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Resolution #5: It's All In the Timing

What's even more confusing than the research flip-flopping every decade or so on whether it's okay to eat buttered toast or not? Recent findings indicate that you really need to pay attention to the time of day to determine what to eat.

Yup. One more thing to think about. But the good news is, Resolution #5 is pretty easy to incorporate. You just have to remember two little rules about timing:

Watchman

1. The morning is the best time for protein and carbs. Go low-carb for the rest of the day.
2. ...Unless you work out. You have up to an hour after a hard workout (the "golden hour") to refuel your body with carbohydrates and protein.

The reasoning behind these rules is simple.

While you're sleeping, you're fasting. Carbohydrates at breakfast deliver glucose to your bloodstream, starting up your brain and muscles. If you eat a big breakfast, you're going to give your body what it needs to perform better mentally and physically (and you might even lose weight). Carbs eaten later in the day are more likely to be processed to make fat.

A few good carb + protein breakfast options:
  • Beans on Toast
  • Poached Eggs & Toast Points
  • Yogurt & Granola
  • La Crepe Complete
  • Spinach Omelette and Whole-Grain Toast
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Cottage Cheese & Sliced Fruit
  • After a hard workout, your muscles need to rehydrate, regain their glycogen stores and repair damage. During the "golden hour" after a sweaty workout, you can eat the simple carbohydrates (like bananas) that you should normally avoid, because your body processes them differently. Eating enough carbs (and some protein) immediately after a workout will help you feel stronger the next day. Some research recommends chocolate milk.

    Here's a more elaborate version of chocolate milk that J sometimes gets post-workout at a local juice bar. Just the thing to dream of while you're on the last, most difficult stretch of your exertions...
    Bulldozer Smoothie
    1/2 banana
    1-2 Tbsp peanut butter
    1 scoop chocolate whey protein
    (or 1 scoop regular whey protein + 1 tsp cocoa powder)
    1 cup milk or soymilk
    2 ice cubes

    1. Combine banana, peanut butter, protein powder, milk/soymilk and ice in a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass and serve immediately.
    And you'll find more recovery-ready smoothie variations here .

    So that's it for wellness resolutions this year:
    1. Better Brown Bagging
    2. Rearrange the Plate
    3. Get Cultured
    4. Keep it Low & Slow
    ...aaand #5: It's All in the Timing

    Know a great one you think I've missed? Working on something worth sharing? Spill the beans in the comments.

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.09.2009

    Resolution #4: Keep it Low & Slow

    I've learned a lot about healthful eating recently from J, who's interested in the topic for the sake of intellectual curiosity and athletic performance and also my brother Dan, who was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

    The most interesting thing I've learned is that although their goals are different, their methods are almost identical.

    Even though J wants to maximize his performance and Dan is looking to stay healthy, they've both adopted the same philosophy on diet and exercise.

    It mostly boils down to regular, vigorous exercise combined with careful monitoring of the glycemic index (GI) measure for the foods they eat.

    Happy Tummy

    Now, since I've never been on the South Beach Diet (which apparently relies heavily upon monitoring foods' GI), I missed out on the whole glycemic index bandwagon. It goes like this:

    Glucose is simple sugar. When you eat a low GI food (eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts, most vegetables), glucose is released into your bloodstream slowly and steadily. You need a little to keep your muscles working and your brain happy.

    But when you eat high GI foods (sugar, white bread, baked potatoes, corn flakes) your blood sugar spikes and then crashes.

    You've probably actually felt your blood sugar spike. It's the "sugar crash" after you eat a piece of cake or the "I need to nap" feeling you get after devouring a big plate of pasta.

    Day after day, year after year, all that spiking and crashing can wear out your organs, fatten you up and even make you depressed.

    That's why my Resolution #4 this year is: Keep it Low (the GI) and Slow (the digestion)

    South Beach has a chart of where foods' glycemic index registers (high-medium-low) and there's another printable table over here at Diabetesnet.

    You'll notice that things like potatoes vary greatly depending on how they're cooked (the slow temperature increase of baking tends to convert more of the vegetable's starches to sugar), but it's generally a good bet to fill your weekly shopping list with foods that rate a GI of 55 or less.

    Compose your meals and snacks around:
  • Fish & Meat
  • Eggs & Dairy
  • Beans
  • Most Fruits (except for bananas, dates and watermelon)
  • Most Vegetables (except for potatoes & parsnips)
  • Whole grains

  • High fiber is good. Whole foods are good. Junkfood is evil. Looks kind of like what you should be eating anyway, right? No revelations there.

    The one major problem with eating this way is that it tends to be more expensive.

    All those cheap extenders (rice, pasta, potatoes bread, croutons and the like) tend to be high glycemic index foods. And restaurants just love to fill you up with extenders. Full customers are happy customers.

    That said, good old fashioned beans, oatmeal, apples, soy, barley and a bunch of other inexpensive ingredients are still low, slow and ready to go.

    With that in mind, why not ditch the breakfast cereal and start tomorrow morning with a bowl of yogurt or some oatmeal? Top it with chopped apples and cinnamon... or currants and walnuts, depending on how you're feeling. Happy pancreas, happy liver, happy belly, happy you.

    Just one more resolution tomorrow and that'll cap off the week.

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.08.2009

    Resolution #2: Rearrange the Plate

    In culinary school, we did a lot of plate drawings. The elements were always different, but the formula was invariable: Protein, Veg, Starch. Protein, Veg, Starch.

    J recently started trying to drop weight to qualify for a lower weight division at tournaments, and he suggested that we drop the starch sector from our plates.

    "Just double the vegetables and put the meat on the side."

    At the time, this statement was revolutionary, and I must admit, not terribly welcome. Martin Luther pounding at the kitchen door. Drop the starch? But that was 1/3 of the plate! Utter madness!

    Reorganizing the Plate

    It's taken some trial and error (old habits die hard) and some dishes have been dropped entirely (pasta and potato dishes fail under this plan), but I'm endeavoring to change, and behold! J has lost weight and I've felt less dopey after meals.

    So my second resolution for the new year is to rearrange the plate that exists in the mind... the one that's been imprinted there by a lifetime of Protein, Veg, Starch combos.

    The new plate is steak and sautéed broccoli. Or chili and salad. Or turkey and Brussels sprouts. Or a big Greek salad. Or beans and collard greens. Or a stir-fry, hold the rice.

    Potatoes, rice, noodles and bread now become condiments to be used sparingly rather than major players on the plate.

    Now, I'm a big bread lover, so this is a resolution — and a revolution — in progress, but I think it's a worthy goal that will pay dividends in weight maintenance, more veggie consumption and just feeling good overall.

    Three more resolutions to come!

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.06.2009

    Resolution #1: Better Brown Bagging

    Get to (or stay at) a healthy weight. Enjoy variety. Save money. Control what goes into your body. Feel more organized.

    These are just a few of the many tasty benefits wrapped up in the resolution to pack more delicious lunches to take to work.

    Truth is, I've known all the terrific reasons to pack lunch for quite some time, but I've never quite been able to put the plan in action. Day after day, I end up ordering takeout from the same three or four places near work.



    But this year, I believe I've discovered the lunchbox grail: that essential key to making good lunches happen. It's planning ahead.

    That's not quantum mechanics, I realize, but I'm pretty sure this one simple flaw is why I've largely failed at lunch packing for years. Boffo brown-baggging just doesn't happen in that pre-coffee morning zombie mode.

    So watch out... This, dear friends, is the year I'm going to start packing.

    I've broken the process down into five easy steps to make it achievable for me, and maybe for you, too.

    Step One is identification of tasty, packable lunchtime candidates.

    The successful lunch-maker needs a small arsenal of go-to lunch recipes with a few variations to keep it interesting. Here's a few of my favorite options for ease, flavor and portability:
  • Desktop Panini
  • Basic French Lentil Salad
  • Bahn Mi Sandwiches
  • Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles
  • Any Bean Salad

  • Real Simple also has a list of four takes on the Tuna Sandwich and Martha Stewart features a handful of fast, healthy soups.

    Step Two is gathering up the equipment.

    I've had too many lunch plans quashed by a lack of appropriate containers.

    While it's not necessary to have a designer lunchbox, I think you'll be more proud of your efforts (and make your coworkers more jealous) if your pack is cool.

    You'll also broaden your lunchtime options if you keep a couple of cold packs and an insulated thermos on hand.

    I've got some ideas in my gear shop if you need inspiration.

    Step Three is gathering up the ingredients.

    Keep lunch in mind while doing the weekly shopping. Whether that's extra celery for celery sticks, enough beans to double the soup recipe, a few necessary condiments or a pack of string cheese for snacking, lunch isn't going to happen if you don't plan the details.

    Step Four is putting it into the schedule.

    Packing lunch needs to be a priority. Wash salad greens and cut carrot and celery sticks on Sunday. Make a bean dip or a simple soup while you're waiting for dinner to cook. Pack up the containers the night before so everything's ready to go in the morning.

    Step Five is not leaving lunch on the counter (or in the fridge) when walking out the door to go to work.

    Kind of self-explanatory, but it's happened to me more often than I'd like to remember.

    Additional tips:

    There's 1001 ways to make a sandwich, so don't burn out on the same 'ol thing every day. Switch from sliced bread to a roll, baguette or a wrap, add a savory spread, a different pickle or a new kind of cheese to make the difference between something you look forward to eating and something that sits sadly at the bottom of the sack.

    Plan for leftovers. Cooking up a bigger batch of something on the weekend (soups, stews, roasts, curries, casseroles) is a classic way to make both lunches and dinners happen.

    Think about what travels well. Roasted vegetable, pasta, meat/fish and bean salads make particularly good choices for lunch packing... Since they're already dressed, there's less risk of spilling vinaigrette on your pants (or across the inside of your bag).

    So that's the jist of it: Plot, Equip, Gather, Schedule and Follow Through. Five steps to better brown bagging.

    Look for more resolutions in the days to come...

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.05.2009

    FoodLink Roundup: 11.10.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was called out (by everyone, seemingly) at a Gotham Girls Roller Derby home game. So, where in the world is Cupcake this week? Yeah, I know this one's a softball, but be a peach and post a guess in the comments anyway.

    Feds try to get students to eat fruit and veg
    "Not to brag or anything," 10-year-old Harrison Saling said, "but I've always been pretty good about my fruits." Hilarious...

    'Clean-up' bees could save endangered hives
    Scientists tinker with bees in the hope of saving agriculture. Go, Scientists, Go!

    Purple Reign
    Snapdragons + Tomatoes + Genetic Tinkering = more flavonoids?

    When Money Is Tight, Eating Healthy Can Be a Struggle
    Newsflash... healthful eating is a class issue!

    Pizza From Scratch: First, Bricks and a Trailer
    My friend Dave rocks the outdoor oven for the Times. Woot!

    New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    11.10.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 11.03.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, a cold, cruel beast spotted Cupcake watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade near Times Square. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Forget Caviar
    Canceling the Christmas party: ...it’s bad form to do anything too opulent

    Bringing Home the Venison
    Trading the mushroom basket for larger-scale foraging in the Upper Midwest.

    Celebrating Day of the Dead's delicious side
    A holiday for the dead, but a feast for the living.

    Environment, economy weigh on bottled water sector
    Bottled water retailers look for new buyers in the global marketplace: "We have minerals and vitamins that are unique to the local community and we want to sell that."

    Idolator's Guide To Condiment Pop
    You want fries with that?

    Calories Do Count
    Chain eateries begin to see the results of item calorie count postings.

    New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    11.03.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 09.29.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was located among the pumpkins in Red Hook Farm, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Kick off Rosh Hashanah with Sephardic savories
    Sephardic treats for the New Year holiday.

    Ancient Yeast Reborn in Modern Beer
    Best thing to come out of amber since the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

    An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream
    How refreshing it is to read some good news this week...

    What the 21st Century Will Taste Like
    Chef David Chang has an epiphany about a diet for a smaller planet. Once again, old ideas become new realizations.

    Mediterranean Diet Declines, and Weights Rise
    An increasingly "American-style" diet produces a generation of tubby Greek kids. So sad!

    T. rex's closest living relative found on the farm
    Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

    New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    9.29.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 08.11.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    It's Cupcake's birthday! Hooray, and happy birthday, Cupcake! Last week, our exploratory pastry hero was located out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Beijing breakfast of champions
    Eggs and tomatoes... with ginger!

    Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions
    Contrary to popular mythology, coffee doesn't appear to cause cancer, send you to the loo or give you high blood pressure.

    Cutting Calories and Saving D'oh
    Very nicely done.

    Consumers are raising cane over corn sweetener
    Count me in among the wary. I'm a big label-reader and HFCS-avoider these days...

    .: Jen's Chocolate Cake :.
    Not a blog, but simplicity itself: a single chocolate cake recipe that Jen (and others) apparently adore. I made a peanut-butter glaze for it last week.

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    8.11.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 07.07.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, as surmised, Cupcake was enjoying the Day of the Dead festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Pizza Loses Favor as Italians Turn to Pasta
    I'm in Italy right now and have seen no evidence of this trend. But maybe National Geographic knows something I don't.

    A bottle of Coke tracks change in Africa
    An interesting illustration of change. Too bad there's no infographic.

    The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating
    Beets, cabbage, sardines, turmeric, cinnamon? I'm all over that.

    The original Kentucky fried chicken
    Might not be on the Healthiest Foods list, but it's sure worth a try...

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    7.07.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 06.23.08

    Link Roundup
    Last week, that globe-trotting Cupcake was hangin' at the trés cool Marche d'Aligre in Paris. Where in the world is cupcake this week? Think you know? Post it in the comments.

    Yes, We Will Have No Bananas
    Enjoy that smoothie while you can. The end of cheap bananas seems nigh.

    Can Lifestyle Changes Bring Out the Best in Genes?
    Once again, diet and exercise seem good for health. It's like a mantra. Eat well and exercise. Eat well and exercise...

    Girl, 12, Chases Lemonade Stand Robber
    Robbing a kid's lemonade stand has gotta be the very definition of lame...

    How to nap
    Yay! An awesome infographic on one of my favorite topics...

    Homemade Guanciale
    Home-cured pork jowl done up in a small urban apartment.

    On Kimchi
    “kimchi is truth, truth kimchi; that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Holla.

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    6.23.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 06.16.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Happy Bloomsday! Last week, Cupcake was located in Chinatown, NYC, just south of Canal on Mott Street. (Another win for Mr. Hazard.) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

    US Tomato Industry in "Complete Collapse"
    Gosh, wouldn't it be great if we had accurate paper trails on our produce crops? Of course, I couldn't help notice the x-treme price-jump effect this news produced in the grape tomatoes at my local market... see here for the evidence at Flickr.

    Triple whammy
    As with many things mythical and natural, it seems that three is a magic number in the kitchen.

    Tasting the Grape, Among Other Things
    A conference to taste those wines that "you would not, of your own volition, spend an entire weekend drinking"

    Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions
    Can you imagine the uproar this would cause in the US?

    10 paths to painless pizza-making
    Smitten Kitchen does up a very liberating guide to the art of making pizza at home.

    Peak-Season Produce Map
    An excellent use of the internet. Thanks, Epicurious!

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    6.16.2008

    FoodLink Roundup: 06.09.08

    Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was at the Columbus Circle corner of Central Park, as guessed by Mr. Hazard. Where's that wily cupcake now? This week is anyone's guess. Think you know? Post in the comments.

    Real Thought for Food for Long Workouts
    "neither researcher regularly uses energy drinks or energy bars. They just drink water, and eat real food." Hallelujah.

    Promising Red Wine/Longevity Research
    Great news for the hedonists: research indicates you might be able to say "to hell with calorie-restricted diets" and just drink a bottle of wine every day.

    How to Butcher a Chicken
    Hey... you never know.

    NYC Food Film Fest 2008
    Harry's Water Taxi Beach + food + films about food. Ahhh. Bliss.

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    6.09.2008

    Goal 7: Make a Date with a Fish

    In my experience, there's a lot of things the experts recommend for good health, but those things don't happen if you don't schedule them and/or make them into habits. Or, maybe more precisely, they do happen, but the occurrences are sporadic.

    The thought here is simple: If you want to make good health a priority, you need to make space for it. On your calendar. With a pen.

    Fish, for example, is recommended by nutritionists as part of a healthy diet, but how often do you manage to work it into your meals?

    trout duxelles
    Trout duxelles with roasted fingerling potatoes

    J and I have a running date with a fish every week (a threesome, if you will) for Fish & Film Friday. The Netflix show up, one of us brings the fish and we share a healthy habit that sticks... week after week.

    Need to work in more leafy greens? Figure out a Swiss Chard Saturday and a Turnip Greens Tuesday. Want to start taking a multivitamin? You'll have better luck making that habit stick if you attach it to something else you already do each day.

    The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia had a similar idea when they started their Healthy Monday project (aka "The Day All Health Breaks Loose"). What if each and every Monday of every week became the day to start and sustain healthy behavior?

    Any goal becomes more real when you make it a concrete part of your life and your calendar. Set up salad time. Invite oatmeal along to cawfee tawk. Make a date with a cabbage. Share your Friday with a fish.

    Miss any of the previous resolutions? You'll find #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 linked here.

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    1.07.2008

    Goal 4: Snuggle up with a good label

    I think it's sad that Whole Foods Market has taken over the world. I can no longer proclaim my love of whole foods without people misconstruing it as a love of Whole Foods.

    Research continues to show us that best stuff we can choose to eat is the food we've had available to us for the several hundred thousand years we've been on the planet. Food that's as close to its natural form as possible. Carrots. Beans. Apples. Blueberries. Fishes. Honey. Walnuts. You know... whole foods.

    The category of "almost as good" includes very minimally processed things. Olive oil, nut butters, tomato juice, apple sauce, steel-cut oats, boiled lentils, plain yogurt, split pea soup... the ingredient list on these items is short and pronounceable.

    Then, there's the "sure, but don't pig out" food category. Vanilla ice cream. Couscous. Banana muffins. Lemon curd. More, and more processed, ingredients.

    Finally, the "really, you shouldn't" category: processed foods. Not sugar or honey, but high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Not butter or oil, but partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed and/or palm kernel oil.

    Incidentally, do you know what that "and/or" means on a product label? It means they don't exactly know which product they're using. It means they're holding out to see what's cheapest on the ag markets.

    Food Value Pyramid

    I've created an infographic (because I love 'em) to demonstrate this point a little better. Clearly, it's my own reinterpretation of the USDA's food pyramid.

    All you need to do for better health is get in the habit of actually looking at nutrition labels on the food you're about to put in your mouth.

    Is the thing you're about to eat a whole food? It probably doesn't have a label at all. Great! Try to make sure your diet is filled with whole foods.

    Minimally-to-partially processed food with just a few things on the ingredient listing? Fine. If you're the one doing the processing, that's all the better.

    Food that's processed to the point at which nothing that grew or flew is verifiable in it? Can't readily explain to a 5-year-old how people make or find all the ingredients it contains? Those are bad signs, friend. Put that thing back on the shelf and back away. Or, if you really can't resist, keep consumption to a minimum. One or two Oreos. A small handful of pita chips. A candy bar in the "mini" size.

    We really are made up of what we eat. You can give your body far better building blocks than Doritos will ever provide.

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    1.04.2008

    Goal 3: Create Convenience

    The problem with convenience food is that convenience is its only attribute. It's there. It's available. It's shelf-stable.

    Sheetz Market, PA

    On the other hand, list of what convenience food is not goes on and on. It's not fresh, not nutritious, not vibrant, not wholesome, not flavorful, not sustainable, not natural...

    When we strive to offer ourselves the gift of a better, tastier, fresher, more healthful diet, we need to plan ahead to make the magic happen.

    Fruit & Cheese

    Sometimes life gives you a beautiful fruit stand. Far more often, the modern world will offer up its shelf-stable candy aisles and its fast food chains. The convenience is there, but you pay for that convenience with your health and your hard-earned dollars.

    If you can plan ahead, you'll create convenience on your own terms.

    1. Make sure you know where your next meal is coming from.

    Most people need three (or more) meals a day. Make sure you know how that's going to happen. Buy groceries with several meal plans in mind. Cook on Sunday and put soups and casseroles in the freezer. Pack lunches or look up in advance the local options for places that will feed you healthful foods. Don't leave your good intentions for nutritious, delicious meals in the hands of fate. She'll turn around and hand you a Ho-Ho.

    2. Pack food.

    You've packed your ipod, your sunglasses, your book and your sweater. What about snacks? Pack a water bottle. Pack an apple. Pack a banana. Pack a sandwich. Pack a bento box. Pack a hard-boiled egg in a plastic bag with a paper towel. When it comes to traveling (whether that's across town or across the country) it pays to be a little paranoid.

    3. Don't leave hungry.

    That party that's supposed to offer food? The appointment that's supposed to be a lunch meeting? Don't believe the hype. You never know what the future holds, so don't go anywhere with a ravenous hunger. You'll end up eating whatever's put in front of you, and because you're desperate, you'll probably eat far more of it than you normally would have. Life is uncertain, so make sure you at least eat a handful of nuts or an apple before leaving the house.

    4. Make fresh food convenient.

    We all have moments when our inner caveman takes over, and we stumble through the kitchen in search of something... anything... to eat. That's a particularly vulnerable state to be in.

    When you stock the house with easy, healthy snacks, you offer a gift to your hungry caveman. Make sure you always have healthful supplies on hand. Think fresh fruit, snack-sized vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, juices, yogurt, cottage cheese, granola, etc. Conversely, make convenience foods inconvenient. Keep them away from your home, your office and your car. They're just not allowed.


    A box of crackers will sit, inert, on a shelf for years. A banana goes brown and spotty after a week or less.

    So yes, eating fresh, nutritious foods takes some effort on a regular basis. But planning ahead for healthful meals and snacks means convenience foods... actually become a little less convenient.

    Miss out on previous days? Read Goal 1 and Goal 2.

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    1.03.2008

    Goal 2: Eat like Mr. Miyagi

    The good people of Okinawa, Japan, are known for more than mind-blowing karate. Okinawans are also some of the longest-lived people on the planet, and are reported to have the largest population of centenarians in the world.

    Of course, our modern era being what it is, that fact that has subsequently spurred the so-called Okinawa Diet, a reduced-calorie plan that's based, for the most part, around veggies and fish. (Gee whiz, Wally... doesn't that sound like the Mediterranean Diet? Maybe veggies and fish really are good for you...)

    There's been some interesting research lately into calorie-restricted diets and their effect on longevity. At least in smaller life forms, a calorie-restricted diet really does appear to translate to a slightly longer life.

    Although I don't think I could fully enact that notion (I enjoy hot chocolate and French pastries far too much), consuming a diet full of vegetables and fishes seems like it's just plain old good advice.

    That said, I think the best take-away from the Okinawa plan is their very savvy skills in portion control.

    We live in a land of plenty. More than plenty, really, so it's not surprising that most people in this culture have no idea how much they should actually eat at any given meal.

    That lack of skill in deciding what a portion should be is precisely why our nation's nutritionists try to give us visual cues. A portion of banana is half the banana. A portion of meat looks like a hockey puck, not a frisbee. A portion of nuts is a small handful, not a bag. A portion of Ben & Jerry's does not look like a pint container. Your dinner should not look like a plate loaded to the rim at the Old Country Buffet...

    Bento Box
    Sensei says... give those gyoza away and leave the rice behind.

    The Okinawa portion control rule is easy to remember and easy to execute. Just remember 80%.

    Step 1: Eat until you're 80% full.
    Step 2: Stop eating.

    Simple, right?

    Now, an enterprising soul could probably go publish an "Everything I need to know about my health I learned from Mr. Miyagi" tome, because there's a lot of solid principles in the Okinawa plan (Enjoy your food, eat vast quantities of vegetables, be a kick-ass mentor, paint the house, wash the car, etc.), but personally, I'm seeking a few small, achievable steps.

    Being a karate master takes a lifetime, but being good at 80% is something that can be achieved at any given meal.

    This post marks the second of Seven Food Resolutions. Miss out on Goal 1? Find it here.

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    1.02.2008

    Goal 1: Hydration

    I love resolutions. In fact, I love 'em so much, I tend to make biannual resolutions, because sometimes the things I resolve in January make less sense six months later.

    Thus, I'm embarking on seven days of healthy food resolutions this week.

    Each goal will support good health with good food without wrecking one of my other goals: saving money so I can pay down my student loans.

    Goal 1: Hydration

    One of the cheapest, most sensible tips I've found for maintaining a healthy weight and a happy body is bizarrely simple: Stay hydrated.

    There's so many compelling reasons to keep ample fluids in the body. When you drink enough water, you give yourself the gift of nourished skin, better breath, more energy, happy bowels and kidneys, easier digestion, more brainpower and very probably a decreased caloric intake (dehydrated people tend to snack).

    There was a period in my life several years ago when I didn't drink water. Ever. I drank milk, juice, sodas, tea, cocoa, lemonade... anything but water. To be honest, straight-up water kind of bored me.

    In retrospect, it's not surprising that I also had chapped lips, often felt dizzy and passed out in public places with concerning frequency. (They called an ambulance when I passed out in the Rainbow Foods checkout line.) My doctor took blood tests and did an EKG to try to figure out the fainting spells, but came to no conclusion.

    At some point, I realized I'd never really paid any attention at all to that whole "drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day" rule. I gave it a shot (though I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the experiment was more for the promised energy boost than anything else).

    Suddenly, like the forgotten plant on the windowsill... water brought me back to life. Random headaches, swooning, dry skin, constipation and dry mouth? Gone. Turns out I had low blood pressure thanks to a mild, but chronic, dehydration.

    I haven't had a dizzy spell since, and I now begin every list of annual resolutions with this one simple statement: Drink more water.

    Washable Water Bottle
    Your ally in the war on dehydration

    There's a few easy ways to make this resolution stick.

    1. Figure out how much you need.

    Honestly, that whole six to eight glasses of water a day rule might not be right for you. If you exercise heavily, that's probably too little. If you drink a lot of other fluids, six to eight glasses might be too much. The proof is in the loo. Do Is your urine clear or pale yellow? You're probably doing fine. (Though it's important to note that B vitamins and some medications change the color of your fluids.)

    2. Get yourself a water bottle you love (and a brush to keep it clean).

    Most people are probably aware by now that disposable plastic water bottles are an environmental nightmare, so gift yourself a nice reusable water bottle. I've got a quart-sized Nalgene bottle on my desk at work and a smaller one that goes in my purse. Keep in mind that a bottle brush is key... nobody loves funky water.

    3. Bored by water? Cut it with a little juice.

    I mentioned this one a few months back in my post on workout foods, but somehow, it's even more valid in the winter. For some reason, I always think water tastes better in the summer. For the winter months, like to I hit my waterglass up with a wedge of lemon, lime or orange.

    4. Take pride in your city tap water.

    J was on the Staten Island Ferry recently when he overheard a young lady telling her friends, "Omigod, you guys... I am so broke. My parents didn't give me anything this week. You guys, I drank water... out of the water fountain!"

    First, it's funny. Then, it's sad. I realize not every municipality has tasty water, but darn it, I really believe New York City has some of the finest water in the country. (In fact, Jeffrey Steingarten had a great chapter on this topic in his book, The Man Who Ate Everything.)

    If your city water is horrible, then buy a tap filter and make it your civic duty to protest loudly, angrily and often. Bad city water needs to be an outrage, not a reason to give more money to Coke or Pepsi (Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani bottled waters are processed from municipal taps).

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    1.01.2008

    Hey, Hey, Babycakes!

    Babycakes

    Aw! A cupcake mosaic on the front stoop of that spanking-new Lower East Side bakery! Adorable.

    Oh! The pretty shopgirls all wear obscenely cute candy-striped pink pinafores. Sweet!

    Whoah! Vegan? Really? No, wait... Not just vegan but sugar-free, gluten-free and all-natural? Daaaamn!

    Babycakes

    Yes, my LES operative reports that the mint-lemonade is refreshing, the lemon cake is tasty and the menu is... well, confusing.

    Imagine! A whole shop filled with baked goods whipped up with no cream, no refined sugar, no eggs, no white flour and no butter. In short, a traditionally-trained pastry chef's worst nightmare.

    And yet... they have muffins. They have poundcakes. They presumably have cupcakes. So what do they use to construct their sweet treats?

    J. reports it's spelt and garbanzo flour sweetened with things like fresh, farmers' market fruits (local peaches, for example).

    He's sworn to eat his way through their menu for the sake of science (and those friendly gals in candy-striped aprons). Brave man. We await his report.

    Babycakes
    248 Broome St.
    (btwn Ludlow and Orchard)
    212.677.5047

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    9.08.2005