Back to School Basics

In some places children have already returned to school with the anticipation that the start of a new adventure brings. Locally we have another week to wind down our summer. Even though the private school where I’m employed as a counselor and nutrition consultant is a year round school I still get that beginning of the school year feeling. It’s something between excitement for all the possibilities and melancholy about the end of another summer season.
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In keeping with the beginning of the school year theme as it relates to my health coaching practice, I wanted to share some ideas for how to pack healthy, brain food for your child/ren that doesn’t set them apart from their peers. Let’s make eating healthy the cool thing to do this year and see if it can become the new cool. Something as simple as cream cheese (or Tofutti dairy free cream cheese) topped with fresh fruit is sure to grab kids attention.
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Other ideas range from fruit kabobs to assorted wraps. Most fruit will keep in a lunchbox and when it’s as easy as sliding off a skewer into your mouth who can resist.
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http://www.chow.com/food-news/89934/27-healthy-snack-ideas-for-kids-lunch-boxes/
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http://www.mysporties.com/tuesday-tip-snacks-to-kick-off-the-school-year-with-a-healthy-start/
We can create so many variations of wraps that it’s limitless. In fact, in many schools they are slowly replacing white enriched bread with whole grain breads and wraps.
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http://www.bodyenlightenment.me/blog/2013/08/how-to-put-healthy-back-into-school-lunches/
Wraps are an easy way to include vegetables in your child’s lunch in a way that they will eat them. If you can make the time to engage your child in the preparation of these beauties they are more likely not to trade them away for a snickers bar. My favorite wrap to teach children to make in my Cool Kids Cooking Class is the California wrap which includes avacado, sprouts, cucumber, carrots and cheese (if your child can tolerate dairy). It always makes me smile to see how quickly kids take to eating healthy when they are part of the preparation.
cali vege wrap
I also suggest getting to know the lunch ladies (and gents) who are preparing school breakfast and lunch. Be kind to these hard working people and let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Congratulate them when they have made something healthy and kid friendly. Offer your ideas about improving school meals in a way they can hear you. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people respond better when you are willing to walk with them on their journey than when we give the impression we know what’s best. lunch ladies
If you are involved in your child’s school you may want to get involved in changing school food programs so that all children enjoy a healthier meal. For some children these are the only meals they eat each day so keeping it nutritious means they can attend to learning and the other challenges school brings. One of the many challenges educators face is holding all children to a standard. When a child experiences food insecurity it can be nearly impossible for them to focus on English or math. Educators are all too aware of these challenges.
An example of what a couple moms did in Berkeley California to change the school lunch program in their children’s school is the movie “Two Angry Moms.” It outlines what isn’t working with school meal programs and shows how they went about dramatically creating the change in their school. It is one example of how to start thinking about the food we eat and provide to school children.
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“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Mahatma Ghandi

Be Well
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen

blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

website: http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Berries, Berries Everywhere

If you’re like me you love picking berries. There is something meditative about the process of gently pulling ripe berries from the vine while leaving those not yet ready to be picked. This weekend the berry focus was blueberries. I went to my CSA, Bradley Farms right here in Lanesborough and the blueberry bushes were heavy with berries. 24 pints later my freezer is well stocked for the mid winter lack of fresh local berry blues. I even picked again today with my daughter. And since I gave a talk this morning I decided to make a blueberry buckle for the occasion that was a hit…recipe to follow.

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a couple weeks ago I made this little fruit tart with mixed berries and kiwi that was also pretty yummy.

fruit tart

AND…I made this delicious cherry cheesecake when my daughter Hannah came to visit from sun scorched California last weekend. It is a gluten free recipe with almond meal crust.

cherry cheesecake

I am continuously struck by nature’s generosity. This year in Massachusetts it seems that berries in particular have been very happy. Last month we picked cherries and red raspberries locally. All the rain has been a plus for the berry patches (well not strawberries) so I complain much less about a long string of rainy days. The blackberry patch I cultivate in my own yard that may look just wild to passersby has offered up over 5 pounds of fruit for me to pick along with much to share with the birds and chipmunks who favor fresh berries like me.

raspberry cherries 

A wise teacher once told me that if I eat what the animals eat I will have optimal health. I thought about that (being a baker it was hard to take in) and it has proven to be true. As much as I love fresh baked goods including breads and pastries, I know that sooner or later I don’t feel well when I over indulge. True confession time, I am at that point!

So for now the baking will cease as I reclaim my clarity and energy with more whole grains and fresh vegetables and less sweet treats. I will practice what I teach and have a sympathetic ear to those who also experience the sweet over load. It’s all good because my freezer if full of potential desserts for future days.

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I send prayers of gratitude to all that has given of itself on this day.

The strong beans, and the hardy grains, the beautiful leafy green plants and the sweet juicy fruits.

I thank the sun that warmed and vitalized them, just as it does me,

and the Earth that held and nourished them, as it does me,

and the waters that bathed and refreshed them, as they do for me,

I thank the fire that transformed them, just as I wish to be transformed by the fire of Spirit.

I thank the hands that grew and prepared this food, just as I thank all those that have touched me in so many ways. 

                                                                                    Sedonia Cahill

Leanne’s Blueberry Buckle

 Topping:

 ¼ cup whole oats

¼ cup garbanzo bean flour

¼ cup flax meal

¼ cup maple sugar

Nutmeg about ½ tsp

6 Tbsp Earth Balance butter

 Cake:

 ¾ cup brown rice flour

¾ cup garbanzo bean flour

¼ cup flax meal

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch sea salt

6 Tbsp Earth Balance butter

1/3 cup maple sugar

Lemon zest from half lemon

½ cup Greek yogurt

2 eggs (or if vegan use 1/3 cup applesauce)

2 – 3 cups fresh blueberries

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 inch square glass baking pan with Spectrum organic all vegetable shortening.

 To make topping place oats in magic bullet or food processor and pulse until ground. Add garbanzo bean flour, flax meal, maple sugar and nutmeg to the oats. Then add cold Earth Balance and blend until crumbly. Place in freezer until ready to use.

 For the cake sift together the flours, baking powder and soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl cream the Earth Balance, maple sugar, lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time (or applesauce if vegan) and thoroughly blend.

 Alternate adding dry ingredients and yogurt and almond milk until all are blended well together. Once fully blended fold in half the blueberries. Transfer mixture to prepared cake pan. Top with remaining blueberries and then top with crumb mixture. Bake for approximately 50 minutes until brown and the center if firm when pressed down.

Enjoy and remember those leafy greens out in the garden too

http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Microbiome…What Did You Say?

The first time I heard the term microbiome during my training to become a Certified Health Coach I looked it up to see what it meant. Here is what Wikipedia has to say: A microbiome is “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. The term comes from a Nobel Prize recipient, Joshua Lederberg (5/25/1925-2/2/2008), an American molecular biologist who among other things discovered that bacteria can mate and exchange genes. Pretty cool stuff huh!

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https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/4199

The term I use as a Health Coach is “gut flora” which sounds just a little less scientific. The truth is our digestive system is important for us to understand if we wish to remain healthy. It often is not the first place we think to look when we’re not feeling well but it is the system that processes and absorbs nutrients so if it’s off we are not getting our nutritional needs met.

Microbiome comes up a lot in the work I do with people in my health coaching practice seeking to improve their health. What I have learned and pass along is that we can be healthy but if out gut flora is not balanced we run the risk of compromised immune or nervous systems and this can also create and imbalance in our hormones resulting in mood and in some cases more serious mental health issues. Let’s take a look at the digestive system to gain a little insight into what it does to keep us healthy.

 

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We actually start digesting food the minute we come into contact with it. In fact smelling food starts our salivary glands working even before the food enters our mouth. When we take the time to chew our food (chewing until food becomes fairly liquid is best) it enters the next leg of the journey pre-digested helping the process along. The food then travels to our stomach where it mixes with acids before going onto our small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed and then to our large intestine where water is absorbed. The health of our gut flora is most critical at this point as the villi in the small intestine absorb our nutrients. If the villi have been damaged by too much unhealthy fats, chemicals and sugars they are unable to gather nutrients from the food we eat.

 

Our liver works to process the toxins that travel with our foods. Some of these toxins are excess sugars and fats, pesticides, heavy metals and other foreign substances.

 

digestive system

My mother was always saying “chew your food” while my father would say “where’s the fire slow down”. As a rather hyper kid mealtime was one more thing that got in the way of being outside running around which helped me manage all that energy. I was fortunate to have had an abundance of fresh real foods available to me as a kid growing up in northern California, pre Silicon Valley Santa Clara County. There were small farms and ranches all around me so fresh produce, nuts and fruit was available at farm stands and in the grocery stores year round. We ate wild meats most often such as venison, wild fowl and fish so the possibility of hormones or antibiotics that are so commonly in meats we find in the store now was not there.

I grew up in a generation where healthier food options were the norm. I can remember when McDonalds opened in Gilroy and fast food became available. Children since the 1970s have increasingly been exposed to more fast foods, processed foods, chemicals and GMOs in their food supply. Food production standards claim to be higher but they are not taking into account the fact that so much of what most people eat is not live food. The most important thing I can teach the people who come to me seeking improved health is to eat real, fresh food free from chemicals and GMOs. Skip the processed, fast foods and beverages that provide nearly zero nutritional value and wreck havoc on our digestive systems.

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It’s in our control to begin to eat healthier and to treat our bodies well. If we assume our body will withstand the unhealthy foods and drinks we consume without adverse effects over time we will find ourselves with health issues at some point.

Visit a local farm or farmer’s market this week and find some real food.

Be Well

http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Social Media & Life

I woke early this morning to my dogs begging to go out for a walk. It’s one of those days where the air is heavy with rain but it has yet to start so I was a bit slow moving. I grabbed some tea and their leashes and off we went. During our hour long walk we passed fishermen in boats and on the shoreline and a tall stand of cattails growing along the edge of the lake. fishing (640x480) wind

beautiful wildflowers and manicured gardens of all sorts. peawildflower1

The scenery was breathtaking and I felt truly blessed. cottage

As we walked we passed a woman walking her black lab. She didn’t look up to greet us as everyone else we passed had done. She was walking and texting (a skillset I have not achieved) and I found it unsettling that we did not exchange even a hello. I thought how sad she is missing all this beauty and the joy of sharing it with others. We continued on our walk and came upon a bunny sitting pensively as my dogs approached. She was careful not to move hoping she wouldn’t be noticed…fully present and aware of her surrounding. For this pretty little rabbit it is a matter of life and death that she is paying attention to what goes on around her.

dfw-cottontail 

Being more fully present is something we may wish to consider as a healthier approach to living as well. I got to thinking about what I would have missed had I chosen to stay in bed and not taken this walk. If I had gotten up and gone straight to the computer to write my blog post and newsletter this morning. I remembered this youtube piece I’d seen recently by Gary Turk called “Look Up” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7dLU6fk9QY and it solidified my resolve to walk away from my computer, iphone and other devices more often. To make a conscious effort to be fully present when I am with the people I love…and to seek out new people to love and new adventures.

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After all, at the end of the day would like to see first hand a sight like this…or hear about it on social media?

First you need only look: Notice and honor the radiance of everything about you… Play in this universe. Tend all these shining things around you: The smallest plant, the creatures and objects in your care. Be gentle and nurture, Listen… As we experience and accept all that we really are… We grow in care. Anne Hillman

Be Well

http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com https://twitter.com/Kiraskitchen5

Didn’t Your Parents Tell You Not To Waste Food?

As you probably know by now I am a foodie. I love everything about food. I love thinking about it, growing it, teaching others about it, preparing it and definitely eating it. food is powerful in every way. We are emotionally and physically connected to food and we all know we can’t live without it. So I write this blog post today with reverence for and passion about food.

I have always known that there is a certain amount of waste that goes along with the food chain from farm to table, but did you know that one third of the food produced globally is wasted. In North America it is closer to half the food we grow that is wasted. In some cases it is to keep the cost of the product at what is considered fair market value. A phenomenal amount of food does not even make it onto grocery store shelves because it doesn’t meet the standards for sale. Up to 90% of food waste is due to expiration dates.

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http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/food-waste-in-america-a-weeks-worth-of-produce-for-free/

So where does all this wasted food go you might ask? With all the people in our world who have no food, who are literally starving to death, we in North American alone, throw away nearly half of the food we grow. How does that make any sense? 

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Now imagine if we all decided that the food that was not initially perfect so would not be purchased could be given to a local food pantry. Imagine that all expired food stuff was quickly offered to people who can’t afford to buy it. Some markets have policies to do just that. At some Trader Joes you can find the expired food stuff at a greatly reduced rate in fact up to 75% off retail price. In addition, the Ex President of Trader Joes has created The Daily Table Project which essentially takes expired food stuff and makes low cost grab and go meals that can compete with fast food chain prices for people living in urban food deserts such as Dorchester, MA. Now that is good use of what would otherwise be wasted.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=222082247&m=224715908.

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There are many documentaries about our food supply and the little known secrets about the politics of food, but the one I find most disturbing currently is “Just Eat It A Food Waste Story.”  Catch the trailer @ http://foodwastemovie.com/ or follow the film makers on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Justeatitmovie. The film is making the film festival run so is not yet available for popular viewing. This film reveals just how much food is wasted in North America by following a couple who are vowing to eat only salvaged food stuff. What their experience uncovers will shock and I hope inspire you to do something about the waste!

To learn more about the politics of food I recommend reading one of the many books written by Marion Nestle, the most relevant to this topic being “Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She is a Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. You can also follow her blog @ http://www.foodpolitics.com/.
My children just bought me a membership in a new local all organic CSA, https://www.facebook.com/bradleyfarmma for my birthday. It is the best gift I have ever received! I can see where the food is grown and I know the people tending the farm. I will share what I can’t eat with family and friends and should any of it go bad I will compost it to use in my gardens. This is my small contribution to reduce food waste and my carbon footprint on the planet. What will you do to spread the abundance that exists all around us with those who are not a fortunate as we are?

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“Change like healing takes time.” Veronica Roth

Blessed Be

 

 

Time to Garden

I am inspired with the warming weather and the Flower Moon we had this week. Driving home on Wednesday night that beautiful moon was just beginning to peak over the Green Mountains in Bennington Vermont and it was breathtaking. This is a borrowed photo as my iphone couldn’t do the moon justice. It now truly feels like spring is here and so we can begin to plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

flower moon

http://shewhodreams.weebly.com/uploads/6/8/3/0/6830014/5473872.jpg?419

To inspire me even more this week I found this beauty growing in the window at the Vermont Arts Exchange http://www.vtartxchange.org/. Being a native Californian, I am accustomed to seeing fresh produce year round in some form. But to find a fully ripe tomato in Vermont in mid May is such a gift. After all we had snow on the ground less than a month ago!

tomatoes

I’m telling you the truth, right in Vermont, right now mid May there are these lovely tomatoes ready to eat! Planted in large buckets along the back wall of the multiuse art room at the Arts Exchange are growing 10 foot high tomato plants like these. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow since February.

tomato plants

So now I have to find my organic seeds and plants at various farmer’s markets and gardening shops. I like High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ they have come through for me in past years and are fairly local in Wolcott, Vermont. So far I’ve planted my first round of snow peas which is my favorite to grow (and eat). I also plan to grow green beans, kale, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My garden is small but it manages to produce a good amount of produce each year. This is an example of one of my recent harvests.

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So with all the fresh produce to look forward to I am searching for new recipes to add to my website. I made this one last night and it was delightful.

6 cups baby spring greens

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted walnuts

1 shallot minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ olive oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Well I’m heading outside to see what kind of gardening I can get done before the three days of rain arrive.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the Earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton author of The Forgotten Garden.

Blessed Be

 

 

On Living

Smile, breathe and go slowly

Thich Nhat Hanh

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As we venture out each day to do whatever it is that we do it is good to be grounded in some type of mindful practice. When we take the time to truly pay attention to our body and how we interact with the world, we can learn how to live richer, fuller lives. I start each day with a moment of gratitude. Waking in the morning reminds me that I am simply thankful for being here to greet another day and all the day will bring.

This weekend I completed basic training in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, http://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/. This is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro that has been documented to be very effective with symptoms related to trauma. In order to become an EMDR therapist you must experience it first hand and so today I find myself even more mindful than usual….and this is a very good thing!

I am mindful that in my personal business @ Kira’s Kitchen I have several programs about to begin and that means I have lots of work to do. There was a time that the knowledge of all that needed to get done would have sent me into a tailspin. Now I am able to just acknowledge the tasks, line them up and plug away until they are complete. Seems simple enough right? For each of us the answer is different and so we each get to decide for ourselves.

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I am also mindful that I love both my jobs as a Holistic Health Coach and as a Clinician. What a blessing that is in life to love the work we do! Now that hasn’t always been the case. At some point in my life I made a decision to live with purpose, to do things that feed my body and soul while offering something meaningful to the world around me. The difference now is that I can appreciate where that mantra has brought me and I can be grateful that I’m here.

And so I will keep this blog post short. I love the comments and feedback my followers share and enjoy the good work you are all doing as well. To be blessed with good work, good health and so many wonderful people in my life who I love and I believe love me (even on those truly impossible days) is a gift that keeps giving. It allows me to take on the world and be as courageous as I need to be.

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~ “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Be Well