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Delicious, Nutritious Dining

Who likes to eat out? Me too. That’s why I’m excited to sing the praises of some restaurants here in Minnesota that make it possible to relax and enjoy some time away from the kitchen without sacrificing quality or nutrition.

Minnesota has a top-notch food scene. Between our community of farmers committed to quality and sustainability and our chef and restaurant community who value those farmers and choose to work with them, we have access to some of the best food in the country – and that’s not an exaggeration.

Home cooking is important for health because it’s only when we prepare food ourselves that we know exactly what went into that food. But all of us want a break from chopping and standing over the stove; that’s when having high-quality dining options come in handy.

Here are some of my favorites:

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café, Duluth
Birchwood Café, Minneapolis
Brasa, Minneapolis & St. Paul
French Meadow Bakery & Café, Minneapolis, St. Paul, MSP airport and others
La Ferme, Alexandria
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, St. Paul
Pizzeria Lola, Minneapolis
Sassy Spoon, Minneapolis (an entirely gluten-free restaurant)
Sen Yai Sen Lek, Minneapolis
Tillie’s Farmhouse, St. Paul
Tonic, Rochester
Wise Acre Eatery, South Minneapolis

I could tell you a story about each of these restaurants or cafes and the farmers they work with, and I guarantee you would feel inspired and buoyed by their commitment to good food. Birchwood Cafe alone works with over 40 nearby farmers. Imagine the impact owner Tracy Singleton is having on their livelihoods! Sen Yai Sen Lek, a mouthwatering Thai restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis, sources as much product as possible from a collective of immigrant farmers named Big River Farms, all of whom are learning how to earn a living here in Minnesota. These stories are a reminder that where we spend our money matters.

I hope you enjoy these suggestions. To the best of our ability, let’s always try to fill our bellies with good nutrition, even when we’re out on the town. Deal?

Where are your favorite quality places to dine out? Who did I miss? There are so many! Let’s start a conversation and share our resources with one another.

In love & service,

Claudine

P.S. As always, I’d love for you to leave a comment below. I’m always curious about what you’re thinking, and I’ll always respond.

The Big Deal about CSA’s – Community Supported Agriculture

Invitation: Transform your kitchen into a wellness center with local, fresh, delicious food from a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – this summer.

Though it’s not here just yet, I imagine you’re starting to daydream about summer, a season that brings energy, activity, and ample opportunities to indulge in locally-produced, hyper-fresh food. There’s something so special about delicate, just-harvested spring greens in May or a perfectly sun-ripened heirloom tomato in August; it’s as if you can taste the sunshine and warmth in these foods. So I have a fun idea to propose to you: why not shake up your grocery shopping habits this summer and try buying directly from some of Minnesota’s dedicated farmers instead? (Or try buying from a farmer from your state if you don’t live in Minnesota.)

 

Many small Minnesota farms are CSAs, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” “Members,” (you – the shopper/enthusiastic eater), buy into a farm in exchange for a weekly or bi-monthly delivery of assorted produce. (Some also offer meat or eggs.) Joining a CSA is undoubtedly one of the most impactful upgrades you can make to your life. Here are a few reasons why:

 

  • Joining a CSA promotes diversity in one’s diet. When we’re getting our food from the grocery store, we tend to walk down the same aisles every week and fill our carts with virtually the same foods each time. Conversely, if we’re getting a weekly delivery of whatever is in season that week, our food changes routinely and effortlessly. This is really good for us; dietary diversity is essentially another form of health insurance.
  • Local foods are fresher. Buying locally cuts down travel time from farm to table, preserving essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. (Studies show 50% of vitamin C was lost in broccoli shipped from out of the country and 47% of folate was lost in spinach within 8 days of being harvested.) Fresher foods give us more bang per bite.
  • Local foods are in season. This translates into peak deliciousness alongside peak nutrient density. Tomatoes boast that deep red color, flavor, and texture that makes them real tomatoes. Winter tomatoes are such an inadequate substitutes, aren’t they?
  • Local foods are better for the environment. Some foods are shipped literally thousands of miles across the world; that is a big carbon footprint that could be avoided by supporting our neighbors instead.
  • CSAs preserve green space and farmland.
  • CSAs are economical. Most CSAs deliver a bushel of produce a week, and the price point for this organic, uber-fresh food is typically lower than at the coops.

 

Feeling inspired? Here are a few of my favorite CSAs in Minnesota:

www.springhillcommunityfarm.com (my CSA :)

www.untiedtswegrowforyou.com

www.featherstonefarm.com

www.loonorganics.com

www.mazopiya.com

 

You can also search for a CSA near you at:

www.localharvest.org

www.minnesotagrown.org

 

In love & service,

Claudine

 

P.S. As always, I’d love for you to leave a comment below. I’m always curious about what you’re thinking, and I’ll always respond.

Boost Your Internal Sunshine – Vitamin D

Feeling exhausted and blue these winter months? How’s your vitamin D? Perhaps it’s time to take stock of this vital vitamin and tap into its healing powers.

 

For far too long vitamin D was the most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition. We paid very little attention to this powerhouse, which resulted in widespread deficiencies and varied physical, mental, and emotional struggles for many. Thank goodness we now know just how important this single vitamin is – a vitamin which is actually a hormone made from a reaction between our bodies and the sun. A hormone! And we all know by now that hormones are nothing to mess around with.

 

The benefits of  vitamin D are virtually endless, which can make it sound a bit suspicious and something of a cure-all. There’s certainly much more to creating health for ourselves than simply bumping up this single vitamin, but it’s a logical, smart place to start if you’re not feeling like your best, most vibrant self. Optimal vitamin D levels help prevent fatigue, osteoporosis, depression, as many as eighteen different types of cancer, influenza, Alzheimers, and hormonal imbalances, including those that contribute to PMS, sex hormone imbalances, and infertility. Research also shows that vitamin D may help prevent autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, type I diabetes, and Hashimoto’s. Vitamin D boosts and regulates the immune system, helps regulate insulin signaling, and calms down chronic inflammation. Again, it may not be a cure-all, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a superhero in the vitamin-hormone world.

 

Here are some additional interesting tidbits about our vitamin superhero:

  • For 1/2 the year vitamin D is free because your body makes it when sunlight touches your skin; however, from October – April we make little or no vitamin D due to the sun’s angle, especially in Northern latitudes (like Minnesota, where I live). Perhaps this is why so many of us crave a warm weather getaway mid-winter; we’re craving a vitamin D boost. Most people can benefit from supplementation in winter. I like “Vitamin D Complete” by Nutricology and Isotonix Vitamin D with K2 for those people who are tired of swallowing pills and would prefer a liquid.
  • The further you live from the equator, the more sun exposure you need to generate vitamin D. Most U.S. states (certainly Minnesota) are considered far from the equator, which is why deficiencies run rampant here.
  • Additionally, the darker your skin is the more exposure you need to generate vitamin D – about twenty to thirty times the exposure, in fact. Deficiencies among African-Americans are dangerously widespread.
  • Chronic vitamin D deficiency can’t be reversed overnight; it typically takes months of supplementation and sun exposure to rebuild the body’s stores, but it’s not hard to do and is well worth the effort. It just takes some follow-through.
  • If you’ve been taking supplemental vitamin D for several months and are not seeing an improvement in your levels, you may need to add in some supplemental magnesium, which helps with absorption.
  • An overloaded or stressed liver may also impair one’s ability to produce vitamin D. There are many ways to support one’s liver, including easing off alcohol, sugar, and fried foods, eating more leafy greens and plant foods, and taking supportive liver supplement like milk thistle.
  • Vitamin D is critical for strong bones and muscles.
  • It’s very difficult to get adequate vitamin D through food. Most foods, unless fortified, are poor sources, and fortified foods are often processed foods and not the best for us anyway. This is why sunlight exposure is so important. Cod liver oil, sardines, and salmon are the best food sources.

 

Do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin D?

 

It may surprise you to learn that many doctors still do not automatically test for this vitamin-hormone. This shocks the daylights out of me given how beneficial it is. So this may very well be a test that you need to ask for. Don’t be shy about asking. It’s a simple test to add to your next round of bloodwork. Ideally you want your levels to fall between 55-80 ng/ml. Conventional medicine may tell you that 30 ng/ml is sufficient. I disagree. While it may be “sufficient” in terms of meeting a bare minimum requirement and preventing rickets in children, it’s certainly not optimal. Why not go for optimal?

 

Lastly, I encourage my clients who have struggled with deficiencies to get their levels tested both in the late summer or fall – sometime around September or October – and then again in the spring, preferably around April. This will give you a pretty good idea of how well your body produced vitamin D throughout the summer months (assuming you spent time outdoors), and then where your levels fall after winter.

 

Spring is on it’s way, but it’s not here yet. February and March can be tough months for a lot of us. We’re antsy. We’re ready for spring and the freedom to be more active, but we’re not yet feeling energized because of our lingering dark, gray days. I know I’m already craving the feeling of having my hands in the dirt and the smell of compost around me, but sadly these things are still a couple of months away. Vitamin D won’t help usher in spring any more quickly, that’s for sure, but it will help light you up from the inside. I know that for a fact.

 

In love & service,

Claudine

 

P.S. As always, I’d love for you to leave a comment below. I’m always curious about what you’re thinking, and I’ll always respond.

Travel-Friendly Snacks

It’s that time of year, when a whole lot of us living in northern latitudes plan delightful escapes from our snowy, gray landscapes and jet off to recharge our spirits – and vitamin D levels – with sun, palm trees, beaches, and the salty, meditative ocean.

 

Over the last few weeks three different clients heading off to enviable havens have asked me for healthy travel snack ideas. I felt so uplifted and energized by these conversations! Making healthy choices while navigating airports, sitting on airplanes, and without access to our well-stocked pantries and fridges requires a little creativity. But if you’re willing to take on the challenge, it sure as heck demonstrates that choosing quality food has become a non-negotiable part of your life – not just a whimsical choice you make when it’s convenient. And that makes me smile.

 

Eating healthy while traveling doesn’t have to be super difficult if you intentionally plan ahead. It’s kind of amazing; once you’re committed to feeding yourself well, eating crap while traveling doesn’t even feel like an option anymore.

 

(In the end, our success always comes down to planning, doesn’t it?)

 

Here in Minneapolis, we’re lucky to have some fantastic dining options at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. If I’m leaving from the MSP airport, it’s not unusual for me to stop at French Meadow Bakery and pick up a salad and a probiotic-rich kombucha for my flight (just be careful opening that naturally carbonated kombucha on the plane or your seat mates might unexpectedly get treated to some kombucha too! Ka-pow!). Other airports around the world don’t always have the healthful dining options we’re lucky to have, but I’ve learned that finding a salad or fruit elsewhere is pretty doable. True, it might not be organic, but I encourage you to do the best you can and try to just relax when it’s not exactly what you’d prefer.

 

Additionally, I want to emphasize that I never leave for a trip without snacks. Never. In fact, I probably spend as much time thinking about and preparing my snacks as I do the clothes I’m packing. No exaggeration. Being hungry on a plane is as miserable as the snack packs they offer.

 

Below is a list of the healthy snackables I often pack. I usually choose 3-5, depending on how long the trip is:

Travel-Friendly Snacks

– apple slices or clementines that peel easily
– sliced veggies like red pepper or cucumber slices (usually 1 cucumber and 1 red pepper is plenty); these travel well and have the added bonus of being hydrating
– nuts and seeds, or a favorite trail mix
plantain chips (I am always so proud and happy with myself when I’ve taken the time to make these for a trip; I can hardly wait to dig into them)
Keen-wah Decadence bars: one of the best “protein bars” I’ve found
– a peeled hard boiled egg or an organic turkey stick for longer trips where I anticipate wanting/needing protein
Laughing Giraffe truffles for something sweet yet sustaining, or some dark chocolate
– ginger tea bags, just in case there’s turbulence and I start to feel woozy

 

Of course I avoid soda, so I also bring my refillable water bottle to ensure I stay hydrated. And remember that if you’re traveling to another country, they can get fussy about what they’ll allow you to bring into their country. Don’t pack too much, or you might have to toss your delicious treats into the trash. That feels awful.

 

What kind of food do you pack when you travel? I’ve got a couple of long plane trips coming up in the next six weeks, and I’d love more ideas myself. If you feel like sharing in the comments section below or on my Facebook page, I’d sure appreciate it. After all, us adventurers need to help each other!

 

In love & service,

Claudine