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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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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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In other blogs I talk a lot about prevention tips or healthIER options for Halloween, I want to address a question I get  asked often (and not just on Halloween)- what do I do if I OD on sugar?

Its important to note that there are all sorts of sugar sources – fruit, fruit juice, dried fruit, cane sugar vs organic sugar, sweeteners – artificial or not, legumes, grains, and so on. And that one’s favorites can be very different – candy lover vs pasta queen or fruit-can’t-get-enough-er. Regardless of your preferences though, the body’s response (and what we seek from sugar) is likely to be the same.

I want more ______
Energy, happiness, to not say “I can’t have” and so on…all translate to “I want more sugar” messages

And so, I provide some tips:

The body gets an inflated (but real) sense of energy / even euphoria, but when that drops its going to cry out more loudly for carbs. To address:

  1. Make sure to focus on sleep, yoga, breathing
  2. Try magnesium for relaxation (from foods or I like Natural Calm as a supplement (I work with them)
  3. Don’t go cold turkey the morning after and skip all carbs altogether but go back to portion control, nutrient balance and eating frequency principles (every 3 hrs). See the AKA menu worksheet on my website
  4. Use a crutch- you can use quality lean proteins as a crutch (have an extra portion or grab when you crave sugar) until the intense cravings pass.
  5. Remember not to beat yourself up – that’s mean 😦  but also can contribute to keeping the cycle going (you get sad or frustrated and then have carbs to feel happy).

Happy Halloween! And remember a holiDAY is one DAY which shouldn’t derail any of us if we go back to our Qualitarian lifestyles the next.

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I enjoyed providing ideas for this month’s Shape magazine article “Eat this before your next big event,” and think you will enjoy the information here too. That said, I want to clarify my comments and the smoothie recipe for those of you looking for a pre-race option. Liquids can be great for getting the nutrition in without having the digestion have to work as hard – and especially if you are nervous which can affect your stomach and digestion – I recommend making a smoothie and having it about two hours before your race. While you do want to have carbohydrates (in the example recipe the carbs are: coconut water (11 ounces is 1 carb serving), cherry juice (4 ounces is 1 serving carb), a banana (1/2 banana is 1 serving carb), and blueberries (1 cup is 1 carb serving) it’s important not to overdo the carbs and equally important to consume a source of protein which was left out (for nutrient categories and portion information see  AKA menu worksheet). So while each of the ingredients noted could be great in a smoothie – the portions would need to be adjusted for optimal power or swop some out. For example, if coconut water, skip the banana or reduce to a half portion. Studies show that even 1 ounce of tart cherry juice can be effective so perhaps reduce that amount or cut the portion of added blueberries and banana. In terms of protein, I’d look to add a protein source such as organic hemp, rice, or whey proteins which will give your muscles power and also sustain the energy benefits of the smoothie. A favorite addition to AKA smoothies are chia seeds, from the popular “Born to Run” book. For brand ideas see the AKA lists.

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In honor of Labor Day, I wanted to share 5 tips for making the work place a healthier, happier, and more satisfying environment for all.

  1. Kitchen Makeovers: Maybe back-to-school is the perfect excuse for a makeover of the office kitchen…just like your kids get new school supplies to help them through their school day, you and your colleagues can benefit from new kitchen supplies. Some of my favorites include my plug-in glass tea kettle; my 3M water filtration (under the sink so it says on plastic bottles while improving the taste (and health) of your water; plain coconut water (Vita Coco, ONE), Earthbound Farm organic fruits and vegetables (pre-washed and ready to grab so that you have an option when you walk into the kitchen that’s healthier and hydrating; my DIY (Do-it-yourself) blend of nuts and seeds (Stored in the fridge or freezer) so that there’s always a great topping for salads, yogurts or to grab a handful on the go, and a likewise and organic high-fiber cereal like Nature’s Path Optimum Slim.
  2. De-stress, naturally. Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm magnesium powder, Traditional Medicinals Daily Detox or other teas, Sprayology’s Body Balance, Urban Moonshine’s Organic Bitters, Ultima Replenisher (love the new Grape)…these are AKA must’s to help take the edge off at the office or before you enter your home / socialize. (more…)

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Energy bars, Protein bars, Snack Bars – AKA Discusses Bar Mania with ABC LA’s Food Coach Lori Corbin (8/11/10 at 6:50 am and 11:50 am PST)

Last week, Lori asked me for my take on bars – specifically what people should look for, what do I look for (what’s AKA?) and what are some of the traps that we can encounter with bars. See my thoughts below as well as a blogpost for the Huffington Post Living section who also asked me for my thoughts – seems a lot of people are wondering how to sort through the bars.

  1. When is a bar good for a “snack” versus a “meal replacement”?
    AKA: In my practice, I actually don’t distinguish between a meal or snack but rather use the term ‘eating occasion.’ Why? Too often people get caught up in the thinking that a snack means small, fun, grab-n-go…and a “meal” means large and has to happen at set times.  Our body doesn’t think this way – our body is like a race car, it wants “pit stops” meaning that about every 3 hours we need a “pit stop” for refueling and choosing how large / small based on appetite, availability, and activity levels.
  2. What’s the right amount of nutrients for a bar? (more…)

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