Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

Recently, on a trip touring the food and beverages of Aspen, Co, I had an ironic moment when an old Burger King ad jingle popped into my head at one of Aspen’s, and the world’s, most renowned restaurants, Mastuhisa. What in the world could an exquisite restaurant sourcing high quality and unique ingredients for both its menu and bar have in common with a global fast food chain?

In the 1970’s, Burger King ran advertisements touting its’ ability for customers to get their burger exactly the way they desired. The popular jingle, “Have it Your Way,” became a defining competitive stance.  So there I was sitting in Aspen amongst a group of journalists for a special lunch and this is what I hear “I’m lactose intolerant and I don’t eat meat, but I do like fish and eggs,” “I’m a vegan and I also don’t do well with fats,” “I am an omnivore – I like everything – bring it on” and, of course, then there was me, “I am a Qualitarian – can you tell me where the fish comes from…and the soybeans…and is that real wasabi root – how divine!”  To be fair, our food preferences and even interests weren’t news to the chef, they had already been conveyed to the chefs and the servers at every restaurant we attended and so as we sat similar menus were placed in front of us, customized to our preferences.

That said, Matsuhisa is no Burger King, nor is the Montagna, Rustique, Caribou Club, Cloud Nine, Zocalito, Ajax, nor even 39 Degrees at The Sky, the après ski spot –so what proved amazing was that in every instance, we each enjoyed “Have it Your Way,” menu items that were still completely five-star.  Vegan and vegetarian options were creative both from an ingredient, flavor and visual appeal standpoint. Vegan sushi looked like a work of art at Matsuhisa, risotto made without any fat tasted divine and the colors (beet purple and carrot orange) lit up the table at Rustique, there were no grasshoppers for several but instead bean dishes and guacamole, and chiles at Zocalito delighted, and up on the mountain, chef Ryan Hardy from Montagna made the non-cheese eating menu of pickled and fresh vegetables with mustards, toasted baguette and sautéed truffles taste and look as visually appealing as the fondue-experience.

Customization in fine dining has its’ fans and its’ nay-sayers. For example, I’ve seen menus that state “we politely decline any alterations to the menu” and have witnessed the more overt shunning of a customer by a chef when said customer requested parmesan on their pasta “it is not done that way – ever.”  But in an exclusive resort town, where the defining concept is to cater to the guest’s every whim, it was music to my ears to hear chefs and managers express their pleasure in carrying that over to food requests. Several of the chefs said they felt inspired or challenged (in a good way). The restaurant managers agreed. That said, as Todd Clark, general manager of Matsuhisa Aspen – who developed a gluten-free menu for food and beverages – remarked, “there are challenges – it’s almost always doable if we have advance notice, but we can run into an issue if we have someone who eats here at a less busy time of the year and we customize something for them that takes my chef a long time and then they come back in the height of the season bringing friends and wanting the same thing, it can be tricky if we can’t accommodate that at that moment.”

So next time you are planning a ski trip and you know that your crew may have differing opinions on just about everything, feel confident, that when in Aspen, all their mouths can be fed “their way.”

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December, the 12th month of the year…the time when holidays can create a holidaze leaving even the most health committed person saying, “I’ll get back on track in the New Year.” Well, we all know what putting off for tomorrow what we should do today can do for our health, our energy, our skin and our waistlines. So, this year, to help me best help you, I reached out to some of my favorite experts for their advice on how to stay on track through the holidays. These twelve tips are my gift to you – and so I begin with my own favorite tip…

1.            TREAT yourself right during the holidays…the holidays ARE a special time. Wanting to maintain your health regime is no reason to give up on treating yourself a little extra special during this time. But since when does TREAT= EAT…What puts the ‘TR’ in “TREAT” are things like: TRim your hair, TRy a new type of massage (I love Thai massage), TRek with a friend – blow off some work and go for a hike even through the snow, fly through the air on a TRapeze, and TRade your errands (with a spouse, a friend, a child). Enjoy your TReats this holiday season!

2.            From Leslie Goldman, women’s health writer, author of Locker Room Diaries, body image blogger for iVillage, www.lesliegoldmanwrites.com

Yoga can keep you emotionally and physically grounded during holiday food chaos. Feeling overstuffed? Try Warrior Pose. Plank pose keeps you balanced. And any kind of workout will rev up mood-boosting endorphins.

3.            From Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder, www.thepurebar.com

Enjoy Holiday Fruits:

I know you are surrounded by cookies, candies and cakes, but also surround yourself with the sweet and succulent fruits of the season.  I love pomegranate, dried cranberries, sweet pears, oranges with cloves, and baked apples with cinnamon!

Recycle Your Wrap:

Wrapping paper may look pretty but it is a huge source of waste around the holidays.  Instead of buying wrapping paper, I always save colorful tissue paper that is used to wrap clothing in and use it to wrap my gifts.  I also use old patterned bed sheets or tablecloths that you can buy at a thrift shop and cut to size.  Tie with a string and reuse over and over.  Another idea is to use your children’s artwork to wrap presents.  Grandparents especially love this one!

4.            From: Maria Emmer-Aanes, Nature’s Path, Director of Marketing and Communications, www.naturespath.com

The holidays are full of treats, but for us at Nature’s Path, treats mean delicious, organic granola bars in unique and tempting flavors that, at 150 calories or less, won’t pack on the holiday pounds.  Our 100% USDA certified organic bars contain no artificial preservatives, additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or synthetic pesticides, and they come in flavors that will make passing up unhealthy holiday goodies easy, including: Pumpkin-n-Spice, Mmmaple Pecan, Berry Strawberry, Lotta Apricotta, Sunny Hemp, Peanut Buddy, Peanut Choco and Chococonut.  They make great stocking stuffers too!

5.            From: Michael J. Balick, PhD, Vice President for Botanical Science, Director and Philecology Curator Institute of Economic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden, www.nybg.org

As the weather gets cold up here in the North, I usually start adding lavender oil to the washing machine. Long ago I gave up fragranced and heavily synthetic washing soaps, and just add a half dozen to a dozen drops of lavender oil to the rinse cycle of the wash. Not only does it leave a hint of summer in the air, but moths seem to hate this essential oil as well. You can add lavender oil to a small jar containing dried flowers and leave it (open) in your closet, where it will help perfume your belongings as well as possibly helping keep moths away (depending how much oil you put in the jar) . Lavender has been used for centuries as a cleansing agent, for example, in bathwater and for washing floors. If you have a tub at home, put a few drops of lavender oil in a hot bath in the evening–very relaxing!

6.            From Kathy Kaehler, Trainer, Spokesperson, Author, www.kathykaehler.net

It is very easy to pack on extra pounds over the holidays.  It seems that preparing for all of the festivities invades our gym time.  To keep your weight

at bay and your energy balanced make your exercise routine a priority.  Keep it in your calendar just like an appointment.  Get it done in the morning

because you will find too many excuses not to exercise later on during the day.  Even if you can’t make it to the gym find things that you can do around your home

that will charge up the calories.  Walk up and down your stairs, power walk around your neighborhood or dust off that old piece of equipment and get moving.

Your body will thank you and you hopefully won’t be making that redundant New Year’s resolution again.

7.             From Heide Banks, a nationally recognized relationship expert and frequent contributor to 20/20, The Early Show, Good, Morning America Health, a featured contributor to The Huffington Post. HeideBanks@aol.com

Holidays are a great time to meet new people.  Go out with an open heart and  leave home that sweet but awful sweater you got as a Christmas present.

Alone for the holidays?  Tell friends as soon as possible so they can include you.  And, there are plenty of opportunities to help out your community and serve those around you this time of year.  It’s reach out time.

Wanna take a trip but you’re without a significant other?  Check out the many singles trips that abound this time of year.  Gyms are a great resource for this.

You and your mate always seem to fight more this time of year?  Join the can we just make it to January 2nd club!  Identify your source of irritation from holidays past.  Family?  Bad gift giving?  Overeating?  And talk about it.
You can’t change your relatives but you can change the way you relate to them.  Hint.  Laugh.

Thinking of breaking off a relationship?  While holiday time can be lonely there’s nothing worse than kissing someone at New Years that you have lost affection for.  Give yourself the gift of a fresh start for the new year.

And speaking of New Years, forget the vows.  You’ll feel a lot better if you practice some self-forgiveness for anything and everything that didn’t quite turn out the way you wished in the past year.  The one vow I always make us to be a little bit kinder, gentler and more understanding of myself and those I love in the year to come.

8.            From Myra Goodman, Founder and Owner, Earthbound Farm, author Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook, www.ebfarm.com

While I don’t count calories, I like to know the calorie count of some holiday foods ahead of time so I can portion accordingly. One slice of pecan pie is over 500 calories, and I find I am just as satisfied with half a slice eaten at half the pace, savoring every bite. A whole slice after dinner would most likely leave me feeling too full and a little worried about holiday weight gain – making it less of a pleasure.

9.            From Jovial King, founder and formulator, Urban Moonshine Organic Bitters + Tonics, www.urbanmoonshine.com

This holiday season make sure to have a bottle of herbal bitters within reach at your favorite holiday gatherings!  Bitters stimulate digestion and help to soothe any feelings of overindulgence, including gas, bloating and acid reflux.  But the best part might just be bitters’ ability to stave off that sugar craving.  After a big meal reach for your bottle of (urban moonshine :)) bitters instead of dessert.  It will keep your body feeling great and that waistline in check.

10.            From Erin Schrode, a young ecoRenaissance woman, the “face of the new green generation,” the spokeswoman and co-founder of the United States-based Turning Green campaign, promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices, www.erinschrode.com

What’s the best way to “eco-ize” any gift this holiday season? Go one step beyond recycled wrapping paper and package up presents in something reusable or repurposed! It makes any gift far more personal and fun. Old maps, newspaper, shopping bags, even plain paper bags (the little ones can go to town decorating with markers!) are perfect for the job. The receptacle itself can be part of the present too… think scarves, towels, totes, and baskets.

11.            From Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, www.cynthiasass.com

This season simplify your menus. Enjoy season foods as close to their natural state as possible with just a few natural ingredients to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your meals. For example, core an organic apple or pear, drizzle with a mixture of water, organic pure maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and bake in the oven. Brush sliced root vegetables (carrots, turnips, and beets) with a garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, roast and garnish with sea salt. Melt organic dark chocolate, fold in fresh grated ginger and drizzle over slices of fresh pineapple. Simplifying your menus can free you up to spend more time with friends and family but you won’t sacrifice one iota of flavor.

12.            From Elisha Reverby, Elique Organics, organic skin care and beauty expert, writer, consultant, salon owner, creator of food based skin nutrition. www.getwaxed.com, www.eliqueorganicskinfood.com

This holiday season share, listen, feel and laugh… do everything you do with passion and zest and let your worries fall to the wayside, trusting and relishing in the love and blessings that surround you. Your skin will naturally glow and you will be the most radiant person in the room. Guaranteed! Merry merry…

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To help answer this issue, Ashley Koff RD created and moderated a panel at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference (FNCE) in Boston. The panel, sponsored by Earthbound Farm, Nature’s Path, Native, and Stonyfield Farms included an introductory video:

where each company discussed why they are committed to organic food and then opened up for a lively discussion with panelists: Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D., Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology Exposure, Epidemiology, and Risk Program Department of Environmental Health Harvard School of Public Health; Jeff Moyer, Farm Director, at the Rodale Institute; and Katherine Musgrave, RD, Professor Emerita of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Maine as well as a question period from dietitians. To view the entire video, please contact colleen@ashleykoffapproved.com to receive a download.

Are you a dietitian interested in learning more about organic farming, the science of organic food, and what patient resources are available? Email us to be included in upcoming events including a late spring trip / farm tour to the Rodale Institute.

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History Sets the Table

When the Indians and Pilgrims gathered to the table, there were no artificial ingredients, no chemicals, no science lab experiments, and there were lots of veggies – When it comes to Thanksgiving, let’s take a play from History’s playbook and try to have whole, real foods this year – mostly plant-based.

But how can we do this and not have Thanksgiving boring and thus ruined. Focus on making veggies that people will want to eat. Roasted veggies, Brussels with chooped nuts or cheese, add some pomegranate or cranberry to a salad mixture or cooked greens, a vegetable pie, a vegetable loaf, vegetable pancakes, vegetable stuffing…the options are endless.

And remember, the goal for THE eating occasion is the same as all the others – nutrient balance (1-2 servings each of carb,protein, healthy fat + unlimited vegetables) so be strategic. If you know you want pie, pass the potatoes or have just a taste (but count it) and save the other bites for the pie. What about beets,beans, bread, battered shrimp (ok was just seeing if you were paying attention) – make sure to take your AKA menu worksheet list and check it at least twice before the holiday so that you know what all counts as a carb, a protein etc. Have your eating occasion, then be done and yes, you can have leftovers as long as they are part of the next nutrient balanced eating occasion.

And finally, get active! With the day off, there’s really no excuse to not get in at least an hour if not 90 minutes of activity.

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Wondering which yogurt to grab? Many people are turning towards Greek yogurt these days and as the following LA Times article points out – there are some compelling nutrition reasons.

With a lower carbohydrate and higher protein content, Greek yogurt (note: this is not the same as Greek-style yogurt helps to provide a balanced eating occasion base. I agree with the article’s experts who advise starting with plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and then accessorizing to match your mood – want sweet? Add some berries and even cacao nibs…want savory for a delicious dip? Add fresh or dried spices. And so many things to do with Greek yogurt as I recently learned at a dinner event hosted by Oikos / Stonyfield Greek yogurt – my favorites are their tomato bisque and creamy mashed cauliflower …oh, and if I could make frozen yogurt like chef Akasha Richmond, that would definitely be on the list! But one piece of info that didn’t make it into the article – as my friend, dietitian Kate Geagan MS RD (author, Go Green, Get Lean) pointed out, “the higher up the food chain you go, the more important it is to eat organic.” I couldn’t agree more – who needs added hormones, or antibiotics by way of their yogurt – and recommend adding organic to the list of things to look for when you choose your Greek yogurt.

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This weekend the X games hit Los Angeles and Ashley Koff Approved (AKA)is helping to make sure that VIP attendees, the media and athletes have healthIER choices to snack on, drink, and maintain their optimal energy (while enjoying every bite or sip). Just like with the AKA Craft Services Makeover Project, AKA worked with X Games to exchange food and beverages for ones that packed more nutrition into their products. Companies like Nature’s Path, Sea’s Gift, Late July, GoMacro, Perfect Foods Bars, Pure Bars, and more will be available for these lucky attendees and athletes to sample.

What’s your favorite healthIER product? Is it Ashley Koff Approved? Let’s find out – send us (facebook: Ashley Koff Approved fanpage; Twitter: ashleykoff) your favorite product and why and we’ll be choosing a few lucky winners to get some AKA sample kits later this month.

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I’m a huge fan of Natural Calm magnesium and the other products from Peter Gillham (Organic Life Vitamins (OLV), OsteoCalm, Natural Calm Sport (was called Calm+Calcium), NutraRev, Energy28, and their Kid’s Multi) for their high quality ingredients and proven results. While I don’t work with as many pro-athletes today as I did earlier in my career, I still work with many athletes and with  individuals who train at levels close to professional athletes as well as individuals who are battling stress and illness that’s taking a significant toll on their bodies (just as training can). So I loved getting this recent email from the owner of Peter Gillham, Ken Whitman, updating me on the benefits that athletes are seeing in their bodies in part due to the use of these products. What’s good for a pro athlete in training, indeed, could be good for your body too.

Hi Ashley,

I just got a report from Dr. David Pascal who specializes in working with elite track and field athletes:

The latest status of our athletes using the Natural Vitality products:

Khadevis Robinson, 8 time USA 800 meter National Champion and 2004 Olympian
“Actually the supplements have really been the reason I have been able to get healthy so quickly and stay fit. I was injured at the beginning of the season and I have had to do so much extra to try to catch up, the Natural Vitality supplements have allowed me to up the load on my body without breaking down.“

Jamaal Torrance, USA 400 meter Bronze medalist
“The Natural Calm Plus Calcium helped my muscles to recover enough to run three races in four days. In the 3rd race I just ran the fastest time of my career to win the 400 meter bronze medal at the U.S Track & Field Championships.”

Yvette Lewis, 100 Hurdles
“When I had surgery on my foot a few months ago I did not think that I was going to be able to compete this season. I feel that the Organic Life Vitamins and NutraRev helped me heal in time to compete last weekend in the U.S Track & Field Championships.”

Fredrick Norris, Long Jump
“I just returned for the U.S. National Track& Field Championships. The Calm Plus Calcium and OLV are my favorites, they keep my body regular and much less sore. Body functions better now and since I have been struggling with injuries I would have had to cut season early without this nutritional support.”

Lex Gillette, Paralympian
“Since I been taking the Natural Vitality products I feel as though my body responds better to workouts. I’m able to go out to the track and warmup, and be totally ready for a workout. Sometimes in the past before the vitamins, I would warmup and still feel a little sluggish. This season I broke two indoor American records, in the 60 meter sprint and the long jump.”

Barry Nobles, BMX Racer
“My season is going great. I won two national back to back. The PGNV products have made my recovery time faster. I am lasting longer through a weekend of racing. I like the OLV the best. I take them just one just and I know I’m getting everything I need for the day. I have competed three weekends in a row, two races a weekend. I have come home with 4 wins out of 6 races!”

These athletes are our “proving ground.” If our products perform under this kind of stress they will certainly do well for the kind of stresses we face in daily living.

All best,


Ken Whitman
Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality

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I’m not sure if it’s the photo accompanying the section entitled ‘Nirvana,’ India’s baby cupcakes, or mama mantra recommended to be displayed in one’s kitchen, but altogether this cookbook / guide [Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers] delivers on the health trifecta: great taste, nutrient-dense, doable.

With recent research pointing out the lasting health threats of chemicals used in food production, fear and frustration seem to dominate many conversations  about food ingredients, products and ‘should-do’s’ for new parents, grandparents and caregivers.  It’s so refreshing to open up a book that speaks to the beauty, freshness, ease and love that can make feeding a new child a rewarding adventure for the whole family.

Organically Raised inspires.  With sub-headings like ‘the adventurous eater’ and ‘ the Cultural Café’ this book embraces all, from the most novice kitchen food preparer, to persons of all socio-economic levels (pointing out how cooking and especially breast milk are cost-effective and healthIER options), and invites the whole family unit to participate in raising a new baby or toddler, organically (let me be clear: there isn’t a dish in there – even the purees – that any adult and even a curious older brother or sister wouldn’t find delicious).

On a serious note, Daulter tackles one of the biggest issues of our time: conscious eating.  For those with a newborn, newborns, toddlers or a crew of all the above, I give them the most slack when it comes to choosing convenience. Many parents will describe the early days as ‘sleep walking’ or ‘sleep feeding’ through life.  However, from what experts like Dr Alan Greene (drgreene.com) teach us, those early weeks, months, and years are when food exposure matters the most.  I love Anni’s ‘mindfulness tips ‘for their ability to remind us in the hectic moments that convenience that sacrifices health is a lose-lose for us all.

Take time to get a copy of Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers by Anni Daulter (Rodale 2010) – what a treat!

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In the last decade, we’ve seen new aisles created in grocery stores, natural product expos, and in magazines as they cover the latest and debate the greatest in protein concoctions such as powders, shakes and bars. So what’s the scoop? Let’s start by looking at sources, then forms, and finally rationales to determine what’s good for us (and for the environment) versus what falls into my “just because we can (make it, eat it), doesn’t mean we should (make or eat it)” category.
Quick review – what is a protein? Proteins are organic compounds comprised of amino acids; as such, one often refers to an amino acid as the ‘building block’ of proteins. Considered a macronutrient, proteins, along with carbohydrates and fats, are a core part of our daily intake.  Ideally, we look to consume the entire array of amino acids (21), but there are some (8) that the body doesn’t make – these are called essential and thus we need to consume them from our dietary choices (note: there are a few that certain populations -due to their genetic makeup or injury- may require from the diet so they are often termed ‘conditionally essential’). Proteins are found in both animal and vegetable sources; however, each food source contains differing numbers and amounts of amino acids. (more…)

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is for laughter and one of the best gifts you can give your mom is making her laugh. Whether it’s at you or with you, getting her to laugh actually helps her health. Laughing reduces stress, helps us bring in oxygen, and can even help with weight loss. So rent a funny movie, revisit some funny memories, or make some new laughable moments. There’s even laughing yoga – go on, give it a try!

is for Off Duty! Mom is off-duty today and you are on duty. Spend the day taking over her responsibilities – it will likely amaze, exhaust and inspire you. Perhaps you will discover some ways that you can help mom help herself not be sooo hectic on her on duty days. Don’t forget to take time to give yourself a kiss or hug, or to make a call to family members – mom’s ‘workload’ encompasses a lot more than laundry and heading to work or working at home.

is for Victory of course. Today’s the say when you help your mom feel like the winner she is! What’s something she’s been trying to succeed at and how can you help her? Has she wanted your room clean? Has she wanted to try kickboxing or a kick-butt hike? Has she wanted to paint a room in the house. One of the best gifts you can give mom? Be her agent of Victory!

is for Eating Right. No, this doesn’t mean deprivation, it means Qualitarian – choose the best quality foods you can for you both. Breakfast in bed? Make it organic breakfast in bed so mom enjoys food, not food + chemicals. Having dessert, bake it or make it from organic chocolate, organic berries, and use anti-inflammatory spices like ginger. Make this an Eating Right day and see how much better mom (and you) feel.

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