March 2011


photo courtesy of Highview Pastures

Although I don’t buy 100% organic produce (probably closer to 85-90%), I do try to buy 100% organic and grass-fed or free-range meat. Not only does it offer significant nutritional advantages over conventional meat, I believe it provides a better life for the animals.

Conventionally raised animals are typically fed a diet comprised mainly of grain and corn. Like humans, animals that eat a high carbohydrate diet are less healthy than those that eat more vegetables. The animals are also usually crowded into factory-like farms, whereas grass-fed and free-range animals are allowed to move around more freely and maintain their natural behaviors.

Grass-fed meat is healthier. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat while its overall fat content is lower. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been linked to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, overuse of antibiotics in livestock can result in antibiotic-resistant strains of infections. (Actually the issue isn’t even confined to livestock.  A study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality found that when vegetables were grown in fertilizer derived from the manure of antibiotic-fed livestock, the vegetables absorbed antibiotics.) And, although it has not been clinically proven, many believe hormones in meat and dairy contribute to early onset of puberty in girls (early puberty has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer later in life).

To protect us as much as I can, I buy all of my beef  from Cedar Summit farm in New Prague, Minn., my Thanksgiving turkeys from Highview Pastures farm in Farmington, Minn.(by buying directly from the farm I end up paying pretty close to what conventional meat sells for at the grocery store), and my chicken from either The Wedge co-op or Kowalski’s.

Recently, however, I was at Super Target getting some other things (Super Target has great prices on Amy’s Organic Kitchen line) and noticed the Gold’n Plump Natural chickens. Hormone and antibiotic-free (but not free-range), I decided to give it try. It was priced well and I figured it would save me a trip to the co-op. And, it was hormone and antibiotic-free–which seemed to me the most important things to avoid.

(Side note: I make a whole roasted chicken almost every week. Not only do we love it, I use the rest of the meat for pasta, quinoa, pizza and other dishes through the week. I freeze the carcasses to make chicken stock (which I use to cook brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, etc) and soups. I’ll be teaching/presenting this concept of  “A Week in the Life of a Chicken” on Sunday May 1 with my friend and colleague Jen Antila of Catalyst Cooks.)

I didn’t really give the source of the Gold’n Plump chicken much thought as I prepared it for roasting (easiest recipe EVER–see below) nor as I brought it to the table. As soon as I began to carve it though, the difference was obvious. The chicken was far fattier than the free-range ones I usually buy. Once we started eating, the difference was even more clear. It had far less flavor than our usual chickens.

So, while I saved myself about a $1.50 on the Gold’n Plump chicken, I got less actual meat, less flavor and less nutrition. I won’t be doing that again!

Easy Easy Roasted Chicken

  • whole chicken
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes

Drizzle bottom of roasting pan with olive oil and then place the chicken into the pan (I truss my chicken, but it’s not necessary.). Chop veggies into approximately 1-1/2-inch pieces and place around the chicken. Drizzle veggies and chicken with olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Place in preheated 380-degree oven for approximately 1-hour (depending on size of chicken–internal temperature should be 180F). About 15 minutes into baking time, I add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan which keeps everything moist.

Enjoy and be well!

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I love when simple things–not to mention cheap–improve my life.

Dry brushing is definitely one of the simplest things I’ve done for my skin, and other than the $5 I spent on my brush at Target, it’s free. And, I can’t say enough good about it.

According to the Livestrong website, dry brushing has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to detoxify, exfoliate and stimulate the skin.

According to many alternative health care providers, dry brushing stimulates detoxification, prevents dry skin, removes cellulite, cleanses the lymphatic system, strengthens the immune system, stimulates hormone and oil-producing glands, tightens the skin, stimulates circulation and feels great!

So what’s dry brushing, you ask. It’s super simple. You simply brush your entire body with soft-bristled brush before bathing. Basically you’re loosening dead skin cells so they can be washed away when you bathe. Super simple, but pretty wonderful results.

I started dry body brushing about a year and a half ago after reading about it in Gorgeously Green–a great guide for ways to reduce toxins and stress to our bodies and the environment. I’ve been amazed at how it has improved my skin. Typically, I have very dry skin in winter, especially around my elbows and feet. This year (we’re talking five long months of winter so far) my skin is great. I have had no issues with dry skin despite not using lotion on a daily basis.

More recently, I learned of the detoxification benefits of dry brushing. (It was a recommended practice of CorePower Yoga’s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.) The skin plays a major role in eliminating waste and toxins from our bodies. Dry brushing supports elimination of toxins by stimulating lymph nodes and circulation. The increased circulation is also said to decrease lines and wrinkles.

Of interest to most of us women is the claim that dry brushing reduces the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.  Although one of my favorite sources of health information, Dr Weil says dry brushing can’t reduce cellulite, I beg to differ. (He also says the detoxing claims are false.) I know that the cellulite on the backs of my thighs has improved since I’ve been dry brushing. I am totally open to the possibility that it hasn’t reduced, but only looks better because my skin looks better. Exactly how it works matters much less to me than the fact that I am more comfortable in a swimsuit than I was before I started dry brushing.

So here’s the how to:

  • Use a soft natural fiber brush with a long handle, preferably one with a removable head with a strap for your hand. (Most nylon and synthetic fiber brushes are too sharp.)
  • Brush your entire body before bathing. (Most instructions I’ve read say not to brush the face, but I often lightly–lighter than I brush the rest of my body–brush my face and love the way it feels.)
  • Then simply bathe as you normally do and enjoy your skin!

 

Kathleen Thon Johnson, February 2, 1947-March 19, 2011

My family suffered a terrible loss yesterday. My 64-year-old aunt passed away unexpectedly. Other than what she thought was the flu, she wasn’t sick. There was no warning, no cancer, no non-fatal-wake-up call. Her children, her husband of 41 years, and the rest of our family are devastated.

She is already deeply missed.

Aunt Kathy was one of the most–if not the most–caring and generous people I have ever known. Her greatest joy was her family. She adored her husband–my Uncle David, her two boys, and her young granddaughters. She tirelessly cared for them, as well as the rest of our family, her coworkers, and countless pets, through the years. She was always willing to work extra hours to help out a coworker, and always willing to do whatever she could to make the lives of others easier.

Unfortunately, she didn’t take such good care of herself.

Like so many women, Aunt Kathy put her own health and well-being behind that of her family. She was conscious of Uncle David’s diet and medication (he has Type 2 diabetes), but not so much her own. She rarely took sick days or went to the doctor. She recognized the benefits of healthy eating and exercise, but didn’t make it a priority for herself.

She regularly fueled herself with coffee and cigarettes.

Like so many women, she intellectually knew that taking care of herself was important, but was unable to set aside the time and energy for it. Instead, she dedicated all of her time and energy to others.

So often we hear that taking care of ourselves improves our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. Taking care of ourselves allows us to share our best selves with those we love. And most of us understand that. We get it. Yet we still resist making our own health and well-being a priority.

Yesterday morning, Uncle David woke up to find Aunt Kathy lying dead in the hallway. Apparently she had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but didn’t make it. We won’t know what killed her until the autopsy is complete, but we suspect heart failure or a blood clot.

At any rate, she’s gone. And Uncle David and her boys are lost. The quality of their lives will never be the same. They are without their beloved wife and mother. The world has lost an incredible human being.

There’s no way to know whether taking care of herself would have given Aunt Kathy extra time. Even the healthiest among us can become ill or be injured or even killed in an accident.

But taking better care of herself certainly would’ve improved her odds.

Life is so very precious. Be well.

 

I am sick. For the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling pretty lousy. My head feels like a brick, my ears are plugged, my eyes are red, watery and scratchy, and I’m so tired!

But I’m not surprised.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the advice of  my body.

I firmly believe that there are four main ways we can keep our bodies healthy and able to fight illness:

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Adequate Sleep and Rest
  • Daily Exercise
  • Stress Management

I am generally pretty darned faithful to all four of these, but sometimes I slip.

On Friday morning I woke up with an ominous tickle in my throat. The one that unmistakably tells me my body is fighting something. Normally, I would respond by building extra rest and nutrition into my schedule and toning down my workouts. Unfortunately, my daughter’s figure skating club was hosting their biggest event of the year this past weekend. Between volunteering at the event and supporting Grace, I spent more than 24 hours at the rink over the weekend. Not so conducive to extra rest and sleep.

And, so by the end of the day Sunday, my voice was almost gone and I was feeling pretty yucky. Yesterday was worse (I cancelled most of my appointments) and today I had to cancel everything. I actually don’t think I’ve been this sick since before I had Grace (10 years ago).

In my personal experience, “pushing through” illness either lengthens the time you feel crummy or makes the illness worse (which is what I think is going on now). So I’m resting. And I’m going to get better. And the next time I feel that tickle or any other sign that my body is fighting a bug, I will heed my body’s advice and rest!

 

I am sick. For the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling pretty lousy. My head feels like a brick, my ears are plugged, my eyes are red, watery and scratchy, and I’m so tired!

But I’m not surprised.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the advice of  my body.

I firmly believe that there are four main ways we can keep our bodies healthy and able to fight illness:

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Adequate Sleep and Rest
  • Daily Exercise
  • Stress Management

I am generally pretty darned faithful to all four of these, but sometimes I slip.

On Friday morning I woke up with an ominous tickle in my throat. The one that unmistakably tells me my body is fighting something. Normally, I would respond by building extra rest and nutrition into my schedule and toning down my workouts. Unfortunately, my daughter’s figure skating club was hosting their biggest event of the year this past weekend. Between volunteering at the event and supporting Grace, I spent more than 24 hours at the rink over the weekend. Not so conducive to extra rest and sleep.

And, so by the end of the day Sunday, my voice was almost gone and I was feeling pretty yucky. Yesterday was worse (I cancelled most of my appointments) and today I had to cancel everything. I actually don’t think I’ve been this sick since before I had Grace (10 years ago).

In my personal experience, “pushing through” illness either lengthens the time you feel crummy or makes the illness worse (which is what I think is going on now). So I’m resting. And I’m going to get better. And the next time I feel that tickle or any other sign that my body is fighting a bug, I will heed my body’s advice and rest!

 

As I finished up CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse this past weekend, I found myself thinking about–you guessed it–coffee. No longer thinking about the fact that I couldn’t partake, but instead thinking about whether I would make it a regular part of my morning routine or remain caffeine-free.

Like so many people, I was stuck in the All or Nothing mindset. Either coffee becomes the start of everyday or I give it up completely.

Unfortunately, neither extreme sounded very appealing.

My body is no longer addicted to caffeine and I feel really good. I don’t want to feel as though I need my morning coffee to function. On the other hand, I really do miss it. And I really do get pleasure from it.

While struggling is probably too strong a word–it’s certainly wasn’t overtaking my life–I was devoting more thought and energy to the subject than it deserved.

I was stuck just like so many who don’t adopt healthier eating habits because they don’t want to completely give up the “junk” they love.

On about the third day of my internal debate regarding coffee, I told myself to snap out of it. Loosen up. Be more flexible. Find some middle ground.

I truly enjoy my morning coffee. It gives me real pleasure. But, I don’t need to drink it everyday and I really don’t want to be addicted to caffeine.

So, I compromised with myself. I am now a 2-3 morning per week coffee drinker. The other mornings I drink my cranberry tea (which I’ve actually come to enjoy–but not as much as coffee).

The best of both worlds: I still get to enjoy my coffee, but I’m not dependent on it.

Be well!