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Just Mom

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My three daughters are now young adults living away from home so the food-related role of being a mom has undergone many subtle changes over the years. When they were small it was “all mom, all the time” when it came to feeding them. Today, of course, they still rely on me for guidance but for the most part they are on their own to forage for food, prepare it and eat on a day to day basis.

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Wild Mushroom Stuffing

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Stuffing’s something most people can’t picture a holiday meal without, but it’s often an afterthought, pulled out of a box and if time permits, sometimes doctored. As such, many people associate the flavor of boxed stuffing as the preferred flavor for stuffing in general: it’s tradition. So the last thing I wanted to do was mess with that; so, dried fruit and chunks of random stuff was not an option. I wanted this stuffing to have the flavor everyone expects.

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Comfort Food and Nutrition

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“Comfort Food.” “Food of Love.” “Fat Bomb.” Isn’t it always the case? Whenever we think about those dishes that have meaning to us—whether it’s Mom’s specialty, that first date dish, or that snowy day favorite—we rarely default to a light salad or a whole grain pilaf. But there are verifiable reasons why certain foods spark nostalgia or warm feelings inside. There exists a science behind food choices, and that science influences our preferences and our perceived emotional attachment to certain foods.

On a very basic level, memories associated with food can be a catalyst for a particular preference. The smell of Grandma’s beef stew doesn’t usually remind us of how nutritious Grandma’s cooking was; rather, it reminds us of Grandma and her warm hugs and kind smile. That fried chicken Auntie used to make, with its crispy skin and deep brown crust, was the highlight of the family picnic…well, the chicken and the good times with cousins and friends. So many of our seminal memories—from holidays to weddings to the birth of our children–are served up with a side of comfort food.

That said, it’s interesting to note that despite the myriad influences that affect our personal tastes, the scientific community theorizes that babies are born with only two innate taste biases: a preference for sweetness (evolutionarily attributed to “safe” foods) and a rejection of bitter taste (regarded as an indication of poisonous compounds). But science has also proven that innate preferences can be overridden by experience and cultural mores; that’s why we see, for example, Asian palates developing an appreciation for the bitter flavors (despite its evolutionary consequences) present in their cuisine. Also, a desire for certain food traits, whether it be starchy carbs for quick energy, fat consumption to boost stored energy, or sodium to maintain balanced electrolytes, is important in determining our preferences. Simply put, if your lifestyle requires it, the body seems to be capable of letting you know. These nutritional cues, consistently heeded over time, can also affect our general food predilections…

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Guiding Stars Food Finder (BETA)

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Guiding Stars just celebrated our 4th anniversary by releasing the new search engine Food Finder into public beta. The search engine allows shoppers to search for any of 50,000 foods in the Guiding Stars database and view the zero, one, two or three star nutrition rating for that food.

Shoppers are encouraged to have conversations about food, exchange ideas and share ratings. You can write a review on a food item by logging in to the Food Finder using your email address, Facebook or Twitter account.

I recently sat down with John Eldredge, Director of Brand and Business Development at Guiding Stars to share some user questions…

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Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink

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Water is an essential nutrient with absolutely no calories, one that is required for our very existence. We can survive only minutes without air and only days without water. Of our total body weight, anywhere from 45% – 75% is made up of water, depending on the amount of body fat we have. Water not only makes up the largest component of our body; it is used continuously by every cell for the following necessary functions to:

  • help regulate body temperature
  • maintain skin integrity
  • promote bowel regularity
  • keep joints lubricated
  • transport oxygen and nutrients to cells via blood
  • surround and fill cells and tissues and cushion internal organs
  • prevent fluid retention and edema

We lose over 2 liters of water each day just by being alive through our breath, urine and bowel movements. Since our bodies cannot store water, we need to replace this water loss with water intake. It is recommended that adults consume 64 ounces (2 liters ~ 64 ounces) of water each day or eight 8 ounce glasses of water or other fluids…

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How to Get Motivated at the Gym: 5 Steps for Success

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OK, so you got your gym membership. Check. Now it’s time to actually go!

With the winter months approaching, it’s easy to ignore your exercise routine; especially when you no longer have to worry about looking good in your bathing suit. Don’t fret, there are a few tips that will make your gym membership pay off.

1. Prep with tunes

I’m never happy with the overhead music they play at the gym – do they expect it to pump anyone up? No problem. Make sure your iPod is jam packed with the music that you just can’t help but get up and dance too – or run to!

2. Have a plan

Spend your drive to the gym thinking about what you’ll do when you’re there. I’ve found simply having a plan (even something as simple as “running for 30 minutes, followed by an arm workout, and finishing up with abs and stretching) can keep you from getting distracted, or worse – giving up and going home.

3. Get yourself there

I find one of the hardest parts about getting motivated at the gym is simply getting there. Once you step in the door, it’s hard not to get to work!

4. Have goals

You have a plan, but what are you working toward? Do you want to run for a mile longer than you did yesterday? Or maybe for just 5 minutes longer? Do you want to be able to do 5 more reps of a certain exercise? Or lift 5 pounds more? Goals keep us on track and even better: keep us motivated to keep coming back for more!

5. As for the 5th tip?

Well….why don’t one of you suggest one of yours! What keeps you motivated at the gym?

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Roasted Salmon with Veggie Sushi Salsa

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When my ten year-old was a toddler, he would eat anything. From Thai food to cooked fish sushi, like many kids he was game for any flavor experience out there. He was especially fond of salmon: I remember buying it at the grocery store back then: one pound for my husband and me, and half a pound for my two year-old.

As he grew up, his desire to experience varied foods was trumped by his desire to control his food intake, and again, like many kids, his preferences narrowed; eventually, we could accurately apply the “picky eater” label to him. His love for salmon fell by the wayside with many other foods, and I forced myself not to freak out, instead deciding to be patient and wait this phase out.

Well, that phase lasted about 6 years, but eventually, his love of salmon was rekindled after I actually paid him a dollar to take a bite. He loves it again—as do my other two children–and now, with a family of five to feed, we can go through a lot of salmon in one meal. He still hasn’t gotten back in touch with his “sushi period,” so I decided to develop a recipe that might lure him back to the exciting tastes and textures of Japanese food. It’s one thing to label my son’s food choices as “picky.” It’s another thing entirely to let that label affect how I choose to feed him. And my choice is, and always has been, to encourage adventurous eating in a no-pressure way. Since I believe a varied diet begets a more balanced diet, it’s worth the effort—and high risk of rejection—to keep trying…

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