Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Genetically Modified Foods - The Cause for Our Diseases?

I've written about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in previous blogs but it's recently received some media attention, so I'd like to discuss it again. Please see the bottom of this blog to link to a website where you can get more info and learn what you can do to stop GMOs.

GMOs have flooded our food supply and there is mounting evidence it is the culprit for our allergies, asthma, autism, inflammation and even cancer. What is a GMO product? Big companies like Monsanto and Bayer spend millions of dollars in research to transform natural plant seeds to "super seeds." They tweak the DNA and even add pesticides to the seeds so they become self-resistant to insects, fungus and disease while growing faster and larger plants. It's a way to get more product on the shelves faster - without regard to human health. Published reports say these products are safe, but it's those exact companies that are funding the reports. Those companies also have lobbyists and even top-level executives working at the FDA. 

Almost every other developed nation has banned the use of GMOs on farms -except the U.S. The FDA believes that unless a product is "proved dangerous," it can still be grown, manufactured and sold to the public, usually without any labeling to warn buyers of what they may be purchasing. Other nations' "FDAs" believe that unless a product is "proved safe," it can't be grown, manufactured or sold to the public. The U.S. consumer is the lab rat and what we're proving is that something is making us the sickest nation on the planet, spending the most money on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. Coincidence? 

What's scarier is what these genetically-modified foods do to our bodies. Your immunity is there to fight off foreign matter, whether it be a virus, infection or even a bug bite. It detects anything in the body that isn't supposed to be there and then triggers an immune response to fight it. A GMO product is a foreign protein, developed in a laboratory and not found in nature. So what does your body do when you ingest a GMO product? It develops an immune response to fight it. The response could be an allergy, asthma, inflammation or illness. The more frequently you eat these ingredients, the harder your immune system has to work to fight the foreign protein until you develop a chronic condition that has to be medically treated, if it can be at all. Constant inflammation leads to cancer and deterioration of your intestinal health, which is where your immunity lives.

Since 85% of processed foods are now genetically modified, you have to be a savvy consumer to avoid them. The worst offenders are any corn and soy products. This includes corn oil and soybean oil or anything cooked in/with them, corn on the cob, corn kernels, popcorn, canola oil, cottonseed oil, edamame, tofu, or soy protein (found in protein bars, shakes and cereals to boost protein content). 

You can still have that bag of tortilla chips, though. If you buy these items ORGANIC, they aren't GMO and most will label it "non-GMO." Only buy organic tortilla chips, corn chips, corn tortillas, edamame, tofu and gluten-free products that contain corn or soy. Check ingredients. If you see anything in the label that refers to corn or soy and it isn't labeled organic or non-GMO, DON'T BUY IT! Unfortunately, most restaurants don't spend the extra bucks to buy organic, so there's not much you can do except avoid ordering anything with corn and soy in the ingredients. Some restaurants buy locally-grown, organic produce, but you have to ask to be sure. 

I'm writing this not to scare you but to anger you. Unless we band together and raise hell about this, we will continue to be fed this GARBAGE that is literally killing us and our kids. Here is a great website (STOP GMOs ) that gives you info on where you can start making noise. There is a movement to get rid of these things from our food supply, but the more people that join it, the bigger different we can make. Take the time to educate yourself and get involved! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

What I Want for Christmas

Christmas is a time of year when even moms can ask for a few things without feeling guilty. I'm not asking for much this year but I can tell you what I want most of all:
  • for people to be able to get off of medications
  • for people to not need doctors so much
  • for kids to not have food allergies
  • for people to give up their sugar addiction
  • for everyone to be able to eat wheat
  • for the FDA to do what's best for the consumer instead of the lobbyists
  • for Monsanto to stop genetically modifying seeds
  • for people to realize that convenience foods are our downfall
  • for veggies to take center stage on our plates
  • for cows, chickens and pigs to be treated kindly
  • for our food to be labeled honestly
  • for labs to find a cure for cancer instead of how to make food shelf-stable
  • for  produce and eggs to be bought from local farms
  • for people to realize their bodies crave whole, un-messed with foods
I started my little blog because I researched so much health information I wanted to share and people were always asking me about things I've learned. It is my way of passing along the information and offering encouragement for those wanting to make a change. It starts one person at a time.

I love hearing stories from my readers about how they've tried something new, how they've succeeded in getting their kids to eat quinoa, how their child is doing better in school since cutting out the processed foods, and how much better they feel since trying this "whole foods" thing out. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do know what I've learned makes sense and has changed my life and many others for the better.

Each of us have to make a decision for ourselves and our families - will we continue to eat the foods we know aren't great for us and chalk it up as "oh, it's fine...lighten up...it's just McDonalds," or will we finally realize that when we put junk in, we feel like junk? It's easy to tell ourselves we'll try eating better some day, but what about NOW? Isn't it time? Aren't we and our kids worth it? Is it a pain to buy ingredients to cook instead of prepared meals yet not a pain to be in and out of doctors' offices, on medications and feel like crap half the time?

As the new year approaches, I challenge all of you to give yourself two weeks on a whole foods-based diet (no processed foods, no artificial ingredients, lots of veggies, high quality protein, and minimal cow dairy) and see how you feel. If you have any questions, ask me on the blog and I promise to answer. Everyone I talk to who has tried it says they've never felt better. Aren't you ready to feel better? Have more energy? Clean out your system and boost your immune system? It's time. You can do it. No more excuses. It's a Christmas present you give yourself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Case Study on the Power of Your Diet

Many of you already know the benefits of a whole--foods based diet; a diet based on nature and not a factory. For those of you still on the fence or thinking processed food isn't THAT bad, read the case study below.

A good friend of mine has asked me many times about how I eat, how she can get her family started eating healthier and "how hard it is to make her kids eat healthy." I've told her dozens of times she needs to give up the Diet Cokes, eat more veggies and less junk and talk to her kids about why eating from the earth is always better than eating from a lab. She wanted to change, but found it too overwhelming to try... until her 5-year old daughter was diagnosed with dysgraphia (inability to write letters or numbers) and ADD (attention deficit disorder). Her neurologist told her to get her daughter off of processed foods, gluten and dairy to start. She called me in a panic, not sure of how to get started but more motivated than ever to make the change.

Books and hours later, my friend realized how much the junk was contributing to her daughter's issues. There was overwhelming evidence that the processed foods, food dyes, preservatives, gluten and even cow dairy was a major culprit. She went cold turkey and cleaned out her kitchen - to the shock and dismay of her kids. "I didn't want to do it half way," she said. "I just wanted to get rid of all the junk and start over - for her and all of my kids."

After about three weeks, my friend had a parent-teacher conference with her daughter's teachers. Her daughter was already in math and reading intervention, unable to legibly write, and finding it nearly impossible to focus on a task and finish her work. During the conference, all of her teachers said they had seen an "unbelievable" difference in her daughter in the past 3 weeks - she was more able to focus and keep on task, her handwriting was so good even her mom didn't believe it was her paper, and she was able to keep up with her peers. "She has improved 500 percent since I've gotten rid of the junk," my friend said. "I was a skeptic but now I see clearly how much she's changed and nothing will ever get me to go back to how I was feeding my kids. It's just not worth the damage it does to their brains and bodies."

My friend won't buy anything with food dyes as that was one of the first things her neurologist told her to avoid because of its links to learning disabilities. She avoids gluten and refined sugars but said she has seen the most improvement since ridding her home of cow dairy. She won't buy Goldfish, Cheez Itz or other processed crackers/chips/snacks, and only buys organic chips that have only a couple of ingredients in them. She still allows her kids to have the occasional treat, but it isn't daily or even weekly since she it trying to retrain their taste buds.She's cooking more and trying new ingredients, finding healthier substitutes for family favorite recipes.

"It's been a challenge to change how I see food and prepare food," she said. "I am experimenting with recipes, some of which my family loves and others they don't, but it's just a learning process. I think we'll all benefit from eating more natural but my daughter is proof that there is something to all this talk about processed foods. Her progress is nothing short of miraculous."

If you are still wondering if you can do this, I have full faith you can. It only requires your dedication to it. You have the time, you have the resources, you have the knowledge...just DO it. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Allergy/Immune System Help - Without the Meds

I have never had bad allergies...until January when cedar trees release their pollen. Cedar trees are the national tree of hell. They suck up all the underground water, are major fire hazards and their pollen is unbearable. Plus, they're ugly. Whether you suffer from cedar fever, ragweed, grass or other pollen, or you always get a cold/flu in the winter, there are things you can do to boost your immune system without drugging yourself into a zombie. 

Allergies are actually an auto-immune response. By giving your immune system every opportunity to work at its optimal level, you can greatly decrease your body's auto-immune response to allergens and increase the immune response to viruses.

I've taken every prescription pill, inhaler or OTC pill offered to combat cedar allergies. They have helped, but also made me feel anxious, groggy, cloudy, hungry and just plain out of it. They are also very acidic so while they mask my allergy symptoms, they are also weakening my immune system. Last year, I wanted to try something different - something more natural. I went to a local drug store and spoke with a naturopathic doctor who gave me all of the below recommendations. I tried it and was AMAZED at how well I did through what was touted as one of our city's worst cedar seasons. I only took 2 Benadryl the entire 2 months, when the cedar pollen counts were in the thousands - and I never got a cold. The doctor told me that each year, the symptoms should lessen. I am so happy I can forego the meds and just let my body do the work. Give it a try but start at least a month before your allergy/cold season to strengthen your immune system. 

1) Reduce or eliminate sugars - sugars (especially refined table sugars) are highly acidic and put the body in an inflamed state. When the system is inflamed, it is in a reactionary mode and can begin attacking when and where it shouldn't - hence the auto-immune response. Alcohol is metabolized like sugars, so limit wine and fruity drinks as much as possible. Sorry!

2) Avoid gluten - gluten often triggers an auto-immune response, even if you don't recognize it. Yes, some people have intestinal issues when consuming gluten, but others may show no gut problems. Gluten inflames the body like sugars and by minimizing or eliminating it leading up to and during your allergy/cold season, you may be surprised at how your body is more able to work as it should instead of attacking the wrong things. 

3) Avoid processed foods - if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how important this one is for your overall health. Processed foods are possibly the worst thing you can put into your body. They wreak havoc on the immune system, among a host of other things. Processed foods, as with sugar and gluten, keep the body in a constant inflamed state, thereby preventing the immune system from working as it should.

4) Add cod liver oil - cod liver oil, sold in capsules or liquid, has renowned effects on the immune system, brain function, heart and kidney health and skin. It is loaded with omega fatty acids which are wonderful for so many things in your body like lowering triglycerides and blood pressure, preventing some symptoms of diabetes, and reducing swelling (inflammation). Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cod liver oil has given people with allergies significant relief. It has worked wonders for me.

5) Add alkaline foods - to combat the acidity in many of our foods, we need to balance it with alkaline foods. Acidic foods cause inflammation and inflammation is the enemy. Be sure to read my previous blog entry about sea weeds ("The #1 Food to Add to Your Diet") because they are a wonderful way to alkalize the blood stream. Fermented foods such as pickled veggies (pickles, sauerkraut, pickled radishes or any veggie), umeboshi plums, tempeh, and miso (all sold at Whole Foods) are ideal (see Recipes for homemade miso soup which is THE perfect elixir for allergy/cold season - drink a mug daily).

6) Eat as many dark-colored veggies and fruits you can consume. These dark colors are an indicator of the foods' antioxidant concentration. Antioxidants boost our immune systems, so EAT UP.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holiday Parties and Menus - How to Get Through It the Healthy Way

The holidays are so close, you can almost smell it - pumpkin pie, apple cider, peppermint bark. If you've been reading my blogs and trying to eat healthier, you may be anxious about the all of the traditional holiday fare that will throw you off of your game. DON'T BE! Here's how you can enjoy yourself and still feel great.

1. Moderation - you know this concept, but it's hard to follow it when you're faced with such wonderful holiday foods. It's easy to tell yourself, "It's the holidays! Let's eat!" If you know you're going to a party with food, plan ahead!

  • Eat healthy, whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible leading up to your event
  • Drink a green smoothie (see Recipe) before you go. Not only does this have veggies in it, but it's slightly sweet to curb your sweet tooth
  • When at the party, notice all of the food being served. Choose the least offensive (and I mean that in the best way) foods as your primary source and then a few bites of the things you want to indulge in. Example: load up on fresh veggies/fruit with hummus, sliced turkey,  and nuts; go easy on cheeses, breads/crackers/chips; and maybe just a bite or two of desserts
  • If you over-indulge on sweets, make a cup of miso soup (see Recipe) when you get home. It will alkalize your blood stream and reverse some of the ill-effects of sugar.
2. Have fun - that's what get-togethers are all about, not the food. Enjoy yourself and others. Don't worry about the food and don't gorge yourself. 

3. If you're throwing the party - you've likely told your friends and family about how you're trying to eat healthier, so why would you then feed them boring junk? Find some great, nutritious recipes and show your friends how great whole foods can taste.
  • Offer lots of veggies, raw and cooked, unconventional and expected. Examples: roasted brussel sprouts with cranberry chutney dipping sauce; lightly sauteed sugar snap peas with lemon; roasted sweet potato cubes with maple glaze; mushrooms stuffed with caramelized onions and thyme. 
  • Instead of a typical cheese tray, offer a tray of various goat cheeses. They come in many varieties, including soft, semi-soft and hard, and are much easier to digest than cow dairy
  • Serve nuts - nuts fill you up and you can flavor them a dozen ways. Buy your own, choose lots of varieties, and have fun with them. Sweet, salty, spicy - or all three!
  • Make sushi - most people gravitate to sushi. It's pretty and it's so easy to make. All you have to do is make sushi rice (sold in any store), buy nori paper (sold in most stores), spread a thin layer of rice on 3/4 of the  nori paper, fill with whatever sounds good and roll! Example: cucumber, carrot, avocado, cooked or smoked salmon and a wasabi "mayo"; or lightly steamed asparagus, good proscuttio and melon. Get creative! 
  • If you're going to serve meat, make sure it's organic and preferably lean. Stuff a chicken breast with goat cheese and spinach; coat the outside of a pork roast with grated horseradish and bake until done and serve with chutney; grill salmon or other fish 
  • Make your desserts with unprocessed sugars, like maple syrup, molasses, or unrefined sugar. Experiment with using less butter and add coconut oil or even apple sauce. Use fresh or frozen fruits for fruit desserts instead of canned. Substitute 1 tsp of baking powder for every egg or 1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water for each egg.
  • Offer a fun cocktail. Everyone loves house drinks - they're festive and much more interesting than just wine/beer. Blend 100% pomegranate juice with fresh lime, agave, vodka, mint and ice in a blender. Or make cranberry martinis and float a fresh cranberry and sprig of peppermint in the glass.
If you have any specific questions about menu ideas or concerns about a party you'll be attending, make a comment! I promise to answer. I hope all of you have a fun, healthful holiday season!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breakfast Blues - What to Serve for Most Important Meal

A few of you have asked me recently what to do for breakfasts. You know sugary cereals, carb-loaded pancakes, waffles and muffins, and fat-laden eggs and bacon are probably not the healthiest options, but it's what you and/or your kids crave in the mornings. So how do you ensure you're getting the most out of such an important meal?

Somewhere in our past, we were taught that breakfast had to either be sweet, breaded or eggy. Think about it; what's breakfast without a bagel, egg, bacon, sausage, cereal, muffin, pancake or waffle? Even our oatmeal is likely smothered in melting brown sugar or maple syrup. Although these things may taste good, we likely crave them because they are comforting and remind us of home.They're also full of sugar, which if you've read my previous blogs, you know is more addicting than heroine. So now what?

Sweet Breakfasts:
One of the ways to offset the sugar rush is to eat less refined sugars and opt for fruit instead. Cereal or oatmeal with 8 grams of sugar or more is JUNK. That's 2 teaspoons of sugar (or more) in one serving; and we all know we eat more than one serving! Cut up fruit and a DRIZZLE of maple syrup on your plain oatmeal. Try making the granola on my Recipes page. It's a basic recipe you can modify a hundred different ways. It has way less sugars than store-bought granola and no preservatives or artificial flavors. Try it with plain yogurt, berries and a tablespoon of ground flax seed for a protein-omega fatty acid-fiber-filled breakfast that will keep you satisfied until lunch. If you buy granola, make sure it has fewer than 8 grams of non-refined sugar, no artificial flavoring or ingredients, and no preservatives. Anyone trying to reduce their dairy intake may like unsweetened hemp milk the best since it most closely resembles milk in consistency. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is my second option, then unsweetened ORGANIC soy milk, then rice milk (it's the thinnest consistency). All of these are processed, so if you have a good blender, make your own almond milk! SO easy and wonderful. Google recipes.

Carb breakfasts:
For those who love breaded products (bagels, muffins, pancakes, waffles and toast), try grains instead. The Quinoa Banana Almond Butter Mash on my Recipes page is  a good start. It tastes like a banana muffin but contains NO flour and more than twice the protein and fiber. Make your own pancakes and waffles using heartier flours like buckwheat and quinoa flours (see Recipe) and adding flax and chia seeds instead of eggs. You can also add pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice mix for added Vitamin A. Or try adding 1/2 a banana and 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter for extra protein and potassium. You can use the same ingredients in muffins, just add more of the dry ingredients.. 

Protein breakfasts:
Like eggs and bacon/sausage? If you're going to eat eggs, I don't recommend eating them more than 3 times per week. Eggs are a highly-concentrated protein that has lots of cholesterol and saturated fat, meaning they're not great for your arteries (even in kids). Bacon and sausage is not only extremely fattening, but high in sodium, artificial flavoring, nitrates and sulfites. If you do eat it, be sure to buy the uncured, unflavored variety to eliminate at least some of its evils. For a healthier option, eat leftover grilled organic chicken or turkey breast slices, or black beans, wrapped in an organic corn tortilla with fresh spinach, basil, tomato and sprinkle of shredded goat cheese.

In the best world, we would eat the same things for breakfast as we do for lunch and dinner - veggies, grains and lean proteins. A small plate of quinoa tabbouleh, sauteed collard greens and apples, black beans and a cup of miso soup would be the perfect breakfast. But while I may eat it, I know my kids wouldn't touch it. But you can start small - making a kale, strawberry, orange juice & lime smoothie, adding a veggie into the eggs or breakfast taco, including a 1/4 cup of pumpkin or sweet potato puree into batters, adding quinoa, amaranth or millet to your oatmeal (not instant), and making your own granola. At the very least, make your own stuff - no instant oatmeal, no frozen waffles, no Fruit Loops. You can do it!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is Animal Protein Okay?

Yes, animal protein can be okay, however in excess, it can be extremely difficult for your body to digest, metabolize and excrete. Diets rich in animal protein tend to cause diseases/ailments such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, constipation, acid reflux, sleep disorders, indigestion, gas and bloating, gout and certain cancers (especially colon and stomach). But that's not the whole story.

I could go on for pages about everything I've read about animal protein, but I've come to a recent revelation just using common sense and a little research. Every body needs different amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and calories. Your ratio is different from mine, so it's up to you to find the balance that makes you feel the best. Most doctors and nutritionists would agree that vegetables and other plant-based foods should be the dominant food group in your diet, not just a small side dish.

Eating a whole foods diet, what this blog encourages most, is about eating CLEAN, WHOLE foods found in nature and not messed with in a factory. Clean means knowing where your food came from, eating non-processed food found in nature, and eating organic when possible. 

Recently, the news reported on a study that found organic foods "have no significant health benefits over conventionally-grown foods." (See Article) Most people I know don't eat organic foods because they think it has MORE nutritional value. Most eat organic because they believe it has FEWER chemicals added to them. It's what's in and on the conventionally-grown food that scares us and I don't trust the government to tell me what's an acceptable level of pesticide residue.

The same goes for animal protein. Eat clean animals. Eat animals that were treated humanely and fed a diet native to their digestive tracts (cows that were fed grass, salmon that wasn't fed food-colored pellets to turn their meat pink). Eat animals that weren't loaded with antibiotics and hormones, and stuffed into small pens with thousands of other animals, some of which were diseased and dying. No thanks. If I'm going to eat an animal, I want that animal to have been healthy.

I eat mostly plant-based food, but have found that small amounts of high-quality meats, cheeses and eggs occasionally are just fine. They give me protein, B12, calcium, and iron. It might include deer from our family ranch, fish my husband caught at the coast, wild Alaskan salmon (not farm raised), goat cheeses and yogurts (easier to digest than cow dairy and cleaner animals, in general), and organic eggs from a local farm. If I were to buy chicken, it would ideally be from a local source (found at farmer's markets) and at the very least, organic free-range.

Other wonderful sources of protein can be found in plant products. Beans of all kinds, grains, tempeh, tofu (only a few times a month since it's so processed), veggie smoothies with rice/pea protein, nuts and seeds, nut butters, and even veggies contain plenty of protein. 

Check out my Recipes page to find great meat-free recipes that will satisfy your protein needs.
And take a look at my new Resources page to find links to great info and products!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Healthy Lunches for Kids or On-the-Go

I can hardly believe summer is already over and school is starting. Among other things, this means packing lunches every day (ugh). My kids don't like the food at school (who can blame them), so that means approximately 150 lunches I will need to make. Times two kids. It's not so much the packing of the lunches that wears me out, it's coming up with what to pack that is exhausting. Even if you don't have kids to pack lunches for, you may need some new ideas for your own lunches. I hope this blog entry will inspire all of you!

Every lunch should have protein (beans, meats, eggs), vegetables, carbs (cooked grains, breads, tortillas, chips) and maybe a high-quality sweet treat. Fruits are considered sweets, as well as cookies, muffins, scones, etc made with unrefined, natural sweeteners and no preservatives/food coloring. Skip the packaged snacks as these are LOADED with processed ingredients. Start getting your kids (and yourself) used to eating WHOLE foods.

Here are some ideas for lunches that don't include boring sandwiches. I divided it up by type of food and then "Sides." Mix and match to make it interesting. You can make most of these the night before and refrigerate or even freeze. Kids usually love to manipulate their food, so you will see several items that give them that opportunity. If you have young kids, you may want to pull out your cookie-cutters as they tend to love fun shapes. 

Remember to use organic ingredients when possible! Unless organic, all corn and soy products are genetically modified (yuck). I only buy organic refried and whole beans, corn and tortilla chips, breads, nut butters, meats, edamame and tofu, veggie burgers, eggs, dairy, and most fruits and veggies . 

Please check out my "RECIPES" page to find how to make some of these items that have an asterisk (*) next to them. Share YOUR ideas by commenting on this blog! 

American (with other cultural influences)
Veggie burger (homemade or frozen store-bought) with bun or wrapped in collard greens*
Hummus* wraps with red peppers, cucumbers, romaine, kalamata olives, goat feta & balsamic
White bean and Avocado Wraps with purple cabbage, carrots and cilantro*
Homemade chicken tenders (make a batch and freeze)
Blackeyed peas with carrots, served with homemade sweet cornbread*
Quinoa Tabbouleh*
Plain goat milk yogurt, granola and fresh fruit
Frito pie made with leftover chili and corn chips
Soups (lentil, vegetable, black bean, butternut, miso, etc.)
Lentils, quinoa and sauteed veggies with crackers
Pizza quesadillas (buy preservative-free pepperoni with NO nitrates and sulfites)
Caesar salad with chicken strips
Garbanzo Bean Salad on pita*
Hummus* with organic crackers and veggies 
Almond butter and honey with apple slices
Almond butter, Granny Smith apple and honey sandwiches

Build-Your-Own Nachos with tortilla chips
Bean, veggie and cheese burrito (if in a hurry, buy frozen Amy's burritos)
5-layer dip (refried beans, organic corn, guacamole, salsa & cheese) with corn/tortilla chips
Bean, veggie and cheese quesadilla
Organic tamales (I buy these frozen at Whole Foods)
Empanadas (I make a batch of these on a weekend and freeze them)
Black beans and rice with  corn tortillas, diced avocado covered with lime, and salsa
Tortilla soup

Homemade sushi rolls with cucumber, carrot, avocado, cilantro and tofu or smoked salmon
Asian Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing* (also try this in a wrap or spring roll)
Spring rolls with noodles, cucumber, carrot, mint/cilantro, tofu or chicken and peanut sauce
Cold sesame noodles with veggies*
Vegetable fried rice with peas, carrots and scrambled egg

Leftover spaghetti with marinara
Pasta salad with white beans, basil and red bell pepper with lemon vinaigrette
Pasta salad with white beans and homemade basil pesto*
Organic leftover pizza (or bake the night before and refrigerate)
Build-Your-Own Bruschetta with baquette slices and tomato basil tapenade

Fresh fruit (mango, melon, apples, kiwi, oranges, plums, grapes, berries)
Raw veggies (carrots, radishes, sugar snap/snow peas, red/yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers) with hummus, tzatziki, or other healthy dip (um, not Ranch dressing)
Cooked veggies (peas, lima beans, edamame, corn, sweet potatoes, sauteed greens, broccoli, asparagus)
Raw kale salad*
Roasted new potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts*
Unsweetened apple sauce
Cooked fruits (baked apples/pears/plums/peaches with cinnamon and agave)
Wheat berries and butter and lemon*
Brown rice
Coconut-Cilantro-Lime rice*
Beanito chips (you can buy these at HEB, Whole Foods or Central Market)
Organic corn or tortilla chips
Sweet Cornbread*
Homemade chocolate chip cookies (or cranberry oat)*
Homemade muffin (pumpkin, banana, carrot, spice, corn, etc)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What's Coming Up!

The past 6 weeks has been a blur. I haven't updated the blog as often as I'd like because there just hasn't been time. But, I wanted to let my readers know that in the coming weeks, I plan to cover the following:

  • Whole-food lunches for anyone on the go
  • Healthy snacks and the best time of day to eat them
  • Whole-food school lunches for kids
  • Healthy snacks for kids
  • My favorite products and where to find them
  • Entertaining with a beautiful whole foods menu
I am hoping you will give me other ideas and ask questions so I know what you want to read, so MAKE COMMENTS! 

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and check back often! Starting September, I plan on continuing to update the blog weekly. In the meantime, read through the archives if you haven't been able to read each weekly blog. Try the recipes on my recipes page and take inventory of your kitchens using the Kitchen Staples page as a guide.

Let me hear from you!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Your NEW Staples List - Items You Must Have in Your Kitchen

One of my readers asked to see a list of things they should keep in her kitchen because it's hard to remember everything she's read in my blogs. GREAT IDEA! So, I have added a page on the right toolbar called "Kitchen Staples." I will try to give you a comprehensive list, but as I try new things, I will update it.

I love getting ideas like this one from my readers, so please feel free to add a comment to any of my blogs or recipes. I read each one of them, even if they aren't published.

There are a few things to keep in mind when stocking your kitchen:

  • Get rid of the junk so you have room for the good stuff. Check expiration dates and toss the things you know are highly processed, contain ingredients you can't pronounce, and contain tons of sugar, salt and food coloring. Commit to eating healthier. It starts with YOU! If you have it in your kitchen, it will be much harder to convince others not to eat it.

  • Organize your pantry and fridge so you have order. When items are jumbled and hard to get to, you are less likely to use them. I have a small pantry, but still have things rather organized: cereals, oats, almond and hemp milks, and teas are on the bottom shelf. On the shelf above, I have 2 pretty bins that contain snack items (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, rice cakes, granola bars, bean/rice chips). On the shelf above, canned items are on a stair-stepped shelving system I bought at the Container Store. Next to that is a lazy susan that houses all of my vinegars, oils, sweeteners (honey, agave and brown rice syrup), reduced-sodium soy sauce/tamari/shoyu and other sauces. On the shelf above, I have my dried grains, beans, lentils, seaweeds, and rice pastas (all in glass jars). Finally, my top shelf is my baking goods like different flours (all in glass jars). 

  • When starting from scratch, it may seem expensive because you are replacing many items. But, it will be cheaper in the long run; most of your pantry items are intended for long-term use and buying WHOLE foods in bulk rather than processed foods is generally less expensive than pre-packaged items. Invest in square glass jars (they take up less space than round) that have an air-tight lid. I bought all of mine at The Container Store.

  • Try to keep fresh fruits and veggies in their designated drawers in the fridge. These drawers are intended to keep them fresher longer. KEEP THEM FILLED! Veggies are the best thing you can eat, so buy them often and make sure they are fresh.

  • Invest in quality knives (and keep them sharpened), glass and/or stainless steel bowls, good blender and/or food processor, and stainless steel and/or cast iron (both regular and enamel coated cast iron) - NO TEFLON!!! The chemicals used on non-stick surfaces have been proven to transfer into the food. When a recent study tested humans, nearly 100% had traces of Teflon in their bloodstreams and breast milk. You can achieve a non-stick surface by using lower heat, and a touch of oil or liquid.
Check out the "Kitchen Staples" page for some foods you should never be without. And let me know if you've tried some of the recipes! I want to hear what you and your family thought!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Alternatives to Favorites

We all probably have a few vices we struggle to give up. I don't have a sweet tooth but I can't pass up tortilla chips and guacamole...or potato chips...or Beanitos (black bean chips). I know they're not great for me, but when I am craving something, it's almost always in the form of a salty chip. While it's okay to indulge on occasion, there are some healthier modifications you can make that will likely satisfy your craving without sacrificing flavor. 

1) Just say no to sodas. I know this could be a hard one, but sodas are garbage. Full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, caramel coloring, preservatives, caffeine, sodium and empty calories, these cans of chemicals make your body acidic, eat away the enamel on your teeth, add pounds of flab to your body and make you crave more sugar. 

  • If you must start slow, try carbonated water and lots of lemons and limes, orange juice or other fresh juice. Limit yourself to one per day until you can go one per week, then no carbonation at all. Just use water with the citrus.
  • If water doesn't sound good, make a cup of iced green tea and add fresh lemonade (no Country Time, please!) or a splash of pomegranate juice. 
  • Try infusing your water with sliced cucumber and mint leaves or grapefruit juice and ginger juice (grate fresh ginger into bowl and squeeze juice into grapefruit juice). 

2) Pass up the convenience foods. Packaged foods and fast foods are quick and easy. But every time you put these foods in your body (or your kids'), you are missing the opportunity to nourish your body and opting to poison it instead. Okay, poison may be a strong word, but over time, the chemicals, additives and scary ingredients used in these foods make your insides sick. Your body craves REAL food. It would be like putting syrup in your car and expecting it to run efficiently. It may go a few blocks, but eventually, it will stop working and fall apart. Give your body what it needs and it will carry you a long way.

  • Instead of a bag of chips or pretzels, try cutting and baking fresh, organic corn tortillas sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt (add rosemary if you're feeling adventurous). 
  • Instead of a can soup, make your own by combining vegetable broth with any veggies, beans and/or grain you have on hand. Portion out servings and freeze them for later. 
  • Instead of a sandwich on store-bought bread with chips, opt for rolling sandwich ingredients in romaine lettuce or flash-steamed collard greens or kale and serve it with crunchy radishes, carrots and cucumber slices. 
  • Instead of store-bought cereals and granola, make your own (see Recipes)! It will have a ton less sugar and oil. 
  • Instead of frozen chicken tenders, roll your own organic chicken breast strips in veganaise and then seasoned, crushed, organic corn flakes. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Make a bunch and freeze strips before baking and then bake when needed.

3) Don't buy the packaged yogurts, GoGurts, puddings or Jell-O. Some of these are marketed as healthy, but read the ingredients. Once container has up to 30 grams of sugar!!! That's 7 1/2 teaspoons of sugar in a small carton of yogurt. If that doesn't get your attention, look at the food coloring and preservatives that are added. SCARY. It's a bag of candy disguised in a yogurt carton.

  • Opt for plain yogurt, preferably from a goat or sheep as this dairy is much more easily digested than cow dairy. Add you own toppings, like a drizzle real maple syrup (my favorite) or honey, whole-fruit preserves, granola or fresh fruit. 
  • Make your own chocolate pudding by blending in a blender 2 ripe avocados, 3 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, pinch of salt, and agave to taste. Sounds crazy, but tried this with the kids and they loved it! Super creamy and chocolaty!
  • Try my Kanten recipe on the recipes page for an incredible, HEALTHY Jell-O-like snack that has no artificial colors or ground up animal bones.

There are dozens more I could go through, so tell me your cravings and I'll help you find a healthier alternative! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

How to Get the Family to Eat A Whole Foods Diet

People constantly ask me how to get kids to get off the junk and eat a whole foods diet. You may not have kids, but you might be feeding a spouse, parents or others who aren't quite as gung-ho about changing their diets. So how do you convince them?

Be a role model. Believe me, I know how hard this can be. I have family members who think this is an amazing way to live and others who aren't afraid to tell me I am nuts. Ironically, those are the ones with the most health problems! The more you share with them, including your kids, the more they will at least appreciate why you are making the change. If they agree to try to eat a whole foods diet for one month, however, I am quite certain they will be more prone to change their diets simply because THEY FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. It won't take much convincing after that.

My top 5 tips for getting others to eat a whole foods diet:

1) STOP BUYING JUNK! Maybe your kids are used to eating chicken fingers, pizza and hot dogs and refuse to eat anything else. Maybe the only vegetable they'll eat are french fries. Or maybe your spouse wants to order in - again. How do you get them to eat better? You serve them better. Kids don't have the ability to buy their own groceries and if you're cooking for someone else, chances are you're the one buying the groceries. If you bring home garbage, that's what they'll eat. If you bring home the good stuff, they may pitch a fit and refuse to eat it, but eventually they WILL get hungry and give in.

2) ALWAYS OFFER SOMETHING THEY DO LIKE. When you are making better choices and experimenting with new recipes or foods, be sure to include one thing (healthy) on their plate that you know they like. Trying my sesame noodle recipe (see Recipes page) and aren't sure if they'll go for snow peas? Put a big slice of watermelon or apple slices on the plate with it (preferably not something processed, fried or sugared) ONLY AFTER THEY'VE COMPLETED #3 BELOW.

3) INSIST THEY MUST EAT 3 BITES OF THE HEALTHY FOOD(S). They don't get to eat the thing they like until they've eaten 3 bites of what they say they don't like. Research shows that it can take up to 5 tries before someone decides that they actually like something they thought they hated (our tastes are constantly changing). If you make the kale salad from my recipes page and the kids whine about it, make them eat 3 bites and then make the same salad in a few weeks, and again several weeks later. Eventually, the kids may like it and if not, they'll get the hint that that recipe is here to stay.

4) COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR LOVED ONES. Tell them why you are doing this and what benefits there are in certain foods. Sure, they'd prefer Chick-Fil-A over Garbanzo Salad (see Recipes page), but if you teach them about the importance of eating food made by God instead of food made in a factory, they'll get it. Educate your spouse or parents about why we are all so sick, overweight and tired. Challenge them to avoid processed and fast foods for a month and see how they feel. All of us, including kids, can correlate how we feel to what we eat. Start listening to your body and teach your loved ones to do the same. If you or they have headaches, stomach aches, sluggishness, energy spikes, lack of focus, moodiness, depression or other things you can pinpoint, think about what you ate before the symptom started and write it down to see if there's a pattern. I'm betting you'll have quite a few "ah-ha" moments.

5) GET THEM INVOLVED. Kids usually love to help out in the kitchen and if you're lucky, your adult loved ones do too (especially if offered a glass of wine!). Ask them to help you chop, squeeze lemons, stir, wash veggies, etc. Make it fun and talk to them about how beautiful the curly kale is, how interesting quinoa is with it's little "tail" that comes out when cooked. Give them lots of options and let them decide what veggie they can put in the salad. Cooking is really a science experiment! When they are involved in the buying and cooking process, they are more willing to try eating their creation. Plus, it's a great time spent together. When you're eating, praise them for what they did to contribute. Talk about how the food tastes, how it feels in the mouth and why everyone likes or dislikes it. Then have everyone note how they feel right after they eat and then a few hours later. Compare that feeling to how they feel after eating processed junk food.

***I want to hear from YOU! Let me know how this is going for you. Make a comment or ask a question on the blog so others can see it.  It's not easy changing what we've grown up doing, but it's time we get control over our bodies and teach the next generation how to really take care of their bodies. It's the only ones we've got!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eating Out - Without the Guilt

If you've been reading my blogs, you should have the foundation of a whole foods diet. In summary, it's about getting back to basics and eating foods in their most original form. It's about eating clean, eating colorful and eating complex (as in complex carbs). You should know where your food comes from and if you eat animal products, ensuring that animal ate what its body was intended to eat (ie. cows should eat grass, not corn).

Going to restaurants is fun, easy and gives you a break from the kitchen. Unfortunately, eating out also has its drawbacks. Besides being substantially more expensive that cooking in, you have little control over the quality of ingredients, the methods used to prepare your meal or the actual ingredients used. Most restaurants use insane amounts of butter, oil and salt in order for it to taste rich and decadent (they want you to think it's a treat, which it is!). Unless specified on the menu, you can bet they aren't using organic products, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, non-genetically modified corn and soy products, high quality oils or other ingredients. So what do you do?

First, if you don't go out to eat more than a couple of times a week, just enjoy yourself and don't worry about it. However, if you order in or go out to a restaurant more often, you need to be more diligent. Studies show that people who eat at restaurants more than 3 times a week end up consuming up to 60% more calories, fat and sodium than those who stay at home. The seemingly benign grilled salmon on a salad is almost always brushed several times in melted butter while grilling and usually heavily seasoned (salt or worse, MSG). Same goes with grilled chicken. Add in the dressing, cheese, nuts and a glass of wine and you're consuming a day's worth of calories and likely 2 days worth of sodium in one meal.

1) When possible, choose restaurants where you know you can order something somewhat healthy, preferably a restaurant that orders produce from local farms (this is a hot trend now, so it's not hard to find in most cities. Just call ahead and ask if they buy locally.).

2) Ask your waiter how the dish is prepared. Cream? Butter? Grilled? Fried? What kind of oil? Organic? (If the dish has corn, or soy products like tofu or edamame, they are nearly guaranteed to be genetically modified unless it is organic - may be better to avoid these products at restaurants when possible.) The menu doesn't always specify, so ASK. If you are shy about this, you can always pull up the menu online and call ahead anonymously and ask.

3) Request that your dish be cooked without butter or oil, or at least, very minimal amounts and light on the seasoning.

4) Go easy on the drinks. Tea with sugar (or God forbid, fake sweetener), sodas (again, sugar or fake sweetener) wine, juice cocktails and ritas all have tons of sugar and are highly acidic. Water with lemon or lime, or a cocktail like vodka with club soda and lime are better options.

5) Don't worry if the waiter thinks your a pain in the ass. You're paying him/her and the restaurant to give you what you want. Plus, you're the one eating it and you have a right to know what kind of ingredients they use and how they prepare what's going into your body.

6) Once you find a restaurant that offers local, organic ingredients and is gracious enough to give you exactly what you want, SUPPORT THEM as often as possible! 

You should enjoy yourself when you eat out, but it makes cooking healthy at home that much more critical. I don't feel stressed when my kids order chicken tenders and fries one day if I know that for dinner they're eating one of the recipes from my Recipes page. If I go have drinks and dinner with girlfriends one night, I order whatever sounds good and am grateful for it, knowing I'll eat healthy again the next day.

Food is a blessing. It isn't a burden. Do the best you can as often as you can and then let the rest go.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Diet for Longevity

I recently met with a renowned nutritionist, Dr. Glenn Luepnitz, who specializes in cancer and longevity. After a two-hour conversation, I am excited to share some of what I learned.

I was surprised to know that he adamantly opposes The China Study, the book that changed the way I eat. Although he agrees that we should be eating more vegetables and less cow dairy, he believes the tests conducted in the famous study aren't telling the whole story. For instance, in one of the China Study experiments, the scientists fed one group of mice a typical Western diet consisting of a high percentage of animal protein. The other group of mice were given a mostly vegetarian diet. Almost all of the mice given the high protein diet developed cancer and died while none of the vegetarian mice developed diseases. Their conclusion? We should eat mostly vegan diets with little animal protein and no dairy.

What Dr. Luepnitz argues is that mice are primarily vegetarians and any species will suffer disease and death if they are fed a diet their bodies weren't meant to eat. Of course the vegetarian mice lived longer...they were eating exactly what their systems were intended to digest. If we, as humans, consume a diet our bodies weren't intended to consume, we too will develop disease...and we do.

So what are we supposed to eat? According to Luepnitz, we need to focus on three things: eat clean, eat colorful and eat complex. Clean means knowing where you food came from and eating the best you can afford. Organic veggies and fruit (unless they have a thick skin that you peel), organic grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken (preferably from a local source), and minimal processed foods. Colorful simply means eating veggies and fruits of all kinds and colors. Complex means complex carbohydrates (not white floured products, white rice, white potatoes, high glycemic index foods such as ripe bananas).

He said we should picture our diets as a circle. Half the circle should be vegetables with 1/3 of that half being completely raw vegetables (think raw carrots, radishes, etc.). The remaining 2/3 of the veggie half should be manipulated, as in cooked, smoothied, chopped or otherwise broken up to ease digestion. The other half of the circle should be divided in half with 1/4 being protein (vegetarian or animal) and the other 1/4 complex carbohydrates (whole grains).

More than once, Luepnitz stressed the importance of not being held hostage by our diet. Food is only a small part of our lives and shouldn't dominate our thoughts or cause us to feel guilty if we go out to dinner with friends. Do the best you can-when you can-and allow yourself to veer from that from time to time.

He also disagreed with the macrobiotic idea of soaking rice before you cook it. The phytic acid that macrobiotics believe should be soaked off of the rice is exactly what oncologist WANT their cancer patients eating as it has been found to block cancer cells from returning. Phytic acid prevents blood vessels from attaching themselves to the cancer cells, thereby cutting off their oxygen and food supply. Concentrated forms of phytic acid are currently given to cancer patients.

When I asked him how I was supposed to know what grains to soak or not, he said, "If it comes out of your bottom the way it went into your mouth, it needs to be soaked, roasted or ground to break it down for better digestion." This includes just about all grains EXCEPT for rice. Seeds, such as sesame and flax, need to be ground, beans need to be soaked and corn? Chew well.

I was curious about animal protein, particularly cow dairy. He agreed that you should know where your meat came from and eat animals that were fed what their bodies were intended to eat. Cows weren't meant to eat corn (that's how eColi developed) so eat beef from grass fed cows only. Don't eat chickens that were packed into chicken factories and ate each other's feces. He is not a fan of cow dairy, either. For the same reasons I stated in my previous blog about dairy, he says cow dairy is not ideal for humans and is hard on digestion. Goat dairy, however, is much more compatible with our bodies.and easily digestable, even by people with cow dairy allergies. Goat cheeses, yogurt and milk is a much better option.

There was so much more we discussed, but the above is a good start. Although he disagreed with some of my research, we both stood firm on the importance of eating a whole foods, clean diet made up of primarily vegetables, and animal protein from quality sources. Check out my Recipes page to find some great veggie recipes!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oils - Which to Use, Which to Toss

How many of you cook with oil? Whether you're sauteing onion, baking muffins or popping popcorn, you likely use oil. Oil should be used sparingly as it is high in fat and calories, as well as thick and heavy for your body to digest. While some oils, in moderation, can be healthful, many oils are simply garbage, literally. 

Many oils you find in the store are the dredge from the processing of vegetables. The oils are chemically expeller pressed, refined and often from genetically modified vegetables. There has been much written lately about canola oil. Although it is cheap (which isn't always good), many believe it is actually toxic for human consumption because of the high erucic acid content. While some disagree, namely the Canadian government who exports the oil in massive quantities ($), I am not willing to risk it. There are too many other oils that aren't clouded in suspicion.

Vegetable oil, however, is not one of them. Vegetable oil is usually corn oil or soybean oil, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, the corn and soybeans used in this highly processed oil are almost always genetically modified and usually extracted using a chemical solvent. Genetically modified plants have been modified in laboratories to enhance desired traits, such as resistance to pests and longer growing seasons.The best known example of this is the use of an isolated gene inserted into the corn and soybean plants that produce crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. This new gene enables the corn and soybean plants to produce their own pesticides against insects. If the plant kills its own insects, what do you think it does in your body?

So what oil should you buy?  Always buy organic, cold pressed and unrefined whenever possible. The darker the bottle, the better as light affects nutrients and taste. Expeller pressed isn't the best option because the process heats the oil to over 120 degrees, destroying most health benefits and flavor. Store oils in the refrigerator for maximum shelf life.

Olive oil is considered a "good fat" because it is heart healthy and lowers cholesterol. It is gentle on the digestive system and full of antioxidants. Choose extra virgin as this type retains the most nutrients and flavor and is less processed than regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is best used for marinades, dressings and low-heat sauteing as it smokes (which you don't want) at a lower heat than some other oils. People have used olive oil on their skin and hair for centuries. Used as body oil, shaving oil or in your bath, olive oil has been found to minimize wrinkles and more importantly, lower the risk of skin cancer. 

Grapeseed oil is a good choice for everyday sauteing, frying, baking, marinades and dressings. It has a much lighter taste than olive oil and can withstand higher heat used in frying and sauteing. It lowers the bad cholesterol, is full of antioxidants and is high in several key vitamins. 

Coconut oil is delicious and has been found to have a host of health benefits. It is good for your heart, thyroid, metabolism, and immune system. Although it has saturated fat, it is naturally occurring. As a matter of fact, cultures who use coconut oil and other similar saturated fats have nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease. Coconut oil imparts a coconut flavor, so use sparingly. For example, if a recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for grapeseed oil, I will use 1/2 grapeseed oil and 1/2 coconut oil. It is not only good for baking (and popping popcorn!), but it is incredible for your skin (and smells great!).

Sesame oil is my go-to for any Asian food recipe and can withstand high heat. Perfect for stir-frying or adding a delicate sesame flavor to a marinade or dressing, this oil should be a staple in your pantry. Toasted sesame oil has a stronger flavor than the lighter version. Sesame oil lowers blood pressure, as well as sodium and sugar levels in the blood. It has also been found to slow the growth of melanoma when used topically.

Check out the Recipes page to find recipes using these healthy oils!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grains 101

When you think of grains, what comes to mind? Rice? Wheat bread? There are so many wonderful grains that have nothing to do with rice or bread. And when I talk about grains, I am talking about the WHOLE grain, not the pulverized-into-flour or instant rice kind of grain. Once grains are "messed with" and stored on grocery shelves, they lose much of their nutrients and flavor. And don't think whole grains make you fat. White rice and flour may, but whole grains are THE energy your body craves and needs to survive. Grains can be bought in bulk, are cheap and fill you up with protein, fiber and essential complex carbohydrates.

When cooking grains, there are several things you should know:

1) Grains need to be cleaned. Not only are they dirty, but many of them have a protective outer coating that is hard for your body to digest and often makes them taste bitter. Once you measure out your grain, pour them into a sieve and run cool water over them. 

2) Grains should be soaked or dry roasted. Even rice. Soaking further breaks down this outer layer, will enable your body to fully absorb the nutrients and removes any acidity from the grain. Depending on the grain, you can soak anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight. Some grains do even better to be rinsed and then dried in in a dry, hot skillet. This does the same as soaking but adds a nuttier flavor to the grain.

3) Grains should be cooked with the sea vegetable known as kombu (see earlier post about the #1 Thing You Should Add to Your Diet) and a pinch of salt. Kombu mineralizes and alkalizes the cooking water, which is absorbed by the grain, and then you. Magic. You can buy dried kombu in bags at Whole Foods, Central Market or most health food stores. Take out one long strip of kombu and cut a 1 inch piece off of it for every cup of grain. Toss it into your cooking water as you are heating it. You don't need to eat the kombu when your grain is finished cooking. Just like a bay leaf, you will get all of the benefits simply by eating the grain.

4) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, CHEW WELL. Your saliva is there for a reason and it's not just to lubricate your mouth. Saliva is full of enzymes that are intended to break down food before it gets to your digestive tract. The more you chew your food before you swallow, the less work your digestive track has to do. Macrobiotics teaches you should chew each bite at least 50 times before swallowing! I tried this but can't get past around 30 chews before the food has already made its way down. I don't think there is a magic number, just try to chew until there are no solid pieces left in your mouth. This is also a good weight-loss trick!

So, here are some great grains to try and the best ways to prepare them. To start, add them to any meal you would normally use rice. Then, try mixing different grains, adding them as binders in recipes (instead of breadcrumbs), and making sauces to drizzle over them. You should try to get a serving of them with every meal. See my "Recipes" page for great ways to incorporate grains into your diet.

  • Brown Rice - rinse and soak 20 minutes up to overnight in fridge. Use 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water and boil covered 45 minutes with lid on. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, another 5 minutes before fluffing with fork. 
  • Quinoa - rinse and roast in dry skillet until dried. Stir constantly. Use 1 cup of dry roasted quinoa to 1 1/2 cups of water. Boil with lid on for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before fluffing with fork.
  • Amaranth and teff - rinse and cook 1 cup with 3 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Millet - rinse and dry roast in a skillet until dried, stirring constantly. Then cook 1 cup with 3 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Wheat berries and spelt - rinse and soak overnight in fridge. Rinse and cook 1 cup with 2 cups of water, covered, for 50 minutes.
  • Buckwheat - rinse and dry roast in skillet until dried. Then cook 1 cup with 2 cups of water, covered, for 20 minutes
  • Barley - rinse and soak 20 minutes. Rinse and cook 1 cup to 2 cups of water, covered, for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dairy - Not What You Think

We were all raised to believe cow's milk was the next best thing for us after breast milk. There's a billion dollar industry hoping you still believe that. But science has shown that dairy can cause a host of problems that the dairy industry won't tell you about. This blog will just address one - osteoporosis.

Did you know that the U.S. ingests more dairy than most nations yet we have THE HIGHEST rate of osteoporosis on the planet (more than 20 million people suffer from it)? What's going on?

Most drink milk and give it to their kids because of the calcium. We all want strong bones and teeth, right? While cow's milk does contain plenty of calcium, it also contains a large amount of phosphorus (more than the perfect ratio of calcium to phosphorus found in human breast milk). This excess phosphorus binds with the calcium in our digestive tracts and makes the calcium in cow's milk mostly unabsorbable. Added to that, when cow's milk is pasteurized and homogenized, even less calcium is available. 

Your body is pretty amazing. It is constantly trying to balance itself. Because cow's milk is acidic and much of our Western diets are acidic (and high in sodium), your body pulls the calcium from your bones to buffer the acid (and salt). For example, people take TUMS tablets for heartburn (acid). TUMS is calcium. The calcium neutralizes the acid. If you don't have enough available calcium in your blood and digestive tract to balance out all of the acid, your body will pull the calcium from your bones. This leads to osteoporosis. 

Now what? You can get all of the calcium your body needs by eating leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, tofu (calcium-set kind), nuts and seeds (especially unhulled sesame). Only 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses has more calcium than a glass of cow's milk. Calcium-fortified juices and milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc) also contain up to 30% of your RDA. 

Next, cut out the extra salt and processed foods that are almost always high in sodium. Weight-bearing exercise is also important to build strong bones. This doesn't mean you need to become a body builder. Running, weights, resistance bands, even using your own body weight for exercises (think push ups, lunges, squats) works. These types of exercises cause the muscles to pull on the bones, which in turn stimulate bone cells to produce more bone.

We are humans, not cows. Human milk was made for humans and cow milk was made for cows. Small amounts of dairy can be fine, but if you're eating/drinking it thinking you're strengthening your bones, you may want to head to the produce aisle instead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The #1 Best Thing to Add to Your Diet

Now that you've hopefully begun removing a few unhealthy things from your diet, namely unpronounceable ingredients, artificial sweeteners, food dyes and sugars, it's time to add something healthful to your diet. We know eating vegetables from the earth is good for you, but there is an entire produce section from the sea you may be unaware of. Sea vegetables (seaweeds) are probably the most beneficial food item you can add to your diet.

Sea vegetables are among the oldest forms of life (recorded dietary use dates back to 3,000 B.C.) and offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all ocean minerals and many found in human blood. Seaweeds are packed with antioxidants and are extremely anti-inflammatory. Many cultures use seaweeds as a natural anti-viral medication, and a tonic for removing radioactive and metallic poisons from the body (they contain alginic acid, which bind toxins in the body for easy elimination).

They lower cholesterol, reduce estrogen excretion which can lower the risk of certain breast cancers, aid in preventing blood clots, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. They contain the highest concentration of iodine and also boast measurable amounts of vitamins B6, B12, K, potassium and magnesium. Zinc, iron, calcium and even protein are also significant. 
Convinced yet? If you're worried about contamination, sea vegetables do not absorb pollutants as fish do. Where pollution is high, sea plants simply do not grow.

Seaweeds are usually dried and sold in bags. They keep in your pantry forever, just store them in an airtight container or bag. They are easy to find at Whole Foods and Central Market, as well as many natural food stores and online. Ideally, they should make up 5% of your daily food intake. Here are some common ones and how to use them:

Dulse - I buy these in flake form. The black flakes come in a bag and you can sprinkle them on anything where you would sprinkle salt. They have a slightly salty flavor and turn bright red when they get wet. I add them to salads, Asian dishes (see my sesame noodle recipe on the Recipes link) and even oatmeal! My kids love this as a condiment.

Nori - You are likely familiar with this sushi paper. Sold in sheets, it can be used for wrapping sushi as well as toasted and flaked into salads or even eaten plain. 

Kombu - You don't have to actually eat kombu, but it works miracles when you are cooking any grain or bean. Cut a 1" piece from the dried strip (also sold in bags) and add it to your water as you cook beans or grains (including rice), much like a bay leaf. The kombu will release its wonderful minerals and mild flavor into the cooking water while it helps with their digestibility (a.k.a gas prevention). You can either eat the kombu after cooking or toss it.

Wakame - These dried black strips or pieces are the staple for miso soup (see recipe in Recipes section). It expands tremendously when cooking, so you don't need to use much. If I buy it in strips, I use scissors to cut small pieces into the miso broth. You can buy it already cut up as well.

Arame - These dried black threads need to be soaked in water for 5 minutes before using to rinse off its bitter outer layer. Once rinsed, this seaweed makes a wonderful raw seaweed salad or mince and toss into a stir fry. My favorite way is to mince it and saute with sliced green onions, soy sauce (or tamari), ginger and garlic. A couple of tablespoons is one serving.

Hiziki - This black seaweed is one of the strongest-tasting but has an amazing 1,350 mg of calcium per 1/2 cup. You want to soak this one for 5-10 minutes before using to rinse off the briny taste. It resembles angel hair pasta and can be used similarly as Arame.

Agar - This is SO cool to use in place of gelatin (see Kanten recipe on Recipes link). Gelatin is ground up animal hooves and bones. No, thanks. Why not use something that is actually beneficial to your body? Agar is usually sold as translucent flakes and when simmered in juice or other liquid until dissolved, will set up just like Jell-O, just no animal skeletons.