Deborah Olarte, a.k.a. Park Slope’s very own Food Yogi, found herself four years ago in a bit of a rut. Uninspired by her job, frustrated with her prospects, and, finally, suffering some health problems as a result, she decided to make some changes.
To decrease stress, she began to practice yoga. It was an immediate improvement, and from there the healthy choices snowballed. Her focus shifted to include nutrition, and today she is pursuing her master’s degree to become a Registered Dietitian. In the meantime, she helps those seeking a healthier lifestyle through yoga instruction and her wellness blog.
I asked Deborah for her tips on healthy eating in these cold (and often flu-stricken) winter months. See what she recommends to help energy and immunity levels, and, after the jump, check out her recipe for homemade chicken soup.
Any “power foods” you recommend for immunity boosting?
My go-to “power food” when I need an immunity boost is fresh garlic. If I am starting to feel as if I’m catching something, I make a big salad and make sure to add two large cloves of garlic. Your breath may be kickin’ but far better to kick the cold. Garlic has antibacterial and antifungal benefits and may help eliminate toxins from the blood.
How about tips for increasing energy?
The best way to increase energy is to first, mentally muster up some energy, then get up and move! Do some yoga or go out and take a brisk walk for about 20-30 minutes. Fresh air and easy yoga stretches are my perfect combination. But, find an activity you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be yoga. If you enjoy Pilates or running, do that.
But when it comes to food, I recommend eating and/or juicing a variety of fruits and vegetables over the course of the day. A little fresh juice is a great way to kick-start any day.
Beyond actual foods, do you find that eating patterns have an effect on wellness? A lot of little meals vs. more infrequent meals?
Everybody is different and every body is unique. That’s my mantra as well as many other physicians when it comes to giving nutrition and wellness advice. Some people need to eat little meals throughout the day to feel well and some people are fine with three meals per day. It’s really what works best for your body. When you listen to your body, it tells you what it needs.
How do you see the benefits of eating well in your life?
This is going to sound redundant, but when I eat well, I have a ton of energy. Where I notice this energy the most is in the morning. It’s much easier to wake-up and get-up without feeling sluggish. Not to mention, there’s an even amount of energy sustained throughout the day so I don’t come crashing down at some point. I don’t need coffee anymore (though I do enjoy a cup and coffee has its health benefits too). Overall, I feel radiant, and that’s a great feeling. You truly are what you eat.
The Food Yogi’s Chicken Soup Recipe (makes about 8-10 servings)
Homemade chicken soup is my favorite food. It’s comforting and warming on a cold day and even better when you’re under the weather. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Chicken soup might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining.”
Making homemade chicken soup is a little time consuming but incredibly worth it, so I recommend making a big pot over a weekend, so you can eat it throughout the week and freeze any leftovers.
(Make sure all your root vegetables are organic because they’re best at absorbing contaminants in the soil, even better if your entire soup is organic.)
• 1 whole 3 lb chicken
• 3 carrots, peeled
• 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
• 2 parsnips
• Fresh parsley (sprigs and all)
• 10 cups of water (or fill pot until water covers all the contents)
• 2 tsp whole peppercorns
• 2 tsp salt
• Cheese cloth or a fine wire mesh strainer
• Red pepper flakes (optional)
Clean chicken and set aside. Wash and peel the carrots, celery and parsnips. Peel the garlic. Rinse the parsley. Place the chicken, all the vegetables, parsley and salt and peppercorns into a large soup pot and fill with about 10 cups of water or until the water covers all the contents.
Bring the water to a boil and boil for about an hour. Simmer covered for another hour then remove the chicken, vegetables and parsley. Using the mesh strainer or cheese cloth, carefully pour the contents of the soup into a new pot. This may be easier if a second person is available to help pour while one holds the strainer in place. Discard the small bits strained from the soup. If necessary, spoon any fat from the top. Keep broth warm and don’t forget to taste test.
In the meantime, chop up the vegetables and chicken and boil up some noodles. In a large soup bowl, add some of the chopped vegetables, chicken and noodles and ladle in some broth. If desired, add a little spicy kick by sprinkling some red pepper flakes over top. Smile and enjoy.