Warming up to Healthy Eating- Lentil Soup

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Was last night the sixth holiday party we just attended? Yes, it surely was. Or perhaps it was the thirteen. I’ve lost count. While I relished every last friend, holiday/new year wish, hors d’oeuvre, cookie & cocktail with gusto, I am now carried away to a more sensible space. Here in Florida it’s a sometimes cold place we call January.

If you are like us and many others, who have spent the last month stuffed with stuffing and tipsy with holiday cheer, January brings with it a promising opportunity for replenishment, balance, and the only way to do that is by giving your body everything it needs to thrive. Lots of healthy foods and vegetables.

But to go right from cookies to carrots in 0 to 60 seconds seems crazy, we believe the body must be eased back into it’s normal patterns gently and reasonably. No fad diets, or pill will have you looking and feeling your best.

At Intelligent Gourmet, we know it’s not about losing weight – it’s about living your best life. That said, for many of us, part of becoming healthier, happier people involves undoing some of the less-great decisions of the last several weeks and, yes, losing weight. Unfortunately, changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight (though one diet claims otherwise)

What matters is keeping your nutrition high, your calories controlled, and your exercise up!

Try working your way back into some better eating habits with a healthy soup packed with protein and vegetables. Here we share with you a recipe for a very versatile lentil soup that you can easily adapt to your families personal preferences and pantry inventory:

Ingredients

  • 1 # package of dried lentils (You can use any kind you like, red, green, brown and black beluga)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, (small diced)
  • 1 large carrots, (small diced)
  • 2 ribs of celery (small diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1 12 oz package of winter squash cubes (available at most grocers)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 hand full of your favorite greens chopped, (kale, spinach, mustard, or chard)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Start my heating some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over moderate heat, (you do not want the olive oil smoking) Add the chopped, carrot, celery and onion and allow these vegetable to sauté slowly about 8 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent add in your chopped garlic, salt and spices, stir and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add in your winter squash cubes of choice and toss to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups of your stock ( chicken or vegetable depending on if you are making this vegan or not), and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in your raw lentils ( Lentils do not need to be soaked like other beans but do rinse, Check the cooking time on the package, which can vary from one type to the next. Red lentils cook in as little as 15 minutes while the black ones can take as long as 45 minutes.)
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until lentils are just tender but not mushy, and your squash is soft. (Add additional stock if you want a thinner soup adjust to your liking)
  6. When the lentils are just tender, add the chopped greens. (They’ll only take a minute or two to wilt remove the pot from the burner as soon as the greens are wilted and bright green.)
  7. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous amount of chopped parsley. Adjust salt if necessary.

CHEF NOTE:

Change up your meal in any one of these 4 ways.

  1. You can trade 1/2 the stock with coconut cream for a creamy flavor.
  2. Season with smoked paprika, a touch of liquid smoke, and a ham bone.
  3. Add in a 14 ounce can of diced tomato for another variation.
  4. Serve with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on top.

Reduce Inflammation & Improve Your Digestion with Easy To Make Bone Broth


Remember how soothing chicken soup is whenever you have a cold? Well it turns out that broth, and especially bone broth (made from simmering bones and cartilage) really do have medicinal properties. I’m always on the lookout for foods that both nourish and heal your body, and while studying at the Institute of Integrative Health and Nutrition I was turned on to bone broth as a way of improving digestive symptoms such as bloating and pain.

Bone broth is experiencing a revolution right now, and for good reason. It can reduce joint pain and inflammation through chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, proline, arginine, and glycine which all have anti-inflammatory effects. It promotes strong, healthy bones through high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and additional nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation, and promotes healthy hair and nail growth thanks to the gelatin in the broth. It may even help you sleep better due to the calming effects of glycine. Wow. No wonder superstar Kobe Bryant is drinking it daily and it’s even gained a cult following in NYC!

Another important component of both broths are that they are rich in Humic + Fulvic minerals! What are those you ask and why should I want them?
Research is just beginning to show us the important role that fulvic minerals play and the information is amazing! These minerals like others support the body in a variety of ways including cellular health, brain health and digestion by helping the body absorb nutrients from food.
In a perfect world, our food would naturally contain high levels of minerals from the soil, but this is not usually the case with our modern food supply.

Ready to try this out? You can make bone broth at home (recipe below!) by simmering chicken, beef, or pretty much any type of bones in water for 6+ hours. At Intelligent Gourmet we use this recipe as a base in most of our stocks and it’s just plain delicious! No single theory of health is right for everyone, but we’ve seen bone broth work well for some people and not cause adverse symptoms for anyone, therefore we feel it’s safe to approve as a food that promotes digestive health.
Intelligent Gourmet’s Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients

4-5.5 lbs. of Beef or Chicken bones (including joints, knuckles, necks etc.)
2 gallons Cold Water or enough to cover your bones (Why cold water? On a chemical level, it actually promotes the extraction of protein, helping to up the nutrient quotient of the stock.)
1 large Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 stalks of Celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of Vinegar* (such as Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 bunch of fresh Parsley
Optional: Thyme + Rosemary (I like to add thyme, bay leaf, and whole peppercorns, with maybe a sprig or two of rosemary. If you’re adding herbs and veggies to the broth, be sure to add them toward the end of cooking, especially if you’re doing a marathon stock making session.)

*A Note on Vinegar: This is not an optional ingredient. Not only is it ideal to combine fats with acids like vinegar, when it comes to making broth the goal is to extract as many minerals as possible out of the bones into the broth water and vinegar really helps to leech all those valuable minerals out of the bones. Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.

Preparation

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to-low and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (the longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavor). Add water as needed to keep ingredients submerged. Strain stock into a clean pot or heatproof plastic container and discard solid ingredients. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Leave the solidified fat on the top while storing as the fat acts as a protective layer and delays the formation of bacteria. Immediately prior to use, bring the bone broth to a gentle boil. Makes about 12 cups.

You can use this broth as a base for soups like we do at Intelligent Gourmet, or you can drink it straight as a restorative concoction.

Interested in learning more about foods that promote healthy digestion? Here are a few I can recommend:

Bananas
While all fruits and vegetables are generally good for digestion, bananas in particular are great because they don’t irritate the stomach. That’s why they’re part of the “BRAT Diet” (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, dry Toast), which has been suggested for folks suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.

Water
Water (which most people do not drink enough of) is excellent for the digestive process as it helps move things through the intestines. Drink an extra glass of water in the morning and evening, or carry a refillable water bottle that you can sip from throughout the day.

Ginger, Turmeric, Peppermint
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and peppermint are great for settling an upset stomach. Try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge.

Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi
Probiotic-containing foods like yogurt are good for the digestive system because they contain good bacteria that crowds out any bad bacteria that you may have in your gut. You want to look specifically for foods that contain live bacteria, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Asparagus, Oats, Onions, Lentils, Whole Grains
Prebiotic foods like asparagus contain a type of fiber that probiotics feed off of to multiply, so it’s good food for your good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, onions, lentils and whole grains.

Soup

Negative Calorie Foods and Diet Freebies – Fact or Fiction?

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Can you eat all the fruits and vegetables you want and still lose weight?

Are there negative-calorie foods that burn more calories to digest than they contain? 

Is there such a thing as a diet “freebie”?

Some weight loss plans will tell you that vegetables are “free foods” – as in, you can have as many as you want, not count them in your daily calorie total, and still lose weight. But is that right? Kind of.

It’s true that you’re very unlikely to eat so many vegetables that you’d gain weight from them, unless you dress them up with oil, butter, cheese, or sauce. The ratio of fiber and water to calories in non-starchy vegetables means that you’ll feel full on them faster, avoiding over-eating. But they still have calories. And, even with celery, you’ll consume more calories than you burn with chewing and digesting those stringy stalks. 

No, there’s no such thing as a freebie when you’re counting calories, even if it’s celery. That said, you are likely to lose more weight if you eat lots of celery (minus the peanut-butter), because of its filling-fiber to calorie ratio. 

Can a Vegan Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Olivia Wild, Natalie Portman, and Beyonce went vegan and lost weight – and Mike Tyson lost 100 pounds with a vegan diet. More and more celebrities are cutting out the animal products with visible results, and you’ll get the same results if you adopt a vegan diet the right way.

Doing Vegan Right

  • Avoid processed foods, including pasta and sugar
  • Balance your diet with healthy fats and protein from nuts, beans and lentils
  • Treat starchy vegetables like the carbs they are, and eat them in moderation (ie. limit your intake of baked potatoes smothered in butter-like vegan spread)
  • Include whole grains in your diet, like black rice, brown rice, barley, whole rye, buckwheat, quinoa, freekeh, etc.
  • Going vegan does not give you carte blanche to eat all the fat you want. Healthy fats in olive oil, nuts, and avocado are vital to your mental and physical well-being, but you can overdo them.

You don’t have to go vegan forever, unless you want to. But eliminating red meat and processed foods from your diet will help your brain chemistry re-set, making junk food much less tempting. 

Yes, adopting a vegetable-based diet is a great way to lose weight – but don’t do it for the “freebies.” Do it because it will help you look better, feel better, and live better. It’s the Intelligent Gourmet way! 

Pitfalls of Losing a Pound a Day

Vegan SushiYes, friends, it’s January, and the hucksters are peddling their Lose-Weight-Fast diets all over the internet. Enter Rocco DiSpirito’s “Pound a Day Diet.”

On paper, it sounds great. Lose a pound a day on what he calls “metabolic fasting” (the theory is that your metabolism won’t turn to sludge if you intersperse low calorie days with higher calorie days). While on the diet, you eat delicious food that only takes a few minutes and a handful of ingredients to make, with recipes based on the “Mediterranean diet,” including lots of protein, vegetables, and moderate carbohydrates. Here’s why it works: “Pound a Day” dieters are restricted to 850 calories per day on weekdays and 1200 calories on weekends, consumed in frequent, small meals. Yes, you will lose weight. But you might lose your health and well being too.

While the “Pound a Day Diet” sounds like the perfect quick-fix to all your weight-loss problems, there’s a reason health professionals don’t recommend going below 1200 calories a day. Several reasons, in fact.

The Real Consequences of Rapid Weight Loss

  • At less than 1000 calories a day, it’s nearly impossible to get the vitamins, protein and minerals your body needs to avoid malnutrition.
  • At less than 100 calories, your body shifts from active calorie-burning mode into calorie-storing mode, effectively shutting down your metabolism.
  • When your metabolism shuts down, you’ll feel tired and lethargic, even if you eat “snacks” throughout the day. Your body just doesn’t have enough fuel.
  • Your body will start to burn muscle, not fat. This has mental, as well as physical, effects, such as: confusion, anxiety, depression, and memory loss.

Personally, I think the “Pound a Day” plan needs to add 200 to 400 calories in order to be nutritionally sound and safe. No, you may not lose weight as fast, but you’ll be better off for it. In fact, supplementing this diet with a couple mason jars of good, green juice might be just the thing to replenish missing nutrients. And don’t forget a handful of nuts – good fats are important on any diet!

Is your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight? Here’s the Skinny on How We Can Help

At Intelligent Gourmet, our goal isn’t weight loss – it’s to help our clients eat clean, feel better, and, ok – yes, look better. That’s why we don’t focus on low-calorie or low-carb, because we look at food holistically. For example, nuts are high in fat, but they also help your brain work better with all those Omega-3s, which makes you feel good, emotionally and physically. Those low-fat cheese puffs and “Lean Cuisine” dinners don’t.

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But, your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. You already know weight loss is not about a diet, but a lifestyle change. And you know there are no quick fixes. But we know you’re impatient, you don’t have time to make that crazy “fat flush soup” every week (or whatever the latest diet fad is), and after the slew of Holiday demands, you’re tired.

Here’s how we can help.

Cleanse for body and mind: Try our Intelligent Gourmet Juice Cleanse for 3 days to re-balance your body chemistry and kick-start your new healthier lifestyle.

Ready-to-Eat Diet-friendly meals: We specialize in low glycemic, low carb, low sodium, gluten-free, and most importantly “clean” pre-packaged meals. Don’t have time to cook? Can’t quite bring yourself to control portion size when you’re in the kitchen? Let us do it for you.

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Extremely Healthy Recipes: Every week, we post recipes right here that are low-fat, low-calorie, often gluten-free, frequently raw/vegan/vegetarian, and always extremely healthful. Then we tell you why what you’re eating is so good. Sure, you can’t cook all the time, but why not make a weekend family event out of an old-fashioned sit-down dinner (then live off the healthy leftovers for the week)? Roast a turkey or a whole chicken, and cook up our green beans (with vitamins K & A), wild rice dressing (B vitamins), and sweet potatoes (Beta-carotene and Vitamin C). Your whole family will think this new “diet” you’re on is great!

Tips, Tricks, and Expert Insights: From suggestions as simple as “add spinach to everything – your morning eggs, your lunchtime sandwich, your tomato sauce at dinner” to lists of super-foods, to teaching you how you can heal your body through food – Follow my blog via email, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest, and “Like” us on Facebook for daily reminders on how you can eat better, feel better, live better.

Happy New Year! And, here’s to a New You!