Monthly Archives: March 2012

My First Nia Experience

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I am always up for trying something new, especially if it involves physical exercise.  When my coworker invited me to a Nia class, I thought about researching it first, just to see what was in store for me.  All I knew was that it wasn’t your typical dance class.  You move to your own freedom with no inhibition, while sticking to the main principles.  I decided to attend the class with no background information and go in blind.  The only “research” I did before class was right before it started by reading a line that said, “Nia is to exercise what holistic medicine is to healthcare”….I was sold! 

What is Nia?

“Nia is a holistic fitness practice that allows you to tap into your creativity and discover new ways of moving.  

Created by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas 25 years ago, The Nia Technique blends movements and concepts from Dance Arts, Martial Arts and Healing Arts with vocal sounding and self-expression into dynamic routines set to uplifting music from around the world.”

What is the science behind Nia?

“Nia is based on The Body’s Way, which means using the body’s natural design to improve function. The biochemistry, joint and muscle action are triggered using imagination, music, emotion and vocal sound. Movements work with and against gravity…Nia addresses the body’s five main sensations: flexibility, strength, mobility, agility and stability, and focuses on conditioning the body and the nervous system.”

What are the benefits of taking Nia?

  • Increase the pleasure of living in your body
  • Facilitate weight loss and proper weight maintenance
  • Strengthen muscles, improve muscle tone, and increase muscle definition
  • Calm the mind and relieve stress
  • Improve endurance
  • Increase grace and flexibility
  • Balance the autonomic nervous system
  • Improve posture and even increase height
  • Improve organ function, particularly that of the heart and lungs
  • Enhance sensory awareness
  • Heighten sexual function
  • Build reservoirs of chi energy
  • Alleviate emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Improve circulation of blood and improve lymphatic drainage
  • Strengthen immunity
  • Improve concentration and cognitive function

Like I mentioned before, it is not your typical exercise/cardio class.  Nia exercises your physical, mental and spiritual well-being as well.  What left the biggest impression on me was the age group- I was the youngest one there!   Ages varied from 40 to 70 years old.  Turns out Nia is also very kind to your joints and help alleviate symptoms of inflammation, swelling or other health issues related to muscles and bones. 

We started with The 5 Stages of Healing.  Watch this video http://youtu.be/FO0x55kbSOQ for a demo. 

“The Nia 5 Stages is an integrative movement practice based on the five stages of human development: Embryonic, Creeping, Crawling, Standing and Walking. Practiced with awareness, these stages have the power to facilitate optimal alignment, improved function and comfort in the body. Whether practiced at length or for as little as five minutes a day, this system provides a tool for reclaiming and sustaining mobility, flexibility, strength, agility and stability.

The rest of the class consisted of dance moves that involved punches and kicks (martial arts) accompanied with the vocal sounds, as mentioned above, and the freedom to dance at our own will as long as it felt good to us.  The instructor gave us a basic “cha-cha” step, which I could not master for the life of me! I have no idea why I found this difficult but I didn’t give up.  As long as we maintained this basic step, we were allowed to dance and move freely.  I was surprised to see a few 70-year-old women accompany the cha-cha with a sexy hip swing- they were totally into it! I can imagine the flexibility and agility they must have felt afterwards. 

Later we were instructed to walk on the balls of our feet and move freely- I used this opportunity to stretch out my shoulders and back.  I simply rolled my shoulders forward and backwards and I would swing my arms in big circular motions.  We used the entire floor to move and dance around- It was so much fun!  This is going to sound really silly, but we ended the dance session with the instructor telling us to walk around and CLUCK LIKE CHICKENS!!! I am not kidding you- we had to walk around, flap our “wings” and cluck like a chicken.  Some people were really getting into it, others (me included) just shyly moved our arms  up and down and politely smiled at the more creative and less inhibited types.  I tried to search the web for the purpose of this, but all I got was websites on how to make chicken soup, so I must ask the instructor next time I see her.  We ended the Nia session by laying on the floor for some meditation/mental relaxation. 

 Usually after a sweaty cardio session I feel spent and look forward to relaxing on the couch, but after Nia, I felt very energized and aware.  I just felt so good and believe it or not, I felt that as though my posture had changed, like my shoulders were pushed back and I was walking taller.  I cannot wait to attend my next Nia class! 

During class, I could not help but let my inner dreamer think about how great it would be to provide such a wonderful service to the older population, like at senior centers and maybe offer Nia to an Adult Program.  I think becoming a Nia instructor may just have to be another thing to add to my bucket list 🙂

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15 Ways to Shape Up Your Plate

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It’s March 14th which means…HAPPY REGISTERED DIETITIAN DAY! And March is National Nutrition Month.  The theme this month is “GET YOUR PLATE IN SHAPE”, so I have 15 ways to shape up your plate.  Challenge yourself and try them all for the remainder of the month!

1)  Add fruit to every main meal.  It is recommended that a person consumes at least 2 servings of fruit per day.  Add berries to your oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast, apples or pears to your salad for lunch and apricots to your stew for dinner. 

2)  Make it colorful- have at least 3 colors going in your meals.  It can be a form of a salad or vegetable medley.  This technique helps you choose a variety of fruits and vegetables which increases your intake of a variety of vitamins and minerals. 

3)  “Meatless Monday”- dedicate one day of the week to make a vegetarian meal.  They are low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals. 

4)  Make salad your main meal.  Add your favorite vegetables, fruit, cheeses and lean protein (grilled shrimp, anyone?) to make a beautiful, generous size salad that will fill you before you can even say, “That was delicious!”

5)  Use the plate method.  It allows you monitor your portions by having half of your plate vegetables,   one-quarter starch, one-quarter lean protein.

6)  Choose ground turkey or chicken more often than beef.  They are lower in fat and cholesterol. 

7)  Experiment with Tofu.  Consider it the “blank canvas” of proteins.  You can make it into anything you want.  Marinate it with teriyaki sauce and include it in your stir fry, mix in barbecue sauce and add it to a veggie skewer for grilling, throw some silken tofu and blend it with some roasted red peppers to make a “creamy” red pepper pasta sauce. 

8)  Aim to have a minimum of 3 major food groups per main meal.

9) Aim to have a minimum of 2 major food groups per snack.

10)  Make your own soups.  Many soups include beans and vegetables as the main ingredient.  Its a great way to get your veggie and lean protein intake. 

11)  Beans!  They are high in fiber and iron, they are low-fat and a great source of protein.  Explore the beauty of beans and try some vegetarian burgers with beans as the main ingredient, make a low-fat chilli, a mexican bean dip or bean burritos. 

12)  Visit a farmers market.  There is no better way to get the most nutritional value of fruits and veggies than buying them as close to their picking time as possible.  The quality is better, they will taste better and you are supporting your local farming community. 

13)  Go for the Grain!  Rice and pasta are not the only starches out there, cook some grains for a super healthy starch option.  I highly recommend Quinoa (pronounced:  keen-wah), as it is high in nutrients and protein.  Experiment with barley, bulgur, steel-cut oats.  

14)  Cut back on salt and use fresh herbs/vegetables/spices  for flavor.  Minced garlic, grated ginger, fresh parsley, dill, cilantro, corriander….the list is endless.  Each adds an experience to your meals that will make it super yummy and healthy.

15)  Drink Water…lots of it!  Be creative to give it flavor.  Add some fresh slices of fruit such as oranges, lemons and limes.  Add a splash of cranberry juice and a lime wedge.  It’s very important to stay hydrated with fluids that contain minimal to no sugar added.

Support Your Local Farmers- The CSA approach

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(This blog is inspired by someone who often inspires me- she lives by example, is a wonderful person, not only is she a superb Registered Dietitian, she is also one of my best friends.  I introduce to you, Amanda Terillo (Buchhalter).  Before I proceed, I want to tell you about how we became friends.  It was our second day of a new semester at C.W. Post- Long Island University.  A girl I have never met before comes up to me and asks where I live, she proceeds to tell me where she lives, then a few seconds later suggests we car pool to school together…and I agreed, albeit hesitant that I had no idea how these 2+ hour commutes to school would go with someone I don’t know, I mean, what if we couldn’t stand each other?  It turns out that not only did her amazing  company make those long semester days bearable, we made the best memories out of it and we have been great friends ever since. )

Amanda and her husband recently signed up for their first CSA– Community Supported Agriculture (click on the link to read about their experience, the easy process and other useful information). 

Amanda's CSA certificate

Community Supported Agriculture is a fantastic way to support your local farmers AND receive the freshest, best quality, nutritious seasonal fruits, veggies, and more, straight from their farms.  What makes CSA’s unique, is that you are supporting your farmers before they even begin to grow their crops. 

 “Each season, members purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it’s planted. This allows the farmer to pay for seed, water, equipment, etc, upfront, so s/he is less reliant on banks and loans. Each week, usually during June through October, the farmer delivers great tasting, healthy food to pre-determined spots in the city. In some instances, members pick up the share from the farm directly.”

Amanda did her first pick up last week and she was able to write about her exciting experience and post about a delicious meal she made with her fresh items.  Read Productive Meal

Amanda explained the benefits of a CSA in such a beautiful way that she had me looking up for local CSA’s in Long Island immediately!.  She was also generous enough to include the delicious recipe that I cannot wait to try!  I encourage you to read her posts, but here is a snippet from her first CSA post:

Benefits to the Farmer

  • Helps them to market their food early in the year
  • Farmers receive payments early in the year which helps them to purchase the equipment they need
  • They get to know their consumer

Benefits to the Consumer

  • Get super fresh products
  • Get local products
  • Be more inclined to try new fruits and or vegetables
  • Knowing that you are directly helping local local economy

This leads me to my next point of the Benefits of Local Food

  • More Nutrients
    • The less time that food passes between the farm and the consumer, the fewer nutrients it will lose.
    •   Many vitamins and minerals are heat, light and pH sensitive. Fruits and vegetables are exposed to excessive heat, light and pH when in the truck traveling hundreds and thousands of miles, in the ware house, and sitting on the shelves of grocery stores
    • Local Fruits & Veggies are picked at their peak freshness, which makes them contain more nutrients
  • Last LongerLocal foods are often safer because local farmers take pride in their foods and do not use harmful substances such as:
    • Local Fruits & Veggies are picked more recently, which means you will have more time until they become moldy/smelly!
      •  Antibiotics are used to prevent sickness in animals. This can be harmful in humans as it encourages bacteria resistant pathogens.
      • Hormones
      • Steroids
      • Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
      • Pesticides
    • Taste (the most important part!!)
      • Local crops are picked at their peak of freshness
      • Farm made products, such as cheeses and jams are hand-crafted for the best flavor
      • Food traveling hundreds (or even thousands) of miles is older, has been stored in warehouses, super market shelves and traveled on planes/trains and cars before getting into your mouth

So there you have it:  great taste, the best quality, more nutrients and minimal chemicals- its a WIN-WIN…WIN!  I highly suggest doing some of your own research and find a CSA in your area

Note:  some may feel that even when purchasing produce from local farms, prices may still be a little higher than the big supermarket companies.  Well this is because those big companies can afford to do so…because they purchase produce that has been genetically modified, sprayed with chemicals, shipped across the country/overseas and has lost a great portion of their nutritional value.  The more we support our local farmers, the easier it will be for them to grow and sell more crops, hence a decrease in prices.  Again, WIN-WIN…WIN!

Stir up some Stir Fry in 1,2,3!

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What is there NOT to love about Stir Fry?!  Its tasty, its versatile, its super healthy, and best of all its as easy to make as 1, 2, 3! Literally, there are three steps to cooking Stir Fry:

  1. Cut up vegetables and protein
  2. Cook vegetables and protein in your favorite sauce
  3. Eat and enjoy!

I also love cooking Stir Fry because you can make a large amount and have some for lunch/dinner the next day.  Lastly, my absolute favorite reason to eat Stir Fry is because you get to choose YOUR favorite vegetables and…YOU CAN EAT IT WITH CHOPSTICKS!

This is a meal that you can involve your kids in helping to cook.  They can help wash, peel, and if old enough, cut the vegetables.  They can add the vegetables and sauce to the wok or pan.  They can help stir the veggies and serve up the plates. 

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:

  • Buy a Wok- 

A wok (in Cantonese) (simplified Chinese: 镬; traditional Chinese: 鑊; Jyutping: wok6) is a versatile round-bottomed cooking vessel originating in China. It is used especially in East and Southeast Asia.[1]

Woks are most often used for stir frying, but can also be used in other Chinese cooking techniques, such as in steaming, pan frying, deep frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, smoking, making soup, roasting nuts or vegetables, or even fermenting rice wine.[2] Wok cooking is done with a long handled chahn (spatula) or hoak (ladle). The long extensions of these utensils allow the cook to work with the food without burning the hand.  Furthermore, the rounded bottom shape allows the food to be tossed around easily so that food may be cooked at the bottom of the pan and along the sides.   Woks are found in any kitchen appliance store or section of a department store.  Ikea sells them for $10!

  • Pick your favorite vegetables.  For the Stir Fry I cooked tonight, I chose broccoli, carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts and string beans. 
  • Pick your source of protein.  I used chicken tonight.  However, you can use seafood such as shrimp/prawns, squid (calamari), fish, or you can use lean beef, pork, tofu, tempeh, etc…
  • Pick your sauce of choice.  This is a biggie because this will determine the flavor of your dish.  I used teriyaki, soy sauce and sweet chilli.  There are so many sauces to experiment with:  Hoison sauce, oyster sauce, black bean sauce, peanut satay…don’t be afraid to try new flavors. 
  • You can add rice or noodles to add more volume to your dish. 
  • A wooden spatula so the wok does not get scratched. 

Cooking Instructions: 

  1. Add canola oil or peanut oil to wok. 
  2. Cut vegetables and prepare protein 
  3. Add the veggies/protein that take longest to cook first.  (chicken should take about 5 minutes before adding additional food, broccoli should take about 3 mintues before adding additional food).  Every minute or two continue to add the rest of your veggies- carrots, string beans, zucchini, mushrooms, water chestnuts, etc…
  4. Add ~2 TBSP sauce with each batch of veggies thrown in.  Continue tossing throughout the cooking process
  5. At the last minute of cooking, add a few more TBSP of sauce and toss well.  Add rice or noodles if desired.  Serve it up and enjoy!!

    Don't forget the chopsticks!

Tasty Tips:

Many asian sauces may be high in sodium.  Reduce the amount of sauce used and add flavor buy using herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, chilli, cilantro, coriander, etc…

What is in your Stir Fry tonight?