Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

We all need them – quick, easy, delicious, healthy, (and YES, pretty!) meals.  I made this last night to go with my baked walleye with almonds.  It took very little active cooking time.  I love creating dishes when inspiration hits!

When the air gets crisp, I crave fall vegetables in hearty dishes with rich flavors.  This combo of butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and white beans really did the trick.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place cubes of butternut squash and halved Brussels sprouts in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary (adds such a nice flavor).  Roast 20 minutes and remove from oven.  Add a drained and rinsed can of white beans (navy or other), toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until squash and Brussels sprouts are tender.

Remove from oven.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top and add a bit more olive oil if desired.  Add more sea salt to taste.  Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and enjoy!  (I think I will try some toasted walnuts on top next time.)

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Cultivate “awe” for a more health-friendly attitude! (And Happy Birthday, Brent!)

Airport Arrival - More Fun Than the Departure

Brent, with wife Marina and sister Becky

Today at around 9am EST, my first-born turned 30. He lives in Seattle, but this momentous day will be spent near New York City, close to his birthplace, while on tour with Allen Stone; my son plays bass.

We toss around the word “awesome” these days like we used to use the word “wonderful.” Break the words apart, and clearly the number of times either is used far outnumbers the actual moments in our lives that are truly full of awe or wonder. A sunset can inspire genuine awe and wonder; these words lose their impact after being repeatedly used to describe things like a trip to the mall or a hot fudge sundae.

During my pre-bedtime reading ritual last night, I picked up a Sierra magazine that just arrived. The title of the cover article is “The Science of Awe.” As I flipped open the pages, I thought, ‘there may be something in here to incorporate into my app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating).’ In fact, there is plenty to consider in terms of more mindful eating, but as I read the writer’s descriptions of awe-inspiring moments, personal memories took over my thoughts . . . and I felt open, hopeful, and positive – all from simply remembering my “awe-filled” moments.

One moment in nature popped up: a trip to Ecuador, where I walked barefoot out onto the most expansive beach I have ever seen, at night when it was all lit by nothing more than the stars. Other times in the outdoors made the hairs on my skin stand up (a sign, the author asserts, of being awed) even as a mere memory. At the top of my awe list, however, are the births of my two children.

Thirty years ago today, shortly after giving birth to my son Brent, I was in a very small, dark hospital bathroom with a single small window when I felt a sensation of complete happiness, that everything in the universe was “right” and everything was connected. Clearly, this was not the result of my surroundings, a bathroom that was far from the most beautiful bathroom I have ever occupied! I felt unlimited gratitude and a completely open heart toward everything and everyone. While I do not consider myself a very “churchy” religious person, there was no denying this experience; it was clearly much bigger than me, like the beach in Ecuador I would walk on many years later.

The Sierra article uses research to explain what happens to a person at times like this. We behave differently. We treat people better, we are more generous, we are simply nicer to “hang with.” While the article did not specifically mention health or how we treat ourselves, I’m going out on a limb to say that I believe awe is worth cultivating because of the health benefits it offers.

We know that being more mindful is better for our eating and psychological well-being. Since awe, which cannot be felt in the absence of mindfulness, seems to inspire the kind of good feelings that are connected with better self-care, it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that being in nature, nurturing relationships, and creating other truly “awesome” moments will cause us to treat ourselves more kindly.

That’s what being healthy is all about: being kind to ourselves. I’m feeling grateful today, just thinking about what happened in my life 30 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brent. You are truly a gift that keeps giving!

There is still no “one size fits all” plan for a healthy weight.

What is the biggest cause of on and off dieting, up and down weight, and frustration with weight loss? I believe it is the practice of any plan that doesn’t feel like a comfortable enough fit for you!

This meta analysis of different weight loss plans finds little difference in weight loss after 6 months between nutritionally different plans. People lost weight overall on all of the plans studied, and some may keep it off, but sustainability will depend on how realistic the changes are for the individual.

It always comes back to this: For lasting health improvements, make changes thoughtfully, considering all of your tendencies and current situational factors. Any plan will need to be flexible enough to allow for LIFE! A plan can be loosely defined (ie. choosing to eat more vegetables every day or simply being more mindful of hunger patterns) or it may contain more distinct components to it (ie. what each meal will contain or keeping track of carb grams if blood sugar is “jumpy”), but any plan needs to be “chosen” not forced. There has to be a reason that makes sense – to you. Attitude is the key.

I always return to the big question that seems to say it all . . . “Does what I am doing now feel KIND?”

Question: What Can You Fill An Avocado With?

The answer is . . . just about anything! Make a quick, delicious, satisfying – and healthy – snack or mini meal out of one of nature’s healthiest fats, an avocado.

Try stuffing half of one with salmon salad (I mix my canned salmon with plain Greek yogurt, celery, and onion), egg salad, a blob of hummus and diced cucumber, or cottage cheese and grape tomatoes. Go wild! Be crazy!

Peanut butter and avocado . . . well, maybe don’t go completely nuts!

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It’s Here! (In the Moment – Mindful Eating App for Android Devices)

 

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Attention Android Users!  The app is now available for your mobile devices.  For  a limited time, you can download the app without a fee. Visit the Facebook page for the link and download instructions.

Turning Hindsight Into Foresight

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“If only I hadn’t climbed up on that @#$%^&* chair!”

We’ve all heard the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.”  But what does that kind of expert vision accomplish if it just manifests as regret.  Absolutely NO good!  In order to be valuable, hindsight has to give us a little foresight.  In other words, it must be combined with learning to have any benefit in the future.

My husband Peter and I had this discussion recently after a very regrettable incident, and yes, if he could have predicted it, he would have done things differently.  But one thing is for darn sure . . . he will never, EVER again stand on a chair without being very mindful.  Actually he may never again stand on a chair at all!

Here’s what happened.  Peter woke me up one morning last week with the urgent news that there was a bat in our house – a bat now trapped under a bowl on our bookcase after he cornered it – and I needed to get up to help him get the bat out of the house.

So there I was, cookie sheet in hand, while he slid the bowl ever so carefully off the shelf onto it.  Everything was going perfectly . . . until Peter lost his balance and fell off the chair.  The bat was captured successfully, but Peter landed badly and his knee was not looking “right.”  Actually it was looking very, very wrong, with a huge bulge protruding away from his leg.

This long story ended with a trip to the Emergency Room and surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon a day later.  He will now be on crutches for 6 weeks.  What a set-up for a case of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”!  But it doesn’t help his current situation to realize that he was focusing too much on the bat and too little on his balance.

Experience is a great teacher though.  This recent setback has started me thinking that learning from the “slips” of eating habits – the equivalent of falling off the chair (or the wagon!) – presents a similar opportunity.  Unfortunately it is all too common for people to get stuck in the regret of their disappointments, looking back with hindsight (that crystal clear perspective) to see that “I shouldn’t have eaten so many cookies,” instead of understanding what caused it to happen and looking for solutions . . . changing the hindsight to foresight.

We can predict that destructive eating patterns will happen again if all we do is display perfect hindsight.  That’s easy!  In order to turn it into something productive, we need to give up on the regret and “if only’s” so we can actually learn something useful.

If having an abundance of cookies in the house causes a cookie binge, there is a difference between saying, “I shouldn’t have eaten all of those!  I have no willpower,” and observing that “having all those temptations in the house is not very supportive of my goals.  I will practice self-compassion by not buying them.”  (awareness + insight = learning)

The first method is judgmental and negative.  It does not get beyond the regret and shame of “messing up.”  The second is supportive and useful.   This may sound like picky semantics, but it makes a big difference!  Are you learning or just finding fault with yourself?

What’s for lunch? (or a quick snack?) I have no time (to cook or shop)!

One of the biggest problems with eating healthy is lack of planning.  I’m not talking about the kind of planning some people do:  make a list for a week of meals, go to the store and buy the ingredients, cook all afternoon on Sunday to prepare for the week, freeze some . . . .

No, no, no!  That is definitely not what I mean by planning.  Most people will not do that.  They don’t have time, or quite frankly, there are other things they wish to do with their precious spare time.

When I talk about planning, I mean the basics.  Just be prepared for those times when you are starving, creativity is limited, and there are very few options in the refrigerator and/or pantry.  That means you must go to the store sometime!  That also means you must keep a few staples on hand and have a few ideas for quick meals that can be made with these basics.

Some items I keep on hand for times like this, mostly non-perishables or foods that last a while before going bad:

canned salmon (I like the red, not the pink)

plain fat-free or 2% Greek yogurt

onions

celery

canned beans

whole grain tortillas

avocado

hummus

eggs

edamame

cottage cheese

Today was one of those days for me.   I was so glad I had at least attended to this level of planning.  I came home hungry and needed a hearty snack.  It was so nice to be able to open a can of salmon, add a chopped cucumber (from our little garden), a little onion and avocado, some plain Greek yogurt and a dash of seasoning to create this beautiful and satisfying mini-meal.  Now I think I will make it until dinner!

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