Clean Eating

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My Garden Bounty

My son is 42 years old and recently was given a clean bill of health from his family doctor. His once high blood pressure has returned to normal and his life-long history of allergies have disappeared and he has the body of a 20 year old man. Two years ago he started a regime of eating clean. According to Fox News Health, “The primary principle of eating clean is to replace processed foods with fresh and natural foods. This means foods that haven’t had anything added to them, and haven’t had anything valuable taken away. “

“In addition to reading ingredient lists, so you can ditch products made with artificial additives, including flavors, sweeteners, colors, and preservatives, clean eating is about steering clear of foods made from genetically modified organisms, and those treated with hormones and antibiotics, and going organic when possible, to reduce foods grown with man-made pesticides and fertilizers,” writes Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health.

She goes on to explain that clean eating is not a trend but a movement focusing on how food we eat affects our body as well as our planet. My son says he doesn’t “live to eat.” Instead he “eats to live.” He doesn’t eat clean to change or influence others but he is an inspiration. At the same time he began this way of life, he gave up alcohol and meat. He eats fish and sea food and eggs, but no dairy.

I do not eat clean totally, however I do read labels and try as much as possible to eat fresh organic foods especially ones I’ve grown myself. I do eat meat and drink a glass of red wine every day and I understand that high fiber foods that are good for me are also high in calorie. Combine that with the wine, odds are losing weight might not be in the picture.

However, like my son, I have the power to choose how I want to look, feel and weigh. When I turn to the Spiritual connection I have within I realize what a young girl suffering an eating disorder realized, “A turning point for me, I can remember,”  says Emily, “it was as if God was speaking to me directly, saying, ‘It’s not how you see yourself but how I see you that will heal you.’ And I started seeing more of what God sees. God doesn’t see imperfection, God sees good and only good.” And like my son, she went on to not only heal her eating disorder but also the need to wear glasses.

It occurred to me that if I combine my healthy eating habits with my connection to God and begin as Emily suggests: to see me as God sees me, I can then truly become the person I want to be.

A Divine Pattern of Perfect Life

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I recently took up walking at the local mall.  Walking 30 minutes at a fast pace, I seem to average 1.7 miles a walk.  My Fitbit tells me exactly how many “active” minutes I walk which is nice that when I make a pit stop at the restroom, it doesn’t count against me.

My goal was to lose weight.  I have not.  I have, however, dropped one size in my jeans; so that is nice.

Two months ago, I started using portion control and have pretty much trained my stomach that a bread and butter size plate is all I need.  I decided that it didn’t matter what I ate as long as it fit on the plate.  That may have been a mistake in thinking.  So two weeks ago I gave up drinking my few glasses of wine each night, mainly because of the sugar content.

I did not start drinking wine until my children grew up and left home.  But I have found I sleep better, feel better and except for one after a very stressful Girl Scout meeting, I have not even wanted to have a glass.  (And I did not on that particular evening either.)

My inherent wholeness is embodied in every cell of my body.  I give thanks for my body and that I can choose to take care of it as I see fit.  I avoid sweets and eat balanced meals that are healthy.  I enjoy quinoa, lentils, healthy fats, and garden greens from my backyard such as kale, beets, lettuces, arugula and herbs, year round.  I also enjoy seasonal foods during the summer such as tomatoes, squash, okra, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini and squash.

God’s pattern for perfection is the blueprint of my life.  I am whole, well, and happy.  I plan to continue on this path, one day at a time.  And so it is.

Good Food, Good Drink, Good God, Let’s Eat!

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vegetablesGone for five days and it rained for four of those days.  Lucky days for our garden (and for our son Brian who offered to water both our garden and his brother Daniel’s garden.)  We came home to brand new vegetables and an abundance of others that had already been producing.  Always grateful, we love sharing and my new neighbor mentioned she was a vegetarian (for 55 years now) and she got a large brown bag of assorted vegetables right after I cleaned them. Included in yesterday’s pickings were cucumbers, squash, zucchini, lettuce, beets, purple hull crowder peas, bell peppers, okra, and three varieties of heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Yesterday for lunch I made a green salad with three varieties of lettuce, the cherry tomatoes, avocado, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, boiled egg, chopped broccoli, cucumbers, and quinoa.  It was delicious.  We had a half a grilled cheese sandwich to top it off.  For dinner, I made cheese grits from organic polenta and because we do eat meat from time to time, I sautéed some chicken and then added a cold salad I made early in the day which had cucumber, tomato, and onion soaked in my homemade dressing of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, olive oil, and honey.  For lunch today, I stir-fried slices of zucchini and veggie burger (which we split), deviled an egg for each of us, sliced some cold cumbers and tossed on a few cherry tomatoes and topped it all off with a couple of spoons of my homemade bread and butter pickles that I made last week.

Tonight I am making a zucchini risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and lots of other herbs and greens from our garden.  I’ll grill a slice of pork loin topped with garlic, grated lemon, red pepper flakes and some Louisiana seasoning.  And we will finish off our dinner with a flourless chocolate cFlourless-Chocolate-Chip-Banana-Muffinship almond butter muffin.  I found this recipe at the Huffington Taste website. Every once in a while it’s nice to not know the calorie count on something.  But eating healthy the majority of the time allows for a few hiccups and I do love chocolate chip anything!

But most of all, I enjoy taking advantage of the bounty from our raised gardens in our little back yard.  When I think about all the years we didn’t have one, I say a prayer of gratitude for what we have now.  Growing our own vegetables helps with our budget and it helps us know that what we are eating is organic and good for us.  And we get to enjoy new foods, create new recipes, and share our bounty with friends and family.

Just Stand

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When he was asked what was the secret of an energized life Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Christ is the answer.” Reminding us that in John, we read, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” When I focus on Christ as the divinity in humankind and God as divine energy expressing in each of us, I live and move and have my being. And the next time I feel sluggish or tired, I’ll pick myself up remembering what it means to have a life filled with energy, exuberance, and joy.

Two years ago I had a hysterectomy. I was 63 years old. It was elective surgery due to a fibroid tumor on my uterus. My doctor said my life would be improved “100%,” her words. It was not. In fact the past two years have not been nearly as good as I expected for it took me months to get over the anesthesia; I gained more weight than expected; and I developed pain in my lower abdomen. Because I had a colonoscopy a few weeks before and because my doctor did extensive tests before the surgery, I was assured that I was in good health before going under. So when the pain started a few days after the surgery and continued, I called the doctor and made an appointment. After a sonogram and physical exam I was told it was phantom pain. But I never had pain before the surgery. So I was perplexed. Now two years later the pain is still present and intensified at times.

I am not one to let pain interfere with my life as those that know me can attest. I spent the last few days meditating and visualizing the pain, thanking it for being present so that I could come to resolution for its presence. I knew that it was a direct result of the surgery and never considered other reasons, but felt I needed an answer to what it was. Because I do a lot of research online, I was not afraid to look up my symptoms (although doctors tell us not to make diagnosis online). I went to WebMed and the Mayo Clinic, both reputable online medical sites. I finally narrowed it down and discovered one side effect of both robotic and cut/stitch types of hysterectomies are scar tissue or abdominal adhesions which cause pain in the lower abdomen. And now I have my answer.

In the end, all I need to do is just “stand,” as I am called to do in Ephesians. “Stand fast, I say.” I have done everything possible and am content leaving the results to God. I can now focus on the divine energy of the Christ expressing in me. I have life and I am blessed.

Go Green!

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the-importance-of-green-drinksWhen I was a little girl my grandmother used to say, “Oh look Pris, it comes in green.”  Green was not her favorite color, but it was a close second to the color pink.  I used think that is why her daughter, my mother, pledged Delta Zeta as pink and green were its colors and so became my mother’s favorite colors.  And oddly enough, they are my favorite colors as well.  But when it came to green food growing up, they were on my “no way” list.  I did not like fruit or vegetables and was not afraid to say so.

Thank goodness I outgrew that stage of life and came to love all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  But drinking a green drink never crossed my mind until I started growing my own garden and investing in my health.  By taking into my own hands what foods I eat, I found that green smoothies heavy with garden greens, fresh (or frozen) fruits, coconut milk, chia and flax seeds make for a great snack or meal.

Many nutritionists encourage us to not ignore the importance of a daily green smoothie.  And with lots of varieties to choose from, one could never get bored.  I found a recipe the other day that was a mango-lime-banana-kale-coconut milk green smoothie at only 318 calories which is low for an entire meal.  I freeze my bananas and cut them up before putting in the blender to make for a cold smoothie.

Vernon Dassler, CN encourages us in his book, “Sick and Tire? Of Being Sick and Tired,” to make a change in our eating habits. He reminds us that only we have the power to make the changes.  “Each individual must make wise choices as to the method of instituting these changes. Some start with small steps in the plan but others may do better by making more radical changes all at once. Connect with the wiser part of yourself and consider which type of personality you are before jumping into any change,” writes Dassler.

Green smoothies are also ideal for weight-loss because they are an ideal fat burning food as well as nutrient-rich, loaded with fiber and low in fat. Of course one should avoid obvious things like dairy products, fats, sugars and artificial sweeteners, store-bought juices, canned foods and powders other than hemp or rice. According to Tracy Russell at Incredible Smoothies, “Green smoothies work best if they are part of a healthy, whole foods diet that helps you lose weight and maintain your ideal size and shape.”

Next time I’m in my backyard, I’ll pick some kale and dandelion greens and make me a smoothie and can say, “Oh look, it comes in green!”

Healthy Bones

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A few months ago I had a hip bone density scan which showed no osteoporosis.  Considering only one hip was scanned, I feel secure that the rest of the bones in my body are fine as well.  I wasn’t surprised as I had been taking one 600mg calcium pill a day for many years.  But turning sixty-five, I wanted to make sure that was enough.  Although the results of the scan proved promising, my nutritionist suggested I change to liquid calcium with magnesium.  The one I use is supplemented with Vitamin D3.

I find this combination interesting because I drink coconut milk and it too combines calcium, magnesium and vitamin D in the milk. The vitamin D helps my body absorb the calcium.  According to Speaking of Women’s Health, “To maintain strong, healthy bones, you have to consume a diet rich in calcium throughout your life and your need for calcium becomes even greater as you age.”

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day for men 51 to 70 years old. Postmenopausal women who are not taking estrogen should get 1,500 milligrams per day.  So if I combine my coconut milk (150 mg) and my vitamin supplement (600 mg), I’m only getting 750 mg of calcium a day – just half of what I should be getting per day.

To make up the difference, the next thing I did was look at is what other foods are high in calcium.  That lead me to things such as salmon with bones, sardines, kale, broccoli, dried figs and calcium fortified juices and breads. Not liking any of those things except kale and breads, I was beginning to get concerned.

With further study I found that I can remember to add 150 mg if I eat oatmeal for breakfast, then add an additional 94 mg for a forth a cup of almonds to snack on, and 111 mg of almond butter added to my 60 mg of whole grain bread for lunch.  Okay, now I’m 200 mgs short.  Snack on a box of grapes, add a cup of chopped kale to my daily smoothie and maybe I’ll get there, but most likely not.  And that’s okay.  The fact that I’m willing to work toward reaching my goal of 1,500 mg of calcium a day, is enough right now.

kale

My kale bed.

But here’s the part that is really frustrating.  I read Reed Mangels, PhD, RD at The Vegetarian Research group that about 20 mg of calcium is lost with each gram of sodium in the diet.  And higher dietary sodium is associated with lower bone density.  I do not want to go two steps forward in my journey and then take three steps backward.  I can control the amount of sodium I add to a meal but what about what’s already in the food I buy, especially canned foods?  The answer of course is for me to cook with fresh or frozen food, dried beans and even better grow my own vegetable which I enjoy doing every season.

Or as my husband suggests just take one of his 600 mg calcium pills and I should be good to go.  Now off to exercise and keep those strong bones working.

To Age or Not to Age?

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Resa Alboher asks in Spirituality & Health Magazine, “Why resist aging when you can celebrate the triumph of still being here?”  Afraid of aging, her life changed when she was faced with a diagnosis of a rare cancer.  She began seeing herself grow old and looking forward to it.

Mama and Claudie

Mama and Claudia, my Grandmother

Fortunately, I have never faced death from a disease, but I have questioned my mortality especially when I saw both my mother and her mother die in their early 60’s from cancer of the pancreas.  It took me years to realized I did not have to die like them; that in fact, I could easily live years longer.  And so I embraced my aging.  Not comparing myself to their deaths placed me in the present where I belonged.

By embracing my age and how I looked, I was able to also embrace the wisdom that came with aging.  I then began to celebrate my aging by sharing my experiences and writing about them.  When we tell our stories, according to Dr. Lissa Rankin, in Psychology Today, “It transforms our lives.”  She goes on to say, “There is strength in telling our stories.” Why? “Because telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth.”

Today, I keep my dreams alive.  Five years ago when I celebrated turning sixty I had a tiny fleur-de-lis tattoo inked just above me left ankle.  A symbol of my love for the place I grew up, Louisiana, I shared that experience with my forty year-old son getting like me his first and last tattoo. I have much still to do in this life and I have no plans to just sit around and wait for opportunities.  Instead, I make them happen.

I eat healthy, exercise generously if not regularly, volunteer in the community, take care of my grandchildren and serve as my oldest granddaughter’s Girprisl Scout leader.  I stay balanced writing in my daily journals and meditations. I grow vegetables and herbs in my backyard and cook most of my meals from scratch.  My goal is to not compromise what I’ve accomplished by having any regrets. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I feel really good about having no regrets.

Finally, at sixty-five I’ve come to accept how I look now.  I realize I will never look like I did ten, twenty or thirty years ago, however, I feel I look better.  Every wrinkle, blue vein, age mark, and white hair on my head makes me who I am – unique and grateful for each day that I can grow older. My answer is clear; how about you?

My Leafy Green Garden

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lettuce 1In the April 2015 publication of Spirituality and Health Magazine, Traci Pedersen writes about how eating leafy greens make for a sharper brain.  She states, “A new study has found that eating leafy green vegetables – such as spinach, kale and mustard greens – can have a dramatically positive effect on our thinking abilities. In fact, older people who eat one to two servings a day of leafy greens have the cognitive skills of a person over a decade younger.”  – See more at:  Spirituality and Health.

I am most pleased to be reading this.  My garden is based on the plants we like, and each year we add more raised beds and include new and different plants.  This year our son built raised beds in his backyard.  Being a vegetarian, he was most interested in choosing quality seeds and so ordered them online from Survival Essentials.  They claim that their seeds are, “the finest Non GMO, Non Hybrid Heirloom Seed Bank anywhere on the Earth!”  In fact these seeds, if placed in an airtight glass jar in a freezer, have an expected shelf life from 10 to 20 years.  And he got enough seeds to share with us.herbs

In addition to our kale which survived summer heat over 100 degrees and three snow storms and temperatures below 10 degrees this winter and our two rosemary bushes that never die, our flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, lavender, sage, and mint all came back or survived the winter.  We had to replace the spicy oregano and sweet basil in the herb garden and added amaranth; however we are now ready for our leafy greens to sprout.

Returning are Crowder peas, okra, cucumbers, yellow squash, green squash (zucchini), sweet bell peppers, tomato plants and lettuce.  But this year we planted red-tipped romaine, butter crunch, and Prizehead lettuce.  We also planted arugula, beets, radishes, and not just for the vegetable but also for the greens.

lettuce2For fun we created a corner for strawberries.  But the first rainfall we realize the runoff from the neighbor’s yard runs directly down the center of the strawberry patch.  We laid some small gravel and that didn’t work so added a stone wall to guide the water away from the strawberry plants; so far so good.

In total, we have sixteen raised beds.  Waiting for the ground to be warm enough to plant was hard because it was only a few weeks ago when it was close to freezing at night.  But having a garden filled with leafy greens is worth it.  I’m not sure if it is the work involved in taking care of a garden or if it is eating the leafy greens that keeps an older person young, but I’m willing to keep on enjoying our garden and all of its bounty.  Eating healthy and liking what I eat and having the cognitive skills of a person ten years younger sounds great to me!

Good for the Soul

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Singer/Songwriter Joni Bishop sings, “I want to live so God can use me anytime, anywhere….”  This song as Joni said is hard to forget.  For me it reminds me to be accountable for my actions.  She uses a resonator guitar which reverberJoni Bishop CDates out into the world with such joy. Invented in the 1900’s, this guitar could be heard over the sounds of the outdoor spirituals.  Today, Joni’s sings her song with the same joy as only Spirituals can sound. When we talked, she told me this is one of her favorite CD’s that she published.  I can see why. Originally spirituals were sung in the call and response style.  And like her song, God calls me and I respond with the same joy; this is hard to forget. ~ Pris

Temptation

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Today I baked a cake.  Not just any cake but my sister-in-law’s very own “Deluxe Chocolate Pound Cake.”  Delicious beyond measure, it is hard to pass up, but I will.  Not because I don’t like it, but because it will make me sick.  Not literally but emotionally.  I am addicted to foods I should not eat and there are probably over a thousand calories in one slice of this cake.  And because my diet is based on eating healthy foods, (without butter, eggs, and sugar), I’m pretty sure I could not stop at one piece.

I baked this cake for several reasons.  One is that I love to cook and baking is just as fun as making a big pot of bean soup filled with garlic, onions, flax seeds, and kale.  The other is that it brings back such great memories. When I was a young mother I got this recipe at a ZETA alumni party.  Our alumni chapter at LSU made cookbooks and sold them to each other at the “Kandy Kitchen” fundraiser.  My sister-in-law, Wesley Anne submitted the recipe and so I baked it as a treat one Sunday when her mother, my mother-in-law came over for dinner.

We sat at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, listening to my oldest son, Brian who was three play outside in our backyard.  We had a fenced in yard with a swing set and patio for him to play on.  He could hear us talking as we could see and hear him playing.  The smell of the chocolate cake was just like it was today, wonderful.  Finally, after the required one hour and twenty-minute bake time, I pulled the cake out of the oven.  It was a mess.chocolate pound cake

I looked at my mother-in-law and could not tell if my face was red from embarrassment or from the heat of the oven.  We just looked at it – a crumbled, uncooked glob of chocolate.  I carried it the table and together we tried to figure out what went wrong.  With the recipe card, she started calling out the ingredients to confirm I had indeed not left anything out.  But when she got to five eggs, I hesitated, checked my refrigerator and sure enough, the eggs were still in the carton and NOT in the cake.  However, it was not a loss.  For you see, how can you go wrong with rum, butter, coconut extract with chocolate, butter and sugar?  We sat and ate our cake with a spoon and enjoyed every minute of it.

Temptation – to desire or crave something; I have the power to say no to eating this cake, but that won’t stop me from baking it or sharing it with those who can handle its delicious treats.