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Food Photography Tips: Part 4

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Welcome to Part 4 of my series Food Photography Tips! (Click here to read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.)

I’m on a mission to help beginners make their food photos look better, so we’re going to jump right in with some info about basic editing techniques.

I’ll be covering the basics of editing in this post, plus showing you a complete editing workflow example from start to finish.

Food Photography Tips: Editing

A lot can be done to improve your photos with the right editing tweaks. On the other hand, it’s also easy to really overdo it and make food look pretty unnatural. With that in mind, I’m going to share editing basics with you so you can start to enhance your food photography.

Editing Software

Let’s start with editing software. There are tons of programs, sites and software you can use to edit your photos. Keep in mind that free versions are usually more restricted in what you can do, whether it’s with adjustments, export options, file organization and more.

(I use a Mac so all my recommendations are specific to Mac-friendly programs. Sorry, PC dudes and dudettes.)

At the most basic, you can use a program like Preview to view and make some simple edits like exposure, contrast and saturation on your photos. You can also use iPhoto to do similar.

For web-based programs, options like PicMonkey.com give you quite a bit of functionality.

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For folks who are more serious about taking things to the next level, you have options.

Aperture (for Mac) was my go-to program until a few months ago because its library system, dashboard, and controls were very similar to iPhoto.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

It was a natural transition for that reason, but unfortunately, Apple is no longer supporting Aperture via new updates. I decided it was time to jump ship to a new program for that reason.

Many folks I know use Photoshop for the bulk of their food photography editing, and it can do amazing things. I tend to find Adobe products not quite as intuitive so it took a while to get used to it, and I’m only barely scratching the surface of its potential.

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The main downfall of Photoshop is its lack of filing or library system to organize your pictures. I use Photoshop for certain tasks, though more for designing graphics.

I made the switch to Lightroom a couple months back after a few failed attempts at converting. My main struggle was in understanding the library system that Lightroom utilizes—because it’s so different from Aperture—so I actually did a couple online tutorials from Lynda.com. to learn more about it.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Turns out, after a short adjustment period, I really love Lightroom!

Basic Editing Adjustments

Let’s talk adjustments. While there are dozens you can make to your photos, I’m highlighting some of the most basic here. We can break it down simply into a few main categories: adjustments related to light and dark, color, and other interesting features like sharpness. Again, these are just some of the most fundamental.

Light and Dark

How can you adjust the lightness or darkness of an image? First is exposure, the overall amount of light in the photo. Cranking the exposure up will eventually make it too bright or “blown out.” Dialing it down makes it really dark. While higher or lower than normal exposure can lead to dramatic effects in photography, with food it generally looks bad; either the food is too shiny or you can’t see it.

Next, you can adjust highlights and shadows. Highlights take the brightest parts of your image, say, the reflection of a window on an apple and make it even brighter or conversely, dull those lightest parts down.

Shadows deal with the darkest parts of a picture. By adjusting the shadows up or down, you can make them more or less intense. I find that most of my photos need a bit of shadow lifted off simply because of how I shoot and prefer the light to hit my subjects (from the side). Sometimes, minor adjustments in highlights and shadows are all that’s needed to make the photo pop.

Lastly, trying playing around with contrast. It’s going to accentuate the difference between darks and lights in your photo—and also intensify or dull the colors—and make it more dramatic. Sometimes I’ll adjust the contrast once I’m happy with the exposure, highlights, shadows and white balance. It’s personal preference, but I like a bit more contrast in my photos because it adds visual interest without making the photo look unnatural.

Color

Perhaps the single fastest way to correct a photo—or to make it look weird—is by adjusting the white balance. Essentially white balance is composed of two color ranges: blue to yellow (warmth), and green to pink (tint). The goal with most food photos should be an image that looks like it was shot in white light—not too yellow or blue and with a normal amount of tint. Remember to keep lamps and other light sources (unless it’s a dedicated photography light) off while you’re shooting since the tendency is for those to throw a yellow cast on to your food.

Even the most well-intentioned photographer can end up with photos that need white balancing because, for example, darker or cloudy mornings (particularly in the winter) can lead to blue casts on the food. Sometimes weather or outdoor conditions need to be accounted for.

It can be tricky to adjust white balance, but most advanced programs have pretty good auto balance features or pickers / samplers that let you pick a neutral point in your photo to set the white balance from. Think of them like a frame of reference where you tell the computer, “This is supposed to be neutral white or grey,” and it adjusts the warmth and tint for you. I like to sneak in something white or grey into my photos for that reason. Even something as simple as a basic white sack cloth can help you balance the color later.

Once you’ve adjusted the white balance, consider other color adjustments like saturation and vibrance. Caution: These are very potent features! A little goes a long way. Saturation is how concentrated the colors in a photo are. Turn it up all the way and you’ll see how garish the colors gets. If you turn it down all the way, you’ll end up with a black and white photo.

Since it’s easy to overdo saturation, I prefer to avoid it in most cases and use vibrance instead. It take just the weakest colors of a photo and bumps them up. Again, use caution because it’s still easy to overdo it and end up with something that looks like abstract art and not realistic-looking food.

Other Interesting Edits

Fixing blemishes in your photo is possible in most advanced editing programs such as Photoshop (PS) and Lightroom (LR). This is one place where I think PS excels over LR and has better functionality and spot matching.

I really try to make my photos as clean as possible before editing because, while these blemish tools can do amazing things, when you start trying to fix large areas of the photo, things can get weird fast.

With that in mind, get into the habit of wiping plate / bowl rims, dusting off your table or backdrops, looking for pet hair, etc. There’s a difference between adding crumbs to a photo on purpose or spilling some salt artfully on the table and having poorly plated food. A little neatness goes a long way later on.

Other helpful basic adjustments are things like sharpness or clarity. Again, treat these tools gingerly. Too much sharpness can make food look piece-y or artificial against its background. Sometimes too much luminance (an adjustment in LR) makes food look too soft.

One more thing to keep in mind: Most editing programs have auto functions and while I’ve found they can be quite good, sometimes the software doesn’t get it right. Be sure to always check your auto-edited photos before you post them, and remember to turn off screen darkening programs—like f.lux—and adjust the brightness of your display before you begin editing.

How I Edit My Photos: A Sample Workflow

Here’s a basic workflow I use on much of my photography. Individual photos may vary, but I try to keep things as simple as possible by using good light to begin with.

(Note: Click on the screenshots of my LR dashboard to enlarge them. I normally don’t set my blog photos up this way, but I want you to be able to see the details.)

Once I import my photos to LR, I quickly scan through and flag which ones I want to edit. (Hint: Hit the P key to flag your top picks).

Here’s a shoot I did recently for my Cabbage with Apple & Onion recipe. The original was really, really bad. (Like, really.) Taken at night with my old Canon Elph point & shoot, too close with yellow lighting and obviously, the styling was seriously lacking.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 4.59.11 PM

I cooked it up again and styled it simply, but in a much more pleasing way. I took advantage of bright early afternoon, indirect light and added some burlap and my favorite kitchen towel (click here to see where I get props) for texture.

I kept the plating basic—just using the skillet I cooked it in—and put it all on top of my Erickson Woodworks reclaimed barn wood background for a rustic feel. Lastly, I blocked some light from the left to add a bit of shadowing using my trusty black foam board.

I’m using a Nikon D610 DSLR camera body. My lens choice here was the Nikkor 50mm f / 1.4 that I just picked up on sale. It’s way more pricey than my budget 50mm f / 1.8 (I used that for my whole cookbook), but it was time to upgrade.

Cabbage with Apple & Onion Recipe | stupideasypaleo.com

Okay, so after importing to LR, this is what I’m seeing in the Develop pane. It’s already shaping up to be much better, but this photo could use some tweaks.

First, I notice that the tint is a bit pink which I’d like to change. I also want to straighten the photo to make those barn wood planks vertical. Looks like it could use a bit of adjustment with exposure and contrast. And, I’d like to correct a couple blemishes.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Today I decided to straighten this photo first. To do that I click on the Crop & Straighten tool. It looks like a box with dotted lines. From there, I slide the Angle adjustment until the planks look vertical.

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That should do it. Then, I click done.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Next, I’m going to tackle the white balance.

Shooting in RAW gives me far more options for adjusting white balance than shooting in JPEG. If you’re a novice, JPEG can work just fine, but I recommend getting comfy with RAW by practicing. (Note: RAW files are much larger than JPEGs so you’ll need an external or cloud-based storage system if you do a lot of photography in RAW.)

I’m in the Basic editing pane now, right at the top. Note the range of options LR gives me for editing the white balance because I shot this in RAW.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Sometimes, the Auto white balance looks just fine. Other times, it looks off.

You can help things along by using a white or grey object in your photo, then using the dropper / picker tool to click on a target neutral to set the white balance.

Note the Temp (blue to yellow) and Tint (green to pink) of the original. It’s a bit cool (blue) and pink for my liking.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

When I try to that in this photo, I’m having a hard time finding RGB values that are very close to each other. So, I resorted to Auto, and it looks good to me. Slightly warmer and less pink.

Note the Temp value warmed up to 4050K and the Tint dropped down from +26 to +18 (less pink). I’m happy with how this looks, so I move on to adjusting other Tone settings.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

If you’re new to editing, the Auto function under Tone can do a pretty good job. I find it tends to overexpose photos, so if I’m in a rush, I sometimes hit Auto, then drop the exposure back down a bit.

Here’s what happens when I hit Auto Tone. Looks pretty good. Note how the adjustments changed, including highlights, shadows, whites and blacks.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

If I’m in less of a rush, I tend to adjust Tone manually, starting with exposure, then changing things like contrast and lifting shadows. Use these tools conservatively or you’ll end up with photos that look pretty freaky.

Compare the values I adjusted to what Auto did. Notice how mine are a bit more conservative.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

I’m happy with my adjustments so I’m moving on to spot correction.

Now, this is a bit picky, but there are a couple spots I want to correct out of preference. When I’m editing for a cookbook, I’m way more detail-oriented than when I’m editing for the blog.

See where the arrow is pointing? I want to get rid of that bit of cabbage.

So, I click on the Brush tool (round circle with an arrow), and click on Heal. I adjust the size of the circle until it matches the size of that cabbage crumb.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Then, I hover over the blemish and click. LR picks an area of the photo to heal. I can move that around to get a perfect match.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

I lift a couple other spots off the skillet handle, then click done.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

This is almost ready to export, but I want to check all my changes. There are a few options here.

Use the shortcut by pressing \ on your keyboard, and it’ll toggle between a full-screen view of before and after.

Or, you can toggle between a few different split screen views of the before / after by clicking down at the bottom of the pane next to the full screen image icon.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

My last step is to Export the image. I select the photo I want to export, then right click to bring up the options. (Or, use Export in the nav bar.) I use some different pre-sets most of the time, such as export file type and size, especially if I’m batch exporting for use on my blog and the photos can be the same.

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Then, I add a watermark (using Photobulk or Photoshop) or text overlay (using Photoshop or for a free option, PicMonkey), and I’m done.

Here’s the finished image as it appears on the blog.

Cabbage with Apple & Onion Recipe | stupideasypaleo.com

I know it sounds like a lot of steps, but once you develop a workflow that works for you (and you practice enough), you’ll get really efficient.

To sum it up, most food photos are best when the it still looks natural. Personal style and artistic touches are certainly part of food photography so experiment to see what you like, but keep in mind that some basics still apply.

Click below for the other parts of this series.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com
Food Photography Tips—Part 2
Food Photography Tips: Part 3 | stupideasypaleo.com

Pin this for later!

Food Photography Tips: Part 4 | stupideasypaleo.com

Is there anything I haven’t covered in this series that you’re still wondering about? Let me know in the comments!

3 Easy Ways to Make Food Taste Good: Ask Steph

3 Easy Ways to Make Food Taste Good—Ask Steph | stupideasypaleo.com

(Want to submit your own question to be feature on Ask Steph? Submit it via the contact form, and use the subject line “Ask Steph!”)

Julie H. writes:

I’m new to Paleo and want to eat better, but I get bored with a lot of the meals I cook. How can I make things taste better so I’m motivated to stick to eating this way?

Julie H.

A lot of readers here are probably not just new to Paleo, but new to cooking a lot at home as well. Creating flavor so that food isn’t boring on your palate is so important, and I’m here to tell you that it’s pretty simple if you remember some basics. When healthy food tastes good, you’re more likely to come back for more rather than turning to processed food loaded with salt, sugar and fat.

A Simple Formula For Max Flavor

When you have a really great meal at a restaurant and the taste harmoniously sings on your tongue, it’s most likely because the chef has done a great job balancing three or four different flavor components:

salt + sour + sweet or umami

The good news is that you don’t need a trip to culinary school to start experimenting with these right away.

Ingredient #1 For Making Flavor: Salt

The most strict of all Paleo diets calls for NO added salt to food. None. I have one word for that: bland. When food lacks salt, the result is a lack of flavor, unpalatable. You don’t want to go crazy in the other direction by over-salting, but adding salt to food is the most basic seasoning technique.

When you’re focusing on real, whole foods and avoiding processed, pre-made foods, your sodium intake tends to drop off dramatically.

There are lots of different types of salt, but sea salt is my favorite because it tends to be less intense than kosher varieties. There’s fine, medium and coarse grain and even flakes. I like a medium-grain sea salt for an all-around variety. What about iodized salt? I tend to avoid it because I’d rather get dietary iodine—an essential micronutrient—from whole foods such as sea vegetables, seafood and eggs instead.

Salt is also important in the cooking techniques like brining or sweating veggies to reduce their moisture content. That could be a whole post by itself!

What are some other ways to add a salty element to your food: using pickled or fermented veggies like sauerkraut or capers, cured meats such as bacon, olives or even coconut aminos.

Ingredient #2 For Making Flavor: Acid

Acidic / sour ingredients really help brighten up the flavors of a dish and are also good at cutting through an overly fatty dish. Typically, I add some acid right at the end of cooking to freshen up the flavor just a bit.

Another great way to add an acidic element to your meal is by incorporating a sauce such as salsa or vinaigrette. I always keep fresh limes and lemons in my fruit bowl for a quick squeeze of acid.

Some other ways to add an acidic / sour element to your food: using fermented or pickled veggies or different types of vinegars—apple cider and balsamic are my favorites.

Ingredient #3 For Making Flavor: Sweet or Umami

Using these two components can depend on the recipe you’re making, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Sweetness doesn’t mean you have to add sugar. Rather, consider sprinkling on some dried or fresh fruit; a drizzle of honey or maple syrup; or even roast veggies to bring out their natural sweetness.

Umami is basically a savory flavor that’s imparted by foods that have the amino acid glutamate. Note: Eating real foods that are higher in glutamate is not the same as using an additive like monosodium glutamate (MSG). Yuck.

Some ways to add umami to your food: using mushrooms (I like shiitakes), broth, tomatoes, fish sauce, coconut aminos or sardines.

Don’t Forget About…

Texture. Adding an element to your plate that breaks up the texture is another way to keep food interesting. If everything is soft, add something crispy / crunchy or vice versa. Some options: raw veggies, chopped nuts, plantain chips, etc.

Spices and herbs. Get your pantry stocked up with these because they’re awesome ways to add flavor. Click here to get my free guide.

Hopefully, this gives you some inspiration to make food that’s never boring!

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Have a question? Leave it in the comments below!

Paleo Holiday Survival Guide

holiday clean eating guide

…aka “How to Stay Sane but Still Eat Healthy at the Most Tempting Time of the Year”.

…aka “How to Not End Up Like Buddy the Elf.”d29944f9ed6d6e0b65d7dfe721178ea71485977b07af2ba0f7a1909edf714e18

From Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives to your office holiday party, candy cane booby traps seem to be everywhere this time of year. I’m bringing you some of my best tips to survive the holiday season with your health intact so you won’t need a New Year’s resolution of losing weight…again.

Without further adieu, here are my top 10 tips for staying paleo and surviving the holidays:

#1 If possible, host a gathering or dinner at your place. 

Yes, this usually makes tons of extra work for you, but by hosting, you’ll have more control over the food offered. Chances are, folks won’t really even notice you’re not offering lots of grain-heavy choices, so don’t make a big deal about how you’ve banished bread. I’ve made a few paleo Thanksgiving dinners, and everyone walked away happy and full.

#2 Station yourself near the veggies.

If I’m out at a party, I home in on the veggies and meat options and properly set myself up with a plateful. Shrimp cocktail? You bet. Fresh veggies and fruit? Yup. It may not be as sexy as those holiday cookies, but you won’t end up with a sugar hangover the next day.

#3 Have a booze alternative.

If you’ve decided to forgo alcohol, have a substitute drink. That way, at the office or gym party, you can mingle and still have something sparkly in your hand while you’re socializing. One of my favorites is a Mediterranean Fizz from Mel of The Clothes Make the Girl…it’s sparkling water with a lime and olive garnish. For another option, check out my Easy Paleo Mocktails.

#4 If going to a party where you’re unsure of the food situation, eat at home first.

Sounds simple enough but I’ve been to enough parties where the main food options were sandwiches and gluten surprises of unknown origin that if I’m unsure about it, I eat at home before I go. Nothing’s worse than going hungry at a party then arriving home really late, starving. If you show up and there are options, cool…you can pick and choose and fill your belly up with stuff that’s not going to wreck you.

#5 Be prepared for travel.

Holiday season is prime time for travel to visit family and friends, but long hours in transit plus limited options in airports and truck stop convenience stores often lead to impulse eating. I’ve consumed my bodyweight in nuts on many a long trip because I wasn’t prepared. Stash paleo-friendly snacks in your bag if you’re going on a plane (click here for one of my favorites). If you’re going by car, consider bringing a cooler so you can nosh while on the go. Check out these posts from Popular Paleo and Whole9 for paleo foods that travel well.

 #6 Don’t start a clean-eating challenge during the holidays.

This one’s tough. Some folks take on 30 day paleo challenges over the holidays in an attempt to “be good” because there’s a structure in place that they’re committed to. While it sounds great in theory, I don’t recommend it. It’s one thing to make paleo versions of your favorite holiday foods but when you’re ultra restrictive around this time of year, there’s always the significant chance of going 180 in the other direction because the pressure and temptations are so high. Falling off the wagon big time is even more likely at this time of year because you need to exercise willpower virtually everywhere you go. Just like a muscle, willpower gets exhausted from overuse, too. From personal experience and what I’ve learned with clients and readers, save your 30 day challenges for after the holidays.

#7 Schedule time to be active and exercise.

Even if it’s a short walk or a workout at home, with time off around the holidays, it’s easy to fall into a rut. You don’t have to hammer yourself, but make time each day to get outdoors or get  a sweat on. You’ll keep your energy up and prevent some of the doldrums that seem arrive with the winter season.

#8 Get the bat signal ready.

When temptations arise, have someone you can send a bat signal in the sky to. It could be a work buddy, a trusted friend or a family member. Staring down a tray of Christmas cookies? Send a text or phone a friend. The buddy system works wonders.

#9 Resist the urge to be a paleo zealot.

If you’re loving paleo and all the great stuff it’s done for you – better sleep, more energy, fat loss, etc. – it’s so tempting to want to. Tell. EVERYONE. When’s a better time than having a captive audience at a holiday get together?! (I’m being facetious…this is a terrible time). As much as you want to tell Aunt Mary why her dinner roll causes gut permeability or your Uncle George about the blood sugar spike he’ll get after eating that slice of fruitcake, it’s probably not the time or place. Course, if someone asks all about the fabulous changes they’ve noticed in you, you may want to strategically talk about what you’ve been doing (like, “I eat plenty of meat, veggies and healthy fat”). Focusing on the positive always helps. Take it from me, discussing the downsides of grains at a holiday family party when it’s unsolicited often goes over poorly.

#10 Know where you can cut corners.

I’m assuming you’ve already done a strict 30 days of paleo (like a Whole30 or similar) at some point in your journey, right?! (wink wink) You should have a good idea of which foods you can be lax about and which are an absolute no-go. If gluten makes your guts tie into knots but dairy usually doesn’t bother you too much, you’ll know to studiously avoid the cookies while maybe having some holiday eggnog. If you’re out and you want to indulge a bit, pick a choice that won’t wreck you for days.

If there’s a super special treat that your mom only makes for Christmas and it’d fill you with joy to have it, I’d argue that’s where you could / should / would give in. A bag of red and green M & Ms every day through December 31 just isn’t special.

What’s your best tip for clean eating during the holidays?

blue lights 405 x 405

holiday lights 405 x 405

5 Paleo Flavor-Making Juggernauts

5 Flavor BoostersThink back to the best meal you’ve ever had…go ahead, I’ll wait a moment. What was special about it? The flavors…complex yet subtle, layered by the chef to compliment each other left you with an experience. Far from plain chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, right? With a little know-how and a bit of creativity, you can make super tasty, rockstar-status meals.

It’s all about balancing flavors (this could be a long lesson but I’ll keep it to the basics). For novice cooks, try working with this simple triad: salt, acid and aromatics. For example, if a dish just tastes flat, try adding an acid like vinegar or citrus juice to brighten it up.

If you want to go a bit further, you can play with notes of bitter, savory (umami) and spicy.

You can create big flavors, too and it’s as simple as having these five Paleo-friendly, taste-tickling juggernauts on hand. These are my must-haves that I always have around my kitchen.

Vinegars

The options are pretty endless here and it’s generally accepted that vinegars (except for malt vinegar…derived from grain) are Paleo-friendly. Besides the obvious use in dressings or condiments, vinegar is a great way to add a bright note to veggies or heavy dishes like stews.

My favorites: apple cider, balsamic and white wine vinegars

Salts

Okay, this one can be controversial. Some folks who follow a very strict Paleo template don’t use any salt. At all. I tried this when I started Paleo 4 years ago, and it made food pretty boring. By avoiding processed foods, the amount of sodium intake in your diet is already substantially lower. As someone who enjoys cooking and my food, salt is part of the game. I use regular salt during cooking to adjust the overall flavor and sometimes flavored finishing salts as a very light sprinkle before serving. Which type of salt is best? Read this article from Chris Kresser for a comprehensive answer.

My favorites: Maldon Sea Salt flakes, smoked sea salt (pictured), truffle salt

Citrus Juice and Zest

DSC_0033Another option for adding a note of acidity or brightness to your food. Besides the obvious lemons and limes, you may want to experiment with others like grapefruit for savory foods (one of my favorite ceviche recipes uses grapefruit juice). If you’re throwing the zest out with the spent fruit rinds, though, you’re missing a gold mine of flavor! The outermost, colored layer of the skin (not the white pith underneath) contains the citrus oils that make the fruit so fragrant. I use a microplane grater to remove the zest and toss it in everything from dressings and marinades to desserts.

My favorites: lemons, limes and grapefruit

Aromatics

DSC_0035These form the backbone of your dish…the flavor foundation everything’s built on. Used in cooking from cultures around the world, they can be used as a dominant note (think garlic chicken) or as a subtle layer. I always have plenty of aromatics hanging around! The powdered / ground form is useful for some dishes (especially where you don’t want to introduce a lot of extra moisture) though I lean toward the fresh variety just because the flavor is so much more pronounced.

My favorites: onion, garlic, and ginger

Fresh Herbs

DSC_0037Fresh herbs are so great! Not only are they relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to grow your own no matter your space constraints, from pots on a balcony to huge backyard gardens. Heartier fresh herbs like rosemary hold up well to cooking (like in Rosemary Balsamic Butternut Squash) while more delicate leaves like cilantro do better in cold applications (because they’ll wilt otherwise). They’re great to sprinkle on top of a finished dish for another layer of flavor or to brighten up the colors on a plate.

My favorites: flat leaf parsley, mint and rosemary

Let me know what your flavor-making essentials are in the comments below!

5 Tips for a Successful Whole30

doing-the-whole30I’ve pulled five of my favorite tips for having a successful Whole30 (or just eating clean Paleo) into one place! Check them out and tell me how it’s going with your Whole30 in the comments below.

 

On getting your kitchen ready…

On batch-cooking…

On the buddy system…

On handling social drinking…

On having a contingency plan…

3 Ways to Start Improving Your Health…NOW!

When faced with the desire to “get healthier”, even the best intentions can get lost in the details, especially if you’ve read about “diets” such as Paleo or Zone. Trying to figure out what to eat, when to eat it and how to modify your eating and shopping habits can get so overwhelming that it’s easy to revert to status quo. If you’re having trouble getting started on a path to better health (whether its athletic performance, longevity, quality of life, or even just to look good naked you are concerned about), keep in mind these three simple tips to kick off your quest:

1. Get rid of processed food! You! Yes you snacking on a bag of chips or making dinner every night out of the frozen food aisle! As the old adage goes, “Only eat things your grandparents would recognize as food.” Start shopping the perimeter of the grocery store: meats/seafood/eggs, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and minimally processed dairy–and no, ice cream does NOT count as a healthy dairy product. Start to read labels. If you can’t pronounce what’s in your food (as a chemistry teacher, even I stumble on some of the words I see on ingredient lists), you shouldn’t be eating it. Besides being loaded with weird chemicals and preservatives, processed foods are loaded with excess salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. The maddening part is that they are often engineered this way to play with our brains in an addictive sense. A good rule of thumb is to consume food in the purest form possible.

2. Drink more water. This probably sounds cliche and like common sense to most of us, but we’ve become a society always looking for sugary or fattening drinks to “hydrate” us. From soda to sports drinks to Frapuccinos, we seem to have forgotten about the importance of plain old H2O. Aim for half your body weight in ounces but consider excessive heat and activity level in your volume. If you are an athlete, you have alternatives other than sports drinks! Try a sugarless electrolyte replacement such as Elete drops or plain old salt tablets.

3. Devote more time to sleep. Period. Aim for eight to nine hours a night. I know the rebuttal well: “I am too busy!” I’m here to tell you that there are things you are doing which are not improving your quality of life all that much, things you could give up or limit, that would benefit you greatly to reduce. Maybe it’s time to start giving yourself a curfew or putting a limit on the amount of television you watch or how much time you are online. Try it! I think the sentence, “Wow, I just feel too rested,”  has been uttered by nobody, ever.

Your health and well-being has to be your priority! Take these three steps today towards being your best you.