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This isn’t my normal nutrition post but I just had to share my DC adventures since they were so inspiring and made me get psyched about my electoral voice!

Two weeks ago today, I had my first visit to “The Hill” in Washington, DC as  I was awarded a stipend to travel to DC for PPW 2012 by the Bay Area Dietetics Association (BADA) board, on which I sit  as a Community Co-Chair.  The “Public Policy Workshop” (PPW) is a yearly event put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetics Association) in conjunction with their full time public policy Washington staff and dietitian representatives from all 50 states.

The workshop consisted of two FULL days of training where we learned everything from your “elevator pitch” (who are you and what you want in 1 minute), the ins-and-outs of having a voice in politics (and various levels and ways to do so) and the importance of wearing patriotic socks (might pass on that one) to important issues around government spending priorities (prevention is a big buzz word finally) and how First Lady Michelle Obama has inspired and supported cities like Austin and New York to start “Lets’ Move” campaigns.

The third day, a Tuesday morning, we went to the hill and with RD’s from our region (Go California!) pitched our support for two of the four pieces of legislature that were our given priorities:

1) The Farm Bill (or “The Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill” as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak urged us to call it in his Keynote address)- and ensuring that the SNAP (food stamp program) and SNAP-ED (Nutrition education) programs are funded adequately as well as Agricultural/Nutrition research, the TEFAP program (food banks), the commodity food program ( CSFP– remember those cans of peanut butter at school or camp?), the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program (FFVP) at schools and the Senior Farmer’s Market program (cool!).  Key message here was empowering consumers with nutrition education (!) and ensuring access to healthy safe foods.

2) The Older Americans Act (OAA)- pass this bill currently stalled in Congress (and develop a bill for the House) and include language that supports having nutrition professionals (RD’s) at all levels (local, state, federal) of the “aging network” to ensure cost-effective nutrition services and evidence-based results.

3) Prevention Diabetes in Medicare Act (H.R. 2741)-  support or sponsor this bill to cover lifestyle intervention that include dietary changes (that’s my job) by RD’s for Medicare recipients who have pre-diabetes (vs only those with WITH diabetes as that and CKD are currently the only diagnoses covered by Medicare).  Almost 1 in 10 have Diabetes but almost 4 in 10 have pre-diabetes.  Studies show that 50-70% of Medicare participants with pre-diabetes can avoid diabetes with lifestyle interventions.

4) Drug Shortage Prevention Act (H.R. 3839)- support this bill as well as H.R. 2245 and Senate bill S 296 to help curtail and prevent the drug shortage phenomena that has been taking place more frequently since 2012 and puts patients across this nation at risk.  RD’s, pharmacists and doctors are all unable to do their jobs fully when drugs, vitamins and minerals are taken off the market or under-produced due to low profit margins or other reasons.

Coming off my three meetings with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (I met with her people all alone!), Senator Diane Feinstein, and Senator Barbara Boxer, I felt powerful and that my voice was heard, our opinions mattered.  What a great feeling.  Later that evening I even got an email from the young man I met with at Lee’s office, letting me know she would support one of the bills I spoke especially passionately about (#3 above)- awesome!

Want to feel heard?

If you are a Dietitian, you can speak up around these issues and/0r others that you feel passionate about.  A great resource is the Grass Roots Manager section of the eatright.org website , or join and get involved with the Political Action Commitee (ANDPAC).

Just a regular joe? Check out House.gov to find/write your representatives or go to the user-friendly gov.track.us or the dense Library of Congress Thomas site to follow a specific bill or see what is being voted on this week…

Thanks for listening! And yes– I did have a fun Vegan shawarma sandwich while in DC, check out a recipe here… Now go be a voice yourself…

This crunchy carrot cake is light and lovely and since its wheat/gluten-free it is Kosher for Passover!

For best results, wrap the cake tightly in plastic after it cools and serve it the next day. It will keep for five days in the refrigerator if wrapped airtight.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (1/2 pound) unsalted toasted almonds
1/4 cup raw brown (turbinado) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 large eggs
1/3 cup organic white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots (about 10 ounces or 3-4 large carrots)*
*It’s important to grate the carrots on the fine holes of your grater, or else they’ll remain too crunchy.

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch pan, (ideally springform lined with parchment).

2. Combine the almonds & brown sugar in a food processor and blend until almonds are finely ground. Add the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & lemon zest, and pulse together.

3. Beat the eggs until thick in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with an electric beater. Add white sugar, continue to beat until the mixture is thick and forms a ribbon when lifted from the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla. Add the almond mixture and the carrots in three alternating additions, and slowly beat or fold in each time.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place in the oven, and bake one hour until firm to the touch and beginning to pull away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and carefully remove from the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic.

Yield: Serves 10 to 12.

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Nutritional information per serving (10 servings): 209 calories; 13 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 85 grams cholesterol; 18 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 135 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 7 grams protein

Recipe from the New York Times by Martha Rose Shulman.

Print a copy here (or in resources).

I love working with folks around food choices, exercise goals and weight loss and most often what we talk about is behavior change.  It starts like this…

“I want to lose 20 lbs”

“I want to eat better”

“I want to avoid diabetes since it runs in my family”

And then comes the hard part– how to get there…

So often we want to make HUGE commitments (think of your last New Year’s Resolutions) but it turns out that small change over time works best.  Setting small goals that are measurable and realistic = Bite sized behavior change!

So instead of saying “I want to lose 10 pounds”, try “I will only eat dessert once a week” or “I will walk 10 minutes at lunch every day”.

Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab agrees and in fact has started a program based on tiny habits and counters the argument that change happens with “will power” and instead encourages people to make it as easy as possible by setting up your environment to promote the new behavior and attach your new “habit” to one that already exists (eg. brushing your teeth, eating a meal etc).

I love his website which you can sign up for free and pick your own 3 tiny habits to work on.

What tiny habits would you like to add to your life?

Image

Photo by zole4

I taught this to my “Healthy Living” class last month as a way to show off the gorgeous Butter Lettuce they were growing in their Community Garden.

I love the idea of wrapping up all sorts of yummyness in a crunchy green leaf of lettuce (or cabbage) and you can either serve these as finger food at a party, serve as an appetizer or pack up a few for lunch.

Lettuce Wraps with Shiitake Mushrooms

lettucewraps_png

Ingredients

Makes 4 servings

1 8 oz. package ready-to-eat, seasoned tofu (Soy Boy’s Tofu Lin works well)
salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, to taste
soy sauce to taste
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
bean sprouts
carrot cut into fine strips
1 head lettuce, use large leaves
1/2 lemon

Directions

Stir fry chopped garlic, ginger and carrot with some water in wok for a few minutes until soft.

Add the shiitakes, soy sauce, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Cook about another 5-10 minutes, then add the dried tofu and finish up the cooking, about 2-5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into the lettuce/cabbage leaves, add a few drops of lemon juice, and roll them up!

Recipe from PCRM

I have been really busy really lately working with a lot of new clients and especially new moms who had Gestational Diabetes (GDM) in their last pregnancy and a theme that has come up is EATING REGULARLY.   These new moms of course are busy and sometime forget to eat breakfast or go 7-8 hours without eating anything! The stress of new motherhood (or your busy workday) can over-ride your hunger cues and before you know it, when you do eat you eat way too much or just end up slowing your metabolism down and holding on to those fat stores.

Eating regularly is important for blood sugar control and this applies to everyone, not just those with GDM or Type I or II Diabetes and one way to do this is to get a healthy snack between meals so that you are not going more than 3-5 hours without eating something.

Having a healthy snack is also another opportunity to get some healthy stuff in- like fiber, protein or fruit and vegetables!  Plus having a snack with protein + fiber will keep you full longer.  Make that snack small but mighty!

How much to snack on?  Well that depends on when your next meal is going to be and how much you typically eat at a meal. A good rule of thumb is that if you are going to be eating in the next 1-2 hours, choose a smaller snack (around 50-100 calories) and if you aren’t getting to that next meal for 2-3 hours choose something a bit more substantial (around 150-200 calories).

Below are some snack ideas but even yesterday’s meal can be a snack if the portion is adjusted!

Snack ideas:

▪ Low Fat String cheese & whole-grain crackers

▪ Non/lowfat yogurt mixed w fresh fruit & 1 Tbs granola

▪ Cut-up fruit or vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus

▪ whole-wheat pita filled with hummus

▪  Corn tortilla with bean dip

▪ whole wheat tortilla filled with turkey, cheese & vegetables

▪ 1 slice whole wheat toast topped with nut butter & banana slices

▪ 1 slice of whole wheat toast with tuna salad (low fat, low sodium)

▪ Low-fat popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese or Nutritional Yeast sprinkled on top

▪ Handful of nuts mixed w a peice of fruit.

▪ Small salad topped w grilled chicken/tofu/fish (1 oz protein)

Came home from a lovely relaxed Sunday tapas dinner with Adam at Barlata in Oakland and was hankering for a healthy dessert that I could whip up at home.

I remembered a recipe I had been saving from the weekly recipe email blasts I get (and highly recommend) from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

I whipped up the recipe in about 5 minutes and decided to add a browning banana for some extra creamyness and YUMMMMM the whole thing was delicious (and low calorie, low fat, vegan and high in Vitamin A and Beta Carotene) and a perfect dessert (or midday treat or breakfast).

My husband and father-in-law liked it too, so  I think we have a keeper!

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings  ( I halved the recipe for the 3 of us)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
2 cups soymilk, or to taste
2 cups ice
2 tbsp maple syrup, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, or to taste
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or to taste (alternatively, can use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice)

1 banana (optional)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I get a lot of vegans in my private practice– and they usually are thrilled that I can reassure them that YES a vegan diet can be amazingly healthy and then we go over there food choices together and make sure they are getting all the macro and micronutrients they need.

One that often comes up is Calcium (Ca+).  Sure we have been brainwashed into thinking that we can only get calcium from a milk mustache but actually there are plenty of vegan sources to get your RDA (for men and women under 50 years old that’s 1000mg and if you are > 60 yo its 1200mg).  Here are some ideas I recently shared with a client (who by the way- doesn’t eat nuts or seeds- which are another great source of Ca+)

Morning ideas:

Fortified juice/non-dairy milk (6 oz)   200-260mg

Fortified High Fiber Cereal (eg. Total RB) (8 oz)  1000mg

Blackstrap Molasses (1 tbsp) on toast  130mg

Lunch and Dinner ideas:

Protein Sources: per 1 cup serving

Garbanzo beans, cooked  340 mg

Soybeans, cooked   450 mg

Tofu, firm  (w calcium suffate) 400 mg

Tempeh  215 mg

Vegetables – per 1 cup serving

Turnip greens, cooked  450 mg

Nettles, blanched  428mg

Spinach, cooked  250 mg

Collard greens, cooked  260 mg

Mustard greens, cooked 100 mg

Bok choy, cooked 158 mg

Kale, cooked 100 mg

Broccoli, cooked 100 mg

Misc sources:

Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp.) 130 mg

Tahini (2 tbsp)  128mg

Dried figs (3 oz.) 100 mg

Dried apricots (3 oz.)  80 mg

Nettle (cold) infusion:

1 cup dried nettle leaf (available in most health food stores in the bulk culinary herb section)

4 cups cold water – steep overnight, strain and drink.

Nettles can also be used like spinach in soups, eggs etc…

Kale & Blueberry Salad

I am posting this in honor of a client of mine who is working to tame her sugar cravings– she is not alone.

More and more research is showing that sugar can be an addiction and triggers the reward center in your brain in a powerful way.  Some even think its toxic (read this interesting New York Times article). That said, I think a little dark chocolate can be a beautiful (and healthy) thing. From my perspective, moderation is key and choosing a best option or healthier substitution can be easier than you think.

Whether you are a candy junkie or just can’t say no to those office cookies, here are a few tips to decrease the sugar cravings.

  • Avoid or cut down on the white stuff (foods with simple sugars and not much else).

This seems obvious but the more you cut the straight sugar out of your food choices the easier it will be to resist it next time.   This means try your coffee/tea without two heaping mounds of sugar or avoid the white flour cupcake or breakfast muffin.
Replace with: Fresh Fruit!  Nature’s candy which is more often than not has fiber to help slow down the sugar breakdown. Try whole wheat  versions of that baked good, ideally make with less sugar.  If you must add a sweetener, try a sugar that has a few (very few) minerals too (like brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup) and often have a more robust taste which enables you to need less.

  • Eat regularly and eat right.

Often times our sugar cravings are just are body telling us we are hungry and want a quick fix of glucose.  Try and eat regularly, at least a little fiber, fat and protein every 3-4 hours. By eating the right foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, lean protein) your body will feel full and is won’t be screaming for instant sugar energy.
Try snacks such as: 2 tablespoons of hummus with a cut up carrot or two or some whole wheat pita. Yogurt and berries.  2 tablespoons of almond butter and 4-6 apple slices.

  • Manage the other S’s….Sleep and Stress.

Studies have shown that sleep deprived people make poorer food choices (hello, I need instant energy because my body is so tired) and gain more weight than folks who get enough Zzzz’s. Additionally, stress is another trigger for your body to want simple sugars to get through what must be a survival crisis.

Enhance your lifestyle: Aim for at least 6-8 hours a night. Maybe your after dinner “treat” is getting to bed earlier. Find new ways to cope with stress.  Breathing techniques, a brisk walk or other form of exercise or having a good laugh all help relieve stress. Finally a medical reason to watch funny YouTube videos at work!

  • Track down Triggers

Work with yourself or a profession to identify what triggers you have around food and especially sweets.  Do you “take care” of yourself with sugar because you really want a hug?  Learn to get in touch with your true body cues of hunger with intuitive or mindful eating.

Practice Mindful eating by: slowing down when you eat, asking yourself if you are really hungry, taking 5 minutes between impulse and action.

You truly can have a sweet life with less sugar– which of these tips will you try today?

OR

Watch my video here about sugar for the American Heart Association (AHA) or read more about sugar on the AHA website.

So Northern California hasn’t been quite as blazing hot as the rest of the country, ok to be honest, here in the Bay Area it has hardly been hot at all….BUT…I was still craving a summer dish to serve at an impromptu brunch for my family from out of town.

Saw some gorgeous quartered watermelon pieces at Whole Foods and was inspired to serve a summer favorite, Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad.

Sometimes I just serve the watermelon, mint and feta version but since I knew I had 8 or so people coming I wanted to bulk the salad up with arugula.  It was a hit and most of my aunt’s and uncles had never tried the lovely combination of slightly salty feta and sweet watermelon.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish or for a main meal serves 4

Ingredients:

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 2 small lemons

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon of honey (ideally local!)

1/4 Cup of good quality olive oil

1/4 of a medium perfectly ripe watermelon (look for a deep red color and seedless makes it easy),

8-10 oz of good quality feta cheese (you can get low or no fat feta but for the real flavor kick go full fat, especially if the rest of the meal is light)

1 small bunch of mint

1 bag/6 cups of Arugula (washed and spun dry)

Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Chop up the watermelon into bite-sized chunks about 1″ squares

2. Cut the feta into bite-sized chunks about 1/2″ squares

3. Pluck the mint leaves from the branches and rinse, then roll into mini cigar shapes and slice into thin strips

4. Whisk or vigorously mix the citrus,honey, shallot, salt & pepper and olive oil to make the dressing which can be set aside until ready to serve

(I often use less than the full amount of dressing but this depends on your taste, extra dressing can be refrigerated for upto 3 days).

5. When ready to serve, toss the mint, arugula, watermelon and feta with the dressing

Isn’t that pretty!

I talk with my clients a lot about “mindful eating” and the key tenant of slowing down and noticing if you are really hungry.  Another part of it all is thinking of meals and food as a gift and treating your eating time & place as a wonderful opportunity for ritual.  We already surround lots of other rituals with food but what about surrounding the food itself in rituals.

A moment of thankfulness before the meal.  A toast.  The perfect dinner music and an open window with a breeze coming in.  A nicely set table with cloth napkins and candles, even if it’s just for you.  A beautiful arrangement on your plate with a balance of texture of color, even if its just yesterdays take-out with some fresh tomatoes added on the plate rim. Want more? Learn to turn your carrot hunks into flowers or heck– just sprinkle real edible flowers ad libitum.

One client shared her gorgeous meal photo with me and agreed that she fills fuller now that she has an eye “full” and is slowing down.

Sharing her colorful camera phone pic with you and hope are inspired– I know I was!