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Friday, September 14, 2012

Quinoa. Gesundheit.

A few years ago I began strictly limiting the kind of meat that I ate. A story that I could tell perhaps in another post, I decided to only eat meat that was raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. I made this decision for both health and humanitarian reasons. When I decided to limit the kind of meat I was eating, I also decided to cut back on the amount of meat that I was eating. So, gone are the two-steak-dinner nights, and the chicken for every meal days. But since meat is a good source of protein, I knew I needed to find some substitutes, even though we don't really need as much protein as we think we do (many of us get more than our fair share in a day...and unless we're professional athletes, we're going to be just fine). Even so, I began to search for substitutes, and I quickly found one that would become a favorite.

Quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah), is a grain-like crop that is grown primarily for its edible seeds. Cultivated by the Incas over 5,000 years ago, quoinoa is now considered a superfood, packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. You can prepare quinoa in myriad ways, which is part of its appeal (seriously, Google: quinoa recipes). I have used quinoa as a dip, a rice substitute, in salads, and have even eaten it as a dessert. It's like the duct tape of food. When cooked, quinoa is light, fluffy with a slight crunch to it, and a subtle flavor that compliments nearly anything you put in it or next to it on the plate. And it's good for you. Quinoa has 6 grams of protein per serving, with all nine of the essential amino acids that help build muscle! Quinoa is also loaded with the vital nutrient magnesium, and also manganese and copper which act as antioxidants in the body. And for those of you looking to add some fiber to your diet (which you should always be doing), look no further than quinoa (3 grams per serving - not enough to have you running for the restrooms, but just enough to give your body what it needs).

I typically make a large bowl of quinoa with veggies and black beans and then eat it all week with pretzels or pita chips as a dip. It's a great snack idea as you can eat it warm or cold. Here is my recipe for a quick and easy dip:

  • Black beans (as much as you would like)
  • Half a bell pepper (I prefer the red because of the extra vitamin C)
  • 3/4 tsp of cumin
  • 3/4 tbsp of oregano (fresh if available, I use dried because it's quicker, easier, and cheaper)
  • A few pinches of salt (to taste, but don't overdo it on the salt)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Any other veggies you'd like to add - it's really up to you!
Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes). Add the other ingredients and serve.

You could also use this same recipe as a rice substitute for tacos, but add some cilantro!

So grab a bag of quinoa from Trader Joe's, or even from Wal-Mart (though it's actually cheaper at Trader Joe's), and cook up a snack or meal using this ancient seed. If you try it, let me know. Or if you have other great recipes using quinoa, share them down in the comment section.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trust Fund Football...and Vitamins

When we were younger we used to buy cheap seat tickets to Denver Broncos games outside the stadium and then once we were inside we'd try to move down closer to the field. That was how we rolled. It was a great way to get quality seats at the price of the cheap seats. But it didn't come without labor, stress, worry, and even getting the boot at times.
A couple of us trust fund kids heading to the game!
(any resemblance to actual trust fund kids is purely coincidental.)

We'd grab our cheap seats, get acclimated to the high altitude up in the "nose bleeds," and then glance around the stadium's lower deck for a group of unoccupied seats. After about ten minutes into the game we'd make our move. We'd stealthily sneak past the usher by creating a diversion and then settle into our new seats. It was risky because we knew that the proper owners may just be held up outside the stadium at their favorite tailgating site, or maybe stuck in traffic, or perhaps they were snagging a footlong at the concessions stand (in which case I might have had to inform them of the dubious contents within one of those footlongs, but I digress), but we didn't care. We risked it anyway for the view. Every time a group of fans strolled towards our aisle, a little nervous, we planned our escape. If the true owners made it in that day, we played dumb, blamed each other, and retreated back to the friendly but vertigo inducing cheap seats. But...if the true owners never showed, we pretended to be young, bank rolled trust fund kids with too much money and time on our hands, enjoying our seats and the game!

Yeah...taking a daily vitamin is just like that (I know you were beginning to wonder where I was going with this...). The best way to enjoy great seats at a Broncos game is probably to actually purchase them (though I might argue with myself on this point on certain levels...but for the sake of the metaphor, I will concede the point). It's less like cheating and more like the real thing. And it's the same with getting your vitamins. The best way to get vitamins is in food, the natural way. Eating fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods provides the body with the daily essentials the way we were intended to get them. It's less like cheating and more like the real thing.

The problem arises when we don't always get these essentials. What then? Studies show that less than 1% of us get the recommended daily vitamins our bodies crave. Well in that case, go ahead and sneak down to the lower level and hijack someone else's seat (is this metaphor still working?) by taking a multivitamin in pill form. Multivitamins are not the best way to get vitamins, but they offer a power packed punch of what we need and may not be getting. Remember, they are called "suplemental vitamins" for a reason. They are meant to supplement our regular diet.

I take a multi-vitamin each day...just to cover my bases. And I do it the way that Dr. Oz recommends: half in the morning and half at night, and with food (food helps the body absorb the vitamins better than an empty stomach). I prefer the generic "One A Day," or "Centrum" vitamins because...you guessed it, they are the cheapest. Though I wouldn't encourage you to rely on the multi-vitamin alone (it causes stress, worry, and sometimes you get booted from the nice seats), they are good to have to supplement your diet, especially since most of us don't get enough. So keep taking them, or begin taking them...Dr. Oz style. But also search for foods high in vitamins that your body needs and get them the natural way. You'll feel much more like some spoiled, trust fund kid with too much money and time on your hands. (I think I've now taken that metaphor as far as it goes...my apologies.)          

                                                       

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Do Veggies Taste So Bad!?

"Why!? Why are they so bad!?"
Let's face it, steamed veggies taste a bit like warmed-up construction paper. Not quite the worst thing you've ever tasted...but it's nothing to post about ton Facebook. Most of us just slap some steamed (or microwaved) veggies on our dinner plates and call it good...because it is good for our bodies. But then we try to subdue our pent up, volcanic frustration at how not good it actually tastes. Which may inevitably lead lashing out at small children or animals. And no one wants that.

I have four kids. So much of what I strive for is the quickest, most stress-free, and least expensive way to do something...for obvious reasons (or less obvious if you don't have kids). My life is already filled with chaos and my wallet already leaks like a hose in the suburbs left on all night. So cheap and easy is often best. I don't have a ton of time or money to throw at veggies to make them taste a whole lot better. But neither I nor my kids enjoy them as they are...and we can't take it anymore! Well a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled onto a solution that is quick, easy, cheap, and kid friendly (and that I also like it)!

Drumroll please... When making veggies, add some tomato or spaghetti/pasta sauce and a bit of shredded cheese. The tomato sauce adds a burst of flavor that should alleviate your volcanic anger at bland veggies. Plus, tomato and spaghetti sauces are made mostly of tomatoes and tomato puree. So in most cases it adds to the nutrion value as well. Remember: tomatoes contain lycopene and other vitamins that does your body good. Just be sure to read the label on whichever sauce you choose (a future post to come on reading labels). Note especially the sugar and sodium contents and make sure they aren't too high. Or, if you don't have four kids...make your own tomato sauce with fresh ingredients!

No Franken-Cheese!
The cheese also adds to the taste and makes the veggies appear more familiar to kids. Just be sure not to use too much (think of it as a garnish or condiment...not the main course), and to use real cheese...not processed "Franken-Cheese." Remember: real cheese hardens after being warmed and then cooling off. There is no such thing as real "nacho cheese" that stays gooey forever. These "nacho" cheeses are filled with enzymes and other un-natural ingredients to keep them gooey. Steer clear.

Let me know how it goes if you try it! And until you do try it...do us all a favor and stay away from small children and animals.

Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Reasons I Love Chipotle Mexican Grill

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good Chipotle burrito. They know about my daily cravings for a tortilla wrapped piece of heaven. Quite honestly, I can't get enough.

So I thought I would share the Top 10 reasons I love Chipotle...and why you might too.


  1. Their advertising - never lame. Always clever. Always cool.                              
  2. It tastes awesome. It is quite literally a gourmet burrito - for less than $7!
  3. Chipotle supports sustainable agriculture and purchases much of its food from local, family farms who use sustainable methods in raising animals and crops - I went and visited one actually. Back when I managed the Chipotle in Coon Rapids we all had to take a field trip to Iowa to see one of our largest providers of pork, Nyman Ranch. They had free range pigs, they rotated their crops each year, and they were involved in a project to restore native prairie land (I went and saw it!). Chipotle intentionally chose to purchase food from them because of these practices. (Did you know that you can actually ask your local Chipotle manager which farm your meat came from? It's written on the box that the meat came in. Although you may want to wait a few weeks to go into the Elk River Chipotle and ask...they're getting real sick of me.)
  4. Free Range Chicken and Pork - this is both a health and humanitarian plus. The chickens and pigs that Chipotle uses are not couped up in pens like on industrial farms (which is not only cruel, but also leads to a less healthy meat). They roam free...like chickens and pigs are meant to. This actually makes the meat tast better, too! (Yes, I realize the irony of raising the animals humanely only to later kill them for food. This is something that still causes dissonance for me.)
  5. No growth hormones or antibiotics - The meat from Chipotle is chemical free! This is more natural for the animals (some cases of growth hormones being pumped into chickens actually make the chickens too large to simply walk around on their own. It's weird. It produces a bigger pay day for the farmers, but is awful for the chickens. And don't forget, whatever the chicken ingests, so do you if you eat that chicken meat.) So eat up professional athletes (not that you care about ingesting chemicals, anyhow...)! Too soon?
  6. I can see the kitchen that my food is being prepared in! I can watch what the chefs are doing and how they are preparing the food. No tricks. No dubious additives being mixed in behind closed doors. No dudes walking around with their feet in my lettuce...ahem...Burger King. 
  7. No microwaves - no microwaves means that nothing is being re-heated. It's all cooked fresh and ready to eat. And none of those weird red heating lamps, either. 
  8. No can openers - their veggies don't come in cans, they come from the fields directly to the store. 
  9. Their brown napkins - the napkins are brown because they are not dyed white (and they are made from recycled material). I'm cool with that. Thanks, Chipotle for not making me wipe my grill with dye. 
  10. White cheese - do you know what makes cheese orange? Not milk. Milk is white. What makes cheese orange is more dye. I'll take the naturally white cheese please. 
  11. BONUS: Did you know that because of Chipotle's large demand for Daisy Sour Cream, Daisy now makes sour cream without RBGH (growth hormone often used in cows that ends up in milk and then in the sour cream that you ingest)? Chipotle has become quite a power player in the industry and continues to demand that food is done right. Daisy listened. As Chipotle continues to grow, the need for healthier farming and food production will also increase. When Chipotle first started, they couldn't find enough cattle ranchers who met their naturally raised standards - but since Chipotle's demand has increased, they now source 100% of their beef from ranchers who meet the standard! Remember, for years restaurants like McD's and Burger King (and others) largely dictated how ranchers would raise cattle. Chipotle has spawned a revolution! And farmers have begun to change their ways. Viva la revolution!
An Actual Chipotle Cow

Monday, August 27, 2012

Eating Salads Can Ruin Your Health!

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette
1,430 Calories!
Salads are healthy, right? A great option for any meal, right? (even though we'd probably give you a second look if you ordered one for breakfast). Salads have leafy greens, veggies, and often times some type of added protein, like chicken. So far so good, right? But what if I told you that I once came across a salad that weighed in at over 1,500 calories! Yes...1,500. Two zeros. Not one. 1,500 calories...for a salad. And what if I told you that five of six unhealthiest salads in America (according to Yahoo Health) topped the 1000 calories barrier? It might be enough to quit eating salads.

So what happened to our healthy salad? Well, it was hijacked by a throng of calorie monger thugs who filled it with all sorts of unhealthy ingredients...all but poisoning our once nourishing dish. The main culprits? Ingredients such as cheese, deep fried croutons, and enough high-calorie salad dressing to drown a fish. Toss enough of these together into a bowl and it doesn't really matter how much spinach, tomatoes, or cucumbers you add...it won't be enough to undo the damage.

When choosing a salad at a restaurant be sure to explore the ingredients. Ask the server to leave the croutons off and ditch large amounts of cheese (or cheese altogether if you're up for it). If there is a protein added make sure that it isn't deep fried protein, but grilled. And probably most importantly, take it easy on the dressing. If you are really hard core about eating healthy and/or losing weight, just ask the server for some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a lemon slice/lemon juice and then add these to your salad to taste. If you are not as hard core, simply stay closer to the vinaigrette dressings and the "Light" dressing and don't overdo it. A few tablespoons is all you really need. When making salads at home, toss your salad ingredients into a large zip-lock baggie with your salad dressing (a few tablespoons) and shake it up. This will help coat ALL the leaves with the dressing, ensuring a flavor burst with each bite and helping you to avoid the temptation to soak the veggies with more.

Another way to give your salad a boost is to stick with dark leafy greens as opposed to the whiter/lighter lettuce. Ice burg lettuce won't hurt you, but it doesn't really help you either. Mostly water, ice burg lettuce has little nutritional value at all. Instead, opt for the spinach, romaine, kale, or other dark leafy greens. (Do this at places like Subway, too, which is notorious for its ubiquitous ice burg lettuce, but which also has a fresh spinach option, though less publicized).

A lot of restaurants refuse to disclose their nutritional stats, so be careful. The "Eat This, Not That!" app for the iPhone might be worth the download! (the books are great, too! and they have a "For Kids" version!)

It's time we take back the salad! Who's with me?


Friday, August 24, 2012

Add a Blast to Any Smoothie

Well done, my man. Well done.
So over the last year or so I have become quite the smoothie connoisseur. And I don't mean just by buying pre-made smoothies mixes from the grocery store or from the guy selling "SMOOTHIE BOD-X" products (or whatever they call those products). In fact, as a connoisseur, I consider buying pre-packaged products cheating. It's like hiring someone else to win that colossal stuffed Dora doll at the Minnesota State Fair and then giving it to my daughter, as if I won it on my own. We all know it's not the same. I, myself, want to spend the $42 to toss that ball (made from moon rubber...which scientists have shown to be 7X's more bouncy than normal rubber) into that bamboo basket which is actually made from a trampoline powered by rocket fuel to reject your moon ball! And then I want to be the one to carry that Dora doll, the size of a small NY city sky scraper, around the Fair all day, knocking over little children and taking up three seats on every ride.

So by connoisseur, I guess I mean that I have experimented over the last year with smoothie recipes made from natural fruits and veggies, and I have discovered some great ideas for smoothie making. (In all seriousness, those pre-packaged smoothie mixes or the "SMOOTHIE BOD-X" products are actually great ideas and better than nothing. They are quick and easy and filled with some smoothie essentials. But they also cost a lot more than just making your own. A lot more.)

Here are two of the things that I have learned about smoothie making:


  1. If you want to add a blast of nutrition to every smoothie, drop in a handful of fresh spinach. We all should be eating "greens" at every meal anyhow, so this is a good way to get some in while drinking a smoothie. Spinach is awesome for you, and you really can't even taste it in the smoothie - trust me. If you have the extra coin, buy organic baby spinach, since spinach is on the dirty dozen list and the baby spinach contains the most nutrients. But, if you are like me and trying to save some coin, just buy pre-washed (or wash it yourself using this homemade recipe) spinach of any type (not necessarily the baby spinach). I like to buy mine from either Wal-Mart or Costco. To add some greens to your lunch, make a spinach salad, with the same spinach, with some fruit and homemade vinaigrette. 
  2. If you want to sweeten up any smoothie, don't add sugar, add an apple. Apples are packed with fiber (and other vitamins) and are a natural sweetener. They make a great addition to any smoothie. If an entire apple makes your drink too much to drink down in one sitting, use a half an apple. 
So live dangerously and experiment with your own smoothie recipes. Toss in some fruits and veggies and blend away. Add some spinach for a nutrition blast, and an apple to sweeten the deal. You could also add some honey or agave nectar as a sweetener. And when tossing the moon ball at the Fair, aim low and let the ball bounce up, keeping it in the basket. You might just save a few bucks and impress your daughter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Frequent Feeder

As you may have guessed...I love food. I could probably eat all day long as I also really enjoy the eating experience. I like the tastes, the colors, the friends and conversation that often comes with eating. One of my achilles heals, in fact, is that I eat when I'm bored...because it somehow makes things more interesting. (Don't do this, by the way.)

No, bud...this is not what I mean.
So you may not be surprised to hear that I am what people refer to as a "Frequent Feeder." I typically eat...all day. Well, actually I eat six times a day. Yes, six times. Now I don't eat six large meals a day. I'm not Michael Phelps. Most of my meals are smaller meals, or snacks. So I wanted to share with you when I eat, and why I do it this way.

7:00 - Breakfast (I typically have a very large breakfast - especially if I have just worked out at the gym. This is when we "break our fast," so I like to celebrate it by making it a feast. Actually, it's just a good way to kick-start the metabolism and fuel up the body for the day. If you are not a big fan of breakfast, try having something small to eat right after waking up. Then follow it up with a larger snack about an hour later. This will help you to start waking up hungry, which is a good thing. Skipping breakfast entirely isn't ideal.)

10:30 - Snack (Sometimes I'm not always hungry at this point in the day, after my large breakfast celebration, but I try to put back something...especially with protein. For this snack I might drop a handful of almonds and maybe a slice of fruit. Just something to keep my metabolism fired up.)

12:30 - Lunch (Chipotle today at noon, anyone?)

3:30 - Snack (Something light, but which contains protein. Maybe an apple with some peanut-butter. You can never really go wrong with fruit/veggies and peanut-butter. If you have an extra dime to drop, use almond butter.)

6:00 - Dinner (I try to eat a smaller dinner to signal to my body that it is time to start winding down. I don't need as much fuel later in the day.)

8:30 - Bedtime snack (I keep this one really light. A small bowl of cereal is my favorite bedtime snack. Whatever you do, don't overeat at this meal. Remember, your body doesn't need a lot of fuel at this point. Plus, it gives you crazy dreams...and not the fun kind.)

Eating frequently helps you not to overeat at your next meal, too. Typically when we wait long periods before our next fuel-up, we show up to it feeling starved. So our bodies tell us to eat more in order to avoid feeling like this. But eating regularly signals to the body that it will get fed again in a bit, so to chill out with the cravings.

I also like how eating regularly keeps the metabolism fired up. Your body will continue to burn fat instead of store it up (which is what tends to happen when you starve the body for long periods of time).

The key, though, is to eat good foods at each meal and to decrease the size of each meal. We, Americans, already struggle with gargantuan sized portions...so take it easy, Kobayashi, and eat smaller meals with healthier foods.

What is your eating schedule like? Share with us in the comment section below!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank you, McDonald's French Fry Guy!



I love(d) French fries. Back when I used to eat at McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants, the French fries were the darling of my meal. I would often ask the pimply faced teenage kid at the register to wait until a new batch of fries were made to serve me up some golden goodness because who wants old fries, right?

Actual Size
But alas, just like the boiled meat from Taco Bell, the dinosaur shaped “chicken” from McD’s, and the Super Big Gulps from 7-11 that were large enough to drown a small deer in, I have had to say “goodbye” to this old friend.

After a few months in a French-fry-less stooper, in which I walked around like an NFL player with a concussion (sorry, too soon?), I discovered an alternative. (Cue the hallelujah chorus!) Homemade Sweet Potato Fries!

Here is why the Sweet Potato is worth a look:
·      They are packed with antioxidants
·      These fibrous vitamin (C, iron, calcium) bombs are great for digestion
·      They are high in folate
·      They come loaded with potassium which can aid in muscle cramping and prevent injuries
·      You can grow them yourself!

While reading Tony Gonzalez’s All-Pro Diet book, I stumbled upon a recipe for making sweet potato fries, which brought me out of my stooper. Tony Gonzalez, remember, is the All-Pro NFL Tight End who decided to become a vegan and shares his secrets in his book. Here is the recipe:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick slices
2 tablespoons of oil (Tony recommends macadamia nut oil which requires a bank loan for most of us to continually purchase, so I use olive oil)
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Pinch of ground red pepper (or another of your favorite seasoning…just don’t overdo it on the sodium)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. Sprinkle the potato slices with oil and then toss them in the mix of seasonings
3. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown and soft on the inside (I tend to bake mine for longer since I like them crispy)

I still love fries…just a different kind these days. And I still check on that pimply-faced teenager every now and again. He quit McDonald’s and got a job working at Chipotle Mexican Grill. He worked his way up to become General Manager, got married, had a couple of kids and lives in the country. A happy ending for both of us. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I love Seinfeld! (the OTHER Seinfeld!)

I'm not a fan of the Seinfeld TV show. Not my thing. I don't get it and I rarely laugh. It's probably just me, but I'd much rather watch 30 Rock...or read a Philosophy book.

But, guess what. I am a fan of his wife's book Deceptively Delicious! It's a cook book that helps you get your little ones to eat more fruits and veggies (and they don't even know it!). Who doesn't love that, right?

Jessica Seinfeld (the more talented of the Seinfelds), sneaks fruits and veggies into recipes by creating purees using a steamer and a blender. It's pretty easy. For example, my kids LOVE Macaroni and Cheese. But have you ever looked at the ingredients on a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese? Not much in that box is nutritious. And the cheese isn't usually even real cheese (it's what we in the biz call "Franken-Cheese"...whatever "the biz" means). So one way to add some veggies to your Mac and Cheese is to steam a head of cauliflower for several minutes and then blend it all up (using the water from the steamer). Once it is blended, you can either add some of it to the Mac and Cheese right away, or you can freeze it and add some of it later. Why cauliflower? Because the kids won't even notice it as cauliflower is white and blends right in! Genius. You should, however, introduce the new taste gradually, as too much will tip the kids off as kids have the nose of a bloodhound and the taste buds of a...well, something that has strong taste buds.

Jessica has several other recipes as well, that are all pretty good. And once you get the hang of things, you can just start creating your own! There is some prep time involved, but how about adding some carrot puree to your spaghetti sauce? Or maybe some sweet potato puree into your pancakes or waffles?

And if you think that Jessica has made enough money already (via her moderately funny husband) and would rather not throw more her way...check out The Sneaky Chef instead. Some reviews suggest tastier recipes in there, but both look great to me!

Has anyone out there tried either of these books? Or have you perhaps done fruit and veggie puree on you own? Tell us about it in the comment section below!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taste the Rainbow


(Is that copyright infringement? Uh...sorry, Skittles. I’m small time; you don’t want to hassle with me.)

Fruits and veggies are awesome for you. There is really no way around it. They are all natural (or at least they should be – steer clear of the Applenana…that was a college science experiment gone horribly wrong), and they contain so many vitamins and nutrients as well as belly filing fiber (an apple alone has nearly 4.5 grams of fiber). Not sure how many servings you should eat? Click here for a serving calculator provided by the CDC.

At my house, we eat tons for blueberries, bananas, apples, carrots, and frozen green beans and peas. While it’s tricky to get little ones to swoon over veggies; smoothies do a great job of hiding the taste, so might adding a bit of tomato sauce over fresh cooked veggies. Or, you could check back tomorrow for my Friday blog and I’ll tell you about someone who has discovered another great way to disguise veggies for youngsters (hint: she has a very famous husband).

But the bottom line is this: taste…errr…eat the rainbow. It’s best to try to gobble down a variety of different fruits and veggies, absorbing the range of vitamins and minerals offered. The best way to vary your servings is to think about eating all sorts of different colors.

Here are a few ideas for what fruits and veggies to look for from each color:

Red:
Red apples
Beets
Red grapes
Red peppers (these vitamin C bombs contain twice as much C as the green ones)
Raspberries
Strawberries
Watermelon (my favorite. I’m still convinced that I could devour an entire large watermelon in one sitting. I’ll let you know if I try)

Orange/Yellow:
Oranges
Lemons (try substituting water with lemons for your regular lunch drink)
Peaches
Sweet potatoes (great for making sweet potato fries!)
Pineapple (great for smoothies!)
Carrots (great for seeing in the dark…at least that’s what I tell my kids.)
Mangoes
Yellow tomatoes

Green:
Avocados
Broccoli (toss a few florets into your smoothie…but not too many…)
Green grapes
Peas (We LOVE frozen peas with dinner! Cover them with a bit of tomato sauce for the kiddos!)
Limes (You could do lime water, too.)
Green peppers
Asparagus (makes for interesting bathroom trips later…)
Kiwi

Blue/Purple:
Blueberries
Blackberries
Figs
Purple grapes
Raisins
Plums
Eggplant
Prunes (also makes for interesting bathroom trips later...but in a different way...)

White:
Bananas
Cauliflower
Onions
Mushrooms (We dice these and add them to our spaghetti! Our kids never even know!)
Garlic
Potatoes
Jicama
And…uh….bananas.

So go on…taste the rainbow! Copy right infringements be darned!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Eating Smart On The Road

Taming the Wild Beast in Guatemala City

So first things first…I am sorry for the delay in posting. I know I promised to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday…and I realize that I have left you hanging for two days now. But I do have an excuse – which makes it better, right? I have been traveling. First to Guatemala, and then on a family vacation up to Door County, WI – both incredibly amazing trips. I tried to drag myself to the computer to post, but getting off the grid felt so good that I thought I’d just post when I got back into the grove. I know you understand.

The trips did get me thinking, though; about how easy it can be to eat smart when I am at home and how difficult it can be to eat smart when I am on the road traveling (which I do a fair amount).

At home I am surrounded by all my stand bys – my intrepid smoothie maker (aka: the blender), granola bars, my stash of almonds, fresh fruit and veggies, and of course my evening bowl of cereal. But on the open road it’s much easier to find stand bys of the past – McDonald’s, fried food, donuts, and of course the infamous and mysterious gas station hot-dog that incessantly rolls back and forth on those steel rods, begging to be chosen from amongst his equally mysterious and sweaty friends.

So over the years, I have developed a plan for eating when I travel, and I thought maybe I’d share are few tips from it with you.

1.     Fiber supplements – this is a relatively new gem I discovered. As our diets change, so does our digestion. Changing diets, especially away from a healthy norm, can lead to what my Mom calls “bathroom problems.” Indeed, Mom. Indeed. So to help keep things moving, take a fiber supplement at each meal. Not a laxative. A fiber supplement. (There is a difference, trust me.) Fiber supplements offer anywhere from 3-5 grams of fiber per serving – great for fiber starved travel times (and not “laxative” enough to keep you tethered to a toilet).
      2.     Airplane Tomato Juice – this is an airplane gold mine…if you can tolerate the taste. If you can’t tolerate the taste, just plug your nose and chug it down anyway! It’s well worth your while to skip the free soda drink, or even the sugary orange or apple juice and instead opt for the tomato juice. It’s tough to get veggies into a diet when traveling and this is an easy way to do so. So drink down some cancer-preventing lycopene and vitamins and minerals! It’ll be over before you know it – and be sure to grab a water for a chaser.
      3.     Can of V8 juice – toss a few of these bad boys into your bag if you are on a road trip, or pick some up at your destination if you are flying. They are a cheap (check Wal-Mart) and an easy way to get some veggies in your tummy. So, again, close your eyes, plug your nose, and “bottoms up!”
4.     Pack your own snacks – make up a few small baggies of some healthy goodies and bring them with you instead of buying something from a gas station or airport store. Pack some almonds, pistachios, dried fruit, dark chocolate, granola bars or even some sandwiches. Your stomach and waistline with thank you later. Plus, you’ll avoid the price gouging at most airport stores and gas stations and be able to afford the overpriced flowers to bring to your loved one instead.
5.     Multi-Vitamins – Sure, you can do the Flintstones ones. But steer clear of the “gummie” ones that often contain high fructose corn syrup. Break it in two and take half with your breakfast and the other half with your dinner to supplement what you might be missing while on the road. And hey, don’t stop once you return home. Vitamins can be a boost for you in the friendly confines as well! I opt for a generic multi-vitamin – nothing flashy needed here.

What are some travel tips that you have for eating healthy? Share them in the comments below. 



Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Thoughts on Changing Your Eating Habits


Change is difficult. I tried to change my hairstyle once when I was in my early 20’s, but was met with too many, “Hey, what’s up with your hair?” comments to hang in there. I bailed and went back to old ‘do, pretending that it was all some sort of a practical joke. (This made me feel better about the laughs I received as they no longer meant that people liked my hair about as much as they did Jar Jar Binks, but instead that my practical joke was a success!)

Even those of us who experience a bit of a rush when we encounter change, typically don’t do well to change too much, too fast. We are creatures of habit, of comfort. Especially the older we get. Whether it’s because we enjoy the taste of our sacred cows (or our sacred organic vegetarian soup), or because a different road appears crowded with shadowy creatures, sometimes we’d rather just sit tight.

Sometimes, too, change can feel like drinking from a fire hydrant. Perhaps we want to change, but the task can appear so daunting, and the journey so long, that maybe we just don’t feel like we have the energy. And maybe this is how a lot of us feel when thinking about changing our eating habits.

Perhaps the Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ chips and Long Johns just taste too good! Or we don’t even know where to begin. Or maybe we know that in just a few short days we will fail, anyhow, and revert back to our old ways and so we think, “What’s the use? Why bother?”

So to encourage you, I thought I would offer up a few thoughts to consider when changing your eating habits that might help along the way.

  1. Start small – I remember the time I tried to learn to speak Spanish…all in one day. I dropped a mint to buy my Rosetta Stone (all 6 levels), I was motivated, impassioned…and a bit na├»ve. Big changes cannot be made in a day. They take time. So relax and start small. Change one or two meals a day. Find a few new “good for you” foods that you like and ditch some crummy ones. See how it feels, and then build on it. After all,  “Cualquier cosa es posible!”
  2.  Have grace for yourself – Life is about failure. Get over it. Unless you are willing to fail, you will never do anything worth chatting about at parties. But think kindly of yourself and don’t berate yourself when you drop the ball (that never helps…ever…ever.)…but don’t give up either. Eugene Peterson said that Life is about a “long obedience in the same direction.” Though he wasn’t talking about eating habits, it still applies. If you want to change the way you eat…head in that direction each day. And eat some apples along the way!
  3. Cheat…every now and again – While some of you may be able to go Cold Turkey, the rest of us typically find it extremely difficult and often end up swimming in guilt after we cheat (or even binge). So take a few (just a few) times a month to indulge in an old favorite, like a Chili Cheese Burrito from Taco Bell. Or a chocolate cake covered with gummy worms with a Big Mac for the filling and your name written on top with French fries. Err…then again…maybe just go with the Chili Cheese Burrito. (Seriously, though, don’t overdo it, and don’t feel guilty about it.)
  4. Rethink food – Food is fuel. It’s important that we learn to eat to live, not live to eat. Certain foods are just better fuel then others. Find the ones you like, and fuel up! 

Any other tips for changing eating habits? Leave them in the comments below.

Change is good. But it isn’t always easy. And by the way, a few months after my “practical joke” ‘do…I got bored and decided to rock another new one. The masses loved it – and I’ve been rocking it for the last 12 years. Woot woot!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Paleo Diet. Worth a Look?


My brother, Chris, is a big fan and follower of the paleo diet, and has been eating according to its guidelines for almost a year now. Though I am not a proponent of the paleo diet (I lean more towards vegetarianism or a vegan diet), I do think it is a healthy way to eat and worth a look. Here is an intriguing post he wrote about how he discovered the diet, and why he follows it. Check it out!

Do any of you follow the Paleo Diet? How do you like it? Let us know in the comments below.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Chris Falletta, Ryan’s much cooler and smarter half-brother. All kidding aside, I’m also much better looking. Ok, all kidding aside, I’m honored that Ryan asked me to “guest blog” this week. I respect Ryan tremendously for the dedication and research he puts into how he feeds himself and his family. He and I have shared many long conversations about diet and food. We agree on quite a bit. I’m going to focus on, not only that, but what we DON’T agree on. I hope you enjoy.


As it usually happened…fueled and inspired by another discussion on food with Ryan, a little over a year ago, I was doing some internet research on how to eat for optimum health and wellness. That is when I stumbled upon this interesting concept called, The Paleo Diet…otherwise known as the “caveman diet”.


As I was just about to scroll past it, down to the next link Google had provided, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a read.


I read about this “crazy” idea where I could eat any and all naturally raised beef, poultry, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I could NOT, however eat grains, beans, rice, potatoes, dairy, sugar and processed foods. WHAT?!?! No grains? But aren’t whole grains good for you? I love my morning oatmeal and my lunch sandwich will be a little messy without bread. Why would anyone choose to eat this way?


As I read on and researched further, the answer that continued to appear…because THIS is how humans were designed to eat. We are designed to eat foods found naturally that could be “hunted or gathered” and eaten without being changed from its natural state. It is written in our DNA to eat this way, much like it is natural for a lion to eat fresh meat or for a deer to eat plants and grasses. You don’t usually see deer eating a freshly killed animal, or lions eating leaves…and you most CERTAINLY don’t see either of them enjoying a buttered piece of whole grain toast.


Former research biochemist and New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet, Robb Wolf says “The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.”


That is pretty powerful stuff. Since the paleo approved foods were foods I already ate and enjoyed, to try this out all I had to do was eliminate a few things. I substituted mixed fruit, or almonds with dried cranberries for breakfast instead of cereal, toast, bagels or oatmeal. I brought leftovers to work for lunch, which now consisted of a piece of meat and vegetables rather than grabbing a burger and fries. I snack on apples, cuties, veggies and nuts, rather than getting a candy bar or bag of chips from the vending machine. I can’t forget my smoothies, which is a schmorgesborg of almond milk, orange juice, fresh spinach, avocado, carrots, apples, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, protein powder, chia seeds and flax seed.


Let me tell you guys, I’m so glad I clicked on the paleo link instead of a link to some unhealthy fad like the atkins diet, the zone diet or even (cough cough) veganism. Within one week of this experiment the first thing I noticed was the meteoric rise of my energy levels. My ten plus year habit of coffee and caffeine pills in order to simply survive each day, became obsolete. The post lunch lull disappeared immediately. I didn’t feel sickly full and bloated after I ate, a feeling that we have just assumed is how we are supposed to feel after eating. For the first time ever, I felt GREAT! I was finally beginning to understand the concept of food as fuel. Before I had been simply filling my tank, but not necessarily fueling it, much like filling your gas tank with soda. It would be full, but it would NOT be fueled. Think about it.


After 2 months of this little experiment, I noticed another surprising gem...I had lost 25 lbs. and had only gone to the gym once in that span. In fact, on the paleo lifestyle, working out a lot is discouraged. Research has shown that living for hours at the gym, 4-5 days per week does more harm than good. What is recommended is infrequent, short bursts of intense energy, like you would see in Cross Fit. Get off the treadmill people, literally and figuratively.


Perhaps the favorite benefit that I have enjoyed, a little over one year into this, is the fact that I have not been sick once since I started. I usually would suffer through 5-6 bad colds a year…not anymore.


I don’t have to count calories or even worry about portion control as it is impossible to overeat this way. Think about it like this, can you eat 4-5 chicken breasts or 4-5 heads of broccoli at one sitting? Probably not, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to eat 4-5 slices of pizza at one sitting. It has to do with starches, blood sugar and too much science for this already too long blog.


But don’t take my word for it. I urge you to research it yourself. Google the following names of people considered the foremost experts on the paleo lifestyle: Art DeVany, Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.


Try it. Give it a month or two. You don’t have to jump in 100% from day one. Slowly get acclimated to eating and living the paleo lifestyle and allow yourself the opportunity to immediately compare and contrast how you feel eating this way versus eating your old way. You won’t be disappointed.


http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/


http://www.paleoplan.com/resources/paleo-plan-food-guide/

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Homemade Fruit and Veggie Wash

I know what you are thinking after reading my last post..."Ryan, what's the best way to clean fruits and veggies on the Dirty Dozen List?" (You may also be thinking, "Ryan, is it cool if they are dark socks?" But this post is about the former, not the latter.)

I will still eat fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list. I try to buy some of them (that I eat more frequently, like apples) organic, but our budget won't allow for me to purchase all of our fruits and veggies from organic farmers. So for the other ones, I simply make sure to wash them very thoroughly. And to do so, I use a homemade concoction, with all natural ingredients that has been shown to clean the fruits and veggies and rid them of many (though not all) of the harmful chemicals and germs found on fruits. Here is the recipe for my fruit spray:
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 1 cup of distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • the juice from half a lemon
That's it. Easy, right? Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Allow to settle (when you combine the baking soda and vinegar it will react like an 8th grade science project, so be careful and keep your eyes peeled) and then transfer to a spray bottle using a funnel or the hands of a surgeon. Apply generously to the fruit or veggie and allow to sit for five minutes. Scrub and rinse.

The "Fit" fruit and veggie cleaner also works well and can be found in most grocery stores (but will cost you more).

And to answer the other question...no, it doesn't matter if they are dark. Don't do it!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Dirty Dozen Fruits and Veggies...and of Life


Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces (no pun intended) a list of what they call the dirty dozen of fruits and veggies. This is a list of the top 10 dirtiest and most pesticide-ridden fruits and veggies on the market. Certain fruits and veggies are either grown using an unusually exorbitant amount of pesticides and chemicals, or they have a softer outer shell that absorbs harmful chemicals more so than others (the banana, for example, is not on the list as its tougher outer shell protects it. Eat more bananas.). The EWG suggests that we should still eat our fruits and veggies, regardless of harmful chemicals…but that we should limit our exposure to these dirty dozen, or buy them organic (don’t waste your money on the others). So, here is the list of the EWG’s dirty dozen of fruits and veggies (ones that I try to avoid or buy organic), and as a bonus, I have also included my Dirty Dozen For Life (things I try to avoid in life, in general, and why). Enjoy.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen of Fruits and Veggies

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported) (imported fruits can sometimes have lower regulations)
  7.  Grapes (esp. imported)
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic) (in this case, it’s the domestic ones you need to be careful of)
  12. Potatoes





Ryan’s Dirty Dozen of Life…And Why

  1. 1.     Movies with nudity – come on, we’re not 13 any more (not that it was all that healthy back then). I am a happily married man, and there is only one woman I want to see nude any more…my wife.
  2. McDonald’s – Where do I begin? How about by asking us to imagine what our food industry might look like if McDonald’s never gained traction.
  3. Talkative guys at the gym – I’m sure you’re a great guy. And I am happy for you that you are getting into shape. And that’s great about your new boat. It’s just that I need to be to the office in an hour and I still need to work my core.
  4.  Fighting/Violence – like I said, we’re not 13 any more. We can talk it out. Let me buy you a latte.
  5. Being Johnny Too Cool – Johnny Too Cool’s miss half of life playing the wall, trying to impress…well, anyone. Johnny Take A Chance is much more fun to hang with.
  6. Making little kids feel bad – Little kids are fragile creatures with hearts of gold. Don’t ruin it.
  7. Exaggerating – I NEVER exaggerate! Never! Ok, well, I try really hard not to, at least.
  8. Bragging – I know this is redundant…but we’re not 13 any more. Ok, ok. But bragging really just makes others feel bad, and makes the bragger sound kind of ridiculous. Right?
  9. Socks with Sandals – No Minnesota…you are NOT exempt from this. If it’s too cold to go without socks…wear shoes!
  10. Always being busy – Life is better enjoyed when we slow down to take notice. In the West, we have become addicted to being busy, and it’s not good. Allow for boredom, silence, and reflection…it’s like water to the soul.
  11. Facebook profile pictures taken with one hand while pretending not to be looking. At least have someone else take it for you! It would seem less weird.
  12. Not OK.
  13. Staying comfortable – the world is a jungle out there. So what. Find some buddies, and machete…and go explore. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Strawberry Colada Smoothie (aka The Luscious Stalwart, aka The Pink Smoothie)


So I’ve had some feedback on the avocado smoothie and it sounds like most of you weren’t afraid to try it. I like that. I like that about you. And it sounds like you all liked it very much. (I do realize that there are probably some of you out there who did try and didn’t like it…so thanks for not mentioning it in front of everyone in the comment section. I appreciate that.)

I wanted to offer up another of my favorite smoothie recipes. This one is especially kid friendly. My kids go crazy over this one…and I bet yours will too. At my house, we call it the “Pink Smoothie,” for, well, obvious reasons. (I tried to get my kids to call it “The Luscious Stalwart”…but it just didn’t stick. So “Pink Smoothie” it is!)


1.     1 - 1 ½ cup of milk (or almond/rice milk if you don’t do dairy)
2.     ½ pineapple (core included, but not the shell)
3.     ½ cup of Coconut Cream (to taste…I like a bit less than ½ cup, but Katie likes it sweeter, so ½ cup it is!) I use Goya Cream of Coconut. Cub Foods carries it in the ethnic foods section for a bit over $2. One can lasts about three batches.  
4.     A large handful of frozen (or fresh) strawberries (you can always do more or less depending on how pink you like it.)
5.     6 ice cubes
6.     BONUS: if you have an aversion to the color pink, or simply want to add some greens, toss in a handful of spinach. You won’t be able to taste it, but you probably won’t get away with calling it the “Pink Smoothie” any longer – it turns a bit greenish. No worries, though – just revert back to calling it “The Luscious Stalwart!” It will catch on!

Pineapples come loaded with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. Plus, like so many fruits and veggies they are packed with fiber but low in fat and cholesterol. Bonus: Whenever I eat a Pineapple, I feel like I’m sitting on a beach somewhere near the equator, ankle deep in clear blue water with palm trees offering me their shade. Exotic. (Sheesh….I need to get out of Minnesota more often…)

Strawberries come with as much vitamin C as oranges do (some even claim that this little red powerhouse contains more!), plus they taste amazing!
 
And as for the spinach…well, it helps your muscles get bigger. Right?



If you try the “Pink Smoothie”…err, “The Luscious Stalwart” let us know how it goes in the comment section. Especially tell us how your kids liked it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I Love The Egg…And Why You Should Too!


Yes. You heard me. I love the egg. And I know what you are going to say. “Ryan, eggs are unhealthy and will raise your cholesterol, right?"

To which I would reply, “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but that way of thinking is ‘old school’ (and not the cool kind of ‘old school’…but the lame kind).”

Sure, eggs were once thought of as unhealthy and dangerous for your cholesterol, hence all of the “egg white” products that have saturated the market.

But nutritionists and doctors alike have changed their tune on the protein packed chicken dropping. And what if I told you that even Mother Teresa endorsed the egg – would you trust her? Well, fine. Obviously I don’t have Mother Teresa on record endorsing the egg. But I have the modern equivalent…Dr. Oz! Yes! Dr. Oz loves the egg, too! And he was on Oprah!

Here’s what he has to say on his website about the egg:

     “Eggs are protein powerhouses that provide 13% of your daily protein and only 4% of your daily calories. These excellent, inexpensive protein sources fight frailty. Rich in choline, they also reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Cook up a week’s worth in advance and take them with you on the go. If you’re not a fan of hard-boiled eggs, eat one a day scrambled, poached or any other way you like it.”

(Notice he said “inexpensive!” Woot woot!)

Living in Minnesota, it’s easy to find farm fresh eggs from free-range (and humanely raised chickens). I even used to visit the chickens that gave me their eggs…you know, just to thank them and give them pep talks (it greases the wheels). I would encourage you to do the same. Eggs from free-range chicks are much healthier for you and allow you to sleep soundly at night because you know those chicks are being treated right.

I eat mine scrambled each morning. I toss some chopped oregano leaves into a skillet on medium heat along with some diced bell peppers (the red ones have more Vitamin C than the green ones…but any color tastes great!). Once the eggs are good and cooked (remember, too, that like meat, eggs continue to cook even when removed from the heat source, so don’t overdo it), I toss them into a bowl with salsa, and skip cheese by adding an avocado (read my avocado smoothie post to see why I’m a fan of the avo).

So give the egg a second chance. (And don’t be afraid to eat the egg for meals other than breakfast by adding them to sandwiches, salads, soups, or even tacos!). You won’t regret it!

(Dr. Oz in no way endorses anything else written on this blog. But that’s only because he has not heard of it yet. If he had…he’d be all over it!)

How do you like your eggs? Tell us in the comments below.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

3 Foods to Eat Every Day

Hey, High School is tough.
  1. The Long John - basically a long chocolate donut with an icing filling
  2. Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ Chips
  3. Chili Cheese Burritos - from Taco Bell... 
...went my old list of three foods to eat every day. No joke. I'm not sure how I made it through high school. And no, I'm not talking about my questionable fashion statements. I mean, how I made it through the day? How I was able to think straight on such a diet? Or play sports? They should have given me an award. As a matter of fact...they still should. I should get an award for being as successful as I was given the fuel I consumed. Who eats a Long John and a glass of milk for breakfast...for several years...and stays awake and alert enough to learn anything? Me. I had sat in learning classes for learned important things to me in high school. (What? English was my 1st hour class.)

Now my list goes like this:
This is just a random image.
Any resemblance is purely coincidental.
  1. Almonds - I keep a stash of these bad boys near my desk. One handful each afternoon - a quick easy snack  that comes packed with heart healthy B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium. Plus, they help stave off hunger until your next meal time. Check out Aldi, once again, for a steal on almonds. 
  2. Blueberries - these antioxidant rich little guys also contain vitamin C. I like to buy frozen blueberries (which are frozen at peak freshness) and toss some into my morning smoothie, bowl of oatmeal or into a batch of pancakes - kids love them. Buy frozen blueberries in bulk to save some cash money.
  3. Black Beans - More B vitamins here which boost your heart health. You can also find protein, calcium, iron and fiber in black beans. If I am honest...I don't get black beans into my diet every day. But I look for inexpensive canned soups that contain black beans (and low amounts of sodium), or I'll buy a can of black beans and add them to a dip, or to any hot dish...and you know how Minnesotans love the hot dish. If you have some Bear Grylls in you, you could always grow your own black beans. By the way, go easy on introducing beans into your daily diet...for obvious reasons. After a while, though, you should be fine. 
I am going to go make a few phone calls and get someone on that award of mine. I think we should come up with a name for it first, though. Leave some Award Name ideas in the comment section below. The winning submission will get a mention in my next post...which is like winning your own award. Trust me, it is. You will feel proud.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thank You, Flight Attendant Friend for Your Delectable Green Tea!


A couple of years ago I flew on a China Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Taipei. It was a long flight, so after a few mediocre airplane movies (this was pre-TV-in-the-back-of-the-seat-in-front-of-you, so I had to watch a miniature TV set that hung in the corner just about the restroom) I decided to catch some shut-eye. I found an entire 5-seat row to stretch out in and built my nest. A few pillows and one blanket later, and I began to drift off.
That is, until I met her.
My eyes had just closed when she abruptly shook me back awake with the words, “Would you like some tea?” This must be a dream, I insisted to myself. This can’t possibly be a flight attendant walking down the aisles with a pot of hot green tea, coming to shake me awake and ask me if I would like some. Not possible. Not as I have quite obviously cocooned myself in a blanket looking to cash out for the night.
But as I cracked open one of my eyelids…I saw her smiling face and pot of tea. What could I do?
“Sure,” I replied, masking my frustration. And I took her shot-glass-sized cup of green elixir. (At least they could have offered me the adult size.)  I quickly drank it down and crawled back into my den.
What happened next, I can’t really explain, except to say that my Green Tea friend returned five more times that night to interrupt my slumber. It was as if I had an illness, and her teapot held the remedy, and she would not let me rest until she cured me.
But after cup number two…I didn’t really mind her interruptions. In fact, with every footstep I heard that night passing my row, I anxiously crawled out from my dizzying coma to see if it was her. She had me hooked.
And nine years later, I have not stopped drinking green tea. I wish I could thank my flight attendant friend. Thank her for getting me addicted to one of the most healthy libations known to humans.  
The health benefits of green tea are well documented. Scientists have discovered that green tea comes charged with antioxidants called catechins which can repair your ailing immune system and help in the prevention of certain cancers (grapes, berries, red wine and dark chocolate also contain such powerful antioxidants). Scientists have also recently suggested that green tea helps stave off dementia, and fights bad breath. Who doesn’t love that? I’ll take more years of cognitive clarity and some fresh breath, please!
Plus, drinking a glass of (any) warm liquid tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full – so try a glass at your next snack time or the next time you think you are hungry but don’t necessarily need to eat.
So brew up some green tea for your health! You can add honey or some raw cane sugar to make it sweeter, or you can do like my Grandma does and add some cinnamon (Nice work, Grandma. Nice work.). You could even add some green tea brew to any smoothie if you like!
Here’s to you, Green Tea Flight Attendant! We salute you.