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Sustainable foods are not just healthier for the planet; they are healthier for you. These foods are often more nutrient dense than their industrialized counterparts and increase our energy and improve our moods. In addition, many social justice issues are intertwined with our food system. The way our food is grown, raised and harvested affects so many of the concerns we face today including air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity, animal welfare, economics, food safety, poverty and worker safety to name a few. This is a HUGE topic so I’ll just touch on a couple today.
As a health coach and nutritional consultant, one of my primary reasons for getting my clients to eat sustainably is for health reasons. Sustainability is a broad term, but I’m talking about food that is friendly to the people and other animals, the environment, and the economy over the long haul. Generally, sustainable ingredients are healthier for you because they don’t contain as many chemical residues. It is believed by some that when plants aren’t doused in chemicals to protect them from pest attacks and weeds, their natural defenses aren’t compromised, thus they produce optimal levels of phytochemicals. These plant defenses are antioxidants and many have anti-inflammatory and ant-carcinogenic affects on the body. Funny how what’s good for the plant is also good for you!
Now, if these organic foods are grown and consumed locally, there is a better chance that they are picked ripe when nutrient levels are optimum. Of course there is the whole toxicity issue with most large-scale conventionally grown produce. One caveat, however — I will purchase a local, small-scale, conventional product over a non-local, large-scale organic product in most circumstances. Often, smaller, local farms use little to no pesticides, but don’t have the time or resources to go through the organic certification process. There are plenty of conventional farmers who practice IPM or Integrated Pest Management and only spray a few selected crops. The beauty of purchasing food from your local farmer is that you can have a conversation around how his/her products got to your plate. It’s more difficult to have that conversation with large, organic operations in California. Chances are the person that you get on the phone won’t have any idea either because so many hands have touched that lettuce by the time it gets to your plate. Bottom line, buy local, seasonal and organic when possible.
Many people are in a quandary about the sustainability of meat. I use to be a vegetarian because of this very issue. After a bit, I found that my body needed some animal protein and turned to seafood because I thought it was a more sustainable option. Well, that’s clearly not the case. If you are able to find local, grass-fed and finished beef, pastured-raised poultry, pasture or forest raised pork or wild game, these may very well be a better solution. Of course these meats will be more expensive, but that’s the point. As Americans, we really need to reduce our meat consumption and treat it more as a sacred food that is eaten on occasion and in small amounts. Traditionally, people ate the whole animal — they used the bones, muscle meat and organs. We tend to consume the flesh only, which is wasteful and creates too much acid build-up in the body. Consider purchasing an entire animal from your local farmer who employs sustainable practices. We have a great vendor at the Greenbelt Farmers Market , Ferguson Family Farms who uses Joel Salatin’s methods to raise her animals. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon has some recipes for organ meats and mineral-rich bone broths. If you have access to wild game, try the L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook by Judith Jones or visit one of my new favorite blogs, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Grass-fed, organic meats have been proven to contain higher amounts of Omega-3s and CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acid) which are cancer fighting substances. In addition, grass-fed cattle contain 500% LESS saturated fat than their grain-fed counterparts. Remember, animal protein has an acidifying effect on the body so you must be sure to consume lots of alkalizing vegetables to keep your body’s pH around 7.3.
The CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in this country are abominable on so many levels, particularly with regard to animal welfare and worker safety. CAFO’s misuse of antibiotics and hormones and nutrient management programs (or lack their of) do a great disservice to the health of the businesses of small scale farmers and the health of the consumers of CAFO meats. Can you imagine how this affects the local waterways not to mention the people that are eating inferior meat from a sick animal full of pharmaceuticals?
For more information about these issues, please check out Sustainable Table.http://www.sustainabletable.org/). I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat meat, but you should be aware of what you are supporting in most cases when you order a burger or pork barbecue from a restaurant. The Eat Well Guide can help you locate sustainable sources in your area. You can find a local farmers market or CSA through Local Harvest and other similar sites.
Are you dreaming of a Green Christmas? Consider eco-friendly and socially responsible gifts, and present them in reusable gift bags or some type of recycled gift wrap (i.e. fabric, recycled paper). A donation to your friend’s favorite charity is also a nice option. You also may consider drawing names and organizing a secret gift exchange with your family or group of friends so that you’re not buying presents for everyone. This saves time, money, resources and sanity. As far as Holiday cards go, why not send recycled cards or even e-cards which save on stamps and paper?
If you’re throwing a Holiday party, consider entertaining with real plates, silverware and napkins. If you ‘re having a larger party, use eco-friendly disposables. Finally, decorate with natural materials such as winter greens, berries, pine cones and forced bulbs. It’s always nice to cut a tree from a local tree farm, but be sure to check with your municipality to see where it can be recycled into mulch or habitat for local fauna. If you are on the fence between purchasing an artificial tree or harvesting one from a tree farm, check out this video from the Nature Conservancy which talks about the top reasons to buy a real tree. It’s great for your family, the environment and the local agricultural economy. If you need to purchase new indoor/outdoor lights, consider LED’s which are 90 percent more efficient than traditional lights.
Please comment with your Green Holiday Tips here!
It’s that time of year again when we begin to think about cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, baked corn, collard greens, sauerkraut, oyster dressing and TURKEY. Unfortunately, so many folks get caught up on which color meat to eat from the turkey that they forget to consider the quality of the bird! One of the most important aspects of the Thanksgiving turkey is the TASTE. There are a variety of heritage breeds out there that are known for their deliciousness! There are a variety of factors that influence the flavor of the turkey including the age of the animal, how it was raised and what it was fed. When turkeys are foraging for insects and grubs in the grass, they tend to have a deeper, richer flavor.
If you were planning to order a Butterball from the grocery store, think again. This year, consider a pasture-raised turkey from your local farmer. It’s widely known that turkeys are a good source of protein, selenium, vitamins B3 and B6, phosphorus and zinc. If you’re new to pastured-raised turkeys, you may not be aware that studies have shown they are able to produce conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from the grass they eat. This fat is known to aid in weight loss, balance blood sugar levels, fight cancer due to its antioxidant properties and enhances the immune system. In addition, pasture-raised turkeys are higher in Omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin E and folic acid than their Butterball counterparts. This makes pasture raised turkey an excellent choice for your Thanksgiving meal!
In addition, there are benefits to pastured turkeys because of what’s NOT in them. Most commercial turkeys contain antibiotics, hormones, arsenic (small amounts can be found in the pesticides that wind up in many of the commercial feeds) and chlorine (birds are soaked in high levels of chlorine to kill pathogens). These practices, combined with the health benefits of pastured turkeys, make the quest for them worth it.
So perhaps you’re sold on a pastured turkey for Thanksgiving but aren’t sure how to procure one. Fortunately, there are a variety of healthy, local sources out there waiting for your order! For the past two years, I have purchased my pastured turkeys from Lynne Ferguson of Ferguson Family Farms. She’s dedicated to providing a quality product from an animal that is happy and healthy. Lynne knows that you are what you eat! If you’re not in the Baltmore/DC area, check out your local farmers market or search for poultry farmers in your area on-line through Eat Wild.
Because the texture and flavor of a pastured turkey is different than your standard supermarket bird, I’m sharing a few tips from Bechard Family Farms on how to cook a pastured turkey. The key to a moist turkey is perfecting the brine and not overcooking it. My family generally incorporates water, brown sugar and kosher sea salt in the brine, but I recently found this delicious recipe from The Pioneer Woman that I had to share! My husband, Joe has had a great deal of luck the last couple of years using the rotisserie attachment on the grill. After basting it with olive oil, butter, sea salt and pepper, he and my mom throw the bird on the rotisserie for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature reached about 160 degrees.
While perusing Rita Calvert’s, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!, I discovered The Whole Holiday Bird on the Grill: Brined Heritage Turkey with Chunky Cherry Glaze. Yum! This recipe appears on Homestead Gardens blog so that you can enjoy it now if you don’t have the book (which I highly recommend).
Also, just because the turkey meat is gone, it doesn’t mean that the joy of the Thanksgiving meal is over. If you usually toss the carcass, think again. A mineral rich bone stock with your leftover organs and turkey carcass is just what the doctor ordered. The stock makes a nutrient-dense base for your favorite soup, grain and bean recipes. I use this recipe each fall to make my stock for the winter. It’s nutritious and adds a rich flavor to my favorite recipes.
If you explore centering your Thanksgiving meal around a feathered friend from the pasture, I do hope that you’ll post a comment about your experience here. Happy Turkey Day!