This summer I was breakfast salad crazy – in the garden, knee-deep in some wonderful greens, and the vegetable bowl craze just pointed to making more breakfast salads. Yum.
Now that the weather is just beginning to cool, my breakfast salads are warm. The garden is filled with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and other delectables. Now, my breakfast salads are one-pan wonders morphing into veggie bowls. All good!
To put together a breakfast salad, pull together whatever you have in the fridge, notice the veggies that are in season (even better, at their peak) now, and think about the flavors you’re pulling together. I choose greens, a vegetable or two, flavorful protein-rich compatibles like nut butter, nuts or seeds, whole grains or soft-boiled eggs.
Salad dressings can boost nutrition – making your own from whole ingredients is worth it! Topping your breakfast salad with a bit of mayo, smooshed avocado, or good olive oil and vinegar works great too.
Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes & Soft Boiled Egg Breakfast Salad
Quick, fresh and satisfying.
- 1/2 cup spinach or other greens I used baby organic
- 5 stalks asparagus, sliced Use any vegetable you have on hand.
- 1/2 sweet potato, cooked, sliced I often cook-off 3 or 4 sweet potatoes on a Sunday to use through the week.
- 2 eggs, soft boil To soft boil an egg, place them in a small pan in cold water, then turn to high and bring to boil. Turn heat off - when the water is cool enough to peel the eggs (about 15 minutes) the eggs will be soft-boiled.
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise, good quality organic or it's actually easy to make your own
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp Fresh dill, diced
Toss sweet potatoes, greens, and asparagus in a medium breakfast bowl. Top with 2 soft-boiled eggs, sliced in half. Top with mayo and mustard.
Toss all together, top with dill and enjoy.
There are so many combinations of breakfast salads.
Here are a few combos to try:
Spinach - walnut - egg - turkey bacon - poppyseed dressing
Cabbage - cashews - carrots - egg - Asian peanut dressing
Red or green lettuce - grilled BBQ chicken leftovers - red peppers - balsamic vinaigrette
Tomatoes - basil - pine nuts - olives - tofu - olive oil
I finally got a glass pitcher with a cylinder in the top so that I can easily make herbal waters – cold water sun infusions. These are really the perfect alternative to soda or even to sparkling water in plastic containers.
Why Drink Herbal Water?
With herbal waters, you take a pass on the sugar and whatever else is in packaged drinks you purchase. But you also get a smidgen of phytonutrient and bioenergetic support (that certain je ne sais quoi – a delight of unknown origin) from herbs and other botanicals. Herbs do contain some of the most potent of nature’s medicines, and the flavors and fragrances you experience are those potent antioxidants that provide health-enhancing benefits like calming inflammation and helping to make your internal environment resilient.
How to Make Herbal Water
The recipe is so straight forward – it’s really more of a reminder.
Herbal Water Recipe
Herbal water passes on the sugar and expense of soda and soothes your senses with some of the most potent of nature's medicines - phytonutrients.
- 1 quart water clean, filtered
- 1 /2 cup herbs & flavorings any edible fresh herb, root, flower or spice
Fill a one-quart glass pitcher with water.
Place herbs and flavorings in something that will allow their suspension in the water - a clean small cloth bag, for example - I have a pitcher made just for sun-tea, with a plastic cylinder attached to the lid. A tea-ball would do the trick. There are an array of options available commercially.
Place pitcher containing herbs on a sunny windowsill or a sunny spot free from critters.
Leave for at least an hour, preferably several hours.
Remove herbs/flavorers, and enjoy as is or over ice. Keeps refrigerated for about a week.
This is one of those non-recipe recipes - perhaps it's more a technique. But, having a quart of herbal water around is a wonderful direct and simple way to connect with what is blooming or at it's peak in my yard. Simple refreshing plant medicine.
Here are a few of my favorite herbal water combos I’ve tried over several summers:
- Fresh ginger and English mint – refreshing and delicious
- Lavender and blueberries – sweet and soothing
- Cilantro – like a light green drink – tastes cleansing
- Watermelon and lime – sweet and tangy and what is it about watermelon that just makes me happy?
What’s Your Favorite Herbal Water Combo?
If the idea of botanical cooking appeals, check out Kami McBride’s book, Herbal Kitchen. It’s an inspiration, a classic and uses botanicals in a variety of creative ways, from herbal waters to soups to cordials and even bathing and beauty non-products. Check her out!
Check my other plant medicine and plant-centric recipes.
The last couple years have been tough. Through my challenging time, I had a personal experience of how prediabetes symptoms feel – I don’t recommend it. For me, it was the wake-up call I needed to refocus on lifestyle.
One indicator of how life is going generally is my eating – for years I had it together, surfing life’s ups and downs while my relationship with food was stable and happy. It helped that I work at a yoga center famous for its healthful food, and that I’ve studied nutrition for almost 30 years (still fascinated!). Being an “expert” actually heightens the misery – I’m sure many of you know of what I speak.
Over the past two years, when I realized several of those big life fears (I watched the love of my life die, quick and gruesome…then…he came back to life! wait, wha?), the place that slipped was eating (of course!). In my despair, movement-related self-care was also just too hard to keep up. I moved a little but not enough – and I just could not find the joy I always felt with dance, movement and fitness.
Through this time, my A1c crept up. While I know in great detail how to address it (hello, moderating carbohydrates and moving more) it hasn’t been easy. My progress until now has been rather slow. One thing that I’ve experienced (I think) is how someone feels when their blood sugar is on what I call the blood sugar roller-coaster, giving you prediabetes symptoms. It is a profound feeling and impacted nearly every moment of my day, and has a set of unhelpful thoughts attached.
While many people with prediabetes do not have symptoms, here are a few that can happen.
Fatigue. First, you’re tired. Really tired and unmotivated. It’s hard to comprehend a reason to get up and out of bed, and why-botherism is right there, pretty much all the time. There are moments of light, but mostly grey. Tired and unmotivated.
Unwellness. Then, you feel sort of crummy. Most of the time. Low energy and achy deep inside for no real reason.
Increase Thirst & Urination. I’ve always been a water drinker and didn’t notice this one, but some folks do.
Weird things begin to happen physically – blurred vision, skin things, digestive things, that have never happened before and don’t help with moving forward.
Cravings. For me, eating my favorite comfort/trigger foods (starch for me – mashed potatoes) became a heightened experience. I got trapped in a familiar cycle of emotional eating – stress, think of mash potatoes – eat mashed potatoes, overeat mashed potatoes – wish I hadn’t eaten mashed potatoes as I feel over-full.
What to Do if You Have Prediabetes Symptoms
Get ye to your doctor. Have labs drawn. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, and 90% of those that don’t know it.
Know that it’s action time.
Gather helpers. My counselor/therapist – weekly through the worst of it, gave me someone to get into the muck with – to go deep deep into my fears and feel them, honor them. I could never have moved on or begun to release my fears around losing my dude without her.
Find yourself a good dietitian. Every town has at least one excellent dietitian – that’s is the right fit for your personality and pocketbook. More dietitians take health insurance, and more dietitians also offer premium services like custom fitness routines, custom meal plans, and seriously regular meetings.
What is Prediabetes Anyway?
Prediabetes is when you begin to have problems with your blood sugar but you are not quite to the place of having a diagnosis of diabetes. It is action time, my friend.
Specifically, by the numbers, prediabetes is when:
- A1c (a measure of blood sugar over several months) between 5.7 -6.4%
- A fasting blood glucose of between 100-124 mg/dL
There are other indicators, like an oral glucose tolerance test, blood lipid levels that can also point to your risk of having prediabetes.
Here is a quiz on risk factors from the American Diabetes Association.
Why do I say it is action time? Because you can change it.
Update – My Story
At times, progress seemed a game of inches – sort of exasperating. It does, as you might imagine, heighten the excitement to also be an expert in the field. That’s where self-compassion comes in. Then, as I tried to show up for my own life, and my family’s life, over and over day after day, it began to slowly shift. I had a great leap forward – normal labs! Now, I’m feeling better, eating better. My mindset is better and I’m heading in the right direction. I just show up, over and over, and participate in my own life (I wasn’t for a while). Recovery is one step forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back and I do my best to notice and celebrate that.
Everyone, when it comes to health and well-being, has both unique challenges and resources. I am not recovering without support and friends. I have support from the medical community – I live in the great state of MA – a place that attempts to provide care for all – and that care for me (and my husband) has been nothing less than life-saving. I have access to mental health and physical health care.
Take Your Next Step
As part of my healing and hopefully helping, I am now in private practice – both telehealth and face-to-face in Great Barrington, MA. Find out more about my personal lifestyle coaching.
What’s your story? What are the challenges and resources you have to heal your life? I want to know!
If you live in New England, this has been a chilly – OK freezing – spring. Our minds are thinking of fresh herbs and lightening up, but our palates crave warmth. It’s an excellent time for a fresh curry. Here’s one made with pork tenderloin and cauliflower. You have here a one skillet meal, my friends, that takes about twenty minutes.
My beloved husband has, over the past year or so, become quite a connoisseur of quality food for less $. Do you know how sexy that is for a dietitian? Quite. I have become a student of his method of finding excellent quality food deals locally. It involves knowing when the local shopper’s guide comes out, and knowing what’s on special. In last week’s supermarket circular, there was a two-for-one offer of pork tenderloins (and organic chicken breasts, by the way). Who knew.
Pork tenderloin is a lean and healthful meat, particularly when raised as nature intended – on a small farm with love and a varied diet. Here’s what I did with half of a pork tenderloin. This Pork Tenderloin Cauliflower Curry recipe is easy to modify. You may of course eliminate the pork and sub tofu or beans for a vegan curry. Chicken and shrimp are also easy substitutes.
Pork Tenderloin Cauliflower Curry
Half a pork tenderloin (about 1 lb), sliced into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp Sesame oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 cup asparagus, snapped into bite-sized pieces
1 12 oz can coconut milk
2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 Tbsp chopped Thai or regular basil
Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat with sesame oil, add pork pieces and sear, turning, for about 4 minutes. Turn head down to medium. Add cauliflower and saute for 4 minutes. Add asparagus, coconut milk (give the can a good shake before you open it). Stir in curry paste and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Slice into one of the pork piece to make sure it is cooked through – no pink inside. When pork is cooked through, cauliflower is soft and asparagus is bright and al-dente (still has some firmness), top with basil and serve as is or over brown rice or another grain.
Check out all my easy healthy recipes.
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I never met a mushroom I didn’t like, and I’ve had the pleasure of quite a few.
If you ever get the chance, take a mushroom walk with the Boston Mycological Club(or your local club). They are a perfect collection of culinary, botany and sensation-seeking enthusiasts. When I went, we found baskets-full of colorful beauties, then using field guides and spore patterns (the definitive method to differentiate friend or foe from a safe-to-eat perspective), we identified, divided up and took home our bounties for happy times of all sorts.
Gathering mushrooms from the wild is getting evermore popular, but I don’t do it because even though I’ve had some experience with my mycological friends, every year even expert mushroom collectors eat the wrong fungi and that’s it – they can kill you. There are such a phenomenal range of cultivated mushrooms now available, I suggest sticking with and enjoying that.
I love the mushrooms, dill, and sour cream that frames Hungarian mushroom soup. If you can find a good local organic grass-fed sour cream, then by all means, use that (grass-fed dairy has a more favorable lipid profile as well as being easier on the earth relative to its mass-market cousins). If you are dairy-free, you can substitute a bit of soy milk plus an extra squeeze of lemon to approximate the tang you’ll miss from yogurt or sour cream.
Here I’ve aimed to boost the nutrient density by loading up on herbs – both dill and parsley, as well as other vegetables, and lightened it up with yogurt rather than sour cream. I found that when I used this quantity of herbs, I needed to blend the finished product – herbs are so delicate that when they are cooked like this in a soup, they need to be blended or finely finely chopped or their texture just isn’t what you want it to be.
1 – 16 oz package organic mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large carrots
1/2 yellow onion, sliced & cubed
1/2 medium yellow turnip, peeled and sliced
2 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
about 1 cup fresh dill, chopped
about 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp organic grass-fed yogurt or sour cream
In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Slice carrots and clean and slice mushrooms, and slice turnip, discarding any waxy covering it may have. Add these veggies to the pot and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add stock and simmer 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, chop herbs. Add herbs and yogurt or sour cream. If necessary, cool and run through a blender for a smooth and creamy texture.
Quality food and produce – organics, artisanal, delicious – is more widely available than ever before. Yet when I check out from my whole foods grocery – especially when I’m preparing for a special holiday or family dinner, I imagine my father (a rural farmer cash-on-the-barrel sort of guy) fainting dead away at the grand total. Yipes! The price of high-quality (like organic grass-fed) meat or dairy, and fresh produce can take your breath away. You can eat well for less.
It takes some time and effort, but once you get into the swing of the practice, it’s just how you do it. The nutrition and taste benefits are very worth the effort.
If you feel the desire to eat high-quality food, but you aren’t independently wealthy, here are 7 ideas to help you eat well on a budget:
1. Try mindful eating.
Many Americans simply eat too much – be it healthy food or not. But just how much is enough? We’re designed to know. Mindful eating can help you find out how much food fills you up and gives you energy throughout the day. In fact, mindful eating is a practice that can help you turn down the external messages about what and how much to eat, and to tune in more deeply to your internal guidance system.
You can experiment by becoming a little more aware of the portion sizes you eat, and use mindful eating to help you experiment with just how much is enough. It’s a real sweet spot – adequate without over nor under-doing eating. It’s a practice for sure, and we humans by nature seem to over- or under-do it. So, if you struggle with this, you are not alone! Be patient and keep practicing.
How about an experiment – quality over quantity?
Begin by experimenting with mindfully eating various foods – from treats like designer chips, whole foods take-out, gourmet pizzas and stevia sweetened sodas to more healthful choices like fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, nuts and whole grains. See how different foods make you feel, and how much seems to be enough to satisfy and give you energy through the day (I know, easier said than done). Eating lightly (and for some, passing on snacking) can be both healthful and cost-effective. The practice of mindful eating is a great place to begin to explore just what eating lightly means for you.
2. Enjoy plants.
If you have more than one serving of animal protein each day, you may be healthier and more frugal to look to plant-based protein to replace some of the meat and dairy you’re eating. Need some ideas on a delicious way to focus on plant fare? Check out my recipe page, and my friend The Veggie Queen, who dedicates her working life to helping you enjoy more plants easily.
3. Consider a CSA or community food CO-OP.
Cut out the middleman and ensure the freshest local produce makes it into your kitchen all season long through a direct relationship with a local farm. To get stared check out Local Harvest. They will tell you how to get into the mindset, prepare to join, and help find your nearest community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms and CO-OPs.
4. The bulk food aisle (or discount website) is your friend.
Get a break on nuts, spices, whole grains and just about everything beyond fresh produce. If you don’t live near a grocery store that offers bulk staples, of course the internet marketplace is there wherever you are. The Spruce has a good article on their favorite online grocery sites.
5. Browse your market’s circular.
If you are so inclined to browse your supermarket’s circular, you really can shave a lot off your weekly food costs. My husband (astonishingly) does this as a practice – he plans our shopping around the meat and seafood that is on sale – and he is truly amazing at it. The deals he gets are phenomenal! You do have to be aware that items on sale might not be the most healthful, so you need to practice discretion here.
6. Organic online coupons? Yep.
Check out All Natural Savings – a gal dedicated to online couponing – to get you started. Whole Foods also has a weekly deals and sales page. So many ways to use them to eat well for less.
7. Keep it all in perspective.
There’s a certain new math – a longer-term economics we need to consider when we think about the higher cost of clean whole food. That new equation is hidden beneath cheap subsidized corn, sugar, meat and dairy. As a nutritionist for the past 25 years I know that this cheaper refined food is responsible for a world of disease and pain. In my practice I see people improve their health every day through committing to higher quality nutrient-dense, low chemical load food. Most people feel better right away when they move away from the standard American diet and learn to make small choices toward health while enjoying what they eat and feeling great regardless of the number of the scale. The benefits continue to build over time with longer, healthier lives.
When it comes to quality food, no one can eat perfectly all the time unless they have limitless income, their own farm and a small team of vegetable choppers at the ready.
So, do what you can to eat well for less, and let the rest go. Small changes can add up, over time, to transformation.