Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feeling Overstuffed & Undernourished? Put Your Kitchen on a Mission!

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Let's face it: Now that the holidays are behind us, we're all feeling a little overstuffed and undernourished. Most of us know what we need to do - eat better, more vegetables, more exercise -  but it just seems a little lackluster and difficult. I'm pleased to be working with Chef Mike, the Co-op, and area experts to launch our Kitchen on a Mission: 10-Week Healthy Cooking Series  on Monday nights starting January 7! We won't be dolling out any magic bullets, but we seek to inspire you with delicious, simple, healthy recipes and cooking tips to reinvigorate and expand your healthy kitchen. Click here to learn more about the series and how to register. But, in the meantime, here are some simple tips to get you on your way:

Get Nutrient-Dense: As yummy as pasta and bread can be, they tend to fall in the (mostly) "empty calorie" category. Let your meals be inspired by fare that multi-tasks with lots of vitamins, minerals, good fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidant and inflammatory action. These include cruciferous vegetables, berries, orange vegetables, greens, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, whole grains, beans and legumes, wild-caught fatty fish, eggs, grass-fed meat in moderation, and yogurt.  Season with citrus, herbs, spices, seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and a little bit of hard cheese, dark chocolate, or a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil. Soups, salads, stir-fries, smoothies, and veggie-based juices make it easy to load up on the good stuff.

Get Inspired: We are bombarded with the sights and scents of tasty but less-than-healthy food via ads and roadside attractions. Surround yourself with healthy cookbooks, blogs, magazines, and websites that remind you how appealing healthy cooking can be. and its associated magazine and cookbooks are favorites in our house. Also check out and its magazine and cookbooks. The Power Foods book that will accompany our Kitchen on a Mission series is fantastic. Andrew Weil's new book True Food is loaded with gourmet anti-inflammatory recipes. Also check out cookbooks by noteworthy authors Ellie Krieger, Christina Pirello, and Deborah Madison. Even if you're not vegetarian or vegan, meatless cookbooks can help introduce you to new healthy recipes to integrate into your kitchen.

On the Go: Cooking meals at home and bringing your lunch to work is the best way to improve your health and stick to a budget. When eating out for special occasions, opt for restaurants that understand real food including the Co-op's Celery Stick Café, Spoon Revolution, and Sunny's Table in Concord; Republic and Cafe Momo in Manchester; and Lemongrass in Moultonborough. Also opt for one or none - appetizer, alcoholic beverage, or dessert - to go with your meal and start with a salad. (Beware of salads in chain restaurants - they often pack two to three meals worth of calories!) Check out the menus ahead of time; fried food is less tempting on your computer screen than when the scents are wafting around you. Don't be afraid to split a meal (just tip a little extra) or ask to have half your dish wrapped up to bring home for lunch the next day.

Crunching Numbers: If you want to lose weight, one way to approach it is to measure your portions and count calories. Yes, it's tedious, but it can be eye opening! Take your weight and multiply it by 12. This equals the maintenance calories for the average person, or how much you need to eat to maintain your current weight. Subtract 500 calories per day to lose one pound a week (or 1000 per day to lose two pounds), but don't go below 1200 calories and keep your goals reasonable so that they're easier to achieve and maintain. This is generally 400-600 calories per meal plus one or two 100-200-calorie snacks, but it varies widely from person to person. Click here for more on this approach.

Listen to Your Body: "Intuitive eating" involves paying closer attention to how you feel throughout the day, how hungry you are, and whether or not your body really enjoys the food that you're eating. It's useful in place of or alongside calorie counting. No matter what the numbers say, if you're ravenous, you should eat. (Better yet, eat something nourishing before you get ravenous.) Try to avoid letting yourself get overstuffed after a meal and realize that it's ok to be a bit hungry when you wake up and before meals. How do you feel after you eat particular foods? As time goes on, you'll notice that you crave and feel much better with healthy foods without a rush of excess sugar or refined carbs. (But, if you desperately want that cupcake, intuitive eating says you should have it, in a reasonable portion, and enjoy it.) Local dietician Hilary Warner specializes in this approach, and you can also learn more in the book Intuitive Eating.

Move More: A few things in life positively or negatively impact almost every aspect of health: diet, sleep, stress management, and movement. From a numbers perspective, exercise helps you burn calories to reach weight loss and maintenance goals in an easier, more sustainable way, but the benefits reach far beyond that to improved mood, disease prevention, etc. Any exercise is better than nothing, but certain types of exercise make a bigger impact on calories burned. Some of the best include the gym stair-climber (306 calories burned*), mountain biking (291), cross-country skiing (my favorite!) or running (273),   snowshoeing, biking, jogging or swimming laps (240), or kayaking, gardening, golfing or walking at a brisk pace (171).  Strength-train a few times a week to boost your overall metabolism so that you burn a tad more calories all day long, even when you're not exercising. Strength training includes weight lifting, lunges, push-ups, etc. Certain types of yoga, hiking, and sports incorporate aspects of strength training. *The calories burned are calculated for a 150-pound person doing the activities for 30 minutes.

Enlist Aid: Having someone to enjoy meals and exercise with improve your odds of sticking with a routine and meeting your goals. I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband. I'm the health nut foodie, and I have certainly improved the quality of the food Shannon eats since we met. Cooking dinner together is one of our favorite parts of the day. He's the outdoor enthusiast, and over the years I've taken up hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and am dabbling with jogging, and we try to incorporate these activities into our weekend/weeknight play time and vacations. If you live alone or have a less-than-supportive spouse, connect with friends or family members who share your drive. groups are a great way to connect with like-minded adventurous folks, too. When my husband had to study for a big test last summer, I enjoyed connecting with several different kayaking groups and one of my cousins to get out on the water. I have clients who get together to snowshoe with friends every X day of the week in winter. Talk about positive multi-tasking! Social time, time out in nature, and movement, all rolled into fun! Click here for an article on how to have get outside this winter.

Herbs & Supplements for Weight Loss: I really don't believe in magic bullets. I've yet to come across any supplement that is safe and effective enough to impress. All the previous tips are much more likely to get you to your goal while also improving your mood, decreasing inflammation, and preventing a variety of chronic diseases. However, some herbs and supplements can lend a hand to make it a little easier to stick to your routine and lose weight. Some help balance blood sugar, others boost energy, and yet others enhance metabolism or thyroid function. Green tea has the most promise across the board. I love to combine it with holy basil (aka tulsi) for stress-busting, craving-curbing, metabolism-boosting effects as a morning tea. Cinnamon or chai tea (without cream and sugar) after meals serves as blood sugar-balancing dessert. Adaptogenic herbs that help your body adapt to stress - rhodiola, holy basil, ashwagandha, and eleuthero - provide support. Click here for more information about helpful herbs. Certain nutrients also help: Studies suggest that getting adequate calcium from food or supplements helps us burn calories more effectively. Before taking herbs and supplements, talk with your healthcare provider and check with your pharmacist for interactions if you take pharmaceuticals.

What are YOUR secrets to good health? Share them in the "Comments" section below!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fire It Up! Fire Cider

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

When autumn comes in with its winds and chills, New Englanders have traditionally turned to an old remedy to boost them up: Fire Cider. Recipes for fire cider vary from home to home, but the backbone is onions, hot peppers, and garlic chopped up and steeped in unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Extra ingredients include honey, ginger, horseradish, turmeric, black pepper, citrus, or whatever else you feel like throwing in. The mixture is shaken daily and pressed out after about one month, result in in a pungent brew taking by the spoonful. Finished Fire Cider has the reputation mainly for warding off colds and other infections but also for curing hangovers, improving cardiovascular health, boosting digestive health, and decreasing inflammation.

I make batches of fire cider up several times a year with my students using the recipe here, and besides the medicinal uses, I like adding a dash to simmering soup broth, as a salad dressing, and in marinades. When the Co-op's Health & Beauty Manager showed me this new Shire City Herbals Fire Cider she was considering carrying, I had to try it. This remedy was a bit different! It's spicier and sweeter than mine, and I was instantly hooked. It's now available on the Co-op shelves by the cold and flu remedies, and it's gained fans among Co-op employees with a sense of adventure. I bought myself a bottle, and you can bet I'll be trying to replicate it next time my Fire Cider class comes around...

I also appreciate the fun and funky label on Shire City Herbals' Fire Cider bottle and the creative shot glass that comes with it. Husband and wife team Amy and Dana from the Berkshires in Massachusetts cover it with creative artwork and playful stories. Their recipe is made with organically grown roots and fruits, and they say "Fire Cider is like a large bear on a cold winter night - A large bear that mauls what ails you!" Learn more about the product at and find it in the Co-op.

Be warned: If you have a tendency towards heartburn, this'll either cure it or cause it!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just One Thing -- Step 2: Set ONE Goal

By Audrey Burghard, Health and Wellness Coordinator at the Co-op

Now that you have a list of things you would like to change or know you should change to improve your health, Set ONE Goal.  It might be drinking more water, going for a 15 minute walk every day, cutting back on tobacco or alcohol use, or adding more vegetables and fruits.  Make your goal simple and attainable!  Take some time to set your goal rather than jumping in and picking something that you really can’t take on right now.

You might be someone who is in the more “advanced” stages of being healthy.  You still are not exempt  from needing to continue to make changes.  Some more advanced changes might include switching to all whole grains, reducing red meat intake, getting enough fiber in your day, or reducing stress.  If you are already active, maybe it’s time to enter an event and train for it.  Committing to health is a daily process that is continuous.  It does get easier the more we do it, but we all need to focus on prevention of disease and maintaining healthy body weight.

Send me your goals!  I’d like to hear about all the positive changes being made out there in your lives.  Stay tuned for Step 3, and keep up the good work on your journey toward a healthy lifestyle!

Stay tuned to my blog for the next step!
Yours in Health,

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just One Thing – Step 1: Make a List

By Audrey Burghard, Health and Wellness Coordinator at the Co-op

“With the right food choices, physical activity, and not smoking, we could prevent about 80 percent of heart disease, about 90 percent of diabetes, and 70 percent of stroke,” says Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Those are the three pillars. They really do make a difference.”

Take a moment to think about those numbers. Those diseases would be almost non-existent if we could somehow find a way to live a healthy lifestyle in this culture of over abundance of food and propensity toward sedentary living. The key word in the statement above is “prevent.” Taking action NOW to prevent disease is a necessary daily action for everyone. Whether you are a “healthy” person already or working toward it, it’s a daily decision to confirm your commitment to health.

We all know that we need to make good food choices, exercise and not smoke. The question is “HOW?”

Stay tuned to my blog to find “Just One Thing” to do each day to move toward a healthy lifestyle. One day at a time, one step at a time, one thing at a time. Let’s work together to simplify the process of moving toward a healthy lifestyle and weed through some of the information coming at us daily about what we should do to improve our health. Let’s get started with a first step:

1. Make a list – Write down a list of things you have been considering doing to live a healthier lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if it has been scientifically proven to work, or it’s something you heard from a friend. If you read about something or know someone who has had success and you want to try to make a change, write it down. It can be something simple, or more challenging. If nothing comes to mind here are some simple questions to get the process going:
  • Am I getting enough sleep every night? (7-9 hours)
  • Do I drink enough water every day (at least 32 ounces)
  • Do I eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables?
  • Do I need to lose weight?
  • On a scale of 1-10, what is my stress level?
  • What does my diet look like on a daily basis? Make a food log for 3-4 days and take a look!
  • Am I willing to risk having disease by using tobacco or alcohol to excess?
  • Do I have a medical condition that could benefit from making a change? If so, what change would benefit my health and make my PCP or ND happy?
Stay tuned to the Co-op Be Well blog for the next step!

Yours in Health,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sleep Better, Naturally

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator
Insomnia is incredibly common amongst my clients and Co-op customers, and my own sleep issues first brought me to herbs 15 years ago. Lack of - or poor quality - sleep makes everything else worse: stress, cardiovascular disease, immune function, reproductive hormone health, pain, mental health, and more. Certainly Americans don't prioritize sleep, but just getting to bed earlier doesn't always cut it. Once we're in a bad sleep cycle, it's difficult to break. Relaxing herbs can be extremely helpful to help reset things quickly and get us on a better track. However, it's also important to work on underlying causes of insomnia for long-term success. That might mean addressing daily stress; unwinding in the evening (ie: not eating food, watching TV, or checking email within an hour or two of bedtime); sleeping in a dark, quiet environment; and eating a balanced, whole-foods diet so that your body can make healthy neurotransmitters. Most nights, reading a boring book at bedtime is enough to take my mind off other things and bores me to sleep. As you create a sleep-friendly lifestyle or when you need an extra hand, here are some herbs to try that might help you get a better night's rest tonight. All of these herbs are available in the Co-op's Health & Beauty aisles.

Valerian: This stinky root is the most famous sleep herb, hands down. Almost every herbal sleep formula contains it because it often works well to promote deep sleep, muscle relaxation, and an overall calming effect on the Central Nervous System. This is my go-to herb, and I keep a bottle of the tincture (the most effective way to take it) on my bedside table for nights when I feel too wound up or if I wake up in the middle of the night. That said, valerian really doesn't work for everyone - some people find it makes them more jittery and others feel groggy or get weird dreams. It tends to work better for people with a cold constitution (cold hands and feet, thin body type, tendency towards anxiety) and worse for people with a hot constitution (always hot, larger body type, tendency towards anger and frustration). If it doesn't work for you, don't worry - there are plenty of other calming herbs out there! And... for the record, valerian does not have any relationship with the drug Valium except that the names sound similar. Neither valerian nor the other herbs mentioned here are addictive, and they are generally extremely safe but should not be combined with anti-anxiety and other sedative drugs.

Passionflower, Skullcap & Lemon Balm: These three lesser-known relaxing herbs work very well for almost any body type to relax the nervous system, quell anxiety, and promote sleep. They're mild tasting enough to take as tea (though much better with mint and honey added) and can also be taken as tinctures. Capsules are convenient but don't always work as well. They're generally very safe, but should not be combined with anti-anxiety and other sedative drugs. There have been issues with adulteration of skullcap, so only purchase this herb from reputable suppliers, preferably certified organic rather than wild-crafted or unspecified sources. You'll often find these herbs in tea blends and sleep formulas at the Co-op, perhaps in combination with valerian and some of the many other great relaxing herbs out there. If you're looking for a valerian-free formula, one of the best is Peaceful Nights by Herbal Energetics, made right up the road in Northfield, NH.

Rescue Remedy Sleep: Flower essences like Rescue Remedy Sleep are highly dilute flower remedies preserved in brandy and water, and only one to three drops are necessary. Because they are so dilute (much like homeopathic remedies) yet still very effective for many people, they're perfect for children, pregnant women, and people who are taking medications. I make my own flower essences from herbs in my garden like valerian, lavender, and blue vervain, but the Bach Flower Essences are much more widely available in stores. Rescue Remedy Sleep combines the traditional anti-anxiety formula with White Chestnut, a flower essence used for thoughts that go circling around and around the brain.

Lavender Essential Oil: Just the scent of this popular herbs can help some people fall asleep. Try putting a few drops on a cloth and tucking it into your pillowcase.

For more details on sleep herbs, download my handout at here

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Love Your Skin Even If You Love the Sun

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Aloe plant
Sitting out in the sun on a nice summer day is the epitome of a relaxing good time. But, excess sun exposure can damage the skin over time, encouraging wrinkles and skin cancer to take hold. Take a queue from hot climates. Your best sunscreen is a tightly woven sun hat, sunglasses, light, loose-fitting clothes, and hanging out in the shade when possible. The runner up: a good sunscreen.

Not all sunscreens are made equal. Some make false claims while others contain potentially toxic chemicals. Of course, you can trust the Co-op to offer good, safe brands like Badger, All Terrain (both New Hampshire companies), and Aubrey Organics. See the complete list of approved sunscreens on the Skin Deep Database at or the Co-op’s helpful Health & Beauty staff to assist you.

Remember that while using sunscreen does protect against sunburns, there is no consensus that using sunscreen prevents skin cancer. And some sun, without sunscreen, is essential to allow your body to make the important nutrient vitamin D.

Got Kids? Childhood sunburns may increase the likelihood of dangerous melanomas in adulthood. Shade is really the best sunscreen, especially for infants. With toddlers and older children, choose one of the many kid-friendly sunscreens as a backup and apply heavily.

Got Burned? Turn to remedies with cooling and antioxidant-rich ingredients to help minimize the damage and find relief.
      Green Tea: Make quart or two of strong green tea, add it to a tepid bath, and rest in the cool water or soak a towel to apply as a compress.
      Aloe Gel: Store-bought gels work, and freshly sliced aloe leaves are even better. For extra cooling, store your aloe gel or leaves in the fridge.
      Apple Cider Vinegar: Vinegar helps restore the acid mantle to the skin and does a surprisingly good job relieving sunburn pain (although you will smell a bit like salad dressing!) Dab or spray to onto the burn. Feel free to add a few drops of lavender essential oil for extra healing properties… and improved scent. Store your vinegar in glass or plastic – it will break down metal containers and lids.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

For Fitness, Think F.I.T.

By Audrey Burghard, Heath & Wellness Coordinator 

Another frequently asked question from my days as a Personal Trainer was “How do I increase my fitness?” and “How can I break through a plateau?” regarding fitness level or body weight. An easy acronym to remember is the F.I.T. rule. There are three variables you can change to create what is called the training effect in your body. The training effect is felt when we are making progress or increasing your fitness level. It is seen as weight loss, muscle soreness, or fatigue. We all like to see improvements when we exercise, and oftentimes we hit a plateau or place where we aren’t seeing the results we desire.

If you adjust one or more of these variables in your training routine, you can break through that barrier of stagnation:

§       Frequency – Refers to increasing the number of days you exercise. Add one more day to see some results. If that’s not doable, adjust your…
§       Intensity – Increasing intensity refers to your heart rate or how many beats per minute (BPM) your heart is beating during your exercise routine. For example, if you are walking for your workout, add a few minutes of jogging to bring the heart rate higher. If that’s not doable, adjust your…
§       Time – Refers to the duration or time spent in each training session. If you work out for 30 minutes three times per week and you were to increase each session by five minutes, you add another 15 minutes per week. It all adds up!

Pick the variable that you can work with easily. If you cannot add another day, play with intensity or time. If your time is set – for example you work out on your lunch break – then either add another a day or bring up the intensity. If you feel like your workouts are as intense as you can handle, then look at adding another day or increasing your time.

Try it, and let me know how it goes! We all have 24 hours in each day. Let your health fall into the top five spots of how you spend your time, and you will surely succeed.

In Health,

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Best Workout!

By Audrey Burghard, Wellness Coordinator 

 I have spent over 20 years working out and 8 years as a personal trainer. During that time I was often asked “What is the best workout”?

I did as many others have done; I chased the next thing that would make me more fit. But along the way I have come to agree with my good friend and Exercise Physiologist Jason Aziz when he states that the best workout is, whatever gets you moving and enjoying yourself.  I know it sounds too simple and not very scientific.  We often look for magic or some elaborate answer to our inability to adhere to our exercise or nutrition goals.  However, if you give these questions some thought, you will be able to figure out what the best workout is for you. After all, why would you want to do a workout fit for Lance Armstrong?

  • What is my fitness goal?   Are you looking to increase, or maintain your fitness?  Those are really the only 2 options; I don’t imagine anyone wanting to decrease their fitness level!  Are you expecting too much for the amount of time you have to put into it?
  • What am I doing NOW?  What does your workout routine include now?  (lifting weights, cardiovascular work, stretching)
  • Is That Working For You?  Are you happy with your results?  If not, how can you add something that you will enjoy?

At the end of the day, being happy in your own skin is more important than your fitness level.  Enjoying your workouts doubles the value.  You not only receive the physical benefits, but you relieve stress by doing something you enjoy.  If it’s a chore, you most likely will abandon it.  Doing things that we don’t enjoy increases stress.

I hope by now you are thinking, “I always wanted to play golf but I thought it didn’t count as exercise”.  Does it make you move?  Is it enjoyable?  Then by all means, DO IT!  Think outside the box and take a dance class, try a hula hoop, go kayaking or walk to a destination rather than taking your car.

The workout that keeps you showing up day after day:  That’s the best workout!