Monday, January 27, 2014

College Tips for Crunchy Kids: Nutrition

So, last month I turned 18, but I'm actually on my second year of college.  My friends that are my age are just now gearing up for college, so I've got new beginnings on my mind.  Fellow 18-year-olds, fear not: I come armed with tips to help you feel more college-ready in all the ways that your counselor won't know how to address.

Behold: College Tips for Crunchy Kids (like myself).  Today we're gonna talk about how to eat healthily while in college.

1. First and foremost, scope out the scene.  If you are living on campus, ask:  What does the cafeteria already serve?  Are there multiple options?  If you're allergic or sensitive to something, your first step is to talk to nutrition services.  Can they accommodate your food sensitivities or dietary preferences?  Don't just assume that the people handling your food will automatically know all the places that gluten can hide, or that cross-contamination is a major problem when it comes to peanut allergies. Further, it is not enough to tell the staff what doesn't work for you.  Let them know what you CAN eat!  You must be your own advocate.

If allergies and sensitivities aren't as much a problem for you, or if cross contamination is no biggie, the salad bar can be the perfect place for a crunchy kid to nosh.  Not all of the options at a salad bar are inherently healthy, however crunchy they may be (croutons, for example).  Load up on the greens, choose lean proteins and seek out or even bring in an inoffensive vinaigrette.  Whole fruits are likely to be provided, and as far as grains go--you know which are or aren't appropriate for your own body.

2. The kitchen is there for you to use, so use it.  Especially if cafeteria food isn't gonna cut it, you should seek out the kitchens available for student use.  There might be one in the dorm.  Keep in mind that others will be using this kitchen, as well.  It might be worth educating your regular kitchen-mates about your dietary peculiarities, if you are allergic, sensitive or averse to any particular foods.  No sense suffering from cross-contamination if cooperative camaraderie is a request away.

Consider making big batches of food to consume all week.  Hard-boiled eggs, muffins or roasted chickpeas might be a good place to start for grab-and-go food.

3. Invest in dorm or apartment-friendly appliances to make your life easier.  A mini-fridge can be immensely helpful to any college kid, crunchy or not.  Ask administration (or whoever is in charge) what appliances are or aren't allowed in the dorm.  Blenders might be helpful for making on-the-spot smoothie meals (I like this little Ninja, which has held up amazingly well through regular use for the past year and a half).  A crock pot might be useful, too, depending on how much cooking you're willing to do.  Talk to your room-mate, as well--if he or she is interested in using the gadgets, you could go halvsies on the cost and share.

4. If you are pressed for time (who isn't?), check out minimally processed convenience foods.  Hummus and veggies, almond butter with apples or celery, trail mix, quality energy bars like Thuro Bread or Aztec bars, grass-fed jerky like Nick's Sticks or even an organic rotisserie chicken from the local health food store (if you've got a way to store it) can be a lifesaver.  Figure out what works for you, and keep those things in mind when finals week rolls around. (You'll be glad you did.)

Please avoid using caffeine as a substitute for real-food-derived energy.  You'll feel better and perform better in the long run, and you won't end up with an addiction to coffee or energy drinks out of the bargain.

Old-hats, got any tips to share?  Bestow your wisdom in the comments below.  Newbies, got any questions?  Let me know so they can be addressed! 

*It's worth saying, as well--I am not compensated for any recommendations that I make in this post.  All the resources I mention here are things I've used or that I would consider using for real.  Complete transparency here.  :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Roasted green beans and mushrooms

Green beans and mushrooms are a classic combination.  I keep it super simple--but crazy good--in this quick and easy recipe.  You can make these by oven-roasting them, as directed, or you can opt to give them a quick sautee instead.


12 oz haricot vert
8 oz baby portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons seasoning of choice (I like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute)
2 tablespoons melted refined coconut oil OR a good-quality olive oil


Roast vegetables in a 9x11 pan at 350 for 15 minutes or until the green beans reach desired tenderness.  Stir occasionally to prevent the vegetables from burning.

Reheat leftovers atop buckwheat cooked in homemade broth, with some roasty-toasty cashews on top, for a delicious breakfast!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Learning to dance

Dancing hasn't always been my thing.  For the longest time, I was afraid of looking silly, and of being the only person who didn't know what to do when the music started.  In the thick of adolescent anxiety, I felt too uncomfortable, too vulnerable, to express myself with dance.  So I didn't.

Aside from just growing up, there were two things in particular that helped me kick my fear of dancing and of self-expression.

First, I was introduced to Qoya.  Qoya is a movement system created for women.  It's little like yoga and a lot like creative, expressive (even meditative) dance.  When I first tried Qoya, using online videos for guidance, one principle really resonated with me: it's not about how it looks, it's about how it feels.  Home alone, curtains drawn, I closed my eyes and let myself stop caring about how my dancing looked.  And then, something magical happened: I started to enjoy dancing.  It took intentional silliness and dancing like no one was watching--because no one was watching--to shake (quite literally) my fear of looking silly.

The other thing that helped me let go of my anxiety was deeper transformation and growth in my life, assisted by homeopathic remedies prescribed by my naturopathic doctor.  As she explained, homeopathic remedies help to combat a "stuck" feeling.  Sometimes, we can see ourselves behaving in ways that are not consistent with our true natures, because of old habits or conditioning.  A good constitutional homeopathic remedy helps break through that, and lets us choose how to respond instead of sinking into the groove of old behavior patterns.  In my case, homeopathic remedies helped me to overcome my old pattern of meekness, and to find my voice.  I am growing into myself.

This growth is evident in my recent activities:  I went to my first dance (ever!) this August, though I didn't do anything particularly interesting.  A month or so ago, I danced as part of my role in a play.  And then, the crowning jewel: as a perfect symbol of the growth I've made over the past year, I welcomed in the New Year with dancing--adventurous, bold, joyful dancing with friends at a New Year's party.  I have a feeling 2014's gonna be a good year.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chicken and veggie broth

Homemade broth is a simple way to "make something out of nothing," as I like to say.  It is a way to make use of otherwise un-useable odds and ends: chicken bones and giblets, celery greens and less-than-crisp stalks, woody vegetable stems, and clean carrot peels can all be tossed into the bubbling brew. 

Chicken broth is soothing to the digestive system, because it contains gelatin.  Homemade broth can be especially beneficial to those who are unable to consume dairy products, since the broth can also have a high mineral content.  I add apple cider vinegar to my broth, since the acidity of the vinegar helps to leach minerals from the bones.  Veggie scraps add flavor and nutritional content, as well.

Store-bought broth will not have these nutritional benefits, and may contain artificial flavoring agents and MSG.  

With a good homemade broth in the fridge, flavor and nutritional value can be added to soups, grains (think risotto!) and hotdish-like recipes, like mustard chicken and veggies

Here, I've got a pot with squash seeds and pulp, kale stems, and a chicken carcass ready to go.

The "recipe" for a homemade broth is incredibly simple: toss leftover bones and vegetable scraps into a 4-quart pot.  Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Cover the pot's contents with filtered water, and bring it to a boil.  Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for three to six hours.  Then, strain and discard the bones and vegetable matter.  I like to store my broth in glass jars, but you can also pour it into a pitcher.  Use or freeze the broth over the course of one week.

 One clever idea to get you in the swing of broth-making is to collect bones and vegetable scraps, over the course of the week, in a plastic bag in the freezer. 

DO use peels from organic vegetables, especially from aromatics like carrots and onions.  It's a frugal way to get the most out of your produce--and you don't want to  make pesticide soup!

DON'T add liver or brassica vegetables like broccoli or cabbage to your broth.  Liver will make your broth taste bitter, while brassica vegetables will make it taste (and make your house smell!) sulfurous.