Laurel Axen Carroll is a woman in motion. She is a Yinova acupuncturist, certified herbalist, labor support doula, graduate-level professor, personal trainer, Pilates mat instructor, and avid surfer. She also owns a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school with her husband in their neighborhood of Rockaway Park, New York. Last but not least, she is the proud mother of two girls ages six and four, who just like their mother are “fearless danger seekers.” With a packed schedule and array of people to care for, one must wonder how she manages to find time to cook dinner, or even go grocery shopping for that matter. Well, in true Laurel fashion, she does it all while remaining modest to an extreme.
Thank you for welcoming me into your family’s refrigerator. Looking around, it appears you shop mainly organic. Why is that?
I try to buy mainly organic, local food to reduce the number of pesticides and hormones my family and I consume. I’m lenient about some foods but I’m serious about produce, eggs, milk, meat, and cheese is organic. I also like that organic companies are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
You prefer organic produce, but I see a lot of frozen vegetables in the freezer. Can you explain?
I am pretty serious about eating seasonally. Currently, you can get food shipped from around the world that is “in season” but I stick to more local food for its quality and environmental thoughtfulness. This is why I cook a lot of frozen, organic, “once were in season” veggies in the winter.
How do you make sure your growing girls are getting the nutrition they need? Are they open to trying different foods?
My older daughter is very adventurous, while my younger would happily subsist on penne noodles forever. So to start, I always serve carrots and chickpeas or hummus with meals for additional protein. That being said, I try to make sure every meal has a few colors. We mainly eat meat and vegetables and exclude grains. If we do have pasta I limit it to the earlier half of the day and make sure it’s filled with cheese, meat, or spinach to avoid a ‘carb crash’.
We tried the Paleo diet last year and since then have incorporated elements of it into our diet such as substituting grains with starchy vegetables. In the Fall and Winter, we eat a lot of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and Brussel sprouts. We all train at the family’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school and work up healthy appetites.
You have a very thoughtful approach to maintaining a well-rounded diet. Now, I’m curious about the nitpicky details of your refrigerator. What are the seeds in the glass jar with a red lid?
Flax seeds. My husband and I usually add them to the yogurt along with chia seeds and raisins. We grind them up to make them more digestible and sometimes I just swill back a mouthful. They have been shown to help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. They’re also a great source of Omega-3 essential fatty, lignans, fiber, B vitamins, and magnesium.
That’s a lot good from one seed! There appear to be some “health formulas” in your refrigerator. Are any of those for your kids? Are they willing to take them?
With a little help, yes. I use apple juice for dispensing Chinese herbal tinctures like Jia Jian Xiao Chai Hu Tang and Quiet Calm, as well as Pure Essentials B Vitamins. Our kids also eat fish oil in a gummy form of Nordic berries, while my husband and I drink Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil. It’s a realistic compromise.
I would say that local raw honey is my #1 immune booster for the family. Since the bees pollinate from local flowers, their honey has small traces of local allergens giving a similar effect as receiving an allergy shot. Raw honey also has many antibiotic properties that prevent the formation of ulcers and certain kinds of cancer. It’s a fun, tasty way to keep the kids, and me, healthy.
It seems you’ve mastered the art of keeping healthy, happy kids! Back to the details, what is Maca Powder?
It’s my husband’s. It’s said to be a superfood from the Andes that boosts testosterone and helps with fertility. Legend has it that when the conquistadors went to the Andes they were having trouble reproducing in the altitude so the locals gave them Maca and things turned around. Unfortunately, it was truly undrinkable and has been neglected.
Talking about neglected, what’s in the glass that looks like milk?
Just an abandoned glass of milk. I despise wasting food. I know the Maca Powder has been neglected…
I think you can cut yourself some slack considering the depth of your food supply. I’m curious, how has being an acupuncturist changed your attitudes on nutrition?
Becoming an acupuncturist made me a lot healthier about my eating, in that I became a lot more open-minded. As a teenager I was a vegetarian, watching what I ate and basically surviving on raw food, nuts, brown rice, and steamed broccoli. I found that I was pretty addicted to sugar and café negro. I was cold all the time and pretty moody. Now I see that I was protein deficient. Once I started acupuncture school I saw women like me with menstrual irregularities and symptoms of cold, fatigue, PMS, and worrying. I learned about the traditional Chinese medicinal diet that included a lot more warm foods. I remember thinking that I couldn’t possibly eat meat ever again then being surprised when a meatball didn’t make me feel sick, but rather contently full. Now I pretty much eat everything in moderation. The only things I really avoid too much of are sugar, wheat, and grains. That being said, I still eat the occasional slice of pizza at New Park Pizza in Howard Beach.
Thank you so much for inviting me into your family’s refrigerator. I really learned a lot. Before we end, do you have any last comments about your philosophies on food and its presence in your life?
I never take food for granted. I’ve traveled a lot and seen people living on very meager food supplies with very little choices. I’m very grateful to have quality foods and choices at my fingertips. We pray before we eat and I like to instill a notion of gratitude for our abundance.