Sticking to our New Year Resolutions

By | Food | No Comments

The Center for Total Health team — and extended staff members — have kicked off a three-day clean eating challenge. We’ll be sampling local seasonal flavors and focusing on soups and juices as the core of our program.  Our goal is to reset our taste buds and to refocus our efforts on healthier eating.  Over the next three days we’ll search out fresh, local vegetables and juices along with select nuts and grains. Some might question our timing before the big football game this weekend, but there’s probably never a perfect time to start eating healthier.  It’s easy to worry about your work schedule, family and social gatherings as possible excuses for not watching your diet. We also know that  social support is a huge help, especially in the office setting. As colleagues who spend many hours working together, we can help reinforce healthier habits starting with all our food choices at work.


As always the Center for Total Health supports healthier choices for meetings and events held here. We do not endorse any particular diet or meal vendors. Check with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about eating healthier. There are a number of resources available to assist you on

Make Today a Little Sweeter

By | Food, Healthy Communities | No Comments

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, while 86 million have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. While there are some risk factors for diabetes that you can’t change, knowing your risks lets you decide what’s best for your health. This fall, take time to make and celebrate healthy changes. Some ideas:

Play detective: Find out what you don’t know about your family history, especially when it comes to chronic conditions.

Stay in check: Low blood sugar levels can cause sudden mood swings in some people, so don’t go too long between eating meals.

Indulge smart: When you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, be mindful of your choices. A serving of berries is almost always better than a pastry or chocolate.

Form more information, visit

You Too Can Have Healthy Meetings!

By | Center for Total Health, Food | No Comments
Panel discussion featuring, from left:  Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, Kelly Kearney, and Erin Meade.

Panel discussion featuring, from left: Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, Kelly Kearney, and Erin Meade.

On Monday, February 2nd, our friends at Kaiser Permanante’s Garfield Innovation Center hosted a great event focusing on delicious, healthy food. “A Taste of the Garfield Center” featured local Bay Area caterers to showcase menus that adhere to Kaiser Permanente’s “Healthy Picks” policy, along with a few presentations on healthy meeting and working practices.

I was certainly humbled to be on a panel with Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, both of Kaiser Permanente, and Kelly Kearney of Pacific Fine Foods (a favorite at the Garfield Center) – three incredible women. I was inspired that 100 Kaiser Permanente employees made time in their busy schedules to attend the event so that they could go back to the office with a better understanding of healthy picks to share with their teams. The audience included administrative assistants, lawyers, nurses, designers; many expressed trepidation about trying to change habits from their relatively junior positions. “After all,” said one assistant, “we aren’t all vice presidents.” Marilyn’s answer – sincere, honest, and inspiring – was simply, “We all lead from where we are.”

Kelly and the Pacific Fine Foods Team (showing off their VERY delicious kale chips)

Kelly and the Pacific Fine Foods Team

The Center for Total Health was one of the earliest adapters of the Healthy Picks guidelines, about a year ahead of schedule. As a team, we love helping our guests explore healthy AND delicious menus (ideally paired with some physical activity) for their meetings and events, and we are lucky to get to work with colleagues from inside and outside of the organization.

Now, I’m going to challenge YOU to make your next meeting healthier! Here are some tips and tools to help you start:

1. Get agreement for the concept of healthy meetings as a concept before introducing it for a specific meeting. Then hold people to it (especially the boss and other leaders).
2. Ease in! You don’t have to do a 180 degree change overnight. Try making healthy substitutions (lowfat yogurt, leaner meats, more fruits and vegetables) to start.
3. Healthy food can be tasty and fun – look for menu items with herbs and spices instead of sauces, and consider interactive options like a build your own salad bar to get people engaged in (and excited about) what they’re eating. Bonus: no one can complain about what’s in their salad!
4. If you’re ordering from a large chain, they are legally required to provide nutrition information on their menus. Use it! If you aren’t sure what is best, try consulting the USDA’s Healthy Plate guidelines or Kaiser Permanante’s own Healthy Picks guidelines. You might also like our Healthy Meetings Essentials toolkit, which has information about menus, activity, sustainability and more!

We’d love to hear more suggestions from you, and let us know if you’re working on making your meetings (or work environment) healthier!

A Q&A with FoodCorps DC

By | Community Health Initiatives, Food, Schools | No Comments
FoodCorps DC Service Sites

FoodCorps DC Service Sites

On Monday, the Center for Total Health was delighted to host a meeting for FoodCorps DC.

FoodCorps is a national nonprofit organization that has nearly 200 AmeriCorps leaders throughout the country who are connecting kids to real food so they can grow up healthy.

These service members help schools in communities with limited resources, where they educate kids on how to make smart choices around food and nutrition.  They also lead hands-on activities like gardening and cooking that foster skills and pride around healthy food.  They even help make it possible for nutritious meals from local farms to make it onto school lunch trays. FoodCorps recently expanded into Washington, D.C., where they work in partnership with OSSE and many of D.C.’s wonderful food organizations such as D.C. Greens and City Blossoms.

After Monday’s “supervisor summit” at the CTH, we asked FoodCorps DC Supervisor Maddie Morales to answer a few questions for us.

Q: What is the mission or goal of FoodCorps? 

A: Together with communities, FoodCorps serves to connect kids to healthy food in school.

Q: What are some of the FoodCorps programs in DC? 

A: FoodCorps works with community partners to place service members into DC schools. We have 13 service members serving in 17 schools across the city. Our service members have been placed at schools through our service sites which are DC Greens, City Blossoms, FreshFarm Markets, Capital Area Food Bank, Marie Reed Elementary, Washington Youth Garden, Metz Culinary, and SEED Public Charter.

Q: Where should someone go to see your work in action in DC?

A: One of our 17 partner schools! Cleveland Elementary, Eastern High School, Kimball Elementary, or Hart Middle School, to name a few.

Q: If FoodCorps could change one thing, what would it be? 

A: We would create a future in which all of our nation’s children––regardless of class, race, or geography––know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and eat it every day.

Q: What attracted you to working with FoodCorps? 

A: I originally applied to be a service member, because I saw this as a position that aligned my goals and personal values with tangible work. After a year of service, I wanted to continue my journey with FoodCorps as a fellow to further support the amazing work this organization has been able to accomplish.

Q: How can others get involved? 

A: Apply to be a service member! Applications are open until March 31st. Spread the word or volunteer at a service site.

Q: Who won during today’s pre-meeting warm up (physically active video) games? 

The FoodCorps team took an active meeting break on Monday morning with the help of an X-Box game.

The FoodCorps team took an active meeting break on Monday morning with the help of a physically active video game.

A: Rebecca Lemos. That girl has a mean uppercut punch. (Sorry Sam.)

Q: What healthy strategies does FoodCorps employ for its employees? 

A: FoodCorps supports an environment of wellness for employees. Through access to health care, support for eating healthy and reminders to take personal time, I know that my health is a priority for the entire organization. Also, potlucks and sharing delicious, healthy food is huge around here.

Q: Besides Kaiser Permanente, what other organizations does FoodCorps partner with to succeed? 

A: We are grateful to have support from a plethora of generous organizations, foundations and individuals who think kids deserve the chance to grow up healthy and happy. Take a look at our funders’ page for a complete list.

Q: What is your goal or personal mission at FoodCorps? What do you enjoy most? 

A: As a fellow with FoodCorps, I hope to support our service members and promote the amazing work being done in DC to support healthy lives for our students. I hope my passion for improving the food environment for children and families in DC is motivational to the service member cohort and our larger community! I most enjoy working alongside fantastic and dedicated people already doing this work and learning from the strong foundation that they have created. I also have a personal mission of learning how to cook like all of my colleagues…they are amazing!

You can read more about FoodCorps on their blog and follow their work on Twitter.

Learn more about Keith Montgomery and Alice Patty through their answers to our Total Health Questionnaire.

Falling for Autumnal Eats

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Pumpkinmuffin_cbIf you are like most people, you love fall — one survey claims that it’s the season Americans like best.

Many appreciate this time of year because of the autumnal climate.  My own theory?  It’s the food.

Fall is the time of year when we feel emboldened to use spices that may come on too strong during spring and summer.  The aromatic earthiness of nutmeg.  The zingy bite of cinnamon.  The cozy warmth of cloves. Resonant spices that just make us feel good.

The Food for Health bloggers know this well.  That’s why they’ve welcomed the fall season with a recipe for Pumpkin Muffins. Kate Land, MD, the recipe’s author, says these are, “healthy, hearty and perfect for breakfast.”

Check out the recipe over at the Food for Health blog.  And follow Dr. Land on Twitter: @KPkiddoc.


Recipes for Life: Proof that Roasting Vegetables Works Wonders

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imageTwo posts in a row featuring recipes? We know, we know. But when the cooking docs over at the Food for Health blog come up with a winner, we want to share it.

Most of us enjoy roasted vegetables, and every once in a while, it’s nice to try the technique with something new. Kaiser Permanente Physician and Chef Benjamin Maring, MD, discovered just how much of a difference roasting makes with okra. Check out the full post and recipe at the Food for Health blog here.

Thursday Dish: Is there such a thing as healthy comfort food?

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Mancuso-comfort-food-593x444Comfort food: It’s good for the soul. It soothes the spirit. But healthy? Can comfort food really be healthy?

Not just healthy. Plant-based. (It’s true!)

In this recipe from the good folks at the Food for Health blog, the grilled tofu, vegetarian Dal (a lentil dish), brown rice and sauteed kale combine to provide a nice balance of protein, whole grains, fiber and flavor. Check out the full recipe here.

Tuesday Dish: Behold the Virtues of Melon with Lime and Chile

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Melons-and-chili-1Tell us this isn’t one of the most surprising — and eye-catching — recipes you’ve seen all summer. We dare you.

From our friends at the Food for Health blog, Kaiser Permanente physician and chef Benjamin Maring, MD, brings us an easy (and delicious-sounding) recipe for Melon with Lime and Chile. The photo alone is inspiring, and we are looking forward to our next run to the local farmers market to check out their selection of melons — cantaloupe and honeydew aren’t the only varieties that would complement this dish.

Dr. Maring suggests this is a perfect snack for hot summer days and an ideal starter for a dinner party — and who are we to argue? If you’re as intrigued (and hungry) as we are, check out the recipe here.

Friday Food: Tasty Tacos — Without the Guilt

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The latest Food for Health blog recipe is a keeper — veggie tacos!  Kaiser Permanente physician and chef Benjamin Maring, MD, shares his lighter take on this popular meal.  The trick is to combine raw veggies with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, which — according to Maring — add what he describes as “a heartiness that make you not miss the classic seasoned ground meat filling, even for a second.”  Check it out here.

The Thursday Dish: Healthy Stuffed Rainbow Peppers

By | Food, Healthy Living, Obesity Prevention & Treatment | No Comments

Stuffed-Rainbow-Peppers_593x473pxToday, it’s another tasty recipe from the Food for Health blog — but this one has a twist.

There’s a great story behind this recipe, one that features a 12-year-old being recognized for her culinary creativity with an invitation to dine with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

According to our friends at Food for Health:

Grace Wetzler is a budding chef and healthy cooking advocate who took on the First Lady’s 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and decided to submit her recipe for healthy stuffed rainbow peppers into the contest.

“I was on spring vacation when I heard about the contest from my cousin. I thought about it and thought about it and tried to come up with some recipe ideas. And then the recipe just came to me on a whim. I put the ingredients together and it just worked! So I submitted my entry.”

Indeed, out of approximately 1,500 entries that were submitted, Grace’s delicious and nutritious stuffed rainbow peppers were among the 54 winners that made the cut. Grace was eventually notified that she was a winner and that she’d be headed to the White House to celebrate and enjoy a State Dinner with the First Lady and other dignitaries.

This colorful recipe is a great example of how Grace is already showing imagination in her cooking.  And it has the nutritional stats to back it up — 392 calories, 10 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 27 grams of protein.

Check out the recipe here.