Thoughts on balance and fullness

When people try to lose weight there are several obstacles they need to overcome. The first one is not being hungry all the time. There are so many factors that go into hunger. Is it real hunger? Is it emotional hunger?  Are you just bored? Is there just too much food around? Also it could possibly just be thirst…something we take for granted in hot weather.

Who has time to analyze these feelings and questions when there is a bowl of m&ms in front of you and everyone else is eating them.

Part of the problem is having too much food around. Summer is a time of celebrations, barbecues, and intense heat. People work out in different ways or less because it is simply too hot and sometimes they eat in different ways. Less cooked food and more raw foods. Less indoor cooked foods and more outdoor cooked or grilled foods.

But one thing we do is eat more and eat with others. And this is to be cherished, but keep it to once a week or weekend. Don’t beat yourself up about it and try not to weigh yourself on Monday mornings :). During the week – keep to home based or home made and packed, balanced (vegetable, small amount of protein, small amount of grain at each meal) meals. Keep meat to small portions of 3 ounces or less (a deck of cards or your iphone is the size to keep in mind) and vegetables or fruits as half your plate.

Sitting at my family’s barbecue last night I was presented with this dilemma. A plate of raw vegetables next to a bowl of m&ms, crab dip, 7 layer dip (who even knows what was in that) hummus, chips and salsa and endive with goat cheese.

This was all before dinner. Have you ever been presented with this problem? I knew coming was hamburgers and hot dogs with buns, corn, quinoa salad and baked beans. I insisted on the vegetables – but with so many good choices, how does one create balance. It is not so easy.

The key is to get those vegetables in there. First. Get full on the vegetables. The fiber is filling. There’s less room for all the good stuff.

Also I made two desserts. One fruit with whipped cream. Real whipped cream with tons of cholesterol and saturated fat. The thing is – you can’t have more than a tablespoon of that stuff. I mean, you can, but its hard to really engorge on it. Sure, the fruit alone would have been better. But if you are going to a bbq, make sure you bring the fruit…and eat it.

Insist on bringing vegetables to a bbq. They go great on the grill or bbq them along with your family. Zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, portabello mushrooms – they all go great on the grill marinated in a bit of olive oil, herbs and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy and focus on those fiber containing veggies for fullness.

I would personally never purchase m&ms…but when presented with them, its hard to say no. Count out 10 and eat them one at a time.


Get crackin’: All about eggs

So we’ve heard that eggs, especially egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But many recent studies and nutritional information by the USDA, one large egg actually has less than 300 mg of cholesterol, the daily recommended limit by the AHA. As well, several scientists claim that saturated and trans fats as well as increased refined carbohydrate consumption are to blame for increases in artery clogging fat (LDL) and not the dietary cholesterol found in eggs.

So, this is not to say that one should consume 9 raw eggs for breakfast like Rocky, but 1-2 eggs for breakfast two to three times a week is certainly a great way to have a balanced breakfast. Try them poached or hard boiled instead of fried in butter or try to make an omelet with just a bit of butter or olive oil in a non-stick pan. People give me a lot of flack about non-stick pans. I firmly believe if one takes care of their cookware using rubber or silicone utensils and not metal – that flakes of nonstick cookware will not flake into the food…but that’s my belief and not science.

So, here is a recipe.

Spinach omelet:

2 large or even medium eggs, cracked and beaten
2 tsp of butter (good quality organic, I like organic valley) or olive oil
1 handful of spinach
1 non stick 8 inch frying pan

Cooking time – about 1 minute

1. Beat eggs in a small bowl with a fork – about 15 to 20 seconds
2. melt 1 tsp of fat in pan over medium to high heat
3. Add spinach and saute until wilts, set aside out of pot
4. add second tsp of butter to pan.
5. Add eggs and spread around. Using non-metal utensil like rubber or silicone spatula take sides of omelet and bring toward center as eggs set. This whole process should take about 30 seconds to 45 seconds and there should be no brown on underside.
6. When eggs are set. Add spinach to one side of flat omelet.
7. Turn omelet onto plate and fold one side over the spinach – voila!
8. Top with fine herbs, pepper and a drop of sea salt if you desire.


Dark Leafy Greens: A Why to guide

So I am a convert. A dark green leafy vegetable convert. I recently spent a week away from home at a conference in Salt Lake City, not the foodie capital of the planet. I began to realize just how much I miss being able to cook for myself as well as the kind of food I eat on a daily basis.

I am not talking about salads here. I am talking about kale sauteed with garlic, lemon and white wine or collard greens steamed in chicken broth with mushrooms or endless varieties of cooked greens either steamed or sauteed in either olive or coconut oil (the only two oils save sesame for flavoring) that ever enter my kitchen. So why leafy greens?

First: Leafy greens regulate digestion. At first if you aren’t used to them they may cause gas, but you will get used to them. Start slow. Eventually they will make everything right down there. Why? Its because of the fiber. More fiber than bread or whole grains.

Second: Leafy greens contain magnesium. Tons of it. That is what makes plants green. Magnesium is the center of the pigment molecule chlorophyll that makes plants green and helps them convert energy from the sun into food for themselves…and us. Magnesium is needed for bone health, energy creation, stress relief, immunity and so many more vital body processes

Third: Vitamin K, Vitamin C and Calcium. A cup of Kale has 600 mg of calcium. A cup of milk has only 300 mg. That’s twice the amount. And greens don’t have hormones, saturated fat and other substances that we still haven’t quite figured out what does to us out of infancy. So get on board. And make greens a part of your plate. All you need is a few teaspoons of olive oil, some chopped garlic or ginger and the greens. Saute them until they turn a bit lighter green. Watch my video for how to make a “greens stir fry“.

All about berries

So strawberry season may be over, but blueberry and raspberry season has just begun. So why do we care about berries? Well there are several reasons!

The first: berries are a terrific source of anti-oxidants! Well what is an anti-oxidant? It is a compound, naturally found in foods, that prevents oxidation of our cells. Whoa? What’s that? Essentially it is the premature aging and stressing of your cells. There is tons of evidence that links oxidative stress of the cells to cancer and inflammation.

The second: berries are filled with fiber. Fiber helps regulate our digestion and also keeps us full. Also berries are a low sugar fruit and low glycemic meaning that the impact on our blood sugar is minimal.

The third: berries are a natural way to get your sweet fix. Try just adding berries to your oatmeal or your gasp plain yogurt in the morning. They will sweeten both up without the need for added sugar. Good news for your waistline.

Check out your local farmers market today and get some fresh berries. Watch this blog for some berrilicious recipes soon!

Cooking healthy food is so easy and takes so little time…

I constantly hear from my students and clients that time is an issue for them in preparing healthy meals. I’m primarily working from the home office these days and I live in a walk up building. As much as those stairs are good for my heart – cooking just seems so much easier than running up and down the stairs, walking to my favorite take out place (at least 5 blocks away), standing in line to order food and then walking back to my apartment and up the stairs to consume said food.

This afternoon I cooked enough Quinoa for the week and made a steamed Swiss Chard and bean main dish. So many people shy away from both dark green leafy vegetables and beans, but I don’t know why. I used canned organic beans which I gave a rinse over and I destemmed the Swiss chard by hand (which took maybe 30 seconds) and then chopped it in strips and then turned the cutting board 90 degrees and chopped it in squares.

I put it in a 2 qt saucepan and steamed it with like 2 tbsp of water for exactly 2 minutes until it turned bright green. Then I added the rinsed beans (red beans, not sure what kind – no sodium added and organic in a can that said it was free of bisphenol-A!).  I added a touch of sea salt (a few shakes) and a bit of low sodium soy sauce and two cap fulls (using the jar I had) of curry powder.

I spooned about 1/2 cup quinoa into a bowl and added the greens/beans on top. Delicious and took me less than 5 minutes to make.  More bioavailable vitamins than a multi-vitamin, more calcium than 2 cups of milk (although many argue the absorption in vegetables with oxalic acid) and enough protein for my needs. Plus, I feel light, energetic and ready to tackle my academic needs of the day.


Superbowl chili recipe

So here we are again…rain in New York City, a delayed kick off and your need to be lean and mean for the game. Your solution? Luscious Organics spicy but light chili. I make mine with lamb or turkey, but you can go with any meat, it will taste a bit different, so I recommend not deviating too much…but here’s the basic recipe.

Game Day Turkey Chili


Served 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, smashed with a knife

1 small yellow onion, diced or chopped finely

1 yellow pepper, small dice

1 lb ground turkey or lamb (lean)

1/2 bottle dark beer (drink the rest?)

2 chipotle chilies, chopped

2 tsp of chipotle sauce

1 tbsp cumin or curry powder

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

A few shakes of sea salt

1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce (organic, unsweetened) or crushed tomatoes

1 handful freshly chopped cilantro

cheese and/or low fat sour cream for garnish


1. Heat oil in a 5-6 qt stock pot or dutch oven

2. Add smashed garlic, yellow and onion. Cook on medium high for 5 minutes until soft and fragrant.

3. Add turkey and brown in oil with onion mixture.  When turkey is brown add chipotle pepper, pepper sauce and beer.

4. Turn heat to medium low and add other ingredients, spices and cocoa in order above, stirring to combine

5. Cook on medium low for 12-15 minutes until combined and tasty! Add additional spices if not spicy enough for your taste.

6. When ready to serve, reheat and just before serving add a dollop of low fat sour cream, a handful of cheese and a pinch of chopped cilantro! Enjoy.

Go Steelers! Enjoy the snow!!!

healthy superbowl recipes are coming…

Greetings 2011!

Its been a long time! This blog has been in hibernation as many changes have been occurring within Sobel Wellness. But we’re back and ready to provide you all with some rocking superbowl friendly recipes with a bit of a healthy flair!

In the thick of winter here in the Northeast, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a bowl of warm soup. I’ve been filling up on dark leafy greens, beans, grains and grass fed beef on occasion.   Although I had some wonderful short ribs last night at Artisanal for restaurant week, I’ve been taking a vacation from meat this winter. I go back and forth, but usually only have meat once a week.  I just feel better when I don’t eat it and I love my vegetables!  Seasonally, I do love summer and Fall vegetables the best, but there are still a few good ones around year round like dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts and my personal favorite: Leeks!

So many of the soups we know as comfort foods aren’t always the healthiest, but it is really easy to make some easy winter soups in relatively little time. My two favorite soups are butternut squash and black bean.  Every so often I make a butternut squash black bean soup when I’m feeling really crazy. Both are really easy and require a few ingredients. Butternut squash soup can be made with the following 4 ingredients: butter or olive oil, squash, chicken or vegetable stock, Cinnamon and a pear. If you like you can add salt and pepper. I find a good squash and the pear to be sweet enough, but some people like a touch of sugar or agave. I really don’t think its necessary. I usually use about 4 cups of stock to 1 lb of squash. The hardest part of the soup is cutting and peeling the squash – but thanks to Trader Joes you can get cheap squash already peeled and chopped! The black bean soup is a bit more complicated and I’ll post one of my favorite recipes soon.

I just bought the ingredients for my first lamb chili. I’ll be developing that recipe this weekend and post it soon, just in time for the superbowl. Chilies are easy and fun! Plus they give you an excuse to put beer in your food!

Some dark beers have a nice amount of iron and magnesium. I’m still working out the nutrition information for my recipe, but this will be one chili that is actually good for you. I use low-fat lamb and very little of it – the meat is more for flavoring than anything else. It is the beans and a smattering of cheese that give you good protein.  There will also be some great hidden ingredients like cocoa powder, sesame and nutmeg that in addition to cumin and cilantro really give the chili its amazing flavor.

I’ll be back with a whole lot of good recipes soon. As well I’ll be trying out some new recipes here in preparation for some work I am doing for my thesis where I am putting together meal plans and writing a curriculum for diabetes education. Fun stuff!

Zucchini Goat Cheese Quiche and other early September Delights

August is the height of squash season.  Now it is September and there’s still a lot of squash available. I love this time of year. The peaches are still around, fresh and plentiful…and oh so sweet and the apples and pears are just showing up at the markets. I bought two pears yesterday hoping to have them around for the week, but I ate them both yesterday 🙂 Have to get some more I guess. I ate the peach this morning. Just could not wait.

I picked up all kinds of squash at two different farmers markets this week. Yesterday at the Farmers Market near Columbia University, I picked up some Japanese Eggplants, Thai Eggplants, Lemon Basil and Avocado Squash.  Today I picked up some fresh cilantro, kale (I’ve never seen so much kale that was grown organically in a bunch before – whole foods usually sells three leaves in a bunch of organic kale), baby bok choi and some fresh gala apples.

You could basically cut up the vegetables and eat with no seasonings and you don’t even need to cook, but if you are looking for a bit of dressing for your naked veggies, a bit of honey, apple cider vinegar and a bit of olive oil go a long way.

Yesterday I brought home my squash bounty and looked in my cabinets to see what I could add them to.  I had bulgur wheat, coconut milk, some red curry paste I had made the other day and a block of sprouted tofu.  I was hungry and as usual not in the mood to cook something really complicated but very yummy.  So, I started boiling the bulgur (one cup of bulgur in 2.5 cups water). The bulgur cooks about 12 minutes. At about 10 minutes in, I added the chopped avocado squash, curry paste dissolved in coconut milk to which I had added to tofu and let it marinate for a few minutes prior). I put a top on the pot and cooked the grain, veg and tofu mixture for about 2 more minutes.  Delicious! Easy and in one pot!

With the remainder of the squash I made a quiche today with 4 eggs, goat cheese, a mixture of other cheeses, goat milk and thyme, tarragon, pepper and salt. I topped it with just a bit of pastured butter only available until September (now!).

I made my favorite agave lemonade to go with it. Just a splash of organic lemon juice, 1 tsp of agave and the rest of the glass water with three ice cubes. Mmmm. Hope you get out to the markets and enjoy the September offerings!

Next post I’ll tell you about the yellow tomato, cucumber gazpacho I made with lime and Meyer lemon juice.

Please pass the beans!!! and cut the steak…into three :)

I did some menu planning the other day for different diets by calorie and realized just how many calories we sometimes mindlessly eat, especially when dining out in restaurants.

Some commentary…I visited a steakhouse with a friend. Needless to say that the restaurant emphasized its corn fed beef from South Dakota which had the best tasting corn in the country. The animals were fed for 452 days (roughly 1 year and 3 months) and then…what? They were slaughtered. Perhaps the meat tasted good…but it was much higher in fat than say a grass fed steak and not in the kind of fat that we want to take in.  It occurred to me that nutrition science shuns red meat when instead small portions of grass fed beef should be emphasized on occasion. Also the smallest steak on the menu was 8 ounces and entitled a “petite” fillet…as if 8 ounces was a tiny portion only fit for a tiny woman or a small child. The regular fillet was 12 ounces. It was enormous and could feed three people. My dinner companion ate it all as I ate my fish, beans and greens leaving a few medallions of fish on the plate because I was full.

But, plant protein is wonderful too. Its such a shame that the humble bean and grain get the shaft. A wonderfully balanced meal is 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1 cup whole grains such as quinoa or millet and 2 fists worth of a whole bunch of seasonal vegetables. My favorites out now are pattypan squash and sunflower sprouts.  I also had cranberry beans a week or so ago. Wonderful! I wish to see more beans (and their are heirloom varieties) well soaked (to help ease digestion!!!) and offered on menus.  But, more than that, I’d like to see more people eat at home and cook their own food…or hire me to do it for them 🙂

A note on restaurants, the typical portion of beef in a restaurant is between 12-16 ounces. The typical recommendation is 4 ounces…6 ounces of all protein of any kind for the day!!! Its pretty hard to do this when the restaurants offer so much more. But you can make a good choice! When dining out, order an appetizer and a salad or split an appetizer and a main course with a friend. I had two co-workers who used to do this every day. Its a great way to save money (eating home saves more!).

Its strawberry season again…

Its June! The world’s best looking athletes by far have congregated in South Africa and are sweating in the sun while chasing after a small checkered ball. All this gawking at the television has me wanting one thing…strawberries…and watermelon!

There’s nothing like the start of summer. The pools are open (at least on the weekends), although the water is ridiculously cold and you can buy a cut up watermelon on the street. As well the New York City farmers markets are all a twitter with my favorite start of summer fruit…the strawberry.

When I grew up on Long Island, I remember the third week of June hosted a strawberry festival in my town. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, rides, attractions, music, merriment, people really celebrated the arrival of the strawberry. Today, I just wake up early on a Thursday or Sunday morning and head over to the market 10 blocks from my apartment and plop down my $4 ($3 later in the day if there are any left!) for a pint of the most amazing strawberries I have ever tasted…and sometimes, when I am really lucky, they sell some at Fairway.

These strawberries are amazing. Sweet, succulent and no methyl iodide here.  I’m still kvelling from the asparagus, whose season is almost over. This past weekend I got my first taste of summer zucchini and eggplant…on the grill, with lamb. Oh my god, to die for. Summer is upon us…all the best to Algeria…oh yeah and the United States/Britain who both have to play Algeria. Hope they are eating some strawberries too!