Tuesday, March 5, 2013

moving right along

The dust has settled, the boxes have all been unpacked, the curtains are up and I'm settled in at the new place.

Not without a few hiccups, but when is moving ever easy?

I'm grateful for all of you who waited patiently for this transition; this will be the last post at this site.  I'm integrating the blog into the new website can't wait for you to check it out.

The same great content, information, recipes, and ideas about food, holistic nutrition, and health is still available, you'll simply need to head on over to the new place located at http://grainsandmore.com/blog.

If you've found this page for the first time please be aware that I will no longer be monitoring this blog, I'm leaving it up for a few months to get all the content sorted out at the new place.

In other big news I'm also very happy to announce that my book is thisclose to publication and want to encourage you to visit http://thepantryprinciple.net where you can get a sneak peek at the cover in advance of publication.

Thanks for all of the support and readership, I hope to see you over at the new place.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

pardon the dust...

As those of you who are regular readers know, I've been working on my book, The Pantry Principle.  It's taking longer than anticipated however the wait, and the end result, are going to be totally worth it.  I've been learning a lot and we're putting the finishing touches on it in this final editing phase.  I'm very pleased with the way it's going and I'm sure those of you who have/will purchase(d) it will feel the same say.

What I haven't told you is that I've also been making major changes to my website and, by extension, to this blog.  Without going into a long, involved explanation, I'm moving to a different platform that will allow me to more fully integrate the blog and my website.

I'm very excited about the new setup.  I've been working with Jasmine and her amazing team over at 910West.com and the results are gorgeous!  However, wanting to make sure all of the last few years of information, recipes, tips and more moved over to the new site we've gotten to the point where I need to take a short break from blogging so we can safely port everything over, spiff it up and give it a once over before we turn this back on again.

Once everything is set up I'll post here one last time to give everyone the new feed location.  Those of you who are subscribed through Feedburner should be automatically redirected.  Anyone using a different feed reader may need to resubscribe.

Thanks for you patience.  Just wait till you see the new place, it looks great.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

eating brown rice to fight diabetes

It is estimated that 18 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and the number is increasing. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have noted that the consumption of white rice has also increased drastically. These researchers found that eating five or more servings of white rice per week increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Conversely, Dr. Qi Sun, an instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, discovered that replacing 50g of white rice with an equal amount of brown rice lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%. (Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which is Better? Bill Hendrick, Web M.D. Health News, June 14, 2010).

It is also important to note the study found that replacing white rice with other whole grains such as barley and wheat resulted in a 36% reduction in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. The study mentioned above suggests brown rice benefits when included regularly in meals. In three studies conducted by the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, scientists studied rice consumption and compared it to diabetes risk in 39,765 men and 157,463 women. Adjustments were made for age, lifestyle and dietary risk factors. They found individuals who ate five or more servings of white rice had a 17% increase in their risk of diabetes. Their research also found that eating two or more servings of brown rice per week resulted in an 11% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This study is another strong indicator for brown rice benefits. (Ibid)

The difference between the two types of rice is a difference in what is termed the glycemic index. The glycemic index measures how quickly a certain food raises blood sugar levels. The studies mentioned above found that white rice has a higher glycemic index than brown rice. This is believed to be due primarily to the refining process. When brown rice is refined there is a loss of fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium. The brown rice also contains essential nutrients such as lignans, phytoestrogens, and phylic acid. All of these minerals and nutrients are believed to aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Whole grain foods have also been shown to possess compounds which lower blood pressure and prevent cancer. (Ibid)

The underlying cause of type 2 diabetes is believed to be insulin resistance. The body’s cells become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Insulin is necessary to transport glucose into the cells. As the body ages, the cells become resistant to insulin, and they require more insulin for this transport process. When a food with a high glycemic index such as white rice is ingested, the blood glucose level spikes, which requires a high amount of insulin. The increased insulin in the bloodstream results in a drop in the blood glucose. It is these spikes and drops that cause damage to the peripheral nerves and blood vessels, resulting in damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart, and lower extremities.

While brown rice benefits seem evident, preparing it can prove challenging. Brown rice is provides more fiber than white rice and requires more water and a longer cooking time. A possible alternative to conventional preparation is to use a digital rice cooker. Rice cookers contain an inner pan that sits on an element. Certain amounts of rice and water are added to the cooker. The cooker senses when the rice is cooked by the temperature of the inner pan. This eliminates much of the guess work in preparing the rice.

Vegetables and sauces can also be added to enhance flavor. Eating brown rice not only increases an individual’s chance of preventing diabetes but can add a tasty addition to any meal.  For some tasty recipes and more information be sure to check out “Now, You’re Cooking with Brown Rice!” by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Extention, Lancaster County.

Matthew Laphet is the  Co-creator of Rice Cooker Guide.com.

Photo: Lobo

Monday, January 28, 2013

on my mind monday 01.28.13

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Aspirin use linked to macular degeneration - While not definitive, it appears that there may be some connection between regular levels of aspirin use and macular degeneration.  
The first thing that comes to mind is why there would be a high need for aspirin use in the first place.  Second would be to nutritionally support ocular health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both recognized as antioxidants that appear to reduce the risk of certain eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but I believe would also be supportive for overall ocular health. These carotenoids can be found in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens as well as in eggs. Vitamin C is another antioxidant that is good for your eyes; it can slow the progress of loss of visual acuity as well as AMD Vitamin C is available in fruits and vegetables especially red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and dark leafy greens. Zinc, a trace mineral, is also important as it helps to create melanin, a protective pigment; it can be found in spinach, sea vegetables, basil, thyme, and pumpkin seeds.

Eating hot foods off melamine plates may increase risk of kidney stones - Yes, those melamine plates and bowls may be cute, but, as with any plastic-type material, when they are exposed to hot foods some of the substance can migrate into the food.  And once it's in the food, if you eat it, it's in you.  Of course styrofoam is one of the worst offenders but how many of us remember to take our own to go boxes to the restaurant with us?  I'm trying to get better at this.  And I have gotten rid of all non-glass or ceramic dishware.  Well, except the sentimental pieces such as the bowl my daughter made in second grade.  But I am careful not to use them for hot things.  And I keep, little by little, chipping away at the amount of plastic that comes into contact with my food.  Now to just remember to bring those glass containers to the restaurant....

Ramen bowl iPhone doc - I'm not a huge fan of this product.  One I'm guessing it's made from melamine (see the article above).  Two, this kind of product encourages people to be more focused on their phone.  It's a proven fact that if we are engaged in another activity when eating, such as watching television, or in this case, being on the phone, we tend to eat more.  We are not mindful about what we are eating nor are we nourishing ourselves properly.  We're distracted and less aware of what and how much we are eating.  This product isn't available yet but I hope it doesn't come to market too soon.

Technology fasting - This is a great idea.  A few years ago I had heard of the concept of news fasting.  Taking a break from the overwhelmingly negative news feed that occupies us and is more and more readily available.  It stresses us out, but somehow we can't seem to help ourselves.  But by taking a break we de-stress, just a little bit.  Now is the idea of a technology fast.  I admit this is a hard concept as I find myself regularly interacting with technology.  But I'm planning to give it a try.  To take an entire day where I spend no time on the computer and plan to only use my phone for phone calls.  I'm willing to bet that, just as with a news fast, a technology fast is going to feel pretty good.

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photo: mconnors

Saturday, January 26, 2013

the health concerns of unhealthy eating

You may think that processed food is an inexpensive way to feed your family.  But what are you really paying in terms of your health?

Processed Produce; The Health Concerns of Unhealthy Eating

Thursday, January 24, 2013

8 tips to prevent food waste

 This video about food waste from the BBC highlights just how much food is wasted in developed countries. Some of it is due to confusion about labeling but much of it is due to carelessness. Food has become so cheap that we don't value it and discard it easily.

This is balanced by the unfortunate sadness of obesity, too many people consuming too much food (and often the wrong kinds of foods but that's a topic for another day).  So while I don't encourage polishing off your plate if you have eaten enough, I also don't encourage throwing away large amounts of food.

Given the high number of people who don't have enough to eat in the premier nations, let alone the rest of the world, this is a major issue. If we continue to think there's not enough food we continue to pave the way for GMO foods.  And as we've seen, increased use of GMOs causes increased use of pesticides not the decrease that was initially promised.  GMO also appears to be causing a huge increase in Irritable Bowel Disorders as it destroys intestinal flora.

So what are we to do about food waste?  How do we address this issue and stop the senseless destruction of massive amounts of food.  Food which took many man-hours to grow, nurture, harvest, transport, produce, and provide?  Food which someone had to work hard to earn the money to pay for it.  Food which might have provided a meal to someone in need.

One is to look at our consumption habits.  If we routinely throw out certain fresh foods perhaps we're buying too much.  If we collect foods in containers, letting them turn grey and fuzzy before we throw them out, perhaps we are preparing too much.  Or perhaps we're not just packaging them attractively enough to be appealing for a second or third meal.

In our house we've implemented a few of the following strategies to help reduce food waste.

  • Shop more frequently:  I know this is a pain in the rear.  However, while I have a fully stocked pantry of staple products, I find I do better when I shop 2-3 times per week for fresh items buying only what I need for the next couple of days.  This requires menu planning and making it a habit to not impulse buy. 
  • Only buy what you will use:  This can be a challenging habit to implement.  Oftentimes we purchase because it's on sale.  Or we think 'I've always wanted to make that.'  Perhaps we say to ourselves 'I think I just saw a recipe for that.'  And if we don't get to that item, it winds up in the trash.  If we only buy what we know we will use there will be much less waste.
  • Plan for leftovers:  With only three people in the house, all on varying schedules, I have had to change my cooking habits.  When I cook a whole chicken, for example, I already know the meals that will be the result of that meal, having several recipes that call for cooked chicken.
  • Scaling back:  No longer cooking for five people on a daily basis I have learned to scale back family favorite recipes or to know that half of the meal will be stored in the freezer for a later meal.
  • Sharing purchases:  I've been building a network of friends with whom I can share larger purchases.  For example, 10 pounds of onions is much less expensive than purchasing them either on a per pound basis or in a three pound bag.  However unless I'm planning on making frequent batches of onion soup I can't go through it all quickly enough.  If I share with one or two friends we all get the benefit of the less expensive price and there is bound to be less waste.
  • Attractive use of leftovers:  (That sounds rather silly but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it).  Using wide mouth pint jars to make a meal-in-a-jar from leftovers somehow seems much more attractive to people than looking at a collection of plastic containers where you have to open and peer at each one to decide which one(s) you want to eat.  This food saving tip also includes learning to make a composed plate with perhaps one new food (usually a quick saute of some kind) and arranging everything well on the plate.  If you put the same attention into arranging a plate of leftovers as you do a plate of fresh cooked food, people will respond positively.  If you plop it wherever on the plate and just lump it there, they are less enthused about the meal.
  • Rummage cooking:  I'd love to see a t.v. show on this concept (rather than the immensely stocked everything-you-could-imagine pantries) and it's one that takes a bit of practice.  This is where I notice that the refrigerator is getting full.  I look at the ingredients and begin to plan what I can make for a menu using up those last bits.  I'll confess that in the beginning it was usually a soup or stew.  But as I learned to put flavor profiles together we began to have more varied meals.  While not all of them are successful as a "menu" they are all tasty and a great way to prevent waste.
  • Serve smaller portions:  It's always better to go back for seconds than to have too much on the plate.  Studies have shown that we eat more than we think if we have larger portions in front of us.
I'd love to hear your tips and tricks for preventing food waste.  What habits have you learned?  Email me or share below.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

maple syrup, your health's natural sweetener

Achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is arguably the most rewarding and satisfying goal you can set yourself. However, ensuring a holistic and healthy life involves the adoption of many different factors, from getting adequate amounts of exercise to implementing a fulfilling and balanced diet. When people think of healthy and balanced diets, they naturally think of foods like green vegetables, brown rice and lean protein.

Not many people stop to look at their sweetener choices. However, maple syrup, made from the sap of the black or red maple tree, is an alternative to highly processed white sugar that contains less calories than honey.  With many nutritional benefits, it is a sweetener worth considering.  It is important to note that sugar consumption, even from healthier sources, can still present health challenges when consumed in excess.

Maple syrup is characterised by its rich and earthy taste, natural sweetness, and thick, amber appearance. It is made by piercing the trunk of a red or black maple tree, allowing the sap to trickle out. At this point, the sap is clear in appearance and tasteless. It is then boiled to evaporate the water content, creating a syrup with a high sugar content (about 60 percent) and rich, distinctive taste. Upon boiling, it also adopts its golden coloring which can be found in four different grades from Grade A light amber to Grade B.

Like many other healthy foods, maple syrup is considered a functional food; one that has additional health benefits compared with other foods. Many functional foods have specific nutrients and medicinal benefits that help to combat disease and promote optimum health. Just one ounce of maple syrup contains 22 percent of a person’s recommended daily consumption of manganese, an important antioxidant.  Sufficient manganese consumption is essential to ensuring healthy and strong bones, as well as good functioning of the brain and nerves. Manganese is a great natural anti-inflammatory component, which can help the healing process.  It is also significant for supporting healthy kidneys, liver and pancreas.

Maple syrup is also high in zinc, utilized by the cells in our bodies to combat illness and ensure a healthy immune system. Zinc deficiency can lead to a number of health problems, most of which are linked to the body’s immune system; it typically results in a lack of white blood cells (specifically B cells, T lymphocytes and macrophages), which are essential for rapid immune response.

Due to the high levels of zinc and manganese found in maple syrup, consumption also has considerable benefits for reproductive health. This is particularly significant for men, as the prostate requires higher levels of zinc than any other part of the body. Higher zinc intake can decrease the risk of prostate cancer, as well as decreasing prostate size. And the manganese in maple syrup helps support a healthy male reproductive system as it aids the production of sexual hormones.  For women a deficiency in magnesium is believed to have a strong link to premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

As mentioned already, maple syrup is a great source of zinc, an antioxidant that decreases the risk of heart complications. A healthy intake of zinc ensures that endothelial blood cells are working properly, it also protects against damage to the inner linings of blood vessels leading to and from the heart. Damage is typically caused by harmful oxidized fats, which zinc helps to break down. By consuming the recommended portions of zinc and manganese, you are increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDH).

The health benefits of maple syrup should not be ignored. By adding this natural sweetener, in moderation, to your healthy and balanced diet, you are contributing to your overall, holistic health. With it's delicious flavor and functional benefits, maple syrup provides a sweetness that should be part of everyone’s lives.

Lily Rolfe writes health articles on behalf of a number of on and offline health providers based in the US. She is strongly interested in healthy eating and exercise as preventative measures which are, after all, much better than any cure.

photo: Dvortygirl

Monday, January 21, 2013

on my mind monday 01.21.13

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Eating a fatty diet may reduce sperm count - the study mentioned in this article does not show a definitive correlation, but a probable one.  However, of more interest to me is the fact that saturated fats are, once again, being vilified.  Saturated fat in excess is indeed not a healthy choice.  However, it is required for, among other things, hormone production, so curbing saturated fat intake to excess is also not healthy.  Of only minor mention in the article but, I believe, more significance, is the impact that obesity has on sperm health.  Male obesity has risen dramatically over the past three decades and has been accompanied by an increase in male infertility.  This is an issue that needs to be more directly addressed for those who wish to have children.

Artificial colors in medications can trigger hyperactivity - When I work with clients I encourage them to remove artificial colors from their diets.  These petrochemical-based substances do not belong in our diet or our bodies.  There are many studies which support this.  One major challenge, however, is that while you can choose foods, toothpaste, and personal care products which do not have color in them, you cannot control medications as easily.  And any artificial color that goes into the body can have an effect.  As I wrote about over a year ago in this article on color-free supplements, it is healthier to have color-free choices.  My hope is that eventually manufacturers will either choose plant-based color options, offer color-free options, or find a different way to identify medications that does not rely on petrochemicals.

Vitamin K the supplement of 2013? - I get really upset when the news claims a particular food, superfood, or supplement is the "it" item of the year.  Unfortunately in this country we have a habit of thinking that if a little bit is good a lot must be better.  Witness what happened with soy...it was noted that Asians, who eat more soy, have less incidence of certain illnesses.  So Americans added soy to their diet in huge measure.  Soy milk, soy cheese, soy meat, soy ice cream, the list goes on.  The problem is that we eat more unfermented soy than the Asians do, we eat genetically modified soy, and we're not responsible about how we add this highly phyto-estrogenic, goitrogenic substance to our diet. Adding vitamin K through food is not a bad thing, it can help to ensure that we have enough in our diet.  Found in dark leafy greens it's a good thing to add to the diet.  But to start supplementing without knowing whether you need it or not is not a good choice  While it is not known to be toxic, consuming too much has been reported to cause tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.  So by all means add dark leafy greens to your diet.  However if you are considering supplementing because it's the big thing of the year, consider testing your micronutrient status first to see if you really need it.

India's Packaged Food To Have GM Label - I'm so happy to see labeling of GMOs.  I hope that it will grow beyond just packaged foods and eventually include fresh foods as well as meat, dairy, and eggs.  After all, if the animals are fed GMOs the products we get from them are also GMO.

This video about food waste from the BBC

highlights just how much food is wasted in developed countries.  Some of it is due to confusion about labeling but some is due to carelessness.  Given the high number of people who don't have enough to eat in these countries, let alone the rest of the world, this is a major issue.  If we continue to think there's not enough food we continue to pave the way for GMO foods which, as is becoming increasingly clear, does not provide an appropriate answer.

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photo: mconnors

Thursday, January 17, 2013

crockpot chicken and sweet potato stew

With the shorter, darker days and the dipping temperatures, we all know that winter has arrived.   And on those cold, dark days, sometimes it's difficult to be inspired when it comes to making dinner.  Especially when you've got a hungry crew to feed.  While I use my crockpot all year round, at this time of year I somehow feel that it's my best friend.  There is nothing better than setting everything up in the morning and coming home to a delicious, hot meal, cooked and ready to go.

If you're looking for a new recipe that combines all the best of winter comfort food, today's blog post has the answer.  Alli Berry is a Crock Pot cooking blogger and offered to share her wonderful stew recipe (and that great picture) with us. You can check out more fabulous recipes on her blog, What a Crock!

Winter can be a lovely time of year. You really can’t beat a beautiful, fresh snowfall.  At least this is what I like to tell myself when it is dark at 4 pm and frigid outside.

One thing that can make winter more enjoyable is snuggling up at home with a good book and a large bowl of warm winter stew. I am very excited to share this new stew recipe with you that I created for such a scenario. I also wanted this to be a healthy stew to kick off 2013 on the right foot. One of the things I like best about this recipe is the combination of rosemary with chicken and sweet potatoes. Rosemary is one of my favorite spices because of its distinct aroma and fresh taste. As an added bonus,  rosemary is rich in antioxidants which help strengthen your immune system. Sweet potatoes also have great health benefits. Not only are sweet potatoes rich in iron and fiber, they also contain a lot of Vitamin C, which can help you fight off those pesky winter colds. This recipe is easy to make and can be altered to include other veggies if you wish.

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1 cup of celery, chopped
½ onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon of dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced

Place chicken at the bottom of the crock pot
Add all of the other ingredients (except the mushrooms) over chicken
Stir to combine
Cook on low for 4-5 hours, checking after 4 hours for doneness
Add mushrooms and cook on low for 1 more hour.

You can serve this stew as it is or over rice, quinoa, or couscous.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

protein snacks to boost energy

Snacks are a part of almost everyone’s day, from children to adults. Supermarkets and convenience stores offer a wide array of snack choices from candies and snack-size cakes to peanuts and chips. However, some snacks leave a person feeling energized while others can leave you feeling tired, lethargic and possibly even moody. The reason for this is found in the contents of the snack.

The best snacks are those with a higher profile of proteins instead of sugars. Snacks filled with protein give fabulous energy boosts. A protein is a substance formed by a conglomeration of bonded amino acids. The proteins, and by extension the amino acids, found in foods are the building blocks of the body's cells, vital for maintaining all the cells in the body and providing the energy the body needs to function.

How does protein boost energy? Proteins are a far different energy source than carbohydrates. When a person eats carbohydrates they are broken into sugars, which provide quick energy. However, this energy only lasts a short time, eventually leaving the person feeling tired. Proteins provide a much longer source of energy than carbohydrates do. The energy from proteins is a more consistent fuel that powers the body. In addition, adequate protein in the diet guards against fatigue, disease and moodiness. If you want to know your body's protein requirements, Georgetown University provides a helpful table for determining how many grams of protein men and women need each day.

When choosing protein for snacks it's important to understand that there are two main types of protein; complete and incomplete. A protein is considered to be complete if it contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for body growth and function. In general, animal products contain complete proteins while plant-based products are incomplete. However, consuming a variety of plant-based products can still give a person all the amino acids they need by combining to form a complete protein.  As an example, combining grains and legumes will form a complete protein.

Here are a few ideas of some protein-filled snacks that can provide long-lasting energy boosts:

  • A hard-boiled egg 
  • Half of a tuna fish sandwich 
  • A glass of milk 
  • A cup of yogurt 
  • Half a cup of cottage cheese 
  • 2 T. Peanut butter 
  • A small handful of raw almonds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds 
  • Beef jerkey 
  • A stick of string cheese 
  • 2 T. hummus with raw veggie sticks 
Of course, protein should be consumed in moderation. While protein is vital for all individuals and moderate amounts of protein make excellent snacks, consumption of excessive amounts may eventually begin harming the kidneys.  Protein is a good choice for busy days when adequate stamina is vital.

Iliana Spector is a health writer for Assisted Living Today, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to elderly care and assisted living.

Monday, January 14, 2013

on my mind monday 01.14.13

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Diet Soda Linked To Depression - As the article mentions, this study only shows a link, not a definitive correlation.  However, sadly, what the article fails to note is that caffeine is highly linked to anxiety.  Trudy Scott, Food Mood Expert and the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution talks about this connection and points out that for those who are sensitive to it, the more caffeine one consumes the higher the anxiety.

Top 10 Dining Out Trends for 2013 - I'm always interested in the idea of food trends and wonder how many of them are true.  Perhaps this year I'll remember to go back and "check it out."  In the meantime I am happy to see a number of things on this list as I believe they represent a positive direction.  Locally sourced foods are always a good pick in my book.  Hyper-local (meaning the restaurant itself produced them) is a fascinating concept and it will be interesting to see if this does happen.  A focus on environment and sustainability is another positive thing.  And, of course, I love the idea of kid nutrition but I'll be watching this one as it can be tricky to do with the vast majority of children so used to a Standard American Diet.

Junk Food Sugars a Plague on Adolescent Teeth - For those who are paying attention to their diet (and to the overwhelming amounts of sugar that have become part of the modern diet) this is a no-brainer.  However getting this message out to kids is difficult.  It is, however, very important.  While dental hygiene certainly plays a part, the diet is also extremely important.  To get a good look at how much sugar is in a wide variety of foods visit SugarStacks.com.  Be prepared to be surprised.

2013, the International Year of Quinoa - apparently this high-protein pseudo-grain has hit the big time.  The challenge is that, as with many food trends (at least in America) once we learn about something we decide that if a little bit is good a lot must be better.  This is concerning for a few reasons, not the least of which is the quinoa grows best in a specific environment in the Andes mountain region.  But it has become so popular that what was once a staple food for indigenous people has now become a profitable export crop.  So popular that those who are farming it cannot afford to eat it.  Attempts are being made to grow it in the Rockies.  If successful this will reduce some of the pressure but reduce profitability for Andean farmers.  It's a tricky question and a difficult balance.

Food Safety Rules Implemented Slowly - As with many things related to the government, the new food rules which have been put into place are there but not there.  The implementation is very slow and may not represent a significant protection for consumers until it is fully implemented.  Signed into law two years ago, starting implementation now, full implementation expected to take five years or more it's a travesty for the consumer.  Once again this simply serves to highlight now important it is to know your farmer and to build a relationship with them.  If you are looking for a farmer near you consider signing up for FarmMatch.com.  This is a new, free, website putting consumers and their local farmers on the map so they can find each other.

I just started watching a British t.v. show called Supersizers Go...  It's an interesting look at how people ate during different time periods in British history.  Lighthearted and somewhat silly it's still a fascinating look at food from a different time.  The first episode focused on wartime Britain.

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photo: mconnors

Friday, January 11, 2013

three cookie syndrome

We're just past the holiday season and a lot of people are re-examining their eating habits. As I'm working with clients we have one habit that they all seem to be engaging in so I wanted to take a moment to address it.

It's a phenomenon that hits our subconscious when we are eating, especially when we are eating treats of some kind.

I call it the three cookie syndrome. It goes something like this:

  •  you decide to eat cookies 
  •  you open the package of cookies and see a serving size is two cookies 
  •  you eat three cookies 
  •  a little overwhelmed you say to yourself, “what the hell, I ate three cookies.” and then go on to finish the entire sleeve (or half a box, or some overwhelming percentage of the package).
For many people this is the beginning of the downward spiral that can signal the end of a diet or a change to eating plans. They give up, feeling that they are a failure, and feed themselves negative emotions and messages while not paying attention to their eating.

 Rather than allowing the consumption of an entire sleeve of cookies (admittedly not the best choice) to overwhelm us it is more constructive to simply acknowledge that we have veered off the path of our eating plan. Instead of wallowing in guilt or other negative feelings we need to remind ourselves that it's not an all or nothing proposition.  We can start again to rebuild our nutritional plan and to focus on making healthy choices. Sometimes that focus can come in the middle of that sleeve of cookies. Sometimes it happens immediately afterwards, more often it happens the next day.

 Eating well, eating to nourish and support our bodies means loving and accepting ourselves. Garfield says “Diet is die with a t on the end of it.” Rather than looking at our desire to change our food choices as a diet it does help to look at it as a nutritional plan. To remember that we are choosing to make different choices because those choices are supportive for our bodies.

For those who have an illness such as celiac disease, or a food sensitivity, eating those foods brings a fairly immediate negative body response. So we don't do that. For those who are choosing to make changes, it sometimes happens gradually. However it's never too late to start to make those changes. Simply remember what the goal is and why you are making these choices.  Treat yourself with loving kindness and take it one step at a time.

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photo: Keith McDuffee

Monday, January 7, 2013

on my mind monday 01.07.13

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

FDA begins implementing sweeping food-safety law - It's about time.  While I do believe that we need to have better measures in place to protect the safety of our food I will also say that I'm concerned that many larger food producers will still push for self-monitoring.  And I'm not convinced that the government is able to properly monitor our food system.  But changes are coming and I remain hopeful that this will be a positive thing overall.

Washington State eyes labeling GMO - Ready to be filed this week, it's an initiative to label GMO foods.  Also Prop 37 did not pass it opened the eyes of a lot of consumers and got them thinking about what's really in their food.  With around more than 100,000 more signatures than required to send the initiative to the Legislature this measure should be certified by the end of the month, starting the legal process to bring it in front of the voters.  I'm looking forward to watching this and hope that Washington can become the first state to make this happen.

Another hospital banning McDonald's - It's about time.

Gazpacho could help lower blood pressure -  given that it's made from whole foods which are known to have a wide variety of health benefits I wouldn't be surprised if further study proves this to be true.  In any event it's certainly a fabulous way to get a healthy serving of vegetables.  Here's my favorite gazpacho recipe for those willing to drink cold soup during the cold months.

B vitamins may boost colorectal health - B vitamins are so important to our health across a spectrum that includes stress, sleep, the immune system and more.  Now it turns out that they may have a benefit for colorectal health as well.  Studies need to continue however in the meantime it never hurts to continue to eat foods rich in B vitamins.  High levels of B6 can be found in tuna, beef and poultry.  Riboflavin rich foods include venison (also a good source of B6) and yogurt.

Dandy Blend - Not a news article, but definitely something that is on my mind.  With the colder temperatures (yes even in Texas), I've begun to drink more Dandy Blend.  It's a delicious beverage that is an excellent substitute for coffee.  Rich and full bodied I make mine with goat's milk and sometimes for a little treat I top it off with a teaspoon of coconut milk ice cream.  Why is it on my mind?  I met with my editor, Donna, yesterday and made a cup for her.  She had never had it before and loved it.  She said, "This is my new favorite drink."  So I wanted to share, maybe it's your new favorite too.

Here's a fun video from Joy Bauer with information about hot sauce

Don't forget to like The Pantry Principle to get
news and information about what's really in your food.

photo: mconnors

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

egg cooking methods that can't be beat

January is National Egg Month.  Apart from being delicious and versatile, eggs are also nutritious, and an essential part of a balanced diet. Containing up to six grams of protein, eggs are a wonder food that can give much-needed energy in the morning.  Eggs also provide a great source of choline which is anti-inflammatory.  For the best, healthiest option, choose eggs from pastured, free roaming chickens.

Eggs used to have a bad rep for increasing the body’s cholesterol levels, and contributing to heart disease. These misconceptions are actually far from the truth.  Cholesterol levels are raised by saturated fats, not dietary cholesterol. Eggs contain up to five grams of polyunsaturated fat, which improves blood cholesterol levels.

According to modern research, moderate consumption of eggs has no negative effect on the cholesterol levels of healthy people. Studies have also found that eating two eggs per day may improve a person’s lipid profile. Adding credence to this, a Harvard study found no direct link between reasonable egg consumption and heart disease.

The catch here is that the egg has to be cooked in a healthy manner. All those health benefits may be negated, for example, if you fry an egg to a solid crisp in heaps of shortening. Below are some healthy ways to cook eggs. Who says you can't have your healthy eggs and eat ‘em too?

Classic Poached Egg

Poaching eggs is a healthier alternative to frying. At its most basic, poaching involves sliding an egg into a pan or Dutch oven filled with hot water. The result is a soft, slightly delicate, egg dish. (Imagine a hard-boiled egg, but fluffier.)

The great thing about poached eggs – and all egg cooking methods, actually – is its versatility. You can eat poached eggs on their own, over a hot bowl of steaming oatmeal, or as topping on a salad.


Making hard-boiled eggs seems simple enough: Boil water, drop egg in, wait a bit, crack open hard-boiled egg, enjoy. The truth is, there are some subtleties to boiling eggs. For starters, you can’t actually see the egg, which means you can’t judge to doneness of the egg visually. Speaking of doneness, hard-boiled isn’t the only way to go. You can also make soft-boiled eggs. Proper timing is key.

Hard-boiling is one of the healthiest cooking methods for eggs. You don’t use oil, or any other ingredients. Just don’t season with too much salt while eating. And beware of salmonella; be sure to cook the egg fully.


Scrambling is another cooking method with a lot of healthy options. At its most basic, a scrambled egg is just that – a beaten egg, lightly fried. You can add cream or milk to fluff it up. To add a bit of flavor, why not experiment with some spices?

Frying: Yay or nay?

Frying is probably the first thing that comes to mind when cooking eggs. And for good reason – fried eggs are delicious! Unlike most cooking methods listed here, frying gives the egg a mix of appetizing textures – from a moist yolk, to the crisp edges.

The challenge to this is to use healthy fats when making fried eggs.  Coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee are all tasty, good for you choices.  Just as with scrambled eggs, go easy on the seasoning.

photo: Kai Hendry 

 Marc Webster is a writer who specializes in health and wellness topics. He is also works at All Time Medical, a medical supply company which sells wheelchairs, rollators and various other elderly mobility aids. He also has a huge passion for cooking and is continually exploring the versatility of egg in different dishes.