Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Throw Away Your Scale

My name is Debra. I am a nutritionist. I don't own a scale. 

In my work as a nutritionist, I hear so many complaints from my clients about their bodies. Once, after hanging up the phone with a client who was having a rough day and was angry at her body for not losing weight at the rate she wanted it to, I wrote down TEN reasons for her to love her body and not be so angry with it.

Her response via email: "exactly what i needed! thank you!"

Another day I shared this list with a weight-loss client who is obsessed with weighing herself multiple (more than 15) times a day.  I am in the process of trying to convince her to throw away her scale and instead ask herself how she feels, how her clothes feel, what did she do to treat herself well today? Another time, I wanted to share this list with a client after I blurted out to her (she was also only interested in the number in the scale): "you are more than just a f**cking number!"  And I seriously almost never curse! That is how passionate I am about women valuing themselves for who they are and not the number on the scale.  

And now I want to share this list with you, my readers!

So, without further ado, here is a list of TEN things your body does for you and reasons to love your body and consider throwing away your scale. Because you, dear reader, are more than just a number.

1. Fights infections
2. Heals bruises
3. Gets stronger
4. Soothes or comforts someone else through touch
5. Grew from a tiny sperm and egg!
6. Offers life in the form of a blood donation to someone else
7. Rejuvenates during sleep (growing new cells, turning over old ones)
8. Is comforted by touch from another person
9. Makes you feel sexually satisfied (solo or with a partner)
10. Detoxes unwanted toxins

Okay, okay so you might be asking: 
"But how can I show my body some love without focusing on the numbers?"  
Here's how:

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on FB and Twitter and Pinterest using the buttons below with the #MoreThanANumber hashtag. Thanks for the LOVE!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Supermarket Superfoods

Have you ever clicked on an article about a superfood only to find that the super food was super hard to find in local stores or super expensive? Not this superfood!

Dried herbs are chock full of antioxidants and phytochemicals. These are compounds that keep your cells thriving, your organs fully functioning, keep you feeling great, and even ward off dangerous bacteria and oxidation in food. And the best thing is that you probably don't even have to go to the supermarket; you probably have most of these spices sitting in your cabinet.

My Spice collection in my NYC apartment 3 years ago
Three apartments later and we still have the same set!

This is why I love my spice collection. When I was living in NY, we had a fabulous reasonably-priced health food store nearby and I gradually replaced my 99-cent spice collection with this fabulous glass jar set. This set of spice jars (+ my mason jars)have been with me through 4 apartments!  You can buy your own beautiful set by clicking the (affiliate) link below (or click on "Simply Organic to by individual jars for less than $5.00 each). I bought about 20 spices for my sister when she was getting married and she told me it was one of her best gifts! They also make a great holiday gift.

Numerous studies point to a myriad of benefits from spices that are sitting in your cabinet right now:
  • Cinnamon to help control blood sugar and decrease inflammation
  • Turmeric to help control blood sugar and decrease inflammation
  • Ginger to help control blood sugar, decrease inflammation, ease indigestion, and act as an anti-oxidant
  • Cumin to help control blood sugar, act as an anti-oxidant in the liver and kidneys, and reduce cortisol and stress markers
  • Garlic to help control blood sugar and act as an antioxidant
  • Sea salt to balance the delicate electrolytes in your body
  • Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, and Thyme to ward off the flu and illness by acting as strong antioxidants
  • Coriander as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer agent (scientific example)
  • Black pepper to inhibit cell-death in the brain, theoretically protecting brain health

For references you can read here, here, here, here (click "download"), and here to start!

So the next time you want to reach for an artificial spice blend (i.e chicken rub or taco mix) that may be mostly monosodium glutamate, or a stock powder that is mostly sugar and cornstarch, or a salad dressing made with high fructose corn syrup, run to your spice cabinet instead and whip up something yummy and super tasty with your already-purchased superfoods. Add some turmeric to your stir fried chicken, cinnamon and cumin to your sweet potatoes, garlic and oregano to your salad, the possibilities are endless.

Here is one of my favorite homemade Italian spice blends that is absolutely incredible in this kale soup:

Italian Seasoning Spice Blend
3 Tablespoons dried basil
3 Tablespoons dried oregano
3 Tablespoons dried parsley
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon back pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Garlic Kale Sweet Potato Soup

2 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped

3 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herb seasoning (see recipe above or buy a ready-made one)

6 cups water vegetable broth 

2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced

4 oz. kale, tough stems removed, chopped coursely (about 4 cups)

12 garlic cloves (I've added a few more but it's up to your taste)

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and Italian herb seasoning; saute until

onions are soft and golden, about 6 minutes

2. Stir in water or broth, beans, sweet potatoes, and kale; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low

and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add garlic to simmer soup base. Simmer until sweet potatoes and greens are tender.

About 15 - 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 6 servings (1 1/2 cup each)

For your favorite foodie, consider the following gifts for the holiday season:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Birth Story #3: Thoughts on Having a Baby in Israel

This post originally appeared on The Times of Israel on March 13, 2014. It appears again with minor edits here on my own page. Enjoy!
My daughter’s first Hebrew birthday was this week. When my second son turned one, I had an urge to write down the story of his birth and I am finding myself with that same urge for my daughter. I think the labor process is a beautiful one, one that connects you to God, the world, your child, and yourself. The main difference with this birth is that this child was born in Israel.
Over the years, I have met a number of women who told me that they wanted to move to Israel, their homeland, but couldn’t because they wanted all of their children to be born in America/Canada/United Kingdom/Insert Anglo country here. Or they waited to move to Israel until all of their children were born. They were afraid of giving birth on foreign soil. If you are one of those women, this story is for you.
When I moved from New York City to Israel, I was 11 weeks pregnant. I left behind a private doctor on Park Avenue who is truly excellent (shout-out to Dr. Gila Leiter), a word-class private hospital that happened to be around the corner from our Manhattan apartment (shout-out to Mt. Sinai Hospital), where labor rooms overlook Central Park, and friends and family lived nearby.
I came to a country of socialized medicine, doctors who spoke a language that I did not yet speak, a different schedule of tests and procedures, and an entirely different doctor-patient approach. My first appointment was in an office building in a mall and couldn’t find it. I was 25 minutes late. I hated the parking and I hated the building. I didn’t understand that I was supposed to go to a different location afterwards to get my urine and blood-pressure tested. So I found a doctor who had an office on the first floor of a tall building that was reminiscent of my Park Avenue office and that’s how I chose my doctor. It was certainly not for her bedside manner or her refusal to treat any medical conditions that did not involve the fetus (she didn’t even have a stethoscope!). She once left me a voice-mail (voice-mail!!) before a major holiday (no office hours!!) stating that one of my blood tests was elevated and my baby was at a high risk of a major disease. Turns out she was confused and was wrong. That was a fun holiday. So, why did I say you should read this article? I didn’t know at that time, that I would grow to love the health care system, that I would love how they approach birthing in this country, that my sister would arrive from America the day my baby was born, and that my new community would support me after the birth in so many positive ways.
Once I got into the groove of the medical system, and learned some more Hebrew, things started to go more smoothly. I enjoyed that the sonographer was always a medical doctor, I enjoyed knowing that when I went to get my blood pressure checked there was a doctor there in case anything was wrong, I enjoyed the way the nurses would tell me how brave I was for moving to Israel and how much they appreciated it. I loved the way they didn’t make a big deal out of being a strep B carrier like they did in NY. But the best part of the whole process was the actual birth.
On the day of the birth, a blogger friend who became a real-life friend when I moved to Israel (because that’s how things work here), came over and brought me organic chickpea stew and lots of well wishes. Later that afternoon, I took my younger son for a haircut, where the male hairdressers insisted that I sit down with a glass of water while they entertained him, cut his hair, and brought me tea and crackers. My water broke an hour later at home while I was playing Lego Ninjago with my eldest son. I called my husband. His phone battery was dead. Great. So what do you do when you are in Israel, in labor, and can’t get through to your husband??!! You call your neighbors who become your family. My upstairs neighbor was in my apartment calming me down almost before I could hang up the phone with her. She got on the phone with her friend, a doula, and we reminded ourselves of the rules of what to do if your water breaks at home. And she sat with me through some contractions until my husband came home. A few hours later when the contractions waved over me with a force that lets you know you better get to a hospital, my in-laws came over to watch our sleeping boys. Although I was most nervous about the half hour drive to the hospital (very different from our two minute walk in NYC), we made it to Ichilov/Tel Aviv Medical Center/Baby Lis (turns out those are all the same place) with plenty of time to spare.
I informed them that although I seemed calm, it was because of my birth training (I use the Bradley method) and I was sure this baby was nearly here. Previous experience also told me that I dilate from 5 to10 centimeters faster than most cars go from 0 to 60 miles per hour. They didn’t really believe me since I was only 2 centimeters but somehow agreed to send me to a labor room, transported by a nurse that also happens to work in their natural birthing room. Things were going great. They transferred me to the care of a midwife (shout-out to Tali from Nachlaot). She was into natural birthing and totally “got me” but also didn’t really believe I was near birth. So she told me to get dressed and that I could wait comfortably without being attached to equipment on the pregnancy medical wing just next door until the morning when I will be ready to have my baby. So my husband and I got to be alone, unattached to medical equipment, while I sloooowly attempted to get dressed. We also called my mother-in-law who was at our house to read a prayer to us over the phone; a friend photocopied a Jewish prayer that can be said during labor but I left it tacked to our fridge. I remember feeling the words as she read "May the child come out into the world in an instant, with ease and with no harm." Almost immediately after, I told my husband to ring the bell and let her know I was ready to have the baby. “You sure?” he asks me, afraid I would embarrass us. But  seven months of being pregnant in a country where you have to speak up for yourself like it’s nobody’s business gave me the courage to say quite loudly with maybe some expletives, “Yes, I’m sure, ring the bell, this baby’s coming!!”
In walks Tali, calm as can be, takes one look at me in the throes of the second-to-last contraction before my daughter is born, sits close to the edge of the bed, and tells me to say a prayer. “It’s a good time to ask God for something.” I tried to think of some prayer but the pain was too strong. Instead I just thought to myself, how amazing that I live in the land that God intended for me, with a midwife who just told me to say a prayer, and a baby on the brink of entering into the land of Israel. There is something very special about that moment in between worlds. Like when you are watching your baby fall asleep and their blinking eyes slow down and flutter, eventually slowing down so much that their eyes stay closed, and you know that your baby has entered a different land.
I leaned back slightly on the birthing bed, my wonderful husband supporting me at my side. I waited for Tali to touch me or drop the bottom half of the bed to easily catch my baby, who is literally on her way out. She does neither. Instead, she asks (in pretty-good English) “Do you want to come get your baby?” Always up for a new experience (why else do you move to Israel!), I say yes. She gently shows me where to position my hands around my baby’s body as I bring my daughter into the world, delivering her straight into my arms, into our family, and into Israel. My first daughter, Israeli by birth, a gift from the One above.

Read more: Thoughts on having a baby in Israel | Debra Waldoks | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/253146/#ixzz2zmdm5ce7
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top 5 Anti-Cancer Foods

I have always had a special place in my heart for the phytonutrient known as Allicin, since my name is Debra Allison.  I first learned about phytonutrients in the 1990's during an undergraduate nutrition class. That is when my love for these natural chemicals in plant foods took off. As a religious woman who is also a nutritionist there is something special about learning the medicinal properties of our natural God-given foods that are intended to prevent disease as well as heal us from disease. New phytonutrients are being discovered all the time. Basically every single fruit or vegetables contains at least one phytonutrient that can provide antioxidant (kills free radicals), anti-inflammatory, or anti-cancer properties to your cells .  Yes, even humble cucumbers contain cucurbitacins which are anti-inflammatory and possibly have anti-cancer properties too. This is why food will always trump supplements and why we must go "Beyond Prenatal vitamins" when discussing women's health.

A few very special people I know were diagnosed with cancer these past few years. Some had surgery, some had chemo, some are having more chemo. These people all told me that when they were diagnosed with cancer, many people started telling them how “so and so cured cancer with (fill in alternative treatment here).” But most people don’t choose an alternative route when faced with a deadly disease. Most people will choose a conventional medicine route to try and eradicate the disease.  However, all cancer patients have a waiting period.  Waiting to find out results of biopsies; waiting to find out treatment options; waiting to find out which top doctor can make room in their schedule; waiting for blood counts to increase, or waiting to see if the chemotherapy will work.  What if these alternative methods are utilized during this waiting period? Would it make the patient feel empowered? Would it possibly help slow the growth of the cancer? 

So I thought I would compile a list of some the top well-studied (700+ research studies on garlic and cancer on Pubmed!!) anti-cancer foods that encourage apoptosis (cell death, a good thing when the cells are cancerous). This is certainly not an exclusive list, just a place to start. Notice how many different colors are represented here, as phytonutrients exist in the colorful components of the plant.

Five Foods that are Anti-Cancerous and encourage Apoptosis 
(and their magic power phytochemical)

1.      Raw garlic (Allicin)
          2.      Turmeric (Curcumin)
         3.      Oregano (Quercetin)
                      4.      Cayenne pepper (Capsaicin)
        5.      Ginger (Oleoresins)
6. "Bonus" Anti-Cancer Food: Green tea (Polyphenols: Catechins, ECG)

      These spices and herbs can be turned into delicious salad dressings, sprinkled on salad, rubbed on chicken or fish, added to meat or veggie stew, or added to rice, stir-fries, or soups. Green tea can be enjoyed as a tea or used in salad dressing and even in your cooking! You can also eat some of these foods, like garlic, crushed and mixed with some raw unheated honey to be enjoyed by the tablespoon (This is how I finally got rid of a nasty strep throat infection that just wouldn't go away with antibiotics). Just make sure to eat them daily. 

    I singled out these 6 foods but there are literally hundreds of foods that contain phytonutrients.

    For more examples of phytonutrient-rich food organized by food color, see this document put together by the Institute for Functional Medicine and for the name of the phytonutrients in each color food group, click on this link.

       Your blogging nutritionist, Debra Allison 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Crock Pot Cooking: The Rules and the Recipes

In response to a conversation on the BeyondPrenatals Facebook page, I am posting some rules and recipes for crock pot cooking. Enjoy them and like us on facebook for more health tips.

Debra's Ten Unofficial Rules of Crock Pot Cooking  

  1. Cook on High 4-5 hours or Low 8-10 hours.
  2. If cooking with beans or lentils, don't add salt until the end.
  3. If cooking with beans or lentils AND tomatoes, you should use pre-cooked (or canned or frozen) beans to ensure the acidity from the tomatoes won't discourage the beans from becoming tender. Or add tomatoes after beans or lentils are tender.
  4. "Saute" in the following recipes, refers to cooking the onions in the crock pot on high with some good quality extra virgin olive oil (or leftover chicken drippings for a deeper flavor) before you add water or other ingredients until the onions become translucent. This can be done while getting dressed. If you need to skip this step, feel free. You will lose some of the flavor but it will still be okay.
  5. If your mornings are just too hectic, fill up the crock pot the night before, place in fridge, and put it into the crock pot base in the morning. If you want to do the "saute" part, do it the night before.
  6. Be flexible.  If you start with onions and garlic and add in vegetables you have on hand, beef or chicken or beans, fresh or dried spices, you usually can't go too wrong.
  7. If using mushrooms, opt for portobello or baby portobello, it will deepen the flavor. 
  8. To prep beans for your crock pot without fuss or multiple bowls, simply pour them into the crock pot and cover with filtered water. In the morning, drain the water off using the cover of the crock pot (turn it over with the cover slightly off center allowing the water to drain out but not the beans. In fact, you might lose a few beans using this method, but it's simpler than taking out a colander in my opinion). Rinse and drain again. They are now ready. If you don't need your crock pot, you can cook the beans in there on low for about 5 hours. No salt. You can also soak during the day, and cook beans overnight. Lentils do not need to be soaked. Once you get in a rhythm, you won't be scared to soak and cook beans, it will become second nature to you. If your recipe does not call for cooked beans, cook them as part of the recipe with the other ingredients.. Or if you absolutely hate cooking beans, shell out the extra $ and buy them canned or frozen:) 
  9. You can also use your crock pot to cook rice and other grains for a few hours (not all day). Works great with "sauteed" onions and mushrooms first.
  10. Don't take my measurements too seriously. If you want more of one spice and less of another, go for it!  I love reading cookbooks but hate following recipes. All amounts are estimates. Use your cooking judgment.

Mung Bean Stew

"Saute" 2 onions in the crock pot (either in olive oil or leftover chicken fat). Add about 1 tsp each of dried spices: Oregano, Dill Weed, Parsley and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Stir and let cook until it smells fragrant. Add 2 cups of pre-soaked mung beans, 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, and one red pepper. Cover with filtered water. Stir to combine. Place two bay leaves just beneath the water. Cook about 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. When its done, gently stir in some salt but make sure not to mush the sweet potato, keep it chunky or it won't look pretty;) Serve over Fusilli pasta, spooning the extra juice on top too. 

Chicken Crock Pot Three Ways
1. Whole chicken over 2 cups of rice + 4 cups filtered water. Cover chicken in salsa or matbucha and cooked black beans.

2. Whole chicken rubbed with oil and salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and thyme or fresh dill (or other spice you love), surrounded by sweet potatoes. Cook on low all day. Can also be cooked over rice+water.

3. Coat pot in canola oil. Place whole chicken in pot. Cover chicken in honey and then unsweetened coconut shreds. Cook on low all day.  

Beef or Veal Stew
This is not as good as beef stew cooked in a dutch oven but if you want meat for dinner and you are short on time, it's pretty good.
Layer onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, celery. Add cubed beef, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of water, chopped packaged tomatoes or canned stewed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, coarse salt, black pepper. When it's done stir in some red wine vinegar. 

Veggie Chili

3 cups combination of pre-soaked beans (kidney, white beans, and chickpeas work well)
4 stalks celery
1 bunch carrots
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
3 zuchini zucchini
Spices of your choice (we used: paprika, cayenne, cumin, pepper). 

When cooking beans, always add salt after the beans are cooked or they won't get tender.  
Put everything in the crock pot, add the spices and water to cover.  Cook on low all day. gently add salt to taste.  Make some brown rice or another grain to serve it with and enjoy!

For a more traditional veggie chili, you need to go out of the crock pot, here is my favorite.


Place in crock pot in the following order (all chopped): Olive oil to coat bottom of pot, 2 medium eggplants, 2 onions, 2 zucchini, 8 oz. Mushroom, 2-3 potatoes, 4 cloves garlic.  Add seasonings: pepper, basil, oregano, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tbs maple syrup. Add chopped packaged (r canned) tomatoes.   Add 2 cups cooked chickpeas. Drizzle with some more olive oil. Don't stir. Cook all day.
The reason why you need pre-cooked beans here is because beans dont cook well in the presence of tomatoes. Cook on low all day. Serve hot or cold

Split Pea Soup

1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled 
1 pound dried split green peas
8 cups chicken stock or water
Sliced hot dogs (nitrate-free)
Optional: celery, bay leaves, parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt before serving

"Saute" the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, pepper until the onions are translucent, about 20 minutes while you are getting dressed in the morning.. Add the carrots, potatoes, split peas, chicken stock, and hot dogs. If you are home, skim off the foam while cooking. Cook on low all day. Add salt. 
If you prefer your split pea soup with thyme, replace the oregano with thyme.

My kids enjoying mung bean stew over pasta tonight. Recipe above..