Inspiration from a Lifelong Vegetarian
– Writing and Photos

Reprinted from Nourish – introduction by Julie Campagna and article by Ruthi Solari

Kauai Photo by Elsa Flores Almaraz

In honor of this month’s Spring Clean theme, I am thrilled to have Ruthi Solari guest blog.

Ruthi is the Nutrition Education Program Specialist for the County of San Diego’s Department of Health and Human Services. Her work includes nutrition education for CalFresh (food stamp) populations and community engagement in increasing the accessibility to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.

Ruthi is a Certified Nutritionist through the Natural Healing Institute of Naturopathy in San Diego, CA and is currently completing her Masters in Mind-Body Medicine through Saybrook University. Ruthi has worked as a Health Coach in the areas of Weight Management, Tobacco Cessation and Mind-Body skills for individuals nation-wide and she brings her knowledge of behavior modification to the implementation of SuperFood Drive: small changes in how we eat can create large changes in overall health and well being.

Ruthi found inspiration for SuperFood Drive after reading Dr. Steven Pratt’s book, “SuperFoods Rx” which opened her eyes to the health benefits of specific nutrient dense SuperFoods. This is also one of my favorite all time books. Then in January 2009 while at a “Food as Medicine” conference sponsored by the Center for Mind Body Medicine, Ruthi decided she wanted to ensure that SuperFoods were accessible to all individuals, even if they cannot afford fresh produce each week. In June 2009 SuperFood Drive was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. For more information on how to get involved, please visit

Ruthi’s perspective on Spring and the healthy aspects of cleansing mirror my philosophies as well. I have found, in these first 9 days of my own cleansing, many benefits to a more balanced, mindful, nourishing approach to awakening the spring within. Much more to come on my experiences so far with my own Spring Cleaning, for now please enjoy the beauty of Ruthi’s words…

Spring. A speck of green poking through otherwise dull terrain. Delicate flower buds decorating seemingly dormant branches. The sun’s warmth on bare arms.  Even here in San Diego, there is a buzz of excitement in the coming of spring. Days get longer and colors get brighter. With spring comes possibility. After taking rest during the winter, spring is a time to wake up and rejuvenate with fresh food, fresh air and fresh perspective.

To support this rejuvenating phase of nourishing our bodies, minds and spirits, we can be mindful of three things: Chew. Breathe. Simplify.

Chew. On the physiological level, fully chewing food before swallowing invites the enzymes in our saliva to begin the digestion process right away, allowing for more complete absorption of nutrients in the food we eat. Chewing can also be part of a mindfulness practice. Give it a try: chew each bite of your next meal 15-20 times before swallowing and notice what happens to your mind. Simply focusing on chewing brings awareness to the present moment to more fully enjoy the flavors being eaten. And in spring, there are so many fresh, vibrant flavors to enjoy!!

Breathe. Deep breathing may be the most beneficial practice a person can do each day. With our fast paced, plugged in, connected yet disconnected world, stress levels are through the roof and our health is paying the price. Insomnia, headache, indigestion, fatigue, anxiety, depression…all result from stress. So before you stress about being stressed, take a moment and breathe. Set everything down, put your feet flat on the floor, place your hand over your lower abdominal area (below your belly button), and take 5 full seconds to slowly inhale through your nose. You should notice your belly puff out by the end. Pause after the inhale, then take 5 full seconds to slowly exhale out your mouth. Repeat 5 times (5 inhales and 5 exhales) and notice how you feel. Many people promote the health benefits of yoga; true yogis teach that the focus of yoga is less about the movements and more about the breath. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which triggers the relaxation response. Bonus: deep breathing before a meal helps prepare your body to focus its energy on digesting food, allowing for full absorption of the nutrients being consumed. Anytime, anywhere, just breathe.

Simplify. Much of the messaging in spring tends to be around deprivation: fast, cleanse, detox, what to avoid, how to lose weight, etc. My philosophy for nourishing spring rejuvenation: simplify. Simplify your foods to focus on fresh, colorful, local produce. Simplify your pantry by tossing complicated, overly processed items to make room for whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds to go along with the fresh produce. Simplify your closet by donating clothes that don’t allow you to feel amazing. Simplify your physical activity by stepping away from stringent routines and integrating fun ways to be active in nature. Try something new like hula hooping, paddle boarding, rock-climbing, walking, dancing. Simplify your schedule by clearing the calendar to allow for spontaneity, or a quiet night at home. Simplify your life by leaving home without your phone and see what you notice when you aren’t waiting for that next text. Simplify your mind by breathing deeply and taking a moment to celebrate being exactly where you are. You have worked hard to get here, so savor it, and continue to nourish yourself. You deserve it!