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.

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!