The Importance of Breath

A yoga instructor once announced in class “Use your breath, it will tell you everything you need to know about what you need to know right now.” To this day, that inspiring instructor still remains one of my favorites for her light-hearted approach to yoga and meaningful sentiments she often brings to the mat.

Breath is vital. However, it’s so simple and clearly obvious that we often take our breath for granted. We can go for days without water and even weeks without food, but, without oxygen, we would cease to exist. Physiologically we breathe to supply the organs in our body the oxygen they need in order to function properly as well as a means to rid our bodies of wastes and toxins.

In yoga, ancient breathing techniques called Pranayama are used to maximize our universal life force. We use breath in yoga to cleanse our bodies of toxins as well as to clear and focus our minds, increasing awareness. When we use the breath to our advantage, a confused situation can often become quite clear.

I encourage you to use your breath; as whatever it is you’re searching for, will without a doubt, be right there waiting for you.

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Nutritional Yeast

Though I am pretty adventurous when it comes to food, it took a bit for me to hop on board with the sadly named nutritional yeast.

A favorite amongst the vegan crowd, nutritional yeast can be added from everything to veggie stir fry and mashed potatoes to popcorn. Nutritional yeast is slightly tangy and adds a nutty/cheesy flavor to cooked dishes. While the cheese flavor is an added bonus, nutritional yeast is also a reliable source of vitamin B12. I like to add a heaping tablespoon to my favorite veggie, kale, and mix in a small amount of steamed brown rice. This meal to me is my updated version of the comforting cheesy rice and broccoli dish my grandmother made growing up.

Vitamin B12 naturally occurs in animal and dairy products, so practicing vegans and many vegetarians must supplement this vitamin through other means such as nutritional yeast or fortified cereals. Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk food bins of your grocer or in the supplement section and comes in either flakes or powder. I like Bob’s. Make sure to purchase nutritional yeast, not brewer’s yeast, which does not contain vitamin B12.

 

Delicata Squash

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week and that’s not just because the weekend is almost here. Each Wednesday when my husband comes home from work, he brings me a present … a big box of beautiful produce from Riverdog Farm. I never know what’s in store for me until the box arrives — it’s awesome!

This week we received a bounty of beautiful fall produce including one of my all-time favorite veggies, kale (excellent in green smoothies or have you tried kale chips — delicious!) as well as lots of yummy greens (spinach and arugula) and fingerling potatoes (toss with fresh garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast — yum!). I really could go on and on … how much produce gets packed into this weekly CSA box never fails to amaze me.

Which brings me to … squash!

Delicata squash.

While many of us out there (myself included) are quick to pick up a familiar squash like butternut, for its excellent ability to dual as both a delicious roasted vegetable side or pureed into a thick and creamy satisfying fall soup. It turns out by passing over these “decorations” I have really been missing out.

After a quick trip online to research recipes for this (new to me) winter squash, I decided to keep it easy, choosing to simply roast the squash. Once I got to work, the squash was super easy to manage due to its small size, making it a snap to clean, chop, and roast. The skin on the delicata squash is thin and edible, so I chose not to remove the skin, but instead to keep it on for its added nutritional benefit.

Nutritionally, delicata is about 30 calories per 3/4 cup serving and contributes almost 3/4 of the daily nutritional requirement for vitamin A, which is excellent for eyesight, especially nighttime vision as well as vitamin C, which aids in immune support and wound healing.

To prepare the squash, I chopped it in half lengthwise, removed the seeds and then sliced the squash into thick, beautiful half-moon slices. I then lightly tossed the slices of squash with some fresh rosemary and thyme I had on hand, salt and pepper, and olive oil. I also sprinkled in about a teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes for a little extra added spice! I laid the squash in a single layer on a sheet pan and roasted the squash for about 30 minutes (turning occasionally) in a 425 F oven. The finished product was perfection, a beautiful crisp golden exterior with a rich and creamy mouth-feel.

I always thought late spring through summer were my favorite for local Bay Area produce. This weekly box sure has me changing my tune fast!

What are some of your fall favorite veggies? How do you feel about the “decorations?”

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Trick or Treat Tips!

Oh my … is it high season for candy or what?!

This year, I’ve proudly avoided the candy isle, but, with a neighborhood full of kiddos gearing up for trick or treating this weekend, I’ll need to make a shopping trip soon before Halloween is all but replaced by Christmas.

Each year (in addition to candy) I purchase a variety of spooky non-candy alternatives such as pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos and pretzels; which surprisingly, many children in my neighborhood respond to quite well, with some coming back to ask for more at the end of the night!

Here are some tips to get you through the highs and lows of the most sugary (and scary) night of the year:

Set the ground rules. Remind your child that no candy should be consumed until after you have had a chance to check it over at home. Take this opportunity to feed your child a snack, like a piece of fruit or healthy meal before heading out for the fun. If your child has a full tank, they will be much less tempted to dig into their candy hull early!

Be a role model for you children. I know all too well how tempting it can be to over indulge in these sweet treats. If your child observes you eating Halloween candy in moderation, they will surely follow your lead.

Out of sight out of mind. Rather than leaving out a community candy bowl or allowing your child to keep the candy in their room, take this opportunity to let your child pick a few pieces of their favorite candy for a sweet treat later in the week. Remember, candy is an occasional treat.

Send away the leftovers. This is a tough one, but worth it. Halloween is the beginning of the holiday blitz. Don’t let these treats weigh you down! Send em’ away!

Boo! Don’t get caught with your paw in the candy bowl!

Have a safe & happy Halloween!

Lean, Mean & Green

Smoothie that is!

I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little run down lately. I won’t lie, school is stressful and it has begun to take a toll on what I would consider a relatively healthy diet. Luckily, I’m pretty tuned on with what’s going on in there and knew my body needed a rest and reset. This week, which I call “green week,” it’s time to clean house. I have been giving my body just what it needs by enjoying a raw diet devoid of anything other than strictly delicious vegetables and juicy fruits, kicking my unhealthy cravings to the curb!

I have found green smoothies to be an awesome and very satiating part of my reset. Green smoothies are quick, highly nutritious, and very affordable. I like to have one for breakfast and have found them to be an excellent, filling dinner as well. You don’t need a fancy blender to make a smoothie — mine is almost 10 years old and still runs like a pro! Make sure to rinse your veggies and fruits as well as chop them small enough so your blender can process them easily. Also, I find if I add the greens very last, nothing gets caught up in the blender. I feel light, healthy and refreshed already!

Here are a few recipes I came up with this week which are all vegan, raw, and gluten free. Enjoy!

1/2 cucumber
handful blueberries
1/2 cup to 1 cup H2O
1 small banana
4-6 kale leaves

1 beet
1 cup H2O
1/2 lime (juice only)
2 beet greens
4 kale leaves

1/2 cup melon
1/2 cup H2O
6 kale leaves

1/2 pear
1 small banana
1/2 cup to 1 cup H2O
4-6 kale leaves

What kind of nutritional changes do you make to your diet when you’re not feeling at your best?

Tri Something New

Yep, that’s right, TRI SOMETHING NEW!

I will admit, I am quite happy with my routine. I love my yoga practice, but, have recently decided to kick up my workout a notch. I have started taking kick-butt sculpt classes when my schedule allows as well as also enjoy the high energy Ryde classes offered at my yoga studio, which compliment my yoga practice nicely and are an excellent cardio blast!

This Friday, I’ll be at the Title Nine Store in Berkeley to dust off my running (err jogging) shoes and TRI Something New. Lacey Calvert, yoga instructor extraordinaire, has teamed up with Title Nine to lead a 3 mile run followed by a short 15 minute bike as well as some light yoga to finish off the morning workout. I have been assured this workout is geared toward all fitness levels. While I’m totally nervous (running in a group and totally biting the dust is one of my biggest fears!!), I’m also really excited to push myself out of my comfort zone and maybe surprise myself.

For more info or to RSVP, check out Title Nine on Facebook or email Lacey at lacey.calvert@corepoweryoga.com. Ladies & Gents are both welcome to participate! 8 am folks!

What are you all doing to push yourself these days?

Canary Melon

Today, we received a beautiful, bright yellow melon in our weekly CSA box from Riverdog Farm. Intrigued by this unusual piece of produce, I consulted the newsletter. “It’s a canary melon,” I announced to my husband who in return pointed to the sad face he had drawn on the melon. You see, we aren’t really a melon household. My husband Erik, since his early childhood has had an aversion to melon. Though I will give credit where credit is due. Recently while traveling, we were treated to a delicious plate of refreshing watermelon after our meal, and while he tried it, the look on his face said it all. We’ve decided melon is just not his thing.

So what does one do with said melon? I waited until he went back to work and wasted no time diving right into this (new to me) treat. Also, knowing this snack is packed full of goodness, I could indulge practically guilt free! Melons are low in calories (about 80 calories per quarter cup serving) and happen to be an excellent source of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A & C.

The canary melon (aka Spanish melon), named for its vibrant color, not the island, is an oval shaped melon that turns bright yellow when it is at its peak ripeness. The flesh is a rich creamy white framed by pale green edges, firm in texture, and deliciously sweet. A sure way to to knock out any of those midday sugar cravings! While some melons can be quite musky, I didn’t find this melon to be so in the slightest.

Act fast! If you’re at the market and happen to see one of these beauties, pick one up now as the season in Northern California is almost over. The melon, though delicious as is, would be wonderful topped with some low fat tangy Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of granola for breakfast.

Tip! Before cutting into a melon (or any produce for that matter), wash the rind well under hot water to prevent bacteria from contaminating the flesh as you slice through the rind.

If you are interested in knowing more about our CSA, Riverdog Farm, delivers high quality produce to multiple sites throughout the Bay Area. You can find out more about Riverdog Farm by clicking here.

SFSU Farmers Market

I absolutely love that my school has an all organics farmers market every Thursday and appreciate that promoting health is an important aspect of student life at San Francisco State. While the market is rather small (it’s still growing!) the vendors who participate are friendly and the goods they offer are reasonably priced. In addition to fruits and veggies, the market also has pantry staples including bread and spices as well as some healthy snack options like hummus. For me, the weekly market makes quick work of dinner as I am able to pick up fresh produce on a rather long day in between my classes.

If you’re in the area, the farmers market is every Thursday, 10:00am – 3:00pm in front of the Humanities building. Stop by, pick up something healthy and support the community in which you live.

Tonight, I’ll be roasting beets!

Today, I picked up bunches of bright red and deep golden beets that were piled along beautiful green bell peppers, cauliflower and squash. Beets are pretty special. They contain phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to provide excellent anti-inflammatory and detoxification support to the systems of the body as well as dietary fiber that may aid in colon cancer prevention.

Also, don’t toss aside the tops! Beet greens are easily prepared like other greens such as kale. The tops are rich in nutrients such as carotenoids, which are responsible for giving beets their rich red and golden color. Carotenoids are a powerful antioxident that may protect the body’s cells from damage by free radicals. Beets should be in season through October in Northern California.

Here is a recipe for my easy roasted beets.

Preheat oven to 375 F

Scrub the beets under hot water and trim them of their leafy tops. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 45-60 minutes or until tender. When the are beets cool, use a pairing knife to remove the peel, then quarter, reseason, and serve at room temperature. These beets are served excellent alone or toss with whatever fresh herbs you may have on hand and a little bit of feta or goat cheese for extra flavor. Enjoy!

Look for more “seasonal” posts as I continue to explore the weekly market and what the vendors have to offer. Is there a seasonal vegetable or fruit you would like to know more about nutritionally? How about a new recipe? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Healthy Goal Setting

We all know making healthy food choices has a tremendous affect on our overall health. Eating healthy helps us manage our weight as well as reduces our risk for disease. Due to the increase in food related illness, educating the public with comprehensive nutritional information is now more vital than ever before. However, it’s not just what we eat that matters.

Food and fitness work synergistically. So often we separate food and fitness into their own categories. To maintain our health, we eat everyday, so why aren’t we exercising on most or all days of the week. Think about how good we would all feel if we were taking care of our bodies through proper nutrition and exercise. When we eat a balanced diet full of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and engage in regular physical activity, we boost our mood and build self-confidence.

Therefore, I challenge you to set two healthy goals to finish out these last few months of the year healthy, strong, and confident!

Need some new ideas?

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. You should aim for 3-4 cups every day.

Water? Hydration is so incredibly important. You should aim for 6-8 glasses each day (more if you exercise). Try adding a slice of lemon or your favorite fruit like raspberries or grapes to add a little flavor.

Eat Breakfast!

Get moving! You should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. Remember, it doesn’t all have to be at once. Take the stairs at the train station or park your car out a little further at the grocery store. Take a walk with your family after dinner.

Remember, small changes add up over time!!

What do you do to encourage others around you to make healthy choices?

Two Awesomely Good Events!

This weekend is sure shaping up to be a good one! Check out these two unique events happening this weekend in the SF Bay Area. I’ll be there, will you?!

Saturday, September 24th

Check out Slow Food’s first annual “Childhood Obesity Bay Area Conference: Boots on the Ground.”

As a dietetics student, I’m thrilled to be able to attend COBA. For me, this is a fantastic opportunity to gain a better understanding of the issue as well as meet key professionals in the health and wellness fields. I’m especially excited that Slow Food has rounded up a well-diversified group of speakers including representatives from Shape up SF and the Contra Costa County Wellness City Challenge.

Members of the general public are encouraged to attend. Tickets are available for purchase through Eventbrite.

For more information, check out Slow Food’s website.

Sunday, September 25th

It’s no secret I love yoga! I have a unique group of outstanding yoga instructors that continually challenge me as well as provide an encouraging and positive atmosphere in which I’m quite blessed to practice. With all that said, my yoga studio also has an amazing teacher training program set in place. This Sunday, recent graduates will lead a special 75 minute class fusing together two amazing yoga styles, Hot Power Fusion and Power Yoga. Both inspiring classes aim to work the entire body through a series of poses set to music that will leave you feeling detoxified and energized!

This group of dynamic instructors has put together this class with the intention of raising awareness and donations for the Art of Yoga Project, a unique organization that brings yoga to at-risk young women in the juvenile justice system. Early intervention really is the key and through yoga, these young women will gain confidence and self-respect that ultimately will lead to healthy lifestyle choices. The class is free, yes FREE, but donations will be accepted! Please come out on Sunday to support a great cause and practice with CorePower’s newest grads!

For more information on CorePower Yoga, click here.

For more information on the Art of Yoga Project, click here.

Karma Yoga Class for the Art of Yoga Project
Sunday at 2:00pm
Corepower Yoga Berkeley