Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Kids and Vegetables: How to get Kids to Eat Healthier

In gardening, nutrition, teachers, Uncategorized, wellness on April 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Pretty great, huh?

One of the best ways to get kids interested in healthy nutrition is to have them garden.  When they grow their own vegetables and fruits, they naturally become more inquisitive which, in turn, leads them to eating more of the “good stuff.” That’s  exactly what the First Presbyterian Preschool of Mount Dora, Florida did. The kids used the Tower Garden, a portable, vertical aeroponic/hydroponic gardening system ideal for this use.

Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and wellness coach. For more information, please visit:


Three Ways To Cultivate Your Garden in a Tiny Space

In diet, Earth Day, environment, farming, heatlhy eating, herbs, home, lifestyle, Uncategorized, Urban on April 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Happy Earth Day!  It’s a time to reflect on “greening” our lives and growing more of our own food–and, yes, even urban dwellers and apartment residents can do it, without having to rely on the greenmarket.

Growing your own food is a lot healthier for both you and your pocketbook.  Let your kids garden; it’s a great way to motivate them to eat more veggies and fruits.

Gardening in small spaces can be a challenge but, with a little creativity, flexibility–and a lot of determination–you’ll be able to have the garden of your dreams–right outside your 5th floor studio walk up apartment!

Here are a few simple suggestions for maximizing that often tiny gardening space.

  • Go vertical.  A couple of years ago I visited a friend who lived in a tiny apartment on one of the busiest and grungiest streets in New York City.  Yet, when I walked into his garden, I was positively awed; it was a vertical garden,  with gorgeous, trailing vines of tomatoes and zucchini. 

One thing you might want to use is the Tower Garden, a portable, lightweight tower that’s simple to use and attractive for both patios and concrete backyards.  The system was developed by garden designer Tim Blank and it relies on an aeroponics system (the plant roots are suspended in air); it holds up to 44 plants and even comes with its own trellis.

  • Go “double duty.”  Grow herbs and small plants in ornamental planters.  It’s decorative and soothing!
  • Container Gardening:  Almost anything can be used, so use your creative juices!  Baskets, pots (clay, ceramic, terra cotta), wheelbarrows–even shoes.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a NYC-based nutrition and wellness coach.  She helps people instantly increase their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.  Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life,  her website is:

To learn more about Tower Garden, please visit: .

Three Reasons Why You Want Your Kids To Grow Food

In chefs, children, food, gardening, nutrition on April 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Many of us are already familiar British Super Chef Jamie Oliver who has been out to change school lunches in the U.S. and elsewhere. Oliver started his transformational tours in this country two years ago in Huntington, West Virginia which, at that time, had been named the unhealthiest city in America.

Since then, we’ve met teenagers at risk for diabetes; a teenager who lost her 400+ pound father when she was only 2-years-old; a 318 pound 12-year-old; and one teenage girl who already has spots on her liver–and was told by her doctor that she only has 6 or 7 years to live. This generation is expected to have a lower life expectancy than others.

Those statistics are just one reason we need to get our kids eating better–and one of the best ways to do it is to involve your kids in growing their own food.

  • First, and probably most obvious reason, is that growing food just promotes healthy eating and lifestyle. How many times have we heard, “But I don’t like it!”–when they haven’t even tried it. Growing fruits and vegetables leads to curiosity which leads to a desire to try more–and different–foods.
  • Second, they’ll have a sense of accomplishment and pride at seeing something grow, so they’ll probably have improved self-esteem and confidence.
  • Third, they’ll get an assortment of different skills including those in science, financial, business, communications, fitness and more.

Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project website says: “If we can get gardens, school food and the curriculum working together, we’ve got a really potent, beautiful, inspirational catalyst for change.”

Words to live by: Let’s get our kids growing their food!

What Is Flow–and How Does It keep You Healthy

In computer, fitness, health, lifestyle, software, Uncategorized, wellness on April 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm

I recently conducted a survey to find out more about your biggest wellness concerns and furstrations.  Many of you told me one of your biggest challenges was finding time to exercise.  We all know it’s pretty unhealthy to sit at a desk or in front a computer all day–but we all also know just how challenging it can be to find the time.  (And I remember many times when I was just too tired or burned out after a tough day.)

So here’s the story of Flow, with a short video clip, that will give you some suggestions on solving this problem. Flow is a software program built with the primary goal of improving the health of people, especially those who sit in front of computers all day.

By the way, I’d love to hear from you–won’t you please complete this brief (5-10 minutes max) survey. To access:


Florida psychologist Dr. Renee Nasajon, Psy.D,  practices holistic psychology;  that is, she explores the interconnectedness of the mind and body.

Many years ago while working in a hospital, she was able to walk–a LOT. That all ended when she went into private practice. She spends much of her day now in a chair, listening to patients–or in front of a computer doing research. As she says, her metabolism fell into disarray and she started to gain weight little by little.

One day she was on the treadmill at the gym and thought, “I  am so violent with my body! I spend hours almost not moving, and then all of a sudden I bring it here and force it to run and lift weights and do all kinds of extreme things. I’m going to end up hurting myself!”

If she wanted to exercise in an effective and safe manner at the gym, she’d have to find a way to condition her body in preparation.

That’s when she created Flow.

Flow is a video that pops up on your computer screen to guide you through about five minutes of physical activity while still sitting at your desk.

“There is an abundance of emerging research that demonstrates the health-risks associated with sedentariness –spending too many hours without engaging in any kind of physical activity.

Dr. Nasajon continued: “The research shows that if we interrupt that sedentary behavior with just five minutes or so of some kind of physical activity, we can dramatically improve our ability to burn calories, improve our mood, decrease our cravings for sugar, caffeine and nicotine. We become more focused, more energetic, and we can reduce our blood pressure and our risk to develop osteoporosis, diabetes, cholesterol, and even some forms of cancer. ”

Want to check out Flow for yourself?  Watch the video below, for a sampling of working the abdominal at your desk–very simple and effective techniques.

How to Watch for Hidden Sugar in Your Food

In cravings, fitness, holistic health, lifestyle, nutrition on April 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

According to MedicineNet.Com, Americans now consume about 156 pounds of sugar per year–about 31 five-pound bags per person.  (That, by the way, compares to us eating about 8 pounds of broccoli a year.)

Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of hypoglycemia and Type 2 Diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, Date January 26, 2011: 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. Between 55-60% of adults in America are overweight or obese and, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, obesity is one of the top 3 preventable risk factors for premature mortality.

Before the first sugar refinery was built in 1689. our ancestors had to rely on the berries 

and other fruit they picked to satisfy their sweet tooths.  But now sugar’s all over the place–hidden in things like peanut butter, tomato sauce, ketchup and even baby food.

Our cafe/coffee house lifestyle doesn’t help.  Many of us don’t realize just how much sugar is in a flavored coffee–but a 16-ounce Starbuck’s Frappacino has 44 grams of sugar!  That’s comparable to 10 teaspoonfuls.  A chocolate glazed cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts has 14 grams of sugar, or 3 teaspoonfuls.

Need more proof?  Okay, imagine that you’re in a supermarket.  Ravenous!  Just by the cash register are shelves and shelves of candy.  You think, “It’s only tiny–what’s the harm?”  Some statistics:

  • A 140 calorie York peppermint patty contains 25 grams of sugar.  Each sugar gram contains 4 calories–so 100 calories of that candy is sugar.
  • A milk chocolate Hershey bar is 110 Calories.  Since it contains 24 grams of sugar, that means the bar is 96 Calories of sugar.
  • A bag of M&Ms is 230 calories.  The bag contains 31 grams for a total of 124 sugar calories.

If we read labels, do some simple calculations and stay aware of what we’re eating we’ll all be fine.

Five Ways Parents Can Get Their Kids to Eat Veggies

In kids, nutrition, parents, Uncategorized on April 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Parents often worry about their kids’ nutrition.  Experts say we should get between 7-13 servings per day of fruits and vegetables—but what happens if your child just won’t eat them?  Or if your kid just has a small appetite?

And how do you even know what 7-13 servings really looks like?

Happy, healthy kids helping to prepare a meal.

As a nutrition and wellness coach, one of the most-often heard concerns is from parents who are concerned that their children just aren’t getting the right amount of nutrients.

Here are 5 Tips that will, hopefully, alleviate some of that parental concern regarding nutrition:

  1. Serve an after-school snack of cut-up and kid-friendly vegetables and fruit– such as celery or apples with a nut butter—peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut. Find some creative ideas to make fun and healthy veggie dips; for instance, a “salsa” made with stone fruit; summer’s almost here, so peaches, apricots and plums will be abundant!
  2. Serve salad before the entry—not with it or even after.  Think about it:  If your kid is ravenous and everything comes out at once—pizza and salad for instance—what do you think your child will choose??
  3. Grind up vegetables and camouflage them in soups, on pancakes, in smoothies. This is a great way to get things like kale and spinach into them–and they won’t even know.
  4. Let your kids help with the preparation and cooking.  It’s not only a bonding experience for all of you, but they might possibly take more interest in different types of foods.
  5. Take an “insurance policy” to be sure they’re getting enough nutrients.  Of course it’s better to eat your fruits and vegetables, but sometimes you need that extra assurance.  When that happens, make sure you select a high-quality product that’s backed by plenty of research and certified by an outside, third-party company.   I specifically like a specific product–that also comes in a kid-friendly chewable form.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a NYC-based, certified nutrition and wellness coach.  The author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, also writes a twice-monthly free newsletter called “Power Wellness.”  The newsletter is full of tips and suggestions for healthy eating and lifestyle.  To subscibe, click here: Power Wellness.

How to Meet your Nutritional Requirement of 7-13 Fruits and Vegetables a Day

In food, holistic health, lifestyle, nutrition, wellness on April 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Blueberries are full of vitamins and antioxidants. Try to eat a handful a day.

A while ago I had a conversation with someone and, when she found out I was a nutrition and wellness coach, one of her first comments was: “Oh, you must advise eating only organic produce.”

“My response would probably surprise you,” I said.

You see, experts agree on one thing:  We need 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  And the more colorful the assortment, the better–because each color has a different phytonutrient and it’s the phytonutrients and antioxidants that keep us healthy.  Antioxidants fight free radicals–those things that are responsible for aging and disease.  (The best way to explain a free radical is to compare it to rust–and what does THAT do to a car or boat??)

But we all know that our soil is now depleted and doesn’t contain many nutrients.  It’s not unusual to find wilted and brown produce in the markets, especially in those places that feel the necessity to hose it down every hour.  Even organic can be flown in, sit on trucks, sit in our refrigerators and oxidize. (I love this story:  I was walking through a well-known establishment and a sign read:  “Organic Tomatoes!”  Since I planned on making tomato sauce that evening, I was pretty excited.  As I got closer, though, in tiny type it said:  “Flown in from Mexico.”  HUH?

How do you get quality produce:

  • Buy locally grown.  If it’s locally grown, you’ll know it’s in season–and hasn’t spent much time on a truck or airplane.  BUT, you should still try to talk to the farmers to make sure their farming methods are responsible, and ask them about their philosophy on pesticides. If you’re lucky enough to live near a greenmarket, the farmers will be only too happy to chat you up.
  • Frozen sometimes gets a bad rap:  I live in the Northeast and this summer, when we were bracing for a hurricane, I noticed the supermarket shelves were depleted early on.  And what was left was completely disgusting.  In that case, I do recommend frozen; if it’s flash frozen, that means it gets frozen soon after it’s picked. But try to get a “clean” one, with no chemicals.  For instance, if you’re buying frozen broccoli, you want the label to read, “broccoli and water”–NOT “broccoli, water and a lot of things you can’t even pronounce.
  • Other:  While it’s always more desirable to eat your fruits and veggies, sometimes we just can’t get in the 7-13 servings.  So we need to “bridge the gap.”  And if we’re a parent, we’ll worry about getting that amount into our children.  In the case, you can take a capsule–but you’ll want it to be a “whole food” and not labeled as a supplemen,t and you want to be sure it’s certified and guaranteed by an  outside, third-party food certification company.

Complex, Simple Carbs–AND Energy

In fatigue, fitness, holistic health, lifestyle, nutrition, wellness on April 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm


Start your day with something like brown rice cereal and fruit; it's fast, delicious, healthy--and will take you all the way through to lunch so you won't experience that mid-morning slump.

Despite some of the popular low-carbohydrate diets, it’s important to remember that there are two types of carbohydrates: Complex, or good ones–or simple, or bad ones.

Yes, all carbohydrates do contain sugar, but COMPLEX CARBS also have vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. Since they get absorbed into the bloodstream at a steady rate, they provide long-lasting energy, breaking down smoothly and evenly, allowing your body to absorb all the “good stuff.”  Complex carbs also increase serotonin, the substance that makes you feel less stressed. Grains, fruit and beans are examples of complex carbs; so are veggies–and the more colorful the assortment, the better, because each color contains a different set of phytonutrients, thought to promote health.

Complex carbs get broken down into glucose molecules and then stored as fuel (glycogen) in the muscles and in the liver; when the body has an ample supply of glycogen fuel storage, it can run efficiently–and you will have plenty of energy!

In fact, if you have a complex carb at breakfast–especially a grain such as steel cut oatmeal or brown rice porridge with berries–it will break down slowly and take you all the way to lunch–so you’ll avoid that mid-morning slump.

SIMPLE CARBS–white flour, candy, cookies, pastry–contain NO vitamins, minerals and fiber. This means your body must go into its own store of nutrients, requiring much more effort to digest–and, hence, creating a deficit in your body. It also wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels, resulting in fatigue, irritability and stress.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a NYC-based, certified nutrition and wellness coach.  She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied over 100 dietary theories, lifestyle management techniques and cutting-edge coaching methods–with instructors such as Dr. Joel Fuhrman; Deepak Chopra; Dr. David Katz; Dr. Mark Hyman and others.  She is board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

She received her BA from Marist College, attended New York University, has two fitness certifications and is author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life.  Her website is:

Irene also writes a twice-monthly free newsletter that’s full of tips and suggestions for healthy eating and lifestyle.  You can subscribe to the newsletter called “Power Wellness” here.

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