What we already know.

When asked, I had told someone the other day what I do as a profession (educating people on why it’s important to eat more veggies and fruits, how to read nutrition labels, sharing the concept of whole food nutrition, etc.) and he laughed. Like really loud, in my face laughed. And then he sneered, “People already know what’s healthy and what’s not, don’t we?? We just don’t do it!”

I must say this is true….generally speaking, we do know that a bacon double cheeseburger is less healthy than a spinach and kale salad with roasted beets and almonds. At least I hope so. But our biggest most disastrous problem is our little taste buds. Those unruly, sit-in-the-corner-because-you-were-misbehaving little things have what seems to be an unbreakable written-in-blood pact with our brain cells. It appears to be almost gang-like; so tightly connected that there is no separating them–even with threats of torture and death. We ARE smart creatures when there’s not a bacon double cheeseburger and fries sitting in front of us. But as soon as our trouble-making taste buds get a smidgen of grease and goodness on them, the fight is over. The human brain, arguably one of the smartest in the world, is somehow forced into making dumb decisions about what goes into the body to be used for fuel.

Several times each week…sometimes a few times each day…I have to repeat “This is FUELING my body. That is not.” Of course I don’t always want to choose the healthy stuff. But I’m an adult. And I’m halfway smart. And I know what is going to make me feel good and I know what is going to make me feel like laying my head down on my desk for 3 hours. I just have to force my decision-making brain cells into agreement sometimes.

It really is easy and it really isn’t rocket science. My friend, Dr. Brad Metzler, had this on his FB wall the other day. I love it. A good reminder for what we do, in fact, already know.

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Post-Thanksgiving Hangovers

Thanksgiving weekend goes pretty much like this: food, wine, family, more food, more wine, hors d’oeurves, desserts, copious amounts of coffee for Black Friday shopping, leftover turkey, fruitcake, a few more glasses of wine…and then all of a sudden it’s Monday. It is a wonderful weekend in so many ways, but it sometimes gifts us with a big fat hangover in all senses of the word. So now…aside from taking a day off work to sit on the couch and watch 10 episodes of Criminal Minds, what can we do to recover?

1. Drink water. Surprise…like I haven’t said this one before. Hydrating your body will help to ‘dilute’ excessive sodium consumed over the weekend in the form of gravy and stuffing and pretty much everything else that we loaded up on. Excess sodium intake equals bloating and swollen fingers. Drink more water than you feel is possible. It will raise your energy level and keep your brain hydrated..which, in turn, will give us the brain power to Just Say No to gorging on those leftovers in the fridge. On another note…If you are suffering from a “I had too much to drink” hangover, try some coconut water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. You can also make a way-healthier DIY sports drink…water, citrus, a bit of sugar or honey and a pinch of salt.

2. Cleanse. I’m not advocating one of those extreme kits that you have to order from late-night tv watching. Cleansing can be as simple as eating only whole-foods for a few days and skipping the drive thru and restaurant fare. Nothing processed, no animal products and no sugary sweets. Whole foods (veggies, fruits, nuts and grains) are easy to digest in our bodies and give us the fiber that we need to get our digestive systems back on board with keeping us healthy. A naturopathic doctor that I respect often recommends spending one day just eating apples after your body has come under dietary abuse. Water, herbal teas and as many apples as you would like. Try it…it’s actually not as weird as it sounds.

3. Get active. Go outside and breathe in the healthy, healing oxygen. Fill up your lungs as you walk, jump rope, practice some yoga, take a spin on your bike or ask a friend to borrow their rebounder for a few days (b/c most people that own them don’t use them!). Activity will get your sluggish lymph system flowing again and will help to do away with that ‘UGH’ feeling when you try to button your favorite pants on Monday morning.

4. Take the night off. From eating, that is. Energetically speaking, evening hours are when our bodies are working to clear and cleanse out the day’s food intake. Sleeping if for sleeping–not digesting…which is why so many health experts recommend not eating for several hours before you hit the hay. Give your organ systems a break (and a chance to catch up and recover from the excessive food consumption the last few days). Skipping dinner won’t be the end of the world for most of us, and you’ll wake up feeling rested and actually hungry for breakfast.  In the winter, it is best to eat your biggest meal of the day before 4pm (before 5pm in the summer). I don’t always do this either, but I type it knowing how much better I feel when I do!!

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Put down the hotdogs and no one gets hurt…

As requested from my dear friend Jackie…today’s food for thought is nitrates. And nitrites. And hotdogs. Especially in time for Notre Dame football season, during which I often consume plenty of the above along with several servings of jalapeno nachos smothered in florescent orange chemical cheese-like product. (Thanks for the laugh Elaine Ellis.) Thank God I don’t go to more than 2 football games in a year.

For this post, I have outsourced to Dr. Carol Watson, RN and Naturopathic Doctor. She had a wonderful article on the topic awhile back. So wonderful in fact, that I will just place an excerpt from it right in here for you all to read:

…All of those dangers aside, I would like to bring to your attention, what I consider the most life-threatening ingredient in hot dogs (and all processed meats, i.e. Luncheon meats): Sodium Nitrate/nitrite. Nitrates are changed into nitrites by metabolism when we eat them, or by the action with the protein of raw meat being cured. Such is the case with hot dogs. Hot dogs contain nitrites which are used as preservatives, primarily to combat botulism. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain (2).

And, how do all these chemical additives/preservatives affect our children? Listed below are just three of the different studies that have found the consumption of hot dogs to be a risk factor for childhood cancer.

  • Peters et al. studied the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10 in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 1987. The study found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia. A strong risk for childhood leukemia also existed for those children whose fathers’ intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month (3).
  • Researchers Sarusua and Savitz studied childhood cancer cases in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy have approximately double the risk of developing brain tumors. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer (4), (5).
  • Bunin et al, also found that maternal consumption of hot dogs during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of childhood brain tumors (6).

A couple of other studies you may find of interest for adults:

  • According to a University of Hawaii study that followed nearly 200,000 people for seven years, people who consumed the most processed meats (hot dogs and sausage) showed a 67% increase risk of pancreatic cancer over those who consumed little or no processed meat products.
  • Researchers found that eating processed meat 5 or more times/week increased a man’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 50% (7).
  • The risk of colon cancer increases by 50% with long-term consumption of high amounts of processed meats such as hot dogs (8).

Buyer beware, because all cured meats contain nitrites. These include bacon, cold cuts, lunch meats, deli meats, and smoked fish. Learn to read your labels! Also know that not all hot dogs and cured meats have nitrites now. Because of modern refrigeration methods, nitrites are now used more for the red color they produce (which is associated with freshness) than for preservation. Nitrite-free hot dogs, while they taste the same as nitrite hot dogs, have a brownish color that has limited their popularity among consumers. You can find these at your local health food market (also look for nitrite free turkey bacon and turkey cold cuts if you must have these foods).

I’ve already purchased some ‘uncured’ all beef hotdogs for tailgating purposes in hopes that I won’t consume the usual suspects inside the stadium. Try Applegate Farms: “All of the meat, none of the mystery” Ingredients: Organic Grass-Fed Beef, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Paprika, Celery Powder, Organic Onion Powder, Lactic Acid Starter Culture (Not From Milk).


1. “Hot Dog Facts”-see www.vesrv.com/hd_facts.htm

2. Lijinsky W, Epstein, S. “Nitrosamines as environmental carcinogens,” Nature 225 (5227): 2112, 1970.

3. Peters J, et al “Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA)” Cancer Causes & Control 5: 195-202, 1994.

4. Sarasua S, Savitz D. ” Cured and broiled meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States),” Cancer Causes & Control 5:141-8, 1994.

5. Kahn, E., G. Bunin, L. Kushi, and J. Brown. 1996. Maternal cured meat consumption and risk of childhood brain tumor: Other explanations. Am J Epidemiol 139:S9.

6. Bunin GR, et al. “Maternal diet and risk of astrocytic glioma in children: a report from the children’s cancer group (United States and Canada),Cancer Causes & Control 5:177-87, 1994.

7. Diabetes Care; March 2002; 25:417-42.

8. Journal of the American Medical Association; January 12, 2005; 293(2):172-182.

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Gluten-Free Confessions…

June 1 was the date I went gluten-free. Not because it is the new, cool thing to do, but because a blood test showed a high likelihood that I am allergic to gluten. So I’m giving it a try for 3 months. Now, I’m not advocating that everyone start this diet, but please regard this post as a hazard sign along the gluten-free path that some take.

I don’t eat boxed cookies. I mean, I didn’t. Until June 1. Then I discovered gluten-free cookies. And I bought them and I ate them and I bought more and I ate those and then I tried some other kinds, and those were good too… you get the idea. Healthier than my diet before June 1? Nope. I have gained weight, I have been close to getting a cold (because of all the sugar) and I, in general, feel pretty badly about myself.

Why is it that our brains have such a funny relationship with food? Somewhere in the back of my mind I may have been worried that I wasn’t going to get enough to eat since I suddenly couldn’t have gluten!? So I turned to cookies. Chocolate chip, raisin, double chocolate chunk. Now I’m feeling less ‘healthy’ and more ‘chocolate chunk’ than ever before.

So, my dear readers, please keep me accountable to eating what I know is good. Ingredients that I can pronounce, food that is real, loads of raw fruit and veg, and the widest variety I possibly can.  My life was just fine before gluten-free baked goods, and I’m sure it will be fine without them now as well.  =-)

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I’m sick. Now what?

So many people lately are feeling under the weather…myself included. I learned today that my housemate’s cold and flu prevention tactics are eating garlic, practicing poor personal hygiene and not taking showers. His reasoning? When people keep their distance from you, their germs are further from your reach as well.  Logical, I suppose, but even stinky people get sick once in a while.

Luckily there are some very simple ways to get back on your feet…and some habits that may be sabotaging your best laid plans to get well.

1. Hydrate. Can’t stress this enough…water is the basis for cleansing your body and will help you feel less lethargic even when you are down and out. Juice 1/2 a lemon and one lime into a glass of water and drink up.  These are alkalizing for your system, and will also boost your immune system to peak performance.

2. Dump your Sugar Daddy. Seriously. Consuming sugar when you are sick is like spraying gasoline from a firehose onto a flaming dumpster. Refined sugar greatly impairs your immune system’s functioning and squashes any and all efforts of your body to heal.  (This is why I got sick in the first place…I splurged on chocolate candies and other goodies like a maniac. Now a few days later I’ve got a head cold as a painful reminder of my stupidity.)  Processed sweets, sodas, even your favorite syurp-y latte should be passed up if you are sick. Have a plain coffee if you must, but just say no to your Sugar Daddy until you are symptom-free. He won’t be too lonely…I promise.

3. Dairy. Are you coughing up all kinds of nasty-ness and blowing some out of your nose as well? Say ‘no thanks’ to the dairy food group until you are better. Pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream all will contribute to increased levels of phlegm and mucus. It’s not pretty to talk about, but you’ll be thankful that you know this little morsel of information.

4. Vegetables and Fruits. Yes, more please. Load up your plates at every chance you get. These aren’t going out of style anytime soon and will help to reduce symptoms and duration of almost every sickness. As always, raw is best, so get shopping and chopping. And the atomic bomb of produce-consumption? Juice Plus+. Vine-ripened, juiced, low-temperature dried produce in capsules. Genius. Check it out here… www.JPhealthylife.com. Bonus: Elderberries are one of the most powerful immune builders. Antiviral, antibiotic, and anticarcinogenic. Luckily, you don’t have to find a wild berry bush this time of year. Elderberries are one of the 9 berries and grapes in Juice Plus+ Vineyard Blend. It’s like the Easy button for nutrition.

5. Sleep. When we are passed out and slobbering on our pillows, our bodies are in peak healing-mode. Imagine all kinds of crazy little workers running around cleaning up the big mess that we’ve created in our systems: healing damaged tissues, working on specific organ systems and sprucing up our immune function. Unfortunately these little workers are off the clock the moment we come out of deep sleep. Put on your Superman jammies and hit the sack early to put your little disease-scavengers back to work.

More to come on this topic soon….I love to hear comments, so please leave one!

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Calories…the scary statistics

If you are a follower of my blog, you know that I’m not a big proponent of the school of calorie counting. However, a recent health message from Dr. Pam Popper from the Wellness Forum in Columbus, Ohio caught my attention and I deemed it worth passing on.

The USDA, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, is revising the current Dietary Guidelines according to the Food Pyramid. The preliminary report includes findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey regarding Americans’ daily caloric intake.

The report cited that the top 5 sources of calories in our diets are:

139 cal/day: grain-based desserts (cookies, pies, cakes, donuts, granola bars)

129 cal/day: yeast breads

121 cal/day: chicken and chicken mixed products

114 cal/day: soda, energy drinks, sports drinks

98 cal/day: pizza

Translation: Our top sources of nutrition to fuel and feed our bodies are dessert, bread, chicken, soda, and pizza. And people wonder why we feel sick/low energy/depressed! How in the world can we expect our bodies to heal and function and carry us well into old age if that is the kind of nutritional support that we are feeding these great machines that we have been given? What happened to taking care of the temple in which we live?

For teens ages 14-18, the TOP source of calorie intake on a daily basis is soda/energy drinks/sports drinks. ‘Nuff said.

Adults consume an average of 394 calories per day in the form of beverages. (listed highest to lowest below)

Soda (114), Alcohol (108), Milk (80), Juice and juice products (67), Coffee/Tea (26)

Youth ages 0-18 consume some 400 calories per day in the form of drinks. And here is the kicker:  Most all health experts agree that calories consumed as beverages DO NOT reduce food calories consumed. We are literally drinking our way to obesity at an alarming pace. Beverages do not fill us up or provide us with fiber (unless it is a high-quality smoothie) so therefore are usually regarded as empty calories that leave our stomach empty and wanting more.

The solution? Get your calories from food, not through a straw. Our bodies need water and lots of it…especially in the summer months where we are losing more through sweat. Find a way to drink more water. No excuses and no exceptions. If you would like some ideas, please contact me and I’m happy to offer my help!

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Greens, eggs, and mmmm

My most recent obsession is clearly Dr. Seuss sounding. It actually originated with Patrick’s teaching of the wise ways of French cuisine. Eggs and greens.

But not just any eggs. Good eggs. I get mine from some dear friends of mine who are kind to their chickens and love them and feed them good stuff and let them run around the yard and play outside in the fresh sunshine and clean air. I often tell people that once you taste and see a good egg you will never go back. Or maybe you will once. Then you will begrudgingly use up the rest of the grocery store styrofoam dozen and swear off those egg-imposters forever.

And not just any greens. Good greens. Local organic lettuce. Farmer’s Market finds, grown in the garden without any nasty chemicals, or gourmet salad mixes of varieties you have never really heard of but pretend to know if someone should ask.

Now: the assembly. I like to experiment a lot, but to keep it simple… fry some eggs (omelette style or sunny side up) and then put it on top of your greens with a couple drizzles of olive oil.

The omelette variations un-approved by Dr. Seuss but loved by me: Spike seasoning, avocado, garlic scapes, onions, goat cheese, capers, red bell peppers, or Tabasco sauce.

This photo is one of the most delicious creations EVER. We found it at a wonderful Farmers’ Market in Louisville last summer. I arrived at the market to find a long line at this booth. Instinctively I got in line, knowing that whatever was at the end must be worth waiting for. I was so right. Made fresh right in front of you only with ingredients from the other market booths. Mmmmmmm. I keep dreaming about going back one day and watching more closely. Perhaps one day I will open my own Greens and Eggs booth at my local market.

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