Wednesday, August 31, 2011

energy what?

I am horrified by an ad I just saw.  Remember the mouthwash strips invented years back?  The ones that you put on your tongue to dissolve that left your breath minty fresh?  Well someone has taken them to the next level and created an energy strip or sheet that works the same way.  Remove from the package, place on your tongue, and poof, instant energy.

It's bad enough that there are hyper-caffeinated beverages on the market, it's really awful that there are mini-shots of energy product, and let's not forget all the other atrocious caffeine products such as caffeinated soap and panty hose.  Now we have this?  I'm truly astounded and upset.

How much caffeine do people think they need?  And if they need that much isn't it time to consider perhaps that they are trying to do too much?  If someone is not awake enough during the day perhaps it's time for them to look at how much sleep they're getting.  Maybe their bedroom is not restful enough, is it a dark, cozy, no-tv, no-computer, no-gaming system space?  Poor sleep, or not enough sleep are key reasons that people feel tired and then reach out for caffeine or sugar as a way to boost their flagging energy.  Getting good quality sleep, and enough of it, can often reduce the extreme fatigue that seems to be plaguing us.

So why am I so against this product?  For adults caffeine is generally considered safe up to 300 mg per day.  This product contains 100 mg of caffeine, plus high doses of B vitamins.  Oh yeah, they also come loaded with artificial flavors, sucralose, polysorbate 80, artificial colors, plus some other chemicals thrown in for good measure.

One of my big worries about this product, aside from the nasty ingredient factor, is the potential for abuse.  The delivery system makes it far too easy for small children to get their hands on it, especially if it is tossed into a purse or a car cup holder along with gums, mints and other similar items.  It's also something that will be very easy for teens to overuse.

I can only hope that this product will be pulled from the shelves as quickly as possible.

raspberry vinegar

raspberry | photo: BraveNewWorld
Raspberries are coming in to season.  Their fragrant luscious aroma greets me every time I walk into the produce section of my local grocery store.  And their plump juicy red fruit temps me.  I love raspberries and truly miss the raspberry bed I had in Connecticut.  It was stocked with four different varieties each bearing at a different time pretty much ensuring a summer full of fresh flavorful berries.

Sadly the drought here in Texas has done a number to my fruit bushes.  The trees seem to be holding their own but the elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and goji berries are all shriveled and I'm not sure they're going to make it.

Raspberries are such a wonderful fruit because not only are they so tasty, they're so versatile.  They go great in fruit salads, eaten fresh, baked into scones or crumbles, on top of oatmeal, in a smoothie, the list goes on.  Plus 1/2 C. provides 4 g. of fiber, over 25% of your DV for vitamin C and just over 20% of your DV for manganese.

One of my favorite, extravagant ways to use raspberries is to make a raspberry vinegar.  This way I can enjoy that fragrant summer flavor all year long.

This is my favorite recipe from Fancy Pantry which is one of my best-loved preserving cookbooks.

Red Raspberry Vinegar

8 C. raspberries, cleaned, rinsed and drained
3 C. white wine vinegar

The recipe calls for the raspberries to be used in two portions.  You can freeze 4 C. for later.
Crush 4 C. raspberries and place them in a sterilized, heatproof 2 quart jar
Add vinegar and and cover the jar
set the jar in a deep saucepan and fill with water to come halfway up the jar
set over medium heat and bring the water to a boil
Reduce the heat and keep the water simmering for 20 minutes
Remove the jar and set aside, uncovered to cool the contents
When cool, add a lid to the jar and set it aside
Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks
Strain the jar to remove old raspberries, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
Crush 4 C. raspberries and pour infused vinegar over them
Repeat the scalding as done above
Let the vinegar rest for two weeks, shaking every day
Strain the vinegar discarding the fruit, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
Line a funnel with an unbleached coffee filter and place in a sterilized bottle
Filter the vinegar into the bottle
Cap or cork the bottle and store in a cool dark pantry

Note: the vinegar may develop sediment as it stands, this is okay but the vinegar can be re-filtered if you wish

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

black bean casserole

black beans | photo: Paul Goyette
Unfortunately this got eaten before a picture was taken so no casserole picture.  [note to self:  learn to take more photographs of food]

Over on my Facebook Fan Page I posted a Meatless Monday menu of black bean casserole, roasted asparagus, spring onions, cauliflower and cauliflower greens.  It was a delicious dinner.  I received a request for the recipe and decided to post it over here at the blog.

I love oven roasting veggies, it's such a simple way to put them together and really makes fabulous leftovers.  And black beans are a great flexitarian choice; they're tasty, easy to prepare, and go well with so many different types of dishes.

Adding beans to your diet, if you don't already eat them, is such a healthy thing to do because not only are you getting protein, you're getting lots of fiber.  One cup of black beans provides 15 g. of fiber and 15 g. of protein.  A pretty good deal in my book.  Even better you're also getting a lot of B vitamins, primarily thiamin and folate, plus iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

This black bean casserole is one of my favorites because with the addition of the corn tortillas it makes a complete protein.  The original recipe that I developed calls for a generous sprinkling of shredded cheese on top however due to my new dietary restrictions I am avoiding cheese.  I've discovered that the rice cheeses and other "fake" cheeses are just too unpleasant for my palate, both in taste and texture so I've been feeding what I bought to the dogs (who are thrilled) and just leave out the cheese altogether.  But if you're a cheese fan and can eat it, use about 3/4 C.

Being where we are in the growing season at the moment with tomatoes so very expensive (and my garden burned to a crisp due to drought) I've turned to my favorite Pomi Chopped Tomatoes which come in a box rather than a can so there is no BPA.  When tomatoes are in season and not hideously expensive I definitely prefer them and use about four in this recipe.

Black Bean Casserole

2 T. olive oil
1 large red onion chopped small
2 cloves garlic minced (more if you like lots of garlic)
2 ribs celery chopped small
1/2 of a 26 oz box of chopped tomatoes
2 cups cooked black beans
1 t. cumin
6 medium size corn tortillas cut or ripped in half
2 T. minced cilantro
1 T. lime juice
2 spring onions chopped
sea salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F
Lightly grease a medium round pie dish
In a pan heat olive oil, saute onion until wilted
Add celery and garlic and saute until celery is wilted
Add black beans, tomatoes, and cumin, cook until heated through
Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste

In pie pan layer 4 corn tortilla halves with 1/3 black bean mixture
(the top layer is where the cheese goes if you're using it)
Repeat layers ending with bean mixture
Cover and bake 30 minutes
Remove from oven, sprinkle with spring onions, cilantro and lime juice

Note:  when tomatoes are in season and I use fresh I often top this with some chopped tomato

Monday, August 29, 2011

eggs again

egg | photo: Kacper "Kangel" Aniotek
A recent article brought to light the fact that eggs are still not being appropriately monitored and companies are free to do what they wish.  Unfortunately egg producers are apparently not required to tell the federal government when they find salmonella, nor are they required to share the names of companies under which they sell their eggs.  There's no egg recall currently underway but I believe it may not be long until there is.

I find it exceedingly strange that one agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is responsible for overseeing the health of chickens, the FDA is responsible for whole eggs, the USDA is responsible for eggs if they are transported or broken (sold as liquid), and then the FDA is responsible again for eggs sold in retail environments.  It's enough to make anyone's head spin.

I have several thoughts that come to mind about this whole situation:

  1. Monitoring:  For years food manufacturers in all different areas of the industry have claimed that they are perfectly capable of monitoring themselves and that the industry does not require government legislation because the industry is so good as self-monitoring.  Obviously this (and other examples) prove that line of thinking to be fallacious.
  2. Consistency:  While I confess to not always being a fan of how the government does business with regards to food and/or nutrition, I believe this situation highlights the need for one agency that oversees all aspects of food.  Bouncing back and forth between agencies leaves too many gaps in the system.  Gaps that manufacturers are only too willing to take advantage of, leaving the consumers as the ones at risk.
  3. Oversight:  On the one hand there is too much transparency to certain parts of the system and too much secrecy regarding others.  Federal agents tell egg producers when they're coming to visit?  Or allow the producers to suggest dates that might be convenient for them?  How is that helpful?  I think we're all smart enough to know that you don't warn someone that you're coming if you want to check and make sure they're doing what they are supposed to.  And if, in spite of these pre-arranged visits, the inspectors find problems they don't tell the public and there are no sanctions?  Then why bother to go in the first place?  And how does this in any way protect the consumer?
  4. Location:  With the vast majority of egg farms located in Iowa this type of situation once again highlights how far removed we are from our food.  I believe it is very important for consumers to consider shopping a little closer to home.  Get to know your local farmer, farmer's market, or join a CSA. Pay attention to where your food comes from.  Does this mean that you won't be affected by illness or other disease?  Honestly no, but I believe your chances will be reduced.  The vast majority of people I know who are farming in more of a small-holding are more conscientious about the quality of their product.  I believe they are not as overwhelmed by the demands of large scale farming which leads to many practices which in turn can make the food chain more susceptible to problems.
We all need to become informed consumers.  We need to be aware of these problems and we need to start paying attention to our food.  I spend what many consider to be far too much time looking at information about food, health and nutrition on a daily basis.  I also spend a lot of time letting people know how I feel and what I think.  I do this because I believe it's important.  

Until the manufacturers and the government know that we, as consumers, are not willing to idly sit by and let them make poor decisions about our food that affect our health, they will continue to do what they've always done -- support the manufacturer over the consumer.  Marion Nestle has written a wonderful book about this which has many eye-opening passages in it that show how consumers are, in some ways, seen as product of the industry rather than a valued customer.

It goes back to something I've said a number of times, not only do we need to become informed, we need to vote; with our voices and with our wallets.  I'm thrilled to see more products in the store that are labeled from local sources or that are made without artificial colors and preservatives.  These changes are happening because people are speaking up.  These ideas are being implemented because at the end of the day the manufacturers want your money.  And while I believe they would far rather have an uninformed, apathetic consumer on the other end of their production line, they will change if they have to in order to get your business and your dollars.

So while it seems like a long way from eggs to artificial colors, the process and the end result is the same.    Read the labels, know what's in your food, and be willing to speak out about how you feel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

dinner at the counter

Our family went to dinner at The Counter last night, a new eatery in town.  The concept behind this place is that it is a build-your-own burger joint.

Walking in we were greeted by very friendly people with fantastic music in the background.  My husband and I were amused that somehow the place has managed to hit the exact right blend of music.  Not only did we like it, our teenager liked it and our young server liked it too.  We were given a menu that allowed us to create our perfect burger from four different proteins, the choice of a burger or a bowl, followed by a very wide selection of cheeses, toppings, sauces, and a choice of buns.

My husband ordered a beef burger with gruyere cheese and an assortment of toppings, our daughter choose a veggie burger with her topping preferences and I choose a chicken breast to be served in a bowl.  Several things stood out with our order that I thought were fabulous.  Their beef is humanely raised, grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free and they claim it is never frozen.  The veggie burgers are made in-house and are not simply reheated, cardboard tasting, burger-shaped pucks.  My salad was made with organic greens.  All three tasted absolutely delicious.  The beef was tender, juicy and very flavorful.  The veggie burger was, quite frankly, the best veggie burger I have ever had.  I'm not sure how they make it but it was moist and really stood out compared to any other veggie burger.  My chicken salad came on a bed of organic greens with the most amazing pesto.  I loved the fact that my sauce came on the side so I could choose how much I put on my meal.  We also shared some sweet potato fries with a horseradish mayonnaise.  While I'm certainly used to eating mayonnaise with my fries I will confess that I really don't like horseradish so I was suspicious of why anyone would put it into mayonnaise.  It turned out to be the perfect compliment to the fries.  Not too strong, certainly not overwhelming, just a tiny bit of bite that went very well with the sweetness of the thin cut fries.  We ended the meal by sharing an oversize chocolate chip cookie that was so large we wound up taking half of it home.  And speaking of taking it home, I was really happy to see a wax paper lined box instead of a styrofoam container.

A few things stood out to me that I think would improve the restaurant.  The artwork was great but I felt that otherwise the blue and chrome decor was rather cold and sparse.  I'd love to see it warmed up a bit.  I'm a little disappointed that with all of the wonderful local, organic, humanely raised, etc they still had conventional ketchup on the table.  Sadly that ketchup is made with high fructose corn syrup and not a healthy choice.  I would also have liked sea salt and fresh ground pepper on the table.

Overall I think this restaurant has a lot going for it and I hope that it will be successful and stay in the area.  I love the concept, I really like a lot of their food choices and what they stand for.  I absolutely admire the fact that a number of things, their sauces, the veggie burger, and even their cookies are all made in-house on the premises.  That speaks a lot to the quality that they are going for and it shows in how tasty their food is.

I liked the food so much that as I was walking out the door I was already thinking about ideas for what I will build the next time I go back.

If you haven't been yet go check it out, they have locations all over the country and even a couple of locations in Ireland.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

pondering plastic

Yesterday was another Holistic Mom's Network twitter party.  The topic of conversation was plastic and it's insidious presence in our homes.  It may seem innocuous but really there's more than meets the eye.  All week long as I was waiting for the twitter party I looked around my home at all of the different ways we use plastic.  I was stunned to realize that there was far more than I thought.

plastic bags | photo: Trosmisiek
Many people have given up the paper or plastic question at the grocery store and bring re-usable grocery bags.  One of my challenges these days is to not use the thin plastic bags that the grocery store gives out in the produce section. I think the time has come to make some produce sacks, the challenge is that it's not nice and see-through for the clerk.  I don't use many of them, trying to take produce by itself whenever possible; however for some things like beans, mushrooms, etc it's not really feasible.  So I'm planning on working on that to reduce my plastic usage.  As we discussed last week when talking about's one step at a time.

The expert in charge of the twitter party was Beth Terry who blogs over at My Plastic Free Life and goes by the twitter handle @PlasticfreeBeth.  Her website is full of amazing information, links and resources on the steps to a plastic free life page including this great video on making produce bags from old t-shirts.  In addition to Beth's wonderful website there is also a lot of useful information to be found at Earth 911.

BPA laden receipts | 
The startling thing for many is learning just how pervasive plastics are in our lives.  Many of us focus on BPA because that's what's in the news.  There's even a study currently underway to examine the blood of cashiers to see how high their BPA levels are because they handle receipts all day long.  Those receipts are coated with a powdery form of BPA that transfers easily (something to think about next time you eat a snack after purchasing it and handling that receipt).  As Beth points out, it's important to remember that BPA-free does not mean it's totally safe.

I also learned that chewing gum is made with polyvinyl acetate.  Seriously?  Apparently the only brand of gum currently available that is all chicle is my favorite Glee gum.  But I confess to sometimes having other gums as well.  Not anymore.  I discussed this one with my husband last night and we will no longer be buying other gum.  Turns out this will also reduce our plastic packaging because Glee only packages in cardboard.

Even more disturbing was what I learned about bio-plastic.  This is being touted as the best replacement because it is supposed to break down.  However it turns out that many bio-plastics are made with GMO corn.  Since I try to avoid GMO foods it bothers me that this product is still finding it's way into the environment.  According to one thread in the party last night some bio-degradable plastics have a mystery ingredient that helps them to break down faster.  Researching it on the internet I come up with the information that that chemical is "proprietary" and so does not need to be shared with the general public.  Other information states that it may "leave some toxic residue but the environmental impact is lessened."  This is not something that I want in my environment at all.

glass straws | photo: Wizdomseeker
Just as with last week, the subject of straws came up again.  Of course you can get glass straws from or you can purchase stainless steel straws.  What I thought was really cool was discovering this link to a tutorial on making your own DIY travel cup.  I can see that I'm going to make re-evaluating my travel container choices my second priority after those fabric produce bags.  And don't forget to carry your own travel beverage with you.  If you travel through airports it can go empty through security and then be refilled on the other side.

PlasticfreeBeth set forth a Plastic Challenge.  I'm not quite ready to do that yet although I will be paying more attention to the plastic usage around our house. After last night, and after watching the trailer for the documentary movie Bag It this morning, I'm certainly more educated and more committed to making changes.

It's 9:00 a.m. and already I've handled the following plastic:

light switches
household plastic objects | photo: cjp24
toothpaste container
dental floss container
shampoo bottle
deodorant container
mascara container
lipstick container
eye liner container
cell phone / case
supplements/vitamins containers

and probably a few other things that didn't creep into my awareness.  Whew, that's a lot of petroleum product!  Definitely need to look around and see how I can reduce my usage.

Do you have any great non-plastic tips?  I'd love to hear them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

the journey continues

I am still on my dietary journey, each day learning to make these changes.  Yesterday I had a moment where I really missed cheese.  I just wanted to make myself a big chef-style salad.  In the past it would have been no meat and perhaps two kinds of cheese.  Now it's meat, no cheese.  And knowing that I couldn't have the cheese made me want it more.

After the first two weeks of my dietary changes I am now adding in more vegetables and fruits.  The testing that I did broke my food sensitivities into 3 categories, high sensitivity, moderate sensitivity and low sensitivity.  For the first two weeks I ate nothing on the list, even the low sensitivity list.  It got really boring.

I have a confession to make.  I don't like cooking for myself.  I much prefer to cook for others.  I like eating with others and I certain love when people cook for me.  But if I have to cook specifically for me...not so much.  And because of my dietary changes I was doing a lot of that.  And it got boring.  For anyone who knows me, that's a surprising statement.  I LOVE food, I like thinking about it, talking about it, researching it, helping others with their food.  I love food.  But because of the restrictions I am on it I started to become less enthusiastic about my food.  I figured out a few dishes that were dietarily compliant, figured out how to add back in the meat slowly (still working on that) and tended to live on the same 8-10 recipes.

Now that I'm able to add other foods back in I am all of a sudden much happier.  In part I am now able to eat an expanded list of foods which is always a good thing.  Plus many of the foods on the low sensitivity list that have been added back in are grillable veggies. In the summer that is one of my all-time favorite ways.  (If it was winter I would be making vats of soup!)  I like to make up several large salads, grill a huge batch of veggies and then make composed plates by adding in a protein.

I am learning so much from this experience.  Part of it is a deeper respect for some of the dietary changes I sometimes ask folks to go through as we work together on their journey toward health.  I have had my own journey and have certainly done many of the things that I ask clients to do (such as a candida cleanse) but this time around the process seems much more mindful.  As I journal my food choices and how my body is responding to the reintroduction of meat I am much more aware of how I feel and why I am making some of these choices.  In many ways to a much greater extent that ever before.  I am also learning to understand some of the complexities that can lead to boredom with food.   I am grateful for this deeper understanding of myself but also because I believe it helps me to better help others.

And the journey continues...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

eco friendly living

Yesterday I attended the Holistic Moms Network twitter party.  It was great fun; I learned a lot about a wide variety of eco-friendly ideas and shared in some great conversations.

tree | photo: dieraecherin
The topic of the party was people talking about different ways to cut down on how much paper we use.  According to PeopleTowels, "Each person in the US uses about 335kg of paper each year--that's 7 times the world average, even twice the average for industrial countries."  That's a lot of trees!  And don't those trees look better as trees rather than a methane-producing, decomposing mass in the landfill?

This discussion got me thinking about the holistic lifestyle many of us are trying to lead.  We bring our own drink containers (stainless steel, BPA free plastic, or glass) instead of taking styrofoam or paper cups from vendors.  We bring shopping bags to the grocery store instead of using paper or plastic.  Many of us are looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Canteen | photo:  Broken Sphere
I confess that I am a work-in-progress in this area.  I think my success rate with the grocery bag issue is about 80%.  I even now bring shopping bags into other stores, not just the grocery store.  The challenge is getting them back into the car if I've been using a lot of them.  We do have a water bottle and BPA free hot cup for each member of the household and they do get used frequently.  We've shifted to dishtowels instead of paper towels.   All of the eco-friendly ideas that many people are starting to adopt.  But there's always more that can be done.

I felt energized by the discussions going on and came across a number of new-to-me products and companies that I wanted to share.  These are products which will help me continue to reduce my environmental impact; something I consider to be an important part of the balance to a holistic life.

PeopleTowels - This company sells reusable small towels that are a great size to take with you on the road, to the office, when you travel.  I confess the nerd side of my nature fell in love when I discovered that they had a special towel for Towel Day.*  One of the great things about their towels is that although they have lots of really cute ideas and great towels they also have an option where you can design your own.  So if you want to create a theme set of towels, put pictures on a towel, put one of your kids art projects on it, you can.  And these towels will last for years.  I've already ordered a set of five plus a Towel Day towel and can't wait for them to arrive.

Another topic that came up was the idea of straws.  To be honest we don't use a lot of straws in our house but when we do they are always plastic.  Until now.  It turns out that you can get either glass straws or stainless steel ones.  The glass straws are available from a company called Strawsome.  They have all different sizes, bubble tea, regular, smoothie, plus colors, plus you can get them personalized.  Another option for reusable straws that I like a lot is these stainless steel straws.  This is something that I could easily carry in my bag to use when I am out.  One challenge that I see is what do you do with a used straw if you use it at a restaurant.  But I like the concept a lot and love the thought of not wasting plastic.

As part of the eating out section of the conversation I was re-introduced to the concept of bringing your own takeout container to restaurants.  There are two reasons I like this idea and why I plan to start implementing it.  One is that most restaurants use styrofoam and I have a strong aversion to it.  It hangs around in the landfill forever and if you put hot food into it you are then absorbing some of the plastics that are released due to the heat of the food.  Bringing your own takeout containers is such an eco-friendly idea.  You can reduce waste, still have your takeout (I often wind up with lunch for the next day as most restaurant portions are far too large for one person), and have containers that you feel good about using.  I've decided to go through my BPA free containers and see which ones are going to be designated for takeout.  And I'm going to work on the habit of bringing them with me.

Another part of the conversation was about using cloth napkins which in turn opened up a discussion about cloth sandwich bags.  We do use cloth napkins in our house.  Not 100% of the time, when I have a party I confess I buy paper because I just don't have that many cloth napkins.  But on a daily basis it's cloth and we have a good size, mis-matched collection.  When talking about the idea of reusable sandwich bags I came across only one resource for food-safe plastic fabric.  If you decide to make your own reusable sandwich bags please do not use PUL or oilcloth, neither of those is acceptable for food contact.  This discussion lead me to realize that I think I want to set aside some time to make a few reusable sandwich bags and while I'm at it whip up one or two sets of napkins that actually all match.

I encourage my health clients that we are working one step at a time.  It's important to remember this when you are moving toward a more eco-friendly life as well.  If you try to change everything at once it's too much.  You are trying to remember and be consistent about too many things.  You are not learning and setting those new habits.  When I first started with shopping bags my success rate was about 10%.  I wouldn't remember to bring them in to the store or I wouldn't have enough reusable bags.  While I still forget from time to time to get them back into the car I do use them the vast majority of the time.  I've also gotten very good about telling cashiers that I do not need a bag if I am only purchasing a few products and can easily carry them when I've forgotten my bags.  That was my first big eco-friendly step.  Little by little I added others.  You can do the same.  Pick one thing that is important to you.  Practice and develop that habit.  When you are comfortable that you are utilizing it the majority of the time, move on to another one.  Slow and steady is the way to make effective, long-lasting, positive change.

What do you do in your home to be more mindful of the environment?  I'd love to hear ideas and resources.  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

*Towel Day is May 25th.  It is celebrated by fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy written by Douglas Adams.  Rule #1 is "Don't forget to bring your towel."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

back to school -- what's for breakfast?

it's that time of year again....moms and kids are out shopping with the school supply list, major retailers are stocked to the brim with classroom supplies, school clothes, sports gear, everything the returning student needs.  It's also time for the cereal and other breakfast food manufacturers to boost their campaigns to win a place at your breakfast table.  Unfortunately they don't deserve that place and I hope you don't give it to them.

not for breakfast | photo: cohdra
In my practice I see so many people who start their day (or their kids day) with what has come to be recognized as the typical American breakfast -- cereal, milk, juice, maybe toast and jam.  Or perhaps a bagel and cream cheese.  Many confess to just a donut and coffee -- which these days is a grande double shot caramel macchiato extra whip but that's a different post altogether.  I'm often surprised at how many people say "I know breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day but I just don't have time."

This is a reminder.  You need to make the time.  Not just for your kids, but also for you.  Yes, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.  It replenishes the furnace of your body after the metabolic slowdown of sleep.  It should provide protein to help boost the amino acids that are needed for neurotransmitter production.  It should provide a healthy fat to help keep that furnace going slow and steady instead of heading into overdrive with quick-to-digest, blood sugar crashing, simple carbohydrates.

This is also a reminder to avoid front-of-label packaging.  The pretty pictures may look nice and the marketing verbiage may sound good but when you actually read the label it's a different story.

The ad to the side there is a perfect example.  It's part of a video ad online that shows energetic, active, healthy-appearing children.  However the product does little to support their health.  Sure it's made with more whole grains than it used to be, but what about all of the sugar, the artificial colors, the other chemical non-food ingredients.  Plus the ads usually say something along the lines of "part of a balanced breakfast" with a big cup of juice and some toast.

As I've mentioned above, this is far from a balanced breakfast.  Is it better than skipping breakfast?  I hesitate to say it but the answer there would be yes but not by a whole lot.  Anything is better than skipping breakfast.  However if you want to have your kids get a good start to the day you will do best to feed them nutritionally dense foods.  This in turn will help them stay focused, keep their blood sugar level, and help reduce some of that 5 p.m. "witching hour" behavior (believe it or not that behavior starts with a poor-blood-sugar-balancing breakfast).  You need to feed them real food.

Brazilian Breakfast Buffet | photo:  Jeff Belmonte
Protein can be eggs, beans, chicken breast, preservative free sausages or bacon.  For a healthy fat choose avocado, coconut oil, or real organic butter.  Get in some delicious whole foods, fruits and veg are a great choice.  While it may seem a little unusual to start your day that way that's simply because it's not what you're used to. But you can make changes that are healthy and will help you to feel better.  Changes such as the Brazilian Breakfast Buffet on the right there.  I see meats, dairy, vegetables, and and egg to go along with some bread, butter and jam as condiments.  Learn to think outside the box (literally).

green shake | photo: alvimann
Are you an on-the-go-don't-have-time-for-breakfast teen or adult?  Then make yourself a protein smoothie.  With a great balancing whey protein, a good nut milk, some chia seeds, a piece of fruit and a handful of spinach it can be a filling and nutritious start to your day.  For many of my clients who fit this profile I point out that this is a wonderful, quick way to get out the door.  They can then have a second breakfast or snack later in the day and continue balancing their blood sugars with a great avocado chicken tomato wrap or veggies with hummus or....the possibilities are endless.

Many times clients who've made this shift discover that they are no longer experiencing that 3:00 p.m. I-need-a-candy-bar crash.  They feel better, and they are nutritionally going to do better by supporting their body.

School starts soon and many of us are going to be back on that tightly scheduled roller coaster.  Plan now so you know what you're going to serve.  Give them a good start.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

rotation diet

A couple of people have asked me to explain how exactly a rotation diet works.  As I mentioned in my last post it is writing out a plan of what you can eat and not repeating a food more than once every four days.  This often allows people to eat foods without building up sensitivities to them because they are not overexposed to the proteins in those particular foods.

Here is an example.  When it comes to nuts my favorites are almonds and cashews.  While I eat a lot of almonds, according to my testing I can no no longer eat cashews, brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, or walnuts.  If I eat almonds every day there is a possibility that I will eventually become very sensitive to the proteins in the almonds and then I will not be able to eat them anymore.  By avoiding the ones that I am sensitive to for 3-6 months and by doing a GI Restore Program, I can quite possibly heal my insides to the point that I can eat some of those again.

In order to avoid creating more sensitivities for myself I follow a rotation that goes like this:

Day 1 - almonds
Day 2 - filberts
Day 3 - pepitas
Day 4 - peanuts

And yes, I know, peanuts are not a nut but we eat them that way so that's where they are in the rotation. This pattern applies to each category, fruit, vegetables, proteins, etc.   Some people need to follow a rotation diet all the time.  I am hoping that is not the case here, but if it is I'm at least grateful to know that I have a plan that appears to be working for me right now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

food rights

milk | photo: wax115
In case you missed it on the news, there was a raid of a store in California that was selling raw milk.  The owner and two suppliers were arrested and an unknown amount of raw milk was dumped.

As I understand it this was a store that essentially functioned as a buying club.  Consumers were required to be members before they could buy.  I will grant that the government claims the raid was in part because the store owner did not have the proper permits.  The owner apparently thought that because his operation was a private buying club not a public place of sale he did not need one.

However leaving aside that permitting misunderstanding, this is not the first time that there have been raids against raw milk sellers; last May there was a raid in Pennsylvania and there have been many others.  For some reason it appears that raw milk and it's advocates have been targeted and are being dealt with by force.

I find this sort of thing disturbing for a number of reasons:

1.  According to the Weston A. Price Foundation's Real Milk Campaign there are lots of health benefits from drinking raw milk.  If the government feels that raw milk is so much of a problem then create legislation for it.  But honestly Diet Coke is horrific to our health and there is no legislation there.  This over-reaching attack on one product seems excessive and misplaced;

2.  Those who want to drink raw milk should have access to it, they are aware of the risks and most of them are dealing with farmers that they trust to run a clean operation; those who don't want to drink raw milk don't have to.  I'm not sure how this is considered a problem, raw milk is always clearly labeled and is only sold to those who specifically search it out;

3.  The raids frequently go after raw milk producers or stores where they sell raw milk yet I am easily able to buy raw milk cheese and butter at my local big-chain grocery store.  In order to make these products the producer has to start with a raw milk product.  If the raw milk cheese producers can get approval to make and sell their product why not the base product?

I find all of this attention toward raw milk producers confusing in part because in other areas the governmental agencies in charge are clearly not doing their job.  In the recent ground turkey recall it has come to light that the USDA suspected a problem two weeks before it actually forced the recall.  The egg recall from last summer revealed that the owner had years of health and environmental violations.  And the peanut butter recall from two years ago showed that the company had serious health violations but was never shut down.  So major manufacturers appear to get a nod-and-a-wink while farmers and consumers are arrested and subjected to armed arrest?

I feel that those who want to eat a certain way are being denied their rights.  Going back to point number one above, smoking kills yet we still sell cigarettes, alcoholism and drunk driving are a big problem yet we still sell alcohol.  I don't see raw milk as being harmful or costly to society yet it's being portrayed as this over-reaching evil product that kills.  I'm truly puzzled by this attitude.  Is it because cigarettes and alcohol and junk food generate big profits and those industries can afford to fund political legislators while small farmers and small groups of consumers can't?  And why does it seem that the efforts of those agencies which are supposed to be protecting our food supply are being unevenly thrown against a minority population that wants nothing more than what they consider to be a healthy, nutritious food?  I know many people have started to buy cow shares in order to preserve their right to have access to raw milk but even that appears to be under assault.

I have come to believe that raw milk is the next dairy battle.  Although I remember drinking it when I was a kid I don't recall it being popular or easily accessible and I certainly don't remember news headlines about it.  Now that it is more available and more in demand it has suddenly become a problem?

When organic milk became more publicized for it's lack of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides the dairy industry pushed back hard and tried to block labeling that stated milk was "rBGH free" because this would cut into their profits (note: rBHG is sometimes referred to as rBST).  They did win a legislative ruling that milk which was labeled rBGH free also had to carry a statement that there was no difference between milk with and without the hormone.  This was later shown to be not true with one study reporting rBGH milk had "Fat levels, particularly long chain saturated fatty acids incriminated in heart disease, are increased, while levels of a thyroid hormone enzyme are increased."  For many people the only way to ensure added-hormone free milk was to purchase organic which is legislated not to contain it.

I will make a side note here - just because a cow is organically raised does not mean that it is not still in some sort of a feedlot operation.  The organic label does not automatically ensure fat, happy, grass-fed cows regardless of the cute pictures (which is sad because milk from grass fed cows is better for you).  Organic simply means that cow is not fed GMO feed, not shot up with artificial hormones and not pumped up with antibiotics.  If you want grass-fed, free-ranging cows you need to either raise them yourself or get to know a farmer who raises their animals that way.

Now that manufacturers have lost the organic dairy war and more organic dairy products are arriving on the shelf regularly, the big producers are getting into the business themselves.  I'm sure much of this is profit driven.  If people are willing to pay more for organic dairy and you can't legislate it away then you might as well join in.  But raw dairy is different.  It doesn't travel well unless it's been turned into something like cheese or butter.  That means a shift back to local smaller scale farming.  I guess that's somehow seen as a problem.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

managing leftovers

I'm eating in a new, to me, way.  Following a rotation diet that was carefully designed to avoid any of the food sensitivities that showed up on the test.  The purpose of a rotation diet is to help avoid any potential new food sensitivities from cropping up by not eating them more than once every four days.  It is a generally accepted practice as those who have food sensitivities have inflammation going on in their gut and it's far to easy for them to eat too much of one food thereby triggering a sensitivity to those proteins as well.

A new challenge that I am discovering is the concept of leftovers.  In the past if we had leftovers I happily ate them.  I love leftovers.  Now that's not an option unless it's something that everyone else will eat, it freezes well, or it will last four days until I can eat it again.  I'm determined to be consistent about this as I know that it is important.  So I'm also trying to learn to cook more in line with what we will actually eat.  Whereas before it didn't matter, now it does.

I'm realizing I used to be very laissez faire about leftovers and now I need to think about those too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

continuing to learn

As I move forward with my new nutritional plan I am struck by the realization that it's not easy to make one meal that satisfies everyone in my household.  With one vegetarian, one emerging flexitarian, and one committed omnivore meals are a little more challenging.

Because my choices are limited by my rotation diet I am having to think and plan ahead more so that I can make multi-stage meals that can be finished off or enhanced for the other members of the family who do not need to avoid dairy, etc.  Quite honestly I haven't really gotten the hang of it yet and it's definitely an eye-opener.

I hadn't thought that it would be so difficult.  After all over the years I have managed various different dietary needs folded into what was once a household of five.  Low fat, low cholesterol, low carb, various different dietary plans all rotated through our house before I became a Nutrition Educator and learned more about whole foods and eating according to the needs of your body rather than a one-size-fits-all dietary plan.  Obviously through my training and work I have come to see clearly how we are all bio-individual and one-size does not fit all.  I'm feeling a little humbled as I learn to juggle this new nutritional state of affairs.

On the other hand I'm feeling fairly good about the dietary change.  I did try a few bites of chicken, and the next day my stomach wasn't too happy, I am taking it slowly and plan to start introducing some broths into my diet as well.  And I'm reasonably content with what I am eating the rest of the time.  It turns out (at least a few days in) that I don't miss dairy as much as I thought I would.  The biggest challenge at the moment is to remember what day of the rotation I am on and to plan meals.  For example, today is corn for my grain and black beans for my protein.  So we're having taco bar.  That's easy I can set everything out buffet style and folks can help themselves.  But I do need to think ahead if anything, like beans, needs to be soaked or otherwise prepared.

It's a learning adventure and one that I realize will help me have a deeper understanding of what I suggest for some clients.  As I mentioned in my last post, I've written a lot of Rotation Plans, but I've never followed one myself.  It's one thing to comprehend it and entirely something else to understand it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

walking the walk

I love what I do, how I am able to help people learn to eat well so they can be well.  I also work hard to take care of my own health through nutrition and other means.  I feel like I am in good shape and know that I have come so very far since the health care crisis of 2003 that lead me to this career.

Part of my changes, way back when, was the adoption of a vegetarian diet.  I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after more than ten years of misdiagnosis as IBS.  The Nutritionist suggested that I consider eating a vegetarian diet for three months to allow my gut to heal.  I felt so good on the vegetarian diet that I didn't look back.  I was able to eat a balanced diet and to learn how to stay healthy with this eating pattern.  This is something that many many people do.  According to a 2008 study by Vegetarian Times over 7 million Americans follow a vegetarian diet.  More than half of them do so for health reasons.

I know that some people try vegetarian diets but ultimately wind up becoming carbotarians instead.  Thinking that because they are not eating meat that means they should eat lots of pasta and other simple carbohydrates.  Being a vegetarian isn't difficult but it does require thinking about your protein and fats and, oh yeah, you do need to eat vegetables.  Many, if not most, carbotarians eventually wind up going back to eating meat because they get so sick by not supporting the needs of their body.

I'm confident in my knowledge as a Nutrition Educator, I've helped lots of people feel better with learning to eat the right way for their body.  And no, that does not mean I make everyone become a vegetarian.  We work together to help you find what works best for your bio-individual body and then we go from there to build a nutritional plan.  I have always said that I was a vegetarian because it best met my body needs and my focus is to eat in harmony with my body.  I've also been fond of pointing out that our dietary needs change throughout different cycles of our life, otherwise we would all still be drinking breast milk.

So imagine my shock when I received the results of a recent food sensitivity test (which I have never taken before) which indicated that I had some very serious food sensitivities going on.  I feel good, I look fine, I struggle a bit time-to-time but I put that down to the UC which I manage without medication.  The results of the test appear to indicate that I have a fair amount of inflammation going on in my gut and what I had been attributing to one thing was actually something quite different altogether.  I now need to make some significant changes to my diet.

The bottom line is that I am highly sensitive to dairy products (cow and goat) and eggs.  Darn.  That's a significant source of protein for me.  Considering my options I feel that it would be best for me to add lean meats back into my diet, a big change after all these years.  I've also had to write a rotation diet for myself.  I've created a number of them for clients but never imagined that I would wind up doing this for myself.  I hadn't realized how comfortable I'd become with my vegetarian diet, my inclination when reaching for breakfast is eggs, my idea of a great snack is a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit.  Because I am committed to my health and my body I know that for at least the next three to six months those are no longer part of my diet.  I am hopeful that by avoiding them and doing an intestinal repair and recolonizing program I will be able to at least add them back in on a rotation basis when this is all done.

In the meantime I am reminded on so many different levels how the only thing that is constant is change.