adding parsley

simple things to do today for a healthier and happier tomorrow

how carrots will help you stay young

I have a book called, 100 Foods to Stay Young, that I love.  It includes foods that I would expect, such as avocados and broccoli, and others that come as a nice surprise, such as molasses and pepper.  It of course also supports some of my intentional indulgences, including dark chocolate and red wine.  What I like about the book, aside from knowing what foods will help me stay young, is that it explains why and how to extract the most benefit out of each food.  It also highlights what foods have been shown to benefit specific health situations, such as fighting diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s, and supporting goals such as increasing fertility and sleep.  Every now and then, I’ll pick a food from this book, read what it has to say, and do my best to remember the points that mean the most to me.  Today’s food is carrots.

You probably already know that carrots are good for you, but do you know why?  Here are a few things I learned:

  • Carrots provide a chemical called falcarinol that has been shown to have strong skin-protecting antioxidant activity.
  • The fiber in carrots, pectin, detoxifies heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium and other aging toxins.
  • Carrots are a source of the flavonoid rutin, which helps prevent varicose veins, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • A raw carrot provides 3 percent beta-carotene, compared to 39 percent if the carrot has been steamed, juiced, or cooked in oil (your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, benefiting eyesight and aiding in detoxification).
  • Carrots are also high in vitamin A that doesn’t need converting, making it a good source of the vitamin regardless of how it is prepared.

What you do with this information is up to you.  Now that I know though…I’m going to think twice before passing on a helping or snack of carrots and will incorporate more carrots that have been steamed, juiced, or cooked in oil into my family’s meals.

One of my favorite recipes that includes lightly cooked carrots is this one for carrot & zucchini muffins from the blog Gimme Some Oven.  To make these muffins even more nutritious, I usually replace half of the oil with an equal part of applesauce.  (You don’t want to replace all of the oil, since it is necessary for increasing the beta-carotene.)  They are quick, inexpensive and easy to make, and are clearly filled with nutrition – including nutrition that will help us stay young.  And best of all…my son and I both love them.  I hope you and yours do too.


the best indulgence

The best indulgence when it comes to food is the food that you absolutely love….that also loves you back. The food that is packed with nutrition, will add years to your life, prevent wrinkles, increase your energy, and tastes delicious. I’m convinced that there are certain “super foods” that aren’t widely consumed simply because they are known as a health food, and are therefore eaten with the main purpose of getting some nutrients, rather than for the taste. Take blueberries for example. I’m not saying that blueberries aren’t consumed, just not as widely consumed as some other foods, such as potato chips and candy. What percentage of grocery carts would you expect have a bag of chips or candy compared to fresh blueberries? I would love to pack blueberries in a colored plastic bag and place them in the chip or candy aisle to see what would happen. If people viewed blueberries as an indulgence, would they eat them more? When we are stressed, do we reach for the unhealthy food simply because we deserve it? We know that we’ll feel disgusting after eating nearly an entire bag of potato chips or candy, yet we still do, because we are going to let ourselves indulge. We’ll then feel disgusting as expected and regret the decision, followed by making resolutions to eat healthier tomorrow. This pattern might be understandable if “super foods” were in fact tasteless or disgusting. But they are not. It’s just a matter of viewing and tasting them differently.

There should be no issue of “fitting” our 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables in each day, possibly by disguising them in other dishes or downing them in processed beverages. Instead, we need to be craving, savoring and indulging in foods that taste delicious….and love us back. For me, this includes well constructed veggie sandwiches, the prefect filet of salmon, quality sushi, perfectly ripe avocados, a glass or two of red wine, overly sweet raspberries, raw pecans, tahini hummus, roasted tomatoes, anything with goat cheese or mustard (did you realize these items belong on this list?), rhubarb oatmeal crisp, baked sweet potato fries, jalapenos, dark green leafy salads covered in nuts and fruit, marinated mushrooms and dark dark chocolate. This doesn’t include all healthy foods that I like…these are just the ones that I crave, savor and indulge in. Especially knowing how much they love me back. What foods to you love….that also love you back?

what I learned from quitting sugar

1. Sugar is in practically everything.
I first realized this standing in the cereal aisle of Target. I was hopelessly looking for a sugar free option. By sugar free, I mean sugar free. Not filled with another form of what is basically sugar…and usually worse. Corn syrup, stevia, aspartame, truvia, splenda….the list could go on. To my disgust, many of the ‘sugar free’ options actually contained more grams of sugar per serving than the standard sugary cereals that attract kids. I left frustrated.

2. Being adaptable will work in your favor.
I quickly realized that I wouldn’t successfully quit sugar if I didn’t adjust my plan. I am not the type to routinely pack my lunch and snacks for work, make every meal from scratch, or to eat only raw foods, so it would be difficult for me to avoid sugar completely once I realized that it was in practically everything. I also didn’t want to substitute items that weren’t naturally sugar free with superficially sweetened options. (The goal of this experiment was to become healthier, not pick up unhealthy habits.) So the focus of my experiment shifted to quitting all desserts, candy and food items that contained an unnecessary amount of sugar, and for consumption of the last category to be limited. To determine what the ‘unnecessary’ amount was, I compared labels and sought out the options that included the least amount of sugar.

3. You need to tell others what you are doing.
If it hadn’t been for my husband and coworkers’ lack of confidence in me, I might not have had confidence in myself. Their doubt motivated me more than I would have motivated myself on my own.

4. If you are able to, allow yourself to make your own rules.
I say if you are able to because some people may be tempted to make too many of their own rules, to the point that they pretty much give up on what they were trying to do to in the first place. If you really want the end result, you’ll be cautious when ‘adjusting’ the rules. In my case, I decided to allow myself one day off per week from quitting sugar. The first day off was due to it being my first child’s first birthday party. Had I thought that through when taking on this experiment? I needed to have a piece of his birthday cake.

5. Six weeks was enough and just right.
It was enough time for me to break my addiction. Enough time for me to not care as much about or depend on sugar. And it was just the right amount of time. Had I gone another two weeks without sugar, as initially planned, I may have come to resent the experiment to begin with. I may have become consumed with when I would be able to taste sugar again. I may have undone all that I had done. As I had stated, it is important to be able to adapt.

6. It’s worth it.
You might be thinking… “Well, you didn’t actually do it, with all of your ‘adapting’ and ‘adjustments'”. But I did do what I needed to do to quit my sugar addiction. And it was still hard. And very worth it.

sometimes…small things aren’t enough

This may sound contradicting, but I’m still going to say it. And write about it. Because though I am a firm believer that every small thing counts and that a bunch of small things add up to what makes a big difference, I also believe that sometimes…small things aren’t enough. And that includes the simple approaches that I write about.

I write about the small and simple things that make a significant impact on my health and happiness, to hopefully make living a healthy lifestyle attainable for those that are otherwise intimidated. And to prove that such a lifestyle is enjoyable. These approaches aren’t intended to be life saving solutions for people with major or urgent health issues though. They also aren’t intended to be catch-all solutions. There are times that we need or want the type of big changes in our lives, that may make more drastic measures appropriate.

That’s why, I’m quitting sugar. At least for an experiment. Most likely, not for life. Actually, most certainly, not for life.

My sugar habit started slowly, within reason and continues to be not that bad compared to what it could be. It also began with the best of intentions. While I was pregnant last year, I needed to increase my caloric intake and it just so happened that the majority of the foods I could stomach were filled with sugar (which I of course didn’t mind at the time). After having my son nearly a year ago, I continued needing additional calories to fuel breastfeeding, which burns calories like you’re training for a marathon. (Not that I would know what that’s like, but I can imagine.) Though I no longer had food aversions, I was quite taken with the ability to eat dessert every day, multiple times, without gaining any weight.

Until recently, I didn’t think much of this new sugar habit. After all, I was still eating healthily overall, hadn’t gained any weight and mostly chose “nutritious” forms of sugar, such as dark chocolate, dried fruit and brown sugar oatmeal. Without realizing it though, I was also experiencing major energy drops during the day (which I would mend with a sugar fix), was routinely exhausted by the time I got home from work (which is really when the best part of my day begins), and my skin was looking – to put it bluntly – bad (no sugar coating here). Over the past few weeks it has crossed my mind that these issues may be connected to my increased sugar intake, so I attempted to cut back. But I kept giving into the habit. I had become addicted.

Thankfully, I received a sign this past weekend that motivated me to do something about this, as it supported my suspicion that sugar may be at the root of these issues. It was the story of another unlikely sugar addict’s experience with the sweet substance that I stumbled across and instantly knew I had needed to hear (or read). Her name is Sarah Wilson and she is now not only my quitting sugar inspiration, but also my blog crush. As I was reading her story, I couldn’t help but think how similar her situation and points of view are to my own. Only, I haven’t quit sugar yet. So I want to be like Sarah. I want to quit sugar, and to reap the benefits that she reaped. And then, once I get to the point that sugar is no longer an “addiction” for me, I will go back to my simple approaches of living a healthy lifestyle when it comes to…enjoying sugar.

I started the “I Quit Sugar” experiment two days ago, so it is too early to say whether it will make a difference. But I have high hopes and can’t wait to see where this takes me.

As I mentioned, I am still a firm believer that doing small things today will make a big difference in your health and happiness tomorrow. But this is a situation in which I feel the need to take more drastic measures. So please, wish me luck.

before you take a sip, think about this

If I asked you to drink a cleaning supply, would you?  What about a rust remover?  An engine cleaner?

What if I told you, you already did?

I’m not trying to disgust you.  Well maybe I am.  Because if you thought about what soda, coke, pop, whatever you prefer to call it, is capable of…maybe you would stop drinking it.  Or at least drink less of it.

According to many sources, soda has been used for many purposes other than a beverage for many years.  Among these purposes are cleaning blood off of accident sites, removing rust (you remember the school project of using coke to dissolve a rusty nail, right?), and cleaning engines.  You are probably getting the gist, but for an even longer list, read 51 Uses for Coca-Cola at WiseBread.

Do you love the stuff so much that you’re going to forget you read this?  The reality is, forgetting about these facts won’t make them any less real.  Nor will it change the fact that soda is also terrible for your health.  If you are interested in thinking about that too, read Soda’s Health Risks: How Bad Is It Really? at The Huffington Post.  If you are like many people though, thinking about the health effects may just increase your sense of guilt about drinking it, rather than get you to stop.

So, the next time you reach for a soda, coke, pop, or whatever you prefer to call it, think about just what that liquid is capable of doing before you take a sip.  Now, are you still going to enjoy it?

everyone needs an allergy

I used to hate cream cheese.  Or at least I thought I did.  I don’t recall whether my dislike for it was based on an actual experience of tasting it or just from deciding I wouldn’t like it based on it’s appearance and smell, which I have done for various foods since I was young.  Either way, my dislike for it was strong enough to withstand working at my neighborhood bagel shop for a couple years during high school.  I somehow didn’t discover that I actually love the high calorie, high fat, creamy, savory spread until after I worked there.

Looking back I am impressed with my timing…and ignorance.  I am also reminded that it is human nature to believe what we want to believe.  I was never tempted to indulge in cream cheese during those years because I truly believed I didn’t like it.  Further supporting this point, to this day, I have never eaten a fresh pickle because I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t like it.  (Until recently, I hadn’t eaten any form of pickle until I tried fried ones while on vacation, which I credit to being pregnant at the time).  People frequently tell me that I would likely love pickles considering my other tastes, yet I still have no desire to find out if they are right.  This is because of how ingrained my “dislike” of pickles is in my mind.

My memory of disliking cream cheese crosses my mind on occasion, usually while I’m enjoying it by the spoonful and for a moment will wish I never discovered that I like it.  Those moments are fleeting though, because it is now one of my favorite indulgences and I wouldn’t want to go back to not liking it.  There are certain foods I wouldn’t mind disliking though.  So when other methods of attempting to cut a food out of my diet fail me, I will at times develop a “dislike” for it.

This week it is cookies.  I don’t love cookies and never have, yet lately I’ve been eating them all the time…because they seem to always be around.  They are a staple in my kitchen due to my husband’s love for them, are served at the training sessions I facilitate at work, sit next to the cash register at the lunch spots I frequent, and of course overflow during the holidays, at parties, etc.  And although I don’t love cookies and never have, I do like them and lack will power when it comes to passing on them.

So for now I will dislike cookies.  It’s not just that I won’t love them, as I love cream cheese, I actually really will not like them.  There may be a day when I will like them again, but for now, I feel the need to cut them out of my diet, so the chewy yet crunchy sweets disgust me.  In fact, I don’t know why anyone likes them.  It must be annoying to feel compelled to eat them.

I strongly recommend this approach.

If you are thinking “There’s no way I’ll ever convince myself that I don’t like fill-in-the-blank“, then perhaps you should take this approach a step further by developing an allergy.  While you may recall that you are not actually allergic to fill-in-the-blank, telling people that you are will encourage you to keep it up.  Because really, who wants to be known as the person who is making up allergies??

So, what are you allergic to?

goat cheese, parsley and pecans (three combinations)

Last weekend was no exception to my overambitious meal planning.  I was away for a couple of days with some of my closest friends, staying in a cottage that had a cute little kitchen, equipped with basic cooking supplies.  We had a wonderful stay planned of pretty much nothing, including not having to leave the cottage unless we felt inclined, so we decided it would be conducive to make a grocery run to the local Piggly Wiggly.

To no ones surprise, I offered to plan a few meals in preparation of our shopping trip, not bothering to conceal my excitement of a full 48 hours worth of meals that needed to be made.  My friends made it known that they would be content with nothing more extravagant than frozen pizza for the weekend, however, also knew it was in their best interest to let me take on the task if they didn’t want to listen to me make comments such as “Do you now what would have been perfect to make this weekend?” or “…what would taste soooo good right now?” and so on, so they agreed.

Now, you could say I prefer one night stands when it comes to picking recipes, because I rarely go back to the same one.  I love searching for new recipes, evaluating each ingredient, picking apart each step, and reading review after review, eventually picking the most appealing ones to dabble with.  And then doing it all over again.   Even if I end up loving the dish that a recipe leads to, I often never make it again (to my husband’s disappointment) because there are just too many other appealing ones out there.  If I do make a recipe more than once, I’ll typically make slight adjustments based on my first experience with it, in attempt to perfect any possible flaws.  Therefore, keeping with my usual self, I found several recipes to make last weekend, only one of which I’d made before.

Also keeping with my usual self, I over planned.  For a combination of reasons (such as enjoying our conversation and mojitos too much to notice our appetites), we only ended up making one of the recipes.  To our credit, it was at least one really good one.  (You won’t regret making “cucumber – at it’s best – salsa” to see for yourself).

In effort not to waste the remaining groceries, I offered to take them home and proceeded to make two of the other recipes, sending snapshots to my friends as though they would appreciate seeing what they missed out on tasting.  To make the most of the groceries, I spruced up one of the dishes by adding some of the ingredients from the other and created a third dish using the same ingredients.  Each dish turned out delicious and was deceivingly packed with nutrition, so I’d like to share the recipes with you.

The common ingredients intended for these dishes were goat cheese, parsley and pecans.  I say intended, because I ended up using all of the goat cheese before making the third dish, however, that was the dish I had made before (one of my few long term relationships) so I can tell you from experience that while it is worth making regardless, with goat cheese, it is divine.  So if you are like me in that you love the stuff, buy two packages if needed.

By the way, did you know that pecans are widely considered the most nutrient dense nut?  They are packed with over 19 vitamins and minerals that are known to reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease.  Pecans are also believed to play a role in reducing cholesterol.  And if you read the meaning behind the name Adding Parsley under About, I will assume you remember that the herb is not only a garnish, but also packed with nutrition.  Therefore, I hope you find yourself savoring these dishes not only for their wonderful taste, but also for the wonderful benefits they will provide for your tomorrow.

honey pecan spread

(a healthy alternative to honey walnut cream cheese)

5 oz package goat cheese, softened

1 tablespoon honey

2-3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, rinsed and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients and spread on melba rounds or cracker of your choice.  Serve and enjoy.

nutty goat brussels sprout salad

(pictured with parsley roasted potatoes – again, getting more use out of each ingredient!)

10 ounces brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and coarsely chopped

3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sweet onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

course salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and mustard seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and onions are translucent (approximately 1 minute).  Add oil and brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, until brussels sprouts are tender and beginning to brown (8-10 minutes).  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.  Top with goat cheese and pecans.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese

(from smitten kitchen, a must read recipe blog, pictured without goat cheese)

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled and cut into 3/4-inch coins

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup toasted and cooled pecan halves

 2 tiny or 1 small shallot, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried cranberries, minced

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

course salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons.  Lay sweet potatoes in one layer on the oiled sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast, without disturbing, for 15-20 minutes.  Carefully flip each piece (the undersides should be blistery and browned).  Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and roast for another 10 minutes or until the undersides match the tops.

Meanwhile, prepare your salad by combing pecans, shallot, celery, parsley, and cranberries.  In a small dish, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, red wine vinegar and mustard.  Add half of the dressing to the salad.

Transfer sweet potatoes to a serving platter and top with salad, goat cheese and remaining dressing.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

wasting groceries

I am really good at wasting groceries. So much so, that I’ve given myself a two recipe maximum. That is, unless I am entertaining, I limit myself to purchasing groceries for two specific recipes per shopping trip in addition to my family’s standard grocery list. I then do my best to use the rest of the ingredients from those recipes in other dishes using staple items I have on hand.  This approach makes me more economical, encourages me to get more nutritional value out of each grocery item, and pushes me to be creative when it comes to thinking of and creating new recipes, all of which will benefit my tomorrow.

Throughout Adding Parsley, you will find examples of recipe combinations I’ve made with the same or similar ingredients, which I hope inspire you to waste less groceries too.  For the greatest benefit, you’ll want to focus on getting the most value out of the nutritious ingredients of course…because really, how beneficial would eating let’s say, cream cheese with dinner each night of one week be compared to eating parsley and pecans with each meal?  To see what I mean, I encourage you to read goat cheese, parsley and pecans (three combinations).