Feeding Baby Well

When I look back at feeding my babies years ago, I cringe. I was a young mom; hadn’t been to nursing school or nutrition classes yet. I based my choices on intuition alone. I made some good choices, some less good.

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I love this photo from Your Reason to Laugh. It makes a good point. I remember my greatest concern with hotdogs being cutting the rounds into quarters to prevent choking. I felt that Chicken McNuggets was a healthy choice at McDonalds because it wasn’t beef.

I did make my my own baby food. It made sense to me to know exactly what was going into that sweet growing body (despite my skewed views above.) I grew organic vegetables in my own compost. Not surprisingly I was odd-girl out on this front. It just seemed clear that pesticides didn’t belong in my baby.

Homemade baby food is a healthy way to start baby’s journey into whole foods even today. This is the season of a developing palate; the time when finickiness begins. Sweet potatoes are sweet enough. Beans are tasty without the salt and butter to which we’ve become accustomed.

What you need: a steamer for cooking, a blender or food processor, ice cube trays or baby food jars. Ice cube trays freeze small amounts to allow easy variety. Follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for starter foods, initiating one food at a time and not mixing foods. For first foods, the puree should be runny. As baby grows, the consistency can thicken.

Remember, obesity and diabetes are growing epidemics, and when we say, “It runs in the family,” much of the issue is environmental. We eat how our parents ate. Let’s start baby off in a healthier way. Don’t fret about meat. Most babies resist it. There is plenty of protein and calcium in breast milk, vegetables, grains and beans. But if you do choose a vegetarian diet for baby, and I would probably be right there if I had it to do again, read books and articles like an excellent one in the Huffington Post to be sure the plan is from a place of knowledge. Of course, feeding baby the standard American diet, although widely accepted, should come from a place of knowledge as well. Read. Explore. Be fascinated by the possibilities in feeding this beautiful little part of you well.

 

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Health in 2013

2013Did you meet your health goals in 2012? Do you have more energy than a year ago? Is your waistline the same, smaller, bigger? Do you require less medication or more?

Let’s start 2013 taking steps together toward wellness; wellness of mind, body and spirit!

Here are 5 ways to get going in the right direction:

  1. Wear a pedometer. They are inexpensive, motivating and good accountability!10,000 steps is nearly five miles! Walking is one of the best ways to get and stay well.
  2. Read labels. Packaged foods can be whole and safe. When buying processed foods, be sure you recognize each ingredient listed, and avoid words such as hydrogenated before any oil (trans fats), high fructose corn syrup (don’t believe the commercials), and artificial colors. Check serving sizes. Many apparently single-serving foods are actually calculating calories and fats for 2 servings, so remember to double it!
  3. Limit sugar and flour. Sugar lowers HDL (good) cholesterol and raises triglycerides. This can lead to heart disease. It also adds to blood glucose swings causing cravings and overeating. Simple carbs (white flour, pastries, breads) are sugar to your body. Avoid them most days.
  4. Protect your sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to obesity and high blood pressure. Insomnia can increase stress hormones, affect immune function, memory and mood.
  5. Relax. Stress has been implicated in heart disease, cancer, accidents and, not surprisingly, suicide. Nearly 90% of visits to doctors are due to stress related issues. There are situations in every life that will lead to mild to severe stress, but we do have some control in how we respond. We all know some who seemingly fall apart in minor situations while others remain stellar in the most dire of circumstances. Practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day and when stressed. Be mentored by the stellar. Rely on your faith and count blessings.

Welcome, 2013! What do you plan to change to be well this year?

Do You Hear What I Hear? Listening to your Body

Christmas parties. New Years Eve. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or another seasonal fest, my guess is you are inundated by temptation this time of year.

Case in point. We went out to dinner last night, and I strayed from my standard fare. I ordered an appetizer and a half Maine Berry Salad. So far, this would make most any health coach smile.

The appe was a Lobster Mac and Cheese. Who could resist! And it was a perfect demi-portion. Oh, yeah, they also served a delicious holiday pumpkin bread pudding… And they served it to me!

This girl is not used to rich food anymore. It felt like a punch in the gut. Seriously, I had a brother. I know. So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Balance.

I would love to tell you that I eat a healthy, well balanced vegan diet every day. I do not. And I am fine with that. I listen to my body. Last night, my body screamed (and perhaps swore) at me.

Next time, presented with such utter delights, I may pass. Not likely. I may order the Lobster Mac and Cheese but skip dessert. I may have a rich weekend party meal but stick to vegan cuisine the rest of the week. That’s what makes me feel energetic, healthy and all-around well – yet never deprived. Balance.

How will you balance your holiday temptations?


 

Winter Wellness – Dog Days of Winter

How well do you take care of your dog? And what, Christine, does this have to do with me Living Well, you may ask. Let me explain.

Mazy Winter2Clearing the table the other day, I found myself saying to my husband, “Please don’t give that to Mazy!” Sometimes we save left-overs for our yellow lab’s morning meal. We save veggies, fish. She loves them. And we save my husband’s less-fatty meat scraps.

He had fried shrimp that day. Trans-fats. I would never give my dog trans fats. And I got to thinking and said to my beloved, “Do you realize you eat a lot of things we’d never feed the dog!?!” I think most of us take better care of our pets than we do ourselves.

If we want to Live Well this winter, boost immune systems, feel our best, perhaps we could give ourselves Dog Days this winter:

  • Whole foods free of additives, trans fats, sugar, nitrates… Would you give your precious pup hot dogs, french fries and soda for dinner?
  • Twice daily walks for energy, digestion and to aid in elimination (I do not suggest, however, that you eliminate on your walks.)
  • Love. We love our dogs unconditionally. If only we could love ourselves and accept love the way we love our dogs and they accept our love.
  • Petting. Touch is important for wellness. Snuggle. Get a massage. Hug and be hugged.
  • Socialization. Isolation is a factor in depression, heart disease and sedentary lifestyle. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “Without proper socialization, it is unlikely that a pup will become the adult dog he could have been, whether as a competitor in canine events or as a happy, well-adjusted pet.” ‘Nuff said?

So, this winter, as we plan our days and meals, let’s treat our own bodies as well as we treat our dogs’. How else do you treat your pet that may work for your own body?

Kale-ing Me Softly -Kale part 2

Kale. It’s called bitter, tough and wrinkly. I have heard folks speak more kindly of their mothers-in-law. In Kale Me Maybe, we explored kale’s benefits and reputation of cancer prevention, richness in antioxidants and vitamins, ability to lower cholesterol and more. It’s a veggie worth exploring in earnest.

During WWII, Kale was encouraged as part of Great Britain’s Dig for Victory Campaign.

Easy to grow, it replaced several nutrients lacking due to rationing.

To begin your journey into the culinary world of kale gently, look for baby kale in the organic produce section. It’s similar to spinach at this stage and can be tossed into salads, sauteed in vegetable broth or swirled into smoothies. I find baby kale a perfect addition added into many foods: pilafs, risotto, pastas.

The more mature kale takes a bit more processing. Pull the leaf from its fibrous stem by holding the stem at its cut end and sliding your other hand down the length of it. Compost the stem, grind it into a smoothie or, as I also do, share it with the dog. She loves them!

Next, roll up the leaves and cut into strips. Then cut the strips in half. These strips can be steamed or sauteed in vegetable broth. Add to recipes or eat as a low-cal side dish with garlic and lemon. Use it in homemade baby food to really show your love.

Go to the Queen of Kale, Diane Dyer, MS, RD, and her blog 365 Days of Kale, for a cornucopia of kale recipes. Kale Slaw. Apple Kale Muffins. Risotto with Kale.

Grow your own in a window box for greens all winter. Choose organic and local when available. Most importantly, try it. Your body will be glad you did.

Warrior Wellness this Veterans Day

It’s Veterans Day.        How and whom do you celebrate?

There are days when I sit and wonder what it felt like to my son in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s never said much because he cannot. No photos. No stories. I wonder if he is really as ok as he says. And that child-like sense of humor has changed. My husband says he has just grown up, but I don’t know. I do know this: Through basic training, Ranger school and the others, he never failed, and he never complained. He has integrity and focus. He continues to serve his community as a volunteer fire fighter. He is a gentleman. I am proud of the young man he has become.

Perhaps the best way to celebrate is to honor our veterans, young and old.  Wellness isn’t limited to food and exercise. We can help our veterans to be well by showing our gratitude and awe of their bravery. Here are some ideas:

  • Attend Veterans Day services in your community
  • Hand out certificates for free coffee at the local grind
  • Veterans license plates: leave a thank you note on the windshield, pay for his/her gas fill up, just say thank you
  • Assist a hero in obtaining a job
  • Visit or send a card to a Veterans hospital
  • Support Wounded Warrior Project
  • Host or sponsor a Wounded Warrior family in events such as Jackson, NH’s Care Can Cure
  • Write your elected officials on behalf of veterans and their families

Do you know a combat vet? Wounded Warrior Project®  recommends

TEN TIPS FOR HELPING SOMEONE WITH PTSD

  1. Let the veteran determine what they are comfortable talking about and don’t push.
  2. Deep breathing exercises or getting to a quiet place can help them cope when the stress seems overwhelming.
  3. Writing about experiences can help the veteran clarify what is bothering them and help them think of solutions.
  4. Alcohol and drugs may seem to help in the short run, but make things worse in the long run.
  5. Crowds, road-side trash, fireworks and certain smells can be difficult for veterans coping with PTSD.
  6. Be a good listener and don’t say things like, “I know how you felt,” or, “That’s just like when I…” Even if you also served in a combat zone, everyone’s feelings are unique.
  7. Restorewarriors.org is a website where warriors and their families can find tools on how to work through combat stress and PTSD issues.
  8. Remind warriors they are not alone and many others have personal stories they can share about their readjustment. Talking to other warriors can help them cope.
  9. Allow and encourage warriors and their family members to express their feelings and thoughts to those who care about them.
  10. Let them know that acknowledging they may have PTSD says they’re strong, not weak.

It’s Veterans Day. Hug a Vet.

Kale Me Maybe

Kale. We love it or want to. Most people know that the health benefits of kale far outweigh that of most foods we eat, but it is a less tender green and can be more bitter. I am about to convince you to give it another try!

Kale is a member of the brassica family – hanging on the family tree with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collard greens. At 36 calories per cup, kale offers fiber, calcium, magnesium, B6, vitamins A, C and K as well as copper, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and more.

Kale is loaded with flavonoids, the antioxidant compound found in fruits and vegetables. They matter. Research at Oregon State University has found “flavonoids have… been reported to have antiviral, anti-allergic, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antioxidant activities.” That’s Dr. Kale to you!

Late fall and winter kale is more tender. Baby kale is more spinach-like. This is a good time to give it a whirl. Toss a handful in your morning smoothie. Blend it in with frozen fruit for an evening “sorbet.”  Then start adding it into recipes.

You’re in, aren’t you? Order your EAT MORE KALE t-shirt, a sticker for your car, and in part 2, we’re going to get cooking!

The Best Diet EVER…

Lose ten pounds in a week. Don’t give up your favorite foods. No exercise required. Take this pill and watch the pounds melt away!

AtkinsDietTheZoneDietWeightWatchersADAdiet GrapefruitDiet80/20Diet BabyFoodDietOkinawaDiet MediterraneanPaleoDiet3Season DietJennyCraig KetogenicDietKosherDietVegetarianRawDietVegan

We see the commercials, read the ads. Still Americans are growing larger, diabetes rates are skyrocketing, and our children are unhealthy.

So what is the best diet? Atkins? Vegan? Somewhere in between?

The best diet is the one that best suits your body, your goals, your motivation level.  The very best diet is a journey that honors your individuality, your genetic make-up, your values and your changing body through the seasons of your life.

There are, however, some pretty solid diet take homes:

  • Avoid “diets.” Eat to live. Look at a food and ask, “What will this do for my body. What will it do to my body?”
  • Keep a food journal. Write down what you eat (every bite) and how you feel an hour later. Did it energize or deplete you? Follow blood sugar levels if you have a meter. Follow daily weights. You’ll see patterns. Your future choices will likely reflect these patterns.
  • Avoid trans fats. Limit processed foods. Eat clean, local. Eat colorfully!

       “When it comes to diet, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.”    Christiane Northrup, MD

Stress Less – Part Two

Curious: After the first time we poked ourselves in the eye, did we do it again and again? No. We learned to protect our eyes. Perhaps it’s time we learn to protect our bodies. Do I hear an Amen?

According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can lead to:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema

So let’s stop poking ourselves in that proverbial eye. Here’s how:

  • Simplify. Less stuff (to clean, to store), less mail (opt out), fewer responsibilities:
  • Say no when appropriate or “I have to check my calendar” to avoid impulse obligations. Use good time management skills.
  • Bills a problem? Pay off high interest loans first. Barter services. Skip the Starbucks and movies until you catch up.
  • Boost your support system. Ask for help. Confide in a friend. Find a counselor to help you advocate for yourself.
  • Breathe. Pray. Research on monks has shown prayer and meditation to reduce the effects of stress objectively seen on brain scans.
  • Laugh. Watch a funny movie. Call a funny friend. Or give yourself permission to have a good cry.
  • Reframe. I’ll never catch up → I’ll complete two steps per day until I’m done. I need to lose 40 pounds, impossible → I’ll lose a pound a week most weeks.
  • Sleep. 7-8 hours every night, all week. Seriously. You need it to cope and reduce the stress hormones.
  • Feed yourself calm. Eat a plant-strong diet. Avoid excess caffeine, alcohol and dehydration.
  • Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Avoid blame and judgement.
  • Hug. Volunteer. Give up a parking space to someone else.
  • And never miss an opportunity to turn an ordeal into an adventure!

Stress Less, Not Stressless – Part One

Stress. Without some, we would be unmotivated, apathetic. But only in small doses is it beneficial.

When stress gets out of hand, it can lead to a cascade of health issues. Headaches and muscle tension. Stomach discomfort and, well, elimination woes. Disrupted sleep. Weight gain.

The human body’s response to stress begins in the hypothalamus which signals the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This is your fight or flight response. It would serve you well in a robbery; not so well, however, day after day unrelieved.

These stress  hormones speed up heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. The liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase the body’s energy. The gastrointestinal tract slows digestion. All pretty handy in an emergency.

Over time, however, this adrenal response will take a toll on the body.

  • Extended exposure to cortisol will dampen your immune system. Are you often sick?
  • Blood pressure elevation damages the intimal lining of blood vessels increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Stress hormones will make the body hungry and store fat.
  • Released glucose creates insulin resistance leading to diabetes.
  • Stress can lead to anxiety, depression and memory deficits.

And together, these effects create a symptom cycle, one feeding the next.

Next, we will Stress Less with a look at simple coping techniques to bring more peace and serenity into your life.  Now, Breathe.