5 Ways to Eat Mindfully

the-stones-263661_960_720I have been to many nutrition conferences over the years, and now I am learning how to go about treating obesity with behavior change at UC San Diego’s Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research. It is striking to me how often mindfulness comes up. Considering how much time we spend preoccupied with food and eating, you would think we would spend more time experiencing our food, but many of us mindlessly scarf down our meals as we work, study, drive, or watch tv. We dont even think about whether we are hungry. A dramatic example of this is the incredible work of researcher from Cornell named Bryan Wansink whose experiments have gotten a lot of attention. He keeps refilling people’s bowls of soup through a hole on the bottom – literally, a bottomless bowl of soup. People who eat from the bottomless bowls eat FOUR times the food as those who get their food in a regular bowl. To me, this is signalling that it is possible we dont always eat in response to hunger. Heres the video:

Eating when you are hungry can be very powerful, and trying to actually consciously experience the food as you are eating it may be even more powerful. Here are a couple of simple ways to get you to do just that.

  1. Do the Hershey’s Kiss Meditation: the Hersheys Kiss Meditation is a technique in which you meditate on the experience as you eat a Hershey’s kiss. This can be done with any kind of food obviously, but there is something truly powerful about creating an emotionally positive experience around eating something as associate with guilt and indulgence as chocolate. I have seen people cry as they describe what its like to allow themselves to experience eating as a pleasurable act. A really quick version:
    • Look at the Hersheys kiss and notice what emotions come to mind. Do you feel hunger? Guilt? Excitement? Joy? Now open the wrapper. Notice the noise that it makes. Notice how the wrapper feels in your hand. Put the candy in your palm. Hold it up to your nose and smell it. All along, notice the emotions this brings up. Now, place the candy in your mouth. What does it feel like? Try not to chew it! How does it taste? Does it feel different on what part of the tongue than another? What emotions come up for you? 
    • Here is another nice version by Susan Albers on Psychology today.  
  2. Try Urge Surfing: Urge surfing is a meditative exercise that brings awareness to where urges reside in our body and how they are temporary. Here is a short description of an urge surfing exercise from drugrehab.org (Urge-surfing is commonly used to help with cravings for food, but it is also used to help with cravings for other issues as well)
      • Acknowledge how you are experience the craving. Do this by sitting in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths and focus your attention inward. Allow your attention to wander through your body. Notice where in your body you experience the craving and what the sensations are like. Notice each area where you experience the urge, and tell yourself what you are experiencing. For example, “Let me see . . . My craving is in my mouth and nose and in my stomach.”
      • Focus on one area where you are experiencing the urge. Notice the exact sensations in that area. For example, do you feel hot, cold, tingly, or numb? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? How large an area is involved? Notice the sensations and describe them to yourself. Notice the changes that occur in the sensation. “Well, my mouth feels dry and parched. There is tension in my lips and tongue. I keep swallowing. As I exhale, I can imagine the smell and tingle of alcohol.”
      • Repeat the focusing with each part of your body that experiences the craving. Pay attention to and describe to yourself the changes that occur in the sensations. Notice how the urge comes and goes.
      • Ride out your craving, releasing tension with each breath. Stay with the meditation until the craving subsides. Many people, when they urge surf, notice that after a few minutes the craving has vanished. The purpose of this exercise, however, is not to make the craving go away but to experience the craving in a new way. If you practice urge surfing, you will become familiar with your cravings and learn how to ride them out until they diminish naturally.- Exercise from drugrehab.org
    • Below it is a video that goes through an urge surfing exercise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__0dNKJV0zo
  3. Don’t eat in front of the TV: Eating in front of the TV makes us eat more because we pay less attention to our hunger signals. This makes us eat after we are no longer hungry. This regular over-eating suppresses the hunger signals our body is sending us eventually making the problem a bigger and bigger one. Here is a link to a nice explanation of how eating mindlessly causes physiological derangements in our ability to feel satiated. 
  4. Eat by yourself – I am all for eating at the family dinner table, but once in a while, it can be a nice exercise to eat by yourself, and of course, not in front of the TV or while using other electronics. Research shows we tend to eat more in the presence of others, especially in large groups. Here is a nice little article on the subject. 
  5. Only Eat When you are Hungry and Stop When you are Satisfied – Intuitive eating is a behavioral weight loss technique that began with , Evelyn Tribole RD, a dietitian who discovered that emotions were an important part of the eating experience. There is still a lot to study, but there is some promising research behind the approach. The subtitle eat when you are hungry and stop when satisfied I think captures the basics, but there is a lot more to it. If you are someone who struggles with emotional eating, intuitive eating may be something to look into. Here is a link to the 10 principals of intuitive eating.  

Emotional eating is different from an eating disorder, which needs to be treated by professionals. Please see a healthcate professional if you think you may have an eating disorder. Here is an online self-assessment for eating disorders, but it is not a substitute for a diagnosis by a health professional.

Healthy Kale Stir-Fry


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Nothing cooks faster than a stir-fry dish and nothing is healthier than kale. So when I am busy and hungry, my quickest solution is to do a quick kale stir-fry that satisfies my stomach and my body.

The recipe below is pretty easy and only takes about 15 minutes to cook from preparation until serving. I added eggs in my dish, but you can also cook without them if you want an vegan option.C99D15A4-0A12-4E73-BCF0-DEDCFE824450

Ingredients: (serves 3)

  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil (you can also sub it with olive oil)
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of tumeric
  • 1 tsp of chili oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Wash and chop all the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large wok or a frying pan with the coconut oil in low-medium heat.
  3. Add the sliced green onions into the wok, then break the eggs into the wok.
  4. Slowly let them cook until the egg white congeals. Stir the eggs occasionally like you are making scrambled eggs
  5. Add kale, cabbage, carrots into the mix.
  6. Season the mixture with salt (~1 tbsp) and tumeric. Gently mix and stir the content of the pan to mix the seasonings.
  7. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 1 minute
  8. Add pepper and chili oil into the mix and stir-fry x 5 seconds.
  9. Serve hot!


3 Keys to Picking a Healthy Yogurt in the Grocery Aisle

From greek yogurt, probiotic yogurt, whipped yogurt, and everything in between, navigating through all the selections seems a bit overwhelming. ticker-pic-and-story-pic-fruit-and-yougurt-mix

Here are 3 key things to help you choose a healthy yogurt:

  1. Look at the ingredients list: the first two ingredients should be: milk, then lactobacillus (example: L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum).
  2. When in doubt, go Greek. In comparison to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt are lower in sugar and have less lactose (so good option for our less lactose-tolerant friends).
  3. Avoid added sugar in your yogurt. Opt to add your own honey/fruits to the yogurt to avoid too much sugar.



Healthy Green Smoothie


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Believe it or not, arugula and bananas are a great combination for a smoothie. I know it sounds weird, but don’t dismiss it until you try it! The addition of lime also makes this smoothie refreshing. Rich in potassium and magnesium, this smoothie is also great for your heart health.


  • 2 slices lime or lime juice
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup of arugula
  • 1 cup of milk alternative (such as soy or almond milk)
  • 3-4 cubes of ice
  • 1 cup of orange juice


  1. add all the ingredients into a blender
  2. blend until smooth. For vitamix-blend on 4 for 10 seconds, then turn it on high and blend on 7 for another 10 seconds
  3. Serve immediately!

-NZ (recipe created by my SO)

3 Ways To take care of SI-Joint Pain Without Medication or Surgery

I have struggled with SI joint pain for many years, and short of an orthopedist, I have been to all kinds of healthcare professionals – physical medicine and rehab doctors, sports medicine doctors, osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists – you name it. Needless to say, my pain is chronic now, but I have come to figure out how to keep the pain in check, without medication.

Sacroiliac joint (aka SI joint) is the tiny joint that connects your pelvic bone to your spine with its main job to support the upper body. SI joint pain is a common cause of low back pain, and chronic pain. Almost all adults in the US will experience low back pain at least once in their life, and estimated 1/5 to 1/3 of those cases are caused by SI joint pain. People with SI joint pain usually have worsening pain with twisting or rotating motions. They often find that their pain gets better when they engage their abdominal muscles, which helps stabilize the pelvis. Standing up from a seated position or sitting up from a lying position is hard. Asymmetry in the pelvis from posture or scoliosis is one example. Personally I have both, and a fall a few years ago put me over the edge. A few other factors can worse SI joint pain – one is lack of flexibility, and increased tension in the surrounding muscles, and decreased stability of the muscles that keep the pelvis stable.

Treatments for SI joint pain can include anything from exercises, to massage, to oral pain medication to injectables. I am not one to shy away from these treatments for those who will not be harmed by them, and for those whose quality of life is crippled by pain. However, I really think the non-pharmacologic and non-invasive treatments – the treatments for issues that do not involve medicines or surgery -don’t get enough attention. I have a whole blog post on no-medicine/no-surgery ways of dealing with chronic pain, but sometimes you need just the right medicine for the cure. Heres a few golden nuggets of advice for fellow sufferers of SI joint pain.

  1. Try the below muscle energy techniques. Do each one for about 30 seconds 3 times. They can reset things pretty immediately.  


If you don’t really feel like the pictures help, here is an awesome video

This particular one is hard to understand without a youtube video. Thankfully, this is only a 39 second video.

2. Try foam rolling! 

There is no good way to describe how to  describe how to foam roll, but it will make your life so much better. My pilates instructor Michele is so amazing, she put these videos together JUST for me. They are fabulous. Click on the images to go to the website where her videos are.

Foam-rolling hipsFoam-rolling legs

3. Try these stretches: 


“Love Juice” Iron-rich Smoothie


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As Valentines day approaches, some of you may be wondering what would be a fun, creative and healthy way to take advantage of another American tradition that usually makes for fun cubicle decorating and themed parties. Well, do I have the answer for you – an iron-rich beet and apple smoothie! This smoothie is named after one of my favorite cafe owners in history – Drew, from the Namaste Cafe in New Brunswick, NJ. Drew no longer owns Namaste Cafe, but he came up with all the great recipes they ever served, and one of my favorite juices there was this apple, beet, lemon, ginger conconction called love juice. A search for iron-rich foods yielded this amazing recipe, which reminds me so much of the love juice at Namaste Cafe

love juice 2

Some caveats: If you have anemia, make sure you are evaluated by a doctor or healthcare professional. If you have moderate to severe anemia, you may need to take iron pills, or you might even need more significant intervention, such as a blood transfusion. This is not a substitute for necessary medical care (as is the case with anything else on this blog).

One thing about iron pills is that they are somewhat constipating. This smoothie is quite the opposite. No sense feeling bound up in addition to being sick! This is a great smoothie for those who are anemic or have a tendency for heavy monthly cycles, even if you are already on an iron pill for a short period of time.

Men have to be wary of having too much iron, but this does not have enough iron to cause iron overload in men (men need about 8mg of iron. This smoothie has about 2 mg. Pre-menopausal women need about 18mg per day)


  • 2 small beets, cut into large chunks
  • 1 apple – large chunks
  • 4 dates
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • 1-1.5 cup water


  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. May need to add extra water to achieve desired consistency.
  2. Pour into a cup and enjoy!



Healthy Vegetarian & Gluten-Free Stuffed Peppers


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Stuffed peppers are a healthy and versatile dish because you can choose to put a variety of ingredients as the “stuffing”. Traditional stuffing is made usually with ground meat, cheese and some veggies but I like to make my own version that is both vegetarian and gluten-free. Another great thing about this stuffed pepper dish is that you can make it either on the stove or in a crockpot. IMG_0505

Ingredients: (serving size=6)

  • 6 bell peppers
  • 8 oz of organic frozen spinach (preferably whole leaf)
  • 6 oz of organic cottage cheese
  • 2 cups of cooked brown rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 1 cup of carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup of onions, diced
  • parsley, chopped
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of pepper flakes
  • Options: parmesan cheese, grated

Crockpot Directions:

  1. Cook the brown rice either in a rice cooker or on the stove top. Do this few hours early or the night before (you can refrigerate the rice).
  2. Cut the tops off the bell pepper and removed all the seeds and ribs.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions become translucent.
  4. Add the mushrooms, spinach and corn. Cover the skillet and let it cook in low-medium heat until the frozen spinach is melted (~3 min).
  5. Add the cooked rice and season with pepper flakes and salt
  6. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, mix the 2 eggs, then add the mix into the rest of the stuffing.
  7. Add chopped parsley, cottage cheese. Blend and season the mix with pepper.
  8. Place the stuffed peppers (with the opening facing up) into the crock pot.
  9. Using a spoon fill each of the peppers with the “stuffing”.
  10. Add the vegetable stock to the base of the crockpot. Avoid adding any liquid to the inside of the pepper.
  11. Option: top each of the stuffed peppers with grated parmesean.
  12. Cook the stuffed peppers on high heat for 3 hours.
  13. Serve warm and enjoy!

Stop Top Directions:

  1. Cook the brown rice either in a rice cooker or on the stove top. Do this few hours early or the night before (you can refrigerate the rice).
  2. Cut the tops off the bell pepper and removed all the seeds and ribs. The split the peppers into half vertically.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onion becomes translucent.
  4. Add the mushrooms, spinach and corn. Cover the skillet and let it cook in low-medium heat until the frozen spinach is melted. (~3 min)
  5. Add the cooked rice and season with pepper flakes and salt
  6. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, mix the 2 eggs, then add the mix into the rest of the stuffing.
  7. Add chopped parsley, cottage cheese. Blend and season the mix with pepper.
  8. In a separate skillet, add ~1 tbsp of olive oil and place the stuffed peppers the skillet. Let it cook in medium heat ~3 mins.
  9. Turn off the stove, and using a spoon fill each of the peppers with the “stuffing”.
  10. Add the vegetable stock to the base of the pan. Avoid adding any liquid to the inside of the pepper.
  11. Option: top each of the stuffed peppers with grated parmesean.
  12. Put a lid over the skillet and cook the stuffed peppers on low heat for  ~30 minutes or until the liquids are gone.
  13. Serve warm and enjoy!


5 Easy Filling Snacks with Peanut Butter that Will Make You Ditch the Snickers: All Less than 5 Ingredients!

Today, I had a craving for one of my breakfast staples, which is super filling, and peanut butter is the major ingredient. For me, when trying to eat healthy, feeling full and satisfied is important. Peanut butter is one thing that consistently does a great job of filling my tummy, and over the years I have found some great recipes to fill my life with some rich, nutty flavor but still keep it healthy. Here are some examples.

Note: I always use natural peanut butter with no added sugar, preferably organic, and preferably made with 100% from valencia peanuts.

  1. Peanut butter, chocolate chip and banana sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread: IMG_2431This is one of my go to quick meals, especially for breakfast. I am not a huge fan of Ezekiel bread, but I love the concept, and they really do knock it out of the park with the cinnamon raisin. Slather on a thick layer of peanut butter, sprinkle on a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips, and cover with slices of half of a large banana. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. This is about 400 calories, is SUPER filling and really delicious. Its a really sensory experience too because of the aroma of the cinnamon-raisin and the peanut butter.


2. Ants on a log:

This is a great kid-friendly snack that my friend Surbhee  (A co-founder of this blog) taught me. She spent years working as a nanny, and gave me this recipe when I had to work with some clients who had young children. I still use it as a staple and if you ate these when you were a kid its one of those get-in-touch-with-your-inner-child moments. Spread some peanut butter on a small celery stick, space out some raisins, and you are in business.

3. Grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich:

I have the edgy veg blog to thank for this one. I use trader-joes brand rustico bread instead of Ezekiel, but same concept.

4. Peanut Sauce:

Peanut sauce is a super easy condiment and all you need to whip it up is peanut butter, soy-sauce and sriracha. Maybe some sugar or honey. Check out our recipe here. This is great if you have a snack attack – whip this baby up and use it as a dip for carrot sticks, roasted or steamed broccoli, or as a topping for some spiralized veggies.grain_free_chocolate_chip_cookie_dough_bites1

5. Peanut-butter Cookie dough bites:

These grain-free, vegan little gems made primarily of chick-peas are super filling and super delicious. Just look at them! They have an incredibly short ingredient list, are FULL of protein, and taste amazing.

Goji Berry Tea


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Doing a detox or a cleanse in the new year? One great substitution for sugar and/or caffeine is the energy-boosting goji berry. Native to China, this reddish orange berry has long been used in Chinese medicine and food for its powerful nutritional benefits.

herbal20tea20with20goji20berriesA randomized, placebo-controlled study showed drinking goji juice significantly improved energy level, mental acuity and your sleep cycle.

Goji berries are sold in their dry form available at most health food stores. You can consume them either as is (like raisins), or brew them to make a tea. Since goji berries are naturally sweet, I don’t use any sweetener.

Goji berry tea Instructions:

  • Bring two cups of filtered water to a boil and pour the boiled water into a tea pot.
  • Add a half cup of goji berries and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.
  • To get all the goji juice into the tea, use a spoon to press on the goji berries.
  • Strain as you would a regular tea.
  • Option to add lemon slices to your tea if desired.
  • Serve the tea hot or chilled!


Users Guide to Mung-Bean Sprouts


stock photo by dreamstime.com

First off, I want to apologize for being inactive for almost a month. The Practice Vitality writers have all had some personal issues they have had to deal with, and somehow all at the same time. It’s not easy to share issues of a personal nature over the internet, but we have always wanted Practice Vitality to be about a healing community, so once things simmer down, I will let my friends in the blogosphere know what has been happening with me (but not my co-contributors). I will say this – being a doctor and a patient at the same time has been an interesting experience.

With the new year coming, probably many of you will want to start the year off with a cleanse. Personally, I favor cleanses in the spring and the summer, when many of the fresh, cool, crisp foods used in a cleanse are better tolerated. Mung beans sprouts are a great cleansing food for the winter due to their easy digestibility. In Ayurveda, they are considered cooling, so adding some warming Indian spices and healthy oils can help make them more suitable for the winter.

Mung bean sprouts are a childhood food for me, but they have been considered a healthy food for thousands of years such as in ancient health systems like Ayurveda. For more info, check out this post by Joyful Belly Ayurveda – one of my favorite websites for ayurvedic nutrition. It’s a very user-friendly and approachable resource for ayurvedic and integrative nutrition. Mung beans are high in one of my favorite compounds – resistant starch, which has shown some evidence that it can be helpful for colon health and for the gut microbiome.

How to Make Mung Bean Sprouts:

Mung bean sprouts take a little planning, but very little time or preparation. Usually, I make mine over 2 nights.

  1. Soak your mung beans. I soak them at least for 12 hours. I change out the water after a day if I don’t end up going to the next step.
  2. Drain out the water, and cover the bowl of mung beans with a lid. Place a tissue on the bottom of the bowl to collect the excess water.
  3. Wait a few hours – as few as 3 hours but can be as long as 12hrs.


  • The sprouts need a moist environment but they should not be wet.
  • Alternately, you can put the beans in a moist cloth and gather the cloth tightly in a ball which you can let hang in the kitchen. You can also just put the mung beans in a nut-milk bag and let them hang.
  • If you live in a cold climate, you may want to put the sprouts in the oven with the pilot light on to help them along.
  • Cooking sprouts thoroughly can prevent illness from sprouts
  • Wash sprouts thoroughly before eating them or cooking with them
  • Wash seeds in peroxide preheated to 140 degrees fahrenheit to help minimize bacteria. Peroxide is not a harmful chemical in these small amounts.
  • The longer you wait for the seeds to sprout the more likely you are to have bacteria on the sprouts.
  • Refrigerate sprouts once you have made them.

Now, you should all know that I love sprouts for the health benefits, but there are risks, just as for anything. Sprouts have to grow in warmer, more humid temperatures, which bacteria also love and so there is a risk of food poisoning with E. Coli. Making sprouts at home actually has more risk than buying sprouts outside because the sprouts makers work with the FDA to minimize the risk. Here is a website from UC Davis the has some suggestions on how to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Pregnant women, young children and elderly, and people who could have a compromised immune system should not eat home-made sprouts. 

Here are some other posts to use as references to help you get a good idea on how to make mung bean sprouts:


  • Serve Mung bean sprouts plain as a snack, or with a couple of squeezes lemon, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of  chili powder and turmeric. Chopped cilantro is a nice garnish. You can also add carrots and grated fresh coconut.
  • Add warming indian tempering spices, such as in this short youtube video. Sesame oil and ghee are great options, but keep in mind that in Ayurveda sesame oil is heating and if you have heavy periods they can get worse if you use sesame.

gluten free fridays

checkout gluten free fridays at http://vegetarianmamma.com/gluten-free-fridays/



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