Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Getting Started

hi kids!

i was teaching at a whole foods market the other night when someone asked me the question i have been asked thousands of times over the years i have been doing what i do...'how do i get started with all this?' so i thought i would tell you what i think...which is what i do here on this blog, right?

getting started has such intimidating undertones, but it doesn't have to be that way. people find vegetarianism, veganism, macrobiotics to be terms that are all about what you 'can't eat' anymore. if that's the way you think about making a life change, then you will find it daunting and grim. changing your life, your food is about taking on a new adventure, a new way of looking at life and the world around you. if you look at it that way, then it becomes exciting, with new experiences and possibilities at every turn.

once you have your attitude adjusted, then it's time to take on the practical task of changing your life. should you clean out the cupboards and the fridge; dump all the food you know and re-stock with unfamiliar items and hope for the best? if you want to fail, this is the perfect way to go. in two weeks, you'll be standing in the kitchen, wondering what the heck to make for dinner and think, 'screw this...' and you will slip back into your old ways because you know them; they are comfortable.

no one likes change. it can be tough to take. so here is my recipe for success in getting started with health eating...a recipe that will guide you through life.

take it gently, slowly and a little at a time. if you never, ever eat vegetables, then how successful do you think you'll be if you toss all the food you love and stock the fridge with broccoli and cauliflower? if veggies are not your thing, you need to fall in love with them a little at a time. try a new veggie each week. you'll find so many recipes for preparation, that you will never be at a loss to know what to do with them. you'll discover new flavors, new seasonings, new textures, new cooking techniques and you just might find yourself wondering why it took you so long to discover nature's bounty.

whole grains are the foundation of any healthy diet, but they require cooking, so take it slow here as well. if you are used to eating white rice, switch to brown rice. you will love the nutty flavor and chewy texture and you will adore the fact that you don't get hungry again so quickly. once you have mastered brown rice, begin to explore the other whole grains available to us. quinoa is a wonderful option, high in protein, yummy and quick-cooking. there are so many grains to try...head off to a natural food store that has bulk bins and commit to trying a new grain every week. before you know it, your pantry shelves will be lined with jars of grains that have become as familiar to you as the food you ate before.

if meat is your can't live without it, well...yikes! okay, sorry...if meat is your thing, think about reducing your intake of it, rather than eliminating it completely at the start. i won;t go all animal activist on you here, i promise. but look at what meat can be doing to your health, with the effects of growth hormones, pesticides and disease wreaking havoc on our well-being. as you chow down on that steak, remember that heart disease (linked directly to animal food consumption) is the number one killer of both men and women and is the number one most preventable disease known to man...double yikes!

there are other options to protein than animal foods...beans, tofu and tempeh are great sources of protein that the body can use without harmful saturated fats, so give them a try before you turn your nose up. and with so many meat substitutes on the market, from sausage to 'chicken' fingers, you might be surprised.

as for the pantry, keep it stocked with great oils, vinegars, herbs and spices...stock your kitchen with pots and pans you love, a wooden cutting board and a fabulous knife. shop for your knife in a kitchen store that lets you hold them in your hand. this may sound airy-fairy, but the minute you hold the knife that is right for you, you'll know. a good knife is the best way to get started and the finest tool you will ever use.

okay, enough for now...i am off to cap cod for the weekend, so we will chat again next week. enjoy the weekend and happy cooking!

Monday, July 28, 2008

it's our kids, stupid

hey guys-

i have been watching and thinking about our kids...a lot. i worry about them. i worry that they are marketed to at an alarming rate. i worry that they are being hypnotized by television. i worry about what they eat. of course, i have started a non-profit so that i can take action and not just worry ( hint-hint...

then i heard this really interesting and disturbing report on npr yesterday. two psychologists from harvard have released findings that our kids are over-scheduled and without coping skills. they said that parents, in an attempt to experience success through their kids' success, have created a generation of children who are unable to cope with life's little (and big) challenges. and it's being seen at the college level too, with kids suffering breakdowns at a near-epidemic rate. and why? because they have no idea how to handle all the challenges that come with living independently of their parents.

i am of the generation that had parents who made us fend for a degree. they never put us at risk, but they showed us that actions had consequences and they taught us how to be strong and independent. if we faced a problem, our parents did not come running to our rescue. we had to figure out a solution. if we messed up, they guided us, but they didn't bail us out at every bump in the road of life. they taught us respect...for them and for ourselves. they taught us to how to handle disappointment.

i remember going to my mother once with what i thought was a crisis. i was on the basketball team, but the drama club was holding tryouts and rehearsal would be at the same time as basketball practice. i expected my mother to solve it. she told me that life was about choices, so i had to decide what i wanted to do and pick one activity. but she reminded me that i had committed to the basketball team, so i have the responsibility to speak to the coach. if she released me from practice, i could try out for the play. if not, not. i begged her to talk to the coach so i wouldn't have to...she told me that she wasn't the one who wanted 'out' of her responsibility. so it was on me. i summoned my courage and spoke to the coach, who released me for tryouts, telling me that if i got a part, i would have to decide. i stuck with basketball and i learned how to handle a situation where i have to choose.

our parents were hard on us and i remember being so mad when they made is stand on our own two feet. but as i look back, they taught me self-reliance and respect. they taught me to think for myself and not to be so easily swayed. they taught me to step up and take responsibility. they taught me to take risks. they taught me how to handle success...and failure.

i feel so bad for our kids. they are wonderful, young, energetic, curious and the hope of our future. it's time to stop insulating them from life and allow them to embrace it for all that is has to offer. it's time to let them there to catch them if they need catching, but let them see what life is about while they still have their families to cushion the blow.

let's produce a generation of self-reliant, flexible, respectful, open, vital and strong people, not spoiled, self-absorbed, weak people without the capacity to face challenge. that would be this culture's greatest tragedy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Doesn't It Make You Crazy?

hi there-

so here we are in week 7,000 (or so it feels) of the salmonella scare and no one seems to know what's up or what food is the 'culprit,' as the media now refers to our produce. first, it was it's chili peppers...what's next, broccoli, lettuce? it seems to me that we are spending a lot of time looking at our veggies and trying to find out why they are attacking us instead of looking at the real 'culprit.'

how do we think our produce could possibly get contaminated with salmonella anway? it's almost exclusively a problem of animal food, so what's up? has anyone looked at the water that runs from feedlots onto farmland to see if maybe that is the source?

remember the 'tops' beef recall? what a joke. within minutes (or so it seemed) of the announcement that all these tons of meat were tainted, the u.s.d.a., f.d.a. and all the other 'd.a.'s' were on the news assuring us that america still had the safest meat supply in the world and we should go on guzzling burgers.

now think back to the spinach recall of a few years back. where were the f.d.a. and u.s.d.a. guys then? no one defended this tender little green, whose growers have still not recovered from the blow of this contamination of their crops...and reputation. perhaps the spinach lobby is not so strong and powerful as the meat cattle ranchers lobby.

the biggest joke of this 'tomato scare' is that no one has examined how most people eat their tomatoes in the first place. yes, a small percentage eat them in salads, but tomatoes are most often served as toppings to...burgers! but i guess the meat lobby can't have another problem so soon after the largest beef recall in our history.

it's time we woke up and demanded better from all the agencies that were founded to protect us and our food. for these people to appear on the news each and every night and say that they just don't have the answer; that they just can't find the source of the contamination of our vegetables is way beyond unacceptable. they must think that we're morons.

perhaps we need to consider this idea...crazy as it may sound to you. when meat was an issue, it was quickly resolved. but as more and more people are turning to vegetables for real nutrients and not eating so many dead animals, suddenly, our produce crops are hazardous to our health...and our meat is safe.

i'm not a conspiracy nut by any means, but something stinks here.

talk to you soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


hi guys-

it has been a week, ya' know? well, you don't know, but trust me.

i have not had much to blog about in the last days; i am still trying to figure out what it is you want to hear from me. i can't imagine that you could be interested in my day to day stuff, so i struggle with what to write about. i have been busy working and doubt you will find it
interesting, so i prayed for inspiration and the topic came to me.

in the last few days, i have run into several people who have changed the course of their lives with their diet choices. and while they have rid their bodies of the symptoms of disease, i am not sure that i would classify them as well and happy. they seem to live their lives, post-disease, in mortal fear of the next thing. now before you get all upset, hear me out.

when i was ill (a billion years ago), i recovered through my food choices and got on with my life. i was so happy to be well that the scope of my possibilities over-shadowed any fear that i held about my illness returning or whatever other nightmare i could imagine. and i'm italian; trust me we can imagine some pretty bad stuff. i worked hard at my health and worked just as hard to understand the principles of food that had so clearly helped me to recover. that understanding gave me power and freedom to live my life richly with great gusto.

but it seems that more and more people who are looking to food for a 'cure' are finding themselves in a world that is no bigger than the perimeter of their plate. and that makes me sad. people get so caught up in the dogma of an idea that they forget to live in the world. fear takes over their entire life. they question everything and listen to every loony tune on the planet for advice. they wear blinders to common sense.

some of the ideas being perpetuated under the guise of natural living make me scratch my head in wonder. who came up with the idea that regular visits to the gym are so toxic that your cancer might return because of the electrical currents from the machines and the sweat from all those meat eaters working out next to you? listen, i am totally in on the idea of 'energy' and its power in our lives, but seriously. some of this stuff is just nuts. where did our common sense fly off to?

food is a life-sustaining, sexy, powerful aspect of being human. mother nature, in all her wisdom, made food an enjoyable thing so we would eat it and create life. food that is whole and unprocessed, as nature intended, is a gloriously wonderful thing, meant to be savored and enjoyed; i doubt she intended for it to become something we wring out hands over in fear.

i have spoken to people just this week who are in such fear of food that they stress over each morsel that they consume. can that be healthy? not in my book. while we have adulterated food to a point where some of it is not recognizable as food, if you have made the switch to a whole, unprocessed, plant-based diet, it's time to relax. the hard part is over. trust me, if you are ill and using food as your tool for recovery, it's not tomatoes or olive oil that got you into trouble. it's not roasted peppers and crusty bread either. if you are at all like i was, it's diet soda and snicker bars that did you in.

all i am saying is that if you have decided to eat well, a whole, unprocessed, plant-based diet, leave your anxiety at the door, please. enjoy all the abundance that nature provides and cook as though your life depends on it, but do it with passion, intuition and love. it is the difference between enjoying the health you have created or living in a self-created prison of fear and anxiety over your choices. understand the food you eat and free yourself. food is sexy, yummy, sexy and well, sexy. not enjoying it is criminal and makes you so not fun to be with.

okay, enough ranting...time for boot camp!