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Wellness Foods Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Wellness Foods’ Category

5 Fast and Frugal Foods to Fill Your Fridge this Fall


Fall is beginning to sweep in its sweet breath of transition. Whether you have an altered schedule, different hobbies or new wardrobe, change is happening.  Coincidentally, times of transition happen to be the best time for creating new habits. One new habit worth learning is how keeping a few basic foods stashed in the fridge is a cheap and easy way to go.

For many of us, moving from packaged to home-prepared food is a special challenge, both because it requires some extra energy up front to get into the habit, and because we think we may hate it. So we end up putting off getting started.  So I implore you to start small and keep it simple.

I find that having preparing just a few simple foods will take you a long way over several days’ time, you can use them as side dishes for dinner, main dishes for lunch.  And don’t forget the snack potential.  You’ll end up with more nutritious, lower calorie snack options than the pantry typically offers, but the bigger surprise is how good these foods taste.

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Here are 5 fast and frugal foods to fill your fridge this fall:

Butternut squash:  Simply cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake for 45-55 minutes face down at 385.  Use a glass pan for easy clean up.  Add some salt, or a dash of garlic and a tablespoon of tahini for an delicious new twist.

Sweet potatoes:  Wash them well and keep the skins on for extra texture and more nutrition.  Bake them whole or cubed in coconut oil and salt at 385 degrees, for 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on size and preparation.

Garbanzo beans:  Don’t let the dried beans scare you, the overnight soak and 1 hour boil is well worth the simple steps!  Just soak your beans overnight, drain (the following day), fill a pan with water so it covers the beans by 5-6”, and simmer for about 90 minutes (until tender).  Serve with salt and cumin, or add to your favorite salad.

Quinoa:  Similar to rice, but a more complete protein that makes an excellent salad or side dish. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and add ½ tsp. salt and combine with chopped veggies and fresh salsa, (purchased prepared if needed).

Cabbage salad:  Cabbage is amazing in its longevity, flavor and nutrient profile.  Why wouldn’t you keep it on hand?  It’s simple to sauté in coconut oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos or light soy sauce with a dash of salt and cumin.  Or dice it up and sprinkle with salt, rice vinegar and sesame oil for a yummy salad.

All of these foods can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days and retain their flavor and nutrition content quite nicely.  Make it easy to snack from the fridge vs. the pantry by treating yourself to a variety of simple, healthy whole foods today, no whole paycheck required!

14 Super Slim-Down Snacks (Slideshow)


Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can control your appetite by incorporating the right snacks into your daily diet. Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to 150-200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating. Look for snacks that combine fiber, healthy fats and protein, without added sugar. Follow these simple suggestions for smarter snacking:

  1. Go for whole grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips— can give you some energy with staying power.
  2. Overcome your Fear of Fat. Combine a small amount of healthy fat, like peanut butter or avocado, with a larger amount of something light, like apple slices or celery sticks.
  3. Combo snack. Include two or more macronutrients (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.
  4. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and be present while you snack.
  5. Take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthy snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t be tempted to turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

Looking for snack inspiration? Here are some delicious options to choose from:

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6 Simple Tips for Managing Junk Food Cravings


Do you ever have days where you can’t seem to stop thinking about something you’re trying to learn to live without, or even just live with less of?  Maybe it’s the fudge brownie you’ve gotten into the habit of sneaking in after work, or the double mocha latte that’s become a daily habit instead of an occasional treat, and it’s placing a strain on both your waistline and your wallet.

A change in routine rarely comes without these urges to return to status quo, the habits we’ve acquired to feed a need, but now we’ve decided to try choose new habits which will serve us in a more positive way.  It can be challenging to get through this rough patch.  It takes more than willpower to successfully navigate, but don’t worry, there are ways to make it better without resorting to shock treatment.

Here are 6 simple tips to help you control cravings when they stand to come between you and your goals.

  1. Stay ahead of the hunger curve. Cravings are often triggered by plain old hunger, a biological signal that simply requires calories to stave.  When it’s not immediately addressed however, that signal reaches the thought center of the brain, which superimposes its own notion of what you need, which is not necessarily in your body’s best interest.  By the time you get to the stage where you’re pretty hungry, you’re not in a place where you’ll make your best decisions health-wise, it’s more about finding food, any food…now!  So stop that feeling before it starts with smart snacks* you have readily available for times like these.  You’ve planned ahead and are well stocked with good choices, don’t wait until you’re overly hungry and not using your best judgment, instead stay one step ahead of the curve.
  1. Identify options:  If you hate raw carrots, or find raw almonds completely uninspiring, no wonder you can’t stop thinking about the nacho Cheezits you’ve stashed in the back of the cabinet.   Deprivation never works, so you need to find the sweet spot between refined carbs or sugary treats, and a perfect healthy alternative.  You need a good enough happy medium, like apples and peanut butter, or whole grain crackers and avocado.  Satisfying in terms of protein and fiber content, and delicious tasting too.  See the list below more favorites.
  1. Change your scene.  Cravings pass, and you’ll get through the rough spots more easily is with some good old fashioned distraction.  New studies show that tapping:  your ear, your forehead or your toes can significantly reduce food cravings.  Alternatively, imaging a blank wall can also do the trick.  Worth a try!
  1. Listen to your body. Cravings can indicate a nutritional imbalance, especially if you’re on a restrictive diet.  A craving for ice cream may simply be your body’s way of telling you you’re deficient in healthy fats, in which case some avocado, almonds or Greek yogurt would be a smart and satisfying fix.
  1. Sugar cravings are typically more emotional than physical, and sometimes attempting to stave them only leads to wanting more. Certain dietary supplements may help stop your sugar cravings, or try some stevia-sweetened licorice tea, or a piece of fresh fruit to see if the cravings subside.
  1. Stay strong! Cravings often come with change, as the body and brain adjust, but hand in there!  After the new habit takes hold they generally subside, often for good.  This is the hardest time in the process of creating new habits, but so worth the effort to achieve your long term health goals and enjoy all of the benefits they bring.

Ten Smart Snacks to Have on Hand*

Looking for snack inspiration?  Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to about 200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating.  Look for snacks that combine fiber and protein, without added sugar.  Here are some good options to choose from:

  • Carrots dipped in 2 tablespoons of your favorite hummus
  • 2 pear halves, topped with 1 rounded tablespoon of cottage cheese, sprinkled with 1 tsp. of nuts
  • 2 crisp bread crackers spread with 1 tablespoon of almond butter. Top with 1 sliced small banana
  • 1 whole grain tortilla cut into chip sized wedges and baked at 350 for 5 minutes to crisp,  dipped in fresh salsa
  • Edamame from the grocer’s freezer section, thawed and sprinkled with salt.
  • 1 whole grain rice cake with a tablespoon of peanut butter, topped with thinly sliced apple
  • 4 cups sesame popcorn; air popped popcorn topped with ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil and ½ teaspoon sesame seeds and lightly salted.
  • 2 large celery sticks filled with 2 tablespoons of hummus and 1 tablespoon of sliced olives
  • Banana, Kale, and Almond Milk Smoothie; 1 medium banana, 1 cup chopped kale, and 1 cup almond milk until pureed in the blender or food processor until smooth.
  • A handful of raw almonds and a chai latte

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy; Free Resources are Here to Help!


The words healthy and inexpensive often occupy opposite ends of the thought spectrum, but maybe it’s time to put that myth to rest.  You may have experienced “Whole Paycheck” sticker shock at some point, or seriously questioned why anyone would shell out twice as much for blueberries labeled “organic”, when they look just like the non-organic option one shelf over.  The good news is, healthy food doesn’t need to be fancy (or pricey) as a smart new shopping guide published by Environmental Working Group (EWG) clearly demonstrates.

If you’re not familiar with EWG, it’s the organization that creates the annual Dirty Dozen list, identifying the top 12 fresh fruits and veggies you’re better off buying organic if you want to avoid the heavy pesticide residue they retain.  This short list reminds us that not everything has to be organic to be healthy, while helping consumers to make smart choices about when paying more for the organic label most makes sense.

EWG offers lots of free, expert-research-based guides for consumers, including their cool new Food Scores app, a free online database which lets you plug in your favorite food products to and see how they score in terms of nutrition, unhealthy additives and processing concerns.  It’s a great way to check what you think you know, and identify new options in the process.

But back to Good Food on a Tight Budget, which is a big concern for many of us these days.  This handy new booklet arrived in my mailbox last week after I donated a nominal amount to help EWG to continue their important work.   I flipped through the pages, which outlined the benefits of planning ahead, shopping the bulk bins, cooking at home with foods in season, and yes, even adding more beans to your diet as a healthy, inexpensive source of protein.

I love that the healthy food shopping basics were laid out in an inviting, illustrated format that doesn’t overwhelm.  The booklet even includes a sample shopping list, easy to use meal planner and food tracker (or diary). Good Food on a Tight Budget is a great reminder that when we plan in advance and keep it simple, we can enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy, delicious diet without having to shell out a whole paycheck, or even shop at a fancy health store.

In the meantime, I invite and encourage you to check out EWG’s super-helpful web site, download some of the free guides offered, and perhaps even enjoy this engaging interview I did with EWG spokesperson Robyn O’Brien, as she shares more about why this work is so important, and what you can do to make healthy eating manageable, even when time and money are at a premium.

Interview with EWG Spokesperson Robyn O’Brien. A former food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien is an author, strategist and mother of four, dedicated to exposing the impact that the global food system is having on our health. Click here to listen.

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy, beginning today!

Diet Trends, How to Separate Help from Hype


Today I received a new book I ordered online, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life. Sounds amazing right? While I don’t need to lose a pound a day right now, I do try to keep up on new diet trends. Since this book has some great reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some helpful new tips and information to share with my audience.

So as soon as the book arrived I immediately tore it open and began skimming through. Pretty quickly I discovered this author’s views were extreme (a bad sign in my book) and differed extensively not only from my own, but more importantly, from the many experts whose researched-based work I closely align with.

This initial scan landed me on a page listing the only fruits the author considered healthy as berries and pineapple, both unavailable to most people throughout most of the year except from the freezer, which first caused me to take pause. Frozen fruit is actually much higher in sugar than fresh, and often ends up used in smoothies, which unless tempered with the right ingredients are essentially sugar bombs. But I moved on.  Then I hit the part where he suggests that all rice is bad except for white rice I and I stopped and raised an eyebrow, maybe both.

‘Just who is the author of this revolutionary new dieting advice?’ It belatedly occurred to me to wonder. Turns out he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire who lost a substantial amount of weight using these tactics, and who also spent some time in the Himalayas, which was listed in his bio apparently to convey further credibility. Now he’s designed his own line of supplements and special coffee that he claims will do all of the things he promotes in the title of the book, you just have to buy the products.

And herein lies the problem with diet trends. Many of them were started by people just like this author, who combine a tantalizing promise with the means to fund a large outreach and suddenly we’re all gluten-free, even though we may not be sure why. After all, anyone can all themselves an expert, including yours truly! This is why you need to know how to separate diet hype from help before you waste time or money on trendy gimmicks.

Diet fads make it seem as though good nutrition and healthy weight management are a mystery waiting to be solved, and they’ve uncovered the magic key; avoid gluten! While highly credentialed nutrition experts like Marion Nestle, Dr. Walter Willet and the 25 US News and World Reports Best Diet Rankings experts base all of their recommendations on years of sound scientific research instead of their personal experience or intuition, this information isn’t considered trendy or sexy.  So while their findings are always accessible, you have to look for them as opposed to the other way around.

Essentially, crazy restrictive, single nutrient-demonizing or other extreme dietary measures seldom work long-term. But that doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie and follow some denial-based regime to get your eating habits under control. In essence, changing eating behaviors takes a combination of physical, psychological and environmental measures into account in order to be successful long-term. None of this is a mystery, although no one diet works for everyone.

The point is there is no magic weight loss bullet, and when diets become so trendy that there are publications, specialty food products and entire aisles of the grocery store devoted to them, take note. These trends have become a multi-billion dollar business that vendors will keep promoting, because that’s what they’re in business to do.  And as long as they keep drowning out the (fact-based) naysayers, they’ll continue to get the attention and sale they’re after, regardless of how well the programs work.

In fact, I’ve seen highly credentialed experts dismiss the Paleo diet in blog posts that were then so engulfed flames by angry readers they quickly removed the article. Some of these trend-followers are downright rabid, but it’s important to remember that shouting the loudest doesn’t make someone right.

When you consider a new trend like Paleo, gluten-free or low fat, do your independent  using independent expert theory checked against findings by institutions like Harvard Institute of Public Health, Yale’s Rudd Center or Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, it’s important to consider your source.  While you’ll find products and promotions for diet trends everywhere, including your favorite health stores and workout studios,  they’re simply responding to customer demand, which keeps them in business.  Conversely none of the independent health and nutrition institutions advocate any of the aforementioned trends. In fact the US News Best Diet Rankings listed Paleo as one of the least effective regimes all-around for the 2nd year in a row (when it’s been trendy enough to make the list).

The bottom line is, in this day of self-pronounced experts, you need to weigh credentials and do your diligence to separate the diet trend help from the hype. It may take a little extra time, but considering you’ll save money and possibly health problems in the long term, it’s well worth it.

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!


With the gluten-free trend still in full swing, it’s hard to know where to stand on the wheat issue.  Wheat has been red-flagged, and most of us still aren’t sure why.  If you’re among the 1% of the population with celiac disease, of course avoiding wheat, rye and barley makes excellent sense, but for every one American diagnosed with celiac disease, 20 others are eating gluten-free foods just because they think they should.

A new study shows that most people who believe themselves sensitive to gluten, actually are not.  Gluten-free diets can be deficient in fiber and a host of other vitamins and minerals, and are not advisable without an expert recommendation.

Whole grains on the other hand, fall cleanly into the good health category.  And eating a variety of grains is the best way to get you to the 25 grams of fiber recommended for adults per day, a number rarely seen by most of us.  While you would need to up your produce intake dramatically to get there, you can simply opt for a dish made from bulgur or wheat berries, and meet 25-30% worth of your daily  fiber recommendation in one satisfying sitting.

Grains deliver more fiber than any other food, contain protein in amounts that vary from modest to substantial, and are loaded with micronutrients as well.

Of course refined wheat products are a different case entirely.  White flour, the main ingredient in most packaged foods, has had all of the vital nutrients removed during processing.  While this makes for a much longer shelf life, combined with preservatives we’re talking years here, the resulting product is so broken down it affects your system the same way as sugar does, in that it digests quickly and causes blood sugar to fluctuate disruptively.  Think carb crash, headache and hunger pangs just an hour after you filled up on that 500 calorie cinnamon raisin bagel with low fat cream cheese, shheesh.

A diet rich in fiber is also shown to be more satiating than a refined carb version (white flour, white rice and white sugar favoring), all else being equal.  Whole grains can even make you happier.  In fact, Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that women who ate a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based proteins were 30% less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as opposed to those eating a Western diet.

So don’t assume all wheat products fall into the empty carbs, or dietary devil incarnate category.  Refined wheat products, or white flour based empty carbs, are definitely on rank low on the list, but whole grains, those without the fibrous outer layers removed, are a delicious addition to your dietary repertoire.

Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  It’s easy to substitute healthy and delicious whole wheat berries, hulled barley, farro, spelt and quinoa for refined processed grains in breads, cereals or other packaged foods.  Whole grains cook much the same way as a pot of rice, it just takes a little longer depending on the variety.   The more you experiment with these new (to you) alternatives, the easier they become even easier to prepare as you discover countless ways to enjoy them.

Start simply, with recipes like Minted Quinoa Tabouli, Super Energy Breakfast Bars or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, and you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!  Sources:

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for You


If you’re anything like 90% of us, you think you’re doing a pretty good job with your eating choices.  Granola over cookies, juice or tea over soda, hold the mayo on that whole wheat sandwich.  But do you really know for sure?  As recent studies show, probably not.

Research shows that people make an average of 247 food related choices per day, yet are conscious of only about 5% of them.  And according to a recent Consumer Reports study, 9 out of 10 of us think our choices are good.  But by adapting your everyday environment to help you adopt new behaviors, you can turn mindless habits into healthy ones!

Brian Wansink, Ph.D and author of bestselling Mindless Eating has generated a new science from this very phenomenon.  Shifting mindless eating habits from bad to good is really doable.  And none of us, regardless of how well we know the pitfalls, is truly immune to mindless eating.  Our ever-present food environment makes sure of it.

The good news is, we can take steps to avoid having to remain constantly vigilant to the lure of temptation in the first place.  It’s called creating an environment for success, and you’d be surprised at the difference a few simple changes to your routine can make, without you even noticing never mind feeling deprived or dissatisfied.

Of course there are those times you have no choice but to eat on the go, even if you know you should sit down and enjoy every bite.  When you’re too rushed in the morning (or afternoon), to sit down for the short time it takes to spoon down some oatmeal, you’d rather not miss the boat altogether.  And then there are other times, when you might want to veg in front of a movie and snack on some popcorn, even though this falls squarely into the mindless eating category.

Then there are all the rest of the times when you don’t even know you’re doing it, hence the unmistakably descriptive term.  For most people mindless eating is a habit that could benefit from some fresh visitation, but even the best of intentions probably won’t produce a complete turnaround starting now.  It will be a transition process, a journey worth making for a personal transformation capable of affecting everything from weight loss to energy level.  These simple tips can help you along the way, and after you’re up to speed on conscious food choices, they’re good guidelines to live by.

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for you

  1. Adjust your go-to snack plan.  When you dip into the cabinet or hover in front of the fridge, you’ll often grab the first easy-to-much option, so this is not the best place to leave the cheese puffs. Keep pre-cut veggies readily available for your next mindless munch out, and you’ll benefit from the extra fiber and nutrients these healthy snacks provide.
  2. Read labels, always.  Studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients list, and if it contains items that sound like chemicals or other foreign objects, know you’re better off without it.
  3. Prioritize fiber foods  Studies show a strong association between an increased consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of corn syrup, a decreased consumption of dietary fiber, and an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the United States.  Despite what you commonly hear, protein is not the dietary shortfall, fiber is.  Choose whole grains instead of refined and select packaged snacks with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. Keep serving dishes off of the table.  Most of us eat more food than we think.  You can avoid doing this by putting a single serving of food on a plate, forcing yourself to leave the table to refill instead of continuing to eat after you’re satisfied (a common problem when good food is within reach).
  5. Never nosh straight from the package.  I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it may be time to revisit it.  Measure out a portion according to the label on the side of the package, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy every bite!
  6. Use the power of illusion to feel satisfied, not overstuffed.  Studies show that people eat 25-30% more food off of large plates than they do off of small ones, but feel equally full.  Therefore, use smaller plates!  We’ve been doing this at my house for years, works like a charm!
  7. Skip the diet soda. New studies find artificial sweeteners actually linked to obesity.  While it makes sense to keep sugar at a minimum, Nutrasweet is not your best option.  Stevia, on the other hand, is a naturally derived herbal sweetener that has no dubious ties to medical conditions.  Give it a try!
  8. Replace, or reduce don’t deprive.  Take the time to try out healthier alternatives to what you’re currently eating until you find ones you like as much as your former go-to favorites.  In the case of the plate, just redistribute your proportions to 50% veggies, 25% starch and 25% protein (plant-based where possible).  You’ll still enjoy the same volume of food, and the additional fiber will keep you satisfied.
  9. Start with small changes, 3 goals for better food choices is the number experts recommend initially adopting, until you find yourself comfortably acclimated and ready to take on more.  This is a plan for life, so slow going is recommened.
  10. Interested in weight loss?  Keep a daily food journal and lose 2x the weight.  Just the act of writing it down produces results.  Successful food journals ask you to record everything you eat, at the time you eat it, including portion sizes and calorie counts.  The best ones ask to you record hunger levels, related emotions, cravings and food triggers.  Here is a free one from food psychology guru, Dr. Brian Wansink, or there are dozens of programs and apps to choose from.  However you do it, record your data!

Congratulations for beginning your journey to a healthy new you.  Make your mindless eating habits work as a cornerstone of your transition from our refined carb culture to real, nourishing food choices, beginning today!

Get Your Bake On!


Another summer officially comes to a close, can you believe it?   East Coast roots and all, the weather in my hometown Santa Cruz keeps me a bit askew – Spring, Summer and Fall all kind of blend together into one long fog and sun-filled haze.

For most of the country though, the onset of Autumn means chilly air, crispy apples and the smoky scent of hearth fires burning.   Fall is the time for baking.   If you either rolled your eyes after reading this, or immediately envisioned the Pillsbury logo, here’s a quick reframe:  baking does not need to time-consuming or complicated.  Here is a short list of negative adjectives often associated with baking from scratch:

  • Time consuming
  • Messy
  • Fattening
  • Sugar-laden
  • Complicated

And it’s true, most baking recipes can be categorized as some or all of those things.  But this is the stuff that gets me going in the morning – it doesn’t have to be.  So I’m asking you to revisit the idea of baking with some new descriptors:

  • Short prep time
  • Requires few dishes
  • Requires few ingredients
  • Sugar free
  • Nutrient dense

And then there’s the one attribute shared by both types of baking:  delicious, which is undoubtedly the best reason of all to get your bake on!

So check out 2 yummy new recipes:  Breakfast Bread Pudding and Savory Harvest Veggie Bake (gluten free), and discover for yourself how easy, healthy and delicious baking from scratch can be!

Mama Bear’s Top Ten Tips for Happy Healthy Eaters


Most of us moms are familiar with the scary stats on rising rates of obesity in the US, it’s true.  Yet in between the constant stream of homework, play dates and little league, it’s not something we generally worry about day-to-day.

But here’s the troubling thing; certain influential entities are lurking and we parents need to stay on our toes. Now that might appear accusatory and even sinister coming from a cheery gal like myself, but I’m talking about corporations that are actively targeting their junk food ads to kids.

Sound crazy?  Think again; food industry CEOs aren’t forking out their billions (yes that’s billions with a b) in annual advertising strategies aimed at our children for nothing.  And they’re lobbying Congress like crazy to make sure nobody stands in their way. (more…)

10 Minute Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad


This mouthwatering salad assembles harmoniously with the seasonal produce so abundant at the height of summer. Just a quick trip to the market turned my plain garbanzo beans into a flavor extravaganza for under $5. It’s no accident that Mother Nature provides the best ingredients for the job just when we need them, a cooking lesson we too often forget. As good fortune would have it, fresher means more nutritious too.

But what about all the hard work it takes to make food from scratch when it’s so easy just to pick up a package? The fact is, the only way to really know what you’re eating is to make it yourself. Packaged food, even the “healthy” kind, usually contains preservatives, colorants and other additives used to keep it looking and tasting fresh.

The quality of your diet directly correlates to your health, so it’s time to rethink the convenience factor, especially when home cooking doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming! My delicious Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad came together in less than ten minutes, including cleanup. I had the beans already prepared, another easy DIY method that takes little hands on time for the most delicious results.

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 3 cups pre-cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 large handful or 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts
  • 3-4 small tomatoes, diced (dry farmed are especially good here)
  • 3 small zucchinis, diced

Check out the process below:

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First, I washed, then diced my zucchini and put it right into a large saucepan with ¼ cup water.Then I covered it, put it on the stove and turned the stove to medium high.While steaming the zucchini for 2-3 minutes, I washed and chopped the tomatoes. 

I turned off the zucchini then, and left the pan covered on the stove.


Next I rinsed the basil and added that and the olive oil, walnuts and salt to a mini food processor I love to use, but you can use a blender or Vitamix too. I let it blend everything but didn’t pulverise it like I usually would a pesto.


I opted for a chunkier texture since I knew the final result would be lovelier color-wise, but you could even use pre-made pesto here to save a step.


I added the basil blend to the steamed zucchini. If there is water left in the pan, you can stir that in too.


Finally I added the garbanzo beans and tomatoes and gently stirred them in.


This is what the final salad looks like. It tastes amazing too! Serve room temperature or chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

3 Quick Tips for Reducing Sugar without Feeling Deprived


Did you know that on average 40% of calories consumed come from a cup or a bottle?  From healthy-sounding fruit drinks to refreshing iced teas and fun flavored coffees, excess sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are usually lurking behind the scenes.   The problem is, these devilish drinks, however delicious, have no nutritional value and don’t fill you up, so those excess calories don’t give you a whole lot of value for your sip.

Even the vitamin-enriched versions provide little to no more benefit than regular water, often adding calories and even sodium where it’s not really necessary, especially when you have other options.  In fact, the sugar and nutrition profile of many popular beverages is shockingly similar to that of your favorite dessert, especially if it’s ice cream.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are also the largest source of added sugars in the diets of kids in the US.  With new studies showing among kids, even toddlers and preschoolers, children who drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day , as most do, have a 55% increase in odds of being overweight or obese.

Fruit juice also has a high concentration of sugar and calories while it lacks some of the nutrients and other benefits of whole fruit.  When one cup of apple juice contains 27 grams (almost 7 teaspoons) of sugar, it’s a good idea to limit quantities to no more than one serving per day and substitute fresh, whole fruit as often as possible.

On average, we’re over-consuming more than three times the daily recommended amount, which  for a normal weight adult is about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day.  Of course making the switch from your favorite beverage to something a little less sticky sounds hard to start.  But habits are best changed through favorable alternatives than cold-turkey, so trust this former junkie when I say it really is doable.

And kids are malleable too.  I gradually weaned mine off of fruit juice many years ago and we’ve never looked back.  High sugar consumption is associated with weight gain, heart disease and behavior issues, especially in kids, so managing intake makes sense.

Here are 3 Simple Tips for Reducing Sugar without Feeling Deprived:

  • You can start by simply diluting juices with water, a trick that also works well with kids, especially when done on the sly.  Gradually you’re sensitivity to the sweet stuff will increase to the point where you want and need less of it.  Eventually you may decide fruit is best enjoyed as a whole, when it contains half of the sugar and calories as the liquid stuff.
  • Naturally sweet stevia is one of the few sugar substitutes that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels the way most other sweeteners do, including honey and agave.  Although it does have a bit of an aftertaste, you might try using to sweeten lemon water, since it’s best enjoyed with citrus.  A little goes a long way.
  • Or trade your regular pre-sweetened or diet beverages for sugar-free tea, preferably the kind you brew yourself.  You’ll gain health benefits without the risk associated with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Try green tea for extra antioxidants, ginger tea to sooth the stomach or mint to add a skip to your step.  Or check out Any way you steep it, tea tops those premade packaged beverages every time.


Unbottled!  4 Delicious DIY Sugarfree Tea Recipes


On these hot summer days, you deserve some sweet refreshment without the sugary side-effects, so why not give these healthy, invigorating and delicious drinks a try?  And if you’re short on time, you’ll love my overnight tea trick. Be sure to have a stainless steel tea strainer or infuser and some large mason jars on hand to make this so simple that bottled beverages will no longer have the edge on ease of use in your house.

4 Delicious DIY Sugarfree Tea Recipes your body will love:

Hibiscus Sun Tea

The beautiful hibiscus plant makes a wonderfully tart and delicious tea, especially when sweetened with stevia.  The health benefits of this vibrant plant have been celebrated for centuries in cultures all around the world.

With studies linking the acids contained in hibiscus to lower blood pressure, this healing plant also contains phytochemicals like quercetin, shown to reduce inflammation and support kidney health, and antioxidants known to reduce the effects of aging*.

This simple recipe is perfect for steeping, no heat required.  It’s a beautiful thing to wake up to, with plenty more for all day enjoyment.


  • 8 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup hibiscus tea leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1-3 tablespoons of stevia (to taste)

For stovetop or microwave:  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea for about 20 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method:  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  One that fits inside the mouth of the mason jar is perfect for this, see below.

For either option:  Add remaining ingredients and serve iced or hot. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*While hibiscus tea is completely safe for most people, if you’re currently using prescription medications, be sure to check with your doctor before enjoying too much of this potent tea. 1-July Food Pix 023

Spicy Ginger Ade Ginger tea is as flavorful as it is invigorating; enjoy it either hot or cold.  Either freshly grated or loose dried ginger pieces are perfect for this simple brew, but pre-bagged plain ginger tea is nice too.

Ginger also offers some great health benefits;  helps with digestion and reduces inflammation, and this zippy lemon flavor combination is a delicious way to enjoy it.


  • 8 cups of water
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated fresh or dried ginger, or 5 or 6 bags of ginger tea
  • Juice of 2 large lemons (about ¼ cup)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of stevia (to taste), optional

For stovetop or microwave (best for fresh ginger):  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea for about 10-15 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method:  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  The type that fits over the mouth of the mason jar is a good choice.

For either method:  add remaining ingredients and serve iced or hot. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Minty-Lime Cooler While not forgoing the bottle entirely, this fizzy summer drink is sugar-free and perfect for kids craving something bubbly.  The tea may be brewed overnight, then topped with the sparkling water right before serving over ice for a refreshing summer beverage.


  • 5 cups of water
  • ¼  cup fresh, chopped mint leaves or 2 tablespoons looseleaf mint tea (2 tea bags may be used here too)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons of stevia (to taste)
  • 1 42.3 oz. bottle of sparkling water, unflavored or lime
  • Ice cubes

For stovetop or microwave:  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea or leaves for about 5 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method (not recommended for fresh mint):  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  The type that rests on the mouth of the mason jar is perfect for this.

For either method, add remaining ingredients except for the sparkling water, and let the tea chill to room temperature (it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week).  Serve ½ and ½ quantities of tea and sparkling water over ice and enjoy! 1-RI Visit 2014 038

Iced Chai Latte Chai is one of my favorite beverages.  It’s so spicy and satisfying, I look forward to it every morning, especially because I steep it overnight so it’s ready to simply heat and serve, no brew-time required.

Prepare it from scratch using a 1 quart mason jar and this delicious recipe, or use your favorite loose leaf chai (preferred) or pre-bagged if you find some you like.  I generally find home made or loose leaf chai to be much more flavorful than the kind that comes in a box. Combine it with your favorite plant or dairy milk, for a rich, delicious way to satisfy your thirst any time.


  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup  homemade or loose leaf chai, or 4 pre-packed tea bags
  • 3 cups oat, almond, soy or dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon stevia (optional)

Overnight or sun tea method for steeping (using a 1 quart mason jar:  Fill your stainer with chai, or place your tea bags into a your mason jar.  Pour room-temperature water into a 1 quart mason jar fitted with a stainless steel strainer  that rests on the mouth of the mason jar or use your favorite infuser.  Let sit overnight or for at least 8 hours, until fully steeped.

Pour equal amounts of chai and milk into a glass.  Mix in 1/4 teaspoon stevia, add a few cubes of ice and enjoy!

Guest Blog by Evie Borchard- Children and healthy eating: take away the chemicals, not the calories


We’re talking about growing kids here; kids whose metabolisms are likely going at record speeds (perhaps to our envy).  Unfortunately, it’s almost common belief that they should be able to eat all the fast food they want while they can “afford” to. After all, why should we parents deprive our children of the Poptarts, Chicken McNuggets, soda pops, and cheesy fries that all the kids at school enjoy regularly? Don’t they have the rest of their lives to worry about illnesses like type II diabetes, obesity,  and heart disease?

However, the connection between children and healthy eating is huge. It used to be unheard of for kids to be at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease at their young age, but when living on a western diet packed with trans-fat, high fructose corn syrup and other artificially calorie-dense foods, our children are ballooning to abnormal weights and becoming susceptible to health problems associated with the adult population. Indeed, healthy eating isn’t only for grown-ups. 

And although childhood obesity is on the rise,  overweight children aren’t the only ones at risk:  all young’ns who are eating  Mickey D’s and Ho-Hos regularly are increasing their chances of encountering future health problems.  Yup, this means the “skinny kids”.  Parents of these kids tend to receive conflicting messages regarding what their kids should be eating.  Despite common belief-and even certain doctors’ orders- you don’t need to be feeding your kids Happy Meals to fatten them up (like my parents did).  These pseudo-foods will leave your children prone to developing diet-related illnesses and could cause them to develop a taste for junk food, making fast-food-eating a habit manifesting through adulthood.  Surely there must be a method for safe and healthy weight gain in children.

Basically, the salty, mouth-watering, artificially-spiced fast food a young child is consuming actually has addictive properties, which causes healthier alternatives such as fruits and vegetables to taste blander.  For example, the overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup-filled candies may cause fruits to taste strange and less sweet, while regular Happy Meal consumption might make vegetables and beans seem yucky in comparison.  It is pretty self explanatory why this may cause problems down the road. A lack of fruits and vegetables in a child’s diet can cause deficiencies in both macro and micronutrients, and whether or not your child is overweight, the weakened immune system caused by poor nutrition leaves him or her susceptible to various infections and health problems.  For this reason, it’s important for parents to guide children towards developing a taste for healthy and wholesome foods without depriving them.

Instead of looking at healthy eating as deprivation, try to think of it as “crowding out”; you are “crowding out” your children’s typical junk food diet with more wholesome alternatives so there is no longer room for them! Now you might wonder,  “but how in the world will my kids get the calories they need for growth without eating at least some junk food?!” Fortunately, you can try these more calorie-dense healthy options:

1.  Saute and cook vegetables in olive or coconut oil

2.  Add some dried fruits to your kid’s granola or whole-grain cereal to make it more calorie-dense

3. Serve whole-grain crackers with nut butter as a snack: a good source of healthy fats

4. Make vitamin-packed fruit smoothies with nut butters and agave nectar, a low-glycemic sweetener

5. Starchy vegetables are more calorie dense: try making sweet potato fries to replace regular French fries

6.  Bananas and dates are more calorie-dense than most fruits and contain many antioxidants

7. Hemp or soy milk is more calorie-dense than most other types of milk

8. Create your own healthy trail mix with a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and even some organic chocolate chips

9. Here’s a recipe for some super-energy breakfast bars

10. A healthy alternative to Poptarts: Fruit and Nutty Breakfast Bars



Sprout into Spring for DIY Superfood


Spring is the perfect time to sprout.  With most local produce still garden-bound, we don’t need to wait for fresh, energy-boosting foods as summer rolls around.  Hang on!  Before you click off in search of health food you’ll actually eat, you may want to check this out.

Sprouts aren’t just for salads anymore, and there as so many sproutable foods aside from good ole alfalfa!   Most people think of sprouts either as a throwback to the 70’s or something to eye suspiciously at the salad bar, but there are dozens of seeds, beans and grains you can sprout right in your kitchen.  And since they’re grown hydroponically, it’s a dirt-free low maintenance process.  Sprouts are easy to grow yourself, and you can’t get fresher, more local ingredients for enlivening wraps, rolls, stir fries and smoothies so readily available right when you want them.

What makes sprout so super?  For one thing, they can contain up to 100 times more essential enzymes than whole fruits and vegetables.  The nutrient content increases dramatically during the sprouting process, and the minerals present become increasingly easier for your body to assimilate.  High in protein, B vitamins and fiber, they’re the ultimate super food!

What can you sprout?  Well since sprouting is simply seed germination, any seed, bean or grain is sproutable, although methods vary.  I find the hydroponic jar method to be the easiest way to sprout, since it’s the least messy, and produces consistently great results.  Alternatively, you can grow your sprouts in dirt, as is required for sunflower seeds and wheat grass, or use a tray for chia or quinoa sprouts.

The jar method is perfect for sprouting tasty seeds like broccoli , radish and clover, which are all great beginner varieties.  Or start with legumes!  Lentils, mung beans, garbanzos are all easy to sprout with lots of savory options. And wheat berries are simple to sprout and make delicious high-protein energy bars and breakfast cookies.

Dr.Mercola calls sprouting “undoubtedly one of the best ways to increase the nutritional content of your veggie intake even further”. 

The more I’ve learned about sprouting, the more I’ve grown to appreciate this lost art of kitchen food growing.  I’ve always got something sprouting in my kitchen, and I love sharing this simple practice with others.  And of course the more sprouts I grow, the more I eat and the more nourished I feel!

I regularly experiment with new recipes, feeling so lucky to enjoy the delicious results afterwards.  If you’re into healthy eating, I highly recommend giving this simple practice a try.    Click here for a simple step by step sprouting guide, or try using a GreenSproutKit for an all-in-one option for getting your green on today!

3 Quick and Nourishing Weekday Breakfasts


IMG_3399AI know, I get it, you don’t have time for breakfast.  You feed your cat, your kids or your goldfish first, then before you know it, it’s time to go, and feeding yourself fails to happen, again.  So by 10 o’clock you’re starving and off to the nearest Starbucks for a not-so-good-for–you morning fix.  Well guess what, Sugar?  You have to plan ahead to stay ahead, so read on to empower yourself to get started.

As you may already know, the average adult only consumes an average of ½ the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber they need each day.  And eating breakfast within 60 minutes of getting up correlates to lower caloric intake throughout the rest of the day.

So here’s your chance to start the day in the right direction.  A low-sugar breakfast rich in fiber and protein is linked to mental acuity, stable blood sugar for sustained energy, and long-term weight loss.  And believe it or not you can get it together in less time than it takes to score a bowl of cereal: with more fiber, protein and nutrients to keep you going all morning long.

Check out these three 3 quick and nourishing weekday breakfast options to pump up the protein and fiber without the sugar or saturated fats usually found in breakfast foods.  Yes, you’ll have to set aside a few minutes to prep them the night before, but you’ll find it’s time well spend after discovering the difference a consistently healthy morning start can make. Here are some of my go-to food staples:

These Super Energy Breakfast Bars really are all good; high in nutrients, fiber and protein with very low sugar and no saturated fat.

chia puddingChia Berry Breakfast Pudding is a luscious and nourishing choice for breakfast.  I blend mine smooth using frozen fruit, banana and/or avocado for the creamy texture and good monounsaturated fats that round off this brain food powerhouse.

This amazingly easy Overnight Oatmeal recipe takes the cooking time out of steel-cut oats on a busy morning.  You’ll love the less mushy texture too, almost like oatmeal is supposed to be made.1-Sprout Kit 033

Nourish yourself every morning because you deserve it.  What better way to begin a day?

Sprout Your Own Superfoods in 7 Simple Steps


We’re celebrating our exciting Food52 Green Sprout Kit launch this week with a quick review of all the reasons we love these superfoods.  Sprouts are just your everyday seeds, beans or grains taken to the next level in term s of nutrition and deliciousness just by soaking, rinsing and allowing a few days to germinate (sprout) before eating.   While you can find many sprout varieties at most health food stores, growing them yourself is fun, easy and much less expensive.

Sprouts abound with antioxidants; they’re full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. And talk about good for you:  ounce for ounce they provide more nutrients than any other whole food known.  Sprouts also contain beneficial enzymes, requiring less digestive energy so they actually invigorate you while your body processes them.

Your home grown sprouts are up to the minute fresh (they grow until ready to eat) and delicious.  Grow them right in your kitchen using just seeds, jars and screens, here’s how!

Getting Started

Beginner Varieties

Any seed, bean or grain is sproutable, but some take a bit more know-how.  Easy and tasty seed choices are alfalfa, mustard, radish and clover.  Or start with legumes!  Lentils, mung beans, garbanzos and green peas are all good choices to start with.

Sprouting Seed and Bean Selection

Choose your seeds base on taste preference.  If you like the small spouts like alfalfa, which are often used in salads, sandwiches and spring rolls, start with seeds.  If you prefer legumes (beans, lentils, peas), which make a killer stir fry, hearty salad or wonderful soup, start there.  Sprouted legumes require much less cooking time than dried and are also more tender.

The legumes you use should be “seed quality”, which are generally recommended for sprouting, as compared to “food quality”, which are intended for cooking.  Seed quality legumes are cultivated for sprouting, while food quality are meant for cooking in their dry, unsprouted state, and tend to have a lower germination rate.

Fortunately it’s becoming easier to find seeds, beans, and grains specifically grown for sprouting. These can be found in most health-food stores, often right in the bulk bins or specialty shops, and are also available online.  Once you have your seeds in hand, store them in airtight containers until you’re ready to use them, glass jars work well for this purpose

Setting Up

Growing Supplies

  • Wide mouthed mason 1 – 1.5 quart mason jar with 2 part lid.
  • Stainless steel screen or fiberglass mesh to cover the mouth of the jar
  • Sprouting bag or towel to cover your sprouting jar
  • Dish rack or flat shallow containers for the jars to drain into.

Finding Space

During the germination process sprouts, like most seeds, prefer a dark, temperate (60-85°) location away from drafts and direct heat.   You can sprout right on your kitchen counter by just covering your jar with a sprouting bar or towel to keep the light out.

Sprout Your Own Superfoods in 7 Simple Steps

1. Measure out your seeds or beans.  In general 1 oz. of seed yields about 1 cup of spouts, so ¼ cup (for a 2 cup yield), seems to be a good starting point for small seed sprouts since they have a short shelf life.  Soaked beans and legumes expand to 3-4 times when sprouted, so plan accordingly.

2. Place seeds in a mesh strainer or in your spouting jar and rinse tap water water, then drain.

If you used a strainer for rinsing, pour seeds or legumes into your mason jar.  Fill the jar ¾ with water, cap with mesh screen and lid and let soak overnight (if prepared in the evening) or for the following times:

  • Small seeds 3-8 hours
  • Larger seeds or legumes 8-16 hours
  • Grains 8-16 hours

3. After soaking, drain the water and rinse the seeds thoroughly.  The soaking water is said to contain natural toxins released from the seeds during germination, so a 2-3 time daily rinse is recommended.

4. After each rinse, place the jar upside down and tilted at a 45° angle in the spot you’ve selected and cover with a sprouting bag or towel.  The goal is to keep them damp but not soaking in water until they sprout.  The warmer and darker the location, the faster they’ll sprout.

5. Let the spouts germinate for the suggested number of days (see chart below). Sprout most seeds 1-2’, grains up to 4’, and beans ¼ to 1”.  You may want to very growth time depending on plans for use.  Shorter sprouts are great for eating whole, you’ll want then longer if you plan to juice.

6. Small seed optional (skip this step for legumes).  Once seeds have sprouted, place the jar in strong, indirect sunlight for the 2 – 3 days after to develop some nutrient-rich chlorophyll.

7. When the jar is full and the sprouts or legumes are ready to use, store in with the sprouting cap intact in the refrigerator for use within 3-5 days.  Be sure the sprouts are not stored in airtight containers and  have drained for at least 5 hours before storing, too much moisture can cause spoilage.

  • Small seeds 4-6 days
  • Larger seeds or legumes 3-5 days
  • Grains 3-5 days

It is recommended that small seeds be hulled, as in shells of the seeds removed, before placing in the refrigerator.  It’s easy to do by soaking in a large bowl of water where hulls will float to the top for easy removal.

Once you get the hang of it, sprouting can be rather addictive.  It’s amazing to watch a tiny volume of seeds grow into a jar full of fresh, antioxidant-packed sprouts in a few days.   You’ll find new ways to enjoy sprouts just so you have an excuse to keep them growing.   Sign up to receive delicious recipe ideas at

Fiber Up to Skinny Down


And boost energy, digestion and satisfaction in the process

Whether the latest diet debate centers around gluten-free or Paleo, carbs are a hot topic these days.  The problem is, the discussions typically cluster all carbs into one category:  bad, and thus all grains are also labeled.  The reasoning goes like this: all carbs, and therefore all grains, are unhealthy, fattening and strictly to be avoided, to the point where some shoppers will shell out $10 a package for Paleo Wraps.    The fallout of this oversimplification  keeps a lot of us steering clear of a really important fiber and nutrient source.

Carbohydrates are the starchy and sugary parts of food that break down into glucose, the sugar your body needs for fuel, so they do have their uses. And combining glucose with lots of plant fiber is the best way to keep blood sugar levels steady and long-lasting.  So as you may have guessed, neither all carbs nor all grains are created equal.

So what does all this have to do with fiber?  Well for one thing, we need to be eating a lot more of it.  The general recommendation for adults is 25 grams per day.  We’re currently coming in at around half of that.  Whole grains, which are made up of complex carbohydrates, which are naturally low in calories and high in fiber.  Along with plenty of plant-based whole fruits and veggies, grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  The fiber contained in complex carbohydrates, gives us the feeling of fullness that keeps us from overeating in addition to all the health benefits it offers. And researchers have linked high fiber consumption with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Then there are the other carbs—the simple or refined carbohydrates contained in white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries, crackers, most juices, and breakfast cereals. These are grains that started out whole, but then had the fibrous coating removed, so your body barely has to work to digest them.  Refined carbs enter the blood stream in a surge, leading to a spike in insulin that leads to a kind of roller-coaster effect on blood sugar: way up, then way down. Insulin surges can create a cycle of hunger and overeating in the short term, and long-term are associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.  To your body, refined grains like white rice are treated essentially the same way as a teaspoon of sugar: quick to convert to glucose, then leave you feeling hungry all over again.

Whole grains—as oats, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, and wheat berries, fall into the complex carbohydrate family, and have a more leveling effect on blood sugar and insulin than do foods like white rice or pasta. Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

Brown rice is better than white, but why not experiment with some delicious new alternatives?  A dish that contains millet, wheat berries, hulled barley or bulgar can provide about 1/3 of your daily fiber requirement.    Whole grains are also high in protein and other important nutrients like phytochemicals.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  From Minted Quinoa Tabouli, to Oven Baked Oats or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

10 Savvy Shortcuts for Streamlining Your Cooking Projects


Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, Your kitchen is the best place to start.  One primary factor in transforming your diet is relying less on restaurants and take out in favor of doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, meal preparation can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. 

Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Overnight Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a Quickie Quesadilla for lunch followed by a Snappy Veggie Stir Fry with Miso Goddess Sauce sauce over brown rice for dinner.  All of these give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans by listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.  Black self-adhesive mailing labels work well, but I like to print out these crafty pre-designed labels and keep them in the kitchen for when I need them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working to a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously.  Store your prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them at mealtime to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, not does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish, no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.

Maximizing your time in the kitchen makes it more enjoyable, and you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed by the idea of preparing meals at home.  Taking control of your health is empowering, and the kitchen is the best place to start.   So choose your favorite tips, plug them into your calendar and take the first step towards healthier eating today!

Nutrition Label Reading for Smarties


Step into any grocery store and you’ll see lots of products with claims like “Multi-grain,” “Healthy,” “All-natural” or “Gluten Free.”  The trouble is, many of these so-called “health foods” contain some of the worst ingredients, including excess sugar, suspect chemicals and additives banned in many other countries.

If this is surprising, consider who ultimately decides whether or not a food can be labeled as healthy in the US.   Not the FDA, as most people believe, it’s the manufacturer!  So the bottom line is, you can’t take what you read on the front label at face value—ever!”  And despite what the title of this article indicates, studies show that 84% of American shoppers are confused about their nutrition choices.  In short, these things are challenging by design.

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, most of us must do) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information listed, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some basic tips for healthier food selection:

  • For most of us, trying to avoid sugar is like avoiding sun exposure. We know we should, but it’s everywhere and it’s so much fun. But when on average we consume five times the daily recommended allowance of added sugars, limiting is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.  The recommended sugar intake for adult women is 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per    day, for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day.                                                                                                                                      
  • Beware of the “natural flavoring” loophole.  Natural flavoring could be anything, and if it was anything healthy, it would be listed.
  • Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!
  • Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are more than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, it’s not a healthy choice.                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Most of us fall far short of daily fiber recommendations as the chart below indicates, so be sure you’re buying whole grains whenever possible. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole. Aim for 25-35 grams (g) of total fiber each day –or 6-8 grams per meal, and 3-4 grams per snack
  • Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense. That individually wrapped granola bar may proudly announce only 50 calories per serving, but you’d have to scrutinize the fine print to discover that’s really three servings there.
  • Avoid foods containing ingredients banned in other countries, even though they’re used regularly in the US in items from breakfast cereal to energy bars to Kraft Mac n Cheese. Food colorings like Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40, BHA, arsenic and more are found in the many of the vitamin fortified family foods we eat every day.   ABC News has a handy slide show with more details here.
  • Avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Eat more whole, plant based foods to meet you daily nutrition requirements!

Check out this chart published by the USDA Dietary Guidelines to see how most of us measure up:


Amazing Lentil Benefits, Simple Cooking Methods and Yummy Recipes


Lentils, the Mega-Nutrient, Down Home Superfood

When it comes to nutrients per calorie, lentils top the list.  A rich, nutty legume with roots in the Middle East, lentils pack a serious health punch.  In fact, Health magazine calls them one of the five healthiest foods, a sentiment which is shared worldwide. To be sure, 1 cup of cooked lentils contains more than 18 grams of protein (about the same amount as a 3 oz. portion of steak, minus the saturated fat), and that’s just for starters.   Lentils also deliver plenty of dietary fiberfolateB vitamins, and minerals, making them a perfect choice for those interested in keeping blood sugar and cholesterol in check.

In case you need more convincing, most Americans come up short on meeting their dietary fiber daily intake requirements by about 50%. This key nutrient associated with weight loss and low blood cholesterol leads to sustained energy while it keeps you feeling fuller longer.  In fact, legumes such as lentils have been used to lower blood sugar levels and even reduce or eliminate prescription meds in people with Type 2 diabetes.  And for anyone concerned about too much music, lentils are also the easiest legumes to digest.

If all of these health benefits aren’t enough, try lentils for the amazing array of delicious dishes that feature this fabulous food.  A mere bite of Agape Salad had been known to soften even the most consummate carnivores it’s so savory and satisfying.   There so many lentil benefits, cooking methods and recipes, I invite you to find your own favorites.

Basic Cooking Method

Lentils are a cinch to prepare, since they don’t require soaking and cook faster than most grains and legumes.  They work wonderfully in Misc 009soups and stews, or combine deliciously into a hearty salad or side dish as well.

Storage Tip:  Store lentils in jars in your pantry, labeled with variety, date and cooking information so you don’t have to look it up next time you’re ready to prepare them.

Click here for a downloadable bulk food label template.

Lentils can be simmered in water on the stove top or cooked in consommé, bouillon or broth with equal ease.   Brown, Green and Black and Red lentils all cook similarly, however cooking times vary, see individual varieties below for details.

  1.  Place lentils in a colander and sift through them before cooking.  Remove anything not a lentil (they sometimes pick up bits of stone during harvesting), then give them in quick rinse in cold water.
  2. Pour into a large saucepan.  Add about 1 ½ cups water per cup of lentils
  3. Heat the lentils and water on the stove until they come to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered to prevent over-boiling.  (See cooking times under individual varieties below)
  5. Serve and enjoy

Optional Cooking Tip:  Remove from heat and cover tightly with the lid. Let sit for 5-10 minutes longer before serving.

Common Lentil Varieties

The large, khaki-colored lentils most commonly used in cooking are called Green or Brown lentils depending on where you shop, but suffice it to say these classic lentils are greenish-brown in color and work in any lentil recipe, although they’re on the softer side once cooked and more mild-flavored than other varieties. Cook for 25-40 minutes.

French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)  are slighly smaller than the brown variety.  This dark green legume is often considered the tastiest, with a slight peppery flavor to round it out.  Slightly firmer than Brown lentils, but may be substituted in most recipes.  Cook for 35-45 minutes.

Black or Beluga Lentils are a smallest variety with a delicious, nutty flavor that lends itself well to whole grain or arugula salads.  Also lovely combined with French lentils to vary the texture.  Cook 20-30 minutes.

Red lentils are sweetest of the bunch, these salmon colored legumes transform into a golden puree when cooked.  A perfect addition to soups or stews, they’re often used in curry dishes.   Cook for 25 minutes, into a thick puree.

Basic Lentil Recipe Ideas

There are as countless ways to prepare lentils, and it’s easy to get creative and invent your own favorites!  I like to prepare mine according to the cooking instructions above, and add in some of the following items for every 3-4 cups of cooked Green, Black or French lentils:

Add during last 5 minutes of simmer time (return lentils to simmer before restarting the timer):

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (skin on)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped fennel

Mix in with cooked lentils:

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. dried mustard
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

Sauté for 5 – 10 minutes with slightly under-cooked lentils (in addition to any of the items listed above):

  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped parsnip
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped spinach

Or try one of these delicious recipes:

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Agape Salad

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

Moving Toward Solutions, Pollan’s Edible Education Series and Simple Soul Food


There is so much more to food than meets the plate.  Food is emotional, social, political and environmental…among other ideas all brilliantly explored in Michael Pollan’s online UC Berkeley Edible Education Series.  This series of free videos unveils a smorgasbo1-rebecca_stark_MP_0170rd of theory from some of the most influential voices in the food movement.

These engaging hour-long lectures explore a wide range of food-related concepts through the experts who know this subject matter best.  The individual perspectives keep it interesting, where some of the presenters wax philosophical, others prefer to keep it fact-centered.  As a 101 class, nothing is taken for granted, and the ample time frame for lecture followed by Q & A lays a thorough groundwork for understanding.

From a practical standpoint, several concepts from the series stand out.  Dr. Marion Nestle’s work on diet related disease and food safety emphasizes issues created by industrial food marketing and politics.    She compellingly explains how federal and corporate policies have come together to create an “eat more” environment which is one of the main factors in the obesity epidemic we’re facing today.  How do we get healthy food to the people who need it within a system that subsidizes the foods that are making poor people sick?

Pollan recognizes there are no easy answers to these questions.  As a society we’ve made a series of choices that led us here, and reversing the ready availability of cheap, low quality food will be no easy feat.  He additionally reminds us that this is the second food movement of its kind, with a focus on slow, local and organic.  The original movement of the seventies fizzled, and he predicts it’s too soon to tell whether this one will follow the same fate.

Movie director Peter Sellers (oddly enough in this mix) animatedly discusses the spiritual nature of food, suggesting the answer lies there.  His closing comments came as surprisingly solutions-oriented after his colorful lecture.  He proposes that framing the obesity problem as caused by a limited availability of healthy food affordable is oversimplification.  He maintains that the greatest food in history is the working class food that has shaped entire cultures.

Think of how people in the Middle East and Asia eat, and how they enjoy and celebrate simple everyday foods like vegetables, beans, lentils, grains and rice.  Seller’s also points out that these are the foods often containing the most chemically sophisticated combinations of ingredients, nutrients with properties as yet undiscovered.

Inspirational as these lectures are, they do make apparent the both the urgency and complexity of a problem with no easy solution.  Yet rather than dwell on the negative, while waiting for the movement to bring about change.   Progress begins in multiple small ways, personal and community efforts, collaboration among like-minded people.  Clearly in the face of dwindling resources, and consistent with the Edible Education Lecture Series, it’s time to eat closer to the earth, as in more plant-based, nutrient rich, real whole foods.  And reawakening to all of the ways our everyday choices have huge impact all the way around the world makes us remember we do have power.  When we resolve to live mindfully and eat consciously we further the movement toward a solution, gathering momentum one step at a time.

3 Simple Tips to Enliven Your Life With Healthier Food Choices


Even though 9 out of 10 of us are convinced that our eating habits are healthy, we’re seeing our Mother and daughter in produce sectionalready high diet-related disease rates continue to rise.  I know, I get it; a few years back I was among those 9!

And since back then I was exercising, eating low-fat, high protein foods, getting plenty of fruit and greens and steering clear of anything obviously junky, I thought I was on it.  But it wasn’t until I discovered that my many of my all-natural, fat-free and healthy favorites were full of ingredients that just didn’t belong in food, that I really caught on.

Ten years of search and discovery, trial and tribulation, and a Cornell University Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition later, I’m sharing what I’ve learned.  What you eat makes a huge difference in how you look, think and feel, and if you care about those things, you can change your diet and change your life!

Upgrade your eating habits starting today with three healthier food habits

1.    Commit to cooking and eating more plant-based whole foods.  On average, the American diet is 70% processed foods, and we’re consuming a greater number of empty calories than ever before. We’re meeting less than half of the recommended daily requirements for most essential nutrients, meanwhile doubling down on the foods linked to diet-related disease.  While I don’t agree with the US Department of Agriculture’s recommendations on dairy and seafood (and since these food categories don’t really belong in a list of nutrients per se), it’s otherwise from clear from the USDA chart that replacing refined foods and meat products with fruits, vegetables and whole grains will make a major impact in reversing disease trends.   The best place to get started is right in your own kitchen, where you know exactly what goes into the food you eat.

  2.   Learn to use a healthy whole foods shopping list, like this one!  This list contains      everything I recommend including into your diet, with room to add the things you can’t live without.  Use it to begin to replace some of the items you’re been buying that you know aren’t good for you one or two at a time.   For example, try whole grain bread and pasta instead of white flour-based, or pick up some almonds in place of potato chips to snack on.  And if the preprinted list doesn’t include items you can’t live without (yet!), just list them on the blank lines.  Please don’t list Doritos.

Here are the rules for the getting the most from the list (should you choose to follow them):

  • You must keep this list where you will see it, like on the fridge or on a drawer with your keys in the kitchen.  If not, you will forget to mark it right away when you run out of something and it won’t work.
  • You must commit to stick to the list while shopping.  It’s best to decide up front not to even look at the items you know you shouldn’t buy and won’t miss, but if you happen to notice they’re on sale 2 for 1, all bets are off.  Do yourself a favor and if you’re better off without it, avoid that section of the store.
  • You must inventory your fridge and cabinets before you leave the house to make sure you have yourself covered until the next shopping trip you have scheduled next week.  Because if you plan ahead, you’ve got it!

Keep in mind this simple equation if you get stuck:  fewer trips to the store = less impulse buying = less money spent on bad food = more money to spend on new, possibly smaller sized clothes.

3.    Always read the label.  New studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients labels, and if it contains products that sound like chemicals, know you’re better off without it.

Remember, the food you eat is inextricably tied to health, energy levels, even happiness, so it’s important to rank it the top priority it deserves to be.  Which sounds easy but it involves knowing how to plan, shop and, for most of us who live within a budget, re-discovering how to cook.   I know you don’t have time.  Neither did I.  I’m a busy, working mom, and I had to struggle through figuring out how to make all those realities fit together.  The strategies and recipes I’ve created are here to help you.

Whether it’s cutting back on prepared foods, including more veggies and fiber in your diet, or swearing off fast food forever, the point is to get started, today!  One step in the right direction will yield numerous benefits.  You’ll also discover delicious new dishes that you didn’t have to pay a lot of money for, food that’s good for you, and you’ll have the satisfaction of having prepared it yourself.  It’s easier than you think when you begin at the beginning, by making a mindful commitment to adapt healthier habits because you’re worth it.  You’re on the start of a journey that could change your life, so take the first step today!

5 Simple Healing Foods and Proven Edible Remedies


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It’s all too easy to turn to a bottle for relief during cold and flu season, but the problem is, over-the-counter cold remedies are simply not curative.  When the immune system is compromised, you need nutritive foods to strengthen it.  The immune system resides in the small intestine, the same organ that absorbs key nutrients into the bloodstream.   So it only makes sense to use mama nature’s edible remedies during the winter months to fight off sickness even through the worst of the seasonal ills. While there are many healing foods and supplements for immune support to choose from, here are a few of my family faves:

Probiotics are microorganisms that resemble the beneficial bacteria which occur naturally in the human gut. Known as “good bacteria” probiotics are used to alleviate and prevent illness, especially issues associated with the digestive tract. Clinical trials have demonstrated that taking probiotics may decrease the incidence of respiratory tract infections.  Available in tablet form in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, use probiotics during cold and flu season to build your immunity and help you to ward off sickness.

Ginger tea  With a multitude of health benefits behind it, ginger is a go-to herb during cold and flu season.  According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, fresh ginger prevents human respiratory virus from infecting cells in the upper respiratory tract, while stimulating cells to secrete a protective anti-viral protein.  Ginger also hinders mucous production and helps to relieve congestion.  Grate some fresh ginger into a cup of hot water, add some lemon juice and honey for a simple wellness tonic.

Try turmeric tablets to reduce inflammation associated with a cold or flu.  Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and has long been used in Chinese medicine as treatment for depression.

Chia Pudding  On low energy days, this is a perfect choice for breakfast, and if you haven’t tried chia seeds, you’re in for a treat.  These tiny seeds contain more omega 3s than salmon, more antioxidants than blueberries, plus ample calcium, fiber and protein (4 grams in just 2 tbsps).  Relatively low in calories for all of the amazing nutrients they deliver, chia seeds are naturally gelatinous in water, so blended with anti-oxidant-rich berries and oranges loaded with vitamin C, this delicious breakfast pudding will give you a boost to last all morning long.

Sample Savory Carrot Soup  This lively soup is a wellness bonanza, with ginger and spices that both enhance the flavor and give your immune system an extra boost.  Carrots are loaded with Vitamin C, Beta Carotene and antioxidants, a potent combination for healing.  Delicious sprinkled with sunflower seeds for extra crunch and protein.

Most importantly, be sure to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and avoid refined processed foods as much as possible, since sugar in all of its forms has been shown to compromise the immune system and drain your energy.  The key to wellness is healthy diet, so shop smart, cook often and enjoy all the goodness the cold weather brings your way.

Turmeric to the Rescue



If you’re new to the wonders of turmeric, there is more to this healing herb than meets the palate.

1-2014-01-13 10.39.40You’ve probably heard of this exotic-sounding spice, but you may not have had a chance to try it.  Aside from its growing popularity as a cooking herb, turmeric is actually becoming recognized is one of nature’s most powerful healers.   Turmeric is a plant root similar in appearance to ginger, typically dried and used as seasoning, most commonly in Indian cuisine.  The goodness doesn’t stop there though, this savory herb contains a whole bevy of health (and beauty!) benefits as well.

Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and has long been used in Chinese medicine as treatment for depression.  Turmeric is readily available in capsule form at most health food stores, but it’s best to look for a high-quality, 100% organic-based turmeric supplement, such as India Organic.  I take it daily, as does my daughter with cold-induced asthma for its anti-inflammatory properties.  And as with most remedies, you should consult with a health care professional before using it.

Turmeric is also a beauty booster.  New studies show it may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots when added to moisturizer.  It actually contains antioxidants that reduce DNA damage in skin cells and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling.  For a DIY idea, simply grate the fresh root and add it to your favorite organic facial mask, then store it in the fridge.  The color is rather shocking while on, but washes off quite easily and the treatment is so refreshing!  Find turmeric root at most health food store.   Internally ingested or outwardly absorbed, turmeric is a benefits-packed wonder herb that will help keep you healthy inside and out.

Navigating the Diet, Calorie and Nutrition Conundrum


UnknownGuestSpeakerThe New Year is the perfect time to take a step back, look at our lives and really evaluate.  Are you as healthy and happy as you want to be, or are you feeling stuck in sluggish mode?  Especially after the holidays many of us fall into the latter category.  This is not our natural state!  If you’re feeling heavy, tired, or depressed, then your health is out of balance.   Many of us don’t realize that diet plays a key factor in either promoting or alleviating these unhealthy conditions.  The amazingly good news is, you have the ability to rebalance your diet and feel your best right though the everyday choices you make!

Now is the time, and it’s more straightforward than you think.  As you may know, not all calories are created equal, which kind of skews the simple calories in, calories out equation.   Some foods are more high-quality, as in, more nutritionally dense than others.  While you would need to be well-versed in nutrition science to assess this correctly every time, most of us know in general say, that a piece of fruit is healthier than a fruit roll up.  Real food always beats the processed version, we’ll start with that.

Calories differ in other ways too.  Foods like fiber-rich veggies burn calories just through digestion, while other foods, including many ingredients of refined, processed foods, actually incite cravings, and since the body doesn’t get to process refined foods, they go unnoticed by your hunger center.  In short, they just don’t satisfy.

What about Diet?

Of course all of the ado about individual diets creates even more confusion.  And as Nutritionista extraordinaire Meghan Telpner reminds us in her Enliven interview, diets don’t come in one-size-fits-all.   More typically they come in fads, which lots of us try, but just like miniskirts and platform stilettos, they simply won’t work for everybody.  Gluten-free anyone?

The problem with most diets is you have to work to stay on them.  And when you finally take a break, it’s so much more enjoyable you’ve taught yourself to associate diet with denial.  It’s hard to willingly opt for that.  So adapting a new definition of diet may make sense.  It’s really about finding the most nutritionally dense foods that work for your body, without overeating.  And since in general, the most nutritionally dense foods are the most fibrous, filling and satisfying, with some planning ahead you won’t experience the dissatisfaction that leads to cravings and overeating.

How do you find the foods your body needs to feel your best?  First, begin by making sure you’re getting enough of the foods you may be deficient in.  This illustrative chart from the USDA measures the average nutritional profile.AmericanDiet_vs_TargetDiet-560x342

As you can see, Americans are way too low on whole foods, and way too high on solid fats SoFas), saturated fats, refined grains and sodium, all of the ingredients so prevalent in processed foods.  The best place to start improving your eating habits is to replace all of the nutritionally devoid foods shown on the USDA chart, with healthy foods rich in nutrients we’re getting too few of, mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.  I don’t personally agree with the dairy suggestion on the chart, for reasons discussed in depth by author Rita Rivera in her Enliven interview, but the remaining suggestions are generally accepted as good health advice.

So goal number one regardless of the rest of your dietary plan, is to replace refined processed foods with healthy whole foods as much as possible.  On average, 70% of the food we’re eating is processed.  Not all processed foods are bad, but it’s important to avoid the high percentage of overly refined processed foods that have become so widespread in our culture.  This can be tricky, because it does require a bit of working knowledge.  It also involves a habit many of us avoid, reading labels.

Read Food Labels

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, many of us must) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some simple rules of thumb so if you have to buy packaged foods, at least there’s less of a risk factor.  And even if you go no further and remember nothing else, it will always benefit you to keep in mind this inconvenient truth that we all need to remember: never believe the claims you read on the front of the package.  If you’re interested in making healthier food choices by understanding nutrition labels, here are some tips:

  1. Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense.  Bottled beverages, even those that look like they’re meant for one, often use this tactic to make calorie counts seem lower than they really are.  Even clearly individually packaged items like sports bars and muffins sometimes list two servings per piece, so it always makes sense to check.
  2. In the US, we consume on average 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar per day (more than 4 times the 5 teaspoons the American Heart Association recommends for women), so attempting to reduce when possible is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.    The most common tactic manufacturers use to sneak it in? Mixing the names of different sweeteners so the weight is spread out among several forms of sugar. Some to look out for:  honey, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, fructose, maltose, and lactose.
  3. Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!  It’s also healthier to avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  4. Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are less than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, put it back.
  5. Make sure you’re buying whole grains. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole.
  6. Finally, beware of words you don’t know or recognize in the ingredients. If you wouldn’t stock them in your kitchen, it’s because they don’t belong in your food!  Of course it’s important to focus on what to include, and not just what to avoid.  For a comprehensive shopping list of healthy foods to include in your diet, visit

Updating your shopping habits with nutritious choices will make a tremendous difference in your energy level, weight and overall health.  It’s a step-by-step process, and involves a new level of awareness and commitment.  But once you start experiencing the benefits of a better diet, you may be surprised to learn your favorite thing about your new diet is how amazingly delicious that real, healthy food can be!

Mindful Eating, 5 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick


If you’re riding the wellness resolution trend this year, you may want to take note.   While the New Year may harken the best of intentions, they’re usually short-lived.  When it comes to health and mindful eating, less than 10% of resolutions survive the test of time, and I’m talking months, not years.  The fact is, Americans make over 200 food-related decisions per day according to a recent study, yet when asked to estimate that number, participants’ guess an average of 15.  Yes it’s true, the vast majority of our eating is done mindlessly.

But there is good news too!  You have the power to change your mindless eating default and bring these decisions to the forefront (frontal lobes in this case), where they belong.   So IF you’re serious about a New Year’s resolution that involves improving your energy level, losing weight and feeling happier all around, listen up.   Here are some common-sense strategies for making it happen for real this time.

1. Discover your most compelling motive for making change.  Motivation plays the biggest role when it comes to enacting long term, positive behavior change.  But identifying your true motive may not be as obvious as it seems at first glance.  Ask yourself, “Why do I want to lose weight, really?  What will the outcome look or feel like?”  Dig deep and envision clearly.

Leading neuro-science expert Dr. Daniel Amen keeps a picture of his grandson where he’ll see it every day, as a reminder of his real motive for keeping his health a priority.  The mocha fudge becomes less tempting when you connect it to a bigger picture, as in avoiding options that move you further away from your goals.  The same rationale has been effectively used by former smokers to kick the habit, it works!

Another great way to do this is to create a vision board, complete with images, as in pictures of loved ones you’d like to have the energy to spend more time with, or people who inspire you through their achievements that you know are not outside your realm of possibility too.

2. Then choose one habit that you know isn’t serving you.  Do you hit the drive-through every morning only to end up so hungry you’re wondering how you’ll possibly make it all the way until lunch?  Nosh on packaged snacks when you get home from work and regret all the empty calories later?  Instead of resolving to diet away the extra ten pounds, start with one simple behavior change directed toward achieving that goal.  Give yourself time to get comfortable with that change, whether it’s days, weeks or months until this becomes your new normal.  Now you’re ready to take another step, and repeat until your diet brings you all of the benefits excellent health has to offer.

3. State your personal credo, write it down and memorize it.  Sticking to a healthy routine that’s working feels great, but you still need to prepare for the unexpected.  The homemade cheesecake muffins your well-meaning co-worker shares with the group, the Philly Cheesesteak your partner wants to share, the small vs. jumbo-sized anything.  If these offers cross your path, decide in advance on your default, then remember your credo when temptation strikes.  The treat will be gone in a moment, but the self-empowerment of establishing new resolve keeps on growing, long after the dazzle has fizzled and the New Year has passed.

So now you’ve made a mindful decision to prioritize health and wellness this year.  You know your motives, you’re prepared with healthy alternatives and you know your credo.   The question then becomes, in times of stress or temptation, how do we stay aligned with our best intentions?

4. Avoid your triggers, and pack alternatives  If you know you’re tremendously tempted by your mom’s homemade lasagna, with it layers of cheese and rich, meaty sauce, instead of hoping you’ll have the willpower to resist, which after a glass of wine and a little convincing, you won’t, plan ahead.  Eat some raw veggies or fruit and drink a big glass of water before you’re in any situation where you’re inclined to be hungry and lots of food you know you’ll regret later is imminent.   Decide in advance how much you’ll try, and stick to it.  Have a ¼ piece of lasagna and fill the rest of your plate with veggies.   Don’t break the code:  once you start snacking on empty carbs it’s much harder to stop, so make your snacks healthy, even if you have to bring them yourself.  The key again is to plan ahead.

5. Make your health a top priority!  You may have noticed that sometimes your willpower seems stronger than others.  Ever wonder why when you’re calm and well-rested, you seem less inclined to succumb to temptation?  One reason is pure physiology.  It takes energy to exercise willpower, and if we’re out of fuel, we’ll have less of it. If it’s way past lunchtime, you’re beyond hungry and the only opportunity to appease that need is the big Mickey D’s, you may stop, and once you’re there at that drive though and your willpower is weak, all bets are off.  So avoid these pitfalls!

  • Get enough rest (a huge factor in harnessing willpower)
  • Exercise even a little bit every day, even 15 minutes of brisk walking counts!
  • Prepare ahead to avoid the pitfalls

Yes this takes intention and even a bit of time, but you already have the tools you need to succeed, including the willpower.  When you prioritize your health, you’ll bring your best self to the table, making smart choices easier and happy outcomes more likely every time.

DIY Ideas for Meaningful Holiday Giving


DIY-Gift-Images-0192It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn to loved ones, traditions, and as a matter of course, gift giving.  And if you happen to forget that last one, simply enter any store or open your mailbox and you’re in for a hasty reminder.  Having recently moved, I’m reminded of the importance of collecting discriminately; most of us don’t need more stuff.  Yet holiday gift giving is a special practice, especially when imparted with a creative, personal touch.   So this year I’m turning to tea for a fresh DIY gift idea, combining the best of both notions into a thoughtful gift, tailored especially for the recipient.

Those of you short on time will love this one.  It’s easy to infuse with intention, healing benefits or just plain decadence if that’s your goal.  (more…)

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?


Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?If you’re expecting a diet pill or calorie cutting plan, you may be disappointed.  The only investment you’ll need to make for this weight loss regimen is maybe a good pair of reading glasses.

A full 70% of food we eat is processed.  True that’s a high number, but since my favorite whole grain bread ranks on that list, I’m not throwing in the towel and neither should you.  The trick is to being to make more informed choices.  Luckily no special skills are required to recognize the good from the garbage.  I’m not suggesting you no longer enjoy your treats if you can’t live without them, just know that some treats are trickier than others.  The secret to which is which lies in the small print on the side of the package.

Women who regularly read ingredients labels weigh an average of eight pounds less than the rest of us.  I know those tiny numbers are confusing, but even when you don’t know what all of them mean, you know enough to weed out (more…)

Favorite Tips to Spice Up Your Beans


2013-10-21 13.49.12Certain seasonings will make your beans sing, rely on them and you’ll rarely be disappointed.  Some of favorite spices for beans include:  garlic, parsley, cumin, thyme, basil, oregano, fennel, and pepper of any kind, but truth be told, it’s hard to go wrong no matter how you spice it.

  • A good measure for dried spices is 1 teaspoon of seasoning per 4 cups of cooked beans.

A favorite cold-weather seasoning suggestion is to add a touch of smoky flavoring to your soup, chili or veggie bake.  I’ve recently discovered this amazing coconut bacon made of real ingredients and no artificial additives.  (more…)

Healthy, Delicious and Efficient, oh my!


portraits-headshots-rebecca-stark-photographer-0130It’s no surprise that one of the best ways to improve your diet is to start in your kitchen.  Eating out is directly correlated with weight gain, and as we know, the diet-related disease rates in the US continue to rise. Lack of time is the biggest obstacle for lots of us, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you’re looking for efficient and delicious menu ideas, this blog is for you!

Starting this week, I’ll be posting more of my favorite five-minute dishes.  Essentially, you can make a main dish in just minutes of you’ve prepared a sauce and a grain or a bean in advance.  It’s easier than you think, I promise.


A Smarter Start: Ignore the front cover, focus on the ingredients list!



I was reading one of my favorite new books, Pandora’s Lunchbox, and getting a serious education on the synthetics contained in most breakfast cereals, when the author mentioned Kellogg’s Smart Start.  It sounds so healthy, and who wouldn’t want a smart start when the box looks so appealing?   Really, what’s not to like?  To find out, I turned to my old friend, Wikipedia, which very conveniently lists ingredients for many common packaged foods.  In fact, if you hate the idea of standing in the grocery store aisle trying to make out the fine print, try Wiki first and save yourself some shopping time later.


Time Saving Cooking Tips for Easy Meal Preparation, from Scratch



Ask any busy mom why she doesn’t cook at home, and you’ll get some version of the same answer. But take a moment to reflect on what “I don’t have time” really means, and you’ll notice some loopholes in that argument. Meaning that it’s hard to really know whether you have enough time to cook unless you’ve tried these time saving cooking tips before, since as of now you don’t know actually know how much time they take.

And it’s a valid concern. Why invest valuable time to learn something you’re not going to use?


Ten Healthy Lunch and Snack Ideas for Kids (and grown-ups)


healthy-snacks-for-kidsIt’s the bane of parents of school-aged children everywhere. Ask any mom her biggest challenges with raising school aged children, and somewhere among them, almost cringingly whispered, come those two dreaded words: making lunch.  The daily grind of making sure you have enough variety in stock is challenging.

It’s hard to find healthy foods your kids will eat. Yet with popular faves like Turkey + Cheddar Lunchables packing in at least half a days’ worth of saturated fat, most ready-made snacks are no good solution.


Unbelievably Easy Rice Paper Wraps



I love fresh spring rolls, or salad wraps as they’re sometimes called.   The Thai-inspired kind prepared with raw, julienned vegetables snugly encased in a rice paper wrapper, made even more delicious with a savory dipping sauce served on the side.  It’s a simple concept, yet one of those recipes I hesitated to try at home.

My problem was with the rice paper wrappers.  I would buy them periodically, but my good intentions were always cut short by the lack of directions on the package.  Eventually, as in a long time later, I would feel compelled to toss them, unopened, they were so old.  Why it took me to long to simply look up the directions, I’ll never know,  but I tell you now that I’ve got a handle on it, making healthy, delicious spring rolls is embarrassingly easy and very kid-friendly.


Four Beauty Foods to the Rescue!


Beets&cabbageIf you’re familiar with celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, you may have seen her recent segment with Dr. Oz on the four foods that combat signs of aging, the same ones I have and Kimberly obviously does not.  Crow’s feet are one example.  I was happy mine could be Photo-shopped off the picture we used for Beanalicious Living, but that still leaves the real life wrinkles to deal with.  For this problem and others, here are four beauty foods to the rescue, starting with watercress.

I like the idea of replacing pricey eye cream with nourishing beauty food.  Kimberly recommends using this zesty green as an alternative to lettuce in things like spring rolls, salads and wherever else you can fit it in.


Top Ten Reasons to Eat Your Beans


Did you know, thousands of new processed food products are introduced each year, with billions of industry dollars spent encouraging us to eat them?  The US is now the most overweight industrial nation in history.  Do they really think we need more food?

Newsflash industrial ag!  You’re heading in the wrong direction.  We don’t need more additives, chemicals or GMOs, it’s time we turned back to the basics, where natural nutrition and good taste meet.  In other words, back to the beans.

Beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week  If nutritional punch and sheer deliciousness don’t grab you, how about the biggest bang for your buck as another great reason to get those beans boiling?