• three steps to breakthrough change

    May 31, 2009

    I try to go for a walk in nature every day, and I had settled perhaps too comfortably into a routine of walking to Hyde Park, lying under a tree to make some Vitamin D, and turning back.  Never mind that along the way, much closer to home, is Holland Park – a place I dismissed early on because I didn’t like it as much, even though I had only given it a cursory glance.  But I only discovered this two weeks ago, and it turned into a revelation about change, growth and trust I had to share with you.

    It was one of those chilly, rainy London days people think we have year round.  Ok, so we have them 3/4 of the year.  Anyway, I waited and waited all day for sunshine that would stick around for more than a few minutes until I had to force myself out.  But I was not even three minutes down the road when things became even darker, so I decided to duck into Holland Park and resign myself to a less than pleasant walk.  Except this time something made me take a different turn here, and another one there, until I wound up in an open meadow with a single bench, empty.  I sat there for a few minutes watching the runners – both human and squirrel – and then, to my delight, watching the sky break open.  Sunshine.  I got up and made some more spontaneous turns, watching in amazement as the park I thought I knew showed its true depths to me, culminating in a treasure chest: a Japanese garden that made this city seem as far away as the place it took its inspiration from.  There was a waterfall, and koi in the pond below it, and, above all, a peace I had not known during my usual walk, the kind of peace that makes you stop walking.  This was it: my new sanctuary.  As I sat there I contemplated how the periods of intense growth in my life have always come from those moments when I thought things were at their worst – moments when I was forced, or had to force myself, into a new direction.

    My experience follows on from what I’ve learned from the Tao, and I think it illustrates three steps to breakthrough change:

    1.  Push through “obstacles”
    2.  Let go of preconceptions
    3.  Surrender to the moment

    These steps apply to any situation – big or small – including changing long-seated habits and perceptions concerning food:

    1. Maybe you grew up – like I did – on a slab of beef as the necessary dinner centerpiece around which all else orbited.   The message then was: “my family cares for me and feeds me this, so it must be right.”  And that’s not wrong.  We all do the best we can in every moment.  The meat-oriented meal is not inherently wrong in itself, but it doesn’t mean we need to have it every night.  If we push through this “obstacle” in our thinking, then we can expand our perception to include the possibility that maybe, just maybe, an entirely plant-based meal a few nights a week might not just be a healthy idea, but a delicious one, too.

    2. Being of childbearing age, there was a time when I too wondered whether plant-based foods could provide enough calcium.  That was before I knew about African Bantu women, who consume a diet low in calcium yet have numerous pregnancies and long lactations throughout their lifetime.  When I dug deeper, I learned that countries with the highest rate of dairy consumption also have a higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.  Turns out that the foods which most Western nations turn to for their calcium intake – namely dairy products – are highly acidic foods that actually pull calcium from the very bones we are trying to protect!  I now know that my body can make better use of the calcium in dark greens, nuts and seeds.  Had I not let go of my preconception I’d never have found the alternative.

    3. Ah, surrender.  The biggie, at least for me.  I’m still learning this one, and the biggest relief for me has been the realization that surrender is not just about being in the moment and not trying to control it, but about giving in to your nature and not beating yourself up about it when it doesn’t jive with your head.  The other day I went to a Mexican restaurant and felt virtuous ordering a big salad, thinking I could ignore the crispy, deep-fried tortilla it came nestled in.  I couldn’t.  I beat myself up about it until I looked at the bigger picture.  And gave myself a break.  Life is about enjoyment, and eating should be all about joy!

    By the way, surrendering also means letting go of attachments.  One of my favorite authors, Dr. Wayne Dyer, says we should have a “mind open to everything and attached to nothing.”  In the two weeks since I found my “perfect sanctuary,” I found another – tucked away not too far from it.  There’s no fancy pond, no waterfall, no manicured trees.  It’s quite plain compared to the rest of the park, and it’s all mine.  For now.

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  • an almost-sinful sweet offer

    May 28, 2009

    My friend Kim pointed out that my entry about snacking smart was a little too holy.  She also questioned the pecan pie-ness of a nut-stuffed date.

    What Kim didn’t know is that I already had this post up my sleeve, and that I sometimes have four nut-stuffed dates in a row.

    Sugary foods have always been a weakness for me, and I’m certain it comes from the days of discovering dulce de leche in my lunch box and Aunt Jemima syrup-drenched pancakes when I came home from school.  Since then, whenever I need some TLC my first instinct is to reach for the CCC (chocolate-chip cookies).  I had such a sweet tooth that I took my craving to the extreme and trained as a patisserie chef at Le Cordon Bleu.  Of course, I now use that knowledge to create sugar-free treats; and I’ll keep sharing the love in the recipes section.

    The temporary rush that comes from concentrated sugar sources is just that: temporary.  But the damage that can result from chronically elevated or highly fluctuating blood glucose isn’t.  And that’s precisely why I decided to make my first snacking post about keeping blood-sugar levels in check.  As I’ve mentioned before, we tend to go for sweets both out of habit and because our bodies are starved of nutrients despite a high consumption of food.  Refined sugar, in the end, doesn’t feed our bodies any more than it does our hearts.

    Green Appetite is about being as healthy and happy as we can while keeping it real.  And yes, sometimes (ok, often) we want something a little more jazzed up than fruit and nuts.  Thankfully, there’s no reason to give up one of my favorite temptations: chocolate.  But I’ve learned to enjoy it in a new form.  Cacao, or raw chocolate, is not only buzzing with anti-oxidants, but the sweet people who make it tend to sweeten it with agave – a natural nectar that’s low on the glycemic index.  Interestingly, agave comes from the same plant that tequila is made from.

    A couple of weeks ago, my dairy-free, sugar-free Dulce de Leche won recipe of the month at Crazy Sexy Life, Kris Carr’s very cool site all about total wellbeing.  Lucky me, a few days later I was greeted by a box all the way from North Carolina full of UliMana goodies as my prize.  It happened to coincide with the lead-up to the launch of this site, so it was perfect timing to get me through the last-minute crunch.  UliMana makes hard-to-believe-they’re-raw chocolate treats sweetened naturally with dates and agave.  I’m still eating their to-live-for Truffle Butter straight out of the tub.  Thanks again to UliMana and Crazy Sexy Life for making the launch a whole lot tastier.

    On this side of the pond, I bumped into a wonderful little company called Nibchoc after scouring the Real Food Festival in London for some raw chocolate.  I instantly became smitten by the ticklish texture and chocolatey explosion in these; I just wanted to keep nib-nibbling away.  And guess what?  Eloise at Nibchoc is offering you, hungry healthy reader, three Nibchoc bites in a variety of flavors FREE with your first online order.  Just pick your treats and be sure to enter “Green Appetite offer” in the comments box when you check out online.

    The great thing about raw chocolate is that it’s like super chocolate; the taste is so rich, you really only need a little bit.  Honest.

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  • are you snacking smart?

    May 25, 2009

    One of the most important aspects of sticking to a healthy diet is having no-brainer, good-for you snacks on hand at all times. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key to maintaining optimal energy levels between meals and controlling cravings, so the ideal snack is rich in fiber and low on the glycemic index.  Luckily, whole, plant-based foods are just the ticket.

    I always keep a stash of cashews (raw unsalted!) and fruit on me when I’m on the go.  Dried fruit can spike your blood sugar and should be eaten in moderation, so having a handful of nuts along with them is a much better option and keeps things interesting.  One of my favorite snacks is simply tucking a Brazil nut or almond into a pitted date – it tastes like pecan pie!  You can pre-prep these and put them in a re-sealable (reusable) bag to carry with you.  They’ll keep well in an office desk and in your car, too.  Use common sense in especially hot weather, but you’ll probably want fresh fruit during those occasions anyway.

    When shopping for dried fruit, read the labels closely to make sure you’re not buying a bag of preservatives.  Most health-food stores stock sulphur-free dried fruit; you just have to look for it.  You can also make up a batch of my Trail Less Traveled Mix and change up the dried fruit or leave it out altogether.  Dried cranberries are a nice variation; just make sure they’re not marked “sugar infused.”

    While dried fruit is certainly handy, Mother Nature does know best; and fruit eaten in its natural form is always superior.  After all, dried fruit doesn’t grow on trees and is high on the glycemic index because it’s missing the necessary water that nature packages beautifully in fresh fruit.  The same principle applies to juicing: the fibrous pulp in whole fruit keeps the sugars moving nice and slowly through the body rather than causing a rapid rise in blood glucose.  Therefore, save for an emergency energy lift, it’s much better to have a blended smoothie than stripped fruit, a.k.a. juice.  Green juice, on the other hand, is a great, quick way to get a ton of alkalizing phytochemicals into the body with minimal sugar.  Still, I much prefer my luscious smoothies!  In fact, I don’t even own a juicer.

    The high water content in fresh, whole fruit not only results in a lower concentration of sugar; it also means you’ll feel fuller faster and stay full longer.  Fresh fruit digests very quickly, causing other foods (especially fats) to sit in the stomach and ferment.  More on food combining in a future post, but for now just remember to try to eat fruit on an empty stomach and at least 20 minutes before a fat, starch or protein.  Berries, plums and apples are especially low on the glycemic index.  Bananas take a little longer to digest (about 45 minutes). They’re also perfectly portable and my on-the-go fruit of choice.  Make sure they’re ripe; lots of brown spots and no green tops are good.

    Speaking of portability, I treasure my Ziploc bags because my mom sends them to me from the US, but I only need about a box or two a year because I simply wash them out and re-use them.  I use and reuse the larger-sized bags to freeze fruit for making smoothies.  Similarly, I rarely buy stuff in plastic containers – preferring the bulk bins at the health-food store – but when I do I make sure to wash them out and put them to work storing nuts, sprouts, snacks and leftovers.

    On a similar note, I’ve just returned from a family reunion in Madrid and will be posting tips soon for healthier traveling along with a summery Spanish recipe, so please stay tuned!  Also, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  Happy low-sugar snacking, amigos.  Hasta la proxima.

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  • the one book i can never put down

    May 21, 2009

    I keep my copy of the Tao Te Ching on my nightstand, and I read a verse at random from it every night just before lights out.  I am always in awe of the simple wisdom on every page.

    I discovered the Tao just last year, so if you’ve only come across it now I feel privileged to share it with you.  A Chinese classic text by Lao Tzu, the Tao – closely followed by Herman Hesse’s Siddharta – is probably my favorite book.  The beauty of the Tao (or the frustration, depending on how you look at it) is that it can be interpreted in infinite ways, so there’s really no use in my telling you what it’s about.  All I can do is share what I think and let you make up your own mind, which is the same principle I apply to the information I give throughout the site.

    To me, the Tao is about acceptance and appreciation.  If you read any personal growth book out there (and I’ve read more than is possibly allowed), you’ll find that they all come down to these two things.  And so does the Tao.

    The verse below – number 39 – at once seems like incredibly timely advice about the environment.  But look closer and see that the message is a broader one about the destructive nature of control in general – in other words, the opposite of appreciating and accepting things as they are.

    When we give up trying to control others or situations and instead accept them and value them just as they are, we discover true contentment.  Not only that, but when we move out of the way, let things be and trust in the natural flow, we clear the path for outcomes far better than we could have predicted.  Well, that’s how I see it, probably because surrendering to the moment and letting things run their natural course is one of the biggest challenges for me.  But if I listen to the Tao, I can accept myself for this, too, trusting it’s all part of the journey and all is well.  That’s why I read it every night; I need reminding!

    How do you interpret it?

    Tao Te Ching – Verse 39
    From the phenomenal translation by Stephen Mitchell

    In harmony with the Tao,
    the sky is clear and spacious,
    the earth is solid and full,
    all creatures flourish together,
    content with the way they are,
    endlessly repeating themselves,
    endlessly renewed.

    When man interferes with the Tao,
    the sky becomes filthy,
    the earth becomes depleted,
    the equilibrium crumbles,
    creatures become extinct.

    The Master views the parts with compassion,
    because he understands the whole.
    His constant practice is humility.
    He doesn’t glitter like a jewel
    but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
    as rugged and common as a stone.

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  • about those photographs…

    May 19, 2009

    My friend Sarah has accused me of displaying suggestive images on this site. She was referring specifically to the pears on the homepage. Now, Sarah is a PhD in public health and spends a lot of time looking into a microscope. Apparently she had to minimize her browser window immediately when the page loaded and look around to make sure her colleagues were still wearing their white coats. Good thing I haven’t shot any papayas.

    It reminded me of the time I signed up for a life drawing class in New York and was expecting bowls of fruit. Instead, I had to sketch a guy who was a dead ringer for one of those Cro-Magnon figures in your old school textbooks, right down to the fact that he was using a wooden shaft for support. It was fruit, alright.

    I hadn’t really planned for the pears to look so, well, perky – at least not consciously. But what do you expect when you’re cooped up inside shooting still life day after day during an exceptionally long winter?

    Truth be told, it was my intention to showcase the sensuality of the edible plant world here, and it wasn’t that difficult. Vegetables and fruit look like this because we’re supposed to eat lots of them!  The Vegetarian Society certainly isn’t being coy about it.

    Meanwhile, how convenient that asparagus has come into season.

    new recipe: frolicking in the fields

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  • tasty tricks for yummier mummies

    May 18, 2009

    I had a great time this morning sharing the glory of green smoothies during “Mummies Morning” at Whole Foods Kensington in London. I’ve done demos there a couple of times now, but none has been as successful as this one. And it wasn’t even a demo! Turns out I had been booked at the same time as some lovely people from Tisserand Aromatherapy who were very happy to discover I had included fresh ginger in the smoothie I was passing around.

    Anyway, because I didn’t want the blender to get in the way of their presentation, I decided to do the blending in another room and simply bring samples around on a tray. It turned out to be a very good move, since it meant I actually got to talk to the mothers individually without having to juggle mounds of fruit and electrical equipment at the same time. None of the mothers had ever tried a green smoothie before and couldn’t believe how much nutrition you could pack in it, let alone how easy this was to fit into their day. Even better, their tiny tots were literally yanking the samples out of their hands and ending up with great, big green smiles that reminded me of the Green Appetite logo! Just goes to show how children are born to love and crave good, natural food right from the start.

    I’m delighted to report that Whole Foods has asked me back for more of the same, so if you’re a new mother in the Kensington area who could use a chill morning with your babes along with picking up some simple, family-friendly ideas for sneaking more fruit and veg into your day, I’d love to meet you there. I’ve posted these to the calendar, but better write them down now:

    Monday, June 15, 2009 10-11am
    Monday, July 13, 2009 10-11am

    They’re normally held upstairs in “A Room With a View.” See you there!

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  • what’s eating the earth?

    May 18, 2009

    Shrink your waist and your carbon footprint

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  • {latest_blog_title}

    May 18, 2009

    Find a wealth of green info on the blog

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  • grab your free quick-start guide

    May 18, 2009

    Kitchen-tested tips and a shopping list to get you going

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  • more energy, fewer cravings, better sleep

    May 18, 2009

    Get a peek at the yummy new you

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