Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is it really more expensive to shop organic?

This question is often on my mind. When I talk to friends and acquaintances who don't shop exclusively organic/local/natural, they will often comment about how they only buy organic when they want a special treat or how organic food is only for the wealthy. I disagree!

Organic/local food is more food for your dollar.  By eating more organic food you are investing in your health by limiting the amount of toxic chemicals exposed to your body. You are also taking part in protecting the environment, water supply, and sustainable farming.

Local foods, especially produce, has travelled fewer miles and spent less time in a dark truck, road tripping across the country (or the world!). Foods that are grown closer to home can be picked at peak freshness and therefore have more fully developed nutrition.

My friend Liz helped me with an experiment (thanks Liz!). As we both learn more about how to keep ourselves healthy we often talk about our healthy cooking adventures. She shopped at her local Conventional Grocery Store for one week of groceries. The next week the shopped at the nearby Whole Foods. She shared that her grocery bills were comparable, about $120 each trip, for one week of meals for herself and her hubby. AND she got herself a delicious lunch from the hot bar at Whole Foods.

My organic groceries, total: $85.77, including most of the ingredients for a curry dish, turkey chili, wheat free pasta bake, and green breakfast smoothies for one week.

Some folks seek health coaching with this exact goal in mind: feeding themselves or their family healthful food on a budget. With some savvy shopping, a commitment to home cooking, and a plan, organic and whole food shopping can be affordable and do-able. Promise. If you need support around healthy shopping and cooking contact me for a health history to learn more! 


Take a look at this beautifully gnarled and deliciously sweet carrot from our friend's winter CSA, paused here on the cutting board before becoming an important part of my root vegetable crock pot stew (contact me for the recipe, super easy!)

As a recovering perfectionist, I often need to breathe into my present moment and accept myself for who I am, imperfections and all. We spend so much energy creating this illusion of perfection (and after all, it is an illusion) that we can miss the beauty and gifts of our blemishes. Dark and light parts, yin and yang, all important to our whole selves and our whole experience. We learned it in grade school, right? Time to start practicing that universal acceptance. I trust that it is one of the many ways to true happiness, balance, and health.

By the way, if you like your perfect morsel-sized baby carrots, click here to learn how baby carrots are made

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to Grandpa Gene

My Grandfather turned 89 year old last week. And I am proud to say that he is living a healthy and rich life complete with healthy expressions of all of the areas of primary foods. He and my grandmother live in a retirement community with amenities to satisfy nearly every need. Knitting groups, woodworking areas, outdoor garden plots, fitness rooms, the list goes on. He remains connected in fulfilling relationships, stays physically active, eats a healthful diet, and continues to participate in past times that feed him. For example: Math.

In an email response to my birthday phone call Grandpa said:
 "it's still fun celebrating birthdays probably because I am still able to do what pleases me, as one example: I always wanted to return to my study of physics. This is my principal occupation now---- but I first had to enroll in the local community college to relearn math up to and through graduate school math, such as calculus, to handle the graduate level physics I'm dealing with....everyone here at Seabrook, where Edith and I live, knows that I'm the campus math tutor of the kids working in our dining rooms

While advanced math classes would not be my chosen principal occupation (yikes!), I admire the way Grandpa continues to value new learning, stretching his brain, and the search for knowledge and truth. It is my opinion that this is a large part of what has kept him is such good health. 

In our youth obsessed world, I invite you to take a different attitude toward aging. The winter of life does not have to be a time of stagnation, deterioration, and loneliness. Winter months are full of slow change and growth less aggressive and visible, but still present. Ice forms and slows but water continues to flow, animals become more quiet but many continue to roam and feed and need each other all the more to continue to thrive.

They say "use it or lose it." Or, taking a more positive spin, the Alzheimer's Association's slogan is "Maintain your Brain." Experts say that taking care of your whole body and health is the best way to maintain brain health and prevent Dementia. My favorite tip from the Alzheimer's association is "Connect with Others: Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join a club or take a class." 

What can you do now and throughout your life to Maintain your Brain and your health?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Cheers to doing things a little differently... just because different is what feels right. 
There are many ways this mantra has come up for me this year, in my relationships, my career, and my food. 

Traditionally, The Holidays are a time to gorge oneself on nutritionally empty foods. Of course this can be fun in the moment. But that 'good' feeling passes soon after the food passes one's lips. This holiday season I can't help but to think deeply about how I am feeding myself in terms of the food that I put in my belly and my primary foods. To learn more about primary foods, click here and/or ask me to explain more.

Thank you Rachel Kurtz, the author of the fabulous vegetarian cooking blog at, for this delicious gluten free fall dish. I served the stuffing, sans squash, as a side at our organic Thanksgiving Feast this year.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water to cook quinoa
2 large acorn squashes, halved and seeds scooped out and insides rubbed with olive oil
1 TBS olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1/2 lb. mushrooms, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
2 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 apple, cored and chopped
6 dried apricots, minced

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are you "terrible at remembering names"?

'Tis the season for socializing! Weekend after weekend we spend the holiday months meeting new people and reaquainting with long lost relatives, often in busy distracting party environments. This can be either an energizing prospect or a terrifying one for many reasons. One of them being: all those new names and faces to file away in our memories! I am often intrigued by how many people, immediately after the handshake, will say "I'm terrible with names." In my head , I reply "well yeah, with that attitude you are!" Like many things in life, when we set the intention about our skill or weakness it is likely to come true. I invite you to take a different approach. Start saying "I like remembering names" or maybe even "I'm GOOD at remembering names." And you can be, if you use some simple tools and techniques.

1. Set the intention. "I'm good at remembering names." Doesn't it feel good when you remember someone's name without skipping a beat? Have you noticed how good it feels when someone remembers your name? It might make you feel important, valued, and special. Set the intention that you will remember a new persons name by using the power of your mind, because everyone benefits.

2. Pay attention. You know it's coming. The handshake or hug and that single precious moment when the name is uttered. "I'm Susan, nice to meet you" or "Im so excited to introduce you to my partner Joe." Be ready. Avoid thinking about what you will say next or worrying about the impression you are making. When you pay attention in that moment you give your brain the best shot at encoding the information.

3. Repetition. Repeat the person's name out loud. Each time you repeat a bit of information, either silently or aloud, the information sticks a bit more. You might even say "Joe, ok, I want to remember that." Not only will you get an extra repetition in, but they may even think "hey I'm important enough to remember!"

4. Association. Use this tried and true memory strategy to "link new information to old knowledge." There are a few ways to do this. There is the standard link: Joe, like my childhood friend Joe. The more abstract link: Christine who I met at the Christmas party. Or a more creative link, like the one my partner and I often use to introduce ourselves: Dillan and Brenda, like the famous couple from 90210.

5. Be Humble. If you forget, just ask. Apologize and say "could you repeat your name for me?" Your communication partner may have forgotten your name and be relieved at the opportunity for an introduction do-over.

Give it a try, and see how setting intentions, using memory strategies, and being humble can benefit you in other parts of your life. I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to post any reactions or additional strategies that work for you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Express Yourself!

This weekend I waited in the lobby while my partner Dillan auditioned for a part in a new improv troupe. I sat in the lobby knitting my newest project: a pair of leg warmers. Purple, of course. As I sat in the chair, listening to the laughter and creativity just bursting from the audition room and knitting away, I felt so grateful for this moment of 'healthy expression' we were both creating. Both of us are self-proclaimed artists and are experienced with a wide variety of media. For me, these include drawing, painting, sewing, knitting, dance, general styling, etc. Sometimes I go a while without prioritizing Healthy Artistic Expression. But I know that when I create the time and space in my life for my creative outlets my mind is noticeably freer.
Art can manifest itself in many ways. The important part, in my opinion, is letting oneself get lost in the process of creating something and making it transform from an idea into a reality. In fact sometimes I even think of my work as a speech pathologist as art. It often requires a great deal of creativity and flexibility, and I often end up with a beautiful product (in the form of a relationship with a patient, or an unexpected learning experience).
Maybe you are also a self proclaimed artist. If you make time for art and creativity regularly in your life, wonderful! If not, what small ways can you bring in more moments of creativity, and therefore more outlets for freeing your mind? Where can you notice and cultivate unexpected moments of creative freedom in your everyday work or routine?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stroke: Uncontrollable vs. Controllable Risk Factors

Today I met a 46 year old woman who was admitted to the hospital because she had a small stroke. I was asked to see her to assess her language and thinking skills, to see what kind of support she needed to transition back home. One of my favorite evaluation questions to learn more about a person's communication and verbal organization skills is: "What kinds of things do you like to cook? Tell me how you make a ______." Let's just say she didn't mention many vegetables in her response.

I am asked to work with a stroke patient under the age of 65 a few times per month, sometimes two in one week. This is far TOO OFTEN, in my opinion.

Read the National Stroke Association literature and you will find that there are a number of risk factors. They divide these seventeen risk factors into "controllable" and "uncontrollable" risk factors. In fact, I wonder if nearly all of the risk factors are controllable. For example, "Family History": I wonder if this is judged to be a risk factor because if healthful food and lifestyle choices are not a priority in a person's family, they are more likely to inherit that outlook around health and therefore more likely to have diabetes, hence a stroke. "A Previous Stroke", I'd argue, could have been prevented. Even "Race" is likely related to SES, education, and access to healthy foods.

See the NSA's Risk Factors Below:

Controllable Risk Factors:
Uncontrollable Risk Factors:
Cited from:

Controlling these controllable risk factors can seem mysterious to many. The prevalence of the Standard American Diet (SAD), marketing of processed food as "health food," and the limited access to education about health are all working against us.

But there is hope! Education, accountability, and moving toward a less-processed, plant-based diet for each of us are important first steps.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Slow Cooker Season!

The weather is cooling off, like it or not, which means your body might be craving more warm cooked foods to maintain balance. Let me introduce you, or reintroduce you, to this fabulous machine: The Slow Cooker. There is nothing like coming home from work or play and opening the door to the thick fragrance of spicy delicious dinner. For people with no time the slow cooker is a great solution for lovely home cooked meals. It makes a LOT of food, so it's great for a family, or for making freezable servings to take for lunches all week long.
You can work all kinds of magic with your slow cooker, but my favorite slow cooker meals are a kind of cross between stew, soup, and chili. Start your slow cooker adventure by using recipes (see one of my creations below), but before you know it you will just develop a "knack" for orchestrating your own simple culinary masterpieces. The basic formula is: toss in a big bunch of raw chopped veggies, add a few cups of chicken or veggie stock, and beans or animal protein. You can even add dry grains (rice is best) in with the rest of the ingredients, just don't forget to add enough extra liquid for the grains to absorb. The secret is in the spices. Experiment with cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, oregano, fresh pepper.... the possibilities are endless!

Brenda's Soupy Chili
1-1.5 lbs of Ground Turkey, browned on stovetop (optional)
1 Onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 carrots, chopped
1 bunch of kale or chard
1 tsp each of cumin, cayenne, oregano, fresh pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 can diced tomato
1 1/2 cups of veggie or chicken stock
3 cans of your favorite beans (I like Kidney and Cannelini)
Add in any other veggies you have around: bag of frozen veggies, half a bunch of broccoli, white or sweet potato... whatever is around.

Put all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low for 10 hours.
Mix in hot chili flake and serve with shredded cheese on top, with a side of toast or cornbread.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food Heals

You are what you eat! Our food is literally what makes up our entire selves. Food, through the digestion process, is broken down and reorganized to make up the building material for our bodies. If you put garbage in, what can you expect besides parts that deteriorate and malfunction sooner than intended. This includes the oh-so-important brain, the control center for thinking and communication. The decisions we make everyday regarding what to put in out bodies is crucial. Food can be your poison, it can be your fuel, it can even be your medicine.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ― Hippocrates

For a body or brain that is healing (for example post stroke, brain injury, vocal fold damage, or just daily wear and tear) high quality building blocks are essential. According to the Cleveland Clinic website "During the healing process, the body needs increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes, the mineral, zinc." Because our bodies are designed to digest and assimilate food and not chemicals, it's ideal to get these nutrients from a varied diet made up of fresh whole foods

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the diet tips that are out there. For example eat garlic to lower blood pressure (, or eat blueberries, green tea, and other antioxidant rich foods to prevent cancer ( Randomized controlled trials testing these claims are sometimes inconclusive, but many people find that following guidelines like these make a big difference for their healing and wellness. Still, you can eat garlic for every meal, but you may still suffer from high blood pressure if your overall diet is out of balance and lacking high quality macro and micronutrients (found abundantly in fresh whole foods).

What do you already know that you could change about your food that would promote more health and healing for yourself?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Paying Attention

Last week I earned my LSVT certification, yay me! If you are a Speechie, you probably know what that means. If not I will explain. In a nutshell, LSVT (also known as Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) is a 4 week treatment protocol designed for people with Parkinson Disease (PD). It is evidence based and has greatly improved the communication lives of many people with PD and other disorders.
It's official! I am LSVT certified.
The course was fantastic. The presenters were knowledgeable, professional, passionate and articulate. The other participants asked thoughtful questions. The information was truly applicable to my practice.

The hardest part was spending two 8-hour days sitting in a chair and paying attention. Even though the material was fascinating to me, it was hard! A usual day for me involves very little time sitting still. I am running here and there, multi-tasking, and doing a lot of vocal output.

Two take home messages for me (besides a great treatment tool, obviously):

1) Even though it was hard, I was so grateful for the stillness. It was a rare luxury to commit my undivided attention to a single topic for so many hours. And it made me think that more things in my life deserve this kind of undivided attention. This week, I am going to be more mindful of my attention. When working with a patient, I will try to avoid thinking of 10 other tasks. When eating, I will just eat, focusing on chewing and gratitude for nutritious food (which, as it turns out, is also good for our digestion). When cuddling, I will just cuddle! I invite you to do the same.

2) There must be room for self care, especially when learning is the goal. There was a time when I would suffer through whatever feeling (thirst, restlessness, even needing to use the bathroom) to be polite. But during this two day course I made sure to take the liberty of leaving the room, either physically or mentally, when I needed something.

Next time you are having trouble paying attention take a break! Try taking three cleansing belly breaths and see if you can reengage.

Speech Pathology: "But I can talk just fine!"

Who gave us the name Speech Language Pathologist anyway? I have heard it many times: after introducing myself to a new patient, maybe someone with difficulty swallowing, "But I can talk just fine!" The Pathologist part makes it sound like we are working in a lab with germs and cells. And the 'speech language' part just does not say it all.

Many people, at least folks who don't have a "Speechie" as a friend or family member, think of us as the pull-out therapist working with kids in elementary school to fix their 's' sound or cure their stutter. While those things are certainly part of our scope of practice (though probably not in the school so much, because school Speechies are too busy with our little friends with language and learning or autism needs) we do so much more! We really should be called Speech-Language-Voice-Feeding-Swallowing-Social-Cognitive Therapists.

So it's fitting that I have had so much trouble coming up with a way to label my new business, blog, website, etc... As I learn more about holistic health, and move toward health myself, I discover more and more ways to apply the concepts to my personal life, friendships, yoga practice, and my speech pathology practice. How could I find one label for something that is so diffuse. This concept is born from the idea that all of the lessons I am gathering, all of the spheres of my life and inherently connected. For now, I will stick with the lengthy but practical "Holistic Speech Pathology and Health Coaching" with the expectation that it will continue to evolve. Just as I have.