list? First, don’t take it too seriously. We get all sorts of food news and warnings and I think they all boil down to this: eat lots of produce, all different kinds, and enjoy yourself. You might want to post this list and check them off as you eat them, just for fun. 

day 10 Seaweed in a Smoothie, and other adventures

In yesterday’s smoothie post, I mentioned that I’m not really a fan of protein powders. They’re too concentrated, and I think they’re unnecessary for most of us on a regular basis. Today HuffPo published ways to add protein to our smoothies. Most of these add calories, fat, creaminess, and yumminess. Powders can be yummy, too, but sometimes are chalky. 

If you use a milk (dairy or otherwise) as the liquid base of your smoothie, those milks will contain protein (nuts and beans more, grains less).  

Here’s a really good ingredient to try: add oats. Oats will make the texture very creamy. Oats are high calorie and very filling, so even though the article tells us a full cup of oatmeal has 11 grams of protein, that’s a lot of oatmeal.  I also like the idea of adding quinoa to a smoothie for someone like my son who doesn’t otherwise eat it.

The article recommends adding nuts and seeds. I love pumpkin seeds and walnuts; however, both can be bitter so start small if you’re adding them to smoothies. I also prefer to eat them, not blend them, because they’re crunchy and it’s good for our digestion to chew. So rather than adding these to a smoothie, consider eating a handful along with drinking a smoothie.

Remember that Chia seeds can be a bit slimy, so start small and make sure you like the texture. I prefer flax meal to flax seeds because of the texture, but the meal doesn’t stay fresh long. Buy it, mark the date with a sharpie on the bag, and then store it in your fridge or freezer where it will last for a month or two. Just like a protein powder, all you really need is a tablespoon. You can buy seeds and use them or grind them, and they’ll last longer. Read more about flax here. 

I love sprinkling hemp on my veggies. Sprinkle hemp seeds on top of a smoothie or ice cream, or blend them in. They’re light and nutty. Get a small sample size first and make sure you like the taste. Hemp is supposed to have Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. Hemp is high in protein, containing all nine of the essential amino acids. Read more about hemp here. 

Here’s one more warning that follows from yesterday’s “too much of a good thing” strand. I love and adore cacao nibs. My whole system lights up when I eat a few. Of course, that’s my cue to eat a bunch. Quickly. This has had the unfortunate side effect of messing up my sleep (so so wired) and messing up my digestion (no details for you, uh huh). If you follow this recipe for a chocolate seaweed shake, plan on sharing it because two bananas and two tablespoons of cacao will do a number on you. 

I’ve never tried seaweed in a smoothie. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I do feel pretty good about experimenting, though. Last night we cut into a watermelon that wasn’t very good. The texture was mealy and it wasn’t very sweet. I cut up the melon, put most in the freezer, and put the rest in the blender along with a small bit of rice milk and coconut milk and some coconut sugar. I threw that mix into the ice cream maker and, yahoo, the not good watermelon had been turned into a yummy ice cream. 

If you’ve got fruits or veggies that are not luscious but still nutritious, blend them up for a soup, a smoothie, an ice cream mix, a pancake mix. Start thinking of produce as a base. Vegetables aren’t a side dish or an add on. They’re the base of the meal, or the smoothie, or the dessert, or the snack. 

Day 9 Sneaky and Smooth

My son, like many teenagers, doesn’t sit down to a big plate of vegetables each meal. He is concerned about his health, though, and knows eating healthfully will help him be strong and look good.

Last night, he added lettuce, avocado, tomato, and green chile to his burger. He does that because it’s delicious, of course, and he’s also proud to put together a healthful meal. If you don’t want to sit down to a plate of veggies, find ways to add more vegetables to foods you already love. Add squash to your burritos or enchiladas. Instead of getting stuck in veggies-as-side-dish or a salad once a day, begin to add more vegetables to every thing you eat. 

A really easy way to enjoy more produce is with a smoothie. A Better and Bolder reader asked me a few weeks ago for recipes and smoothie ideas. I’m not so much into recipes as I am basics -- take these things, throw them together in about these portions -- so I’m going to tell you what I think you may want to know about deeply healthful and fabulously yummie smoothies. 

When we got our VitaMix, my son started making smoothies in earnest. This blender is quick and powerful, making a fine puree of everything.  Ailin throws in a handful of frozen berries, a handful of spinach, frozen banana for sweetness and texture, a small amount of water or juice, and protein powder. Spinach is one of the sweeter and milder dark green vegetables. It adds lots of nutrients but doesn’t make a smoothie taste too green. He’s sneaking in way more fruits and vegetables than he eats in meals or snacks.

I’ve been urging him to add avocados for good fats and texture. A smoothie is richer with dairy (milk or yogurt) or non-dairy fats, including almond milk or coconut milk. There’s a new, non-dairy coconut yogurt called CoYo that’s sweetened with just a bit of stevia. It’s super rich and just a tablespoon in a smoothie is going to add a lot of flavor and texture. 

For many people, the dairy or dairy substitute makes up a big portion of the smoothie. If you’ve bought smoothies in a store, they add sugar or a lot of juice. They aren’t really all that healthful if the smoothie isn’t based on lots of fruits and some vegetables. Play around with fruits and vegetables to find the combination you like that allows you to use the least amount of fruit juice and dairy/non-dairy source of protein and fat. That’s the fun thing about smoothies -- experimenting with the basic ingredients.

For those of you who love recipes, I want to point you to these sites. Oh She Glows has some creative options. Butternut cinnamon date smoothie sounds like the perfect breakfast option. The recipes on Raw Vegan Power work well when you want something cool and green. Buzzfeed will send you to different sites for the recipes. The tart cherry smoothie could be a great post-workout recovery drink. Gingered plum smoothie? Yes please and thanks for the inspiration.

What should go in a smoothie?  The basics are

  • produce (fresh or frozen, fruit and/or vegetables)
  • something creamy (for fun, texture, good fats that help us feel full and keep our nervous system grounded and happy)
  • liquid (water, juice, milk, non-dairy milk)
  • extra protein or nutrients if you like

Start by putting a small amount of liquid and produce in the blender. Try adding a cucumber with a bit of water if you have a powerful blender or VitaMax. This will turn the cucumber into a super healthful liquid. If you read yesterday’s post (on my website), you know that cucumber is mostly water. This article proclaims the cucumber as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Remember that lettuce, celery, and even carrots have lots of water and could be the liquid base, too. Carrots are sweet. Celery is bitter. Cucumber is the most neutral taste. Once the cucumber is liquified, add in more produce, a bit at a time until it’s all smooth.

If your produce was frozen, you won’t need to add ice. It’s not necessary for a smoothie to be frozen or cold, though you can add in some ice. This will water it down a lot so minimize how much liquid you add in the first step. You’re adding the ice close to last because otherwise, it will all blend down to cold water. 

Add in the fats and protein at the last, including a small amount more of liquid if it’s getting too thick. My son found that if he blended it just a bit longer, the taste and texture both got better, so remember it’s not just the ingredients but how it’s blended that matter, too.

There are a ton of protein powders out there. First, know that you don’t need them. If you’re not a teenage boy who works out daily, chances are good you don’t need extra protein.  If you used more fruit than vegetables, you might like adding in some protein to make the smoothie more of a complete meal. It’s just as easy to grab a handful of walnuts to eat with your smoothie, though, and you’ll get great fats, a bit of protein, and a lot of satisfying bulk. It’s good to chew! Eating some nuts with a smoothie can make the meal more satisfying, probably more so than adding a protein powder. 

Another problem with powders is that there are lots of powders out there that claim to have all the minerals and nutrients you need. That’s fine as long as you think of it as an extra boost, not a replacement for the whole food that should be supplying minerals and nutrients. Don’t add Garden of Life’s Raw Protein Powder or Sun Warrior’s Super Greens instead of eating lots of produce every day. Use the powder if it’s fun and nutritious on an occasional basis. 

I do not have a protein powder recommendation. I like this article about protein powders in part because they state, repeatedly, that this is an individual choice. How much protein you need is highly individual. I’ve discovered I need and want less protein (especially animal protein) than what is recommended; others, however, thrive on high protein. Please, don’t get caught up in any hoopla about how protein helps you lose weight and gain muscle and you need a ton. You need what you need, and you’ll discover that by experimenting and noticing how you feel. Yes? Yes. So let the experiment begin! Here’s my take on protein powders you may wish to experiment with. 

We use Nutribiotic Raw Organic Rice Protein, and it’s got a mild taste. I’ve never heard of someone being allergic to rice. Rice doesn’t affect our hormones the way soy can. My next favorite is hemp protein, which has good fats (the Omega 3s), though hemp also has a stronger taste that not everyone likes. Go to Sprouts or Whole Foods or your local co-op and get some individual packets. It’s more expensive than buying in bulk, but you get to try out different powders. Each has its own taste and texture.

Whey is made from dairy. Body builders like it. My son gets massive amounts of dairy from milk and cheese, so I don’t figure he needs any more from a protein powder. If you’re sensitive to milk and cheese, avoid whey as well. 

I recommend avoiding soy proteins. Soy is a very intense food, and turning it into a powder intensifies its properties. This article explains why some people consider soy to be problematic, this New York Times article says there isn’t research to support that conclusion. It could be that dose matters, which is why I continue to eat tofu in small amounts. Fermented soy, according to some sources, may not be as problematic. But once a food is highly processed, and all protein powders will be highly processed, I consider that food to be a once-in-a-while item rather than a dietary staple. 

I had a bad reaction from eating too much pea protein. Because it’s plant-based, I thought, whoohoo, what a great protein. Eating whole peas gets me a tiny amount of protein. Once it’s processed down to just protein, it has also concentrated the protein allergens. If you’re adding a powder once a week, don’t worry. If you’re having a smoothie with the powder every day, consider varying the type of powder you use or skipping the powder some days. 

Pea protein has become very popular in dairy alternatives (yogurts, ice creams, cheeses, energy bars and protein powders). I was eating way too many of these dairy alternatives when I experienced that negative reaction. Heck, I’ve read about people having negative reactions from overzealous consumption of kale! It’s not the food. It’s how distilled or processed that food is and it’s also how much and how often we eat it.  If we process a food (soy, peas, kale, whatever) into every snack and juice, we may find it’s gone from healthful to harmful. 

For that reason, I declare our smoothies to be kale-free zones!  Kale is a marvelous dark green vegetable. Add it in moderate amounts to your burritos and enchiladas, to your soups, to lasagna. A little goes a long way. Kale is a serious food. For smoothies, go have fun. 

day 8 Hydrate

60% of your body weight is water.  In an early Star Trek: Next Generation episode, an alien refers to humans as “ugly bags of mostly water,” which is, from an outside perspective, mostly true. 

Mala Srivastava writes for SFGate, “Water helps transport oxygen, fat and glucose to your working muscles, regulate your body temperature, digest food and eliminate waste products. Besides water, certain fruits and vegetables also fulfill your fluid requirements in addition to providing healthful nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.” As much as 20% of the water we ingest is through our food.

During the hot months, especially when we’re active, we can choose foods that help keep us hydrated. 

Some of the most most hydrating fruits:

Watermelon (93 percent water)

Strawberries (92 percent water)
Grapefruit (91 percent)
Cantaloupe (90 percent)
Peaches (89 percent)
Raspberries (87 percent)
Pineapples (87 percent)
Apricots (86 percent)
Blueberries (85 percent)

Cucumber is 96.7% water. We most often use cucumber as part of a salad along with other foods that are high in water (lettuce, celery, radish, tomatoes, peppers, even carrots at  87 percent water). Cucumber can be the base for a soup or a juice (it’s high in Vitamin C, which is a powerful anti-oxidant and some sources say C is good for our immune system, fighting off colds and flus). Zucchini is 95 percent water but some of that water is lost when it’s cooked. Eat some of your veggies raw for the additional water. 

The flip side of this is to consider scaling back on foods that are dehydrating.  Foods that are diuretics cause us to urinate more, so we have to be more conscious about replacing that water.  A little caffeine is fine but too much is dehydrating. Alcohol, “causes cells to shrink, which squeezes extra water out,” according to Sarah Klein on Huffington Post. Anyone who’s had a hangover knows that one of the effects of drinking too much is getting dehydrated.  Some foods require more water to digest, especially meats and high protein foods. “The body has to use more water to flush out the naturally-occurring nitrogen in protein, which results in more trips to the bathroom...,” writes Klein.

To enjoy drinking more water, add fruit. Put some lemon in your water, or infuse water with berries. Infusion is pretty simple. Take fruit, put in water, let sit for a bit (the longer it sits, the stronger the flavor so some people like to store the water overnight).  Have fun with it -- add some mint, add some cayenne or lavender, mix several fruits together. 

day 7 Grow your Own

Today, I found out my husband also talks to our apple tree. 

I had planted the apple tree because the blossoms are so pretty in spring. It’s a quick show, though, and usually a spring wind strips the tree too soon. The apples, on the other hand, take a few months to grow so we can see their progress. I counted close to 20 little apples this year. 

I’m not much of a gardener. This apple tree doesn’t get mulch and if it’s supposed to get special grow food, I don’t know about it. I just give it water. Water, and kind words. What a beautiful tree it is! Look how special it is and wonderful. My son overheard me and thought I was talking to our dog. 

When it came up today, whether or not talking to plants helps them to grow, my husband Hugh said he talks to the apple tree, too, and says much of the same things as I do. “It’s giving us food,” he said, meaning it was special and deserving of special care. 

There’s some research to support the idea that plants respond to sound, but I’m not sure there’s any that says saying nice things to plants helps them grow. It helps us grow, though. Thinking kindly of the source of our nurturing reminds us to be thoughtful and grateful. 

I do not sit down to meals each day with my family. I highly recommend that you do, but my family does not. When we do, we have a prayer to say together: thank you, Mother Earth. Thank you everyone who brought food to our table. 

I wanted my kids to know that food doesn’t appear by magic. I wanted them to remember there’s a chain that starts in the field, that goes from the farm to our table. I wanted food to be real for them. 

I’ve got a lot of food issues. My eating is disordered. My weight flies up and down. I struggle with eating enough, not too little and not too much. Today driving to Nia, I was thinking of something that brought tears to my eyes and then I was thinking of how easily that happens these days. It’s one of the nicer gifts for me of menopause: at this stage, my emotional state is very sensitive. I realized right then that all of me is feeling pretty sensitive. My digestion is sensitive. My tendons are sensitive. This has led me to pray more often -- May all beings be well, may all beings receive love and comfort, may all beings be joyful. I wish my tendons and digestion were less sensitive, but those are gifts too with much to teach me and really forcing me to be much better at what I do to care for myself. 

I do not speak as kindly to myself as I speak to the apple tree. I do not always remember to be grateful for food, especially when I’m caught up in other emotions around my eating behaviors. That’s why when I do talk to the apple tree, it’s so sweet. When I buy kale and talk to the farmers who grew it, it’s so sweet. I want to be connected to food -- alive, real food -- and to be grateful.

day 6: i scream for ice cream

A wonderful way to play with our food is to turn fruit into ice cream or sorbet. 

I’ve been experimenting with non-dairy frozen desserts made with fruit. I have a VitaMix (which everyone should own, by the way) and that means whatever I put in there can be pulverized down to a liquid. Apples, bananas, cucumbers, berries, whatever I want can be mixed in with non-dairy beverages. 

While I have made my own almond milk (easy with the VitaMix but messy), I use the boxed, unsweetened versions for ice cream. The richest is coconut milk or cream. Soy will be the next creamiest along with cashew milk. Rice is the sweetest. Almond is a nice mix of not too sweet and still a bit creamy. I like to mix several different milks. 

I add in a bit of salt, sometimes vanilla (or experiment with flavorings like mint), and sometimes additional sweetener, such as coconut sugar. If I’ve used a lot of fruit and the rice milk, I don’t need the additional sweetener. It’s okay to add whatever you like -- milk, non-dairy milk, sugar, maple syrup, no extra sweetener -- and part of the fun is experimenting. The one I made with frozen organic blueberries from Trader Joes, bananas, and coconut milk turned out great. Maybe I’ll go for a grapefruit sorbet next. 

Many ice creams are made with egg and require heating first. If you’d like to do that, there a million recipes online. I want easy and quick, which means as few ingredients as possible.  Here are a bunch of vegan recipes, some requiring multiple steps and most being pretty darn quick and easy. Even if you don’t follow the recipes, they may inspire you to come up with your own unique treat. 

Some recipes don’t even require an ice cream maker. For instance, take one cup frozen strawberries, 3 ripe frozen bananas, and 2 tablespoons of a nut milk. Blend -- and eat! If you don’t have a VitaMix (really, they’re lovely and so worth the investment), any blender will do. A small hand-held stick blender is easy to use and quick to clean. 

I have an ice cream maker (somewhat like this one from Amazon) that works quickly and easily. The bowl lives in the freezer, and when I’m ready to make ice cream, I attach the top, plug it in, and for 15 or 20 minutes it mixes until it is frozen enough to scoop out. I like the texture of the ice cream, which is why I go this route even though I have the VitaMix for blending frozen ingredients. 

The trick to making a great fruit ice cream is to use a lot of fruit. For instance, this peach ice cream recipe from calls for 4 cups of peeled peaches. Add some vanilla, 1/2 cup sweetener, 2 teaspoons coconut oil, and a 14 ounce can of coconut milk. The recipe says to heat half the peaches, add in the coconut oil and milk, and melt in the sugar before throwing it all in a blender. The other half of the peaches are chopped into smaller chunks and added to the mixture before putting it all in an ice cream maker. I think the cooking might intensify the flavors a bit, but if I were making this, I’d skip the heat and, well, you know, mix it up in the VitaMix. 

Without sugar, the ice cream will not be very sweet. I’ve been adding pecans, cacao nibs, and honey or rice syrup on top to make it crunchy and sweet. You might want to add some whipped cream and more fruit on top, too. 

Remember that some fruit will get sweeter as they ripen. That includes bananas, kiwi, apples, mangoes and pears. Other fruits get softer, but not sweeter. I totally did not know that until I read it on the internet: I so hope it’s the absolute truth since I’m relaying it to you here.

Juicy, Sexy, Happy

How do you get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? You make it fun.

How do you get yourself and the other adults you love to eat more fruits and vegetables? You make it fun, of course.

Yesterday I wrote about all the reasons why produce is good for us. It is. But we like to eat what we enjoy, which means we’ll eat more produce not because it’s good for us but because it’s enjoyable. 

Adding fruits or vegetables to our favorite dishes is one way to make eating produce pleasurable. I want it to be excitingly fun and so inviting you can’t wait for more. 

Colors are fun. Shapes are fun. Dips are fun. Don’t tell me you haven’t ended up in a bite-the-carrot-into-a-shape contest (oh look! Darth Carrot).

Berries are fun. Berries under a bunch of whip cream is fun. Berries stain our tongue and fingers. Berries are undignified. Berries are primal. Watermelon is so wet and sweet and it screams summer. It’s not possible to eat watermelon and be depressed. It’s simply a really happy piece of fruit. 

It’s difficult to feel old and unhappy when you’re eating a juicy peach. Juicy fruit is sexy. 

Day 4 all the reasons why

I'd like to remind you why we should all eat more fruits and vegetables. 

  • They're nutrient-rich. Our food is our fuel. For instance, look at all these great sources of vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato. That’s just one nutrient!
  • They’re powerful anti-oxidants. That means, they reduce inflammation and slow aging. They make our joints feel good and keep our brain young. According to this article, “Damaging molecules called free radicals are produced in our bodies during normal body functions -- and these free radicals contribute to aging and dysfunction. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power. Studies show that the brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage. Although there's no way to stop free radicals completely, we can reduce their destructive effect on the body by eating foods rich in antioxidants."
  • Fruits and especially vegetables are low calorie and filling. They not only take the place of higher calorie food but they help us feel full and satisfied. 
  • They make our digestion happy. That’s because they’re full of fiber (which is why they help us feel full).
  • They help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer because they’re high fiber and full of phyto-nutrients. Read this article for more inspiration and information. 
  • They’re full of water. Fresh fruit and vegetables are naturally hydrating. This is another reason they’re filling and another reason they’re good for us.
  • All those nutrients and water? Good for your skin. Keeps you beautiful. Check it out. Vitamin C helps with collagen production (keeps us a juicy and plump as the fruit). Lycopene, found in tomatoes, protects skin cells and "fights off fine lines and wrinkles" (I'm not sure they need fighting off, but that's okay). 
  • Those nutrients are also good for your vision. 
  • There are some indications that eating our fruits and vegetables means we’ll be less depressed, though it’s difficult to tell if people who are depressed self-medicate with quick carbohydrates and don’t have the energy to eat healthfully. Depression may be caused by inflammation, which means all those anti-oxidants reduce the inflammation and help us feel happier again. 

I know the difference in how I feel when I eat lots of produce and when I eat less. Eating food that is closer to being alive makes me feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually more alive. 

Day 3 Sugar and the joy of craving berries

Some people, they say, have a sweet tooth, meaning they really like sweets. That’s me. The fewer processed sugars that I eat, though, the better I feel. A marvelous thing happens when I don’t use any added sugars, not even maple syrup or honey. When I’m not using sweeteners, the food I eat becomes so much sweeter. Fruit is obviously sweet, but greens, too, especially broccoli, become sweeter. I cook the onions a little longer to bring out their sweetness. Baked sweet potatoes begin to taste like candy.

I’m inviting you to give up refined sweeteners for the rest of the month. Let go of cane sugar, beet sugar, coconut sugar, all those sugars that have to be processed with heat to become crystallized. Let go of agave syrup and brown rice syrup. If you’re daring, go without any added sweeteners, choosing not to add honey or maple syrup either. See what happens if you’re not eating artificial sweeteners, too, which means giving up diet drinks and chewing gum. 

How about ten days? That’s long enough for your sense of taste to change. It’s also long enough that if you crave sugars, those cravings will pass. Some people get headaches when they stop eating refined sugars. Some people feel sad. Some people feel free. 

Sometimes it’s interesting to change our diet just to see how we respond when we go outside our habits.  I recently read a quote that has been sticking with me. Andy Potts is an Ironman athlete. The Ironman is a triathlon with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 (marathon) run. In Outside magazine, Potts said, “You don’t have to push past your limit -- you just have to reach it more often.”

I thought about that with my running. I’ve been building up my miles so that I’m running 15 - 20 miles a week, 4 - 8 miles per run, three times a week, usually at a pace that feels easy to me. My legs are working hard, but I have not been pushing fast enough to feel my heart race and my breathing become more effortful. 

Last Friday, though, I pushed a few miles at a faster pace and realized that I’d been missing that. I did it again Sunday, pushing myself to a pace that was 30 seconds to a minute faster per mile than I’d been running for the past few months. I warmed up for 1 1/2 miles and then for the next 3 1/2 miles, I pushed. I had to keep cheerleading myself. I set goals (I’ll keep this pace until I reach that next tree) and once I hit that goal, I realized I had enough power to reach for another goal. I also stopped to walk for a few paces, take in some water, and then gather my resolve to run again. 

I don’t have to reach my limit all the time. Some of the time, though, I should push hard enough to feel as if I’m going as fast as I can sustain for a few miles. Truth, I could go harder. My goal is to stay free of injury and to recover quickly enough that I’m happily dancing and teaching Nia the next day. So my limit is defined not just by the condition of my body but the conditions of my life. 

Sometimes our spirit has limits, too. There are times I absolutely cannot let go of added sugars. I just want them too much. Sometimes I give myself a break and do not push myself to the limit, the emotional or spiritual limit, with sugar. Other times, I push to my limit: no honey, no chewing gum, nothing that isn’t a whole food. I like how my body and spirit feel when I do this, though my emotions vary from “this rocks!” to “wah, wah, wah.” 

I know I’m eating too much sweetener when I begin to crave it instead of craving fruit. I enjoy my vegetables less and I’m less likely to crave them when I’ve been eating honey or coconut sugar every day. That’s part of why I’m inviting you to go without sugar. I want you to experience the joy of craving berries or craving greens. 

You’re going to enjoy your fruits and vegetables a lot more if your taste buds do not have to compete with the heightened sweetness of sugar. If you can, if you like, consider going without maple syrup and honey, which are natural, whole foods and full of nutrients. Though they’re great in small amounts, it’s easy to overdo them. It’s easy to eat cereal or granola with added sugars in the morning, yogurt with added sugars for a snack, bread with sugar, tomato sauce with sugar, really, so much of the foods we eat have added sugar. 

Try it for the month, or for 10 days, or just five days, or just a day. Experiment and see how it may change your relationship to fruits and vegetables. 

Day 2 Dip it, Dunk It

I didn’t want to make dinner tonight. I didn’t want to stir anything on a stove. So I cut up a bunch of jicama slices and ate them with hummus. Super quick, easy, yummy, and healthful. The thing about eating more fruits and vegetables is that it really doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it’s often super quick and easy.

Day 2 of 30 Days of Produce is devoted to the wonderful ways we can dunk and dip our veggies. 

While corn chips and potato chips are incredibly yummy, they also are incredibly oily, which means sometimes they make me feel sick. Instead of chips, dip your veggies. (By the way, those veggie chips you buy at the grocery store? No, they do not count as vegetables.)

There are lots of online recipes for turning veggies into chips. You can fry them up:

You can bake them:

Baking is less time-intensive and less messy than frying. Just slice them up thinly, slather some olive oil on top, throw them in the oven. 

But each of these require oven or stove time, which is hot, and it’s June, and it’s hot. 

In addition, making veggie chips requires using oil that’s been heated. Heated oils are less aromatic and tasty than unheated, according to this New York Times article. Also, the thing that makes olive oil good for us, polyphenols, is reduced with heating. 

You want to get the best benefits of oil -- and really enjoy it? Dip fresh, raw veggies in some super yummy olive oil. Get another slice, dip again. Keep dunking. Keep dipping.

You can add your own herbs and spices to a good olive oil. Go to Santa Fe Olive Oil Company (in Nob Hill in ABQ and on Don Gaspar in Santa Fe, or online). I was amazed at how good olive oil could taste. I add a small amount on top of a stir fry, and it adds a whole lot of flavor. My husband fell in love with their balsamic vinegar, and it has motivated him to eat more salad and vegetables. 

Slice up jicama, kohlrabi, carrots, sweet turnips or radishes. Grab sweet peas or sugar snap peas. So far, by the way, I’ve found jicama only at Whole Foods in Albuquerque. Kohlrabi is at the Farmer’s Market, along with sweet radish, purple daikon, and salad turnips, all marvelous for dunking. I’ve found kohlrabi at La Montanita Co-op, too.

If you’re going to use broccoli, you might enjoy it better if you blanch it first. Bring some water to boil. Put the broccoli in a strainer, and pour the boiling water over the broccoli. This should make it a little brighter, which is fun, and easier to digest. Usually we blanch by putting the broccoli in the boiling water for a few minutes and then moving them to an ice bath. My method is quicker, though the vegetables will be less cooked. You also can steam the broccoli for a few minutes or any of the other green vegetables you may wish to use for dipping. 

Once you have your veggies, dip into the guacamole and salsa. Dip into hummus. At La Montanita Co-op, they have red chile hummus, green chile hummus, spinach and artichoke hummus, plus plain hummus and baba ganoush. I have a fondness for the Tahini Dip from Trader Joe’s. It’s pretty salty, which means I’m less likely to miss the chips and more likely to choose veggies + dip as a snack. 

Turnips and radish, by the way, are considered to be helpful in dissolving fats, which makes them a double plus good switch from corn or potato chips. Since the dips are fat and oil intensive (the good kind), we don’t need more oils and fats from the chips. 

The more delicious the dip you buy or make, the more likely it will taste better with real food, with sliced vegetables, instead of with something that’s been processed and then stored in a bag. It can take a little while to get used to this as a new habit and to let go of the super oily and super salty chips. 

You can dehydrate veggies to make chips, too, and that way you’ll get all the fiber and minerals.  This works fine in an oven or use a dehydrator. Dehydrated veggie chips give us the dry, crunchy texture we crave. Beware, however, of dehydrated veggie chips you might buy in the store. They often are made with lots of nuts, which make them less easy to digest as well as higher in calorie. 

Part of the fun of using raw vegetables is that they’re inherently hydrating, which is especially welcome in the hot months. The fiber and the water content help us feel full and satisfied. While it’s hot, keep it easy, keep it quick, and eat ‘em raw.

day 1 the Invitation

I was the kid who wouldn’t eat vegetables. I ate, on occasion, carrots and iceberg lettuce, and that was it. I didn’t eat a ton of fruit, either. While I loved apples, I ate little else -- no berries, no plums.

I didn’t start enjoying vegetables until some time in college, and even then, I don’t remember that I ate a bunch. I didn’t really start becoming a vegetable eater until after my daughter was born. Now vegetables are the base of each of my meals. 

Real food feels really good. When I’m eating fruits and vegetables, I feel the alive energy of those foods. 

For the month of June, I’m posting every day for 30 Days of Fruits and Vegetables. Here is an invitation to play: set yourself a goal for expanding your enjoyment of produce this month. 

Think of something that will make your life happier and yummier, and commit to this for the month of June. Here are some ideas.

Try a new fruit or vegetable every week this month. 

  • Choose one meal -- breakfast or lunch or dinner -- for which you want to increase the amount of fruits or vegetables you include. 
  • Make produce half your plate for every meal. 
  • Streak: every meal and snack in June will include fruits and/or veggies. 
  • Read this Cooking Light article and choose to focus on one of those 12 ways to eat more vegetables and fruit.
  • Find a great veggie cookbook and try out one new recipe each week.
  • Experiment with creating the most delicious desserts using fruits and vegetables. Plan a party to show off your best ones.
  • Make a date with a friend or your honey to cook together once a week. Plan together what will be the meal and maybe even shop together. Focus on which vegetables will be the stars of your meal.

My favorite way to be excited about vegetables is to go to the  Farmers' Market. I almost always find new vegetables to try. 

Tatsoi is a wonderful green that is light and cooks up quickly. Pak choi is a slightly different variety of bok choy. Orach, which sounds like it should be a meal for Klingons, is a dark leafy green that’s also called Mountain Spinach. 

Some of these greens already are going out of season, which is why it’s nice to get to the Farmers’ Market every week. There is always something new there. Each time I go, I see what I can find that I haven't tried before. We have a few more weeks of kohlrabi. This is a yummy root veggie that can be eaten raw (use it for scooping up hummus, guacamole, or salsa). When cooked, it softens quickly and is slightly sweet, like broccoli stems. This New York Times article tells a bit more about it. 

Have fun! and I'd love to hear what your Produce Love goal is for June.