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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged healthy eating
Warming Your Soul with Soup
 

Polar Vortex, Deep Freeze, #Carribbeanbound – whatever you call it, winter is here and wearing us out!


There’s no better way to take the chill off your bones than a hearty, hot soup.

Restaurant dining has trained us to think of soup as a side or a “starter” dish, but soup can be a filling meal in itself. It’s just what you want to find in the fridge when you come home late and too tired to “cook.” I often eat it as a main course, with a salad or fruit or crackers on the side.

And soup has the power to heal – did you know it’s used to help with everything from seasonal colds to managing weight? In every culture, you can find soups to help with common ailments.

Whether it’s thin and broth-y, pureed and chunky, meaty and spicy, African, Asian or Creole influenced, you can never get bored with soup.


Many soups cook in just one pot – throw in some fresh chopped veggies, water, broth or stock, herbs and spices, protein, and sauté and stir. Most soups are easily portable in a thermos and freeze well.

You could actually dine well on nothing but soup. If you had time to cook only one pot for the week (30 minutes to an hour), you would be eating quite healthfully, provided you use clean and whole ingredients. Try making one pot over the weekend – when you may have a bit more time to yourself – and see how long that lasts you. 

Three reasons I love soups so much: they’re easy to make, they’re good for you, and they remind me of home – though not quite in the way you might think.  


I grew up eating canned soups, and when we would visit my great aunt and great grandmother, there was always a soup simmering. Often it was simple and fresh, like okra, lima beans and corn, or yesterday’s chicken with carrots, celery and homemade dumplings. I would scrunch up my nose, finding the unfamiliar scent, the misshapen veggies and the scarred old pots foreign compared with the uniform noodles and squares of mushy carrots and mystery meat in shiny cans that I was used to. I’m embarrassed about how I’d tell Biggie and Auntie that I was already full and pass up their dishes.

I miss those days and the matrons of the kitchen, who are now long gone. But now when I stir up a pot of my own, I imagine my great-grandmother Zillar, who we called Biggie, handing me her just-emptied bowl, peering over her rims and saying “Child, pass me another spoon of that soup.” And that warms me right up. 

 
Fall's Food Stars
 

Ever think of how odd it is that the produce in our markets looks the same, whether it’s August or December?  That you can buy a pineapple or a cantaloupe in the middle of a snowstorm? Why eat foods that aren’t in season when you could be enjoying not only the most nutritious but also the most delicious foods the season has to offer?

It took me a while to get hip to this. ‘A strawberry is a strawberry,’ I used to think. But as I cleaned up my menu, my taste buds became more sophisticated and my tastes became more discriminating, it became to clear:  a strawberry from the local farms near my New York City home in July is a far superior fruit to the strawberries that get trucked in around Christmas time. Far less expensive, too!

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When produce arrives on our shelves from hundreds and thousands of miles away, it’s been picked and shipped long before its harvest time.  And more likely than not, it’s also been treated with waxes, dyes and preservatives so it looks “fresh.”

Food tastes the most delicious when it’s plucked just as it ripens, and you’re most likely to get produce at its peak when you buy what’s grown near where you live. Fresh fruits and vegetables harvested and distributed at their peak also have the highest nutritional content – that means more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for you!

For centuries, we’ve known about the health benefits of eating what’s in season – Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic and macrobiotic diets all spotlight seasonal eating.  We may not have a freezer chest, and we probably aren’t going to start canning. But we can make a point to buy locally and plan our menus by what’s being harvested at the farms nearest us.  Besides, you pay less for foods in season and you help contributing to sustainable agriculture.

Here are eight foods that you’ll want to savor at the top of fall – when they’re in season and at their very best:

Apples

Whether you like a classic Red Delicious, an intensely sweet Fuji or a tart Granny Smith, you’re certain to find this anti-oxidant boost in its prime.

Carrots

Chop it. Shred it. Eat it whole.  However you have it, indulge in this sweet and nutty beta-carotene blast - a great addition to stews and casseroles.

Figs

Savory and saccharine, figs are in season through October and an earthy addition to pies, salads and purees. They have the highest fiber and mineral content of all common fruits, nuts or vegetables.

Grapes

Whether in juices, jellies, jams or plucked from the vine, grapes lend a crisp sweetness reminiscent of summer. One cup of grapes, at about 100 calories, meets more than a quarter of your daily needs of vitamins K and C. They’re high in sugar, so eat in moderation. 

Kale

This sturdy green stands out in the fall. It’s in season through December but stock up and enjoy now – seared, wilted or baked. Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and in phytonutrients.

Pears

This crisp and subtly sweet fruit is perfect in everything from salads to cocktails. Because they’re high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, pears are an intelligent snack for those with diabetes.

Pumpkins

Artificially pumpkin-flavored everything is in this fall, but try to use the real deal. Tart but nutty, pumpkin can be used in pies, chutneys and even muffins. (And the best ones for cooking aren’t those jack-o-lantern porch beauties; ask your produce expert to steer you to the right ones for cooking.) Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A and fiber, and are low in calories.

Squash

You can find squash in season by early November, so snatch them up to use in casseroles, stews and even burritos. Squash is full of antioxidants.

Explore your community listings for farmers markets and Community-Supported Agriculture programs, where you can get weekly deliveries of seasonal produce. For New Yorkers, here’s where you can find your local CSA

Here you’ll find farmers’ markets and a handy guide of what’s in season each month.


What's your favorite fall produce? 

 
What are You Hungry For?
 

“But aren’t you supposed to have three meals and two snacks a day?” One client challenged me as we explored the concept of eating when you’re hungry. 

“You’re supposed to have the nutrition and satisfaction that you need for the day,” I replied, “but there’s no rule as to when and how you’re supposed to have it.” 

The meals/snacks scenario is just one of many of the major misconceptions around healthful eating, along with the rule that says a meal needs to be a meat and two “sides” of a “starch” and a veggie. 

Ever wonder why “sides” are about the same whether you’re ordering in a sit-down restaurant or at a bake-and-take chicken place? 

But I digress. One reason that so many of us are overweight is that in following rules like meals/snacks, we’ve lost touch with our own hunger. We eat more often than we need to, and more than we need. In many cases we substitute hunger for other things, like love, affection, a job we like and that likes us back, more money. And we try to feed these other hungers with food. 

To rationalize feeding the hungers, we adopt rules that mesh comfortably with our lifestyles, quirks and habits. There is a rule that says you should eat three meals a day and mentions nothing about snacks. Why is it that nobody seems to adopt that rule? 

A friend once glanced at my salad-filled plate and surmised that I was a “utilitarian eater.” I thought about it for a minute (in this age of peer-pressured eating, somebody always has something to say about a salad-filled plate) and agreed. Most of the time I eat when I’m hungry and I eat what I need. Now don’t get me wrong – I am known to answer when sweet treats call my name. But I’ve learned to put aside all the diet rules and take my cue from my body. I can tell when I'm hungry for food, and when I'm hungry for something else. 

So today’s rule – so to speak – is to eat when you’re hungry, but to know which hunger you’re feeding. How can you get in touch with your authentic, physical hunger? Here’s a start: 
 

  1. Eat with intention. Try this: Set a plate, make it pretty, sit at a table, use utensils and savor your meal. Don’t watch TV or read the paper or anything distracts. Note the colors, flavors and textures of your meal. Chew each mouthful at least 25 times (for many, that’s easier said than done). Stop. Put your fork and knife down. Drink (water, ideally), and start again. This exercise will force you to slow down and give you time to recognize when you are full. And when you are full, ignore the rule about cleaning your plate, and stop eating. You can’t do this all the time, of course, but mindful eating is a good foundation for developing other healthy eating habits.
  2. Let yourself “feel” hungry. A lot of us wouldn’t know what physical hunger felt like if it punched us in the gut. We eat dinner at 7 and a snack at 10, ad then we wake up at 6:30, not feeling hungry, but we eat anyway because the rules say “breakfast time.” Of course you shouldn’t skip breakfast, but recognize that if you don’t allow at least 12 hours between the last thing you ate at night (snacks included) and the first thing you eat in the morning, your body is still processing food from the night before and might not be ready for more. There’s a reason they call it “break” “fast:” you should wake feeling hungry if you’ve truly fasted. When you are hungry, eat a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast (fruits or veggies and certain grains or lean meat) – it should carry you to lunch without the need for a snack.
  3. Ask yourself, “What am I hungry for?” Consider that you may be bored and looking for entertainment. Or stressed over a big project that’s due. Or you had a hard day at work and “deserve” to treat yourself to an over-the-top dessert. While you’re considering the answer, drink a glass of water. That will help you break the habit mindless eating and feeding hungers that food can’t begin to feed.

Have a Healthy Day, 
Robin

 
Honoring Your Food-Mood Connection
 

I look forward to summer holidays because they remind me of family gatherings back home in Detroit. And of course at the centerpiece of every family gathering is food. 

Whether it was for a house party or a picnic in the park, summer meant aunts and uncles and cousins showcasing their special dishes, all made with love: we’d have potato salad, macaroni salad, greens, baked beans, often a seven-layer salad, a pound cake, a pie (with vanilla ice cream, of course), barbecued ribs, chicken, steak and burgers, and my favorite, hot dogs. I loved hot dogs so much that I would bypass all other meats glistening in barbecue sauce (fresh lemon juice and onions made it tangy, sweet and pungent all at the same time) and make a bee-line for the franks. I took mine smothered in sauce and topped with mustard and relish, in a soft, spongy bun. No matter what else he was “burnin’,” one of my uncles, aka the Grill Master, would make sure to throw some dogs on just for me. 

Times have definitely changed – I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten pork or beef, and haven’t had a hot dog in some years. I didn’t wake up one day and swear off meat, but over time, as I gravitated toward cleaner eating with more fruit veggies on my plate, my taste buds changed. A client asked recently, “You mean you never crave a hamburger?” “Never,” I responded. And I meant it. 

But this Memorial weekend, home was calling – maybe it was knowing that my little sister was in Detroit visiting the fam while I stayed put in NYC. So I decided to inaugurate summer with an homage to home. 

I’ll grill anything – I once made a shrimp-veggie stir-fry over charcoal. During a power outage some years ago, to my son’s delight, I grilled his pancakes. Yesterday I grilled chicken, turkey burgers, turkey chipotle sausage, and yes, turkey hot dogs. Once all the meat was done, I threw on some corn on the cob – after opening each ear slightly, removing some of the silk, and soaking in water about 15 minutes. Nothing says summer like fresh grilled corn. I made a potato salad, some veggie-baked beans and a green salad. I finished it all off with an apple pie. 

We’re usually a super-healthy food zone. My kids (my 15-year-pld son and my 22-year-old niece who lives with us – and therefore, at least temporarily, is my kid) often tease that the foods I prepare are too healthy for their tastes. “Mom, why don’t we eat like normal people?” My son often asks. I’m known for fruit smoothies for breakfast and hearty salads with salmon or shrimp for lunch, and I’d much rather “oven-fry” my chicken than pan fry it. But the kids usually eat everything I make and even concede that it’s pretty good. 

Every once in a while, though, I loosen my apron strings and reach for the foods that tug at my heart strings. It’s good to recognize how our emotions (from boredom to sadness to a longing for the good old days) often drive our cravings for some foods. Once we’re mindful of powerful mood-food connections, we can find healthy ways to go with, and not fight those cravings. 

Our menu this weekend was full of forbidden stuff for many who are counting calories, sugar and fat grams. But unless you’re on a medically restrictive plan, if you eat healthy and clean at least 90 percent of the time, it’s OK to splurge the other 10 percent of the time. Just don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that 50 percent is 10 percent – your waistband will be your reality check. 

This weekend we feasted (the leftovers are just as grand), and the kids were quite content. I’ll freeze some for quick and easy meals later. Soon enough the dogs will be gone and we’ll be back to 90 percent. But for the moment, we’ll enjoy this first taste of summer, and special taste of home. 

Have a Healthy Day, 
Robin