Sunday, June 14, 2015

Quick healthy prepared meals

Quick healthy prepared meals under 15-minutes prep or cooking time are possible! Whether you are packing for a work lunch or coming home after a long day for dinner, we have more options than ever at our grocery stores. Even though I enjoy cooking, on most days I don't have time to make a meal from scratch. Let's decrease your stress by giving you back some time to relax. So here are some strategies to eat healthy, on a budget, and enjoy good tasty food quickly!

For the urban dwellers, I'm choosing some Trader Joe's frozen items to highlight.
* Cod Provencale (top two images): Imported from France, it is fairly low-impact for those watching their carbs and sugar. The portion of the fish is generous and filling. The ratatouille would take me too much effort to make from scratch, but from this frozen packet, it's delicious. I re-heat this package on stovetop. And if you want to add more veggies and fiber to your meal (YES, please do!), add some pre-washed baby organic spinach from your fridge to boost your nutrition and bang from this tasty meal fit for foodies. For those avoiding wheat, this helps you meet your dietary preference, but it is not officially gluten-free for those who have strict gluten allergies.

* Spinach lasagna (checkered image): Ricotta cheese has quite a lot of protein. This spinach lasagna is filling as the main entree, or could be divided in 2 as a side pasta dish to accompany another protein or veggie main dish. What's terrific is you can pronounce every ingredient on the label, and it looks like what you would use to make it home-made. We want to avoid foods that have artificial preservatives, so the rule is, if you can't pronouce it, you probably shouldn't be eating it.

* Pakoras: If you like Indian food, you'll enjoy these curry spiced little fritters. The frozen pakoras I cook ahead of time in the toaster, so that they are quick to re-heat when I need a snack to get me to my next meal. A vegetarian item, they are surprisingly filling. I encourage you to discard the sauce or use it sparingly since it seems to have a lot of sugar. In general, if you're watching your waistline or trying to stay healthy, please beware of sauces and dressing -- where the hidden calories are!

* Chicken chile verde burritos -- 2 in a package. You can have 1 as your main, and add salad or veggies for a more complete healthy meal. Save the other one for another meal. These burritos are top-notch compared to other frozen burritos, as one of my mexican food taste-testers has rated these the Chicken chile verde burritos the best.

In any grocery store, here are my suggestions for quick healthy meals:
* Turkey or Chicken chili: Beans are a terrific source of fiber and protein so you can feel full! Check the labels to see if they added sugar or other additives. Go for the cleaner brand. Amy's Organic is a terrific brand of chili and soups. I also get a tub of Grass-fed Beef Chili from a eco-conscious responsible butcher shop.
* Split Pea soup: Like beans, peas are also a terrific source of fiber and protein. Besides the canned form, you can get split pea soup "flakes" (freeze -dry, mix with hot water) from places like Santa Monica Co-op's bulk food bins or other natural health food stores that have a bulk food section. Add ready-to-eat slices of chicken breast and you've got a very filling meal that is very green as well!
* Canned fish like smoked herring or sardines over a bed of pre-washed baby greens: Here's the salad recipe from a previous post. You can use "power to the greens" mix from Trader Joe's, baby spinach from anywhere, or even better, if you have greens from the salad stands of a local farmers market.

Have these items below for your fridge to be well-stocked:
* Free-range organic chicken breast or turkey breast meat ready to add to a salad.
* Cans of beans or garbanzo beans are a great topping to a salad.
* Cans of fish, clams, crab meat (whatever your tastes guide you!), preferably not the heavy-metal exposed fish like tuna.
* Salad greens like baby spinach work well as a salad base or wilted in a stir-fry.
* Frozen mixed vegetables so you can stir-fry or steam as a veggie side. (save time from washing and chopping!) There are even mushroom medleys in the freezer section if you like mushrooms and don't want to spend the time to wash and chop.
* Happy eggs are quick easy protein (omega-3, veggie-fed, free-range -- as you wish)
* Frozen peas -- peas are such a winner for protein and fiber -- easy to add into a dish
* Frozen french-cut beans -- they are picked young and the stems removed, so much quicker than picking them yourself
* Frozen asparagus - these are a new-found item!
* If you really can't get around to eating your vegetables, please at least try drinking your greens powder as backup so you can keep your body more alkaline and with some greens power.
* Nuts and seeds -- like almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios -- perfect for snacking when you're very hungry waiting for your food to heat up or get put together. Always a great addition to give extra crunch to your salad.

For all prepared foods to taste freshly-made and a boost of nutrition:
* Add fresh window herbs like basil or thyme to freshen up your prepared foods-- yum!
* Stock your cupboard with cinnamon, nutmeg, and the collection of Italian herbs and/or Mediterranean spices.
* Have a pepper mill so you get fresh ground pepper that makes your food taste more gourmet.
* And if you're a foodie for flavored salt, you can even get truffle-infused salt or other flavors to make your food taste gourmet or from a fancy restaurant.

No more boring dinners or big confusion of what to eat! Bon appetit!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Beauty of meditation

Meditation Mount in Ojai (
The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere. And if you can find great gardens and sanctuaries, it is so much easier you to find that quiet peace of mind. So for my birthday get-away, I wanted to visit Meditation Mount in Ojai. You can see more photos on my FB page.

Other great places to enjoy meditation gardens in Los Angeles include:

* Self-realization Fellowship (my favorite is the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades location off Sunset/PCH)

* Peace Labyrinth in the historic West Adams neighborhood

* Any park of the LA Mountains

* Or other urban parks/gardens you might find as little gems in your neighborhood.

Share with us your favorite gardens and sanctuaries! Post your best finds on our FB page.
PS If you don't know how to meditate and want to just get started with breathing out 2x as long: inhaling 1-2 (count), and exhaling long 1-2-3-4 (count). Take the time to relax and exhale slowly -- it helps lower your blood pressure, improve your heart health, and decrease anxiety and stress.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

High-protein snacks

So many of the "protein bars" are full of ingredients you can't pronounce or ingredients that have been so processed, they become a glamorous candy bar. Best to stick to foods that you could possibly make at home with an ingredient list you *do* understand and can pronounce!

When I say we want high-protein snacks, what I mean is a flat-belly friendly "low-glycemic" snack -- instead of a granola bar or rice cakes (diet food!) that are "low-fat" but high in simple carbs = simple sugars (not good for your managing your blood sugar or belly inches). The less sugar you eat, the less you crave it. The more you choose high-protein and low-glycemic snacks, the easier it is to feel full and be satisfied -- no more munchies!

Here are some ideas for healthy eating on-the-go.

Make your own trail mix: Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are not as popular as nuts and cost less than my favorite almonds. I take an empty jar and mix up my own trail mix, so that I can stretch my almonds and pistachios and get in the hard-to-grab healthy seeds. When you buy pre-made trail mix, it's pumped full of dried fruit that has extra sugar. If you choose to buy pre-made trail mix, add your own seeds and nuts to decrease the sugar and dried fruit ratio. For example, if you get the individual size mix at Trader Joe's, pair it up with an individual size packet of almonds.

Jerky: You might remember jerky as too dry or too chewy, but there are lots of new foodie flavors and you can even find a vegan jerky. The taste-testers at Women's Health magazine have a list of tasty jerky for you. My favorite so far is KRAVE. Always read the label of any processed food for how many grams of sugar per serving size, so 1) you can monitor your serving size and 2) you can stay under the recommended *maximum* sugar calories per day. For me it's easier to read grams on the label instead of calories and it translates to this guideline from World Health Organization of 6 tsp of sugar = 25g

Protein Bars: Health Warrior Chia Bars have a good amount of natural protein and fiber from the chia seeds. One little Coconut flavor Chia Bar is 110 calories, with 4g of sugar, 3g of Protein and 4g of Fiber.  Keen-wah bars are also tasty, but a lot of chocolate if you're not in the mood for too sweet. If you want a traditional "granola bar" taste, Cascadian Farms offers a pea-protein based granola bar that isn't too sweet.

Protein and Fiber helps you feel full and getting enough fiber helps you detox and maintain a flat belly from inside out.  Most of us are good at getting more protein, and we need a little help on getting more fiber (check out my flat belly post for help). One of my weight loss students ended up getting her veggies (and thus her fiber) by using a dehydrator to make veggie chips. However, you don't need a new gadget to get veggie chips -- simply bake them in your oven or toaster oven (recipes here).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How meditation can be fun

Some people say they want to learn to meditate but worry it's too difficult or they don't like to sit still. There are so many ways to bring meditation into your life, that can be fun and help you tap into other parts of your brain! Here are some ideas below.

I'm excited that my talented friend, architect and art professor Michael Kieley, has asked me to teach meditation as a short segment of a creative Meditation-Drawing workshop that is going to be so much fun! Whether you're an artist or not, it's just great to exercise your creative muscle in a safe learning space, and he's a terrific guide for that. I have two spots reserved for Embody Health students in this special event, so please be sure to click on the event link and see if you want to join in on Sunday March 29th.

Another way to try meditation in a fun and easy way is to join my Meetup group for Heart Health Hiking. It's not just a hiking group, but we explore different parks and integrate yoga stretches, strength training, meditation, and nutrition tips. All things good for your heart health with the help of nature to get you to de-stress and relax. I started this group because I saw people who were interested in getting a good cardio workout get injured or have missing pieces of the formula for their heart health goals (nutrition, good posture, stretching, breathing/meditation techniques). One of my meditation students has inspired me with her beach walks, that we can plan a beach walk + meditation soon, once the weather is reliably not raining.

Here's an easy exercise for developing mindfulness: When you take a walk, start with taking 5 minutes of your walking to truly pay attention to your breath and the small wonders of nature you see along the way. Things like the unusual stream of light coming through the tree branches, the shapes of the clouds, the small weeds poking out between plants, the patterns of ground covers, the vibrant colors. You've now stimulated at least 2 senses (your breathing and your eyesight). As you go along, see if you can tune in to more of your 5 senses, feeling the breeze against your face, hearing more sounds, etc. Finding a curious attitude like a kid first discovering a new park or street is a way to get more present in your body and make that mind+body connection. You might enjoy this so much that 5 minutes of mindfulness becomes 10 or 15 minutes! Just tuning into your breath alone will help calm down any stress or anxiety. Have fun!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Smart training for cyclists

image from
I admire my friends who have previously trained or are presently training for the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride. The 7-day event is a big commitment and if you have a busy work schedule, how do you get the most out of your limited training time per week? Cross-training and interval training is how you mix it up. Get smart with your training and get different strategies for your improving your speed and endurance.

As a trainer for various athletes (triathletes, marathon runners, senior olympics cyclist), I've seen how core exercises and proper stretching keeps my students in the game and avoid serious injuries!

I like the article in Bicycling Magazine, "Shake up your workout." More is not always better -- long rides can cause fatigue that are hard to recover from. The best way to boost your speed is interval training, cross-training (core, yoga, strength training), and proper recovery so you can do it again! Even if you're not near hills and only have flatland for your rides, the article talks about changing to a tougher gear so you can feel a harder ride and then go back to an easy pace. If your weather is not cooperating, you can use an elliptical machine and try one of the pre-programmed interval training programs. Using your entire lower body (without your bike seat) will help you gain more strength in your legs.  Balance on the elliptical without holding on with your hands, and you'll work on your flat belly too! (link goes to flat belly nutrition tips).

If you're limited with equipment, simply pull out some space in your home enough for your to practice your elbow and side planks to get started in your core workouts.  Don't forget that the foam roller can also work your core (think pilates exercises) and help you stretch out tights spots like your IT band! Need help figuring out your good form for a core workout? You can email me to set up a 30-minute workout where we can check your form and give you several programs to practice at home. If you want help with your nutrition and recovery, we can set up your nutrition+wellness coaching so you know how and when to get your magnesium, minerals, and other fuel to avoid those nasty muscle cramps and get the energy you need to keep your rides fun.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins

High fiber (flat belly), less sugar, better protein!

You can have your tasty muffins (foodie approved) and feel good that it is a healthy flat-belly food.

And for those of you who worry that gluten-free or healthy baking is too much work, you'll be happy to know that I got almost all my ingredients from Trader Joe's. The low-sugar magic is cinnamon -- it helps accentuate what sweetness you already have in the recipe. I was able to cut the sugar down to only 1/2 cup of sugar from the original recipe from the Victory Garden Cookbook (Marian Morash). And the coconut oil is heart healthy for you, all those who are avoiding the bad saturated fats, this is a good alternative for cooking and baking.

My new favorite non-wheat flour (and ancient grain) is buckwheat flour (Bob's Red Mill is a brand you can find most grocery stores like Whole Foods or any health food store). Just a 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour gives this recipe a dark molasses taste, again helping to enhance the flavor without extra sugar. I was first introduced to buckwheat from a French cafe that featured buckwheat crepes (from Brittany's cuisine). Then I learned that Japanese soba noodles also use buckwheat for a nutty taste. If you look at Wiki, you'll see that buckwheat has a place from all over the world!

The pairing of almond flour (sneaking in protein in your muffin!) and coconut flour helps give a balance of taste, and both of these gluten-free flours have great fiber. For my friend who has had heart issues, she was delighted to eat something that didn't have butter and was heart-healthy for her. If you don't already know, check out my Heart Health Explorers hiking group where I sometimes teach meditation and other heart-healthy exercises to pair up with exploring great parks in the LA area.

Click on this link to get your health pumpkin muffin recipe. Makes for a great snack, dessert, or breakfast side. And happy heart health month!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Power Clam Chowder

This homemade "Power Clam Chowder" is all around good for you, tasty and healthier than other chowders around. It's detox-friendly, iron-rich, nutrient-dense, dairy-free, gluten-free, easy-to-make and budget-friendly. Creamy without the dairy cream. Iron-rich from the beans and clams (check out the links for nutrition profile), more power than beef!

Click here to get to the recipe.

Why is this easy to make? Mostly, it's opening cans and chopping. If you don't have all the fresh herbs, you can use dry herbs or what is available in your kitchen. Parsley is the dominant herb flavor in my clam chowder, but you can make it your favorite green herb. You can't really screw up the flavors because you can always add more broth or water if you made it too salty, or add more veggies if you prefer. You can make a big batch and freeze a few portions. And a bonus, you can get all the ingredients in one trip to any grocery store that carries organic veggies and cans of beans and clams.

Budget tip #1: Beans and clams are the most budget-friendly way to get significant iron. Read the labels on the cans. Pureed canned beans are easier for my sensitive stomach, and saves time from the soaking I need to do for dried beans and lentils.

Budget tip #2: I usually find at least one Asian produce stand at a farmers market that sells sweet potatos, carrots and other veggies for either $1 or $2 per bunch. The fresher the produce, the easier it is to keep in your fridge and have more nutrients than produce that is older and less vibrant. Another reason to make time to go to your regular farmer's market, or if you don't have time to do that, you can order a fresh produce box from your local farmers CSA.

Vitamin tip: If you're not a fan of seafood, which is full of minerals, that's ok, just put in a different protein or add more white beans. Just make sure you can get your selenium and other important minerals through nuts and a good multi-mineral supplement so you can support a healthy thyroid with these mineral antioxidants (nutrients not found in your multivitamin).

Please share your comments on this recipe on our facebook page, or ask me to make one of your favorite foods more healthy -- I'm happy to take on your Iron Chef challenge!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Seafood to Eat?

What seafood is safe to eat? What is more healthy for you?

If you didn't already download this list on your phone for your shopping convenience, here is Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List for those who live in California, or go to the main page to find your state's Seafood Watch Guide.  What is tough for those of us who try to eat healthy, is how to make it practical and easy to focus on the best choices (see list for California reprinted below).

In order to succeed in eating healthy, use this strategy -- prepare and stock up in your pantry and freezer. "No one plans to fail, we just fail to plan!" Seafood is a terrific choice for eating more healthy fats (heart healthy!) and getting lean proteins to support healthy weight or your weight loss goals.

You can get things like Arctic Char, Scallops, Tilapia, Alaskan Wild Salmon in the freezer section for budget-friendly shopping and store it in your home freezer. Small fish rich in Omega-3 healthy fats like Sardines and Herring can be found in the canned or jarred food section so you can have it ready in your pantry, for easily less than $2-3 per serving. Clams, Mussels, and Oysters have terrific levels of minerals, especially for women who need iron-rich foods -- there is a great easy way to make your own healthy seafood chowder at home. Whenever you make soups, chowders or chili, these are great foods to make in a bigger batch and save in your freezer for eating at another time. Gotta have strategies to save you time, money and keep your healthy eating at your best! If you're a vegetarian and want to balance your nutrition with vegetarian sources of minerals and Omega-3 healthy fats, there are other strategeis! Anyone you know who wants to improve your nutrition, please email me and we can set up your complimentary phone-consult--you can be anywhere with a phone and we'll get you started!

List of "Best Choices" seafood for California
  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Bass: Striped (US hook & line, farmed)
  • Catfish (US)
  • Clams, Mussels & Oysters
  • Cod: Pacific (US hook & line)
  • Halibut: California (US hook & line)
  • Lobster: Spiny (Mexico)
  • Prawns: Spot (AK)
  • Rockfish (US)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (AK & Canada wild)
  • Salmon (AK)
  • Sanddab (CA, OR & WA)
  • Sardines: Pacific (Canada & US)
  • Scallops (farmed)
  • Seaweed (farmed)
  • Shrimp (AK wild, US farmed)
  • Sole (CA, OR & WA)
  • Tilapia (Ecuador & US)
  • Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)
  • Tuna: Albacore/White canned
  • (Canada & US troll, pole)
  • Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned
  • (FAD free, US troll, pole)
  • Tuna: Yellowfin (US troll, pole)