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, 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!