Thursday, January 28, 2016

Simple Living : Grains on my Brains!

"True Genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information and making the right decisions" 
                                                                      Winston Churchill
So my head is reeling with information - I just finished a book Grain Brain - net of the book is Grains damage the brains - even healthy grains. I found the book a little one-dimensional and almost fanatical in expounding the virtues of a high fat ketogenic diet (made my head hurt!). I am not sold on the idea of giving up all healthy carbs  as they lead to Type-2 diabetes and heart diseases (its partial truth) ...I believe there needs to be balance. I sincerely believe animal protein causes inflammation and the book Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman has played a very critical role in shaping this belief in my mind. 

So here's how I have broken down all this conflicting information in my head - 
  1. Understand your diet. Log your current habits in an app - I have been religiously using MyFitness Pal ( came to the conclusion that I needed to add more protein to my diet and opted for plant based protein sources)
  2. Our ancestors probably ate some grains so why not us - so focus on the real nutritious grains aka ancient grains - in India it was Amaranth, Ragi (Finger Millet), in South America it was Quinoa, in Africa it was Teff,  in Americas it was Barley. Let's follow our ancestors and get a little adventurous
  3. Eliminate the White - yes, yes I know white flour, white rice is amazing to the taste - you are talking to someone for whom White Rice felt like go to meal is thayir sadam with avvaka pickle ( curd rice and mango pickle). I have weaned myself 98% off "white" - why 98% - when I go to a friend's or to India and the only option is rice - I will take a spoonful and relish it ;-)
  4. Grains are the environmentally sound decision - compared to the meats we spend one tenth the energy growing these whole grains - so this might be an irrelevant offshoot - but it is critical factor if this matters to you.
  5. Moderation is key - our Indian palate makes the carbs (rice, roti) the center or mainstay of the meal - flipping the plate to make the rajma or the choley and the veggies the mainstay of the meal is critical to helping us obtain balance. I highly recommend reading Dr. Ron Sinha's book "The South Asian Health Solution"
Here's one of my favorite porridge made with Quinoa and Sweet Potatoes (find the recipe here, that was a staple for son's evening meals growing up. 

On the days that we decide to eat meat, we opt for fish (wild caught salmon, sustainable cod) and pair it up with a lot of green leafy vegetables like this...

So do you have grains on your brain too :-)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Frugally Yours : A Shoutout to Milk Pail Market!

I have a confession to make - I totally "scope out" grocery purchases made by people next to me in the lines to the cash register - makes my 5-10 minutes wait in the grocery line entertaining. Be it the really fit looking lady with all the produce (ooh! I should have got those raspberries) or the older gentleman buying eggs, meat and dairy ( the salmon sure looks yummy, as do those biscotti) get the picture ;-)

Yesterday, there was a pretty interesting discussion on a work mailing list about food and nutrition -  someone posted a comment by Michael Pollan - Good high quality food costs more and is worth it (for individuals and the environment)...and of course your's truly had to get her 2 cents ( or is it one cent?) in - so here's what I said :
That was actually one point that I didn’t  agree with Michael Pollan on —> it’s true that there is a perception that Organic and High Nutrient foods is more expensive but that is just it —> it’s a perception.

What I have realized over the  past 15-16 years of grocery shopping, food prepping and cooking is the following  –
  1.  it doesn’t really have to cost an arm and a leg – especially if you are shopping  in the periphery of the supermarket or at a closed farmer’s market like Milk Pail in Mountain View (fresh produce, dairy and meats) 
  2. I shop at the Belmont Farmer’s Market and pay much lesser for the pesticide free/organic  produce, eggs and bakery products than I would at a Whole Foods – I go with the seasons on the produce ( eat a lot of the citrus in the winter,  organic berries in the summer etc.) 
  3. Shop the bulk sections in Natural Grocery Stores ( most times it’s cheaper than a Safeway or Indian Store)
  4. Canned Beans are a great source of protein and nutrients and inexpensive.
  5. Shop the Sales Flyers at Natural Grocery Stores 

 You can definitely eat healthy, nutritious food on any budget – especially for a mostly vegetarian Indian Palate – high quality food is reasonably priced and pretty affordable! 

I also wanted to let you take a peek at my grocery buy from Milk Pail Market this week all for about twenty bucks and some change.

  • Almost 5 pounds of pomegranate
  • 2 pounds of Green Zucchini
  • 2 pounds of cluster vine tomatoes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • 2 Boxes of Blackberries
  • 3+ Pounds of Apple ( Opal, Cameo)
  • 2 Grapefruits
  • .75 lbs of Jalapeno Havarti
  • Whipped Goat Cheese
  • Three Little Pigs - Mousse De Canard au Foie Gras ( duck liver pate') 
Here are my  three reasons for shopping at Milk Pail Market even though it's about 15 miles from where I live - 
(a) I save some serious moolah on both the healthy stuff and the exotic yummy stuff.
(b) I am feeding my family healthy without breaking the bank ( these kind of savings add up!) 
(c) I am supporting small, local businesses like Milk Pail Market which are truly the lifeblood of America  ( we need these businesses to create a corporate conscience about what is truly critical for our survival - these guys do an awesome job of supporting the community, educating & spreading awareness about their small business in Mountain View)

Convinced to shop local yet? So what's in your grocery basket :-) 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Reluctant Yogi: Sprouting & Green Goddess Adai

Got to shift gears, changing lanes, 
must put aside all the fear of the unknown.
Read the  postings by the road,
Not shaken by the red lights of cop cars,
Or the yellow lines leading to infinity.
The road stretches ahead,
Beyond the corner . . . is a realm of possibility

For years I have had a sprout maker hidden away in my cupboards never used - a present from my Ma on a visit to India 10 years back. It looked like this

In the past - I resisted making my own sprouts and bought the sprouts from the store - they looked droopy and sad. For the  new year I made a resolution to at least try and make my own sprouts and  I have made sprouts successfully 3 times in less than a week and a half. I have made a sprouts chaat, a sprout salad with Arugula & Quinoa & Walnuts and the dish that I am especially proud of is this green goddess adai that these sprouts inspired me to make.

  • 1 cup sprouted moong beans
  • 1/4 cup Rolled Oats
  • 2 tablespoons Ragi Powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Flax Seed Powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 2-3 green serrano chillies
  • 1 onion, chopped finely (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • few sprigs of curry leaves
  • few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
  • Arugula (1/4 Salad Bag - Optional)
  • salt to taste
  • Give it a whir in your food processor ( mine was a Blendtec) 
  • Make it as you would an Adai or a dosa ( steps here )
  • I made an awesome peanut chutney to go with the Adai. Recipe here ( I made this recipe minus the onions and with double the quantity garlic - 6 cloves)
  • Turn off the TV, sit down with the family to a nice conversation and a cup of herbal chai and enjoy your meal.
Something that has slowly made it's way into my understanding is the following Eating is perhaps the single most important act for one’s body along with practices like meditation, pranayama and yoga - because nourishment of the body forms a foundation for nourishment of the mind and emotions.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Simple Living : Much Ado about Protein!

“For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.” 

                      ― William ShakespeareMuch Ado About Nothing
I went to a personal trainer for exactly 5 weeks in 2014 and her mantra to me was - eat more protein, preferably lean meats ( I tried to up my protein to about 100 grams/day for the first week and felt bleh!) went back and did my research on protein. What I learnt was simple and I have implemented a fool proof way of getting a healthy balanced diet without the bleh! feeling. Want to know more on.
The standard recommendations for protein intake from

Another way to look at this an adult man or woman needs 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of their  body weight (for me that's between 55-60 grams per day). A serving is 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds (including chia seeds).

I keep it very simple - the reality is I don't eat a lot of meat. My standard lunch at work is a Quinoa Bowl  from the cafe (yes!every single day). This bowl has 350 calories, 16 grams of Protein, 56 grams of Carbs,  3 grams of Fat, 3 grams of Sugar and 15 grams of Fiber. Here are some of my easy fixes to adding protein to your diet, they are easy on the diet and easy on the pocket.

  1. Beans & Nuts : I eat beans  ( Black, Red, Moong, Garbanzo) at least 4-6 times a week You can add cooked beans to salads, make meatless Chili (or Chili with ground turkey, chicken or pea protein), curries. I buy my beans in the bulk section of Whole Foods and usually pay between $1-$2 for a pound organic beans. I also keep canned organic kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans from Whole Foods in my pantry ( $1.29/can, zero preservatives). 
  2. Quinoa : We eat this grain almost every day - we have substituted rice 100% with Quinoa. I keep both golden quinoa and red quinoa at home - and cook it in a rice cooker as I would cook rice ( 1 cup of Quinoa to 2 cups of water). Cooked Quinoa can be used in salads, hot porridges, I use it in lieu of rice with my curries ( it takes a little getting used to but I have been doing this for 5-6 years now). I buy my Golden Quinoa from Costco ( TruRoots Organic Quinoa - $11.99 for 4 pounds, $3 per pound). 
  3. Eggs : this wonderful superfood  got a bad rap in the past years but is coming back into the good books with nutritionists - I love eggs - my favorite way to eat my eggs are in an Anda Bhurji  (indian styled scrambled eggs) with a slice of multigrain toast. Other ways to eat eggs are - boiled, fried, egg muffins and Egg curry. I buy my eggs from two sources : Farmer's Market ( Organic Large Chicken eggs - $0.50/egg, Duck Eggs - $1.00/egg, Goose Egg - $5.00/egg or Quail Eggs - $1.25/10 (pack) ) or at Costco  - Organic, Cage-Free, Humane Raised - $6.29/24 eggs)
  4. Chia Seeds : High in protein ,Omega 3  and fiber. I added this to our diet about 2013 ( before it became a fad). You wonder how we use it - add it to our morning oatmeal or yogurt, add it to water (or watered down lemonade, kombucha, kevita), add it to my waffles ( 2 tbspoon per person), cake batter, salads, smoothies...I even add it to this pudding I make (it's a lot like a chia pod -- yes! the expensive one you get at Whole Foods...only tastes a hundred times better). I buy my Chia Seeds at Costco ( Nutiva, Organic, $5.99/2 pounds)
  5. Orgain Protein Powder - once or twice a week I supplement with organic protein powder. I used to buy the Garden of Life - Protein Powder but switched over to Orgain last month. Easiest way is to add it to a smoothie. I buy Orgain at Costco ($29.99/ 40 oz Container)

My husband also supplements with protein bars ( he is partial to the Think Thin Bars) - I am not too sold on Protein Bars.  Traditional South Asians (especially Indian)  diets have a lot more carbs and very little protein - goal is  not to over-correct but try and mindfully add more protein to our diets.
Protein aids our immune system, regulates the body pH, plays a vital role in nutrient transportation, builds muscles and hormone regulation. Sold yet?

Let me know your easy hacks for adding more protein into your diet?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Simple Living : Healthy is the New Skinny!

I'm not fat
But I feel
So Heavy,
I feel my arms jiggle,
I feel too big
Uncomfortable in my own skin,
I am not fat,
But I feel
So Heavy,
I wish I weighed
Nothing at all.

As I waited for the Zumba Class to begin, one of the older Indian Aunty sidles up to me and whispers in my ears "Beta (child) you have put some weight on your rear-end...haven't you? ". My confident stance and can-do-it attitude withers away for one song as I try to sneak a peek at the above-mentioned body part. It takes me another song to drill the mantra into my head "it ain't not matter what the other person says...think yourself beautiful"

Only one in seven Americans feels “body positive.”... It takes women half their lives to achieve half the level of body self-esteem as the average teenage male -- a whopping 66% of teenage girls are either body negative or body ambivalent...Ouch!  (Source : Yahoo Health). It took me forty years to get there and there are days when all I am doing is looking at the imperfections without counting the blessings (getting from a Size 14 to a Size 4 and maintaining it for 3 years takes discipline & commitment).I have realized in the past year that it's more important to take care of your "body, spirit and mind" combined vs. just lose weight.It boils down to a few things I have been talking about consistently :
  1. Eat Well - You are what you Eat
  2. Get Enough Sleep
  3. Move your body throughout the day
  4. Interact Socially - isolation is not good for the body, soul or spirit
  5. Pick a Hobby (something other than work ;-) )
  6. Practice Gratitude

Ending this with something borrowed - something I am definitely planning to practice in 2016 !!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Reluctant Yogi : Be Still Life...

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life - it has given me me . It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessarily the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I would be.”                                   ― Anne LamottPlan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

 I am definitely one of those Type A personalities who doesn't know when enough is enough - in fact I used to relish that sense of "busy-ness" and it was a boost to my needing to feel important. In the past couple weeks, this mini-vacation at home has made me rejoice in the "art of doing nothing". Yet, on Dec 31st I had a crazy crazy schedule ...what you don't believe me (I do keep to-do lists)

My AHA moment - I need to slow down the pace of life  and enjoy just being. 

Lately one way that I have slowed down is - I have taken to just dropping into a 10 minute Supta Baddha Kona Asana ( they call it the Yoga vacation pose).You may find Supta Baddha Konasana to be a good stretch, especially through the hips. But in the end, this pose is not about stretching or doing anything; it’s about letting go of needing to achieve a deeper stretch, or your busy life’s goals—and finding contentment. That is my mantra for 2016.

Here, K1 and I end  the year with Urdhva Dhanurasana (Full Wheel), a wonderfully energizing pose that - strengthens the spine, opens up the heart, enhances the immune and nervous system, removes excess fat from the abdomen region (yes!), reduces the onset of osteoporosis. We had great fun practicing the Asanas with K2 yesterday. Hoping we continue this into the new year.

New is the year, new are the hopes, new is the resolution, new are the spirits, and new are my warm wishes just for you. Have a promising and fulfilling New Year (from our family to yours)