How does your garden grow

Eggplant from last year’s garden

One of the things that I most love about no longer living in the middle of New York City is having a back yard. Specifically so I can have a garden. Last year I hastily planted my 4′ x 4′ raised bed about a month after I had my daughter. I felt lucky to get anything in the ground. Needless to say, my yield was low. I got a nice amount of tomatoes, mostly small, 3 or 4 eggplant, a few jalapeños and 1 zucchini.

This year I’ve got a little more time to devote to my garden so I’m hoping that means I get more out of it. I decided to go all in and try my hand at growing plants from seeds. I found a great website called Sprout Robot where you put in your zip code and pick the plants you want to grow and it gives you step-by-step instructions on when and how to plant them. I’ve already got some leeks sprouting and some eggplant and tomatoes planted under my indoor growing lights.

One of the issues I faced last year was overcrowding so I’m doing a little research about how much room each plant needs and hopefully expanding our garden to get the most out of each variety.

Dietitian Meeting #1

Photo Credit: Suat Emam

As part of the Get Well Challenge, I get to meet with a dietitian once a month for 15 minutes and today was my first appointment. Truth be told, I was a little skeptical about what she was going to tell me in 15 minutes. I really thought she was going to go through my food log and scold me for making less than desirable choices like the 100 calorie Cheez-it packs I bought from Costco. But it was actually pretty helpful. Jane Wilson is the resident dietician at Ellwood Thompson’s. We talked about my goals and she broke down how much protein and fat I should be shooting for each day along with adjusting the calorie recommendation that myfitnesspal.com gave me. She gave me some recipes that encourage a more plant-based diet. I left feeling like I had more direction and wasn’t just guessing as much about my nutritional choices. Tomorrow is the first weigh-in. It will be interesting to see what the results are. I can see me losing or gaining a few pounds.

On a bit of a side note – I really like MyFitnessPal. I can scan bar codes on my iPhone to get the exact nutritional information or access the extensive library on the site to log exactly what I’m eating. It’s pretty convenient as far as calorie tracking goes. At the end of every day it gives you an estimate of how much you will lose in 5 weeks based on that day. I wish it gave you a running estimate taking every day into account since no two days are the same, but an estimate is just that. The weekly weigh-ins will really show whether or not the tracking is helping. It also has a social feature where you can share your progress with friends if you’re into that.

2012 Superfood: Chia

Photo credit: Gabriella Ruellan

One of the superfoods for 2012 that have been getting a lot of buzz are chia seeds. Yep, this is the same chia as the terra cotta pets that are popular holiday novelty gifts. Now, you can find bags of the seeds at your local health food store. I’ve been eating them for a couple years because of their amazing benefits. Nutritionist Lisa Suriano says that by weight, the seeds have more Omega 3s than salmon and more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal. The seeds are very small and expand with a gel-like coating when they get wet. They don’t have a particular taste, but add a little crunch as a topping when they are dry.

The easiest way to eat chia seeds is to sprinkle them over a salad or bowl of oatmeal. And because they will expand in your stomach, Chia seeds are sometimes used to help keep you full.

You can also expand them before eating. One of my favorite ways to eat the expanded seeds is by mixing them with low-fat coconut milk and agave syrup. You soak the seeds in the milk for at least a half hour and it creates a rice-pudding like consistency. This is a very low-glycemic snack that appeases my sweet tooth. The coconut milk adds calories and some fat, so I don’t make this too often. If you’re like me and like specific measures, here’s a link to the recipe.

Health Warrior Chia Bars

By far the most convenient way to get your chia seeds are in protein bars. Health Warrior Chia bars are only 100 calories and taste pretty good. Right now they have a peanut butter & chocolate flavored bar, with plans to add acai berry and coconut flavors soon. I found them at my local health food store and was really impressed with the non-processed ingredients.


Time to Think About Summer Produce

It seems like an odd time of year to think about where you’ll get your fruits and vegetables come summer, but it’s actually the perfect time to consider buying a share in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program. Simply put, CSA members buy a share of a farm’s product and receive regular deliveries throughout the growing season. Participants pay upfront now so farmers can plan how much they will plant and buy materials. You also want to reserve your spot while there is still room available.

The benefit to consumers is farm fresh produce usually grown close to home. It’s also common receive a greater variety of foods than you would normally buy at the grocery store. Depending on the farm you choose, you might have multiple types of apples or corn delivered or even some produce you wouldn’t normally buy. The downside is figuring out how to prepare the bounty you’ll receive.

I just relocated to Virginia and here some farmers team up with one another to offer CSA members an even greater variety of options and a longer growing season. One CSA has options for a produce, share, diary share or a mushroom share to choose from.

Many farms also offer options to harvest some of your own food to keep consumer costs low. So take a few minutes and do a little research on the CSAs in your area. It could change the way you eat this summer.

Photo credit: happykanppy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net