Healthy and ‘Heart’-y Holiday with Lisa Salinas, PhD and Deepu George, PhD

Hi everybody, I’m here today. My name is
Lisa and my name is Deepu George. We are here today to talk to you a little
bit about holiday time and how you can focus a little bit on the nutrition side
of things as well as on mental health side of things and how to appreciate and
pay attention to your well-being during the time of holidays and hopefully
beyond that. Right, so what I thought would be nice would be to prepare
something that very easily could fit on your holiday table. It’s maybe a little
bit different than what you’re used to. We’re used to a lot of indulging over
the holidays, with the gravies and the creams and the meats and things like
that. All the heavy meals. So I’m not suggesting that you
eliminate those things, what I’m suggesting is using this as a complement
to those items and what’s really neat Deepu about this recipe in particular is
it’s very satisfying and it’s very fulfilling. So having this as part of the
meal, you’re automatically not going to eat as much as the of the other things
because you’re just not going to want to. It’s going to fill you up. You’re gonna be quite filled. I remember you said earlier that this is kid-approved. This happens to
be also kid-approved by my children. There you go. So that’s a that’s a win
right there.The way we’re gonna start off is, I did pre-cook some quinoa and
that’s because this is something you can do the day before. I know a lot of people
in holiday cooking are looking for things that they can get done prior to the day of because it can be stressful. That’s right. So what I
thought to reduce the stress for this recipe in particular is I pre-cooked the
quinoa and basically it’s quinoa and vegetable broth and a little bit of
garlic and what that allows for is a baseline flavor to our salad. So
rinse it first, it doesn’t have to be for very long. Just get a colander that has a
small enough holes and rinse the quinoa before preparing it. The one thing I also
wanted to mention as well was just how great quinoa is for those of us who
might be vegetarian or vegan and and such as yourself and so what’s
really neat about quinoa is it happens to be a complete protein source. Oftentimes
when we talk about whole grains we talk about having to pair them with something
else to create all of the essential amino acids that we need. However in the
case of quinoa we have them all there. So that’s really neat that it can just
stand alone that being said it’s not going to in this context and it’s going to
be really delicious. So I’m gonna slowly add this onto the bowl. That would be great if
you could add them into the bowl and as you’re doing that, I’m going to start
just halving some of these grape tomatoes that have been already washed and
tomatoes are a really nice way to impart a little bit of sweetness into a dish
like this but also a great way to increase the vitamin and mineral content
of this dish, especially vitamin C. As well as some potassium. So I’m going to just cut them on the cutting board and I know you were gonna work on some of this cucumber. I already cut
up some cucumbers and I have some questions about the way you asked me to
help you with this so if you notice we still have the skin on this right so
tell me a little bit about your rationale behind having the skin. Yeah, so
I know that most people will go ahead and peel their cucumbers but for me I
look for any way that I can increase the fiber content in a dish and so one way
you can do that when you’re using cucumbers is to make sure you wash them
well but keeping the skin on and that’s really a great way to boost the
fiber content of this salad or anything else that you might be using cucumber in.
So in the case the recipe itself you can use one large English cucumber, which
are more of the longer cucumbers that are usually seedless in this case we
have regular cucumbers and because they were kind of large to begin with I am
just gonna have you use a half in addition to the other whole. To the one we already have. So while I finish up these tomatoes I was hoping you could tell me a little
bit about kind of reflection over the holiday time as well as how we can
combat the stressors that might come around. Well there are a couple of things
I wanted to talk to you about today that has a lot to do with well-being and your
mental health in general and then just really thinking through some habits that
you can probably cultivate to help you through the holiday season, right? Terrific.
Now holidays are typically associated with a lot of positive and good emotions
and other things and the marketing world does a good job of like egging us to do
that but it could also be a time of stress and for some people having a lot
of people come over it can take you out of your comfort zone and that can really
lead to some stressful moments during the holidays, right? So if you do
experience some of that it’s extremely normal. You’re not expected to be happy
all the time, right because we have a lot of emotions
in us and one of the things that I wanted to bring to your attention is a
practice of something called gratitude and being able to be thankful and
appreciative of the things that you have. I feel like that feels like something that would be particularly important for children this
time of year. I think they can sometimes get caught up in the gift
giving and the gift receiving. Yeah. Maybe not have actively have that gratitude
that you’re talking about. Yeah and I think towards the end of the
conversation I’m gonna give like three different ideas that I think kids can
easily practice and parents can do with their kids as well. Now if you are a
person who has diagnosed depression or anxiety in the past this will be a
good time for you to connect with your healthcare provider and just to talk to
them about it even though it may not be pretty active because you can do some
things to help you prepare for it so you’re not sort of caught by the storm
things as you go through. Now back to gratitude, right? So gratitude is just a
basic practice of being appreciative of the things that you have in your life.
These can be tangible things like wonderful tomatoes and other things
have around the table or it could be intangible things, right? Like the
opportunity to cook something and share this experience with you or other people
around us and gratitude is something that you would practice and the more you
do it, the more it sort of helps you be stronger and more resilient in the face of
adversity and other things. You know it doesn’t have to be all about indulging or all about shopping. It could also be about taking a walk with your friends
or family and that way you’re getting some exercise, you’re appreciating nature
as you mentioned and I would argue that’s important any time of year really.
It is and again you mentioned kids is such an important part of
holidays and that would be an experience and you can introduce to them, right? So
this gratitude thing it’s a behavior that can be learned so it’s not
something that is only privy to like a few people. These two psychologists, Edmond
and McCulloch, they did a study. What they did is they asked a group of
people to write down weekly things that they were grateful for and thankful for. Then they asked another group to write down things that really you stress them out.
Ten weeks later, they looked at both these groups. Which group do you think
did better? well I would hope it’s the group that wrote things
things down. That’s right. Yeah, the group that looked and wrote things
down about things that went well for them. They reported higher happiness. They
had lower physician visits and they were less stress stressed about the things that
were happening on a daily basis. That’s terrific. So, those are the things
that we want to really cultivate as daily habits throughout
the holidays. As you continue on, I’m sorry to interrupt. I would love if you…I would really be grateful if you could add the tomatoes into the quinoa
salad. I can do that. I’d already mentioned the nutritional benefits of
tomatoes? Yeah. We’re also going to add in, one can of
black beans that have been drained and rinsed. Yeah. Black beans I feel like
don’t get as much press as they should. As well as most other legumes. And we’re
gonna give it the press it deserves. So what’s really neat about beans and I’m gonna actually have you add them
in as I’m talking about them. Is that
they are high in fiber. They are high in protein, both things again that will help
keep us satiated and in addition there are a lot of vitamins and minerals
including iron as well as antioxidants and we don’t really talk about that in
the context of legumes but kidney beans and black beans happen to be the legumes
that are the highest in antioxidants and so we don’t want to downplay that
because that’s really important for good health, for cancer prevention, heart
health and things like that. All the things in here it’s like packed with
protein. Absolutely. Very good for people on a plant-based diet, right? For sure and
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but with quinoa, that is a
complete complete protein. Right. There you go. So we’re also gonna
add in just some greens here. This is not really a salad with
things in it. It’s more of the quinoa with things in it and I think it’s
always nice to add a little bit of crunch, a little bit of a different
texture by throwing in any kind of mixed greens that you’d like and what I want
to make mention of is mixed greens are high in iron and sometimes we talk about
bioavailability making sure that we get the nutrients in our bodies that we’re
actually consuming and so today the dressing I’m gonna be making actually
happens to have some lime juice in it which is very high in vitamin C. Vitamin
C improves the bioavailability of iron. So the iron in the leafy greens, the iron
in the beans, those are all going to be made more bioavailable with the addition
of this dressing. So we’re very grateful for what that lime can do to a salad.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So as you continue to talk I’m gonna be over here just
preparing a very simple dressing. It’s gonna be lime juice, olive oil as
well as some salt and pepper and then I’ll half this and sort of slice this up. So yeah, I kind of feel like there’s nothing you can’t make better with avocado. So we’re
gonna throw that into the mix as well. This is gonna give us some real healthy
fats. Yeah and it’s also gonna give just additional type of texture in the salad.
It’s always nice to have these different textures playing off of each other. It
makes things more interesting. Absolutely. So avocados are very good for
brain health as well as for heart health. They are very high in monounsaturated
fats. Yeah and so this is the other thing that we all could be grateful for
the holidays. So practicing gratitude and sort of building it into your daily life
it’s like buying a new scanner and sort of installing it in your head right so
that it scans for things that you haven’t previously looked for actively and it
really begins to change your outlook. So I thought I can suggest like three
simple routines that people can try to incorporate into their daily life so
that it becomes part of their daily habit and their daily routines, right? The three
things that you’re looking at are, I’m going to be the ideas first, it’s a
gratitude jar. Second is journaling, don’t get turned off by the word journaling, I’m going to explain and then the third is meditation, right? So gratitude jar is very
simple. You basically write down three things that you’re grateful for at the
end of the day or sometime during the day okay and then you put it in the
little jar so you can collect it. You talked about kids earlier. Right. This is
a great mindful activity for kids to practice on a daily basis. And what I
hear you saying is this is a daily occurrence.
Yeah. And this means that not only are you gonna have this jar at the end of a
month or two months or six months that’s filled with all these reasons to be
grateful. Yeah. But you’re also having this daily conversation. Yeah. With your
family or your friends wherever you’re sharing it with and I think that’s
really important to take that time even if it’s just a couple of minutes to
recognize everyone’s reasons for feeling grateful that day. Yeah and you never
know what people are grateful for until you really talk about it and think about
at the end of a month or end of every few weeks you sit with your kids and you
do this little activity of what’s in your jar, what’s in my jar. Now the second thing is journaling, now journaling I don’t mean
like sit and write for pages and pages right this is like a three to five
minute activity where you really choose one thing that you really felt great
about or you had a positive experience with. And you just write down that little
event so it may be like few sentences or few paragraphs even and you do
that for three to five minutes this is something that you would do daily as
well right so it’s almost like I’m asking you to take these gratitude
vitamins every single day and you’re gonna you’re gonna do that throughout
the holidays and you’re gonna do much beyond that so it will help you fortify
resilience and better stress response to all of the hassle so you can debates on
a daily basis. Sure and now you know I feel like I’m always bringing it back to
the kids but I think that’s where a lot of habits start. Yeah.
And so I was just thinking that this is a really neat thing for them to think is
just part of the norm it’s just what we do as a family. Routine. As part of our
healthy routine is that thing. And actually it’s great practice once they
start writing themselves, you know this is an opportunity to practice their writing and their spelling. Their language skills, and if they’re little kids they can tell you what they’re thankful for and you can write it down.
While you go on with your third item I’m just going to be adding the dressing
into the salad. You created a dressing? I did, I created a dressing in the time he’s talking about gratitude
and journaling and all those wonderful things so what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna
or maybe I’ll ask you to just kind of pour that in make sure it’s whisked
together. Again it was olive oil, salt, pepper, and some lime juice. Very simple.
Very simple but really classic and delicious and really complements the
flavors of the salad perfect so we’ll pour that in and then what we can do is
just we’ll take a spoon and just kind of mix it all around. There are no rules
when it comes to making a recipe like this. It’s it’s really hard to kind of
mess it up it’s really simple right and then the last thing that we talked about
was meditation right and meditation when people think they think like they have
to let go sit in some corner and be silent for like hours this is really not
that. Most people think when you meditate mine has to be empty sure not the case
right because the minute you sit down and try to focus on something you’re
gonna have these onslaught of thoughts and emotions and it’s gonna flood your
senses right and the goal of meditation is to notice every time you’re
distracted and then to notice that you’re distracted and come back to your
breathing. And it probably can’t hurt to to think about the things that are,
in your life and use it as a time of meditation and reflection kind
of at the same time. Sure right because you’re gonna notice those things as you
sit quietly right and then the goal is to just gently bring it back to your
breathing. Now there is a great resource if you want to learn a little bit more
there is a youtube video called the relaxation responds and it’s by Dr.
Herbert Benson, he’s a cardiologist from Harvard who really pioneered this method
in helping his patients. That’s really neat so that’s like a mind-body medicine
experience with this particular doctor. So it’s a habit that you
cultivate and he suggests 10 minutes daily so you can work up to it. You don’t
have to start with 10 minutes it can do 2, 5, 7, 10, you know you can just sort of
work in increments. So journaling, a little gratitude jar or a box and then
meditation so those are my three recommendations to cultivate a sense of
gratitude throughout the holidays and hopefully this is something that you
carry on with you in the year 2020. That’s terrific
well I’m excited to get started on my journaling. Good. Maybe I’ll buy myself a
fancy notebook and some gel pens for myself
you’re not just for the kid. Yeah then next time we do this we can compare them.
Absolutely. So again, I’m just gonna give this a quick stir and then I know that
you don’t eat cheese in your regular everyday life so what I’m gonna do is
that is the last ingredient for this particular dish is some cotija cheese.
Just some delicious, gives it a little bit of extra flavor and a little bit of
extra salt in the dish but certainly not required or necessary. We already
have a nice dressing going on, we already have a lot of flavor going on. Again with
that pre-cooked quinoa and all that so it really doesn’t need the cheese but it’s
just an extra little flavor on top of it, there. So good I’ll give you a little
bit of a taste before I add the cheese as our end result. You know something
came to mind when you were talking about making time each day even if it’s just a
little bit of time to show gratitude, to meditate and things like that. And with
that what came to mind from my perspective is you can also argue the
same for exercise. Absolutely. You know it doesn’t you know when we say to exercise
on a daily basis it doesn’t mean that you have to exercise for an hour or hour and a half. Or
to a gym. Or go to a gym. Thank you for being here with us today.
I’m Lisa Salinas and I’m Deepu George, and from UT Health Rio Grande Valley we
wanna wish you a healthy, meaningful, and joyous end of the year. Now let’s try our
salad. Yes I forgot about that. It’s really good. Yeah lots of

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