Category Archives: Health Info

Diet and Exercise

Though most of my blog posts here are recipes, occasionally, I like to share info on books and articles I’m reading, as well as personal experiences that go along with a whole foods lifestyle.  ‘Diet and Exercise’ may not be the best title for this post. ‘Diets’ are seen by many as a short-term restrictive way of eating, something to help them get to a certain weight or goal and then they stop and go back to eating the way they did before (and not surprisingly, gain back the weight :)). Perhaps a better name for this post would be, “Good Food Choices and Exercise” or, “A Healthy Lifestyle”, since this post will be about healthy habits our family has established over the years, having to do with food and exercise.

Our family is a bit different than your typical American family. We don’t eat at McDonalds, we don’t feed our children goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, or cereals and we really try to stay away from processed foods, which are usually the boxed and packaged goods. We don’t eat a lot of meat, and because we don’t eat it often, I’m totally okay with spending a little more on our meat so that I know it’s not coming from an animal that was pumped full of hormones and that it was raised humanely. We also don’t eat as much as your typical American, but rather have three meals, with usually one late afternoon snack. We didn’t always eat this way.  I remember five years ago when we were eating at McDonalds, snacking on goldfish crackers, amongst many other processed snacks, all throughout the day, and Mac and Cheese and Dino Buddies (chicken nuggets) were frequently seen on the dinner table. We were also sick a lot more then, regulars in our doctors office, getting antibiotics and such.  This never happens anymore! Now, the only time we see the doctor is for our annual wellness checks(and we’ve missed several of those, whoops! It’s hard to remember when you’re feeling so good!), vaccines for the littles, and when we need a broken bone set :), which has happened twice in the past several years. Just like Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Something else happened five years ago that changed our poor eating habits: my mom was diagnosed with 4th stage cancer. She had a tumor on her pancreas and cancer in her liver. She was told she didn’t have long. She didn’t do chemo, but instead made some significant changes to her diet and started to heal herself naturally. She’s still with us today and doing well. In the beginning, she would send me articles on food and how it directly related to our health. I couldn’t believe what I read and decided to experiment on our family. When our health turned around, and my baby weight came off naturally even after baby number 5, we kept going and never turned back. And so our whole food journey began.

We’re also different from your typical American family in that we are not regular TV watchers and we don’t own any video game systems. When the kids get home from school, once they’ve finished homework and piano, we encourage them to go outside and play ball or ride bikes. After dinner, we have reading time. When we get a lot of snow, we still encourage them to be outdoors but instead we’ll do things like sledding or shoveling the walkways which are still very active. On Saturdays, once chores are done, we’ll usually play a sport together like soccer, baseball, kickball or flag football.  Now, that’s not to say we never watch TV or movies, because we do, but usually it’s a show or two on the weekends, after everything is done. Also, our kids can earn 15 minutes of Kindle Fire or computer time at the end of each day, if they’ve stayed on top of all their  chores/homework etc.  When the kids were really young, we’d take our toddlers out back and pass the ball with them while the baby sat in her saucer, or bouncer, on the patio, watching us, still enjoying the outdoors.

Scott and I exercise every day. We schedule it in so that it gets done. We mostly follow videos or worksheets so we can exercise in our home, and sometimes we’ll go for a jog. We like a lot of Bob Harper’s videos, he’s the personal trainer from Biggest Loser, and recently we’ve been doing a program called Inferno, on The Daily Burn, which is a channel we have on our Roku device (internet on TV). It’s a lot of weight and interval training, and a good amount of cardio. Exercising together has brought us even closer as a couple. When we exercise together, we’re encouraging one another, and we’re working toward a goal of good health together which not only blesses our lives now with increased strength and endurance to do all we need to do, but it will also bless our future, so that we can live long and happy, healthy lives together.

As for food, we eat a lot of fresh, whole foods. Foods that have been around for hundreds of years before they started adding chemicals, dyes and preservatives, turning them into food-like substances. Here’s a look into our fridge…maybe another day we’ll look in my freezer and pantry.

Pictured: Cage free eggs, almond milk, whole milk, plain yogurt, grapes, leftover indian food(sauce made from scratch and I use brown rice), spaghetti sauce (with only a couple of ingredients and no added sugar), spinach, salsa, ground flax, sliced strawberries and homemade, agave sweetened whipped cream, mozarella and cheddar cheese, hummus, variety of fruits and veggies and greens in the bottom two drawers. 

On the door we have: parmesan cheese, homemade and store bought salad dressings(Newmans’ Own makes some good dressings with minimal ingredients, which is always good), butter, cream cheese, all fruit jelly, banana peppers, lemon and lime juice, pine nuts and better than bouillon. 

I make green smoothies for breakfast every morning, and that’s my breakfast. I drink about 24 oz. The family will each have a small glass, and then different family members prefer different things: homemade granola  with milk, oatmeal, whole wheat toast with butter or peanut butter, and about once a week we’ll cook scrambled eggs(no hormones, cage free). Sundays we have a bigger breakfast with whole wheat waffles,  pancakes, French ToastGerman pancakes or the like.

Lunch varies, sometimes the kids take PB and J on whole wheat bread, or sometimes they’ll take leftovers from dinner. Some favorite leftovers for lunches are black beans, oatmeal, pasta, or soup, all of which are great in a thermos, or pizza, waffles, quesadillas, granola with yogurt etc. With their sandwich or leftovers they’ll take some fruit, usually grapes, oranges or apple slices, and some carrots or celery. Scott and I have a lot of the same thing for lunch. Below is leftover pizza with grapes and a whole wheat, honey sweetened peanut butter cookie.

This was a lunch I packed for my 2 young girls and I when we went on a picnic: hard boiled eggs, pasta salad, homemade trail mix, half a pb and j sandwich, leftover whole wheat dinner roll, and grapes.

For snacks, we mostly do fresh produce. We love blueberries, strawberries, celery(I love ants on a log; pb, raisins on celery) and carrots, bananas, apples, many times we’ll combine this with some peanut butter, nuts, hummus or cheese. Sometimes I make muffins. If they’re really starving and we have a couple of hours before dinner, I’ll let them have something a little more like whole wheat bread, crackers with hummus or cheese, or granola with yogurt or milk. I don’t let them eat within an hour of dinner because I want them to be hungry so they’ll eat better

For dinner we make a variety of things. Homemade pizza is a Friday night tradition. We usually have Mexican and another Italian dish some time during the week, and many times we’ll have a soup or chili, and some sort of Asian/ Indian dish. Pretty much everything is made from scratch, minus the pasta noodles…I’ve done those from scratch a few times and probably will do it more in the future when life is a little less busy, but for now, the stores make pretty inexpensive whole wheat pasta noodles. I make a large crock pot full of black beans each week, and we usually make a batch of brown rice each week which we use for Indian/Asian and Mexican dinners. I also cook quinoa fairly regularly and keep it on-hand in the fridge to throw into salads or to mix with brown rice etc. I like to keep a lot of produce on hand, and a good variety, because they will snack on it more when it’s there and out in plain sight. When they come home from school I always pull out produce like grapes and carrots, apple slices and other fun fruits we have like blueberries and strawberries. Before we put the dinner entree on the table, we bring the salad out and dish that up for everyone. They are much more likely to eat it, and a good amount, when they’re feeling really hungry, right before dinner, and it’s the only thing out on the table right in front of them. Once most of them have finished their salad, we bring out the main dish.

Dessert, most days, is fruit after dinner. Once or twice a week we’ll have something with sugar in it or something that qualifies more as a dessert even though there is no refined sugar, like our honey-sweetened peanut butter cookies, or maple syrup sweetened home-made ice cream. Scott likes to keep dark chocolate bars on hand and once or twice a week, him and the kids will each have a square. I wish I had that kind of will power :). I don’t eat chocolate, I haven’t for years, but I do enjoy treats and I have a weak spot for strawberry Aussie licorice. Because I’m aware of my weakness, I buy them from the bulk section at Sprouts, and I only buy five at a time, usually on Friday for my weekend date-night treat :). I don’t buy them every Friday, but if I know we’re not going to make something else that weekend, than it gives me something to look forward too.

Eating whole foods and being active is part of who we are now. We enjoy the food we eat. Fresh tastes SO much better than processed, but you’ve got to get rid of the processed that’s loaded with sugars and salts and all sorts of preservatives and additives, before you can really taste and appreciate the fresh, because it changes the flavor. We enjoy being active together, playing sports, going for walks and hikes. We want to take care of the bodies our Heavenly Father has given us, that house our spirits. We are grateful for good health, we work for it, and we look forward to living long, healthy and happy lives.


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French Food Rules

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! We’re getting together with some friends from church and so Scott and I are cooking a third of the menu items; he has the entire week off which is heaven! We’ll be making Sweet Potatoes (with a quinoa and nut crumble topping), Pecan Pie, Caramel Apple Pie, Holiday Quinoa Salad, maple syrup sweetened Cranberry Sauce, and Mashed Potatoes. It’s gonna be great!

I recently read a book by Karen Le Billon titled, “French Kids Eat Everything”. It’s about a Canadian woman who moves her family to her husbands hometown in northern France for a year(they are university professors and would be on a one year sabbatical), and she is surprised by the food education she receives, along with her two young daughters. Karen came up with ten ‘French Food Rules’ based off her observations of the French food culture; below is a photo of her rules:

2014-09-18 15.50.17

Here is a closer look at that list of rules with some of the ideas/thoughts I gleaned from the text that followed each rule; the text in italics are my personal thoughts:

French Food Rule #1 You are in charge of food education Don’t play with food. Kind but firm. Authoritative parenting. French Food Rule #2 Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline. Don’t use food as a bribe, reward or punishment. Don’t give it attention if they don’t want to eat it. Don’t label them a ‘picky eater”. Rather tell them they are ‘learning to eat”. Serve veggies every day; one day raw, the next cooked. Fried food no more than once a week(we don’t really do fried so this won’t be difficult). Real fish at least once per week(This, on the other hand, will be very difficult considering I don’t like fish.But I think it’s a nice idea 🙂). Fruit is dessert most days; sugar desserts, once per week(really like this one!). French Food Rule #3 Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking.(Amen!)  I used to do this all the time when we only had our one child. If Elisabeth didn’t want what I made for dinner, I’d warm her up Dino Buddies :). Yikes! I’d pop 5 chicken nuggets in the microwave; and I thought that was a healthy substitute! But what I eventually realized was that I was hurting her by doing that, not just with health and nutrition, but because I always had a substitute for her and never made her try what we had, she didn’t develop those tastes early on like her siblings did, and still now, even though it’s 5 years later and she’s ten-years-old, she’s my one that still has a harder time trying and liking new foods. But, as she is maturing, and as we talk more about foods, about their flavor, texture, color, etc,  she is recognizing the benefits of trying new, nutritious foods and she is making a conscious effort to do more trying, and liking, which is wonderful! Americans tend to be anxious about food and to identify health, nuturtion and dieting as the key issues they associate with eating. The French, almost never mention any of these topics when asked for their thoughts on food. Rather, they talk about pleasure, tasty food, socializing, culture, identity and fun. French Food Rule #4 Eat family meals together. No distractions! We’ve always been pretty good about not having any TV, phone, electronics of any sort etc. at the dinner table and I’m glad because we have some of the best interaction with the family over dinner together; in fact, when my kids ask me what my favorite thing was each day (they ask after I ask them first), my answer is almost always, ‘dinner with the family’. And it’s true. French Food Rule #5 Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow. Don’t eat the same main dish more than once per week.  French food rule #6 For picky eaters: “you don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.” Say at every meal. (I love this phrase and use it often!) I didn’t have to teach my daughters the patience they needed to wait in line at the bank or grocery store because snacks would achieve the same result, without stress. (true!) Don’t fuss. Say, “you haven’t tasted it enough times yet.” Try to serve it as a soup or puree for taste if they don’t like texture. French Food Rule #7 No snacking! It’s okay to feel hungry between meals. ( 4 meals , or three meals and one snack. Limit snacks, ideally one per day, two max & more for small children, and not within one hour of meals) It’s okay to feel hungry between meals. Eat until you are satisfied rather than full. “A good meal must start with hunger” -proverb.  Hunger is the best seasoning. North American children are given anything to stave off hunger. French children are promised they’ll eat well at next meal(really like this!). Even with newborns, they only eat every 3 hours. French learn self control early on. Never have to ask to reach for a fruit or vegetable. But they do have to ask permission for anything else. If needed, keep family food diary for a week. Track what and how much the family eats. Rebalance snacks and meals if needed. More or less of some foods? French Food Rule #8 Take your time, for both cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food. Instead of saying “I’m full”, say “I’m not hungry anymore.” Parents encourage kids to ‘eat until they are satisfied.’ Ask, “are you satisfied?” or “have you had enough?” “Cooking can be an act of love and delight, or It can be yet another exercise in racing through life on automatic pilot- never stopping for a moment to notice, feel or taste. Cooking performed as an act of love brings us renewed energy and vigor” – Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide Point out the smell, appearance, texture. Have table all set and ready, classical or peaceful music. Once sitting, sit. Eat slow. Visit. Praise those who eat well rather than punishing those who don’t. Don’t be anxious or create a negative emotional setting. French Food Rule #9 Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. (Hint: anything processed is not ‘real’ food.)  French Food Rule #10 Remember eating is joyful- Relax! Here are some specific things that we’re implementing at home:  *Less snacking(More veggies. If you do snack make sure it’s not within an hour of your meal time) *Do more 3 course meals: salad, entree, fruit. Don’t bring out entree until after we’ve had time to eat salad. Treat once a week.  *Don’t use food as bribe, reward or punishment which, “imbues food with emotional baggage; children later on will attempt to deal with or bury their emotions through eating; eating disorders.” *Don’t force to eat, no coercion, fuss. *Only eat at table! Not in car, standing or on the run…this will mean cleaner cars and strollers. Great book with lots of good ideas on food culture!

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Disease-Proof Your Child: Book Review


A month or two ago I finished reading the book, Disease-Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who is a family physician and specializes in nutrition based treatments(especially for obesity and chronic disease.). Like all the other health/diet/nutrition books I’ve read in the past, I really liked some things, and some things I just kinda go, “eh, I’m not so sure about that.” But I’m glad I do that. I’m glad I don’t take everything I read as the 100% truth, even if they are written by doctors and scientists. The only thing I’ve read and believe to be completely true and base everything else I read off that document is the Word of Wisdom which is found in Doctrine and Covenants section 89 (in the Book of Mormon). Fantastic stuff! And it’s from God who knows everything so you know it’s true. Anyway, back to this book. I typed up some notes as I read the book and then from that I narrowed it down to my favorites which you can read below. The sentences in bold are key things I really like.

I really liked what he had to say on picky eaters and how you can go about helping your kids and family to eat right, which summed up is basically to only keep healthy foods in your house. If you’re going to have a treat, then go out and have a treat but don’t bring it home. Okay, here you go:

Reforming the picky eater:

“Children are not responsible for their poor food choices- their parents are. Excluding those children with chronic illnesses or severe emotional disorders, a nutritionally poor diet is predominantly the result of misinformed parents and incorrect dietary choices.” pg. 115-116

“When a family first brings their chronically ill child in to see me, I insist that the entire family come– both parents and all siblings — so that we can devise a new eating plan for the entire family. The focus is never solely on the ill child. For the ill child to recover, the crucial first step is for the entire family to make a recovery from their less than optimal diet style.” pg 117

“When the Petersons insisted, “josh won’t eat fruits or vegetables,” I explained to them that all children would eat healthfully if shipwrecked. True hunger is difficult to deny. If faced with limited options, they will gleefully eat whatever food is available, without intellectual gymnastics to get them to.

It is not necessary to coax them to eat or to eat healthfully. In fact, battling about food with your child is counterproductive. The trick is to adhere to this one most important rule: only permit healthy food in your home. Children will eat whatever is available. They will not starve themselves to death; they adapt easily and learn relatively quickly to like the food that is offered”

Food Preferences Are Formed By One’s Food Environment:

“Researchers studying children’s food choices have found that the earlier in life the food is introduced, the more likely it will be favored. Parents have been shown to give up too easily when offering healthy food to their children. Keep offering the same food, even if your child rejects it. With persistence, it is likely they will eventually try it and even like it. One study showed that about 75 percent of parents gave up after five tries, while the research showed it took eight to fifteen times for children to accept a new food as familiar. Positive reinforcement, praise, and demonstration of family taste preference (showing your child how much you like it over an over) works better than forcing the child to eat it, and is better than bribing the child. Once the child does give it a shot, tasting the food again and again encourages an eventual favorable taste response.

Taste is a learned phenomenon – both children and adults like the foods they were raised on the best. What is most compelling is that a study shows that even the foods that mothers eat while pregnant and nursing affect what their toddlers will prefer…..Scientific investigations illustrate that children most often take on the eating habits of their parents. Research also indicates that adults who consume lots of fruits and vegetables are those who consumed lots of these foods during childhood.

What has been shown not to work is for parents to eat one way and force their children to eat a different way. In fact, parents who force dietary restraint on their children while they themselves eat unrestrainedly were shown to have an adverse effect that fostered the development of body fat on their children.

…Because toddlers have small stomachs and may choose to eat less at mealtimes, they should have access to snacks. Unfortunately, the most common snacks for toddlers are cookies, crackers, chips, milk and fruit drinks(not juice). A snack can and should be real food like fruit, vegetables, bean and nut dips, wholesome soups, and raw nuts.” pg 119

Don’t Coerce Children to Eat:

When there is a true physiologic need for calories and when they are truly hungry, they will eat. You may be able to determine what they eat by what is offered or available in your home environment, but you have almost no ability to force your children to consume more food than their own internal drives them they need. It is especially difficult to get a baby or toddler to overeat. Most young ones will push food away when they are not hungry. By bribing, coaxing, tempting and teaching our little ones to constantly stuff down a few more bites, they are learning to ignore their body’s correct hunger and satiation signals. Over time, and with the help of ‘fake food’ made with artificial flavors and concentrated sweeteners, it’s very common for children to become chronic overeaters.

We are designed to consume a diet rich in natural plant fibers and micronutrients. This fiber (bulk) causes stretch receptors in the digestive tract to register that we have consumed enough food. When we eat processed food, which is high in calories and has little fiber, the body’s natural satiation mechanism is fooled and we overeat. Appetite can also be driven by taste. The artificially high stimulation of taste with concentrated sweeteners and artificial flavors can make humans eating machines without constraints.” pg 120-121

“…when we are exposed to processed foods, the body’s natural signals to stop eating are disturbed.” pg 124

“..the unnaturally high level of sugar, salt and artificially heightened flavors in processed(fake) foods will lessen or deaden he sensitivity of the taste buds to more subtle flavors, making natural foods taste flat.” pg 128

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Forks Over Knives

Watch this 2 minute trailer for the health/nutrition video ‘Forks Over Knives’. It follows two men: 1.) Colin Campbell who conducted the most comprehensive research study ever done on health and nutrition(according to the NY times), and 2.) Dr. Esselstyn a clinical surgeon. It goes over their findings along with findings of other doctors and leaders. It summed up Dr. Campbells research from his book The China Study which I read last year and loved, and highly recommend, but it is a longer book so if you’re not a reader, I’d at least watch this clip and then find the movie on Netflix or through your library system. It’d be a great date night movie…Scott and I both really liked it, and it’s always good to be on the same page when it comes to nutrition and feeding your family.

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6 Tips To Make Any Baking Recipe Healthier

I read this awhile back on the blog of Thought you might be interested:

At the Zermatt in December, I taught these six tips for making a baking treat healthier. You don’t have to know anything about recipe development. These are no-brainers. Three tips today, three tomorrow. (All of this information is in Ch. 11 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.)

1.           Substitute finely ground whole wheat instead of white flour.

What you see on recipe labels as “wheat flour” is actually a toxic, nutrition-less white gluey mess. It’s the grain with the germ (vitamins) and bran (fiber) removed).

Ask for a good grain grinder for Christmas. I love K-Tecs, which you can find here. They aren’t terribly expensive, and you’ll need one in an emergency where you have to make your own bread, so it’s a good preparedness item.

For cookies, cakes, pastry recipes, I like SOFT WHITE WHEAT, ground on the finest grind setting your mill has. Your kids won’t even know the difference. A coarser grind will cause a heavier product, and red wheat will make it look darker. (I use red wheat for breads, etc.)

Some people think they don’t like whole wheat flour products, when in fact they’re just used to eating RANCID whole wheat. When the grain is ground, the protective shell of the grain is destroyed and oils inside begin to deteriorate. Consequently, those milled grains go rancid quickly and taste bad in baked goods. (Plus, rancid oils are carcinogenic.) Bags of whole wheat flour sometimes have spent months in warehouses and in transit before arriving in your home, and then you store them even longer.

Thus a grinder becomes essential, so you can have FRESHLY milled grains anytime you want.

2.           Substitute coconut palm sugar, or Sucanat, for sugar.

I recently mentioned coconut sugar in a blog entry and since then, we’ve gotten many queries from readers who can’t find it, to buy. I spent some time looking for it and have obtained the best organic product I could find for a good price in the GreenSmoothieGirl store: get some here.

Read about it here.

I’m thrilled about this product because of its low glycemic index for far less impact on your blood sugar and pancreas. It has high vitamin and mineral content, it is highly sustainable, more so than cane sugar, and it tastes lovely. Sucanat is in my baking recipes in 12 Steps (it’s dried, unrefined cane juice) but coconut sugar is my new favorite and is an easy substitute.

Substitute it 1:1 for any white or brown sugar called for in a baking recipe.

3.           Baking powder

Please buy the kind in the health food store that is ALUMINUM FREE. Don’t buy giant quantities because it’s good for only 1-2 years. Aluminum is a toxic metal your body has a very difficult time eliminating, and it’s linked to Alzheimer’s and many other health problems. And it’s in commercial baking powders. Substitute the aluminum-free version 1:1 in your recipes.

Continued from yesterday. (Yes, I know people are HEALTHIER and recipes are more HEALTHFUL, and so does my editor, but we abandon that in my book titles because “Healthful Recipes” sounds so stiff and wrong.)

4. Oil

Please don’t use “vegetable oil” for baking. It’s highly refined, heated to high temperatures, and already rancid when it’s sold to you. Instead, for baking, use coconut oil. In the summer, it’ll be liquid, and in the winter, solid. It works well as a substitute for butter, shortening, or oil. We have organic, cold-pressed coconut oil in our group buy every year, but year-round you can get it here. You can read here about why this oil is far more nutritious that most and what it’s good for.

You can also substitute extra-virgin olive oil in recipes that call for just a small amount of butter or oil or if you don’t like coconut oil. It usually doesn’t affect the flavor.

5. Organic, free-range eggs or egg substitute

If you buy only ONE thing organic, make it eggs. North Americans get far too much Omega 6 fatty acids, probably because of our high intake of refined vegetable oil, which has a toxic imbalance. Commercial eggs are 6:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Eggs in their natural state are the exact opposite, with far more omega 3 that we are deficient in–so buy organic, free range. I have a friend in my neighborhood whose chickens are fed no chemicals and range in the yard. I buy from her on the rare occasion I even use eggs. You can also pay more at Costco for organic, and most health food stores have them.

You could also use this very nutritious substitute for each large egg: let 1 Tbsp. chia seed sit in 3 Tbsp. water for 30 mins.

6. Salt

Please never use iodized, refined salt (i.e., Morton’s) for anything besides homemade play-dough. For cooking / eating, use Original Himalayan Crystal Salt for a high-vibrational frequency completely unrefined crystalline whole food. My second favorites would be Real Salt or celtic sea salt.

Now in your whole-foods lifestyle, you don’t have to throw out your favorite baking recipes. Make these 6 substitutions and you should have very good results!

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There are opposing opinions about agave, as is with many things in life. I’ve read articles on both sides. This is a little bit of what I’ve gathered:

1. Agave is a plant that is mostly grown in Mexico. They process it to make it into a syrup…kind of like making maple sap into syrup . (by processing all I mean is that they’re bringing it to a temperature higher than 118 degrees. Some companies will keep it under this temperature so it will be raw).
2. Some of the agave companies in Mexico have gotten a bad rep because they were adding in high fructose corn syrup with agave to make it less expensive for them.
3. There are companies that don’t do this(add HFCS) and their agave is natural and safe with no additives. You can read on the label of the agave you buy and it should say on there that it’s certified, organic and USDA approved or something like that. Another good way to go is through a group buy…you just have to get a lot.
4. Agave is low on the glycemic index scale. Which is a good thing for controlling cravings. I’ve read that many doctors who have diabetic patients tell there patients to use agave for this very reason. Here’s some more info from a website on the glycemic index that I found helpful. I’ve put the source at the bottom:

The glycemic index scale starts at zero and goes to 100. According to the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrative Medicine, foods that rate between zero and 49 have a low glycemic index, foods between 50 and 70 have a moderate glycemic index and foods that rate over 70 have a high glycemic index. A 2 tbsp. serving size of agave nectar has a glycemic index of 30, placing it in the category of low glycemic foods.

In addition to considering the glycemic index rating of agave nectar, another number you may want to consider it its glycemic load. According to the UWCIM, the glycemic load of a food takes into account the percent of carbohydrate contained in a food. Foods that rate between zero and 10 have a low glycemic load, foods between 11 and 19 have a moderate glycemic index and foods that rate over 20 have a high glycemic load. A 2 tbsp. serving size of agave nectar, according to All About Agave, has a glycemic load of 9.6, placing it just at the cutoff between low and medium. To calculate the glycemic load of any food, first find the number of carbohydrates the food contains by looking at food labels or a nutrition chart. Then, multiply this number by its glycemic index, and divide the total by 100.

The higher a food ranks on the glycemic index, the faster and more dramatic is its effect on blood sugar levels. You can use this information as a comparison to help you decide which foods to select and which to avoid. For example, compared to agave nectar’s glycemic index of 30, table sugar comes in at 65 and honey is at 58. Factoring in the glycemic load reveals that agave nectar is a clear winner. Compared to agave nectar’s glycemic load of 9.6, table sugar comes in at 15.6 and honey is at 19.7

I use agave in some things I bake, but not much. In my granola recipe I use a little, but mostly the sweetener I like in that one is raw honey. If I’m doing a sugar substitute in a baked good, I usually go with Sucanat. But sugar is sugar, so either way, I try not to do too much. I notice a difference in my body when I use agave rather than refined sugar. When I bake with agave I don’t experience the cravings I do with refined sugar. I can have just one bite or slice of something and be done, rather than over doing it with sugary sweets. I don’t feel like it’s spiking my blood sugar though I do notice the spike with sugar. Our bodies are different and will probably respond in different ways. You could try it for yourself and see how you like it. And that’s all I’ve got for now.

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The China Study: Book Review

I finished a book called, The China Study, this past week. It was very interesting. It’s the most comprehensive study that’s ever been done on diet and health. Reading and learning about the results was enlightening. The author has listed over 750 references in his book, many of which are primary sources from scientific publications.

For those of you who don’t want to read the 300 page book, I’ll give you a brief summary. First I want to give you a short background on the author. Dr. Colin Campbell,who has also authored over 300 research papers, grew up on a dairy farm and did his graduate studies in animal nutrition, wanting to learn how to make cows and chickens get bigger faster. During that time, he conducted lots of research, read lots of research and began to realize the error in his ways and what nutrition and diet really meant to our health. He significantly changed his views on food.

Dr Campbell says we need to be eating a more plant-based, whole foods diet. After conducting studies on rats over a long period of time and then going into areas all over China and doing lots of human blood and urine samples, watching diets etc, he found that if you eat about a 5% animal protein diet, you will be healthier and more disease free. If you eat closer to a 20% animal protein diet (which most American’s do), you’ll most likely end up having all sorts of health problems when you get into your middle and late years. Things like diabetes, cancer(breast, prostate and all the others), obesity, kidney stones, heart disease and many, many others can be prevented and fixed by a diet that is low in animal protein. They in fact injected Aflatoxin, a carcinogen, into a group of rats and then divided the rats into 2 groups. Group 1 they fed a diet with 5% animal protein. They were healthy and strong. Group 2 they fed a diet with 20% animal protein. They got fat, stopped running on their wheels and developed tumors and cancer. Then they went in and switched their diets. The rats who were dying with tumors, once they switched to the 5% animal protein diet, got rid of the tumors. They got slim and started running on their wheels again. And the opposite happened with the healthy ones. Once they changed their diet to 20% animal protein, they all got fat and developed tumors and cancer.

When they say ‘animal protein’ they mean not only meat but also cheese, ice cream, milk etc. In the study they conducted on the rats, they experimented with Casein, which is cows milk protein. I’m going to quote a little piece that sums up the main point:

“These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness….

“By any number of measures, America’s health is failing. We spend far more, per capita, on health care than any other society in the world, and yet two thirds of Americans are overweight, and over 15 million Americans have diabetes, a number that has been rising rapidly. We fall prey to heart disease as often as we did thirty years ago, and the War on Cancer, launched in the 1970’s, has been a miserable failure. Half of Americans have a health problem that requires taking a prescription drug every week, and over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol.

“To make matters worse, we are leading our youth down a path of disease earlier and earlier in their lives. One third of the young people in this country are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Increasingly, they are falling prey to a form of diabetes that used to be seen only in adults, and these young people now take more prescription drugs than ever before. “These issues all come down to three things: breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Good book. After reading it I decided I’d cook meat in one meal a week (which wasn’t much different than before anyway), and that we’ll cut back on dairy. We’d already switched to Almond milk so that’s not a big deal, but cheese is going to be hard for us because we typically eat it every day. Eventually I’d like to get to doing 2 meals a week with dairy…but we’re not quite there yet. Soon hopefully. I just need to test out some more recipes. I’m not going to include yogurt in with the typical dairy for several reasons which I won’t take the time to list now. The book had some really good information. Though I’m sure it’s also a book that would make people mad; you’ll have to read it yourself if you want to know what I’m talking about. You should be able to find this book at your local library.

A couple of other random thoughts on nutrition: 1. I went to a whole foods class this past weekend at our local health food store. Robyn Openshaw, the Green Smoothie Girl, taught the class. I loved it. She pointed out that just because someone isn’t overweight, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. It’s important for even the naturally skinny ones to eat healthy so they can prevent developing different health problems in the future.

2. I like Billy Blanks. He’s the Tae Bo guy. In one of his exercise dvd’s called Insane Abs, he lists three things you need to do if you want to see your abs: the first two had to do with strengthening and toning muscles, but the third caught my attention. He says you have to eat to see your abs. Several times during that dvd he mentions how important it is to eat good foods if you want to see results. I was glad he said this because there are many people out there who say, “I ____(fill in the blank with run, play sports, swim etc), so I can eat whatever I want.” I used to say that myself, but now it bugs me. I get what they’re saying, but I also think there’s more to health than just your size. I don’t know about you, but I would still like to be healthy in my 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and so forth. Slowing down, yes. But still healthy.

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In Defense of Food: Book Review

I recently read the book, In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. The basic overarching theme of the book is to, ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’

I didn’t like everything I read, as is the case with all health food books, but I did take some good notes on the parts I did like. From those notes, I gathered my favorite highlights and that’s what this post is about. If you were curious about the book, but didn’t want to read the whole thing, this post is for you. If you have no interest in health, stop here; this will just bore you.

When Pollan says ‘eat food’, he means that exactly. He says there are tons of food-like substances (processed foods with lots of different additives), but that we should eat real, whole foods. He gives some statistics and says Americans eat a lot more calories now than we did back in the 1980s. He says we eat by quantity not quality and that we manage to be “both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.”

Pollan says that the absence of nutrients in our bodies(that we get from plants) may counteract the normal feeling of satiety after enough calories are eaten.


In the third and last section of his book, Pollan gives some tips for choosing your foods. I copied the next few paragraphs word for word because I really liked it:

  • “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize.

    “Imagine your great grandmother at your side as you roll down the aisles. You’re standing together in front of the dairy case. She picks up a package of Go-Gurt Portable Yogurt tubes- and has no idea what this could possibly be. Is it a food or a toothpaste?…You could tell her it’s just yogurt in a squirtable form, yet if she read the ingredients label she would have every reason to doubt that that was in fact the case. Sure, there’s some yogurt in there, but there are also a dozen other things that aren’t remotely yogurt like, ingredients she would probably fail to recognize as foods of any kind, including high-fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, carrageenana, tricalcium phosphate, natural and artificial flavors, vitamins, and so forth(and there’s a whole other list of ingredients for the ‘berry bubblegum bash’ flavoring, containing everything but berries or bubblegum.) How did yogurt, which in your great grandmothers day consisted simply of milk inoculated with a bacterial culture, ever get to be so complicated?” pg 148-149

    “There are in fact hundreds of foodish products in the supermarket that your ancestors simply wouldn’t recognize as food: breakfast cereal bars transected by bright white veins representing, but in reality having nothing to do with, milk; ‘protein waters’ and ‘nondairy creamer’; cheeselike food stuffs equally innocent of any bovine contribution; cakelike cylinders (with creamlike fillings) called Twinkies that never grow stale. Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting is another personal policy you might consider adopting.

    “One of the problems with the products of food science is that…they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.

    It’s true that foods have long been processed in order to preserve them, as when we pickle or ferment or smoke, but industrial processing aims to do much more than extend shelf life. Today foods are processed in ways specifically designed to sell us more food by pushing our evolutionary buttons- our inborn preferences for sweetness and fat and salt. These qualities are difficult to find in nature but cheap and easy for the food scientist to employ, with the result that processing induces us to consume much more of these ecological rarities than is good for us.”

  • “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A)unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup.”


And here’s another short quote I liked which talks about the importance of eating meals together as a family.

“It is at the dinner table that we socialize and civilize our children, teaching them manners and the art of conversation. At the dinner table parents can determine portion sizes, model eating and drinking behavior, and enforce social norms about greed and gluttony and waste. Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture.” pg 189


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Diagram: Effects of Soda

Harmful Soda

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Protein Comparison Chart

Some people wonder how vegans and vegetarians get their protein. That’s not a big surprise considering the large amount of money and influence in the meat and dairy companies. They’re the ones who fund much of the health/nutrition education in schools. If you look at this chart you’ll see that the first five items on this list, the items that have the most protein, are all vegetarian/vegan. Black beans, kidney beans, lentils, wheat gluten, etc. And peanut butter has more than most meats as well. I’m not 100% vegetarian(though I mostly don’t like meat) but I thought this chart was good enough to share.


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