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Friday, February 25, 2011

'Proud to be a Pig" And Other Unhealthy Views

If you've kept a passive eye on the news this week, you might have seen Rush Limbaugh's incendiary words about Michelle Obama and her Let's Move program. To put it in a nutshell, he said that Mrs. Obama was asking everyone to eat tofu and cardboard, and that she wasn't practicing what she was preaching because a) she doesn't look like a swimsuit model, b) Alex Rodriguez wouldn't date her and c) because she ate a spare rib dinner on holiday this past weekend. 

I mean, obviously, there's more wrong with that entire tirade than I care to cover in a single blog. But I was outraged, partly because I think the Let's Move program is one of the better things going on in politics, but also because of Limbaugh's assertion that, in order to be healthy, one must be a model and eat nothing of any substantial value. 

In this article on, Ms. Zimmerman put it perfectly: "Nothing jacks up health promotion like the idea that health is for other, better people."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recipe! Curried Coconut Chicken

If you haven't tried Coconut Brown Rice yet, the time is now! I know at first it seems like a somewhat overwhelming dose of coconut for one meal, but trust me...the flavors pair together very well (and coconut is delicious, seriously).

This curry was adapted from a recipe found here, and really, I hardly changed anything. Just a little more of this and less of that, but it turned out beautifully. Everyone in the house loved it, and the leftovers were delicious, cold or hot, the next day. The texture is smooth and rich, a classic curry, decadent enough to serve to guests and simple enough for a weeknight meal.

If you want to add vegetables to this, I recommend mushrooms, perhaps peas...but not much else. I served this over the rice with dry-fried coconut flakes and fried shallots on top, alongside a green leafy salad with avocado. It was a well rounded meal...but watch out, this is very filling! A small portion will leave you stuffed,  so be careful not to overeat.


Mental Health: Why "Crazy" is so Detrimental

I've heard several stories recently, both fiction and non, where the protagonists were advised to see a therapist or take medication for mental or emotional issues that they were taking, and the response was, "But I'm not crazy!!"

Frankly, this bothers me on many levels. According to NIMH (The National Institute for Mental Health), over one-fourth of the American population suffers from a diagnosable disorder. That's one in every four Americans! And beyond that are the many who do not, perhaps, have a mental illness but need help dealing with traumatic life events or other difficulties.

The point being that seeing a therapist, taking medication, or eating differently and exercising to treat mental illness does not make you "crazy". If anything, those who do seek help and treatment should be a society that persists in stereotyping anyone who even hints at a mental diagnosis, it takes a lot of balls to take active steps toward bettering yourself.

So why is it that seeking help makes us feel like we might be "crazy"?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recipe! Coconut Brown Rice

Coconut brown rice...just the name is enough to get me salivating. The nutty flavor of that brown rice with the sweet notes of coconut, add some toasted coconut on top...mmmm. When someone mentioned having coconut brown rice for dinner recently, I couldn't help myself...I had to make it.

So I browsed through recipes and found one I liked right here, but on my search I also ran into a tip: coconut rice goes well with fried shallots. Well. I just so happened to have some shallots that really needed to be used, so that suited me just fine.

Of course, I don't often advocate frying....ever, or at all. It's usually a very bad thing for the anti-anxiety diet, as well as for your BMI. However, a few crispy shallots on a bed of whole grain rice? I think we can handle it, yeah?

This recipe is quite good, but I made a few of my own alterations. If you do not buy "sweetened" coconut milk, but you want the rice to be sweet, then you will need to add some sugar. I thought that it was creamy, delicious, and just right without any added sweetness, but it's a matter of taste.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Nutrition: Healthy Kids, Healthy Teens, Healthy Family

The other day I ran across this article, highlighting the struggle of busy teens to find time to eat in their cram-packed schedules. The article discusses the fact that many teens simply do not have the time to eat lunch, that they are so busy with classes, activities, and extracurriculars that they are lucky if they can grab a bite of dinner.

Frankly, this doesn't surprise me. My family has always been quite hardworking, to the point of losing sleep, skipping meals, and etc. It's just how we are, how we've had to be to make ends meet, and I know that we aren't alone. There's nothing at all wrong with being hardworking, but the frenetic pace of the average American life hardly leaves time or room for health considerations.

Take cooking for example. When I talk to people about eating an anti-anxiety diet, the biggest objection I get is "But I don't have time to cook!" And frankly, I understand. When I started this diet I was working fifty-something hours a week, and now I work seventy-something. Maybe more. It's hard to think that cooking sounds convenient when you've got so many other things on your plate simultaneously.

Which is precisely why it is so important to change your lifestyle, not just your diet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lifestyle: The Importance of Eating Breakfast

[For balanced breakfast recipes, see these recipes: Soyrizo Scramble and Steel Cut Oats]

So, unless you have completely ignored all heath and nutrition advice for the last several years, chances are you've heard or read at some point that you really, truly, ought to be eating breakfast. Old hat, right? Maybe even dead horse, and yet, for some reason, so many Americans still skip their breakfasts.

Now, let's not mistake breakfast for a high-calorie, low-nutrition, high-sugar "snack" scarfed down during the commute: a doughnut and latte is absolutely not a good breakfast. If you need something quick, you'll save time, money, and calories by grabbing a Clif bar and a cup of coffee from your eco-friendly French Press....or at least from the old percolator. After all, a quick, nutritious breakfast is better than nothing, but a balanced breakfast is better than anything.

A balanced breakfast will help you wake up, concentrate, eat less throughout the day, lose weight, will give you more strength and endurance, will lower your cholesterol and will improve your memory. As a fairly young person with a heinous memory, that last benefit caught my eye and perked my ears more than the others on the list. Of course I've eaten a balanced breakfast nearly every day since I started eating for an anti-anxiety lifestyle, and I do think my memory has improved...I just had no idea the two could be linked.

But how do you create a balanced breakfast?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Recipe! Perfect Steel Cut Oats (with variations!)

Steel cut oats seem to cause a bit of confusion. They don't look like instant or quick oats, they have a nuttier flavor and a more toothsome texture, and when you cook them, you must use more water. All of these elements set them apart from your regular, garden variety of oats, and can make them intimidating to prepare.

Honestly, though? They are so delicious, nutritious, and filling, and the preparation is hardly more than dumping them in a pot and letting it boil for about half an hour...easy as pie, and healthier to boot. These make a great breakfast because they are a whole grain, low calorie (150 calories in 1/4 cup, dry), and they can be dressed up or down. They stick to your ribs and give you a good, slow burning, complex carbohydrate boost of energy first thing in the morning, when you really need it. Basically, it's hard to find a more perfect way to start your day.

The recipe is so easy that I've provided a couple of variations for you to try. You can change this around, mix and match flavors, change sweeteners or fruits, and basically customize these oats any way you want.


Friday, February 11, 2011

My Top 10 Sustainable Products

Earlier this week I wrote about living a more sustainable lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start! Certain parts of the country seem to have caught on to sustainability and climate-consciousness - see San Francisco's legendary waste management - but in the smalltown Midwest and South, I don't think we've managed to really acknowledge that we need to change, much less make any sort of move toward sustainability.

Because of this, it's sometimes difficult to know what to do or where to start for anyone who wants to live a more ecologically sound or sustainable lifestyle. For that reason, I've outlined some of my favorite products below! Even if you can only start small, every little bit helps.

10. Re-usable Shopping Bags - Many stores and chains are actually beginning to eliminate their plastic and paper sacks, so this is a great product to invest in if you haven't already. These bags are not only more convenient (you can fit a great deal more in them and they don't break) but they are often made from post-recycled content, at least in part. You can buy them in various sizes, insulated and non. Whole Foods Markets will eve, donate five cents for every reusable bag you bring in!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recipe! Soyrizo Breakfast Scramble

I love the flavor of Mexican chorizo, but to be honest, the "mystery meat" aspect of it is less than appealing. The first time that I had a recipe that called for chorizo, I went to the market and found a tube of it, and as I always do with new brands, I checked the ingredients.

...woah. Can I just say, I don't care how natural, organic, grass-fed, local, clean, and delicious your beef or pork is...I have no desire to eat lymph nodes. The lymphatic system runs all through the body picking up waste, toxins, disease, and other nastiness, and filtering it through lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are basically the sewage plants of the body. Some people don't have a problem with that, I am definitely not one of those people. I tossed the recipe.

So this time, knowing what I wanted (chorizo) and that my market's chorizo was...not something that I wanted to consume, I went straight to the produce section and picked up a package of Soyrizo for a little over $2.00.

When it comes to soy-based meat substitutes, I don't usually recommend them for a variety of reasons. Soy is being overproduced right now, much like corn, and we get enough of it from products that don't advertise their soy protein. It's in so many different products that consuming a product made of soy pretty much pushes you past the edge of "moderation". However, having a little soy creamer in your coffee or eating a little Soyrizo every once and awhile? It wont hurt, just make sure it's every once and awhile.

So I had this recipe brewing in my head, a Chorizo Breakfast Scramble...filled with goodness and spiced with Sriracha (because I, like many other bloggers right now, am hopelessly addicted to Sriracha). We had (yet another) snow day today, and I took the opportunity to try out the recipe. According to my taste tester/garbage disposal (he's seventeen), it was a huge success...and I agree. This recipe uses whole grains (corn tortillas!), fresh produce, and the only dairy is in the topping. You can tailor it to your tastes! If you prefer a spicier recipe, add some jalapeƱos or extra Sriracha. You can add more vegetables as well!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lifestyle: Eating Sustainably

Perhaps the awareness began in the sixties with the hippie movement or perhaps it happened more recently...but there's no question that many Americans are beginning to seek the sources of their food just as ardently as they assess the flavor and nutritional profile. The truth is, it's virtually impossible to become more aware of the food that you are eating without also becoming aware of the problems of the local farmer, the changing climate, species name it. 

But there are so many groups clamoring for attention, so many companies claiming to be so many things, sometimes it feels a little insurmountable to decipher it all. How do you know what brands to buy, and what to avoid? What does "sustainable" mean, and how is it regulated? Are these foods healthier? Is organic enough? Sometimes a trip to the grocery store can feel more like a guilt trip than a shopping trip, and that's when you know...something has to change.

But knowledge is power, undoubtedly, and with a little knowledge, your trip to the market should become much less frustrating.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recipe! Vietnamese Stir Fry

Recipe Ruts. You know what I'm talking about...those times when everything seems old and bland and overdone, when you look at your pantry and think there can't possibly be any new, interesting way to put these same old ingredients together....can there? It's frustrating for any cook, and unfortunately, it's exactly what I found myself fighting with this week while I tried to conjure up a meal plan.

Fortunately, I know the secret of breaking recipe ruts and that is, without a doubt...try something different! Not just a little different, but a lot different. Pick a country whose cuisine you haven't ever made, and if you've made cuisine from every country or the ingredients aren't available, just pick something you've never done before. You can try a new take on an old classic, or take a real risk and go out on a culinary limb...just stretch yourself and enjoy the feeling of freedom!

The cure for my rut was Vietnamese food. It's something I've wanted to try my hand at for awhile because of the interesting blend of spices, the ingredients, all the cultures that have contributed to it. It's a delicious type of food and in my town, if you want Vietnamese food, you have to make it yourself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recipe! Basic Burgers

I know, I know, burgers are a summertime fact, being in part of the country that is under twenty-some inches of snow right now, making burgers is almost laughably absurd. Nevertheless, when I asked the family what they wanted me to make for our (second) snow day dinner, the reply was "Burgers!", and thus burgers I made.

The thing about making burgers is that they will always, always, always be better on a grill. No matter how well seasoned or delicious, a burger simply isn't as good in a skillet as it is on a grill. However, our grill is mostly buried in the snow, just like everything else in our yard, so skillet-burgers would have to suffice. Of course, I wasn't about to resign myself to sub-par burgers, so I came up with this recipe, and served them with Sweet Potato Fries. The taste-testers loved it, so I want to share it with you here.

Now, the key to any good burger is good beef. I recommend, of course, local organic grass-fed beef, but if that isn't available get the leanest, highest quality beef you can find/afford. With the fillers, antibiotics, and hormones that beef can contain, it's completely worth using a higher quality type. Also, don't be afraid to be a little heavy handed with the seasonings. If you like spice, use extra sriracha or pepper! Beef has such a strong flavor, it isn't easy to overwhelm.

You can cook these burgers on a grill or in a skillet, and serve them with or without cheese. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So how are diet and anxiety related?

I received an excellent question the other day in the comments; how, exactly, are diet and anxiety related? It's true that this blog is geared more toward those who have heard about or discovered the link to anxiety on their own, and are looking for ways to apply this new knowledge to their everyday experience and practices. However, for those of you who are looking for ways to cope with anxiety, mild or crippling, and have come across this deserve answers as well.

Allow me to preface this by stating in no uncertain terms that I am neither a doctor nor a mental health professional. I'm just a writer and food enthusiast who struggles with anxiety, and desires to help others. If you are suffering from anxiety, you should seek help from a medical doctor or a mental health professional. I stumbled across the anti-anxiety diet because I couldn't afford a doctor, and if that's an issue for you as well...then I would encourage you to try a lifestyle change. However, a lifestyle may not be enough, through no fault of your own. If that is the case, please contact your local Mental Health Association; there are many programs that provide low-cost or free help for those who can demonstrate a need.

With that said, this is the link between food and anxiety, to the best of my knowledge.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recipe! Healthy Oven Fried Chicken

I'm not entirely sure what it is about meat and potatoes. Not to stereotype but it seems that the men in my life are particularly fond of this down-home combination. For one of my taste testers, I can make all sorts of dishes, gourmet or gastronomically complex, but none of it even remotely compares to good old fashioned meat and potatoes.

Where I live, we're a little bit between the South and the Midwest...though technically Midwest, a lot of the Southern ways are inherent in our culture, depending on the family you're born into or the group of people with whom you spend your time. One thing we've undoubtedly borrowed from the South? Fried chicken. Most people I know love it and eat it in abundance, which is delicious but very unhealthy. One of the major points in the anti-anxiety diet is avoiding fried foods, and while it's fine to indulge every once and awhile, save those indulgences for special occasions.

This recipe is not for a special occasion dinner, but rather a more casual affair, something with friends and family and people that you love. Because what is comfort food for, if not for sharing with the people that you love?

This recipe is low calorie, whole grain, totally healthy and absolutely delicious. Adapted from Ellie Krieger. Warm your leftovers in a toaster oven to ensure crispy results. And most of all, enjoy!