Sweet Potato Hummus

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A couple of weeks ago, I created this recipe to serve at a corporate health fair. Adding turmeric and an herb (seed) you may not have heard of, Nigella Sativa, made this humble dip a powerful anti-inflammatory food.

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato (12–14 ounces), steamed until soft
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1⁄4 cup tahini
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, halved
1-½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric, ground or fresh
1 Tbsp black seed (Nigella Sativa)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and purée until smooth. Sprinkle the black seeds on
top.

Parents Aren’t Always Good Judges of Their Kids’ Sugar Intake

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by Beverly Thomassian, RN, MPH, CDE®, BC-ADM

At Diabetes Ed Services, we are passionate about getting the word out on sugar! We even created a “Joy of Six” campaign, to raise awareness on the health risks of added sugar and the benefits of enjoying less. This awareness is not only important to the diabetes community, but for anyone looking to lead a healthy lifestyle. 

A recent study was conducted in Germany that measured the correlation between a parent’s knowledge of sugar count in food and childhood obesity. Findings concluded that parents who underestimated the amount of sugar in common food products, were more likely to have an overweight child.

In the United States 18% of elementary school age children are obese.

It is almost impossible to monitor a child’s diet completely, particularly with cafeteria lunches and sleepovers. The cause of childhood obesity is complex but one thing is clear; too much added sugar and obesity are strongly correlated. 

The study suggests that parents can help children stay at a healthy weight by addressing their sugar consumption.

Start by setting a sugar goal for the family. The World Health Organization and American Heart Association recommend up to 6 teaspoons a day (or 24 gms) of added sugar. The entire family is encouraged to read labels, to stay on target and reduce added sugar consumption.

One strategy that can help, “parents (can) sweeten foods themselves. “Mix natural yogurt with fruit,” Dallacker says. “Parents who do this would hardly feel compelled to add 11 sugar cubes.”” 

Learn more – “Parents Aren’t Good Judges of Their Kids’ Sugar Intake” by The New York Times

Learn more about sugar intake, ways to avoid sugar and how to spot hidden high sugar offenders with our “The Joy of Six” resource page.

Download the Sugar Rush app from Fooducate to see how much sugar has been added to your food. Just scan the bar-code of any product and instantly see a breakdown of naturally occurring and added sugar. 

Does Your Child Have Sleep Apnea?

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We knew early on that my daughter would need braces. There was no surprise there. What did come as a surprise for us was that her nighttime mouth-breathing was possibly due to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep.(1)

Prevalence of OSA

Pediatric OSA affects 1-4% of children and can cause a number of symptoms such as poor growth, obesity, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems. Studies have shown that 25% of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is attributed to OSA.(2) OSA is a risk factor for “metabolic syndrome”, a combination of insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. It can even lead to depression.(3) According to Dr. Kevin Gersten of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, approximately 10% of the population remains undiagnosed for OSA and with the rising rate of obesity, that number is going up. The good news is that OSA diagnosed and treated early enough in children leads to a complete elimination of OSA symptoms in 70 to 90 percent of cases.(2)

Treatment

Although my daughter did not have any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, she was evaluated by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. He ordered a sleep study which confirmed she had OSA. The most common treatment for OSA is surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids. We opted to do the surgery just before Thanksgiving to allow time for rest without too many missed school days. There’s no denying that this surgery has a very painful two-week recovery, but given the chance for her to breathe normally, the decision was clear for us.

Recovery

Most children lose weight that first week post surgery because of the pain and difficulty eating. Hydration is critical though, so offer beverages they will tolerate and foods with a high moisture content.

Foods to help soothe the throat:

  • Popsicles - skip the Otter Pops. They are loaded with artificial color and high-fructose corn syrup. Look for popsicles with simple ingredients such as fruit and cane sugar. Whole Foods 365 Fruit bars are a good choice. Avoid citrus flavors though as they irritate the throat.

  • Ice cream - this one has stood the test of time! Offer ice cream that doesn’t have any pieces in it like chocolate chips, nuts, or anything hard that could hurt when swallowing.

  • Apple sauce - so easy to make! Core and peel the skin of an apple, cut into wedges and place in a pot with just enough water to cover the apples. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon. Boil on low for 15 min and blend until smooth.  

  • Oatmeal

  • Soggy cereal - I’m not a big fan of cereal in general but definitely made an exception for these past two weeks. Let the cereal sit in the milk for a few minutes to get soft. Cascadian Farms has an organic O-shaped cereal (like Cheerios)

  • Pancakes - you can puree berries and add it in the batter to make them a little more nutritious

  • Smoothies - add fruits and greens here to make it more nutrient-dense

  • Soft boiled eggs

  • Broth with silken tofu and rice noodles - I added turmeric, garlic, and a little ginger to soothe the inflammation

  • Kichardi - lentils and rice boiled together

  • Overcooked pasta, marinara with pureed vegetables

If you have a child who is breathing through the mouth at night or snoring, do have him or her checked by an ENT. We used Dr. Kevin Gersten of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Dublin and highly recommend him.


Finding the Sweet Spot on Halloween

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When I was a child, I remember being crazy about Halloween. One year, I changed into three different costumes to trick-or-treat around my neighborhood multiple times. My mission? More candy of course!

Looking back, it wasn’t really the candy so much as the joy of getting candy that had me so excited. I could barely eat a quarter of my loot. Most of it sat around in a bag for months until my mom finally threw it away.

Fast forward to today, I’m a nutritionist and parent. I want my kids to enjoy Halloween, but I also want to moderate the amount of candy consumed. Did you know, the average child eats about 3 cups of sugar during Halloween(1)? Yikes! As a nation, we are already consuming way too much sugar, about 49 lbs per year for the average child 12 and under(2) . Most of this is in the form of added sugars, hiding in foods that seem harmless like spaghetti sauce, ready-to-eat cereals, and bread.(3)

So how can we take a moderate approach to Halloween? Have a plan for the extra candy. Let kids pick out a few of their favorite pieces and enjoy it for the next week. Then, have a plan to purge the remainder. Some ways to get rid of the leftovers:

  • Give it to the Switch Witch - a good witch who is invited to swap out candy for a gift. This is ideal for younger kids.

  • Donate to the Blue Star Moms

  • Check if your dentist will “buy back” the candy. Our dentist gives kids $1 per pound!

Consider offering some non-edible treats to the kids who come to your door. The downside - a lot of plastic that’ll likely wind up in the bin. The upside - kids will play with them rather than eat them. Also, kids with food allergies can have a safe treat. You can learn more about treats for kids with allergies at the Teal Pumpkin project. Glow sticks, spider rings, bouncy balls, Halloween stampers, stickers, putty and slime, and airplane gliders are treats that are met with a smile. Many of these can be purchased online in bulk or found locally at a party supplies store like Boswell’s.

Edibles free of high fructose corn syrup and dyes include:

  • Honey sticks - still a sweetener but not a refined one

  • Individual popcorn bags

  • Organic fruit chews like Black Forest Organic Halloween gummies (I found these at Walgreens) or Annie’s Bunnies and Bats.

  • Halloween-themed veggie chips

  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Squares - sweetened with cane sugar and allergy friendly

  • Wholesome brand ghost and skull-shaped organic lollipops

Many of these treats are available at Whole Foods

Set your kids up for a great Halloween. Give them a healthy early dinner and then, let them enjoy one of the most fun holidays of the year!


Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

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A few weeks ago, I took a friend to my new favorite vegan restaurant, Sanctuary Bistro, to celebrate her birthday. All the dishes were delicious but the dessert, a gorgeous strawberry cheesecake, was especially memorable. It was rich, decadent, and berrylicious! Ever since that night, I’ve been dreaming of it and looking up recipes in an attempt to recreate it. Sanctuary Bistro was kind enough to share the recipe with me for you all to try. It’s featured in their cookbook Sanctuary Bistro’s Recipes for Everyday Living.

Ingredients for Raw Cheesecake Crust
(requires 1 day advanced prep and needs a springform pan)

1 cup almonds

1 cup pecans

6 dates, pitted

Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the Cheesecake

3 cups cashews

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups strawberries

1 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup agave

1/4 cup lime juice


Directions

Crust

  1. Process all ingredients of the crust in the food processor until the nuts are coarsely chopped and mixture holds shape when pressed.

  2. Place the mixture into a 9" springform pan and firmly press to the bottom evenly.


Cheesecake

  1. Place all of the ingredients into the high-powered blender and process until smooth, keep tamping and stirring until well incorporated.

  2. Pour into the springform pan over the crust.

  3. Refrigerate overnight to set.

Rewire Your Nervous System With Kirtan Kriya Meditation

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By Tara Magaddino

When was that last time you thought about your breathing? For many of us, it is something we do without much thought. What if I told you that it is your very breath that can shift how you move about your day, moment-to-moment? At these times, I’m reminded of a saying, “the body follows the mind, the mind follows the breath”. Breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system, which means that the way you are breathing directly affects the state of your nervous system. When our breath flows deep, our diaphragm relaxes downward, allowing our lungs to fill completely, triggering our parasympathetic (think paradise) nervous system. This action informs the body that all is well and that we are in a state of relaxation. In a calmer state, we are able to think more clearly, sleep deeper, and be more present in each moment. However, when our bodies are in a state of stress, our muscles tighten, our diaphragm contracts, and our breath becomes shallow. Shallow or rapid breathing sends a message to our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system to be alert. Many of us live each day in a state of low grade, but chronic stress due to our busy schedules. Over time, this negatively impacts our memory and health.

For thousands of years, Yogis have understood how the breath connects to our state of mind and how the practice of meditation can benefit one’s physical and mental health. Modern-day institutions like UCLA and The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation have taken an interest, and are studying how meditation benefits one’s overall being. One particular meditation is called Kirtan Kriya Meditation. This meditation can have immediate and long lasting benefits for your brain. Studies conducted show that it can help with anxiety, sleep, depression, memory, and overall cognitive function. The best part of it all—you can complete this meditation in only 6-30 minutes! The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation recommends 12 minutes a day, which is a happy medium. One could practice right before bed and not only have restful sleep, but a sharper, happier brain when you awake! This meditation involves three parts: breath, mudra (finger movements), and mantra (sound). In yoga, this is known as a bij (seed) mantra. Each sound alone does not translate into anything. However, when recited, the meditation results in the stimulation of 84 acupressure points on the roof of one’s mouth. In turn, different parts of one’s brain are activated.  The movement of the fingers stimulate nerve endings that connect to parts of your brain as well. So while you are meditating, the three parts combined work together to positively impact your brain.

How to practice Kirtan Kriya

There are different versions which exist, but here is one way you can start at home:

Posture:

  1. Sit comfortably, either on a chair or cross-legged, with spine straight.

  2. Close your eyes, focus on your brow point

  3. Place hands palm facing up either on top of your thighs or loosely by your sides

  4. Take a few conscious breaths, feeling your breath slow

Finger Movements with Mantra Sound: The thumb is to touch each of the four fingers in sequence with each sound. Both hands move at the same time.

  1. On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  2. On Taa, touch the middle fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  3. On Naa, touch the ring fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  4. On Maa, touch the pinky fingers of each hand to the thumbs

The Sequence: Decide how long you desire to practice and divide time up evenly. If you practice for 12 minutes, you can practice as follows:

  1. Two minutes, sing out loud

  2. Two minutes, whisper

  3. 4 minutes silently singing to yourself

  4. Two minutes, whisper

  5. Two minutes, sing out loud

  6. Sit silently for one minute, then stretch your arms up to stretch your spine

Guided meditation music and directions you can use:

https://www.madhurnain.com/blog/kirtankriya?rq=kirtan%20kriya

Back to School Lunch

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Fall is my favorite time of year. I love seeing the leaves change color and feeling the crisp evening air on my face. I enjoy summers with my children very much, but I also appreciate their return to school as it allows me time to dedicate to my work.

Along with the start of the school year comes the very familiar task of packing lunches. I choose to pack lunch for my kids for several reasons; I feel I can offer them balanced meals they’re more likely to eat and I know what’s going into those meals.

I think part of what makes packing lunch challenging is when we fall into a rut. We are relying on the same tried-and-true recipes that when made often enough, become downright boring. My middle-schooler will eat just about whatever I pack without a complaint. My younger child is looking for eye-appeal and novelty. The latter takes a little more planning. I can’t produce such appealing meals at 6:30am on the fly!

Lunch prep doesn’t have to be a daunting task. I’m sharing a few tips that I’ve used with my kids to make packing food to-go more inviting.

  1. Work with your child - set aside time to brainstorm ideas together. I found a great list of a 100 lunches, dietitian approved! I gave my daughter this site for inspiration and had her come up with her own list.

  2. Shop together - take time to read through the nutrition label. Anything coming out of a box or package is processed. Try to limit these packaged foods and choose those that have the highest fiber, lowest sugar, and the least amount of ingredients. Mary’s Gone Crackers for example would be a healthier option than Cheez-its or GoldFish.

  3. Invest in a few appealing lunch containers. Lunchbots and Planet Box are a couple good ones because they are free of plastic and BPA. These are great for the child or teen that prefers their food to stay separated. Cookie cutters can be used to quickly cut a sandwich into a heart or star which makes lunch playful.

  4. Put it on a stick - kabobs are easy and fun. My son made an easy caprese salad using cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil. Fruit like strawberries and grapes as well as cheese and olives work great on a stick. You can chop off the sharp end for younger kids.

  5. Break it down - baked tortilla chips, beans, cheese, salsa, and guacamole can be put in separate containers to make a deconstructed taco lunch.

  6. Hydrate - don’t forget to fill their bottles with fresh filtered water. Using a steel water bottle instead of a plastic one will keep harmful chemicals out of the body. Don’t assume that if it’s “BPA free” it’s free of toxins.

I found that planning ahead was my biggest time saver and helped keep morning stress levels down. Cold items like sandwiches or dry goods like homemade trail mixes can be packed the night before. Hot items, however, will need a quick reheat in the morning. Fruit also looks more appealing when freshly cut, so save that task for the morning as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about healthy eating for kids, join me Thursday, October 1, 6:30-7:30pm, at the Martinez County Library for my talk “School Fuel.” Register online for this free event.

A Healthy and Sustainable Meal Delivery Service

A few weeks ago, driving by the Danville library, I spotted a car with a sign that read “Planted Table, Plant-based Meals Delivered to Your Door.” I was intrigued and did some digging to learn more about their model. As it turns out, Planted Table is a zero waste meal delivery company. Their meals are delivered to your door in eco-friendly glass containers. That means no disposable plastic and packaging with your meals. You place your used glass containers in the bag they provide and they replace it with fresh containers filled with delicious vegan meals. The meals are prepared by Chef Lauren Mahlke who specializes in vegan food preparation. I wanted to share their service because I feel strongly about any company that makes an effort to help people eat healthier while leaving a small footprint. I’m not an affiliate of the company nor will receive anything for sharing their info. Planted Table has generously agreed to give any of my readers a week of free smoothies if they sign up! Just mention Wellness Within.