On Sunday I met a man who is 106 years old. He lives with his daughter and son in law in a historic log cabin on the banks of the Potomac in rural Virginia and enjoys a relatively active life surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As a total history buff, I started thinking of all the major life events this individual has lived through. Born in 1907, this man saw Oklahoma and Arizona admitted into the Union as a state, Einstein had just released his first theory of relativity and the 16th amendment wouldn’t be ratified for two more years. He has lived through countless wars, seen phenomenal growth in industry, technology and has outlived some of the greatest athletes, performers and human beings ever from beginning to end. WOW! Read more
If you are at all into health, weight loss or fitness which includes almost everyone in the US to say the least you have likely heard or been bombarded by the praises of doing a cleanse. More than not you’ve had a friend or a friend of a friend who has raved about the Master Cleanse and how they lost a ton of weight and feel great or that so and so just completed a juice cleanse and how hard it was to sustain. So what’s the deal with cleansing? Read more
Over the weekend I flew home to the Philadelphia area to help care for a family member who had recently undergone a triple bypass. The bypass was further complicated by diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney damage all brought on by years of inordinate stress, over eating and smoking which they had quit several years prior the damage however had none the less been done. As a health coach and personal chef, I had been asked to come and make a series of meals “to get them started” that would promote a healthier lifestyle given this individual’s new reality. A low fat, low sodium, plant full world. Read more
Avocados-What’s not to love!
Did you know Avocados are actually a fruit? Avocados are comprised of 75% monounsaturated fat-as far as fat’s go, this is one of the better ones. Although a good fat, enjoy sparingly because high fat content equals more calories. Avocados have 35% more potassium than bananas and are rich in vitamins B, E and K. Read more
Hello this is your life calling, it wants its balance back…
Last month I put all of my possessions in storage, put my business on hold and went to stay with my sister in San Francisco. This is HUGE because I had spent the last 4 years developing and building a business in the DC area. My business was growing and I was gaining notoriety in a town that I loved surrounded by great people with lots of possibility- so why stop? At the Regal Fig I always say we are fundamentally all about food and what it brings to our life and those we love. BUT while I was busily growing a business and cooking for the best clients a business owner could hope for, I forgot a very important ingredient. Balance. The food we eat isn’t the only food we need and after the last few years of focusing entirely on the business given little to no thought to me and the food in my life- I was starving mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Everyone who knows me well knows I like a VERY FULL plate but my plate had gotten so full with only one type of food that not only was it not nutritious it was becoming down right toxic. I worked 14 hour days 6 days a week, commuted between two and four hours a day leaving no time to exercise, eat right, have fun or visit with friends much less relax or develop and implement a plan on how to grow the business in a sustainable way.
Over the summer I had established some key dates and metrics for the business in order to grow because in business as in life if you aren’t growing you might as well just call it a day. By September I realized I wasn’t going to hit my benchmarks not because they weren’t reasonable or doable but mostly because I didn’t want to. One of my dearest friends and total business guru was dumbfounded, “I don’t understand he said, you have made very specific steps over the last two years getting deeper and deeper into this business what do you mean you don’t want to do it? Can’t you just build it up and sell off the thing?” I was crushed but I just couldn’t do it. I just physically couldn’t do it. Somewhere along the line, when I lost me I lost my vision and everything started to fall apart. Physically my body gave out, I was completely stressed out, I hurt my back, stopped working out, no longer cooked for pleasure, my healthy food habits disappeared and if that wasn’t enough finished out 2012 with an unexpected break up with my boyfriend whom I thought was going to propose. I guess in the end it was not a bad thing because he was the only one in my life who didn’t seem to support a single aspect of who I am as a person. The break up was a wakeup call.
I have threes magnets on the back of my front door which I see every time I leave the house, I put them there specifically to remind and inspire myself to pursue my life’s passion. They read “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, life the life you imagined”; “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and the last one says “In a world full of Caterpillars it takes balls to be a butterfly”. Well, I have definitely arrived at the end of my comfort zone and although the how is slightly unclear the life I imagine and dreams are very clear. As far as the last year goes I believe the ups and downs of the journey were far more important than the destination (though reaching the destination would have been much less painful I think). My goal for the next year is to find balance and nourish my mind, body and soul through faith, food, fitness and friends.
Today I was driving down the street on my way to my acupuncture appointment in this new city (missing my old acupuncturist and all around life guru terribly) and just ahead staring down at me from the back of the bus was a poster that read “Hello this is your life calling, it wants its balance back”-clearly the universe had something to say and boy was it right on. The food that feeds our soul through relationships, health, career/vocation and spirituality is by and the large the appetite we need to satisfy first and above all else. If these aspects of our life are not in balance than the food we eat just won’t matter.
For the foreseeable future, The Regal Fig will not be offering personal cheffing services though we continue to provide wellness coaching, seminars on health and wellness and menu planning while focusing on this blog and working on a cook book. Please do follow me via this blog over the course of the next year to learn more about creating balance in your life and feed your mind, body and soul.
The Green Smoothie
Smoothies are terrific because they are easy to make and are super refreshing, filling and full of vitamins and nutrients. The “Green Smoothie” is legendary and can include any number of ingredients namely GREEN and RAW. My favorite is as follows:
1 cup fresh spinach
Juice from one lime
1 ripe banana
½ granny smith apple peeled and sliced, apple juice can be substituted
1 Tblsp Protein Powder (Whey or Soy you choose)
1 cup almond, rice, soy, hemp milk or water
½ cup ice
1 Tblsp fish oil
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend. Then drink.
Why the Green smoothie you ask. Well Greens are rich in phytonutrients and fiber which promote the function of the immune system, fight bacteria and viruses, reduce inflammation, and can be associated with the treatment and/or prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease and any other malady affecting the health or well-being of an individual.
One reason GREEN Smoothies are so good for weight loss is because they’re so high in protein. Protein triggers our gut to release more of the PYY hormone (PYY3-36) which reduces appetite and 24 hour food intake. You feel fuller longer. The Green in Green smoothies come from Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is like liquid sunshine. The core atom in chlorophyll is magnesium (in human blood it’s iron). Cravings are often a sign of magnesium deficiency. Green Smoothies are the best food to end your addiction to cakes, cookies and chocolate. When your body gets the nutrients it needs, cravings go away.
I get asked a lot about my thoughts on vitamins and what vitamins do I recommend. I always say the same thing, I don’t actually take vitamins (except a little vitamin D per my doctor) because I believe in getting my nutrients naturally the way nature intended them through whole foods. Many people use vitamin supplements to round out their diet and this in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, provided you know what you are doing, have been advised by a medical professional to do so and use a good quality supplement.
If not, BE FOREWARNED, it’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature. When nutrients are isolated in the form of vitamin supplements we can over “medicate” for lack of a better term. If the vitamin is water soluble like vitamin C, and we take too much, because when we supplement we can absolutely take more than our bodies can use, we excrete the excess vitamins through our urine and derive no benefit. If however, the vitamin is fat soluble, a buildup can occur in our cells and become toxic. (Some vitamin supplements can adversely interact with certain medications, so if adding new supplements to your diet, please consult your health provider.) However, no one ever developed cellular toxicity as a result of eating too many apples or too much kale. When nutrients are absorbed by our bodies in their natural state, they are absorbed and processed efficiently and in a safe way. As such, as stated previously, I am a HUGE fan of supplementing through whole natural foods. To that end, I have recently come to support a product known as Juice+ which is a whole food supplement comprised of 17 different fruits, vegetables, grains and 9 berries rich in antioxidants which is excellent in supporting cardiovascular health. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will proactively support your efforts to attain better health, a stronger immune system and a more fulfilling life. While Juice+ is by no means a substitute for eating a well balanced diet it is an excellent way to bridge the gap between what we should eat and what we do eat and is especially beneficial for those “picky” eaters who shy away from fruits or veggies. The Juice+ product is gluten free, kosher certified and vegetarian and vegan safe.
Juice+ is one of the most thoroughly researched supplements on the market and is recommended by pediatricians across the country. Juice+ believes so strongly in the benefits of this program that they offer it children ages 4-18 for free for up to one year as part of a children’s study.
Supplementation is a hot topic for most people, so please stay tuned for further discussion on supplements. If interested in learning more about Juice+, Please contact Beth at email@example.com.
Fat is GOOD! Yes there, I said it, fat is good, seriously, no joke. Truth #2 about fat, you don’t get fat from eating fat you get fat from eating junkfood. Truth #3 as with everything else, must be eaten in moderation. No more than 20-30% of your daily food intake should come from fat. Our bodies need fat for brain function, cell development and insulation among other vital functions . Fat, when consumed in foods such as butter, milk, yogurt, cheese and olive oil slows down digestion leaving your body feeling full longer causing you to each less. Low-fat or fat free alternatives do not, are generally less satisfying and ultimately result in you consuming more in order to feel satisfied.
Whether plant, fish, fowl or cow… Protein is the name of the game. A serving of protein should be no more than 10-15% of your daily caloric intake or 3-5 oz which visually speaking, is a portion size no bigger or thicker than the palm of your hand. However good Morton’s may be, no one has a palm the size of a 12oz porter house. Protein is vital to our immune system, collagen formation, tissue repair and preserving lean muscle mass. Most Americans are not protein deficient. Whenever possible opt for grass fed or pasture fed beef, free range chickens and wild caught fish. This type of protein is lower in antibiotics and hormones, is leaner and leads a more sustainable environmentally sound existence.
Carbs are not your enemy. Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and consist of sugars, starches and fiber. Be smart about the sugar you consume, opt for whole foods such as fruits or vegetables and if your sweet tooth gets the better of you try sweeteners like maple sugar, honey or brown rice syrup. When selecting your starches choose nutrient dense items such as quinoa, brown rice or sprouted bread. Limit white flour or products made with white flour as all the nutritional benefits have been stripped out and what you don’t burn gets stored as fat. Last but definitely not least, Fiber. Fiber is not digested or absorbed by the body, but instead is used to keep our digestive track healthy by forming and eliminating waste from the body. Fiber supports your efforts in reducing the risk of colon cancer, high cholesterol, maintaining a healthy body weight and controlling blood sugar. Eat lots of dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or broccoli. These veggies give you a two for one punch as they are high in nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin C. Good carbohydrates should be 50-60% of your daily caloric intake or take up at least two thirds of your plate at each meal.
Food is one of life’s true pleasures, eating a healthy well balanced diet doesn’t have to mean sacrifice but it does mean making subtle adjustments over time to fit your lifestyle. By choosing nutrient dense foods and reasonable portion size there is no reason not to enjoy the foods you love.
Gluten seems to be the topic of choice today. We hear about it in the news, see gluten free products popping up all over the place and find more and more people trying to avoid it. But is it really as bad as people are making it out to be or is a gluten free world just the latest fad? The gluten in question is a natural wheat protein which gives elasticity to dough, helps it to rise, keep its shape, and often gives the final product that chewy texture we love so much. Gluten, especially wheat gluten, is the basis for imitation meats resembling chicken, duck, fish, pork and beef and widely used in vegetarian, vegan and Buddhist cuisines as a meat substitute. Gluten is also used as a stabilizing agent in products like ice cream and ketchup among others. Suffice it to say, anything which contains wheat or some form of wheat, like semolina, spelt, durum, kamut, einkorn, faro, rye, barley and triticate contains gluten. Oats, while gluten free, are generally processed with other wheat based products and as such can become contaminated with gluten. Rice, corn, oats, buckwheat, and millet have glutens, but the glutens in these foods do not contain the gliadin molecule that cause the inflammatory reaction created by wheat gluten and are thus usually safe. Other safe grains include quinoa and amaranth.
Gluten is particularly problematic for people suffering from Celiac disease, for children dealing with ADHD, ADD, Autism and those who have a gluten intolerance. However there is a growing belief that excessive exposure to gluten can cause negative health consequences in the general population. For those who are sensitive to gluten, failure to remove gluten from your diet can result in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, vitamin deficiency, anemia, diarrhea or constipation. Long term exposure to gluten can result in Iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia, vitamin K deficiency associated with risk for hemorrhaging, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, central and peripheral nervous system disorders – usually due to unsuspected nutrient deficiencies, among other more serious conditions.
But Wheat and gluten has been around for hundreds of years and hasn’t always been a problem. In fact, research by the Mayo Clinic has shown that gluten intolerance and celiac disease is on the rise in recent years and it is believed to be largely due to “environmental influences, increased food processing and greater dietary dependence on gluten based grains.”
Overall natural whole grains be it wheat or the gluten free variety do have tremendous health benefits but not all food is equally healthy for everyone. For those who have celiac disease, ADD, ADHD, Autism or gluten insensitivity my suggestion is avoid gluten, you’re not missing anything and you will feel so much better. Your dietary options are limitless as is the deliciousness factor. For those who aren’t gluten sensitive, the key is everything in moderation. Regardless, everyone should be mindful of eating a well balanced diet comprised of natural whole foods with lots of dark leafy greens.
If interested in learning more about gluten, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease or the influence of gluten in managing ADD, ADHD or Autism in children please email Beth directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Regal Fig is thrilled to announce that we have partnered with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) and the Ruby Tucker Family Center to offer cooking lessons for low income teens in the City of Alexandria. Beth Donnelly,aka Chef “D” of the Regal Fig will be cooking with her Jr. Chef’s on a monthly basis. The teens will create the curriculum which in addition to cooking will include learning where food comes from, meeting local farmers, how to maximize the nutritional and health benefits of food, mindful eating and keeping a food journal among other projects.