Fruits and vegetables. We hear a lot about them and the importance of eating several servings each day. Hints on combining these foods in great-tasting recipes and good-for-you smoothies to entice teens are shared among mothers.
Early this year an opportunity arose to meet Kathy Gillen, well known for her wholesome, health-enhancing lifestyle. Our friendship began with a fun evening of hula hooping combined with a plate of her nutritious brownies.
Upper St. Clair resident and mother of four, Kathy is eager to spread the word about adding natural sources of vitamins and minerals to our meals, including desserts.
Since spring, her monthly online newsletter and appetizing and healthy food preparation has done wonders to keep me focused.
Kathy's December newsletter highlights the pomegranate, a most unusual fruit and widely known as nature's Botox. Studies show that pomegranate levels of antioxidant properties are higher than grapes, blueberries and even red wine. A few ounces of 100 percent pomegranate juice a day is believed to slow our skin's aging.
When ripe and ready-to-eat, pomegranates are a little soft to the touch. For best results, first fill a bowl with water. Then trim off a small piece at the top and bottom of the fruit. Score end to end about five times, then pull the fruit apart over the water. The red seeds sink to the bottom and the pulp will float. Reserve the seeds for eating.
Try Kathy's festive salad for great health benefits.
Seeds from one pomegranate
1/2 cup chopped dates or yellow raisins
1 pear, sliced or chopped with skin on
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup goat cheese or feta
6-8 cups mixed greens, arugula or spinach
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
Pinch of salt
Combine dressing in glass jar and shake. Toss before serving.
"My father grew an organic garden when I was a kid and my family's meals were filled with vegetables," recalls Kathy. "I didn't realize it then, but my parents laid a good foundation for me to raise my four children.
"My youngest child was diagnosed early with a mitochondrial disease, meaning her body didn't metabolize food properly. Doctors predicted she might live to reach her second birthday."
Not willing to accept this fact, Kathy set out to learn everything she could about cellular function. Although Merritt Joy is disabled, with a well-planned diet she has reached the age of 10 and has never suffered from a debilitating virus.
Waking refreshed and ready for the day's journey just doesn't happen.
Continuously spreading the word about diet and a healthy lifestyle, Kathy has planned exciting themes for the new year:
n January's newsletter will feature a Makeover Theme. Learn to make over your pantry and replace junk foods. Learn to recognize artificial foods and fill a basket of healthy snacks for kids to choose.
n Kathy will lead a "Benefits of a Whole Food Diet" class at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 & 24 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Upper St. Clair. Fee is $35. To register, e-mail Kathy@wellnessroadtrip.com.
n Look for Breakfasts as February's newsletter topic and Go Greens in March.
n Young Picky Eaters can benefit from Kathy's three-session program, "What's Inside You and Why Should You Care."
n Wellness lectures can be scheduled for adult organizations, teens and tweens and elementary-age children.
Kathy is exuberant about her wellness roadtrip. She is also author of the e-book, "Thirty Day Roadtrip to a Healthier Family." To reach her, call 412-427-1137.
Info Box: Pomegranates
Harvested since ancient times and said to have originated in Persia (modern-day Iran), pomegranates are also grown in California and Arizona. The round red fruit contains hundreds of seeds and is rich in antioxidant properties. Along with Vitamin C, B5, potassium, polyphenol and fiber, pomegranate seeds also boost the immune system helping to ward off infection.
The popular sweetener grenadine is actually totally reduced pomegranate juice.