Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Avocado - Toad in a Hole

by Lisa Beach, Ph.D.

Recently, as I've been trying to add healthy fats to my diet by eating more eggs, avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut, I've discovered a wonderfully filling and satisfying breakfast! It's full of fiber, vitamins, healthy fat, and even protein!

The traditional Toad in a Hole breakfast is made with bread, but this one uses an avocado!

Here's how you do it:

1. Slice the avocado lengthwise so you get a thick (3/4" - 1") slice from the middle--leave the skin on!
2. In non-stick skillet on medium-low, heat olive oil, coconut oil, or butter.
3. Cut a larger hole in the middle of each avocado slice (with a cookie cutter or knife).
4. Place avocado slice in the pan, and crack an egg into the middle.
5. Sea salt and pepper the top, and add parmesan cheese if desired.
6. Cover the pan and let it saute until the egg is "done."

You can make guacamole with your extra avocado pieces! Or, you can hard boil some eggs, and repeat the egg-avo combo for lunch or dinner in avocado-egg-salad.

What is your favorite thing to do with avocados? Eggs?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coconut Mousse and a Different View on Saturated Fat

by Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D.

Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which is also found in high amounts in breast milk, butter, and beef. It has antimicrobial properties, and is also high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These MCTs cannot be stored in the body---they must be used. So a person consuming them experiences higher energy levels, and even a metabolism boost. It has been used therapeutically (3-4tbsp a day) to address mild and borderline thyroid issues.

Several decades ago, the midwest cattle farmers decided to feed their cattle coconut-based feed (it made sense---increase saturated fat intake and increase fatness of cattle). Their goal was to fatten the cattle faster---they wanted fat lazy cattle that could yield profits sooner. After a couple weeks of the coconut feed, however, they noticed the cows had actually experienced the opposite---they were all becoming more lean and active!
Quickly, they switched to corn and soy based feed, and then got the results they were looking for....what does this tell us?!

How can you add more coconut oil to your diet?
Buy coconut oil and cook with it. It's solid at room temp (melts at 77 degrees F) and has a very high smoke point. Cook with it and avoid consuming rancid oils as a side effect. Use it in baked goods (in which you've reduced/cut out the white sugar and flour). Use coconut cream for puddings and smoothies, and coconut spread for a thickener and a spread on sprouted grain or whole grain toast.

Here's what I've been doing with coconut cream and coconut spread lately:

Coconut Mousse
8oz. coconut cream (I used the Wilderness Family Naturals brand - not from a can, but if you can find a non-BPA can that's an ok choice too)
2 scoops protein powder (I used vanilla Jay Robb)
2 droppers full of liquid vanilla stevia (you should probably do this to taste) or other sweetener (erythritol or ZSweet would be my second choice)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or to taste---it could have used more to be more chocolate-y)
couple splashes of milk (whatever kind you like!)

Whip/Whisk this until it is blended, while you are simultaneously melting 1/4 cup coconut spread (you can make coconut spread yourself---just dump unprocessed coconut flakes in the food processor and let it run till it turns into goo---nut butter consistency). Be sure to get the coconut spread really quite hot or it will not emulsify in the pudding. Drizzle it into the coconut cream mixture with the whisk/mixer on high, and mix until fluffy and thickened.
Store in the fridge. It will get thicker as it chills. Note: there might be little tiny chunks of the hardened coconut spread after it's refrigerated. At first, I didn't like that---but it's almost like having tiny chocolate chips in it (only tasting like coconut and a little softer). This seems to depend on how hot you get the coconut spread (hotter=fewer or no chunks).

I also like to use measuring cups as a dish when I eat this--helps with portion control!

If you want it to be 100% smooth, then leave out the coconut spread. It will be a little thinner, a little lighter, and completely silky. The spread adds thickness and makes the texture really amazing!

These would also be great as a dessert topping or dip!

Are you a coconut fan?
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homemade Yogurt: Simple, Inexpensive and Healthy!

by: Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D.

At this time of year, it can be pretty easy to slip outside of our normal healthy lifestyle patterns, to splurge a little more on unhealthy foods and exercise a little less. In the spirit of keeping things positive, I always like to focus on how I can add value to my day in terms of what I eat and what I do. One way I've done this recently is by making yogurt at home. It's something I learned about recently that I previously thought would be too complicated (and possibly a little creepy!).

My conclusion? Making yogurt is not only very easy, but it's also fun and economical! I recommend consuming probiotic rich foods everyday in order to maintain a healthy digestive flora, and yogurt (with cow or goat milk) is a great way to assist with this.

Here's how you can do it:
Step 1: Choose your milk. I chose a local favorite!

Step 2: Heat up to 1 gallon of milk to 185 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer, that's ok. Just heat the milk until it barely starts to boil). If you're using a yogurt maker, check the instructions to see how much milk you should use.

Step 3: Cool milk to 110 degrees F (or if you don’t have a thermometer, just cool it till it feels like body temperature—check by sticking your clean finger into it!).

Step 4: Add the starter. Put a cup or so of the milk you heated/cooled into another bowl, stir in (1) yogurt starter or (2) a container of good quality plain yogurt, until thoroughly mixed. (here's an example of yogurt starter you could buy, and you can often find products like this in a health food store or even a regular grocery store)

Step 5: Add the starter you made to the entire batch of milk, and stir until mixed.

Step 6: Let the Magic Happen! (you have two options for this step)
Option 1: pour into containers of a yogurt maker, set timer according to yogurt maker instructions. Note: It's completely unnecessary to buy a yogurt maker, but they are relatively inexpensive.

Option 2: Pour into glass canning jars (lids off). Heat oven to warm, and then turn it off. Put the jars in the oven, and leave uncovered overnight.

Step 7: Transfer to fridge with lids on! Let the yogurt chill for at least three hours before you consume it. There may be some yellowish gunk on top--this is whey. You can scoop this off and discard or eat it (it's safe and healthy to eat).  This yogurt will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Add what you like for flavor--my favorite things to mix in are vanilla stevia (liquid) for sweetness and some berries.

Have you ever made yogurt?! 

What would your mix-ins of choice be?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strategies For Stress Management


Hello.  Welcome to the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

Well….I am still on Jury Duty and it looks as though that is the way it is going to be for the remainder of my assignment…..no early dismissal.  The stress and tension caused by this major disruption in my schedule has dissipated.  What is left is a mild irritation.

This experience has reinforced the value of developing stress management skills.  As I review the events of these past few weeks, and this past week in particular, I am able to see the benefits of the stress management strategies I used:

ü Maintaining my exercise routine helped me release tension and encouraged a sense of physical strength. 

ü A supportive network of friends helped me by allowing me to rant.

ü Asking for help from my colleagues reinforced my sense of community. 

ü Using my calendar to schedule and re-schedule my commitments was an aid in seeing the big picture and kept me on task. 

All of these strategies were the basis of developing a positive outlook.  Choosing to keep my focus on the possibilities opened my mind and spirit to the needed solutions.  Once I was able to see different ways to adhere to my commitments, I was able to take action which improved my self-esteem.  This then encouraged the continuation of searching for alternate ways to live my life with the new commitment of Jury Duty.  I can see how each action pushed me to the next action and continued to reinforce a positive outlook keeping me living in the moment. 

 positive outlook = possibilities=solutions=actions=improved self-esteem

This reminds me of words attributed to Albert Einstein: 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Thank you for spending this time with me. 

Have a joyous holiday as you look for the possibilities.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Strategies For Stress Management


Hello All.  Thank you for visiting the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

I chose the theme “Live InThe Moment” because of the added stress in my life due to a Jury Duty summons.  Well, I’m still on-call for Jury Duty which means my life is on hold until my release from the summons.  And, although I have not had to report to the Court House since Wednesday, I need to call each day at 5:30 p.m. to find out if I remain on-call or am activated for service.  Of course, this means having to ensure that all of my commitments are covered which means that my colleagues who are assisting me are also “on call”.  One of these professors said to me on Friday in response to my umpteenth (is that a word!) thank you:  “We are all Americans and glad to have this opportunity to help.”  

One of my stress-inducing habits is a perspective involving my thinking that I have to do it alone.  This Jury Duty experience is reminding me of the benefits of reaching out to others and remembering to use the “help” word.  I am proud of my can-do independence which is rooted in my American heritage.  However, there are times when I need to be reminded that I do not have to do it all and that it is a good thing to rely on others.  My colleague’s comment humbled me and reminded me that there are good people in my life willing to assist….all I have to do is ask.

There is a Chinese Proverb that states:  Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  Maintaining a positive attitude is helping me see the opportunities life presents on a daily basis.  Seeing the opportunities, reduces the tension.

I’ll keep you posted. 

Until the next time, look for the possibilities.   

Thank you for spending time with me.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University      
Wednesday, December 7, 2011



Hello.  Welcome to the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

It’s December and we are in the middle of the holiday season.  This busy time of year means an increase in our stress levels.  Many of us experience a combination of joy and frenzy during this time, the result of too much to do and too little time in which to get it done.  Each year, my goal is to enjoy all the festivities and traditions of the holiday while attending to my normal routine.  This year my challenge is greater than ever…..I’ve been called to jury duty for the first two weeks of December.   And, I must admit that all that I want to do is to shriek at the top of my lungs and pour me a good dose of the poor me’s!  I did engage in a few ranting and raving sessions with friends but then I pushed the thought of jury duty out of my head for several days.

I teach stress management and often say that one of the strategies to use to alleviate stress is to “live in the moment”.  In his book, Managing Stress (6th ed.), Brian Seaward, PhD, states that “Relaxation is said to be achieved when the present moment is fully experienced and appreciated.”  I have been using these words to look at my commitments during this two week jury duty summons to explore solutions for readjusting my schedule.  Looking at my calendar with a positive perspective gave me the ability to find the needed solutions.  As a result of all this extra work, my connections with the colleagues I reached out to for assistance in covering my teaching commitments has strengthened.   And, I’m relying on technology more than usual to provide continued support to my counseling clients.

At the moment, I am “on call” for jury duty.  This means that I have to call-in twice a day to find out if I need to report to the Court House.  I’m staying close to my home office and am getting caught-up with my paperwork.  My desire to shriek, to rant and rave, and to throw things has dissipated.  Ramping –up my exercise routine and maintaining a positive perspective are strategies that are proving to be effective in keeping my emotional balance during this highly stressful period in my life. 

I’m sure that I’ll have need of additional stress management strategies for the duration of my jury duty.    I’ll keep you posted.

Until the next time, look for the possibilities.

Thank you for spending time with me.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University


Monday, December 5, 2011

Colds and Flu : Prevention and Coping

By Mary Oleksowicz, L. Ac MSTOM 

Many of us are dreading the impending cold and flu season. As we become more conscious of those around us who are sick , what are some steps we can take to prevent the seemingly inevitable winter illness?

1.WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds with soap and water! This is probably the number one thing you can do to prevent illness. Singing the Alphabet song is a wonderful way to time yourself. Be sure your children are washing their hands often.

2. Don't touch your face. Even if germs are on your hands, they can't enter the body unless you touch  a mucus membrane such as your eyes, nose or mouth. Teach your children the same. If they must rub their eyes or noses , teach them to use their wrist instead.

3.Open your windows ! Letting fresh air into your home at least once a week even if it is extremely cold outside. Studies have shown that the air inside your home is 2 to 5 times worse than the air outside. Allowing fresh air in will help to get stale, germ-filled and dust filled air out !

4. Eat immunity boosting foods ! Foods rich in Vitamin C such as fresh fruits and veggies as well as pro-biotic yogurt can help reduce the likelihood of infection. Avoid store-bought orange juice which has high amounts of processed sugar. 

5. Get plenty of sleep. Studies have shown that reduced sleep lowers immunity and increases the likelihood of illness.

6. Stay away from others if you are sick . This may mean a day or two home from work or school but your colleagues will thank you.

7.  Reconsider the use of cold and flu products with anti-histamines. While designed to eliminate common cold symptoms such as runny nose , anti-histamines actually suppress the immune system . While they may provide short-term relief of symptoms, your cold of flu may be prolonged by use of them .

8. Be sure to use disposable plates, cups when family members are sick to prevent cross and re-infection.

9 . Be sure to dispose of or sanitize toothbrushes and baby bottle nipples ( or those to sippy cups) . These places are havens for germs and can allow for re-infection.  

10. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to allow your body to work properly both before and during illness.

I wish you a healthy holiday season
Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is acupuncture “good for”?

By Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM, L. Ac

In my last blog series, I addressed the most common question I am asked, “How does acupuncture work ?" The follow-up question that I usually receive is “So, what is acupuncture good for?”

Both the NIH (National Institutes of  Health ) and WHO ( World Health Organization) have issued statements regarding the range of symptoms and conditions that acupuncture has proven effective for. There are over one hundred items listed between both statements. If you think that is a large number, you are right ! 

So how would one decide when is the right time to “see” an acupuncturist? Acupuncture, regardless of the condition, is best used preventatively or at the onset of a condition. However, more frequently people often wait until allopathic methods have not provided the expected results. Placing this factor to the side, acupuncture is most commonly used for:
  •              Musclo-skeletal pain including back aches and arthritis. Treatments for muscle disorders often  involve a “ trigger point “  release action while skeletal pain is regulated through the reduction of inflammation.
  •      Emotional disorders including insomnia and anxiety. These disorders are regulated through stress-relief and endorphin release.
  •             Gastro-intestinal disorders including diarrhea , constipation , “heartburn” and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) , especially if these symptoms are exacerbated by stress.
  •       Low energy and/or immune system dis-harmonies such as allergies or chronic infection.
  •     “Annoyances” – Chronic, seemingly un-related conditions such as ringing in the ears, night sweats, hot flashes, and eye “floaters”.
  •      Menstrual disorders across the life span including cramps, clots,  irregularity, infertility and menopause–related issues.
  •      For people who have been told that clinically, “There is nothing wrong with them” yet feel un-well.
Please note that the success of all treatments are based on several factors including:

  • The “constitutional” health of the client an
  • Patient compliance which means  not only receiving acupuncture regularly but also adopting nutritional and lifestyle changes as recommended.
I hope this article has piqued your interest in using acupuncture for your health concerns . Perhaps you will even add a session to your holiday wish list ! 

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