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.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Oh Boy, Here We Go Again...What to Pack in School Lunches

I can honestly say the thing I dread most about the start of school isn't waking up early again but figuring out what to pack in the kids' lunchboxes. It would be so easy to throw a Lunchable and a juicebox into the sack, but those of you who know me know I would more likely do a herkie when the school bus drives off the first morning of school.

Every end of summer, I begin to feel that anxious pit in my stomach that I have to come up with healthy lunch ideas the kids will actually eat. I have several cookbooks and websites dedicated to this endeavor but I inevitably fall into a slump by spring. Never fear though! I have some ideas to share that hopefully will get you at least a few months into the school year.

Things to consider:

  • Prepackaged foods are generally higher in fat, sodium, sugar, preservatives, food dyes and mystery ingredients than anything you could make at home
  • Your kids need a healthy breakfast and lunch to keep them going throughout the school day = limit processed foods, sugars, and sodium
  • Your kids likely won't eat something they've never tried before so consider experimenting at dinner and snack times to see if they'll actually eat it at lunch
  • Keep the dialogue open with your kids by asking them what they'd like to bring to lunch, then see if you can work with them to make it healthier if needed
  • Get organized! Purchase fun lunch box organizers like Lunch SkinsBento Boxes, and Pack It Lunch Bags 
  • Make a plan. Look at your week and see what days would be most suited for a certain type of lunch. Maybe sandwiches on Mondays, salads on Tuesdays, veggies and crackers with dips on Wednesdays, wraps on Thursdays, and burritos on Fridays.
Just a few lunch ideas:
  • Salads can be fun, especially if you put them in a mason jar. Layer ingredients and seal with the lid. All they have to do is shake! See this LINK for a quick how-to.
  •  Sandwiches are usually pretty safe bets but over a week's time, that can be alot of bread, cheese (if you use it) and meats (if you use them). Either cook and slice your own meats or buy preservative-free deli meats. Try to limit sandwiches to a couple per week, even if only to encourage a more diverse palette. If you limit/avoid bread, just roll the deli meat or use a lettuce leaf as a wrap. Try different nut butters with honey or fruit-only jams.

  • Cut up veggies with dip (hummus, black bean, msg-free Ranch, etc) are usually well tolerated and add a serving or two of veggies to your child's diet.
  • Cut up or whole fruits (with yogurt dip, nut butter or honey, if desired) work well but keep the skins on. Most of the fiber is found in the skin.
  • Wraps are usually a hit with most kids. Consider using lettuce or even collard greens if you can get your kids to eat them instead of flour tortillas which are usually full of preservatives. Fill them with all sorts of things from preservative-free deli meats and cheeses, to black beans/corn/salsa or cucumber/sprouts/carrots/olives/hummus. Get creative!
  • Don't forget the leftovers!
  • Frozen Tamales - Whole Foods sells several types of tamales my kids love, like the vegan black bean, sweet potato-pecan and shredded chicken with lime. Be sure to check the ingredients because often conventional brands use lard, tons of salt and preservatives.
  • Frozen Burritos - when I'm in a pinch, I go to Amy's frozen burritos or Evolv or even Whole Foods 360 brand. Again, check ingredients. Skip any with artificial ingredients, lots of sodium or preservatives.
  • Frozen veggies - you can usually find small, individual packets of edamame that most kids love. Try frozen lima beans (packed with protein and fiber) or green peas with a pat of butter and a dash of salt
  • Fried rice made the night before with leftover rice and frozen mixed veggies, a scrambled egg and a dash of tamari/soy sauce
  • Black beans and brown rice topped with avocado (soak in lime), salsa, and cilantro served with organic corn tortilla chips
Check out websites for inspiration! I could list a dozen here, but all of you know how to use the Internet and search for your own new favorites. Adapt recipes as needed and be sure to make note of the ones your kids end up liking. 

There are so many ideas and I am sure many of you have some of your own. PLEASE SHARE if you do! Just comment on the blog so all can see! Good luck and here's to a healthy new school year!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are You Constipated? 7 Things to Do to Get Things Moving Again

Let's face it. Little feels better than a good poop. You know the kind: slightly soft but formed into an "S" or "C" shape that seems to circle to toilet bowl. You stand up, feeling like you just dropped 5 pounds. Ahhhh. Every body is different, but if you're not having one of these DAILY, you may be constipated. 

Constipation can make you feel tired, heavy, crampy, bloated, gassy and/or cranky. And why shouldn't it? You have days' worth of waste sitting in your intestines going nowhere fast. Every day that goes by, your waste gets more compacted, making you feel worse. When it finally does decide to take the plunge, it comes out in hard, tiny balls that can feel like they're covered with thorns. Those "thorns" are the tiny tears they're creating around your bum hole. Nice, huh?

While you may have an underlying medical issue that should be discussed with your doctor, more often it is directly related to your diet. SURPRISE! Here are 7 things you can do to get things moving again:

  1. Drink more non-caffeinated fluids. Water is best, but if you tire of it, try adding a splash of 100% fruit juice to it. Just to keep up with your daily fluid requirements, you should take your body weight, divide it in half and that's how many ounces of fluids you should consume...just to keep up. If you're already constipated, drink more until things loosen up a bit. NO CAFFEINE! Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it pulls moisture from your body. When your constipated, you need all the moisture you can get. 
  2. Eat your veggies and fruit! The two most important things you need when you're constipated are fluids and fiber. Veggies and fruits have both, especially when you keep the skins on. Eat them with every meal and between meals. Dried fruits (apricots, prunes, figs, dates, mangoes) are high in fiber, too, so try them for a change from the norm.
  3. Eat more whole grains and chew them well. Brown rice and other whole grains contain naturally-occurring bran, which is fiber. As with all food, chewing is a critical part of digestion and should be something you strive to do more often. Our saliva contains enzymes that start breaking the food down before we swallow so our digestive tract doesn't have to work so hard. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce and the smaller the food particles become. Practice chewing more than what you think feels normal. 
  4. Lay off the dairy. Dairy is binding. It's thick and gunky. Cheese, milk, sour cream, etc. can make your constipation worse, so try eliminating it from your diet, at least until your constipation clears up.
  5. Limit your protein intake, particularly animal protein. Protein takes a while for your body to digest, especially of the animal type. When you're constipated, you want to give your intestines a break. When you start pooping softer poops, you can try adding small amounts of protein back into your diet.
  6. Limit your white flour and sugar intake. White flour is void of any bran (fiber) and like dairy, is gunky. When you get flour wet, it makes a paste. It does the same thing in your intestines. It's also digested like sugar. Sugars are inflammatory to your intestines and the last thing you want is to increase the inflammation (swelling) in your intestines. 
  7. Get moving. A brisk walk does wonders, especially in the morning. Not only does it invigorate your muscles and brain, but the contractions in your intestines that push your waste down and out. 

One note: if you're consuming lots of salads, fruits and juices already and still feel constipated, you may actually suffer from a different type of constipation that is triggered by an expanded large intestine (a contracted large intestine causes the most common form of constipation that is discussed above). Try prune juice and brown rice, and decrease your intake of raw foods and other juices.

Some of you may wonder about laxatives or enemas. While there are "natural" laxatives you can buy, I always recommend changing your diet first. You don't want to rely on laxatives every time you get blocked up. Instead of simply treating the symptom, you want to address the underlying cause of your constipation.

As far as enemas go, they too can become habit forming and actually weaken the large intestine's normal contractions. As they wash out the waste, they also wash out your beneficial flora that is basically your immune system. While probiotics can replenish your flora, it takes time to replenish. Try changing your diet first, then talk with your doctor.

Once you've tried the above recommendations, you should start seeing softer, more regular poops. If not, I advise you seek medical attention. Chronic constipation isn't something you should live with and can actually cause long-term health issues, especially with your colon. 

Here's to a good poop!

Monday, July 1, 2013

More Info on Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

One of my recent blog posts talked about how your diet can prevent Alzheimer's Disease. I've been doing more research and wanted to pass along this great article. If anyone in your family has ever suffered from this horrific disease, you need to read this. All of us are at risk, so please take the time.

What this report talks about are simple blood tests you can take to check specific levels in your body, eating habits that can greatly impact your risk factors and exercise. Of course, eating a whole foods-based diet has been found to prevent more diseases and conditions I can name here, but this is just one more reason to kick the processed food habit and go for things grown from the earth.

I think it's so cool how God has given us everything we need to be healthy. My son even said recently that one of his Discover Magazine's talked about how such a small percentage of plants have even been discovered and scientists are convinced these species hold the cures to virtually all disease. Not a chemical made in a lab, but PLANTS. FROM GOD. 

We all hear how blueberries, goji berries, kale and other fruits and veggies are so high in antioxidants. Did you know that the rich, deep colors of these types of produce are their defense mechanism? Plants don't have an immune system, but they do have defense mechanisms that protect them from UV rays, certain fungi and diseases. When we eat those foods, we ingest their defense mechanism, thereby strengthening our own. When you eat a varied diet full of all types of fruits and veggies, you are literally getting the best multivitamin man could never recreate.

Processed foods contain NONE of these vital nutrients. Many processed foods are "fortified" with vitamins, but rarely do those vitamins and minerals come from whole plant sources. They are often manufactured and processed themselves, diminishing their effects and rendering them relatively useless when compared to God's produce.

God is the creator of all good things. GOOD things. "Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:11-12 NIV

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Artificial Sweeteners - Are They Really THAT Bad?

A good friend of mine and fellow critic of processed foods recently sent me an article about how Splenda may not be considered safe anymore. I found the same information again here. While I'm not at all surprised because of all of the research I've studied over the past several years, I realize many of my readers might still think these types of artificial sweeteners are okay, or maybe okay in moderation. This may sound extreme, but I think you're playing with fire if you think these chemicals are harmless.

Science has already confirmed that the chemicals and process to form the chemicals in many artificial sweeteners are toxic. I know of two people whose neurologists told them when they each complained of recurring headaches was to get off aspartame. They were drinking it in the form of Diet Cokes. Although he's not a scientist, Dr. Oz is a doctor and does his own research. Here is a link to an article that goes through the most popular artificial sweeteners and what they are actually doing to your brain and body. Here's another great one from a doctor who discusses the neurological and behavioral dangers of aspartame. Scary, I know.

We're always looking for the easy way out - we want convenience foods so we don't have to shop and cook. We want to lose weight so we look for artificially-sweetened foods and drinks to eliminate calories. Sure, we get our temporary results, but what is it doing to us long term?

I understand not all of you like to cook. I know not all of you can consume natural sugars, and we shouldn't be doing that much even if we can. But there are choices we can make that will greatly impact our long term health. I can guarantee you that if you choose WHOLE foods over PROCESSED foods (including refined sugars and artificial sweeteners), you are significantly improving your odds of living a long, healthful life free from doctors, meds and a host of ailments.

So what do you do if you need something sweet and you aren't supposed to be consuming artificial sweeteners or refined sugars? What else is there? 

1) Try to wean yourself off of your sweet tooth. It can be done and in less time that you may think. Because of the neurological effects of many artificial sweeteners and the fact that they are inherently sweeter than plain sugar, the more of them you consume, the more you will crave the sweetness of sugar. It's then a snowball effect. All sugars are highly addictive so it will take effort. You can do it though!

Start with a goal each day to reduce your intake and see how long you can go. Within a month, you'll crave sugar less and by the end of the summer, you may not even want those sugary snacks at all. You'll all the sudden be able to taste the natural sweetness in fruits and even veggies you never tasted before!

2) Choose natural sweeteners when needed. Try:

  •  pure maple syrup
  • local honey, agave
  • brown rice syrup 
  • unsweetened dates  
  • molasses
Yes, these are all sugars and are digested similarly, but the are less refined and processed than table sugar and should contain NO artificial ingredients that could cause other side effects.

3) Check the ingredients of everything in your kitchen and in your shopping cart. Artificial sweeteners lurk in all sorts of places. If it says "diet," "sugar free," "low calorie," or "reduced calorie" you can be pretty sure it has artificial sweeteners. Ingredients to avoid are:

  • aspartame
  • acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  • neotame
  • saccharine (Sugar Twin, Sweet'N Low)
  • sucralose (Splenda)
Going natural is ALWAYS better than anything manufactured. Try alternative natural sweeteners and see which you like most and in what recipes. Since the jury is still out on many artificial sweeteners, at least you'll be ahead of the game if they determine more than just Splenda needs a warning label.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Can You Prevent Alzheimer's?

My beloved grandmother and my husband's grandmother both died from Alzheimer's Disease. My father-in-law is in early stages of Alzheimer's. It's such a scary and sad disease that robs the mind of memories that you thought you'd never forget. When my grandmother was sick, she didn't know who those closest to her were anymore. She didn't remember teaching me how to make an authentic New York cheesecake. She didn't remember letting me dress up in her fancy clothes and high heeled shoes. She didn't remember how we watched Johnny Carson together while I fell asleep cuddled next to her.

More and more research dollars are being spent on finding a cure, especially since several high-profile people have or had the disease. I found the following doctor, Dr. Neal Barnard, who appeared on Dr. Oz fascinating with his claim that he knows how to PREVENT Alzheimer's. It's a four-part series that I recommend you watch when you have time. 

Basically, Dr. Barnard said that when the plaques that are found in the brains of Alzheimer's victims are analyzed, they are filled with metals. He believes these metals, namely iron, copper and zinc, wreak havoc on the brain cells and destroy the connections that give us our memory. By reducing the amount of metals in our diets, he claims we can PREVENT Alzheimer's. But there's more. These metals bind with saturated fats in meats and dairy to cause the most harm. Dr. Barnard recommends the following diet from whole foods (not from supplements):
  • lots of vitamin E - sweet potatoes, mangoes, walnuts and broccoli
  • B6 - corn (organic), beans, brown rice and other whole grains like amaranth
  • B12 - fortified cereals and fortified nut milks
  • Folate - leafy greens like kale, asparagus and beans
  • Antioxidants - blueberries and grapes
And he says you should drastically reduce or eliminate:
  • Meat (especially red meat because of the high saturated fats)
  • Dairy (the highest levels of saturated fats of any food group)
  • Fish (he says most fish is contaminated because the ocean is so high in toxic minerals)
  • Fried foods (again, high in saturated fats)

He recommends if you take a multi-vitamin, be sure to find one without minerals and not to take iron supplements unless your blood work shows you have anemia or significant iron deficiency.

To watch the Dr. Oz video, click HERE.

To go to Dr. Neal Barnard's website to read more about him and his research, click HERE.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Detoxing for Summer - Lighten UP!

Summer is almost here and there's no better time to de-sludge! The winter is long passed us but our bodies might be holding on to extra bulk we no longer need. If you're in the mood to clean things out and feel a little lighter, read on!

Our bodies can sometimes feel heavy, burdened and slow. One of the best ways to speed up the cleansing process is to EAT CLEAN. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I push eating clean all year. I know it can be hard, especially around the holidays and celebrations, but summer is the perfect time to get started. Here's how.

1) Eat lighter fare. The harvest right now is plentiful with lots of greens, onions, beets, carrots, cabbage, garlic, parsnips, radishes, berries, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cucumber and summer squashes. These foods grow this season because they are meant to not only nourish you, but cool you from the inside out. That's why you feel like salads in the summer and stew in the winter. It's not just a "feeling," but a true necessity. Who wants a heavy chowder in the summer? Find recipes that use raw or lightly steamed veggies over long-roasted or boiled ones. Do quick sautes instead of foods that take a longer cooking time.

2) Make friends with veggie smoothies. The more fibrous veggies you consume, the faster you get rid of the winter sludge. Make the smoothie recipe from this site or get creative and try your own recipe. Keep in mind, smoothies should be 3 parts veggies to 1 part fruit. If your smoothies are mostly fruit, you're getting some good vitamin C but your also getting lots of sugars. Try a base of fresh oj, a couple of leaves of kale, juice of 1/2 - 1 lime, 1/4 of a cucumber, a handful of cilantro or parsley (great detoxifiers), a drizzle of honey and a few ice cubes. Add spirulina powder and flax or chia for extra nutrients!

3) Eat your greens! Greens are great detoxifiers. We're talking cilantro, parsley, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach,.mustard greens and collard greens.The chlorophyll in these veggies is so powerful. Aloe vera juice and chia (when wet) are gelatinous and pull toxins from the body.

4) Get off the cow dairy. Cow dairy is hard to digest, contains a lot of casein (which has been linked to all sorts of cancers), and makes you feel sludgy. Just as it is creamy in texture, it coats your insides and creates mucus. Goat dairy is much more digestible, contains less casein and is usually tolerated by people with dairy allergies.

5) Exercise. Fresh air is ideal but if you need to be indoors, you can still get some great exercise. Fill your lungs with air because oxygen is the best thing you can add to your blood, giving you energy and rebuilding cells. Get your blood flowing! Even a 20 minute brisk walk will do wonders for your energy level, mood and digestion. Stretch slowly and often to keep muscles flexible and release toxins. 

6) Drink lots of water. If you're releasing toxins through diet and exercise, you need to flush them out with fluids. Water is best, even with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Stay away from caffeine as this dehydrates the body. 

7) Stay away from processed foods! Processed foods are inflammatory and contain addictive ingredients that aren't good for your brain, nervous system or digestion. The less sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial ingredients you consume, the more efficient your body and immune system will perform. Remember: you are what you eat. Are you eating junk? Then you probably feel like junk. Eat clean and you'll feel clean!

8) Laugh. Alot. Laughter is one of the best medicines EVER and it's free. Spend time with family and friends, creating a fun environment where laughter abounds. Life is hard enough and there's likely not a bunch you can do about most of it, so you might as well laugh!

What do you plan to do this summer to lighten things up? Let me know!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Link Between Food and Learning Ability & Intelligence

I recently read an article about the correlation between food and intelligence (click HERE to read article). It showed that children fed processed foods consistently scored lower than children fed a natural diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits grains, beans and legumes. I was just taking a lunch break and had the local news on and another study just confirmed these findings.

As parents, we take a vow to do whatever we need to help our children. How many rashes have we rubbed cream on? Throw up we've cleaned up? Bottoms & noses we've wiped? Friendships we've counseled them on? Pediatrician offices we've sat in? Concerns we've discussed with teachers? We stop at nothing to be good parents, yet when it comes to food, we often turn a blind eye. Why?

Food is an emotional phenomenon. We associate comfort with certain foods, fun with others. When we go out with our friends or spouse, it usually is centered upon food. Family gatherings would be downright intolerable without a huge spread! Super Bowl without chips? Food is everywhere, all the time. And we're teaching our kids how to eat. They model our behavior and eat what we allow them to eat.

While it can be overwhelming to take on another responsibility and teach our kids to eat nutritious food (after all, it's so much easier to give them what they want!), it's our job. If they don't learn it from us, who will they learn it from?

What I want to suggest is that we take a deep breath, close our eyes and just imagine what it was like in a simpler time. Food was found in the garden and in the pastures, not at the giant big box store. Meat was clean because the animals were healthy. Vegetables were eaten in season and manure was the only form of fertilizer. Butter was made from cream of a dairy cow and not from processed oils refined in a factory. There were modest but wholesome breakfasts, lunches and dinners - not snacks between every meal. Sugar was a luxury so it was rarely eaten. People ate until they were no longer hungry, not until they were so stuffed they actually felt bad after a meal.

In our rush to find the next greatest "convenience" food, we have forgotten what food is supposed to be - energy. Fuel. Pure and simple. Yes, we can enjoy it with friends and family, but can we step back and make it more about friends and family and less about the food? Is it the food that makes it so great or the relationships? 

Processed foods are such a far cry from the simple life I just described. They are a complete adulteration of what food is supposed to be. It's making us and our kids sick, stupid and cranky. With summer quickly coming, let's try to ease up on the food a bit. Eat what's in season. Eat local. Eat light and healthy. Challenge yourself to cook more and use a can opener less. Don't fill your body with packaged foods when everything you need to be healthy, strong, vibrant and ALIVE is growing in the ground. God is so good!

What about you? Let me know what simple things you wish were still around. I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Snacks - Think of Them Differently!

If you're trying to eat healthier and cut out all the processed foods, snack time can be a challenge. What do you give your kids (or yourself) when bagged pretzels, chips, crackers, sweets and empty calories are a no-no? Fear not. You only have to change how you think about snacks.

The whole purpose of a snack is to recharge the body and satiate it until dinner. It is NOT supposed to fill you up like a full meal. Simple carbohydrates like the ones mentioned above fill you very briefly but raise your blood sugar (and often blood pressure if they're salty) so you have energy briefly, but then crash within a couple of hours. You've given your body nothing it can actually use except the temporary high of sugars (because your body processes simple carbs as sugar). What your body needs when it's tired or hungry is NUTRIENTS, not high carb processed junk.

Think of snacks as a small meal. If you have 5 minutes, you can make:
  • Have any preservative-free deli meat, leftover organic chicken or beans from last night? Put it on an organic tortilla with some healthy goat cheese (and any veggies you can sneak in there) and make a quick fajita taco or grill it as a quesadilla. 
  • Or wrap the deli meat around a good piece of cheese (preferably goat cheese) with some good mustard.
  • Have some beans? Spread them on organic tortilla chips, top with a sprinkle of shredded goat cheese and stick them under the broiler for 2 minutes. Add a dollop of guacamole and salsa.
  • Cut up some seasonal fruit and dip it in organic peanut butter mixed with local honey, or plain goat milk yogurt drizzled with local honey. 
  • Kids love parfaits (who doesn't?), so layer the fruit and yogurt/honey with granola to make a pretty "dessert-like" treat.
  • Make mini pizzas with English muffins or a hearty piece of bread - use that spaghetti sauce that's sitting in the back of your fridge, add some preservative-free ham pieces and some grated goat cheese. Pop it under the broiler for 3 minutes.
  • Boil some edamame and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • Spread hummus onto a cracker (I love Ak-Mak brand), add feta and a few sliced kalamata olives. Or cut up cucumber, carrots and celery and dip in the hummus.
  • Make the roasted chickpeas (garbanzos) found in my Recipes section.
  • Make homemade popcorn (1/3 cup organic corn and 1 Tbsp coconut oil with 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil on stovetop). Season with lemon and salt, or just salt, or make a seasoning
  • Make a green smoothie (see Recipe section) and add a generous handful of pumpkin seeds to the blender for a boost of protein
If you think of snacks as a mini-meal, you realize the possibilities are endless. And you're giving your body real nutrients it can use to fuel you until dinner. 

If you are short on time and need a snack that travels:
  • An apple or banana with a packet of Justin's peanut or almond butter
  • A Lara Bar (see recipe on Recipes link to the right)
  • Pre-bag your own trail mix so you can grab it when you need it - include lots of nuts, dried fruits and a few chocolate chips 
  • Wrap preservative-free deli meat around cheese (preferably goat) & keep in fridge til needed
  • Grab a mandarin orange (simple to peel) and a bag of pistachios or other nut
  • Make the homemade granola recipe from this blog and put it in individual baggies to grab when you're on the run
  • Make many of the snacks listed in the first section ahead of time so when your child gets home from school, their snack is ready to eat
Remember - we are natural beings CREATED to eat NATURAL foods. That is, food that is found in nature, not packaged food that claims to be natural. Big difference. The earth gives us what we need so EAT from the earth!

Quick plug - I am now on Twitter! Follow me at @eatingfromearth to get quick meal ideas, links to interesting research and news, new products to try, tips and encouragement. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why the Giant Food Manufacturers Think You're Stupid

I know you're smart. Many of the food manufacturers don't. They don't think you're smart enough to read labels, do a little research or think for yourself. They believe we are robots and will consume whatever they tell us tastes good, is "all natural," and will make you popular. As a matter of fact, they spend millions of dollars a year on expensive ad campaigns designed to do just that: convince the consumers they want the processed foods they KNOW are bad for us. Are we going to be gullible little lab rats or are we going to stand up and say, "ENOUGH!"?

I am on a soap box today. Maybe it's because I'm coming off of my presentation to a group of parents at my children's school. Or maybe it's because I witnessed at least half a dozen kids this weekend consume red Gatorade, Cheetos and cupcakes with blue icing in a single sitting while their parents talk about how much "energy" their child has. Maybe it's because I saw an obese woman who worked at a dry cleaners take her break to smoke a cigarette, drink a 64 oz cola and eat a Snicker bar. What are we doing to our bodies??? It breaks my heart.

God gave us these amazing machines called the human body. It is an amazing piece of art designed to fight off the onslaught of armies determined to destroy us: viruses, bacteria, germs and such are at every turn. But our incredible immune systems find these tiny, sword-wielding mutants and wipe them out on a daily basis. We usually don't even know a battle was being fought. But instead of nourishing our troops, we arm the enemy. We break down our fortress with processed foods and other garbage and expect our immune system to keep fighting the mutants combined with the foreign substances (man-made ingredients) we put into our own bodies - without much ammo. Here comes the enemy again, but this time we can't fight as hard. This time we get knocked down. Our immune system is weaker, but still hanging in there. What do we do? Nourish the troops with real food so they can strengthen? Nope. We continue to poison them until there are few standing. The next time the enemy comes, the white flag will fly and we will be taken hostage. We get sick; sometimes just a virus and other times something much, much greater. Something our immune systems haven't a chance of overcoming. 

Our immune systems need our help to do what it was designed to do. We can't believe feeding it junk - artificial preservatives and food enhancers, chemical stabilizers, unnatural food dyes and flavorings, refined sugars and mounds of salt - and think our immune systems won't suffer the consequences. Hear me when I say, EVERYTHING YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY EITHER NOURISHES IT OR POISONS IT. Nothing is benign. The choice is yours.

Many of the largest food manufacturers want you to think processed foods are the answer to our busy lives. Convenience trumps nutrition. They convince us we don't have time to cook and must rely on them to feed our families. They're not coming to our rescue. They're getting rich off of our gullibility. 

We are more intelligent than they think, though. We know these companies aren't smarter than God. They haven't discovered some new way that improves the food God has already given us. Nothing from their labs will ever nourish our bodies the way the food from this great earth can. 

Make it a priority and you can do it. You can start eating from nature and tell these food manufacturers, "No thanks." I'd like to tell them a lot more! You are an educated, smart person and you can do better. You can bring nutritious food into your home and settle for nothing less. You can teach your children to choose healthy foods so they don't grow up thinking food comes from boxes, bags and cans. You can arm your troops for the many battles ahead. WE ARE THE TEACHERS. Let's teach!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hidden Sodium and What It's Doing to Your Body

I've been asked to present a nutrition and wellness seminar and have been doing my homework. I love to read and research, finding tidbits of info and cross-checking with other sources to determine which angle I want to believe. Part of my presentation is about ingredients to avoid if you eat processed foods. 

The American Heart Association recently released their findings that sodium (found in salt and baking powder/baking soda) contributes to 1 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. Up to 75 percent of sodium is found in processed foods. If you've read my previous blog posts, you know how I support a "whole foods" diet free from processed foods. This is just one more reason why.

So what's the harm in a little sodium? While some sodium is necessary for metabolic health, Americans consume WAY more than what is needed. One teaspoon of salt or baking soda has 1,000 mg of sodium. Amounts over approximately 2,000 mg a day can do more damage than you think, such as:

  • increase fluids in your system to balance the salinity of your blood, therefore increasing blood pressure, which:
    • increases your risk of cardiovascular disease
    • increases your risk of having a stroke
  • leech calcium from your bones to buffer the acid from salt, leading to osteoporosis
  • increase your risk for stomach cancer
  • increase your risk for kidney disease
While I don't eat or serve my family many processed foods, I was shocked to learn how much sodium I was still feeding them with "healthy" baked goods. I try to not eat much gluten, a protein found in wheat. Instead, I mix flours from quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, and other ancient grains. When you take away the gluten, however, you take away the binding ingredient that holds baked goods together. What many gluten-free recipes use to bind the non-wheat flours together is baking powder or baking soda, up to 2 Tbsp per recipe. 

I've happily made my kids buckwheat/quinoa pancakes (and even have it as a recipe on my Recipes page, now updated) without realizing how much sodium was in the recipe. It calls for 1 Tbsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. No problem, right? WRONG! I calculated my batch of pancakes had more than 1,500 mg of sodium! That's nearly an entire days worth of sodium...FOR BREAKFAST. Yikes. If you use baking soda instead, it would be nearly 4,000 mg of sodium!

If you have kidney or heart issues, you are told to eat a low-sodium diet because sodium is so hard on both organs. Most of these people aren't able to eat many baked goods. Now we know why. There are sodium-free baking powders that use calcium carbonate instead of sodium carbonate, but I haven't tried them yet. They get great reviews online, so that is #1 on my list of things to buy the next time I go to Whole Foods (Ener-G is the recommended brand).

Try to keep your daily intake of sodium to under 2,000 mg. If you read the labels on your processed foods packages, be sure to keep track as you will likely find you are eating a lot more sodium than you thought. If you eat out much, be aware that restaurants generally use LOADS of salt to make their food taste good. Ask your waiter for low sodium options or to have the chef prepare you dish without salt. You can always add a few dashes yourself if needed.

I know how hard it is to give up salt. I am a salt person. I prefer salt over sugar any day of the week. It's almost embarrassing how fast I can put down a bowl of guacamole and salty tortilla chips. Now that I know what harm it's causing, I will be smarter the next time I buy chips, opting for "no salt" varieties. I'll also start using sodium-free baking powder. And as usual, I'll stay away from as many processed foods as possible. My heart and bones will thank me for it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Eating Outside of the Box

The term "thinking outside the box" is used to describe situations in which someone thinks outside of the norm, or is innovative or unique in their thinking. I'd like to suggest we all need to think this way, in more ways than what I'm about to discuss. 

With respect to this food and wellness blog, the "norm" in our society is to go for convenience. We are busy, I get it.  But I believe convenience foods have become one of the major culprits to our nation's declining health. 

Convenience foods are pre-packaged, prepared foods that are usually manufactured in large facilities by machines. In order to be shelf-stable (not decompose), they must contain preservatives. They come dressed in pretty bags, boxes and cans with all sorts of claims - natural, healthy, whole grain, fortified, nutritious are just a few of the clever words printed on them to convince us that they are as good as what you would make in your own kitchen. But turn the package around and read the ingredients. Do you have monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated soybean oil or hydrolyzed corn protein in your pantry? Me neither. 

I believe with every fiber of my being that If we were to "eat" outside of the box, we would be a much healthier population. Don't get me wrong - sometimes you need something that is packaged. I stress the word "sometimes." If the bulk of your diet or the diet you feed your children requires a can opener, microwave or recycling, you might be setting yourself (and your kids) up for a higher risk of health problems, not the least of which is obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Why? Packaged foods are generally higher in sodium, sugars, fats (the unhealthy kind), calories, chemicals and food dyes - all of which are contributing factors to diseases. They have also been linked to learning and behavioral disabilities, ADD/ADHD, autism, mood swings, depression and fatigue. 

You'd be hard pressed to find any doctor, nutritionist or health expert that would tell you that you don't need a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats. We all know we should be eating more of these food groups, especially the fresh veggies. So why don't we? Convenience. Ugh. There's that word again. How convenient is it to be sick? To be in a doctor's waiting room? To monitor blood sugar? To fill yet another prescription?

As spring is about to push forth an abundance of new veggies and fruits, I urge you to use this time as a springboard to better health. Once you eliminate the packaged foods and dig in to what is growing in your area, you will be amazed at how your tastes change. You will taste the sweetness of a carrot, the bitterness of collard greens, the spiciness of a radish and the creaminess of an avocado. You will poop more and whine less. Yep - diets rich in veggies clean out your intestines and make you feel great. Your skin will glow, your energy will improve and you'll start healing your body from the inside out. I can't think of one boxed food that can promise that - and mean it.

If you don't know where to start, I suggest taking inventory of your kitchen. See where you can substitute fresh, real ingredients for packaged foods. Pick up some new cookbooks or search online for new recipes. Start cooking more and appreciate the blessing of having access to fresh foods. Join a local CSA (community-supported agriculture) to have veggies delivered to you or start frequenting area farmers' markets. See what the land has to offer. I can promise you it will be better for you than what comes from a factory.

If you're wanting recipe ideas or ways to make the switch, comment on this blog and let me know! Don't forget to check out my Recipes page!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Genetically Modified Salmon? Your Chance to Comment

If you've read any of my blogs, you know how I feel about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The FDA has approved the science of genetically altering plant proteins for years and now 99% of U.S. corn and soybeans are genetically modified. What does that mean? Unless you buy organic corn and soybeans, every corn chip, tortilla chip, corn tortilla, corn, edamame, corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil (and all foods fried in those oils), tofu, corn flour, soy flour, soy protein, and any food containing these items (such as cereals, cereal bars, protein bars,crackers, chips, breads, dressings & marinades, mayonnaise etc.) are genetically modified. 

The FDA states that GMOs have not been found to be harmful and can therefore sold to the public. Many other industrialized nations have banned the use of GMOs in their food supply until GMOs can be proven safe. It takes decades to see the effects of an ingredient on the general public, so it may be years before we see the correlation between GMOs and our health. Critics believe GMOs may be at the root of our food allergies, other auto-immune diseases, certain cancers, autism, learning disabilities, and other diseases that have been on the rise since the introduction of GMOs. Even if there is a one percent chance that the critics are correct (and I happen to think that percentage is much, much higher), are we willing to take that chance?

Genetically modified foods have had certain proteins that have been "messed with" so the plant can grow with specific characteristics, such as disease and pest resistant, faster growth, larger growth, and drought resistant. The new proteins created in the lab are not naturally found in nature, therefore our bodies do not process them the same way as a protein made by God. Many believe these lab proteins are wreaking havoc on our digestive systems, which house our immune systems. Our immune systems were created to fight off foreign substances and these proteins are recognized in our bodies as a foreign substance. If so much of our food supply is genetically modified and contains these lab proteins, our immune systems are in constant "fight" mode and not functioning as they should, hence disease, illness, etc.

Making things worse, the FDA is about to approve the first genetically modified ANIMAL - the salmon. The Chinook salmon has been altered with a gene from the eel to create a new salmon that grows faster and larger than any other natural salmon. The FDA has yet to require that these salmon be labeled as GMOs because their research shows that if people knew it was genetically modified, they wouldn't buy it. Even the FDA recognizes that GMOs aren't attractive to the consumer, yet they refuse to allow us to even know if our food is genetically modified or not.

If you Google "genetically modified foods" or "genetically modified salmon," you will get a long list of articles to read. I found one on a local news station that tells the story of the salmon with links to the FDA where you can voice your concern in hopes that the FDA will at least require labeling (link HERE). I highly encourage you to take the time to read the article and email the FDA this week before the decision has been made. It takes seconds and could change the course of our food supply. 

What's at stake? Farmers of corn and soybeans say with the persistent droughts, they can't survive and the genetically modified seeds yield drought resistant crops. The salmon fishery that is responsible for the genetically modified salmon believe the growing world population will surpass food supply and this is a way to ensure a robust salmon population. 

What do you think? Comment on this blog to let me know!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Have You Started Yet?

We're now in February and I'm curious to know how many of you have started cutting out the processed foods to move towards a more whole foods diet. It's so easy to say it's a resolution, but when you get down to it, it can be overwhelming. I know. I was where you are once.

It's funny to me that so many people I run into inevitably ask me questions about what they should or shouldn't eat, where they find certain ingredients, how they get their family to jump on board, and why it all matters. I have a sweet friend who knows WAY more than I ever will about food and I've peppered her with hundreds of questions for years. I never thought I'd be the go-to girl for nutrition, but I'm happy to share my knowledge with anyone who wants to listen! All of us have a story to tell and mine for now is about how to use the foods God gave us to nourish and heal our bodies. Are you ready?

If you haven't quite started yet, please take the time to read through my blog archives. There you will find critical information you need to know before you get started. Start at my first blog entry and work your way to the present. I go through everything from dairy to seaweeds to grains to organics and GMOs.

For those of you in my area, I am starting Whole Foods tours for anyone interested. For a small fee, I will meet you and up to two others at Whole Foods and walk the aisles, answering your questions and showing you staples you should consider adding to your supplies. Each session will last 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I hope to familiarize you with ingredients you may not have tried before and educate you on why they are important to your diet. If you are interested, please contact me at joineatingtolivewell@gmail.com.

I know starting anything new is daunting. But it's also exciting to mix things up, learn something new and try something different. Everyone I know who has cut out the processed foods in lieu of fresher ingredients has told me how great they feel. It's your turn. Read the blogs, come to Whole Foods with me, and ask me questions by making a Comment to this blog.

Check out my recipes page and if you have a recipe you'd like me to try, I'd love to hear about it! Send me the recipe in the Comment section and if I like it, I'll post it to the Recipes page.

Here's to a healthier YOU in 2013!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Juicing vs Smoothies - What's the Big Deal?

There's alot of hype these days about juicing or drinking smoothies. There are juice bars popping up left and right and even mainstream commercial brands are offering instant smoothies. What's the deal with them? Is one better than the other and what should they contain? Let's break it down...

The Difference Between Juicing and Smoothies
Juicing is simply extracting the juice from a fruit or vegetable. Most juicers separate the pulp from the juice so you get a smooth, bit-free juice. While the juices can be delicious, when you toss the pulp, you're tossing the fiber, too. What you get are vitamins and sugars. These aren't processed or refined sugars, but they are metabolized in your body as sugar and thus spike your blood sugar (hard on your pancreas). When eaten with fiber, however, these juices are metabolized slower and your blood sugar doesn't take such a hit.The more fruit you juice, the more sugar. The more vegetables you juice, the less sugar. Either way, you're not getting the WHOLE food. And if you've been reading this blog, you know the WHOLE food is always best.

Making smoothies is preferable because they are made in a blender, which retains all of the pulp and fiber - ensuring you are digesting the entire fruit/veggie, not just the juice. The pulverization process makes it much easier on your body to digest because you have done much of the breakdown legwork prior to consuming. Because you have all of the fiber intact, your body can slowly metabolize the sugars, fiber and vitamins together, causing very little blood sugar increase - if you focus on the ingredients. Smoothies are an easy and fast way to get a daily serving or two of veggies into your diet. 

The Ugly Truth about Fruit Smoothies
Whether you are juicing or smoothy-ing, you should aim for a vegetable-to-fruit ratio of 3 to 1 (three parts vegetables to one part fruit). All fruits contain a hefty amount of natural sugars, so these need to be limited and used mainly to slightly sweeten the drink. You can start gradually so you can get used to more vegetables, but if you're making a banana, strawberry and apple smoothie, you've just consumed at least 34 grams of sugar (not including whatever liquid base you choose). That's the equivalent of 8 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. Yes, the smoothie is natural sugar, but your body still metabolizes it the same.

Making Smoothies Work for You
My favorite smoothie uses a base of 2 ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 large leaves of kale, 1/2 a lime, an unpeeled carrot, an M&M-sized piece of ginger, and 1 tsp of spirulina (a seaweed powder found in health food stores) and ice. I drink this almost every morning. It contains 8 grams of natural sugar, or 2 tsp of sugar. Much better than the all fruit smoothie.

Experiment with different vegetables and Google some green smoothie recipes (check out my Recipes page for one). There are hundreds of them - just make sure you are limiting the amount of fruit. And make sure you are using a good blender. You'll know you need a better blender if your smoothies have noticeable chunks and pieces of produce. The smoother your smoothie, the more pleasant the experience. I highly recommend VitaMix blenders. They are pricey, but worth every penny. There's a reason why they are so coveted. They are the best on the market and will give you a completely smooth smoothie every time.

Be sure to see the Recipes page for some newly-added recipes! Eat - or drink - those veggies!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year - New You

It's 2013 and if you're like the majority of Americans, somewhere on your list of things to accomplish this year is to either lose weight, eat cleaner or exercise more. While I can't force you to exercise, I can encourage you to eat cleaner (which will inevitably lead to weight loss).

Eating clean means you eat the most BASIC form of a food - what is closest to that which is found in nature. This means you will be buying more ingredients and less prepared foods; you'll be cooking more and using your microwave less; you'll be discovering new vegetables, grains and beans while eating less cow dairy, sugar, caffeine and processed foods. Scared yet? It may seem overwhelming at first, but as with anything, once you start, it gets easier until it becomes the norm. The continued motivation will come from your improved health, vitality, energy, appearance and mood. I promise.

Ready to get started? 

1. Take inventory of your kitchen and toss as many packaged foods as possible, especially those with more than five ingredients, ingredients you can't pronounce, ingredients that contain: 

    • high fructose corn syrup
    • food dyes (red, blue, yellow, etc)
    • non-organic corn or soy (including oils)
    • bleached white flour
    • refined sugar
    • artificial sweeteners 
    • nitrates/sulfates
    • other preservatives
2. Eliminate sodas from your house. The occasional Izzy or sparkling water is fine, but there is absolutely NOTHING redeemable about Diet Coke. Ever.

3. Go online and search for websites that have CLEAN recipes using fresh ingredients and as many veggies as possible. I have several listed on my blog and my own recipes page, so find some there or in a cookbook to try. Think of it as an adventure or a way to express your creativity.

4. Become friends with the produce section (or better yet, shop at your local farmer's market or order farmer's market produce to be delivered to your neighborhood through a local CSA - go online to find one in your area). Most nutrient-rich veggies to add to your diet are:
    • Kale, collard greens, mustard greens
    • Bok choy
    • Spinach
    • Napa cabbage
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Swiss chard
    • Radish
    • Mushrooms
    • Red peppers
    • Carrots
5. Eat more beans, grains and seeds. These little dynamos are packed with protein, minerals, fiber and vitamins. Did you know a serving of quinoa (actually a seed) with lentils is a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids? Be sure to cook beans and grains with a 1" piece of dried kombu (seaweed that can be found on Asian aisle at Whole Foods or Central Market) to eliminate gas and add micronutrients (see previous blog titled "#1 Thing to Add to Your Diet). Most nutritious beans, grains and seeds are:
    • Lentils
    • Red kidney beans
    • Great Northern beans
    • Adzuki beans
    • Black beans
    • Black-eyed peas
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Sesame seeds
    • Flax seeds
    • Pinto beans
    • Edamame (organic ONLY)
    • Split peas
    • Chickpeas (garbanzos)
    • Oats
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Barley
    • Pistachios
    • Brown rice
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
6. Get your family involved and explain why you're doing this. I've said it before, but there is no reason why you shouldn't let your family in on what you're trying to do. Kids as young as 3 can understand the simple concept: "there is food God created for us to eat and then there is food a laboratory creates that they think is okay for us to eat. I'm trusting God on this one." See? Simple. 

The #1 marketing tip I ever learned in my nearly 20 years in the industry was "never sell the product - sell the benefit." That means you don't just put the food on the table and tell them how good it tastes. You explain to them WHY you are changing how your family eats - why eating from nature always trumps eating from a lab. How our bodies were created to eat what was found in nature and when we feed it chemicals, preservatives, mystery food, etc, it doesn't know what to do with it so we feel bad. Eventually, eating this type of food makes us sick - lethargy, mood swings, allergies, intestinal problems, diabetes, heart disease, gout and even cancer. 

Please make a comment on the blog if you have any questions so others can see it. Most of you probably have similar questions, so let's share them. If you're reading this on a smart phone, be sure to check out the blog on your computer so you can see the links in the margin (Recipes, Kitchen Staples, great websites, etc.). 

2013 is YOUR year. It's the year you start healing your body and allowing it to work the way God intended. The saying, "you are what you eat" is 100% accurate. If you put junk in, you'll feel like junk. Make the change. You are worth it!!!