Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Get a History Lesson – and Some Exercise – on the City Statues and Sculptures Walk

Boston employees are fortunate enough that several Wellness Champions who work in the city have taken the initiative to organize weekly lunchtime walks.  These walks are a great opportunity to get some exercise during the lunch hour, while making new friends in the process.  For those of you who would also like a little history lesson with your walk, Department of Career Services Wellness Champion Leslie Seifried will be holding a series of lunchtime City Statues and Sculptures Walks throughout the month of July.  Every Wednesday at noon, Leslie’s walks will meet in the main lobby of the Hurley Building (located at 19 Staniford Street) and travel to local landmarks such as the Make Way for Ducklings and George Washington statues in the Common; the Paul Revere Statue in the North End; and the Irish Famine Memorial downtown.  Along the way, Leslie will provide information on the history and significance of each statue and sculpture.  If you’re interested in joining one of Leslie’s walks (I know I am!), she can be contacted at 617-626-5267.  Use the nice weather and the chance to learn more about the city you work in as an opportunity to get outside – and get healthy – during your lunch break.


Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Zucchini

Zucchini – one of my personal favorites – is a very sneaky food, for a few reasons: 

  • Most people think of it as a vegetable, because it is often treated as one, although it is actually a fruit;
  • It is one of the classic “bumper crops,” meaning that those who grow it usually end up with a much larger quantity than they had expected; and
  • It can be “snuck” into a variety of foods to instantly make them healthier.  Zucchini bread is a classic example, and I also like grating or roasting it and adding it to almost any pasta dish.  To roast, slice zucchini into thin circles.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and coated with non-stick spray.  Season with pepper and garlic salt, to taste, and drizzle with olive oil.  Cook for 12 minutes at 425°; flip and cook for another 12 minutes, or until slightly firm and browned.

In the following recipe (perfect as an appetizer, side dish, or main course), zucchini takes center stage.  There is no need to hide (or hide from) this nutritious, delicious food, as zucchini is extremely low in calories; has a very high water content (so it will keep you full and hydrated); and is a good source of fiber, B vitamins, Vitamins C and A, and iron. 

Zucchini Wraps

3 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 handful of baby carrots, cut into quarters
1 large handful of leafy greens
your favorite pesto sauce
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1.  Lay the sliced zucchini flat on a hard surface, layer with the pesto, and add greens and veggies.
2.  Starting from the veggie end, roll and stick with a toothpick in the center.
3.  Top with cracked pepper. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from One Green Planet

Inexpensive Workout Options for Boston Employees

Working out at lunchtime is a convenient option for many employees, including those with busy home lives and multiple obligations before and after work.  However, exercising away from home can come with a hefty price tag, especially for those of us who work in Boston.  Fortunately, and surprisingly, there are many low-cost (and in some cases, no-cost!) ways to fit in your recommended 30 minutes a day of exercise during lunchtime.

Gyms are many people’s go-to place to exercise.  There are many gyms in Boston, some of them pricier than others.  The lowest-cost gym chain around is probably Planet Fitness, which offers basic exercise equipment and rates as low as $10/month and is conveniently located near Government Center at One Washington Street.  Planet Fitness has many locations throughout the state, so even if your office is located outside of the city, you may still be able to take advantage of this low-cost exercise option. 

In addition to Planet Fitness, other inexpensive gyms in the area include the YMCA (with locations in Charlestown, Chinatown, East Boston, and the Back Bay) and the Boys and Girls Club.   An additional opportunity exists for DMH employees to take advantage of a no-cost gym option:  the Lindemann Health Center’s gym is available for DMH employees to use for free.

Pick-up Basketball
Looking to join a pick-up game at lunchtime or after work?  Basketball City’s Open Play offers some of the best pick-up games around, as well as the opportunity to use Basketball City’s fitness equipment and locker room/showers.  Open Play hours are Monday-Wednesday 9:00am – 9:00 pm and Thursdays and Fridays 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, and the drop-in rate is $10 per person per session.  Basketball City is located near North Station; call (617) 742-6700 for court availability.

If you need to make a quick trip to run an errand, or just want to break up your typical lunchtime walking routine, you can take advantage of Hubway, Boston’s bike sharing service.  Hubway has pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the city, many of them near State office buildings and T stations.  After paying a nominal annual or daily fee to use the service, every trip under 30 minutes is free. 

DCR Services
When it comes inexpensive outdoor activities, the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s facilities are a little-known secret.  DCR operates a number of pools and trails throughout the state, as well as the Ebersol Fields on the Esplanade.  All of DCR’s facilities are available either free of charge or at a very low cost.

No matter how you’d like to exercise during your lunch hour, there is sure to be something that fits the bill in the Boston area.  I encourage you to take advantage of the many free and inexpensive options in and around the city , especially when the weather is nice and outdoor exercise opportunities are plentiful.

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Cucumber

Cucumbers are a quintessential healthy summer food – they’re low in calories (a whole cucumber only has 45!), have a high water content, and just make you feel refreshed.   Cucumbers are a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and magnesium, and an excellent source of Vitamin K, which plays a key role in blood coagulation and bone metabolism.  The ½ cucumber called for in the following recipe will provide you with almost 1/3 of your Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin K, as well as a host of other healthy nutrients.

Migraine Reliever Smoothie

½ pineapple
3-4 kale leaves
1 stick celery
½ cucumber
¼ lemon
½ inch ginger root
ice cubes

Put  all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Recipe adapted from Juicing for Health.

Any “diet” that includes strawberries and whipped cream is okay by me – just remember “Lagom är bäst”

By Guest Blogger Liz Layton, GIC

The other day I heard about the northern version of the Mediterranean diet.  It’s called the healthy Nordic diet.  You know, what Scandinavians eat.  Lingonberry jam on saffron buns and lots and lots of herring for breakfast.  I must say, although there are Swedes in my family tree, these things weren’t on our menu — you couldn’t find most of the ingredients in stores here.  This is also true of a widely advertised lean protein staple of the traditional Nordic diet – elk or reindeer.  Even if I wanted to consume Dasher and Dancer on a bun, I’d have to head for the Canadian border to get fresh deer burgers.  A healthy diet needs easy-to-find ingredients that taste good in multiple recipes.  Nutritionists are developing guidelines for the healthy Nordic diet that include: more calories from plant foods and fewer from meat; more foods from the sea and lakes; and more foods from the wild countryside.

Who wants to restock their pantry unless it will really improve health?  In recent years researchers investigated the effects of a healthy Nordic diet on insulin sensitivity, lipid profile, blood pressure and inflammatory markers in 309 people with metabolic syndrome. The healthy Nordic diet included whole-grain products, berries, fruits and vegetables, rapeseed oil, three fish meals per week and low-fat dairy products. An average Nordic diet served as a control diet. Participants who ate the healthy Nordic diet saw improved lipid profiles and relief of low-grade inflammation. 

Rapeseed oil comes from plants that grow in northern climates.  According to growers, rapeseed oil can be used like extra virgin olive oil in cooking and has about half the saturated fat found in olive oil.  Rapeseed oil has the lowest proportion of saturated fats of all vegetable oils and contains essential fatty acids; linoleic acid (Omega 6) and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega 3), vitamin E, and vitamin K.

 One key ingredient not mentioned in the medical literature might be “Lagom är bäst” which is Swedish for “just enough.” Swedes have a saying: “Enough is as good as a feast.”  Keep langom in mind when you get to the dessert recipe!

 So, can the healthy Nordic diet be adapted to New England?  I searched around to find out what a Scandinavian hostess might offer for a summer lunch if she shopped locally, and worked up an appetite.  Recipes follow.  Wait till you tell the kids “hey, it’s Glödstekt forell i folie for dinner!” 

Do you have favorite recipes that can be added to a healthy diet?  If so, send us an email. 

Sotsuppe – Scandinavian fruit soup
Serves 6-8

This is the old-fashioned version of fruit soup, made with dried fruits. It’s traditionally served as a dessert, but also makes an elegant main course on a hot summer day.

1 cup dark raisins
1 (11-ounce) package mixed dried fruit
2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups water
2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups grape juice
1/3 cup heavy cream [or fat-free half and half]

Combine raisins, dried fruit, and apricots. Grate zest from lemon and juice. Add 1 teaspoon zest and juice to fruits, along with cinnamon stick and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until fruit is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. At this point you can puree some of the fruit with an immersion blender. Add tapioca, salt, sugar, and grape fruit and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes, then cover and chill for 4-6 hours. To serve, drizzle with heavy cream.

 Inlagd gurka – Swedish marinated cucumber salad

Sliced thin and soaked in a sweetened mixture of vinegar and lemon juice, these cucumbers retain a summer crispness and serve as a light, fresh complement to any meal.

1 cucumber
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. celery seed
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Wash and peel cucumber. Cut into paper-thin slices and place into a wide-mouthed jar or other covered container. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover the jar and shake well until the sugar is dissolved. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. If you have any left over, marinated cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Glödstekt forell i folie – Foil-roasted trout

Traditionally baked on the embers of Midsummer’s Eve bonfires in Sweden, foil-roasted trout or perch is easy and quick to prepare on a less dramatic but equally effective backyard grill.
Serves 4-6

5 – 6 medium trout
canola or olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 bunch fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

Wash and clean freshly caught trout. Rub outside and inner cavities of each fish with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub together softened butter, dill, chives, and parsley. Spread butter mixture on inner cavities of fish, then wrap each one in foil. Place fish close to the coals of a grill or campfire. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn and roast for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Garnish with dill, if desired, and serve.

Nya potatis, sill och dill – Potato salad with new potatoes, dill & radishes
Serves 4-6

1 pound of new potatoes (about 20 small potatoes, if you use regular size, 5-7 is enough)
1 onion
1/2 English cucumber
2 cups of crème fraîche (or sour cream)
10-15 radishes with salt and optional vinegar
lemon pepper (or 2 tbsps fresh lemon juice and black pepper)
fresh dill

Wash the potatoes well. Boil the potatoes with salt and dill, and let completely cool down.  New potatoes don’t have to be peeled. Cut the new potatoes in half or in four pieces and put in a salad bowl. Slice the radishes to thin and put on a plate, sprinkle with salt and a dash of vinegar and let sit while chopping the onion and cucumber. Chop the onion and English cucumber and add to the salad bowl. Add crème fraîche and radishes, season with lemon pepper and fresh dill.

Swedish summer cake   [cake is not technically part of the healthy Nordic diet, but strawberries are, so enjoy!]

Vanilla custard
2 egg yolks
2 x 15ml tablespoons caster sugar [ok, what’s with the 2×15?  15ml=1 TBSP, so say 2 TBSP and let me know how that works out]
2 teaspoons corn flour or potato flour
250ml full-fat milk [about 1 cup]
½ vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

If using the vanilla pod, put everything in a pot over a low to medium heat, stirring non-stop, until it starts to thicken. Do not let it boil. If using the vanilla extract, put everything in except the extract and proceed as above.  When it starts to thicken – just over 3 minutes at medium heat, but just under 5 if you keep the flame cautiously low – take it off the heat. Remove the vanilla pod, if using.  Transfer to a cold bowl, mix in the vanilla extract, if using, and continue stirring until it is a little cooler, then cover with cling film – touching the surface of the custard – to stop the custard getting a skin when it’s cold. Or wet a piece of baking parchment and place that right on top of the custard.

 The cakeSkipped this recipe because I’d just buy a sponge cake to put the custard in!

 The berries
750g strawberries [a little more than 3 cups]
 2-3 teaspoons caster sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
 500ml double cream* [about 2 cups]
 2 teaspoons vanilla extract*

Put one third of the strawberries to one side. Cut the remaining berries in half. Sprinkle with sugar – how much depends on how tart or sweet the berries – shake and leave until they glisten: 10 minutes will be just fine, though 1 hour would make them juicier and glossier. Whisk the double cream and vanilla extract until it holds its peaked shape when the beaters are lifted out [if you are pressed for time you can use whipped cream in a can.  Just don’t tell Martha.] Fold a third of the whisked cream into the fully cooked vanilla custard you made earlier. Slice the cake horizontally into 3 layers. Put on cake layer on its serving platter or stand, and top with half the vanilla-custard-cream, then arrange half the strawberries on top, concentrating more on the outer edges of the cake than the center. Top with the second layer of sponge and repeat as before with the rest of the custard-cream and cut berries. Now set the third cake layer on top and cover with the waiting whipped cream, arranging the reserved strawberries as desired.

Recipes adapted from Kari Diehl and Linda Larson, Scandinavian Food on; Katja Presnal, Swedishes on; Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen. [Notes in italics are mine.]

Information about rapeseed oil from “The rapeseed revolution: Rapeseed oil is yellow, mellow and surprisingly healthy.”  Here and here 

Healthy aspects of the Nordic diet are related to lower total mortality.
J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):639-44. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.131375. Epub 2011 Feb 23.Olsen A, et al, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Denmark

 Effects of an isocaloric healthy Nordic diet on insulin sensitivity, lipid profile and inflammation markers in metabolic syndrome – a randomized study (SYSDIET).
J Intern Med. 2013 Feb 7, Uusitupa M, et al; Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition and Kuopio University Hospital, Finland

What is a healthy Nordic diet? Foods and nutrients in the NORDIET study.
Food Nutr Res. 2012, Adamsson V, et al.  Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Uppsala University, Sweden

Guidelines for the new Nordic diet.
Public Health Nutr. 2012 Oct, Mithril C, et al. Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Cauliflower

Due to its light color, cauliflower, one of my favorite vegetables, is often overlooked for being a nutritional powerhouse.  However, it is low in calories (one filling cup contains only 25!) and packed with nutrients like fiber; Vitamins C (one cup contains 75% of the Recommended Daily Intake), K, and B6; and potassium, folate, and manganese.  Cauliflower is also low in carbohydrates, and is often featured as a swap for higher-carb ingredients, like potatoes, in healthy recipes.  Here, it is used as a substitute for everyone’s favorite movie snack, popcorn. 

Cauliflower Popcorn

1 head of cauliflower
cooking spray
pepper, salt, and turmeric, to taste

1.  Break up cauliflower into popcorn-sized pieces; this can be done by hand or with a small knife.
2.  Place pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3.  Spray cauliflower with cooking spray and season with pepper, salt, and turmeric; toss to mix.
4.  Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

Recipe from Kids Eat Right.

DOC Employees Have a (Wellness) Field Day

As I’ve noted in previous posts, the Department of Correction is a model agency when it comes to wellness activities.  They outdid themselves once again at their 2013 Wellness Field Day, held on May 6 in Norfolk.  Every year, the Department celebrates Correction Officer and Employees Week with events that recognize the hard work DOC employees do all year long.  In the past, employees were given the opportunity to participate in a run/walk event, which was always a huge success.  This year, however, with the support of WellMASS, the DOC Wellness Committee decided to go one step further and turn the run/walk into an entire day devoted to wellness.

DOC wellness day 1

I was included in much of the planning process, which started months in advance and involved a lot of careful preparation and decision-making.  All of the Committee’s hard work paid off, as the event was well-attended, well-received, and incorporated and encouraged wellness at every available opportunity.  While physical wellness was spotlighted at the run/walk and games such as wiffle ball and volleyball, it was only one piece of the puzzle.  Employees were also able to test their wellness knowledge during a lunchtime wellness trivia competition (hosted by GIC Program Manager Dana Bushell and myself); showcase their hidden vocal talents during a Karaoke contest; and engage in camaraderie in a scavenger hunt or one of the many other team-building activities.  Each event attracted employees of all ages and job functions, from Correction Officers to administrative staff.  Morale and team spirit were high, as participants represented their institution or division, with the winning institution, MCI-Norfolk, taking home a trophy and year-long bragging rights. 

DOC wellness day 2

I had a lot of fun at the Wellness Field Day, and, judging from the smiling faces I saw all day long, DOC employees did as well.  I am sure that participants walked away from the day with a little more knowledge of and appreciation for wellness, both physical and emotional.   Hosting a yearly event such as a Wellness Day is a great way to boost employee morale and encourage healthy behaviors all year long. DOC wellness day 3

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking.  Most of us have probably tried chickpeas in the form of hummus, a dip that tastes decadent but is surprisingly healthy, thanks to the nutrient content of its star ingredient.  Chickpeas are a good source of fiber, folate, and manganese.  They are also an excellent source of protein, and can be substituted for meat in many Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dishes.  In the following recipe, chickpeas are used as an unlikely substitute for another ingredient:  wheat flour.  This rich, fudgy cake can be safely enjoyed by those with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, as well as by anyone with a sweet tooth.  Make sure that the chickpeas are ground up as much as possible in order to ensure a cake with a smooth consistency.

Gluten-Free Chickpea Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
¾ cup white sugar
½  tsp. baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
2.  Melt chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
3.  Combine chickpeas and eggs in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
4.  Add sugar and baking powder; blend.
5.  Pour in melted chocolate, then blend until smooth.
6.  Transfer batter to prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe from North Dakota State University Extension Service.