Amaze-meatballs!

I went through a meatball phase a couple of weeks ago, and was craving them since dinner at Pizzaiolo. I had the best meatballs I have ever had there. The best.

We don’t eat many processed foods in our house, but brown rice pasta works its way in every once in a while (pasta was a huge part of my childhood). I try to use spaghetti squash and zucchini ribbon “noodles” as much as possible for pasta alternatives. I found that using my improvisational methods and applying them to savory meatballs was pretty successful: playing around with various ingredients in the food processor made for surprising results. Here is what I played around with:

Amaze-balls Meatballs 

Ready for pulsing and mixing.

Ready for pulsing and mixing.

  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomato pesto (or just sun dried tomatoes, with the oil – if so, add a large pinch of Herbs de Provence)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (or use nutritional yeast if dairy free)
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • red pepper flakes, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  •  1 pound ground, grass fed or pastured beef, lamb, chicken or turkey (I used lamb here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse everything but the meat in the food processor until made into a thick, well-incorporated paste. Place meat and paste in large bowl and mix together loosely, taking care to almost fold the processed ingredients in to the ground meat.

I shaped the meatballs more into flat, mini patties, making sure they weren’t super round so they would cook through easily. I also took care not to shape them too tightly (the meatballs at Pizzaiolo almost fell apart and melted in the mouth – this is what I was trying to go for).

Serve with any sauce over spaghetti or spaghetti squash and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

They were legit.

They were legit.

This recipe is a sneak preview of just one of the many amazing recipes that will be featured in the new cookbook collaboration I am working on (#ready4healthcookbook) with my friend and colleague Michaele Kruger.. Coming soon in pdf form – stay tuned!

What’s Missing in List-based Health Articles

Before you read this article (and you will be reading this article), I thought I would toss you a favorite snack recipe that I have been obsessed with lately. This is basically a bribe so you will read on. Now for the food:

Date-Walnut-Goat Cheese Bites

Encuentro1

  • 3-5 pitted dates (Medjool are more expensive but amazing, but any kind will do)
  • Raw walnuts (halves or pieces, doesn’t matter)
  • Goat cheese (my favorite is Cypress Grove’s Purple Haze)
  • Optional: for a fancier version, drizzle with some balsamic reduction (pretty easy to make) and green onions.

Pile one ingredient on top of another, put into mouth and savor every minute, and enjoy while you read the following:

One way health and wellness practitioners choose to communicate how their clients or the public should meet health goals is through list-based articles. Headlines proclaiming “5 Ways to Kick Sugar”, or “10 Best Superfoods to Eat Now” fill our inboxes. These articles can be inspiring, fun and easy to read. Sometimes we even get free recipes out of them, and the feeling that we are getting free advice. True, I would rather read these articles than other mainstream news sometimes. But let’s really examine if these lists are truly useful.

#1) The lists are too long. I have seen healthy snack lists of 50+ snacks. Having a variety of choices for people to grab a few favorites from can be ok, but too often we are overwhelmed by the steps we feel we need to take to get healthy, stop eating sugar, lose weight or get back in shape.

#2) Get Real! List-based articles make me feel bad about myself. They seem to shout, “This is so easy, anyone could do it just by reading this article.” I almost feel justified in thinking I have taken steps to change my health just by reading the list and saying to myself, “Obviously…more blueberries! Antioxidants! Duh!” What do we actually act upon after reading these articles? How do we make any of these ambiguous to do’s part of our live’s, and how do we manage building them into routines, being careful and realistic not to get down on ourselves when we fall out of love with blueberries after eating 2 crates of them a day?

#3) Lack of Context. A writer for the Harvard Business School blog weighed in on why to do lists aren’t very helpful, which we can easily turn around to apply to such health to do’s. Daniel Markovitz says, ” to-do lists don’t provide sufficient context for the tasks to help you determine what you should work on. All tasks look the same on paper — three or four words on a line.” So nothing becomes a priority – it’s all just a bit lump of to do’s that can overwhelm us and bring us back to square one.

Maybe we could try the following:

#1) Be more specific and encourage intention. I would love to see more specific instructions, for example, suggesting we pick a magic number of selected snacks to try…like 3-5. This way, we could get the ingredients in one shopping trip, have on hand over 5-7 days and work them into our routines, adding more snacks in when we get comfortable with the first few. One reason is “The paradox of choice. Barry Schwartz and Sheena Iyengar explored the problems created by having too many choices. Schwartz points out that increasing the number of choices we have actually increases our negative emotions because our sense of opportunity cost increases. In complementary research, Iyengar has shown that our brains can only handle about seven options before we’re overwhelmed. It’s easier for us to make decisions and act when there are fewer choices from which to choose. Looking at the 58 items on your to-do list will either paralyze you or send you into default mode: checking email for an hour instead of doing real work.”

#2) Bring on the action items. One at a time. A favorite blogger and writer (not to mention neuroscientist) Darya Rose outlines in her book, Foodist, how we put unrealistic expectations on our plates when working towards getting back into a routine, like getting back in shape. Instead of an article saying, “Just do it. Now! And everything will be wine and roses,” we could outline reasonable expectations and assumptions. Getting into a new routine or habit can be uncomfortable and can bring about some unexpected emotions. But if we are patient, take the good with the bad, resolve that we will be uncomfortable or even vulnerable while trying out something new, that’s where the magic will happen.

#3) We Aren’t All Cut From the Same Cloth. Bioindividuality is key – we are all different. Some of us are very visual, have longer attention spans than the next person, have different jobs, family and support networks, friend networks, responsibilities or ways we handle stress. One size doesn’t fit all, and not one way of communicating action items or to do’s will work for everyone.

For more views on why lists aren’t always helpful, check this out. 

 

The Art of Behavior Change: Guest Post

Many of us cringe at the thought of making a behavior or lifestyle change. After all, how many people do you know that have successfully changed their lives or behavior patterns? According to the New York Times, only 8% of the population is able to sustain long-term behavior and lifestyle change. This can be quite discouraging, especially if you are at a point in your life where major changes are needed in order to reclaim your health and happiness. Not to worry, there are a variety of ways to make behavior change possible and stick with it. First we must identify our biggest mistakes when it comes to attempting change.

According to a Stanford University Study, there are 10 major mistakes that people make when it comes time to make a change. The top ten mistakes are as follows:

  • Relying on willpower to make long-term change
  • Attempting big leaps
  • Ignoring how the environment shapes behavior
  • Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones
  • Blaming failures on lack of motivation
  • Underestimating the power of triggers
  • Believing that information leads to action
  • Focusing on abstract goals rather than concrete behaviors
  • Seeking to change a behavior FOREVER
  • Assuming that behavior change is difficult

So how many times have you said to yourself “I don’t have strong willpower” or “I must not want it badly enough”? In truth, strong willpower and motivation are not the keys to success; the most important element are understanding how our brain works in relation to making changes and creating a good plan. It’s time to learn how to set yourself up for success.

When it comes to behavior change and the brain, you can think of the brain being broken up into two parts. The first part is the part that doesn’t want to make a change. Unfortunately, this encompasses the majority of our brain. Think of this part of the brain as about the size of an elephant. The second part of the brain is the part that actually wants to make changes; it’s the part that sets New Year’s Resolutions and decides to start a home garden. Think of this part of the brain as the size of a person; now think of that person sitting on the elephant’s back. Our goal, when it comes to making a change, is figuring out how to get that small person to maneuver and change the path of that huge elephant. If we want to motivate that elephant to leave the watering hole or change directions, we need to take small, gradual steps. If we all we do is give the elephant a good kick and turn him around completely all at once, he’ll get disoriented, confused, and turn right back around to that watering hole.

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is understanding that small, gradual changes are key. Small, gradual changes, celebrated along the way, are more likely to lead to a major change. In my consulting practice, I work with individuals on establishing goals, creating a realistic timeline, and identifying challenges. These are all keys to success. You must move slowly if you are going to get that stubborn elephant-sized portion of your brain to change direction and stick with success!

So, here are my suggestions to overcoming the 10 biggest mistakes made in behavior change:

  • Willpower is like a muscle that must be flexed; eventually you have to relax your flexed muscle and that’s when your willpower runs out; rather than rely on willpower, create a plan full of small steps you know you can achieve
  • Many small steps lead to big change; think of a ladder or staircase, each step does not seem that big and feels great to have accomplished; when you look back you will see how far you’ve come
  • Understand the influences of your surroundings; think about what will distract you at the office, in your home, and in your daily routine from making the change you wish to make
  • Create new behaviors rather than quitting something cold-turkey
  • Look at each failure as an opportunity to learn what did not work for you this time
  • Set yourself up for success by identifying your challenges and obstacles; think of ways to get around them
  • Education is important but at some point you have to begin
  • Set concrete, achievable goals for yourself
  • Think of making each small change for a short period of time rather than in terms of FOREVER
  • Behavior change doesn’t have to be hard if you have a good plan and a great coach!
  • These steps will get you started down the path to a sustainable lifestyle change. Support and guidance will also help you succeed

Michaele Kruger is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

KBrodgesell_SkillExchange_May2013_P039-460x306

She believes that real, whole food has the power to change your life and partners with her clients to help them achieve their health and wellness goals.  She is a graduate of Bauman College of Nutrition and a member of both the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She can be found at betterbitesbetteryou.com and don’t miss her blog: thebetterbitesgirl.blogspot.com