Tag Archives: vegetables

Seasonal Eating for Optimal Health



In Portland, you often hear people talking about focusing on eating locally, organically grown and seasonally appropriate foods.  These buzz words can be overwhelming for someone just trying to get a meal on the table for themselves or their families.  It is easy to become confused by the multiple messages about what to eat and where to buy your food.  Some have even asked, “What does seasonal eating even mean?”  Seasonal eating is a philosophy of eating where your diet is adjusted according to what is currently growing in your own region.  Seasonal eating focuses on eating food that will support your body in the particular season you are experiencing.   With today’s modern grocery stores, you can find almost any food you desire at any time of the year.  This may seem like a benefit of our modern transportation, refrigeration and grocery system but many are discovering the amazing advantages of eating fresh, locally harvested food.

Benefits of Seasonal Eating

  • Eating seasonally benefits the environment because less pollution is created and less fuel is used to transport the food to market.
  • Eating seasonally is usually less expensive.  Food in season is generally more abundant and has less transportation costs so it takes a smaller bite out of your wallet.
  • Produce harvested and eaten in season has more vitamins and minerals than foods harvested far away, unripe and then shipped long distances.  Seasonally appropriate food also tastes better.  Who can forget the joy of biting into a fresh, ripe tomato straight from the vine?
  • Eating with the season forces you to eat a varied diet.  As foods move in and out of season you are forced to change the food on your plate.
  • Eating seasonally connects us to nature.  As the variety of produce changes, it forces us to take notice of what is happening in the natural world.

Many areas of the United States have a limited growing season making it virtually impossible to eat locally and in season all of the time. Unfortunately the Northwest is one of those areas.   If eating seasonally in the dead of winter seems daunting, there are some steps you can take.   Portland has many year round local farmers’ markets- visiting one may spark creative ideas for new foods.  You can also join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm to form a personal connection with your farmer and the foods he/she is harvesting.   While it might not always be possible to purchase your seasonal produce locally, the next best thing is to purchase what’s in season in a region in close proximity.  This practice will help minimize shipping time and increase flavor.

To find out what’s harvested seasonally in our area, go to www.localharvest.org to find local farmers’ markets and seasonal produce guides.

As Spring approaches, what fresh produce are you looking forward to enjoying?

Photo by Francis Andrew on Flickr.


FAVES for Vibrant Health



I am participating in some local health fairs in the near future and have been thinking about a way to make a down and dirty guide for vibrant health that I could hand out.  I thought about the most important components of healthy living and then played with the wording until I came up with a catchy idea to share this information.  Now since I have absolutely no talent in the graphic arts department, I hired Casey at KCK Creative Market to make me this beautiful graphic.  I LOVE it and cannot wait to share it with all the health fair participants.  Here are my ideas about the most important components of vibrant health.

Focus on Healthy Fats:  Research has repeatedly demonstrated that fat is necessary to our health, particularly omega 3 fatty acids.  Omega -3′s are an essential fatty acid, meaning our body cannot produce them on its own.  These inflammation fighting fats must be obtained from our diet.  Two crucial ones, EPA and DHA, are primarily found in certain fish and pasture raised beef. ALA, another omega-3 fatty acid which can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds.  The benefits of omega-3s are well documented in the scientific literature.  Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet contains entirely too many Omega-6 fats from vegetable oils and processed foods.  We want to have a 1:1 balance of omega-3’s to omega-6’s.  Eating 2 deck of card sized servings of fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, herring or mackerel a week should give you all the omega-3’s you need.  Also, trans-fats like those found in processed foods should be avoided at all costs.

Avoid Processed Foods:   Processed foods include anything that comes in a package or has been altered from its natural state.  Processed foods often contain harmful chemicals our bodies don’t recognize,   rancid, inflammation producing vegetable oils and trans fats .  Read the labels on your food, if you see an ingredient you don’t recognize, return it to the store shelf.

Vegetables and Fruits:  Fill your plate with as many vibrantly hued fruits and vegetables as you can.  These nutritional powerhouses offer your body a host of benefits including cancer fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, fiber and a plethora of health promoting phytonutrients.  A good rule of thumb is to try to fill at least half of your plate with fruit and vegetables at each meal.  In particular, leafy greens pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Eat Mindfully:  Mindful eating is eating with attention to the food you are putting in your mouth.  It allows you to be fully present in the experience of eating.  It requires you to pay attention to the sight, sound, texture, flavors and taste of your food.  Put aside the phones, computers, newspapers and TV’s so you can listen to the cues your body is providing about satiety, making it more likely you will stop eating before you become over full.

Sit less:  Dr. Mike Lara asks his patients to think about sitting less instead of exercising more.  An important distinction because for many, the idea of exercise seems like a daunting task but most everyone can think about sitting less.  The trick is to avoid staying stationary for long periods of time.  Moving around activates the large muscle groups in your legs and back helping burn calories and keep blood sugar in balance.  Scientists are now recommending you try to stand up and move around every thirty minutes throughout the day.

What do you think makes for vibrant health?

Added to Live it Up blog hop.

Tips to Survive a Holiday Party

Holiday Party Treats.

Holiday Party Treats.

The Holiday season is upon us and for many of us with it comes parties, alcohol and a departure from our normal eating habits!  Why is it when it is on a beautiful tray, on a table filled with other treat laden beautiful trays does food I would never consider eating suddenly sound good?  (And if I have had a glass of wine, it doesn’t even have to be on a beautiful tray!)  Tonight, I am headed to my first Holiday party of the year and these are my ideas to avoid the usual mindless munching.

  • Eat before I go:  I am going to have a small, protein filled snack about an hour before I have to  leave for the party.  The protein will keep me full longer and keep me from reaching for high calorie foods just because I am starving.
  • Check out all options before filling my plate:  Before I take a plate, I am going to look at all the food options in the room and decide which ones will be the best choices.  This does not mean I will not have any “treats” but that I am going to decide which ones are really “special” and are worth the indulgence.  (Because really, what are the holidays without some “treats”!)
  • I am going to fill my plate with healthy choices:  I plan to fill my plate with as many fruits,  vegetables and other  nutrient dense food like shrimp as I can.  I plan to skip the dips, cheeses, fried foods and other foods with a high calorie to nutrient ratio.  If my plate is full of nutrient dense food, there is less room for food that doesn’t nourish.
  • Alternate water with alcohol:  Between each glass of wine or cocktail that I drink, I plan to have a glass of water.  This will keep me hydrated.  Being hydrated slows down the consumption of alcohol,  decreases the likelihood of a hangover and helps me feel full longer.
  • Bring a healthy appetizer to share:  I plan to bring a healthy appetizer to share.  This will be my contribution to the party and gives me something I know that I want to eat.

These are my suggestions for having a sane and healthy Holiday party season.  I would love to hear about yours.

Photo by Oakley Originals under Creative Commons.

Tiny Tip Tuesday: Buying Organic


The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fourteen

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fourteen

People often lament to me the high cost of organic fruits and vegetables.  I definitely feel their pain.  I know my grocery bill has significantly increased since I began focusing on buying organic.  However, I do feel buying organic is important to decrease our exposure to harmful toxins for ourselves, the environment and the farmers growing our food.  But what if it is just not financially feasible for you to buy everything organic?  Are there some specific areas you should focus on?

When working with clients, I ask them to think about a few different areas when deciding to buy organic.  For products that you or your children consume on a daily basis, buying organic, if at all possible, is definitely advisable.  When my boys were little, they consumed volumes of milk on a daily basis so this was an product I tried to always buy organic (or at least hormone free).  Think carefully about your overall diet and switch those items that make a daily appearance to organic.

Also, items that are higher up on the food chain like meat are important to buy organic.  Livestock that is fed a conventional diet of corn and other grains have greater exposure to the toxic pesticides used on their food.  These pesticides are then concentrated in fat of the meat you eat.  Also, animals allowed to graze on their normal diet of grass have greater amounts of the natural healing omega-3s.  I recognize organic meat can be expensive so I have started making meat more of an accent in my meals instead of the main ingredient.  This approach saves me money and increases my consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Finally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen every year.  The Dirty Dozen lists the fruits and vegetable which contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.  Relatively few pesticides were detected on the fruits and vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.   If you are rationing your grocery store dollars, focusing on buying the fruits and vegetables from the Dirty Dozen list may be your best bet.  Checkout the info graphic at the beginning of the article for your complete list. (You might notice that my list is only a Clean Fourteen.  The EWG’s list contained sweet corn.  In the last year, GMO corn has begun appearing on our grocery shelves.   I would advise buying organic corn to ensure you are avoiding a GMO product.)

Beautiful graphic created by KCK Creative Market.

Roasted Curry Delicata Squash

Yummy roasted delicata squash.

Yummy roasted delicata squash.

The weather in Portland has taken a crazy turn today!  On Sunday, I spent eight hours dodging the sun on the side of a baseball field to stay cool in the 90 plus degree heat.  Today, the weather man predicted a high of 80 degrees but it is wildly windy!  It suddenly feels like fall- leaves are blowing down the street, flags are snapping in the breeze and the air feels crisp.

Even though I love the summer sunshine, I am still excited for the change of seasons.  One of the aspects of fall I love the most is diving into all the fresh fall produce.  Apples, pears and leafy greens are incredibly tasty but my most favorite fall veggie is squash.  I like all kinds of squash but the absolute best in my book is delicata.  It is a perfect size. It doesn’t need to be peeled and it is amazingly tasty!  I was ecstatic when it reappeared on the shelf at my local grocery store.

Sliced delicata squash.

Sliced delicata squash.

Delicata squash is VERY  easy to prepare.  Just slice it, scoop out the seeds, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt, stick it in the oven and about 40 minutes later, you have a delicious vegetable side.  It is easier to work with than most other squashes because you don’t have to peel it.  Once cooked, the peel is usually soft enough to eat.  (I did find, however, that this time one of my squashes seemed a little dry when I was slicing it and once I cooked it, the peel did not soften up enough to eat.  The other squash seemed more moist and the peel was really tasty once cooked.   For the record, I have cooked a lot of delicata squash and this is the first time I had trouble with the peel not being edible so if anyone has some suggestions, I am all ears!  Happily, the dryer squash still tasty good after I cut off the peel.)

Squash before going into the oven.

Squash before going into the oven. Be sure to scoop out all the seeds before roasting.

I chose curry as the spice for my squash because I was going to be adding it to a curried soup but delicata is so versatile you could use any spice that appeals to your tastes!  I have seen it with lime and chili, sugar and orange juice and cinnamon and ginger.  The possibilities are endless!  Don’t be afraid to use your imagination.

Squash after 40 minutes of roasting.

Squash after 40 minutes of roasting.

Finished squash.

Finished squash.

Roasted Curry Delicata Squash


  • 2 delicata squash
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of curry powder (or more to taste)
  • couple of grinds of sea salt, (or more to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash squash well to remove all dirt.
  3. Mix olive oil, curry powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Slice squash in 1/4 inch thick slices.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet.
  6. Brush with olive oil mixture. Be sure to get sides of the squash rounds.
  7. Place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and flip over each squash piece.
  9. Place back in oven for 20 minutes (or until squash is brown on the edges and feels soft.)
  10. Enjoy!

Part III of Introducing Solids to Babies: What to Feed Your Infant

Baby eating plums.

Baby eating plums.


Now that you have determined your baby is ready for solids and you have decided how you want to feed your child, the all important question of what to feed them becomes relevant.

In the recent past, iron fortified rice cereal was often the recommended first food for babies.  This recommendation has started to come under question. Rice and other cereals are a heavily processed food with most of the nutrients stripped out.  Rice cereal, in particular, has recently been called into question due to the presence of arsenic in some rice (AAP, 2003).  There is also some question about a baby’s ability to digest grains due to a lack of pancreatic amylase, the enzyme needed to breakdown carbohydrates.  A baby doesn’t have full pancreatic amylase production until the age of 28 months (Dessinger, 2011).  However, breast milk is a rich source of alpha amylase, offering breastfed babies added digestive help (Lindberg, 1982).  This amylase is unique because it has a broad range for pH tolerances.  This broad range helps the amylase survive the low pH of the stomach and helps digest carbohydrates in the small intestine. Babies also have two other enzymes in their small intestines, sucrase-isomaltase and glucoamylase, which aid in the digestion of carbohydrates (Harrison, 2012).

One more factor to consider in the introduction of grains is the timing of adding them to your baby’s diet.  In 2012, Norris et al conducted a study looking at the relationship between the time of first gluten exposure to the development of celiac disease.  They found that babies fed barley, rye or wheat cereal in the first three months of life had a 5 fold increase in the development of celiac disease over children whose first exposure was between 4-6 months of age.  Children who were not exposed to gluten until the seventh month, had a marginally higher rate of celiac then those children exposed between four and six months.  A similar study looked at time of first wheat exposure and the development of a wheat allergy.  Pool et al  (2006) found similar results about the timing of first exposure.  Both of these studies point to a sweet spot of four to six months of age for first time gluten exposure to decrease the risk of celiac disease or wheat allergy.

Adding grains to your infant’s diet will need to be a personal choice.  If you do decide to introduce them at this time, do not make them the main component of your child’s meals. Vegetables, meat and fruits should be the main course with cereal as a small addition.  Remember an infant’s stomach is only as big as his/her fist.  Adjust your portion size accordingly.   Avoid processed baby cereal.  You can make your own cereal gruel with properly prepared, soaked and sprouted grains such as oats, spelt, rye or barley (Fallon, 2013).  Sally Fallon is an excellent resource for properly preparing grains.

Good first foods for babies include avocado, green beans, squash, egg yolks, carrots, pumpkin, banana, bone broth, sweet potato, shaved organic liver, and pureed meats.  Small amounts of unsweetened goat or sheep’s milk yogurt and fish eggs can also be good additions to an infant’s diet.  If at all possible these foods should be organic and/or grass fed.  Fruits and vegetables should be soft cooked and consist of only one ingredient.   Introduce only one new food every few days so if your child has an allergic reaction you can pinpoint the culprit (Sears, 2013).  If after a couple of days of eating a new food you see no reaction, then you can add another new food.  Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives or welts
  • Flushed skin or hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen tongue, face or cheeks
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing or wheezing

Allergic reactions can escalate quickly.  If your child is having difficulty breathing, having severe diarrhea and/or vomiting or is experiencing swelling of the face or tongue, call 911 immediately.

Before sitting down to a meal of solid foods, allow your infant to breast-feed or bottle feed first so they are not starving when they sit down and become frustrated with getting the food to their mouths.  As your child becomes more adept at eating solids, you can continue to introduce new tastes, textures and smells. The goal is to get your child to eat the same food you are eating.   If your child refuses a food at first, reintroduce it at a later date.  It often takes a baby multiple exposures to a particular food or texture before he/she likes it (Satter, 2000). Now is not the time to restrict healthy fat.  Fat from fish, avocados, fish oil, breast milk and other healthy sources are necessary for brain development and vitamin absorption (Sears, 2013).

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot dogs, nuts, hard candies and other choking hazards.
  • Foods with added sugar.
  • Cow’s dairy before 1 year of age.  Sheep or goat’s milk unsweetened, cultured (like yogurt or kefir) dairy can be okay in moderation.
  • Honey before 1 year of age.
  • Common allergens such as nuts, wheat, citrus, corn and soy.
  • Peanuts, egg whites and shellfish are also common allergens so care should be exercised in their introduction.
  • Spinach and strawberries have been known to cause reactions in some infants.
  • Care should be used when introducing fish due to the concern with contamination from mercury.  White, small, middle swimming fish should be introduced first.

(For references see first article in the series.)

Photo by Sami Keinanen on Flickr under the Creative Commons license.

This post shared with Homespun Oasis and The Nourishing Gourmet.


Tiny Tip Tuesday: Eat with The Seasons

Photo by Natalie Maynor.

Photo by Natalie Maynor.

One of my favorite parts of Spring is when the Farmer’s Markets start to reappear in Portland.  When market season is in full swing here in northwest Oregon, you can find at least one different market a day to search out that perfect, just picked ingredient you are looking for.  I love shopping at Farmer’s Markets because it helps me get in tune with what is actually growing in my area at the time.  I anxiously wait for those first Hood strawberries and know I have to load up because their season is so short.

These days we are spoiled because in a regular grocery store we can find almost any ingredient we want at any time- the season doesn’t matter.  Grocery stores import their product from all over the world.  While this gives us a wider array of choices, the transportation around the globe can be hard on the environment.  Unfortunately, there are some vital  ingredients which it would be impossible for me to find here in Oregon if they were not imported from other parts of the world.  Lemons, limes,  bananas and pineapples are never going to grow here.  So I do make some exceptions.  However, since starting my program at The Wellspring School for Healing Arts, I have become much more conscious of trying to eat with the seasons.

Eating with the seasons forces me to eat food at the peak of freshness, loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Buying that food directly from the farmers who have grown it allows me to ask questions about how it was grown, when it was picked and to ask them questions about their suggestions for preparation.   Foods that are in season are generally cheaper, saving your money.  Eating with the seasons has also forced me to try new varieties of fruits and vegetables.  Once I was searching for fresh chanterelle mushrooms for a yummy Hungarian Mushroom soup I love,  only to find they were done for the season.  The mushroom harvester was able to suggest an alternative mushroom which worked just as well.  If I had been shopping in a grocery store, it is unlikely the clerk would have had such detailed knowledge to steer me to an appropriate alternative.

Every area of the world will have different foods which are appropriate for eating seasonally for that particular part of the globe.  Obviously, these foods depend on climate and geographical location.   However, here are some overall guidelines for eating seasonally.

In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables which are signs of the Earth reawakening after the long months of cold and snow. Make a nettle pesto or stir up some fresh Swiss chard.  Be adventuresome. Browse your farmer’s market stalls for greens you have never tried before.  All this new growth packs a nutritional punch- ENJOY!

Traditional Chinese medicine advocates eating lighter, cooling foods in summer.  One of summer’s great bounties is the abundance of fruits and vegetables.   Strawberries, blueberries, plums, watermelon and peaches are just a few of the fruits which make an appearance.   Load up on zucchini, summer squash and eggplant.  Summer offers the most diversity in the seasonal eating menu.  Make a point to try one new food a week.

As summer fades away, fall continues to offer many options to bring to the table.  Fresh mushrooms, butternut squash, pumpkin and winter kale all begin to make their appearance.   Think about deep nourishment to warm you from the inside.  Warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger and mustard seeds will all turn up the warming qualities of these foods.

As winter approaches, depending on where you live, our choices become a little more limited.  Keep in mind the principle that foods which take longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly.   Parsnips, rutabagas, brussel sprouts and winter greens are all good choices for the winter.   Serve these beauties in hearty stews or slow roasted in the oven.  The longer the cook time, the more warmth they will impart to the body.  Continue your use of warming spices.

With summer quickly approaching, the easiest time to give seasonal eating a try is upon us.  What new, local foods are you interested in exploring?

This post is part of the linky party on Food Renegade.

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