52 CAN-DOs TIP Week #9 Use the “Top 5 Technique”

Part 1 of 2

One of the most important habits to form on the path to wellness is the tendency to read and most importantly understand what is in an ingredient label.  I have 2 rules:  One, if a 5 year old can pronounce it, it’s probably fine.  Two, the first 5 ingredients on the label will usually give a good indication of the nutritional value of the product.

Let’s take a look at bread. Once viewed as a symbol of comfort, healing and nourishment; these days careful inspection of the ingredient label for the average loaf of bread you’ll find: (1) Enriched flour, (2) high fructose corn syrup, (3) wheat gluten, (4) dough conditioners, and (5) soybean oil. How about a slice of flour and corn syrup? Seriously, whatever happened to just flour, water, honey, yeast, salt. Note: Dough conditioners like Azodicarbonamide (banned in Europe) is any ingredient or chemical added to bread dough to increase shelf life and make it easier to process.

A healthier brand of bread that contains sprouted grains is Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread. The first 5 ingredients include (1) Organic Sprouted Wheat, (2) Filtered Water, (3) Organic sprouted barley, (4) Organic Sprouted Millet, (5) Organic Malted Barley. Sprouted grains have been associated with increased digestibility, vitamin and mineral absorption. For those that are gluten sensitive, this bread is not gluten free.

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day is supposed to get us off to a good start. But when BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) is added “to preserve freshness” in many cereals -- the question becomes how good of a start can we get in the morning with a chemical that has been associated with its’ use in “jet fuel and embalming fluid” and listed by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 2005 as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen (substance that causes cancer)”.

Although there are a few (not many) safer cereals on the market, though I must admit I enjoy my own homemade cereal the best. I call it my “Breakfast Buddy” cereal and it’s featured along with other recipe ideas in my video Bed Aerobics Fitness Flow (www.bedaerobics.fitness). This cereal is crunchy, it’s filling, nutritious and simply delicious!

Monifa Maat’s Breakfast Buddy Cereal

½ cup Old fashioned rolled oats (organic if possible)

2 tbsp. crushed walnuts or any nuts of your choice

1 tbsp. coconut flakes (unsweetened)

1 tsp. ground flaxseed

1 tbsp. chia seeds

½ apple cut in small cubes, skin optional (organic if possible)

Cinnamon powder (to taste)

Nutmeg powder (to taste)

1 cup cold almond milk (I use Silk original – no carrageenan in the ingredient label)

Optional

Cocoa nibs

Ginger powder

For added sweetness you can use 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, 2 pitted dates chopped or 1 tsp. raw honey

Directions

Toss everything together. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt to bring out all the flavors. This breakfast is like an energy packed power smoothie but you don’t drink it, you eat it!


52 CAN-DOs TIP Week#8: Ask and You Shall Receive!

“…don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” Michelle Obama

It is important not to underestimate the power of a request. I experienced this first hand with my local supermarket. I was frustrated when I first moved to a small community in the Bronx, it appeared a local supermarket did not carry many of the healthier versions of products I could find at specialty markets in other local neighborhoods downtown. Over a year or so of polite, but persistent requests to the supermarket manager --whom by the way, was very supportive; a gradual shift occurred, with the market carrying items that I never thought in a million years they would ever offer!

Now, my average local supermarket is not so average; carrying a fairly large selection of products one might expect would be available at a health food store or large chain supermarket specializing in organic and whole foods. At my supermarket you will find organic produce, meat, eggs, a wide variety of gluten free products; a very large selection of non-dairy and organic dairy products and even specialty items like kimchi (traditional Korean fermented cabbage) that goes quite well with rice, pasta or meat and like sauerkraut or pickles, considered excellent for digestion.   

True story, the store manager at the time communicated to me that if there was any particular product that I was looking for that the store did not carry, to take a photo of the product and price at another store where it’s offered; he’d do his best to order it or at least make the request. He was true to his word. Here’s a tip: ask a couple of your friends and family to do the same especially if they frequent the same market.  

A good supermarket manager that respects his or her customers will take action - especially if you are pleasant and unfailingly persistent in your request. If the thought of initiating this action gives you the heebie jeebies, keep in mind, James 4:2, “We have not, because we ask not”.  My attitude is; supermarkets, grocery stores and restaurants exist to serve the community as well as to make a profit. I firmly believe that serving the community is the ultimate generator of profit for the long term and not the other way around.

I recommend my friends, family and fitness clients to shop at grocery stores/markets that offer healthier varieties of foods; I’ve conducted community grocery shopping tours to assist individuals and groups to shop healthy and deliciously on a budget –special thanks to the support of Foodtown (Foodtown of Parkchester) and Pioneer supermarket in Harlem, located on Lenox Avenue and West 129th Street (sponsored by Emblem Health Neighborhood Care).

This coming New Year, let’s resolve to never underestimate the power of a request to move mountains. If they ask “Why?” you ask “Why not? If they say “No!” you just say, “Not yet, but soon.”


52 CAN-DOs TIP #7: Measure the “Cost” vs. the Expense

(Part 3 of 3)

We’ve heard it all before. Eating healthy costs more. Who has time for exercise? However when we consider the price of consuming products that are doing more harm than good to our bodies or not making the time to exercise regularly –even if it’s only 5 minutes a day, What will it cost in the end?

The USDA national food intake data recently reported latest numbers for a four-member family weekly food budget -- from $146 (“thrifty” food plan based on SNAP-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to $239 (liberal food plan) a week .Some food waste is built into these costs.

BEFORE: $1000 per month Food Budget

Monthly takeout food (meals prepared outside of the home) for 5 days a week, amounted to $100 weekly or $400 a month (pizza, sandwiches, ethnic takeout). Next, their grocery bill for staple items such as cereal, frozen foods, juice, meats, eggs, amounted to $150 weekly or $600 per month. Total food budget for Janet’s family? $1,000 per month!

AFTER: $840 per month Food Budget

Family takeout night was reduced from 5 days to only 1 day per week (a reduction of 60% at $40 weekly, $160 per month). The savings was added to their weekly grocery budget increasing it to $190 weekly or $920 per month. Since adapting the 7S Formula, Janet’s family found that $190 per week was more than enough and so further reduced their weekly grocery budget to $170.  Their Total food budget including takeout was now $840 per month – a savings of over 15% for healthier groceries!

The  “7S” Formula stands for seven categories of healthy meal ideas that begin with the letter “S” --soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, stir-fry’s  and snacks. With the 7S Formula Janet saves time and money by repurposing meat and using leftovers.

  1. Meat is repurposed. Janet buys a whole chicken (instead of chicken parts in packages) and uses it in 3 or 4 different meals that are loaded with fresh vegetables such as chicken chili stew, or chicken ginger stir-fry. Because the quantity of meat is reduced, the family can afford to spend more on the quality of meat –buying organic and grass-fed over chicken laden with hormones and antibiotics (2) Leftovers from stir-fry’s, soups and stews are used for dinner the next night.

Janet’s New Exercise Routine

Janet’s exercise system was two-fold:

    (1) HIIT (high intensity interval training) at home – a series of high intense exercises like crunches, squats, push-ups etc. done for 20 seconds, followed by 10 second rest for 8 rounds. Complete once a day, 6 days a week over the course of 6 weeks for a muscle toning, fat burning exercise that lasts about 4 min. 20 sec. per session.

  1. Dancing Machine: Janet and her daughters put on their favorite CD’s and dance hard non-stop for 10 minutes until they work up a sweat.

Janet cannot wait to visit her doctor next month to measure her progress!

This New Year, millions of people will make resolutions, but the question is, like Janet will you R.I.S.E to the challenge. (Resolve to be Inspired to find Solutions to stay Empowered!)

Disclaimer: Please consult your medical practitioner before starting any new fitness, dietary programs or exercise activity.

 

 

52 CAN-DOs Tip #6: Makeover Your Grocery List

(Part 2 of 3)

Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars.” – Eric Schlosser A Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

In Part 1 last week, we met Janet, married mother of 3 young children who has just been told by her doctor that that she is pre-diabetic with the likelihood that she will develop Type 2 diabetes as a result of her lifestyle. Each year Janet dutifully makes resolutions in January to go on a diet or begin an exercise program only for her passion to fizzle out by early spring.

My “7S” Formula for delicious, quick and healthy meals at home!

7S stands for seven simple, mouth-watering solutions for amazing home cooked meals that are easy to remember and simple to prepare because all of the meal ideas begin with the letter “S”:  Soups, stews, sandwiches, salads, stir-fry’s, snacks and smoothies. Even better these meals make it easy to include loads of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits into your diet and time spent cooking is a breeze.

Janet’s New Menu and Grocery List

Janet and her family chose a combination of soup, stews and sandwiches as their primary meals for a week. Sundays are for shopping for then prepping the food (wash, slice, dice, season, refrigerate) for easy crock pot cooking during the week. Vegetables are pre-cut for stews, soups and sandwiches.

Dinner:

  • Chunky chicken chili with organic butter cornbread muffins

  • Hearty herb chicken soup with sweet potato and quinoa

  • Curry salmon stew with chick peas and wild rice

Breakfast:

  • Vegetable egg omelet

  • Oatmeal with flaxseed and banana or apple

Lunch: Sandwich

  • 100% wild salmon burgers with red onion, tomato, romaine and avocado

  • Leftovers from dinner

 

Produce and spices:

Carrots, celery, sweet potato, onions, garlic, bell peppers, organic apples, avocado, cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, fresh basil, parsley, olive oil, diced tomatoes, kale, frozen string beans, romaine lettuce.

Meats and Condiments:

2 boxes (4pk) 100% wild salmon burgers; 2 large organic chicken breasts (for the chili); 2 packages of organic chicken legs (for the soup).

Grains, fats and snacks:

flaxseed, organic corn meal, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, olive oil, organic eggs, coconut oil, bananas, cranberries.

 

Janet’s home exercise routine

 

The American Diabetes Association indicates that exercising consistently can lower blood glucose levels associated with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions. Janet chose a format of 15 minute fitness videos at a moderate – high intensity pace for 6 days a week to accommodate her busy schedule while gradually building her fitness level. Janet’s daughters, inspired by her commitment and all the fun she seemed to be having decided to join her twice a week. Not only were they getting fit, they were having fun as a family!

Next week: Part 3 (Final in the series)

The costs of living a healthier lifestyle. How Janet saves time and money making homemade, healthy meals with the 7S Formula. More details on Janet’s new workout plan.

 

 

52 CAN-DOs TIP #5: FIND SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR RESOLUTIONS!

(Part 1 of 3)

In the beginning there was the word” John 1:1

Random House Dictionary defines the prefix “re” in Latin as “again and again” to indicate repetition; or “back” to a previous condition.”

Year after year we find ourselves promising again and again to make changes, only to retract and revert back to old habits or a “previous condition”, better known as the New Year’s Resolution. The very word “re-solutions” according to the dictionary suggests a backward motion to a previous condition. Wait…but aren’t we supposed to be moving forward? The power of words are so important and how we think about those words, even more so.

The biggest challenge to keeping New Year’s Re-solutions

The biggest challenge boils down to both time and money. Here’s a scenario:  Janet works late nights, has two jobs, is married with three children and she’s a part-time student at a local college. She wants to provide healthy home cooked meals for her family, but feels she doesn’t seem to have the time or energy. Janet is frustrated because she knows too much fast food, “all-natural” pre-packaged meals, and sugary/salty/fatty “convenience” snacks are harmful to her and her family’s health. Yet it’s provided a quick fix for her busy schedule up until now. You see, Janet has just been informed by her doctor she is pre-diabetic and that if she does not lose weight and change her diet immediately she will most likely develop Type 2 diabetes in near future. How does Janet find the resolve to make a lasting change in her lifestyle in a seemingly impossible situation? What would you do?

A Solution for keeping New Year’s Re-solutions

One solution is a formula I like to call R.I.S.E, which stands for Resolve to stay Inspired to find Solutions to be Empowered”. Here’s how it works:

Be Resolved: Janet decides (or resolves) to try a whole new strategy; to not go back to her resolutions of the past.

Get Inspired: Janet worries if her health continues to suffer, how it will affect her ability to work and make contributions to the girls’ college fund which they’ll need in about 5 short years. She has to make a change!

No excuses, only Solutions: Janet decides to quit her gym membership ($250 per year) which she’s only used 4 times that year and 3 times the year before. She passes the savings on to her new grocery shopping budget and a series of home exercise videos. Janet uses her Sunday nights off to wash, cut and season her food for the week which will cut down considerably on prep and cooking time.

Become Empowered: With less time spent cooking in the kitchen than Janet had anticipated, she becomes more enthusiastic about cooking at home. Healthier food choices help to increase Janet’s overall energy level and confidence in her abilities to fit exercise into her daily routine, despite her hectic schedule.  

Instead of making resolutions, Janet decides to seek solutions through R.I.S.E. Next week, we’ll explore in detail Janet’s amazing transformation through R.I.S.E through the following…

  • Janet’s grocery shopping list –comparing the costs of shopping for health vs. convenience.

  • How Janet manages to provide healthy, home cooked meals for her family in no time using the “7S Formula”.

  • An inside look at Janet’s new home exercise routine.

52 CAN-DOs Tip #4: Ask yourself… “What Color Is My Food?”

When I think of the holiday season I think of colors -- beautiful orange, vibrant red, gold and blue leaves that blanket the streets…dark green spruce trees, candy colored lights and ornaments –but think for a moment…what if the colors of the food on our plate were just as beautiful and vibrant…wouldn’t we be too? After all, you are what you eat, right?

The pigment in vegetables and fruits contain plant based chemicals (antioxidants) that fight cancer causing free radicals in the body. Some of these antioxidants in the form of flavonoids, chlorophylls and carotenoids are not only responsible for the pigment color in plants but also helps boost the immune system—especially critical during seasonal transitions like spring and Fall when your body craves certain foods that naturally prepare it for the hot or cold season.

Eating plant based colorful, seasonal, local foods will help keep your body in a healthier, more homeostatic (balanced) state.

Color me healthy!

Green vegetables and fruits contain chlorophyll (also known as the “blood of plants”) because it is the foundation of all plant life, and makes the vegetables look green.  The oxygen in chlorophyll engulfs the cells to destroy free radicals and its fiber and calcium content (kale contains more calcium than milk!) turns many green foods into “super foods”.  If all of this were not enough to convince you green foods are a worthy companion to your daily plate, TheGlobalHealingCenter.com reports a recent study conducted in 2013 that determined the chlorophyll in plants might help suppress hunger and stabilize stable blood sugar levels which can lead to weight loss.

Blue and purple - Blueberries, blue grapes and plums contain lutein, zeaxanthin, which are excellent nutrients for healthy vision.  Prunes, which have a bluish, purple-ish color might be the healthiest of all according to a Tufts University study in Boston that “ranked prunes, or dried plums, as #1 food in terms of antioxidant capacity” [http://healwithfood.org/health-benefits/prunes]. There you have it. Prune not only keep you regular, they fight cancer too!

Yellow and orange - Carrots, pumpkin, and squash contain Beta-carotene that is converted in the body to Vitamin A to help protect against macular degeneration, and is great for skin, teeth and overall immunity.

Red – Tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers contain lycopene (which gives tomatoes and other foods their deep rich color), quercetin and a variety of important nutrients that help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and high blood pressure.

How to get more color on your plate

One strategy to eat with more color on your plate is to challenge yourself to consume at least 3 different colors on your plate at each meal. Remember to give thanks for all the colors represented and for the variety of nutrients that will provide healing to your body. Another strategy; at the supermarket, choose at least 1 fruit or vegetable that you are NOT familiar with or have never eaten before, every week for a month. Learn how to prepare it utilizing the limitless easy recipe resources on the internet. Who knows, you might just discover you love Kai-Lan “Chinese broccoli”. Bon a petit’!


52 CAN-DOs Tip #3 - Eat Fat to be Fit!

DRAFT


I know it sounds crazy “eat fat to be fit” but there’s truly a lot of truth that statement. It appears as a nation we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that fat is the major culprit of obesity, heart disease and even diabetes. But according to numerous studies and biochemical logic, its all a myth.
In fact, fat is the hero nutrient because it serves so many vital functions in the body, not to mention it tastes great and helps make you feel satiated or full so you don’t overeat especially in between meals. Here are the facts: 


WHY FATS ROCK!

Dispelling the fat myth…
Fat is the building block of cells, and hormones like estrogen, testosterone, (sex hormones), it improves thyroid function and is critical for healthy brain function (did you know the brain is 60% fat?)
Fat helps absorb much needed fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K (which cannot be absorbed without the presence of fat), helps protect and cushion your organs from blunt trauma and repairs artherial blood vessels damaged by chronic insulin spikes caused by the intake of sugar, refined starch and flours.
Best of all, fat supplies energy to the body after glucose is burned off to speed metabolism so you lose weight.

HOW FAT MAKES YOU FIT

Fat can make you fit in several ways including:


Burns body fat
Lowering carbohydrate intake in the form of breads, pastas, rice, crackers, pastries and even some grains like corn and wheat will lower insulin levels, which according to Bodybuilding.com will enable your body to “more readily access fat stores for energy while also allowing fat [not sugar] to enter and fuel your muscles”. It actually alters your body’s ability to burn fat.

Fat fills you up


Consuming high fat, low carbohydrate (sugar) actually helps you stay fuller for longer periods of time so you wind up eating and snacking less throughout the day. Raise your hand if you’ve ever polished off a an order of fried rice, a buttered bagel or whole box of crackers and still felt hungry shortly thereafter? Adding some fat to a well balanced meal such as vegetable stirfry in coconut oil with quinoa (     ) or brown rice topped with avocado can make a delicious, nutritious and filling meal that will leave you feeling full thus not inclined to snack on junk food. This is the primary reason that traditional diets don’t work –you’re always hungry. Think nutrient rich, varied diet and the calories will take care of themselves.

Fat feeds your fat burning cells
a biochemistry perspective, your fat cells (adipose tissue) release a hormone called adiponectin which according to LiveStrong.com “increases the use of fatty acids for feul” which can speed up your metabolism. On the contrary low levels of adiponectin are associated with Type 2 Diabetes. 


WHICH FATS DO I CHOOSE?


Unlike people, all fats are not created equal! 
It is important to distinguish between what is known as “good fat” and “bad fat”. Fats fall into primarily 3 categories: Saturated, unsaturated (polyunsaturated/monounsaturated), and transfats. 


Saturated fats traditionally vilified by the food and drug industry) are solid like those found in butter, cheese, animal fats, coconut oil. Here’s the key: Look for cold pressed coconut oil (one of the best sources of saturated fats) instead of refined or expeller. If consuming meat, dairy or eggs choose organic, pastured, grass fed. Olive oil, avocados, walnuts, raw nuts, are all great sources as well.
Unsaturated fall into two categories: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated whch are liquied at room temperature. Monounsaturated are some of healthiest fats whose sources include olive oil, olives, almonds, cashews, peanut butter (organic preferably), sesame seeds, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde variety since they contain among the healthiest (Omega 3’s) like salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, flaxseed, walnuts and not so healthy vegetable oils such as soybean, safflower, corn, cottonseed classified as Omega 6 or PUFA’s polyunsaturated fats. These oils are missing (unsaturated) their hydrogen bonds which makes them chemically unstable and prone to spoil in high heat, light conditions.
Transfats are those fats that are transformed chemically through the injection of hydrogen and are classified as carcinogens, similar to arsenic and cyanide. And includes foods such crackers, cakes, cookies, donuts, pizza dough, and vegetable oils heated to excessively high temperatures. 


HOW THE OILS FALL INTO O3 AN O6 CATEGORIES

These fats fall into 2 primary categories –Omega 3 which are your______and Omega 6 which are your________. It is important to have balance of these fats at a 1:1 or even 1:2 ratio,  but unfortunately we as Americans tend to end up more in the 1:30 range through all of the “vegetable” oils and ______we consume which cause inflammation in the body –the precursor to ALL disease including diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, obesity, cancer.


WHICH FATTY MEAL WOULD YOU LIKE?


Eating fat can really be fun.  How about an avocado, tomato, red onions, cilantro and baby sandwich on whole grain bread with olive oil. The fat in the avocado slows down the conversion of the grain into sugar. Or,  chopped kale salad, apple, walnuts, cranberries, olive oil, avocado, boiled egg; salad dressing: splash with lime, olive oil, raw honey, sea salt and pepper. How about some homemade cinnamon spice oatmeal cookies made with coconut oil instead of butter? Hmmm…doesn’t sound like deprivation to me. 
Who say you can’t have fun with fat? So if you’re a foodie like me but you want to stay fit and healthy, try a couple of these recipies and create your own fatty meals –HEALTHY fatty meals, that is, don’t forget to exercise and prepare to eat fat and stay fit!


52 CAN-DOs Tip #2: Look at everyday activities as your fitness center

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Let’s face it, we’re all busy. Despite the temptation to throw hands up in the air and declare “I just don’t have time to exercise!” I’m here to remind you friends, YEP YOU DO!   God has already gifted us with the creativity and resourcefulness we need to accomplish anything of our choosing; and that includes making the time to healthfully restore our bodies. 

Here are 3 of my favorite “Can Do” fitness strategies that require very little time, effort and absolutely no expense. 

Strategy 1 - Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Climb stairs and walk the escalators instead of riding to your destination. Consider the 125th street train station in Harlem. If you are physically able, forget the elevator, take the stairs. You can exit the train or bus 1 stop before you’re scheduled and walk the rest of the way. Plus, the fresh air and sunshine helps replenish vitamin D, one of the most important nutrients for the body. If mobility is an issue for whatever reason, and you’re unable to walk far or climb stairs, the next tip is definitely for you.

Strategy 2: A leg above the rest - Leg extensions and rotations  

Place both feet squarely on the floor, grip your hands firmly on the sides of your chair.  Make sure your chair is strong and stable (no wheels!) Contract your core and keep your back as straight as possible. 

A.  Extend your right leg straight out in front of you so that your leg is in parallel position to the floor. Lift up as high as you can and bring back to parallel position for 8-12 reps. Repeat the same on the left leg. Alternate for 2 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg. 

B.  Extend your right leg forward, then flex leg and rotate as if peddling with one leg on a bicycle. Alternate right and left legs for 2 sets of 8-12 reps. 

C. Place feet squarely on the floor. Contract (pull in as you exhale) your abdominal muscles. Simultaneously, squeeze your glutes (buttocks) together as tightly as you can and hold for 8 seconds.
Repeat 8 times.
Approximate Exercise Time: 3-4 minutes.
Repeat A – C (2-3 sets per day).    
In about 3 weeks, feel and see the results for yourself!

Strategy 3: “Michelle’s Arms”:

This is an excerpt from an exercise step I developed and named after First Lady Michelle Obama’s amazing arm featured in my book, Bed Aerobics Fitness Flow. This exercise tones the arms, upper back, and shoulders. Repeat each exercise for 15 reps. Best of all this is a great exercise to do while watching your favorite television show.

A.  Stretch your arms out horizontally so that your palms face the floor. Maintain a slight bend to the elbow as you lift your arms up toward the ceiling and back down to parallel position; your arms should resemble a bird flapping its wings. 

B.  Starting from parallel arms, turn your hands so that your palms face the wall behind you. Now, pump your arms up and down with your palms facing the wall behind you. This is the first set. 
There is a 30 rest in between each set). Approximate Exercise
Time: 3 minutes. Repeat A and B for 4 sets of 15 reps.

Remember, that with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you’ll discover you have more time to get fit than you ever thought possible!

GOING RAW (Real talk about the life of a fitness trainer)

If my fitness clients knew that I periodically visit a local Chinese joint in my neighborhood they would be quite surprised. After all, I’m the one that encourages them to go easy on takeout and fast food because of all the hidden (and not so hidden) preservatives and fat. What’s up with that?

So here’s the deal: yes, I do go to a particular Chinese restaurant on in my neighborhood once in a while when I can’t think of what to eat or or if time is limited, however… I only order one dish on the menu that when consumed in moderation is actually a delicious yet nutritious meal. The secret is, I tweak my order. It’s kind of like the old-fashioned Burger King jingle “Have it your way”. Basically I choose a menu item then tweak it by adding or taking away some aspect of the dish to make it more healthful.

For instance, the other day I ordered the Vegetable Chow Mei Fun. This is a rice noodle dish with vegetables and “spices” (salt, MSG, etc). I tweak it by ordering the dish without spices and instead order it steamed or lightly sautéed with a drop of oil, extra broccoli, and fresh ginger, garlic, scallions – for flavor.  In fact, the manager told me he was going to add my little revision of the dish to the menu and call it the Vegetable Chow Mei Fun Special for anyone that wanted extra veggies in their noodles. I was floored.  Can you imagine that? A special on the menu created just for me!

The moral of my little story?  If you must order fast food, you don’t have to order it exactly as it is on the menu if what’s being offered isn’t the healthiest.  Eliminating sauces and condiments in your takeout and instead adding extra veggies and herbs is an excellent way to modify your meal without compromising on flavor.

However, if you really prefer a sauce with your food my suggestion is to make your own. Not only will it probably be healthier but a lot easier and quicker than it might seem.  (See What I Crave below).

52 CAN-DOs Tip #1: Make Lemonade

Healthy Lifestyle Solutions for each week of the year

How I made my pain, my progress –and the power of sweet

By Monifa Maat “The Healthy Motivator” 

Early one morning I woke up, ran a few errands, then headed towards my local farmer’s market which I frequent every Friday –they’ve got the freshest corn, kale, tomatoes, peppers, apples, and more that I just can’t always get at the supermarket. 

When I got home, I was ready to whip up some savory kale greens with olive oil and garlic. I searched my bags –no kale. I stopped at several locations during my errands “darn it!” I must have left that big bag of fresh kale at the very crowded before frustration could set in, I paused, realizing there were beautiful bright leafy greens poking out of the bag from the beets I just brought from the market.

I must have confused them with the kale bag thinking I’d picked them both up. 

I cut off the green and red leaves from my beets, washed and cut them into small strips, then sautéed them with red onion, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, a small cap full of apple cider vinegar, dash of salt and a touch raw organic honey to taste -- basically preparing them as I would have the kale.  Hands down the best greens I’ve probably eaten all year. 

They were absolutely so delicious I forgot all about the kale. Plus, the greens of the beets are the most nutrient dense and full

of iron –almost 15% of the daily recommended value. I felt so proud of myself that I was able to take something I would normally toss in the garbage and make it into a star dish. After all, didn’t our African ancestors given leftovers from the plantation (turnip, collard, kale greens, ham hocks etc.) have to make something great from all that they had to provide for their families? Adam Clayton Powell asked “what’s in your hands?”

Like a car, my mind switched gears—wait a minute…if simple beet greens could make me feel such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment –what else am I overlooking that if I just used what was in my hands, I could make into something amazing if I put my mind to it? 

You’ve heard it a million times –and it’s true. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade by asking yourself, “What makes me feel happy, joyful, inspired?” and simply use what you have to make something better! 

It’s incredible, the power of those greens –sweet beet greens. Who knew?

 

 

Next week…

 

Healthy Habit #2: Daily Fitness at your Finger Tips…

fitness solutions that are quick, easy and made for everyone!