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.

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!