Chockfull of Salad

I tend to have a lot of salads. You can buy Earthbound Farms organic kale on the cheap and it will last for four days of servings.

Here’s an easy simple recipe:

Cut kale or other greens up. Peel and chop carrots. Use olives. Cut tomatoes into wedges. Slice an onion. You can also slice bell peppers.

Toss into a salad bowl. Add olive oil and vinegar or olive oil and lemon. Squirt onto the salad to your taste and toss.

I add grated parmesan on the salad after I use the dressing on it.

Here’s a handy secret that I really shouldn’t be giving away:

You can buy pre-made salads and place them in individual salad bowls to serve to guests at a dinner party. You can find store-bought salad dressing to use that is a healthful option like Cucina Antica organic salad dressing

Fresh Direct is an online delivery service in New York City and Philadelphia. Peapod is available in a lot of other places online. Either way you get groceries and household supplies delivered right to your front door.

I buy Greek salads this way and found a Fresh Direct olive oil-and-sundried tomato vinaigrette dressing to use on the salads.

Bobbi Brown the famous makeup artist in her book Living Beauty describes how to make what she calls a “chopped kitchen salad.”

Whether it’s her version or mine I make the case for having more salads and other greens for lunch or dinner.

You can get a CSA box delivered from Fresh Direct–a community-supported agriculture box of 8 to 10 items of produce from June through end of December. It comes from a local organic farm.

The $30/box has enough produce to make a variety of meals or side dishes. I received butter leaf lettuce and created a salad for dinner one night along with a recipe for lemon-and-thyme carrots.

It’s true I’m obsessed with eating mostly only real food that comes from God’s green earth not a laboratory.

Get the cookbook Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. I find myself running to this book every week to cook the produce I buy. The recipes are simple and easier to cook because they don’t often take up a lot of time.

Happy eating!

 

Greenmarket Loot

Greenmarket Loot:

broccoli, carrots, and Brussels sprouts

fresh mozzarella and Jersey beefsteak tomatoes

zucchini

organic whole wheat bread and a chocolate croissant.

tomato sauce

Total cost: $36. What it covers: two lunches and two dinners and sauce for a third pasta dinner. This seems to be a viable expense and saner than buying $36 worth of meat.

If you’re eating mostly a vegetarian diet you can afford to buy organic food simply because you’re not spending money on meat and potatoes.

I remember months ago Gwyneth Paltrow was given $200/for two weeks and asked to buy what an ordinary person collecting food stamps would buy to cook with.

You could get only two or three meals for only one or two people for $200.

It is unconscionable that the SNAP–food stamps program–benefits are being cut down drastically.

I see a person begging for change on October 30 and think: “It’s the end of the month. They must be waiting on a November SSI check.”

No one in America should have to go to bed hungry. No one in America should be discarded and left to fend for themselves.

In New York you can use food stamps to buy food at a Greenmarket. A significant number of food stamp dollars are spent at our Greenmarkets. If I remember upwards of over $500,000 is spent at Greenmarkets with food stamps in New York. I heartily endorse doing this along with using a food pantry if you have to.

No one wants to beg for change. No one wants to be poor. No one wants others to judge them because of this.

Who gives a shit if a poor person buys food at a Greenmarket. They deserve to be healthy too.

I’m a big fan of frequenting a Greenmarket. This is because I don’t take this for granted.

I remember living in a residence and having only $70 to spend for one week in 1989 to buy groceries for two people. No wonder some of us existed on hot dogs and Velveeta shells-and-cheese.

My contention is that there’s no shame if you have to use the service of a food pantry to obtain food.

The U.S. government is doing absolutely nothing to help average Americans exist on wages that have been stagnant for decades and haven’t kept up with the cost of living. No kidding.

As this is true I make the case for eating mostly vegetarian food.

Shopping at a Greenmarket and obtaining staples from a food pantry?

Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Gnocchi Recipe

Readers: I failed. At the gnocchi recipe. It was a total disaster.

I burned the inside bottom of the saucepan and had to throw out the saucepan.

It was a recipe I found in the Audrey at Home cookbook written by Luca Dotti–Audrey Hepburn’s younger son.

This experiment convinced me to not want to try to make the gnocchi again. Not at all. The food I’ve cooked from recipes comes out great. Not so with the gnocchi. It was a total disaster.

Wind-up:

I’m tearing through a KMart stocking up on items to the tune of $55. I bought a turquoise baking dish along with the replacement saucepan and other sundries.

You can get household items at KMart on the cheap. Though I didn’t relish having to spend the big bucks to buy another saucepan.

This gnocchi failure seems like the perfect metaphor for recovery and for life:

If at first you don’t succeed, consider Plan B. Figure out your next move when continuing down the same path isn’t an option.

A person is often forced to reinvent themselves when Plan A doesn’t go as planned.

This requires having a sense of humor. Laughter can be the best medicine as an adjunct to SZ medication. I want to tell amusing stories more so than to focus on the hell.

Now not all of our foiled efforts are as laughably raucous as a gnocchi recipe.

Yet IMHO the lesson here is that sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. The option we choose at the time (like going into a gray flannel career when you’re a creative madwoman) seems like the right one.

It’s only in retrospect that we realize: “What was I thinking?” It starts out innocuous. It seems like a good idea. Like wanting to try out a gnocchi recipe. Then you’re full-tilt into a mistake.

Recognizing the need to change direction in our lives is necessary.

That’s the moral of the gnocchi story.

I’ll talk about this in the coming blog entries: taking risks and risking change.

Beyond the Mediterranean Diet

Layne Lieberman’s Beyond the Mediterranean Diet is my new number-one favorite nutrition book. Buy it or check it out of the library to see the changes you can make in how and what you eat to promote optimal mental and physical health.

The author is an international expert on nutrition who deserves to be viewed as an international expert. She is one expert whose wisdom I can totally parrot unlike that of other alleged “experts” who hang out a shingle and are taken seriously because of their toxic mouthfeel they spew out that doesn’t help anyone at all.

As an Italian I liked the section on Italy and the Slow Food Movement founded there the best of all the chapters. The book also details the secrets of the Super-Healthy citizens of France and Greece too.

I recommend you buy this book to have on hand to refer to often. It’s a short book and the writing is not dense it’s light and practical.

I’m gathering product boxes up to examine so that I can write about the products I think are good and healthful to consider buying and using.

My contention is that everyone should be cooking most of their own meals. And when you’re too tired to cook you should buy healthier prepared frozen meals instead of Lean Cuisine type meals.

Amy’s Organic company offers low-calorie healthful frozen dinners that weigh in under 650 calories–the average number of calories thought to be acceptable for a meal is 650.

I buy the Amy’s Organic Light-n-Lean black beans-and-quinoa salad; the Amy’s Organic vegetable lasagna; and the Amy’s Organic tofu scramble. One or two nights a week I cook a pasta recipe. Two nights I have fish.

These are the products I wanted to talk about. It appears there are no “natural flavors” in Amy’s Organic. I also cook the Amy’s organic low-sodium lentil soup for lunch once a week.

Progresso Soups and Campbell’s soups have natural flavors so there you go not a healthful option.

I will report back in here next week on two recipes I’m going to create: cream of tomato soup and gnocchi (pasta version not potato).

Buying a Kind bar is not an act of kindness when you read the ingredient label. Using your intelligence to make better decisions about what to eat is the true act of kindness.

I’ll end here by saying that I might be Italian however everyone should cook for themselves not just Italians. You can become a good cook even though you’re not Italian.

In Like a Lady Out Like a Bull

The last time I had a hot dog was in 1992.

As soon as I read the label and saw a hot dog was 100 calories and 90 calories were fat I thought: this can’t be good.

I used to exist on real poverty food when I lived in the residence: I’d buy Velveeta shells-and-cheese that I marginally improved by mixing broccoli into it.

I rarely eat bagels anymore because I don’t want my belly to resemble a bagel.

The change-over started right when I was about to turn 50. I consciously choose not to drink Snapple and other sugary drinks. Not only not every week: I chose not to drink them at all. I drink only water now and occasionally a 4 oz glass of organic orange juice when the market is out of oranges.

One way to combat the insidious positioning of products in a supermarket is to buy groceries online from FreshDirect in New York City and Philadelphia or from PeaPod elsewhere if it’s available where you live.

The benefit with FreshDirect is that you can simply order on autopilot by logging into your account choosing to submit a new order using a previous order.

You don’t even have to think about it and you can add new items to the order as well. This is great when you don’t have the energy or think you don’t have the time to create a brand new order.

Not needing a car to travel to buy groceries also cuts down on your dependence on foreign oil. It also saves time and saves your sanity.

One woman I met told me about going to a local food market that she “goes in like a lady and comes out like a bull.” Dealing with crowds and waiting on long lines isn’t the way to spend two hours every week.

Years ago too I stopped eating a lot of dairy except for string cheese and drinking the skim milk I use in my cereal. I do eat cheese every so often though only every two or three months or so.

The benefit of watching what you eat is that you’re then free every so often to indulge guilt-free in a chocolate croissant or whatever is heaven to you.

I’m fond of the macarons at a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that opened up. The owner is a young guy and I’d rather give him the money than Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks.

I’m going to try to scoop products in here in the coming months that I think are better alternatives to the ubiquitous garbage attractively packaged to seduce our eyes and mouths.

Eating to Live

It’s proven that people who eat meat of any kind are at a higher risk for developing colon cancer and other cancers.

The more meat you eat, the greater your risk. Forget living a sustainable life to promote a better climate. Do it so you can live healthfully and live longer having a happy and healthy life.

Eating to live instead of living to eat IMHO is a valid form of treatment for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Eating healthful food can improve how we feel and give us energy that fuels us for the day ahead.

The number-one thing any of us can do (even if it’s the only thing we do) is to halt eating chemical-laden food.

Some Nature’s Path products, SmartStart, Kind bars, Skinny Girl bars–all these products have chemicals called natural flavors. Anything labeled natural flavor as an ingredient is a chemical.

USDA-Organic labeled foods are allowed to have 5 percent non-organic ingredients. Luna Bars and Clif bars also have natural flavor chemicals.

It’s not ever too late in life to change how and what you eat to start to improve your health and to feel better mentally and physically.

I’m reading the book A Big Fat Crisis about how the obesity epidemic in America is mostly fueled by food company marketing campaigns and suggestive selling of products via TV commercials for unhealthy food and drink, product placement in supermarkets, and subliminal packaging design.

It could possibly be according to the author that our lack of willpower or discipline in how we eat is a big fat lie about why upwards of half of Americans or more are overweight or obese. That all those clunky heavyweight diet books in the 613.25 section of the library aren’t helpful even though dozens are published each year that extol us to change our behavior.

The bigger real culprit is that with the subtle nefarious food industry tactics used to get us to consume more and more junk food it’s too easy to be seduced and too hard to exert control.

The author of A Big Fat Crisis is an M.D. who gives meticulous research about these insider tactics that make it all too easy for us to plunk down our cash on junk food.

I recommend that all readers of my blog check this book out of the library or buy a copy to read.

In the next blog entries here I will talk about my own eating habits over the years and how I changed what I ate to improve my mental and physical health.

Like I said it’s not ever too late to start to eat to live instead of living to eat.

Relax: it’s most likely not your fault that you could possibly carry a few extra pounds.

I used to be 20 pounds overweight by the way. At book talks my mother turns to the audience members from her front-row seat and tells them: “Chris was chubby.” I kid you not: my own mother calls me a former chubby

I’m going to start to talk in here about what I think is a better approach to eating.

Each of us can start now. We can start today. It doesn’t matter how long we were stuck in our old ways.

We can change our self-talk to understand that we’re not bad people because of this. We’re human beings. And chances are we’re seduced by food packaging and food claims that make an emotional appeal as to why they’re what we’re supposed to eat.

Carefully examining the ingredient labels instead reveals the dirty little truth: these products aren’t good for us and the sooner we stop consuming them the better our waistlines and our wallets will be.

Nutritional Psychiatry

I’m reading about a contingent of staunch psychiatrists who practice whole or integrative psychiatry focused on nutrition as a factor in healing. One doctor’s patient had no luck with her anxiety until he gave her B12 shots and the anxiety stopped.

My own experience is long and winding. I had to figure out on my own how to eat and what kind of exercise to do. From 1990 to 1993 I met with an MD who had a private practice focusing on health and nutrition. She still practices on Staten Island.

I lost 20 pounds then and mostly kept it off until my early forties. Right now I still weigh what I did when I was 29 and I’m 50. I credit seeing Dr. K as the catalyst for losing the weight. I kept a food diary. She encouraged me to exercise. All those years I would do step aerobics or the treadmill or aerobics at the time I was trying to lose weight.

This was my own sideways step-in to nutrition over the years. I read a lot of books on food and nutrition and calorie and fat counters and RDA vitamin counter type books. No psychiatrist ever examined what I ate or whether I exercised. And I’ve been in recovery 28 years now.

You can click on my Reviews blog header to read about what I think are the Top 5 Nutrition Books. I recommend starting a dialogue with your pdoc about health and nutrition and fitness. Get it rolling because it’s imperative to integrate a whole life approach to treating mental illness.

I’ll end here by touting my own experience with Omega-3 fish oil gel caps. I’ve taken them from 2003. As soon as I started taking them my Seasonal Affective Disorder stopped and didn’t return. I also take cinnamon tablets to regulate blood sugar.

As always: talk with your doctors before you start any vitamin or medicine or new “treatment.”

I can vouch for how eating good food and breaking a sweat makes a person feel good.

Skinny Girl Lemon Swirl

I bought a Skinny Girl brand Lemon Swirl power bar the other day. If memory serves it has whey protein.

I checked out the ingredients label and it appears that it doesn’t contain natural flavors or any other fake chemicals.

At the library I once scanned a Betheny Frankel diet book titled Get Skinny Forever or something ludicrous like that.

The section I read berated women for the food choices we make. That’s not going to motivate your readers to lose weight. I found that Frankel’s tone of voice in the book was hardly encouraging.

The idea that everyone has to be “skinny” is a myth if you ask me. I didn’t lose any weight after strength training going on five years now. Yet I did drop one pant and one skirt size because I gained muscle. So in that regard you could say I’m skinnier even though I didn’t lose weight.

The number on the scale shouldn’t dictate how we feel about ourselves. Maintaining a healthy weight rather than an unrealistically low weight is the better option if you ask me. Kate Moss’s body is not the kind of genetic anomaly any of us should aspire to have.

I see woman at the gym. Their arms and legs are sticks and they lift puny 15 pound kettlebells. That’s their thing so be it. Yet I recommend lifting heavier weights as you go along to develop more muscle to burn fat at a greater rate.

My mantra now is “abs and arms.”

I will be on the lookout for healthier snacks like the Skinny Girl Lemon Swirl bars.

I’ll report back in here on what I find.

I bid readers peace happiness and health this summer.

Relax: you don’t have to be skinny.

A Bone to Pick

I recommend the Mark Bittman book A Bone to Pick that collects his columns and essays on food and agriculture.

He should win a Nobel Prize for his rigorous intelligent and rational thinking on the topic.

My contention is that a person should stay away from chemical-laden processed foods and foods with sugar and added sugars. If you do that you’re well on your way to being in better health. Plus not eating meat is also a better option for our health and for the planet.

Pesticides contaminate groundwater. They cause cancer. Industrial agriculture is far from sustainable even though Monsanto is now claiming it is in magazine and TV advertisements. Or was it DuPont or Synerga claiming industrial agriculture is sustainable. Either way those claims are false.

Kind bars I found out have “natural flavors” that are actually fake chemicals.

The equation is simple: garbage in equals garbage out. I care too much for the planet and for everyone living on it to advocate for “business as usual” in farming practices.

If you live in New York City or Philadelphia I recommend shopping online from FreshDirect because you have tons of healthful food choices like Amy’s Organic. Amy’s offers black beans and quinoa, lentil soup with low sodium, tofu and hash browns, and vegetable lasagna. All these prepackaged healthful food are perfect to heat in the oven when you come home from the gym and are too tired to cook. Or when you simply don’t have the energy to cook.

I do not recommend a “garbage in, garbage out” lifestyle or way of thinking.

At HealthCentral I will continue to write about strategies for living a full and robust life when you have a diagnosis. Stay tuned there for new news articles I have planned through January.

Reconsidering Schizophrenia Treatment

Define what constitutes schizophrenia treatment.

Is it medication? Therapy? Family support?

My contention is that “treatment” must be inclusive of exercise, an eating plan, acts of faith in God or a higher power, hobbies and passions, work, school, and other healthy routines we engage in in our ordinary lives each week.

I wrote at HealthCentral about getting credentials. It’s my belief that we need to focus on habits we engage in to be whole and well. This is going to be a personal skill set or set of activities for each of us.

The days should be long gone when young people are shunted into traditional day programs, strung along years and years in a way that leads to dependence and disability instead of recovery.

This is precisely why I make the case for broadening what constitutes “treatment.”

I was lucky for over four years to employ the services of a trainer at the gym. I couldn’t afford weekly sessions so I met with him every five weeks to be given a new routine to do for the next five weeks on my own and so on. I achieved my fitness because of this trainer.

The trainer was a special person in my life and I’m grateful for the time I had with him while he was here.

This is why I think treatment needs to be expanded to incorporate at the least fitness and nutrition to help individuals with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses heal.

We can’t always do it alone. We need to assemble a treatment team that is comprised of peers and mentors for support as well as a doctor and therapist.

I wrote at HealthCentral years ago about a depressed woman who checked herself into a hotel with a spa for pampering as a form of treatment.

There you go.

I rest my case.