Happy New Year!
Did you set resolutions, intentions or plans for 2014?
Break out the vision board?
Go on a new diet?
As a nutritionist and health coach, I've been hearing a lot about people's new year's resolutions over the last couple of weeks. It's so exciting to hear about how people are making plans to get healthier by exploring new foods and lifestyle choices in the coming months.
To celebrate these intentions, I thought I'd share my list of the top books and movies I go to for inspiration and ideas. Some of these books and movies are relatively new, and some have been out there for awhile, but they're at the top of my list when I need motivation, meal planning ideas, nutrition tips, and recipes.
Best Green Drinks Ever: I drink a lot of green smoothies. I mean, a lot. Like every day. And it's easy to get into a rut and start blending the same combinations day after day. I consult this book when looking for new flavor and nutrient combinations.
Forks Over Knives: I've seen this documentary probably 20 times, and am constantly recommending it to clients and friends. It's an inspirational exploration of food's power to harm — and heal — us. All of us need to eat more vegetables and fruits — regardless of whether we also eat meat, chicken or seafood — and this movie will definitely provide the motivation. This movie is especially helpful for people who rely on prescription medications, and have told they can't improve or even resolve their high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, digestive problems, or other chronic issues with nutrition. Honestly, I don't know anyone who comes away from this movie uninspired.
Hungry for Change: The producers of “Food Matters” take on the diet and weight loss industry in this documentary, exploring why most diets don't work, and how even “diet” food products undermine our best intentions to reach and maintain a healthy weight. The film covers a wide range of issues — the toxic and addictive properties of sugar and artificial sweeteners; how toxins are stored in the body and why this is dangerous; and how whole, unrefined foods can save us. The part that resonates for me most is the film's exploration of the emotional terrain of body image, and why it's important for us to fully love ourselves even while working to improve ourselves. I especially loved the interviews with Jon Gabriel — who tried virtually every weight loss approach available, and was ultimately berated by the Dr. Atkins for being a lost cause — and Dr. Christiane Northrup.
Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison: Simply a gorgeous portrayal of vegetables in a starring role. Beautifully photographed, this cookbook is organized into sections covering 12 of the plant families, such as Carrot, Cabbage, Legume, and Mint. The recipes are simple as they are elegant, and many of them are easy enough to incorporate into weekday meal prep. The author's other cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, has literally been my bible over the years — a constant companion as I learned how to appreciate and love vegetables instead of treating them like a “should-eat.” Vegetable Literacy is exquisite, and an inspirational cookbook for people who are still a little freaked out by veggies.
Food, Inc.: Such an important film — truly. This landmark documentary covers the exploits of the modern food industry, highlighting the work of Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan. Admittedly, it's an uncomfortable film — it covers a lot of territory Americans just don't want to know about: factory farming; how governmental farm subsidies make a toxic fast-food cheeseburger meal (subsidized) cheaper than a (unsubsidized) head of broccoli; and how high-tech food production practices that prioritize profit over people's health literally poison us and make us sick. No wonder our obesity and Type 2 diabetes rates are skyrocketing. If you eat processed food at all, or wonder why buying organic chicken or grass-fed beef is worth the extra money, see this movie.
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero: First, let me just say that I am not a vegan. Or even a vegetarian. Nor am I an aspiring vegan or vegetarian for that matter. Here's what works for me: incorporating maximum vegetables into my meals, and preparing them so that they are delicious and satisfying. Because treating vegetables as “should-eats” doesn't work for the long term goal of keeping our bodies healthy and vibrant. We need to learn how to appreciate them, love them… and even crave them. When I first started cooking, vegetables didn't come easy to me — I didn't understand them, much less like them. I knew they were important, though, and adopted a “know your enemy” approach. Over the years, numerous vegetable-focused cookbooks have come to reside on my bookshelf, and this is one of my favorites. Veganomicon is especially helpful for people who are transitioning from a Standard American Diet to something more plant-based. I love the authors' cheeky humor, and how they demystify vegan standbys such as homemade hummus (it's easy!), tempeh and seitan.
Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special by the Moosewood Collective chefs: This ingredient-spackled, dog-eared cookbook has been my go-to resource for weekday meals for years. The cookbook is based on the most popular soups and salads — served up as daily specials — at the famed Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY. I have made many of the book's soups and salads over the years, especially since soup-and-salad is a magical lunchtime combination for me — soup-and-salad meals nourish and satisfy, without putting us into the type of food-induced coma associated with sandwiches, pasta and burgers. My tried-and-true favorites include the Texas Two-Bean Soup, Baked Bean Soup, Creamless Broccoli Soup, Baked Tofu, and Syrian Beet Salad. It's an excellent resource for beginning cooks.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead: Even if you never intend to start juicing, this heart-warming documentary will inspire. Produced by Australian investor and reborn health enthusiast Joe Cross, the film is equal parts road trip, participatory journalism (a la “Supersize Me”), and “biggest loser” style storyline. The film follows Mr. Cross as he travels to the U.S. to absolve a lifetime of excess and indulgence by going on a 60-day juice fast/road trip. Inviting strangers to sample green juice from a battery-powered juicer in his trunk, Mr. Cross eventually meets a few people who are willing to join him on his juice-fueled journey — the most memorable being Phil, a long-haul trucker dealing with obesity and numerous troublesome ailments including depression. While Mr. Cross's own transformation is impressive, Phil's journey makes the film. Seriously awesome. I mean it.
The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook by Mark Hyman, M.D.: A few years ago, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which was surprising to me since I had made a transition to a much healthier lifestyle in recent years. I took action by researching the connection between food and Type 2 diabetes, and which foods help heal — or worsen — the issue. My goal was simple: to get my blood sugar stable so I could avoid having to go on prescription medication down the road. My research led to the work of Dr. Mark Hyman, and I've been a huge fan ever since. Dr. Hyman is the author of multiple New York Times best-sellers, including The Blood Sugar Solution, The UltraSimple Diet and UltraMetabolism. His work highlights the inflammation epidemic in our country, and how what is often “silent” inflammation is the precursor for Type 2 diabetes and most other chronic diseases. Understanding inflammation's causes — and lifestyle-based remedies (food choices, exercise, stress management) — is vital if you or someone you love has come back from an annual physical with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. I recommend all of Dr. Hyman's books — The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook is especially handy for people who are living with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, and need easy, fast and tasty recipes that will help cool inflammation and support our bodies' inherent healing power.
I hope this list of my faves inspires and supports you in your plans for the year ahead — whether you think of your plans as full-blown resolutions, intentions, or subtle curiosities.
Have you read or seen anything on the list? If so, leave a comment — I'd love to hear from you.
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