Tuesday, May 31

Having Fun With Vegetables: Baby Bok Choy

It occurred to me that once in a while it would be nice to highlight a particular healthful ingredient and give a few examples of how to use it; that way you have a practical starting point to incorporate a new and wholesome food into your routine. Leafy green vegetables are one of the most important elements of a healthy diet, and certainly one of the most sorely lacking elements in the modern American diet. Baby bok choy is a handy leafy green that is super easy to clean, prep, and cook, and it cooks up nice and tender for those who are still getting accustomed to sturdier greens. While it is often associated with Asian cuisine, and does indeed frequently turn up there, you'll also find it popping up more and more on menus in all different contemporary restaurants, so keep an eye out for it and consider sometime swapping the go-to spinach for some baby bok choy. If prepared correctly and not overcooked, it should be tender but not mushy, with flavors of both sweetness and subtle bitterness, and should be a lovely shade of bright green. It is suited very well to Asian inspired sautés, stir fries, and wok dishes, but since you may be familiar with using it or eating it that way already, I thought I'd give you some unexpected alternatives to mix things up a bit. Baby bok choy is one of the most frequently prepared veggies in The World's Tiniest Kitchen, due to it's nutritional content but also its ease and convenience, and I use it as the leafy green in a variety of recipes without feeling the least bit restricted- try these ideas and then have some fun experimenting on your own! Both recipes I have provided here are great for the hot days we are currently experiencing, to fill you up without weighing you down.

(Unfortunately, I do not have photos to accompany these meals, my camera was out of commission, but these are extremely simple and easy meals so you will get the gist.)

French Lentil and Quinoa Mediterranean Pilaf

You will need:

French or "puy" lentils
Olive oil or flaxseed oil
Baby Bok Choy
Sea salt

French lentils, sometimes called "puy lentils", are used for this recipe because they retain their shape when cooked rather than coming apart like other lentils.

Cook french lentils and quinoa separately and cool to room temperature.

(leftover lentils and quinoa from a separate meal are particularly convenient for this recipe- I will usually cook a pot of grains and a pot of beans and then use each in various recipes and meals over the course of 2-3 days, and then it's time to make more. This saves time, money, space, and mental energy because part of the question of what to make is answered for you, and you can just keep trying different things with your building blocks!)

Combine both lentils and quinoa in roughly equal measures in a large bowl. Add shredded carrots, capers, flaxseed or olive oil, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Toss to coat all ingredients, and then season with oregano, dill, and a small amount of sea salt (capers are already very salty), tossing again to distribute herbs. Leave to sit covered to allow flavors to combine.

Then cut each small head of baby bok choi by placing it on a horizontal on the cutting board, cutting off the tip of the bulb end and discarding, and then continuing to make short vertical cuts the rest of the way across so that the greens appear almost shredded. Continue until all baby bok choy is cut (figure about 2 small heads per person, depending on their size, which varies greatly) and submerge all of the chopped bok choy in a large bowl of cool water, moving it around with your hands to thoroughly wash. After washing in the bowl thoroughly, transfer to a colander and rinse thoroughly with new fresh water, discarding the dirty water from the bowl. (Sometimes rinsing well in a colander is enough, but baby bok choy has a tendency to retain dirt and grit from the ground in the little crevices, so better safe than sorry- believe me.) Once clean and rinsed, transfer to a skillet and sprinkled with a few tablespoons of water only. Cover and bring to medium-high heat only for a moment or two to get the skillet steamy, and then turn down to simmer covered on low until the greens wilt but remain bright green and crisp, only several minutes- it cooks very quickly. (This technique is called water sauté and is very useful for preparing leafy greens before use in a variety of recipes; it cuts down on the amount of oil needed, the exposure to heat needed, and produces a tender but vibrant taste. ) If you aren't sure when the baby bok choy is done, err on the side of undercooked, as it is a quickly cooking and will continue to soften once removed from heat. Immediately drain it through a strainer and toss around to cool slightly.

Once slightly cooled but not cold, combine the cooked baby bok choy into the large bowl of other ingredients and toss with tongs to combine and coat all ingredients thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, and add more oregano, dill, lemon juice, olive/flaxseed oil, and capers or sea salt if necessary. Less is more with these last two ingredients- a little goes a long way. This is a delicious one-dish meal for a hearty but cool lunch on a warm day- enjoy!

Tempeh Tacos

You will need:

Plain organic tempeh
Wholegrain corn tortillas (I use Food for Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas, but if you can't find them, use another brand as long as it's made from whole ground yellow corn and not refined corn- and do buy organic, since much corn is genetically modified)
Frozen organic sweet corn
Baby bok choy
Pumpkin seeds
Chili Powder
Unrefined Sesame Oil
Sea salt
Fresh lime (optional)

Cut tempeh into small cubes, and spread out in a skillet along with a small amount of frozen sweet corn (the sweet corn is an accessory in this recipe, not a main ingredient). Pour about half an inch of water into the bottom of the skillet and bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer covered about 8-10 minutes. While simmering, chop onion into small pieces and peel garlic. Next, toast pumpkin seeds in a separate clean dry skillet over low heat until they begin to smell fragrant and turn slightly green-brown, do not toast until dark brown. Set aside. Chop and wash baby bok choy according to method described above, and spread the cut and washed baby bok choy on top of tempeh and corn in the skillet. Make sure there is still a very small amount of water in the bottom of the skillet, which will steam the baby bok choy. Turn the heat briefly higher again to accommodate the cold bok choy, then cover skillet and turn heat back to low for several minutes, just until bok choy looks slightly wilted but still bright green and crisp. Drain all ingredients into colander and toss around to cool, leave to drain thoroughly. Using the same skillet (dry with a cloth first), heat 1 tablespoon unrefined sesame oil over medium-low heat and sauté first onions until translucent and fragrant, adding in garlic part way through until fragrant but not browned. While onions and garlic are cooking, place corn tortillas into the oven on a low temp to heat. Then combine the cooked tempeh, corn, baby bok choi, and toasted pumpkin seeds into the skillet with the cooked onions and garlic over very low heat, and mix to combine all flavors. Season with chili powder and sea salt, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice if desired, and transfer to a large bowl. Remove tortillas from oven once soft and warm, and serve in a stack alongside the bowl of the tempeh and vegetable mixture, filling each soft taco as you go. This is a fun, spicy and flavorful meal that is very filling but won't weigh you down- dig in!

Now that you have two ideas for how to use baby bok choy, go forth and have fun with these and other ideas!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: erica@wellnessrealized.com

Thursday, May 26

Balancing the Plate: Inspiration for Healthy, Easy, and Balanced Meals

After my last post about the importance of maintaining balance, it's a perfect time to talk about how the idea of balance applies to structuring meals. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a boring step by step tutorial or a set of stifling rules for how your meals must be composed in order to be healthy- rather, it's a look at how easy and simple it can be to throw together a healthy and delicious meal without a lot of effort or forethought, simply by following some basic guidelines.

Much in the same way that we need to maintain balance in our lives by prioritizing supportive and beneficial practices of self care that keep us healthy, happy, and grounded, we also need to maintain balance on the plate in order to create a healthful, stable, and flexible condition in the body. We need nutritious, wholesome, natural foods in combinations that provide our body with the necessary nutrients in proportions that allow our body to maintain balance in order for us to be healthy, strong, and functioning optimally. The point here is to get your nutritional needs met without having to spend all your time strategizing, and to do so in a way that's pretty easy, super tasty, and flexible enough to keep things fun and interesting.

Some of you may be familiar with the term Macrobiotics and the school of thought and practice that it describes. Most people who are casually aware of it think of it as a dietary system, but it extends beyond that into a way of life. People harbor all kinds of preconceived notions about macrobiotics, from the good to the bad, often settling on an assumption that it is a super-restrictive and "clean" way of eating that allows for little more than brown rice and vegetables. But the truth is that the main principle of macrobiotics is all about Balance, not restriction. It means the food we eat is chosen in a way that balances the conditions in the body to allow for optimal digestion, assimilation, nourishment of our organs and bodily systems, and that creates physical, emotional, mental, and energetic harmony. While there are general guidelines that apply broadly, it is a system that can be and should be modified and personalized depending on the individual needs of the person and the situation they're in; and the most important and always constant part of the approach to eating is the reliance on natural, wholesome foods in the appropriate proportions to create and maintain balance.

But this post isn't about teaching you how to be macrobiotic or encouraging you to be, although I will happily teach you how to implement macrobiotic principles into both your diet and your life if you are interested. Rather, this post is to help you and anybody out there to adapt principles of balance into planning and creating wholesome, natural meals in a way that is intuitive to you but also easy and fun. Being that I began my training in nutrition specifically with a focus on macrobiotics and it is still one of the main schools of thought that informs my approach, much of my cooking style has developed based in the general principles of macrobiotic philosophy, specifically the emphasis on a plant-based, natural diet of wholesome and unprocessed foods combined in ratios that are supportive of the body. But I am also a modern person living in the real world, in New York of all places, and I believe in flexibility and being realistic and being free to do what feels good, while always keeping one's intutive sense of one's individual needs at the center of one's awareness. And I know that my clients have varying needs, desires, physical make-ups, and schedules, so rather than give them "rules", I teach them how different foods work in the body and what foods and proportions create and sustain optimal health and balance, while encouraging them to allow for creativity, flexibility and the dictations of their own needs all while working within health supportive guidelines.

To help you with the inspiration side of things and to give an idea of how a healthy meal comes together, the following are descriptions and pictures of the kinds of meals that I cook for myself and my family, the meals and foods that I teach my clients how to prepare and eat; and the idea is that you take the ingredients and combinations presented here and think of them not so much as a recipe but as a guide for creating these meals using the inspiration presented and then using them as jumping off point for creating your own new combinations for future meals. You'll notice that many ingredients appear several times or even frequently but in different variations or combinations; this is because I rely on certain healthful standard choices in my meal preparation (unrefined sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil, certain whole grains) and also because this is a sampling of what I cooked over a particular period of time, meaning it reflects different and interesting combinations of the foods I had in the kitchen at that time, rather than requiring a large array of different ingredients. This will help you to get in the habit of smaller shopping trips, cooking for more than one meal at a time, and then using what you make to create various different and satisfying meals; thus minimizing effort, time, and money. Get to cooking, and enjoy!

As simple as it gets: a plate of brown rice, chickpeas (cook your own or use organic from a can), steamed green beans and steamed kabocha squash (which is like a small, dense pumpkin). This meal is complete with a healthy fat for flavor and nutrition, hence the homemade miso-tahini dressing to the right- simply mix a bit of tahini paste with a small amount miso paste and a few tablespoons of water until desired consistency is achieved, then drizzle all over the plate of goodness! This is a perfect example of the standard balanced meal, and the ingredients can easily be changed out for others from the same category.

Brown rice couscous (or you could use whole wheat couscous) tossed with lightly sauteed carrots, onions, and baby golden beets, then mixed with raw spinach leaves into a room temperature salad dressed in a zesty olive oil vinaigrette. This idea can be made into many different variations by switching out the greens to arugula or watercress or another salad green, switching the grain to millet or quinoa, or throwing in some cubed avocado. To make this a more substantial and filling meal, simply top with some lean protein; either beans, lentils, or some grilled fish or other lean meat would be the perfect accompaniment.

A side dish of grapefruit and avocado salad, made by combining peeled grapefruit segments (easily peel the clear skin away from each segment and toss into a bowl), cubed avocado, sliced scallions, and a very small amount of dijon mustard to taste. Mix well to combine all of the flavors, and serve as a breakfast or brunch dish with whole grain rye toast and soft boiled eggs, or serve over a beautiful bunch of salad greens such as mâche or mesclun as a side salad for lunch or dinner, alongside an entree of your choice.

A simple but hearty breakfast: leftover brown rice warmed on the stove and tossed with cubes of steamed tofu, seasoned with basil, sea salt, and unrefined sesame oil. To make this a complete meal for lunch or dinner, simply add some green vegetables, such as either roasted broccoli or asparagus, or sauteed kale or collard greens with seasoning of your choice, or even a simple green salad.

An easy, scrumptious vegetable side: cauliflower and acorn squash cut into cubes and roasted with unrefined sesame oil, garlic, and a bit of turmeric to bring out the flavor. This could be served with any meal and seasonings of your choice, but to balance the hearty and rich flavors and textures of the roasted vegetables, I served this alongside a lighter entree of broiled flounder with a miso glaze over a bed of quinoa topped with sauteed bok choi in olive oil. Or, it would go very nicely with the simple and light tofu meal described above.

A typical macrobiotic meal, combined into one main dish: cooked chickpeas and brown rice tossed with cooked arame seaweed and lightly sauteed kale, then mixed with unrefined sesame oil and sesame seeds, and served with a side of carrots sticks and cornichon pickles. This idea can be used to create countless takes on the one-dish meal: you can use a different kind of bean or a different whole grain, skip the seaweed if you like, or add some fish or lean meat into this mixture instead of beans for protein. The idea is to keep the balance and ease, and have fun with it!

Here's an idea for a quick last minute meal: this mixture can be used as a filling for quesadillas, sandwich wraps or crepes, or can be folded into an omelet, stuffed into thin slices of lean meats (see below), or simply served over a bed of cooked whole grains as it is here. This is something you can make from items stocked in the freezer and pantry when you're short on fresh stock: simply combine cooked black beans, thawed and drained frozen chopped spinach, thawed frozen organic corn, garlic (fresh or powder), onion (fresh or dried), and chili powder, along with olive oil, and simmer over low heat until warm and flavors have combined, then add toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Then it is ready to be enjoyed on it's own with a grain, or added into your meal of choice.

I enjoyed the mixture over some cooked whole grain polenta above (beans and polenta go very well together), and mixed the rest with leftover cooked quinoa and stuffed it into rolled thin slices of turkey for my husband's lunch, along with cut carrot sticks. (Read here about this lunch container and how ones like this can help you to save time, money, and effort in bringing lunch to work while encouraging healthy balance and proper portions.)

Here is a hearty, balanced meal of delicious goodness, clockwise from top right: a baked casserole made from cooked green lentils and cooked brown rice mixed with garlic, onions, chopped spinach, spices and herbs, and 1 beaten egg to hold it together and then baked in the oven; cooked arame seaweed dressed with a bit of unrefined sesame oil and rice vinegar; roasted parsnips and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) roasted with unrefined sesame oil, thyme, and sea salt; and lightly sauteed watercress. This meal was DELICIOUS! Again, this is one you can take and run with- try your own casserole ingredients using whatever protein and grain you have on hand, or try different combinations of starchy and sweet vegetables for roasting. The seaweed is optional but provides a wonderfully healthful boost!

A light dinner: red lentil soup with kombu seaweed served with sauteed collard green ribbons dressed in unrefined sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and a side of Mestemacher whole rye bread. I make various versions of red lentil soup all the time; another recent one contained chopped sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and parsnips and was seasoned with nutmeg and thyme, a different one cooked with chopped carrots and sweet corn and seasoned with garlic, turmeric, cumin, and paprika. Be creative! Soup is pretty failsafe- lots of room for experimentation.

Cooked chickpeas and sauteed tatsoi (a bitter Asian green; you can substitute kale, collards, or bok choi easily) with unrefined sesame oil, caramelized onions, garlic, and fresh ginger, and lightly sauteed buckwheat sprouts thrown in at the very end of cooking (any kind of sprouts would work), served over fluffy cooked millet and topped with a drizzle of tahini dressing, with a spoon of sauerkraut on the side. This meal was sooo tasty!

Sauteed tempeh (made from fermented soy beans) and watercress in unrefined sesame oil served with cooked black quinoa and thin-sliced red radishes. Black quinoa may be hard to find; you can easily use regular quinoa or red quinoa here, and since this is a very simple dish, season as you would like to pump up the flavor. If tempeh is not desirable or available, you could use tofu, a cooked bean of your choice, or a fish or lean meat of your choice.

Here's a version of one of my favorites, cabbage slaw. You can find my basic cabbage slaw recipe here, but I make this a bit different each time to keep it interesting and depending on what I have around. In this version, it's simply shredded Nappa cabbage, carrots, sweet corn, and toasted pumpkin seeds in a lemon juice and flaxseed oil dressing with a dash of sea salt. For my own breakfast, I served this with a scoop of fluffy cooked and seasoned millet as seen here.

For my husband's lunch, I filled thin slices of turkey breast with the seasoned millet and the served the cabbage slaw on the side, as seen here. Don't hesitate to use these meal ideas as a jumping off point for modifying them based on your own preference or needs, or for varying tastes of members of your family, as I did for us with this meal. Making a small change or addition in order to create two versions of one meal can be extremely simple once you get the hang of it. (Tiffins are very handy for transporting this type of balanced, three-part meal to work or elsewhere!)

Here is another riff on the bean-vegetable-grain formula, which can be made in literally endless combinations and kept interesting by clever and creative use of seasonings such as gomasio and tekka, both macrobiotic/Japanese condiments used here, or simply having fun with whatever herbs, spices, and seasonings are in your own cabinets. Here we have aduki beans mixed with black quinoa and cooked kombu seaweed (optional) and seasoned with unrefined sesame oil, gomasio (sesame seeds ground up with sea salt), and tekka (a condiment made from ground root vegetables and miso), topped with white turnips that have been cut into matchsticks and simmered with a splash of water, unrefined sesame oil, and tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) until the liquid is absorbed/reduced, and accompanied by a simple salad of chopped mizuna greens dressed with flaxseed oil, apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkle of sea salt. If mizuna greens are not available or desirable, arugula or watercress would work perfectly with this meal and are both easy to find.

This last one I don't have a photo for, but it is so easy and simple that it doesn't need one: cooked brown rice pasta (any whole grain pasta will do, such as whole wheat pasta or quinoa pasta) tossed with fresh basil, cooked kidney beans, sauteed arugula, sweet peas, olive oil, and garlic. This is comfort food at it's best and easiest!

I am looking forward to hearing which ones you try and how you make them your own; remember, once you have the basic proportions for health and balance in place, it's time to be creative and have fun with it!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: erica@wellnessrealized.com

Wednesday, May 4

The Art of Balance

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I do a vast amount of cooking in the World's Tiniest Kitchen. Just ask my husband, who is usually on dish duty- I'm pretty prolific. There's a lot of creative magic going on in there....along with plenty of reliance on old standbys and quick fixes when either inspiration or time are in short supply. Once you know the basics of what kinds of ingredients make a healthy, balanced, and wholesome meal, playing around with ingredients and combinations while using your imagination is, I believe, the best way to learn how to cook. It's how I learned, and it's still my favorite way to do things in the kitchen. However, no one can be a culinary wizard all the time, so it's important to have your kitchen set up in order to not only foster creativity but also to assist you in keeping things simple, easy, organized and accessible so that your cooking efforts can progress with ease- whether you're creating a new dish for the first time with wild abandon than knows no recipe, or recreating that same old favorite standby for the umpteenth time because it's healthy, easy, and you enjoy eating it every time.

Since my kitchen is about the size of the inside of a minivan (and that's being very generous), how I keep things organized and stored is absolutely crucial to my ability to cook balanced and interesting meals in anything resembling an orderly fashion. All it takes is one incidence of an open jar of tomato sauce crashing to the floor and splattering red goop all over every white wall and white appliance in sight to let you know that you cannot balance something too close to the edge of the top of the refrigerator, even if that was in fact the only spot of open space available. (Both my husband and I being over 6 feet tall helps our kitchen space situation- evidenced by how the top of the refrigerator is used regularly for extra prep and storage space). We've also learned the ingenuity of using the tops of the cabinets to store all of our pots and pans (again, see former discussion of height), which have to be placed in a certain particular order and stacking configuration in order for all of them to fit. Lastly, everything from the refrigerator shelves to every single cabinet is organized to best maximize the space we have- a place for everything, and everything in it's place, literally. I'm not saying it's perfect, and I'm not obsessive about it, but I've learned that balance is the key to keeping my kitchen in full swing and happy working order. With the significant space limitations we have and the amount of food shopping, cooking, and meal-brainstorming that I do, it simply does not work any other way.

One particularly demonstrative example is the small cabinet above our stove. It's awkwardly high and very small, and you have to reach over the stove hood to get to it- it is basically only suitable for two categories: things I need to grab at quickly and regularly while cooking (oils, pot holders, and flame deflector- very helpful when cooking your own beans and grains), and items that are removed and replaced often that don't quite fit in anywhere else (lunch tiffins, avocado saver, lemon juicer, mini grater- you realize everything does come in "mini" when you have a tiny kitchen!). This small, quirky storage space is essential for me because I use the items contained in it on a daily basis, and I need to be able to access them in an instant when moving swiftly through my morning cooking routine. However, as I mentioned, it's also small and therefore somewhat limited in how it can be organized, meaning that balance becomes a crucial element. Everything in there fits perfectly when each thing is more or less occupying it's given space. Because the space demands it, we purposely make an effort to keep it that way; it's not difficult to do, it just requires attention, and it makes everything work much more smoothly.

A few months ago, I started to notice here and there when I would reach up and into that mini cabinet that something was askew- nothing alarming, like finding a plastic baboon toy in the vegetable drawer (only those who are related to me by blood or marriage are familiar with that story), but more like finding the pot-holders tumbling over into the lunch containers, or the various kitchen implements sticking out at increasingly rakish angles, or the tea pot having a shoving contest with the french press. It was something I noticed vaguely each time, and it made things in there feel slightly disorderly and unsettled, which made my cooking routine just that slight bit more bumpy and disheveled, but by such a small fraction that I didn't take the time to correct it. It doesn't matter, I thought each time. It won't make a difference if I let that one thing come a bit undone.

Until one morning....

I came happily and sleepily into the kitchen to begin cooking my husband's lunch, which required reaching into that mischievous little cabinet above the stove. No sooner had I opened the tiny doors than suddenly I was at the bottom of a veritable avalanche of stainless steel tiffins clanging down on me, glass beverage carafes tumbling down on all sides and threatening to burst into shards around me, and all manner of non-threatening rubber fruit and vegetable shaped tools bouncing off of my head. I looked like a character in a slapstick routine who haphazardly contorts their arms and legs and chin to collect every falling object in some desperate attempt to retain order. Not, shall we say, the most relaxing way to wake up.

Bit by bit, with my noticing it but not acting on it, our mini cabinet up high- the happy and cozy resting place of so many of my daily cooking helpers- had become profoundly unbalanced. Each individual shift into this unbalanced state was perceived at the time as singular and insignificant; an item slightly out of place, something falling over where previously something else had stood to support it, a lack of space for something that belonged there because something else had crept in and taken up residence. But these shifts weren't just singular, and they were far from insignificant. There was a process of unbalancing happening, one domino falling at a time, and I let myself ignore it and remain unaware of the signs even as the imbalance grew into a state of barely restrained chaos - it must have, because that final morning, all it had taken was one tiny shift (and who knows what that was?) to make every item within that space spring out at me in utter pandemonium.

You might think I'm being perhaps just slightly hyperbolic here. Just a touch dramatic? Fair enough, and I admit I do love when a story like this can be polished into a perfectly fitting metaphor, but in this case it's for very good reason- later that very day, I found myself pondering the story of the cabinet and its Jack-In-The-Box surprise for me. "What happened?" I pondered with amusement. "Was I really paying that little attention? No. It must have just happened slowly, one slip at a time." And I could not help but fall face first into a full blown realization about how that completely describes what happens to me when I let the things that center, balance, and sustain me slip away....out of focus, out of priority, out of the rotation, off the schedule. You know, we all do it...one thing at a time, we make little excuses about how we can't, shouldn't, won't have time to, are too tired to, or won't really be affected if we don't do that thing that we usually rely on to keep us feeling happy, grounded, taken care of and stable. But then it becomes a pattern of not doing it, it becomes the new norm, and it extends beyond just that thing, to that other thing, too. That other stabilizing, gratifying standby that we know will see us through, that we take for granted but deep down appreciate the value of....we let it go. Just this one time, and then we'll get back to it, right?

It all adds up. The skipped grounding and centering yoga class that we forfeited when we felt too busy with social obligations becomes two weeks away from the studio. The lunch prep ritual that saves money and provides healthy, tasty lunches gets pushed aside in favor of sleeping in those few more minutes and grabbing something quick but costly and less nutritious at the deli. The head-clearing, body boosting walk or run outside gets traded in for running around on errands, cramming in more and more to-do's that never seem to get done. The hour of reading before bed that we know helps us to turn off the activity of the day and prepare for rest becomes the hour for catching up on any last emails and doing dishes or laundry that didn't get done because we were....wait, what were we doing? Before we know it, we're unbalanced. And unbalanced is not a nice, healthy, happy, or stable place to be. It's feels like metal lunch containers and rubber lemons bouncing off of your head in every direction.

It happens to all of us, and after the morning of the kitchen mini-avalanche, I took that as an opportunity to revisit my own commitment to the practices and elements that keep me organized, grounded, stable, calm and peaceful, not to mention happy and joyful in life. It's a check-in we all need to do on a regular basis. I'm talking about both the big and the small things here, because they're equally important. The practices and rituals we engage in on a daily basis to keep us feeling like ourselves and to keep our lives operating the way we want them to are just as elemental to our overall well being as the larger scale choices and that support our long term initiatives and goals for what we want out of our lives. When we begin to ignore our own needs here and there, or make excuses about de-prioritizing the habits and practices that keep us feeling happy and taken care of, we slip out of balance...slowly at first, until suddenly things seem to crumble around us all at once. Therefore, in order to exist peacefully, happily, and healthfully, we have to maintain our balance by taking care to prioritize our needs each day and also to notice when we've begun to stray from ourselves so that we can come back to balance. That can mean different things for each of us, so what does that mean for you? What area of your own self-care have you been subtly paying less and less attention to lately? Exercising? Alone time? Shopping for and preparing healthy food? Engaging in nourishing hobbies? What warning sign, either physical, emotional, or mental, have you been stubbornly ignoring? And can you see how letting go of or neglecting to implement rituals and practices just for you in your daily life is pulling you further and further away from where you want to be? Be brave and take a look...you may be surprised.

The good news is, just as imbalance can be arrived at bit by bit, so can balance be restored- one thing at a time. Our choices create a cyclical effect, and we can decide what we want to receive as the result of our actions. Look around and inside of you to find out what elements are keeping you off balance- is it an unhealthy habit or choice pattern that needs to be bidden farewell? Or a healthy one that needs to shift back into your schedule?- and address just one thing first. It doesn't have to be a radical shift, just an intentional one. Make a commitment to yourself that you will do this thing, just for you. Because you know it benefits you, and because you believe you deserve it. Once that feels comfortable and consistent, add in another, one step at a time. Think of it as building a foundation under a house- you build the most important support beams first, and then you build around them to create a structure that will hold up the entire house, come what may. Decide what is currently missing from your routine that keeps you feeling grounded, rested, flexible and happy, and start to implement those practices one by one- until you've built a foundation that can support you through anything that comes along!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: erica@wellnessrealized.com