Posts Tagged ‘Vegetable’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Image by Wikipedia

Whether I am working with a massage client, showing someone stretches as a personal trainer or working with a client as a wellness coach, there is one thing I’ve learned to do when explaining new behaviors: I have my clients try the new behavior/stretch/exercise in front of me. This allows me to see if they understood my instructions and can accomplish the new task without too much difficulty. It also gives my clients a “body memory” or an experience with the new activity that goes beyond simply watching someone else do it. By experiencing a new behavior in the best possible form or manner, my clients then have a better sense of how it feels to do something correctly.

If I can’t demonstrate of watch my client try a new behavior, for example, when I am wellness coaching (which is usually done via telephone), I have my clients repeat back to me what they think the new goal or behavior would be. For example, if I want someone to breath deeply, I can have them try it and then listen to see if they are breathing with too much or too little effort. That all said, it’s time to experiment with you and your taste buds.

Previous Vegetable Experiences Color Your Perception of Vegetables

When I ask you how many vegetables you eat each day or what your favorite vegetable is, what do you visualize? Last night my boyfriend and I were talking about vegetables and how as kids, our experience with veggies was pretty limited. Canned green beans or peas. Soggy reheated previously  frozen mixed vegetables. Overly salty V8 Juice. Tasteless iceberg lettuce smothered in corn syrup sweetened dressing.  Overall, veggies in our childhood tasted rather bland and, to use a childhood phrase, “yucky.”

If your experience with eating vegetables brings these memories to mind, do you have any desire to eat vegetables? Likely  not.  This is one problem with being told by media and the government agencies (and me!) to eat more vegetables.  Some people do eat fresh veggies and delight in salads with arugula and jicama, or nosh on fresh steamed broccoli with gomashio (ground up sesame seeds with a touch of salt. It adds a nutty favor to any dish.) I was lucky enough to meet health food friends in college and shop at one of the first Whole Foods in the Midwest in the 1990’s. But many of my clients and those in the suburbs or with little access to the variety of foods available in big cities, still think of veggies as the canned, frozen green plants best smothered in cheese or dressing.

Change is tough, I know. And habits are hard to break. It’s so easy to stop by Micky D’s or Wendy’s or BK. Prepackaged baby carrots and iceberg lettuce salads are easy to prepare. If you don’t know how to prepare vegetables so that they taste good, it may be slightly risky to break out of the mold and try a new dish. But it’s well worth it!

If you read my blog, you know I am a big fan of the veggie steamer. Steaming broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and even spinach makes for a truly amazing burst of sweet veggie flavor. For people  accustomed to eating foods with corn syrup or sugar fresh veggies may seem too bland still. For those folks I recommend you try adding a touch of olive oil, ground up sesame seeds (gomashio) or even a tiny sliver of butter to steamed veggies to ease into eating more veggies. Butter is not great  for you considering it’s high saturated fat content. But in moderation, it’s better to eat a plate of steamed veggies with a sliver of butter than eat no veggies at all!

Veggie Taste Test

Try something for me, then let us know how it goes via the comments section.

1. Bur either  a can of green beans and a bag of fresh green beans or a package of frozen broccoli and a stalk of fresh broccoli. (Make sure the stalk feels hard and not soft. if the broccoli is too soft it won’t taste as good.)

2. Cook both the canned/frozen and the fresh veggies in separate pans.

3. Try a blind folded taste test with just yourself or with your family as well.

4. Taste each version of the vegetable. What do you notice? Which version do you like better?

5. If you have not had steamed veggies before, did you think they tasted better than the canned or frozen variety?

Does this taste test give you hope for being able to eat veggies more often? If so, then you are ready to move on to…brussal sprouts!

Veggie Resources

For a Nutritional Analysis of different versions of green beans click here.

For a Nutritional analysis of broccoli click  here. Includes a fairly healthy recipe for broccoli soup!

For a good recipe for garlic sauce for your steamed brocs, and an exhaustive  history of broccoli longer that may either delight or overwhelm you in its length, click here. (The recipe at the bottom o the history of broccoli page.)

Creative ideas on how to feed your kids more fruit and vegetables click here.

Note: I, Sue Shekut, am strongly affiliated with broccoli and fresh veggies. I admit it, I eat steamed broccoli about 3-4 time s a week. Sometimes more!

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

Grocery Store Aisle. Image at Wikipedia

For some time now, we’ve heard about “food deserts,” those areas of Chicago and other cities where there is little to no access to healthy food such as fruit and vegetables. In food deserts, access to food within walking distance of residents homes is often limited to convenience store sand gas stations. this means feeding a family requires a car ride or public transportation ride to a grocery store outside the neighborhood or a dinner of potato chips pop and candy. Public health officials and groups like Building a Healthier Chicago, are working on improving the options for “food desert” areas by helping plant community gardens, creating farmers markets and providing nutritional education. Now the home delivery grocery service, Peapod, provides a 2010 alternative for families needing healthy food in food deserts–Peapod brings the food to the neighborhood!  Read more about PeaPod new offerings in Chicago areas considered food deserts here.

A Food Desert in Your Own Home

But food deserts are not only found in low-income neighborhoods. You may have a food desert in your own home! How can this be? Well, if the majority if your food is frozen, sodium-laced dinners like TV dinners, if your shelves are stocked with many packaged products with high fructose corn sweeteners, high sodium, partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) and if your refrigerator is full of corn sweetened soda pop and juices, you may be under nourishing yourself and your family.

When I was growing up, my mom was so proud that she could afford to feed her family the latest new convenience foods. As a mom and a nurse, she tried to give us what she thought was healthy food. In my childhood (lo so many years ago, but long after fire was invented), TV dinners were a hot new thang. Tang tasted odd, but the astronauts drank it, so it must be good. Canned vegetables meant we could eat veggies year round. (Versus in my mom’s day when she could only get veggies and fruit in season.) Hamburger Helper did help my working mom. Shake and Bake Chicken, Rice a Roni, all these were staples in our kitchen.  My mother and other working parents did the best they can to feed their children what they believed was healthy food.  At the time all theses products came out, my mother thought she as feeding us the very best there was to offer her family. Years later, after childhood and adult obesity has become a national health crisis, we learn that all that new and exciting packaged, astronaut-endorsed food was not so healthy for us. Yet old habits are hard to break. And high fat, high sodium, high sugary foods taste great and are addicting.

If the majority of food in your home is heavily processed and you have few or no fresh fruit or vegetables, you are living in your own food desert. Don’t despair though, help is one the way!

What can you do to change your home from a food desert to a food oasis?

Reduce your purchase and family consumption of processed foods. Processed foods are usually found in the center aisle of the grocery store. When you read the label, even if the box says “NO trans Fats”, if you see “partially hydrogenated oil” or any kind of fat that is hydrogenated at all, that food has trans fats in it. The FDA allows manufacturers to label a food Trans fat-free if a single servicing size has less than .5 grams of trans fats in it. So, if a servicing size is half a cookie, then the whole cookie could have 1 gram of trans fat. The labeling and serving size restriction is easy to circumvent by food manufacturers. Savvy shoppers know to read the label and look for the words “partially hydrogenated” versus the big “Trans Fat Free” label, which often is meaningless as you can see by my illustration.

Increase your purchase and consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is difficult for many people because they lack the skills to cook and prepare fresh veggies. Fruit is easier to serve and prepare. Most fruit can be eaten by itself. Apples, pears, peaches, bananas, even watermelon needs little to no preparation beyond washing to outer skin. But small children (and even many adults) used to sugary foods, may have a hard time switching to the real thing: Fresh fruit. Try fruit bowls with multiple types of fruit.  Get in the habit of feeding your children or yourself at least a piece of fruit a day or twice a day. pack a banana for lunch or apple or pair. Fill a ziplock baggie with a serving of dried fruit like raisins and almonds or pecans.

An easy and super healthy way to prepare vegetables is by steaming them. Use a small stainless steel veggie steamer (which you can get a Target or Kmart or Bed Bath and Beyond for about $5.00) to cook your veggies without leaching out a lot of the valuable nutrients. brocoli, asparagus, zucchini, even spinich quick quickly in a vegetable steamer. If you or your family can’t stomach veggies alone, put a small, very very small amount of butter (a sliver not a pat of butter) or olive oil on the veggies to season them. (Over time reduce the amount of  butter or oil you use as you become more accustomed to the taste of fresh steamed veggies).

Eliminate soda pop from your diet and your family’s diet. I know this is a tough one for many people. But soda pop is simply sugary water. Highly sugary water at that. “Diet” sodas are not much better for you. The number one drink for hydration, health and great skin is, water. Not juice, not beer, not tonic water. Just plain water. If you or your family have a hard time drinking plain old water,  try adding a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice for flavor.  If you must have some sweetener, stir in a bit of real sugar, not corn syrup-sweetened soda!

Try serving a meatless meal from time to time (especially, if your dinner menu tends to be meat and potatoes). Meatless does NOT have to be tasteless. A dinner of rice and beans is high in protean and can be favored with a variety of spices to increase the taste. Falafel, a Middle Eastern staple, is a fried pattie made of spices and garbanzo beans. That may not SOUND appetizing, but try it out before you pass it up!

Try baking snacks from scratch. Do it yourself, “Lara bars” are easy to make and super healthy. If you must have cookies or cakes, make them yourself at home instead of from a box or bought from a store. Sorry Sara Lee and Entenmann’s but there is no substitute for homemade. And by making goodies at home you teach your kids to cook, can control the ingredients, and can spend some quality time with your family. If you don’t have time to cook during the week, make it a regular family weekend event!

We want to hear from you!

Share your food desert transformation stories with us in the comment section!

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A typical TV Dinner.
Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Does eating certain foods make you sick? Obviously foods that are spoiled or have bacteria from sitting unrefrigerated too long can make you ill. However, what about foods that taste good and seem to be ok to eat? Like table salt, fast food and so forth. Recently I had a dear friend find out that his high blood pressure was preventing him from obtaining a lucrative government job. So we went on a grocery shopping mission to find foods he could eat that were healthier and less salty than the packaged and processed foods he accustomed to eating. It truly amazes me how small portions of frozen dinners often contain more fat, salt and calories than a huge pile of steamed veggies and meat!

One of the simplest healthy eating devices I introduced my friend to was the vegetable steamer. Yes, the metal steamer that you can insert in a pot with a little water and steam your veggies for dinner or lunch. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook vegetables. It leaves more of the vegetable’s natural taste,  color and nutrients intact than any other method, and it requires no added fat. If you buy fresh produce like broccoli, and steam it instead of eating a tv dinner, you cut out a whole lot of unnecessary salt added to improve the taste of basically old frozen meat and veggies. You also cut out a lot of fat and other chemicals used to preserve the food and add flavor to what really is an unappetizing dish!

You can  buy a stainless steel veggie steamer from most stores including Target, Kmart, Bed Bath & Beyond or Amazon. The Trudeau Steamer runs about $17.00 at Amazon right now. Link here.

Trudeau Veggie Steamer

Read more on “How to Use a Veggie Steamer” here.

Watch a video on how to steam veggies here.

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