Yoga and Nutrition

2016 wasn't all bad

Dear readers,
As I look through so many posts and rants about what an epic nightmare 2016 was, I feel the need to point out what was good and beautiful this year, as well. The world hurts. We hurt. But at the very same time, we can shine, give, love, and appreciate. 
Please join me in a wish for peace for all beings, an acceptance of what is and what we can do differently, and a commitment to do our work, each of us, to "be the change" we wish to see.
Now, a list of some personal moments from 2016 (no particular order) for which I am grateful. I invite you to make your own. 
With love, 
1. I celebrated my first full year with Parker, my parkour-practicing, ear-licking, crazy little tortoiseshell feline.
2. I visited Grenada, a little piece of paradise, with my honey. We swam and sunned. We met lovely people and good dogs. 
3. I ate comforting vegetarian meals and drank delicious wine at local restaurants like Heidi's, Lido, Felice, Boqueria, and Uva, where I am so thankful to always feel at-home and nurtured. 
4. I had the honor of running a 16K race at Save the Chimps, part of it actually within their sanctuary home in Florida. What an incredible place. What beautiful beings.
5. I finally saw the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden. It's a wonder of nature and feat of human creativity. 
6. Several dear friends had dear babies. Evie, Linnea, Alessio, I'm looking at you, kids. You give me hope.
7. I found even more depth and love in certain friendships. I am fortunate to know kind, courageous, bad-ass, and wicked smart women. (Friends, if you are reading this and think I might be talking about you, I'm sure I am.) 
8. Halloween offered a perfect reason to channel my inner discus fish and wear turquoise sequins.
9. I told my mom "I love you" as many times as I could. 
10. I played Kadima on a gorgeous shoreline. Neither seagulls nor the ocean waves stole our ball. 
11. Four cakes were made in my kitchen for four birthdays. Chocolate, hazelnut, sprinkles, lemon, vanilla,  buttercream, lots of layers... 
12. I went for god-knows-how-many solo runs, mostly in Central Park, on Randall's Island, and along the East River. These miles are my everyday meditations, my reminders that I am strong and capable, my time to be near trees and water. 
A view from the Chimpathon 16K at Save the Chimps Sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. 
The best tour guides at La Sagesse beach in Grenada. 
View from Randall's Island, NYC. 


Lemon vanilla layer cake.


Lady Parker. 




What needs to be said about red meat and cancer

In case you missed it, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report today that processed meat is a carcinogen and red meat is a probable carcinogen. Diets high in processed meat (eg, hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage) definitely increase cancer risk. Diets high in other red meat (eg, beef, veal, lamb, pork) may increase cancer risk. The strongest evidence was for colorectal cancer, but pancreatic, stomach, and prostate cancer were associated, as well.

WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, a group of 22 experts from 10 countries, based this conclusion on a review of about 800 human studies on diet and cancer. Evidence comes from epidemiologic research, studies involving large swathes of people, more ideal for addressing public health concerns than determining what any one individual should eat. And that’s exactly what the WHO report is meant for: to help governments make population-wide recommendations.

Is processed meat really a public health threat? Well… yes. When you consider that eating 50 grams a day of processed meat—about 2 slices of ham or bacon—increases colon cancer risk by 18%, and many, many people worldwide eat many, many slices of ham and bacon, the numbers add up quickly. About 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide can be attributed to eating processed meat, and potentially even more to eating other red meat.

None of this means you will get get cancer if you eat a slice of pepperoni pizza, and you won’t if you don’t. Cancer is more complex than that. You could eat all the vegetables, exercise every day, never smoke a cigarette, have no family history of cancer, and still develop the disease. Harsh truth.

But don’t you want to improve your odds?

Diet and lifestyle do matter. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 33% of breast cancer cases (that's 76,500 people) in the United States could be avoided with lifestyle-related changes.

Nutrition clearly plays a large role in obesity, which has been linked to about 10 different types of cancer and may soon surpass tobacco use as the number one modifiable contributor to cancer among Americans. The National Cancer Institute estimates obesity will lead to about 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the United States in the next 15 years.

So should you eat red meat or processed meat? As a vegetarian and a firm believer in the many benefits of plant-based diets, you won’t hear me say eating meat is a good practice. But if you don’t want to give it up entirely, no one, including the WHO, is saying you must.

Just. Have. Less.  

Moderation, folks. More beans, less beef. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Exercise. This is old news, though admittedly not a sweeping, sexy, or profitable statement. 

And for those people who are tweeting about life not being worth living without bacon? Get over it. I haven’t eaten a piece of pig in more than 20 years, and my life is worth more and more every day that I don't contribute to the pain of another living and feeling being. 


5 steps to a healthy (and delicious) 4th of July BBQ

1. Choose more vegetables.

Make a big greens salad instead of buying standard pasta salad or potato salad. Then, think vegetable kabobs with zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, and carrots…  grilled marinated tofu strips and cauliflower wedges…  even grilled pizza with tomato sauce, peppers, and onions.


2. Don’t underestimate the veggie burger.

Research shows less red meat and processed meat intake is associated with less risk for certain cancers. Veggie burgers, whether pre-made, frozen, or homemade, are a healthy and delicious alternative to hamburgers and hot dogs. Try a grilled black bean burger with lettuce, tomato, and avocado on a whole wheat English muffin. Pickles optional!


3. Avoid charring meat, poultry, or fish.

If you do grill animal proteins, avoiding charring them, which can create carcinogenic compounds. Reduce risk by marinating or pre-cooking first, avoid prolonged cooking times at high heat, and  remove any blackened parts before eating.


4. Grill up some fruit for dessert.

Grilled peaches, nectarines, plums, and pineapple slices make a lovely after-dinner (or any time) sweet. Try them topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon, reduced balsamic, lemon zest, or chopped basil.


5. Get active.

Take a long walk after dinner, ride bikes to the fireworks instead of driving, play some Frisbee or volleyball while the grill is going, or if you're lucky enough to be near the water, go for a swim. 



Peanut butter cookies you'll adore

Delicious, tender peanut butter cookies. Vegan. Do it now, before that time of year when it's just too hot to turn the oven on. 

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs plain soy milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a standing mixer, beat sugars, oils, and peanut butter. Add vanilla and soy milk. Continue to beat until well mixed. 
Mix in flours, baking soda and powder, and salt, until just combined.
The dough will be a bit sandy in texture, but that's ok. Shape it into balls and press to flatten on a cookie sheet into 2" rounds. Or a little bigger, if you like (I like). You'll probably have to "organize" the edges into a round shape since the dough isn't very sticky. 
Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until cookies are just slightly browned at the edges. Let them rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
You know what to do from here.



Avocado Pesto with Spaghetti 

I first experimented with this recipe when I was making dinner for a new friend who doesn't like cheese (I know, I know!). I figured upon serving it, I'd just sneak a little grated Pecorino to my own plate because... Pecorino. What I found was it needed no cheese at all due to the robust taste of the basil, lemon, and garlic, and the creaminess of the avocado. The recipe below is the one I liked best after a few more tries and tweaks. It's 100% vegan, even if you aren't. 

As always, adapt as you like so it suits your own palate. 

(Picture below is a slightly different adaption with casarecce and broccoli -- fine substitutes for the spaghetti and chopped kale, if you prefer.)



12 oz spaghetti

1 Hass avocado

2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 teaspoons olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup fresh basil leaves + several additional whole leaves for serving

(optional) 1 clove garlic 

1 cup chopped kale

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 tsp lemon zest

Salt and black pepper, to taste



Bring to boil 4 cups of water, lightly salted, in a large saucepan. Add spaghetti and set timer to cook to time specified on box.

In the meantime. place peeled avocado, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, walnuts, 1 cup basil, and garlic (if using) in the bowl of a food processor and puree until combined. 

Immediately before draining pasta, add 1 cup chopped kale to water to blanch. Drain pasta and kale and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Return to saucepan and toss pesto sauce with pasta and kale until spaghetti strands are evenly coated with sauce.

Serve topped with additional whole basil leaves, tomato halves, pine nuts, lemon zest, and salt and pepper, to taste. 

Makes 4 servings.