Tag Archives: Balanced Diet

5 Effortless Tips for a Healthy Holidays (and some exciting news!)

10 Dec

Effortless and holiday. I know, this seems like the most convoluted word association I could have made. While your head is swimming with advent calendars, RSVP’s and post office line-ups, it is possible to stay healthy with very little effort. In fact as you’ll soon read, these tips will actually take a load off your already maximized December.

But first…I have some exciting news for The Hearty Heart! The site has now moved to it’s very own home:


This blog is a true source of pride for me, and your encouragement has been a big part of my decision to move the blog to it’s own self hosted .com address, where I have the ability to completely moderate the content, design and continued strong growth of The Hearty Heart. It’s the same health focused content, just in a slightly more simplistic layout as I learn the ropes of blog design.

My one holiday wish would be for all my readers to take but a moment to head over to the new site to replace your Hearty Heart bookmarks, links, and most importantly email subscription! I promise it’s as effortless as the health tips in my latest post. Just look for the“Email Subscription” link on the new site’s sidebar.

If there was a way for me to update your email subscription for you, believe me I would have! I’ll re pay your efforts with even more amazing posts to come…Deal?!

**Please note, from the old site (this one) I will be posting one more reminder to switch over to the new site. If you’ve already made the switch, you can ignore this message when it comes in a few weeks. Thanks again for heading over to the new site to check out the latest: “5 Effortless Tips for a Healthy Holidays”**

Thank-you for continuing to follow along!


The Japanese Diet: Secrets of Bento Box Nutrition and More…

25 Nov

Please Note: This site has moved to it’s own home at: http://www.theheartyheart.com/

You can find this article in it’s new home here

Beginning Old Post: Spending the last three months experiencing first hand some of the incredibly valuable (traditional) Japanese dietary habits has been an eye opener. The true essence of Japanese nutrition is also the secret to some of the world’s longest living populations (c/o: Okinawa, Japan). They are: portion control, shared meals, a slow pace of intake, and variety. Interested in putting these into practice? Read on…


These insider secrets I would actually argue are rather intuitive principles if we truly listen to our bodies and palates, and create meals and snacks to satisfy not only our taste-buds but one of the most basic functions food can fulfill: social bonding. While living in Japan I’ve been eating along these guidelines as much as possible, and one of the greatest benefits I’ve noticed has been improved digestion. With efficient digestion we allow our bodies to utilize nutrients and eliminate waste more effectively. This results in a better energy balance and is a great preventive measure against the onset of disease.

Some of the most powerful habits I’d encourage you to try, include:

  • Don’t Eat on the Run: A couple times I’ve made the mistake of trying to scarf down an snack while dashing in between work and the train. A few embarrassed stares (on my behalf) from passers-by were enough to help me realize my faux pas. Slow down, sit down, relax and savor your meals and snacks. This will boost your production of stomach acid and lower your cortisol levels (stress hormone involved in chronic inflammation).
  • Share Treats: Remember my post about the 80:20 Rule? Let’s not kid ourselves; we all enjoy (and deserve!) a little treat every now and then. What if I challenged you to never eat one alone though? I think we’ve all selfishly devoured a dessert (or two) all to ourselves, but it’s a rare occurrence in Japan. You’ve seen the (average) size of an Asian waistline right? The secret here is everyone shares treats. Whether bringing baking into work; meeting friends for dessert; or bringing a treat home for family; a dessert shared is one with built in portion control, and the release of endorphins from social bonding. This will help distract from any potential binging.
  • Use Chopsticks: Try timing yourself to eat your favorite meal with western cutlery, and then again with chopsticks. I dare you to eat it faster with chopsticks…go on see if you can! Eating with chopsticks will slow your meal pacing down allowing you to properly digest your food. Add thorough chewing in between bites and you’ve doubled your nutritional score in my books.
  • Incorporate Variety and Eat According to the Season: The price of non local,  and un seasonal fruit in Japan is enough to help me stay on track with this principle. Regardless, eating what’s in season is our best bet from an environmental standpoint. One of the main impacts being reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the reduction in long distance transport. Variety, as found in the traditional Bento Boxes (see discussion below), encourages us to be creative with meal preparation, and allows us to not get bored with our healthfully prepared meals. This keeps us on track when we are already thinking of every excuse to stray off target with our eating habits.
  • Portion Control: Ala Bento Boxes! I fell in love with Bento Boxes during my very first lunchtime break at the ESL preschool I’ve been working at. I am amazed at the diversity of ingredients, the creative presentation of a wide variety of foods (including seaweeds, fermented beans, soy, and other menu items most kids would turn their nose at), and ultimately the built in portion control exercised by the compartments and dividers involved in a Bento.

Speaking of Bento Boxes…

For some incredible inspiration, you must check out one of my favorite Bento Box makers, Claudia of Cloud9 Food. Check out her Kyarabin (Character Bento) at the following link (I love her Sea Turtle and Kookaburra!). Stay a while and explore, I’m sure you’ll be inspired:



If you are ready to make your own, here’s a great link for Bento Box novices:


And lastly, some of my own Bento making endeavors for your viewing pleasure below. As well, a few special moments during lunch this week at the pre-school:

"Zoony" (bento box brand) showing off her makers (that's me!) first Bento attempt: steamed veggies; hard boiled egg; soba noodles and black sesame; edamame; cabbage and seaweed salad; sauteed onions and garlic; and grilled chicken. Whew!

Mariella loves her tomatoes!

Sophia and her bento

Heather "Sensei" and her veggie based bento. Nice choice!

If you’re really digging Japanese eating and the effects on longevity, you can read more at the Okinawa (Japan) Centenarian Study: http://www.okicent.org/

80:20 Rule: Create Sanity Amongst the Eating Sins

30 Oct

Please Note: This site has moved to it’s own home at: http://www.theheartyheart.com/

You can find this article in it’s new home here

Beginning Old Post: As we wrap up a weekend of health detours (thanks Halloween!), and retailers make the inevitable transition to Christmas decor (gasp, already!), we might pause to think: how do we create health promoting balance in amongst all the sweet distractions and celebrations life presents us with?

If you’re new to the concept of the 80:20 rule, allow me to make the introduction. The 80:20 principle consists of making a genuine, consistent effort to eat well 80% of the time, and therefore allow yourself the flexibility and peace of mind to indulge the other 20% of the time.

I’m of course not advocating the justification of junk food. What I am suggesting is we relax a bit, and recognize that sometimes it’s nice to allow ourselves a bit of guilty pleasure in moderation to help us make conscious, nourishing choices more often than not. Reducing or eliminating the depravation mindset is the key to staying on track with health promoting choices.

For cardiovascular health this is an extremely important principle. Often, when making adjustments towards a heart healthy diet we focus on what we can’t have: reducing sodium, cutting back on refined foods, reducing sweets etc. I suggest we alter our mindset to include the 80:20 rule in our quest to live heartily.

Our physical wellbeing, and in turn our very essence will reflect a shift towards sanity, balance, flexibility and forgiveness. All are essential properties of a hearty heart.

In practice the 80:20 rule looks like this:

1. Focusing 80% of your efforts on the health promoting choices that we know are both practically and intuitively best for a nourished body. I call this “On Target”.

2. 20% of the time we allow ourselves to indulge a little more than usual, or to say “yes” when we might otherwise not. This could be at a social gathering, celebrating a special occasion, happy hour or coffee break with colleagues-you are the referee and get to make the choices of when to flex and when to stay on target.

Assuming we, on average, consume 3 main meals a day, and 2 mini meals or snacks a day, and with 7 days in a week, you can either:

  • Eat “on target” 5.6 days a week, and flex your eating for 1.4 days a week. Or rounded off, 5.5 days “on target”, 1.5 days of flexibility (hello Friday night and Saturday!)
  • Or, you can allow yourself one mini meal or main meal of flexibility a day, and the remaining 4 meals and snacks are “on target”.

Of course, if you’re feeling amazing, and loving being on target, there’s nothing stopping you from staying on target for all your meals. Go you! Just be conscious of a time you might try to justify straying way off track because you’ve been so diligent…

All in all, not such an intimidating “rule” right?! I challenge you to try adopting it and see what the impact is on your waistline, conscience, and sense of well being!

Stay tuned for more nourishing ideas to come this month about foods to help keep you “on target”…