The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learn to Love Your Crockpot! (Fast and healthy food in your slow cooker!)

I have to say, I LOVE my slow-cooker lately!  As a new mom, I just don't have the time (or energy) to cook like I used to.  ....but considering how important it is, I've learned some shortcuts.  Using a slow-cooker will allow you to easily create healthy, tasty, easy, meals with in-season vegetables (something we can all eat more of), whole grains, and tender meats for PENNIES per serving!  Why not dig out that crockpot today?

I don't even use a recipe these days.  Who has time to plan, make a shopping list, and such?  Here's what I do:

1.  When at the grocery store or market, buy whatever fresh vegetables that are on sale and in season.  You get lots of strange vegetables you've  never tried before this way.  (Variety is good!  Each vegetable has its own unique combo of vitamins and minerals, some of which have not even been discovered yet.)  I've gotten jicama, celery root, butternut squash, and sunchokes to name a few.

2.  Buy whatever meat is on sale.  Get a different type each time.  (buffalo, pork, beef, lamb, etc.)  Rotating your food prevents you from developing food sensitivities.  Even the cheap, grissly cuts of meat turn out tender and delicious in the slow cooker!

3.  If you wish, you can add grains too.  (Optional)  I've used brown rice, quinoa, and pearled barley.  (I saw some Israeli purple wild rice the last time I was at the grocery.  I'm going to try that next!)

  • When you get up to go to work, or when the baby wakes you up at 6am (if you're lucky.  --or 5 or 4 or 3 if you're not),  throw everything into the crockpot.  (You can chop veggies the night before, or just do it right then like I do.)
  • Cut slits into the meat and shove cloves of garlic into them.  (I use about 4 or 5.)
  • Add a glass of liquid like broth or just water.
  • Set it to cook on low for 8 hours.
In the evening, when you are too tired to even think about cooking, guess what......dinner's ready!  This makes a delicious stew that you can have for supper, with enough leftovers for several lunches throughout the week.  Easy peasy and yum!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You will not believe how good this "milk"shake is!

I'm not kidding!  I made this for dessert tonight and my husband agrees.  No milk, no sugar, and delicious! 

Chocolate Banana "Milkshake"

1 handful of raw almonds
1 banana
2 T cocoa powder
1 handful of dried, pitted dates
1 1/2 cups of water
ice, as desired

Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into 2 glasses.  Enjoy!
(Serves 2)

It actually tastes like a real milkshake! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Getting Back on Track with this Quinoa Salad!

So pretty!  It looks like confetti! It's a party in your bowl!

I've been trying to get back on track with my healthy eating.  I came across Dr. Amen's work.  (If you don't know who he is, he's a doc who has been doing brain imaging and has been helping people with brain problems for over 20 years.)  I am intrigued by his premise that if you eat brain-healthy foods, then your brain will make better food choices, thus making you healthier.  Makes sense, right?  Anyway, I saw his "Quick Wit Quinoa Salad" recipe in his latest book and I thought I'd try it.  I ended up changing some things, so here's my version:

Modified "Quick Wit" Quinoa Salad

cook 1/2 cup of quinoa according to package directions.  (Basically, you add double the water and boil for 15 minutes.)
1 can of black beans
2 stalk celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
A mixture of grape tomatoes (he says to use cherry tomatoes)
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup of olive mix (the kind you put on muffalettas.  This is my addition.  He doesn't have olives in his recipe.)
the juice of one lime
pine nuts (as desired)

Mix together and enjoy! 

Note:  Don't forget the pine nuts!  I totally forgot to put them in which was a shame since I had bought them especially.  Oh well, it was still delicious without them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sometimes, you just gotta

I have a confession:  I have not blogged in over 3 months because I had a baby on June 4th and I just haven't had time to even look at the blogosphere!  (Sorry, dear reader.)  Anyway, I have a hankerin' to write again so here goes.

My birth experience did NOT go as planned!  I wanted a natural birth.  I read countless books, and went to no less than 6 courses.  I hired a doula as well and did "labor exercises" every day for the entire last trimester.  (These consisted of mostly squats and leg lifts.)  As I found out, however, some things you just do not have any control over no matter how much you prepare.

I had gone to my OB the day before, and he told me there was no dialation at all and it looked like it could be another week or two.  Well, so much for that!  My water broke the very next morning.  My contractions did not start on their own.  I used a breast pump for 12 hours to try and get them started naturally, but they just didn't.  Finally, the doctor gave me pitocin since 12 hours after your water breaks, there is risk of infection.  My doula said, "well, all is not lost.  You can still give  birth naturally even with the pitocin".   I decided to try it.

Can I just say that enduring pitocin contractions totally sucks?  Apparently, they feel worse than natural ones.  I can't believe how much it hurt.  It literally took my breath away.  Anyway, I labored for 20 hours with no pain meds.  (I kinda feel like a rock star for lasting that long!)  I then gave up and did something I said I'd never do.  I let them give me an epidural.

It was such a relief to get the epidural!  I was enhausted and I was able to sleep a bit.  The labor progressed for 7 hours with the epidural.  The baby's hearbeat was dropping with every contraction and it was getting worse.  Plus, there was a lot of molding of the baby's head and I had was only dialated 3 cm after all that!  I then did the other thing I said I'd never do:  I had to have an emergency C-section. 

SO - 27 hours of labor only to end up having an emergency C-section?  Boooo!  I was glad the doula was there the whole time.  She made me feel better about it all.  Even she said it was neccessary in my case and she told me as I was being prepped, "sometimes, you have to do things you don't want to do but it is in the best interest of your child.  This is the first thing in a long list of things you'll have to do like that as a mother."  40 minutes later, my sweet baby girl was born!

Went they cut into me, the doctor saw a "uterine band".  I had never heard of this.  Apparently, it's an extra ring of muscle (sometimes called a Bendel ring) that goes around the uterus.  It's very rare and it's not even genetic.  It's just a freak of nature.  Mine was at the bottom and it trapped the baby in and prevented it from ever dropping.  So - a vaginal birth would have been impossible.  I'm so grateful for modern medicine because in the olden times, I would've been one of those women who labored for days and then died and no one would know why.  I still like natural remedies when possible, but I have no qualms about using modern medicine when I have to.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is a doula anyway?

Yesterday, I attended a class about having a doula assist with childbirth.  I had heard of doulas before, but I wasn't clear on what they actually did. Basically, they are professional childbirth coaches.  They are different from midwives because they don't do medical interventions and the don't replace the doctor.  They work with doctors and nurses.  Their main concern is helping the mother during the birth by calming her and keeping her as comfortable as possible. ("Mothering the mother")

Natural Childbirth:
Yes, I am one of those people who thinks natural childbirth is probably the best.  I mean, our bodies are designed to do this, right?  Sure, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world but the pain isn't life threatening and the recovery is so much better if you don't have an epidural or a c-section.  HOWEVER,  I have never had a baby before so I have  no idea of what the pain will be like.  I may get in there and decide I can't deal with the pain and demand an epidural ASAP.  A doula can help by suggesting comfort measures like breathing exercises, various positions, heat, massage, acupressure, and a variety of other techniques.  I think my best chance of actually having a natural childbirth is if I have a doula cheering me on.   

Doulas Offer:
  • assistance with preparation of a birth plan
  • information, encouragement, and support during the last weeks of pregnancy
  • emotional and physical support for mom and partner during labor and birth
  • explanation of medical procedures and choices
  • techniques and hands-on help with comfort measures
  • support for the father/partner
  • continuous one-on-one support during the entire birth
  • support during the early postpartum period
Why I want one:

The doula who was teaching the class I attended did a demonstration with a model of a pelvis and a baby doll.  She showed how the "flat on your back" position (that the hospitals normally force you to be in) can actually prevent the baby from getting into the correct position.  Gravity works against you.  She then showed various positions that can use gravity on your side to assist the body in getting that baby into the best possible position for delivery.  Once she was done with that demo I thought, "I want a doula and I want her!"

Things I did not know:
  • The early labor contractions are not supposed to get the baby out.  They are supposed to get it into the correct position.  If the baby can't get there, the labor is long and drawn out and doesn't progress.
  • Most problems resulting in neccessary c-sections happen because the baby can't get into the correct position in the pelvis.
  • A chiropractor can help make the labor go faster by adjusting the pelvis and making sure it's in alignment.  (BEFORE labor starts, of course!) The doula recommended that I go see a specific chiropractor and have one pelvis adjustment now, then another one a few weeks before the due date.  Having the pelvis in alignment will help that baby go through more quickly and smoothly. 
  • Many hospitals have birthing tubs these days.  The hospital where I'm going to deliver does not do water births, but they do have birthing tubs for use during labor.  (They are not automatically offered and you have to specifically ask for them.)  Apparently, getting into a tub of hot water can reduce labor pains by as much as 50%!  The doula can act as an agent and will call the hospital in advance to have the room set up with the tub, birthing ball, pull-up bar, and "all the toys".
  • A doula can act as a "bouncer" if there are people in the room that start to stress you out.  That way, the doula is the "bad guy" and not you!   
  • A doula can help calm the husband.  This is great especially if this is the first baby, and he has no idea what's going on.  She can also suggest techniques for him to help in the process.
  • The doula is hired by you.  She works for YOU and not the hospital.  Unlike a nurse, who may have 2 or 3 other patients at a time, you are the only patient for a doula at one time.  She stays with you during the whole birth process.  This alone comforts me a lot.
  • The doula will NOT get in the way if you do decide to have an epidural or if you have to have a c-section. 
The cost isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  (I'm sure it varies depending on where you live.)  Just to give you a ballpark figure though, my doula is going to cost a $600 flat rate.  It includes a meeting prior to the birth and the entire birth.  If  it lasts 2 hours, it's $600.  If it's 38 hours, it's $600.  I think this is a good deal.

I'm convinced that having a doula is the right choice for me.  Anyone out there ever work with one?  I'd be curious to hear about your experiences.

Intrigued?  For more info, check out the International Doula site:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Is it considered "pigging out" if it's on vegetables?

I love roasted vegetables.  They are delicious!  A friend loaned me this cookbook and I tried the Asian Roasted Broccoli recipe and I pretty much ate the whole thing.  Yeah, I pigged out......on broccoli! 

Asian-Style Roasted Broccoli

1 1/2 pounds of broccoli (1 medium head, cut into florets)
2 cloves garlic
1 medium shallot
1 T peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T tamari or reduced sodium soy sauce
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, mix the broccoli with the garlic, shallot, ginger, oil, and tamari and season with the pepper to taste.  Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until the florets are tender but still bright green, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Since we're on the topic of roasted veggies, I also LOVE this recipe for Curry Roasted Cauliflower.  (I made it today as well and pigged out on it too!)

Curry Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil  (I don't measure.  Just drizzle it on!)
curry powder (Spinkle as much as you want on top.  I use a LOT.)
salt (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix everything in a bowl and put it on a cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Delicious!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hot Shots

Here's a hot topic:  shots!  As in immunization vaccines for your baby.  The question is to shoot or not to shoot, or use an alternative shot schedule?  My baby is due in June 7th, so this is a topic I am very interested in. 

Why not use the recommended shot schedule the way it is?
You read all kind of scary stuff about shots, mainly the link between the MMR shot and autism.  People in the medical profession swear up and down that there's no scientific proof that the MMR shot leads to autism in any way.  However, there are SO many accounts from parents who take their baby to get the MMR shot, then they "are different" immediately, and develop autism very soon after.  I know there's no scientific proof to back up these claims, but I really don't think these people are making it up.   A mother knows her baby best, and she would know exactly when a change like that would occur.

In addition to autism, there are claims that all these shots are responsible for the increase we're seeing in autoimmune diseases in children.  (Like athsma, MS, etc.)   Also, there are claims that the increase in behavior problems and ADHD are linked with the mercury levels in shots.  Luckily, this isn't a problem anymore because all shots for babies are now thimerasol-free.  (Thimerasol is the preserving agent that contains ethyl mercury.)  The problem I'm worried about is: what do they use for preservatives in shots now, and are those as or more harmful than the thimerasol?  I've heard they use aluminum and other bad things now.    

Also, the pharmaceutical companies would be out a LOT of money if there were proof that their shots were harmful.  I believe that if it's in someone's financial interest to not find something, then it won't be found!  Who do you think funds the research on these shots anyway?  Of course they're not going to find anything.

....but you still need to get your baby the shots! 
Now, I'm not saying I'm going to be like those crazy people who just don't give their baby any shots at all.  I feel  like that's just irresponsible.  First of all, the diseases that these shots immunize against are horrible diseases that can kill.  Some are making a comeback, like whooping cough.  Whooping cough used to barely even exist, and now there are more and more cases showing up because so many people are choosing not to immunize.  This is a dangerous disease where the babies can't breathe and can die.  Second of all, by not giving your child any shots at all, you are relying on "herd immunization".  This means that your baby benefits from all the other ones getting shots.  This strikes me as very unfair.

Alternative shot schedule 
What I think I'm going to do is an alternative shot schedule.  This seems to be a good "middle of the road" option.  My baby will still get all of her shots by the time she's 5 years old, but we'll start a little later (4 months instead of  2), and we'll spread out the shots (so she won't receive 17 immunizations in one day).  Currently, I'm reading Dr. Stephanie Cave's book on the subject.  It must be said however, that I spoke with 3 pediatricians and they all disagree with her.  They will, however, do Dr. Cave's shot schedule if I sign a waiver.

MMR Separation and evil pharmaceutical companies:
Since the MMR shot is the big bad one, many people want to separate it into 3 shots.  However, the pharmaceutical companies have taken away this choice.  (!)  They no longer make it in separate doses.  The triple combined MMR is the only one they make in the US any more.  They do make it in Europe, but the FDA has not approved it from Europe and your doctor cannot immunize your baby with shots from there.  This makes me so mad!  I don't like big companies making that choice for me.

I have heard some promising news that Merck will be making the separate shots again in 2012.  I hope I can put off the MMR for my baby until then.

What do you think?
This is a really controversial issue and I would really be curious to know your insights in this topic.  Also, if you have any websites or books to recommend on the issue, I would be really interested to hear about them. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fertility Diet

Sometimes, miracles do happen.  So, I haven't been posting lately.  I've just had other things on my mind because I am pregnant!  I really did not think this was ever going to happen.  My husband and I tried for 6 years, the last 3 with fertility treatments, and we had started the adoption process.  (We are still going to adopt a baby from India.)  We were on the very last IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination) procedure before trying IVF.  ...and it worked! 

This was the 9th time I'd had an IUI.  What did I do differently?  Well, at the time I conceived, I was following this Fertility Diet.  I don't know if it was a coincidence or not, but it you're having issues in the area it's worth a shot, right? 

This book is based on a extensive Nurses' Study and has lots of good tips.  Here are some the things I did:

1.  Avoid all preservatives, MSG, trans-fats, and high-fructose corn syrup.

2. Take an iron supplement.

3.  Take fish oil supplements.  (Make sure they are mercury-free.)

4.  Stay away from peas.  They contain a substance that affects fertility.  (Who knew?!)  Apparently, they are studying it to possibly create a natural birth control pill!  Anyway, I hate peas so I was only too happy to  give them up.  (Ironic that the cover of the book has a picture of peas on it, isn't it?)

5.  You'll love this one:  Eat full-fat ice-cream!  Make sure there is no skim milk in it.  (Surprisingly hard to find.)   Full-fat dairy helps ovulation.  Skim or low fat dairy has had the hormones altered (it explains it in the book) and it is detrimental to ovulation.  Crazy!  At the time I conceived, I was eating 1/2 cup of Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato with strawberries and blueberries on top.

6.  Eat berries!  Also, dark chocolate, and green tea.  

7.  Limit caffiene.  (Other than green tea.) 

8.  Do Yoga!  I did only 5 minutes of sun salutations every morning.

I wish luck and good ju-ju to everyone who tries this.  Good luck!  :-)