Monday, June 27, 2011

Zucchini "Pasta"

A great raw dish, perfect for summer. This is from Whole Living magazine.

16 oz cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
4 TB torn fresh basil
4 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
sea salt, to taste
2 zucchinis, thinly sliced lengthwise, slices cut into 1/4-inch-long strips (like fettuccine)

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, basil, and oil.  Season with salt.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  Toss with zucchini and garnish with basil.  Serves 4.

Friday, May 27, 2011

How Diet Soda Causes Weight Gain

Check out this informative video:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Problem With Diet Foods

One of the big contributing factors that motivated me to go into the study of nutrition was peering into other people's carts at the grocery store.  I admit it... I can never help but watch in curiosity as the shopper in front of me loads their selections onto the checkout belt.  And it's not the really obvious "junk food" that gets to me the most.  I tend to think that people who load up their carts with things like ice cream, soda, pizza, and chips know that they aren't make the best choices, and either don't care or are not ready to change. 

No, it's the ones who clearly do want to change,  but are missing the mark.  The ones who - knowingly or not - are putting their desire for weight loss ahead of their health.  The ones who are filling their carts with fruits, vegetables... and "diet" products.  Diet sodas.  Diet frozen meals.  Diet bars.  Diet peanut butter.  Diet orange juice.   Those blasted 100 calorie snack packs. 

Low cal!
Sugar free!
Fat free!

These are the people who kind of break my heart, because while they are so earnestly trying to lose weight, they are consuming things that both harm their health and actually hinder their weight-loss efforts.  Why?   In the simplest terms of terms, because our bodies were designed to deal with, and be fueled by, food..... and these products are not food.    Our bodies don't know what to do with them, so they store them, and make us sick in the process.

Ever stop to think about how a packaged product that would ordinarily have fat be fat free?  Or how a product that would ordinarily have sugar be sugar free?  Or how a product that would naturally have many calories suddenly have just a few?

They are processed - even more than normal.  Ingredients are removed, and replaced with chemicals.   More chemicals are added for shelf life.  Or color.  Or taste.  Or simply to disguise that the fact that there really isn't any palpable food present.  They are then wrapped and packaged and labeled in such a way that we're led to believe that they are a smart choice.  Look!  Only half the calories of the original version!  Look, no sugar!  No fat! 


Losing weight permanently and/or returning to a state of good health means learning to eat good, whole foods.  It means learning to pay attention to what it actually is that you're putting in your body.  It means learning to recognize and be mindful of portion sizes.  Eating these kinds of artificial, packaged foods not only doesn't get you closer to your goal, it takes you further from it.  It damages your health, and it hampers your progress.  It doesn't teach you how to eat, and it doesn't create good habits.

Let's get back to eating food.  Let's know where our food comes from.  Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store (or better yet, avoid the store all together and shop the local farmer's market!)  Stay away from the pre-packaged, overly processed foods, especially the diet products. 

And if you want a small treat, by all means have one!  But make it yourself, under conditions you can control, and with ingredients you can pronounce.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pasta with Oven-Roasted Vegetables

This is one of my favorite pasta recipes.  It is great for summertime, especially if you have home-grown veggies!  You can add any other vegetables you'd like in here too.

2 TB olive oil
2 TB red wine vinegar
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cayenne (or to taste)
1 tsp salt
2 zucchinis, quarted lengthwise
2 medium red onions, quartered
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
3 or 4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 lb linguine or spaghetti

In a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, parsley, oregano, cayenne, and salt.  (If you've used a lot of extra veggies, and/or if you like it a little more "saucy", double the amounts given to make sure it's all well-coated)  Set aside.

Preheat the oven broiler, and cook your pasta until al dente.

Arrange the vegetables on a baking pan.  Broil until they are tender, around 5 minutes per side.  Remove them when they are done, and transfer to a cutting board.  Let them cool slightly, and then coursely chop.  Toss the vegetables with the dressing.  When the pasta is done and drained, toss it with the roasted vegetables and serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Are We Feeding Our Kids

I couldn't sleep last night, and I turned on the TV.  I don't usually watch live television so I - thankfully - miss most of the commercials.  Last night though, I happened to catch a commercial for Pediasure Sidekicks.  There were a bunch of kids playing soccer, and a mom was complaining about her child being sluggish.  Cut to the kid, who is running around in a french fry suit, and to the goalie who is inside a giant chocolate sprinkly donut. 

"Well kids are what they eat!"

And then the kid who drank the Pediasure Sidekicks comes running out of nowhere, makes the goal, and saves the day.

I'm admittedly not a big fan of foods marketed towards kids in general.  Not just things like the techni-colored sugary cereals, juice drinks, and gummy fruit snacks (which most people will agree are not good choices)... but also the Gold Fish, the granola bars, and my personal favorite:  the Lunchables.   My issues with these foods are lengthy, but my biggest complaint is that they offer no nutrition, and are aimed towards children:  people who are rapidly growing and developing and need good nutrition more than at any other stage of their life!  

You can imagine then, my enthusiasm over this drink... this artificial, chemical laden cocktail that is supposed to take the place of actual food.  When the commercial was over, I couldn't help myself;  I had to go look up the ingredients.

This is what you're getting for your money when you invest in a vanilla flavored Pediasure Sidekicks drink:


Um.  It doesn't matter if you can't decipher what any of that says.  Does any of it sound like food to you?  I'll save you the time and decode it for you:  it's basically sugar water with some artificial flavors and a whole bunch of other harmful stuff thrown in.  It's even worse than something like soda in my opinion, because where soda doesn't claim to be anything other than what it is:  a fun, sparkly junk food that everyone and his brother knows isn't a healthy choice, this is masquerading as something that is good for your child, something that will help you fill in those nutritional gaps.

It is NOT good for your child, and it won't help fill any nutritional gap.   Kids need protein, yes.  They need carbs, and good healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals.  They need food.  

Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, eggs = food

Sugar, fructooligosaccharides, soy protein isolate, cellulose gel, artificial flavors, monoglycerides = not food.

It's an old adage (and it was created for drugs, not food), but please, please, when it comes to products like this, Just Say No.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cabbage, Radish, and Cucumber Pressed Salad

This recipe is from Alicia's Silverstone's The Kind Diet.  I love this book, and it's the one I go to when I'm feeling.. blah... and really want to clean up my diet.  I made this tonight, and it is delicious!

From The Kind Diet:

Pressed salads are an interesting twist on fresh salads;  by lightly salting and pressing the vegetables, they become more digestible while retaining all their live enzymes.  In fact, the word "salad" comes from the Italian herba salata, which means means "salted herb."

This recipe uses vinegar rather than salt to wilt the vegetables.

Serves 2 to 3 people.
5-6 leaves napa cabbage, very thinly sliced
3 red radishes, thinly sliced
3 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 TB umeboshi vinegar
1 TB balsamic or brown rice vinegar
1 TB toasted sunflower seeds

Combine all vegetables and fruit in a large mixing bowl.  Add the vinegars and massage the vegetables with your bare hands until they begin to wilt and release some liquid.  This may take a few minutes.  It should feel quite wet by the end.  Form into a mound and place a small plate on the vegetables within the bowl and place a weight on top (a full tea kettle of a big jar of juice) to press the vegetables.  Press for 20 to 30 minutes.  Pour off the excess fluid, and give the salad a good squeeze with your hands.  Taste it;  if it tastes salty, give it a quick and gentle rinse under cold water, then squeeze it again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Does "Natural" Mean?

The other day, I ran out to a local grocery store - not my normal store - for some peanut butter.  Few things fluster me more than shopping in unfamiliar stores.  First, it's a project just to find the right aisle.  Then, if you want to be any kind of conscientious consumer, you need to pick up and read all the labels to really see what it is you're buying.  I rarely have to read labels at my regular stores, because I've already read them.  I know what brands I like, and I can pop them in my cart, and be in and out in no time.

But I wasn't at my regular store.  I was at a store down the street from my house, and I was staring at the selection of peanut butter.  I knew I could just ignore the regular Jif and Skippy, but I was intrigued to see how many brands had cropped up that had the word "Natural" all over their packaging.   I picked one up:  Peanuts, sugar, salt, safflower oil.   Next one:  Peanuts, sugar, salt, safflower oil.  I looked at about four before I resigned myself to the fact that I would be buying the most expensive one there:  the only one that had an acceptable ingredient list:  Organic Peanuts.

The "natural" brands did not contain hydrogenated oils, nor did they contain things like mono and diglycerides.  So they were, if you want to be technical about it, more natural than their counterparts.  But were they healthy?  Of course not.  You don't need to add sugar to make peanut butter.  You don't need to add oil either... peanuts have plenty of their own oil.   And therein lies my problem with the "natural" labels.  Well-meaning people buy them thinking that natural = healthy. When in fact in a lot of cases natural doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot of anything, other than the fact that they feel they can charge more.  There is no standardization for the natural label, which means that anyone can use it any time they deem it appropriate.

Rather than looking at the front of the package, and getting seduced with words like "natural", do the work, know your ingredients, and read them.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Despite my lack of posts, I have thought of this blog frequently over the last couple of months. In December, I was busying studying for, and taking, my final exam. It was finally submitted just before the new year, along with my essays, book reports, and nutritional assessments.

I think that I was left with little energy with which to blog, read, or write about nutrition/natural health topics for fun, since so much of what I was doing was work.

But, I'm back. :)

I'm working on revamping my blog, and will be making a Facebook page soon. I hope that you (yes, you, all 2 of my faithful readers) will join me over there as well.

In the meantime, here's a great article I just read this morning about exercise and its link to the immune system, specifically the flu.  From
(NaturalNews) Staying physically fit may reduce your time spent sick during cold and flu season by nearly 50 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers followed 1,002 adults younger than age 86 for 12 weeks in either the fall or winter of 2008. Participants reported how much time they spent exercising and rated their own fitness on a 10-point scale. The researchers found that after adjusting for potentially complicating factors such as age, body mass index, education, fruit intake, marital status, mental stress and sex, people who exercised at least five days per week spent 43 percent less time with an upper respiratory tract infection than people who exercised one or fewer days per week.

The reduction in sick time was caused both by lower infection and quicker recovery rates.

People who self-reported as highly fit spent 46 percent less time sick than people who reported low fitness. Severity of illness was also 41 percent lower in those who reported high fitness or high levels of aerobic activity.

In contrast to the strong results seen in the study, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the much-hyped flu vaccines. Critics allege that the shots are unreliable and unnecessarily expose people to potentially severe side effects.

"The bottom line is that there is no real advantage in having a flu shot," writes Andreas Moritz in her book Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation.

"Certainly, given the frailty of so many of the oldest members of society, there is absolutely no reliable way of telling whether the flu or something else may have led to their death. The death rate in and out of the flu season is actually about the same. But then, as we have seen with AIDS, statistics can be manipulated in ways that support theories which have only one objective, to keep the medical business going."

Learn more:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolutions of Good Health

Today is New Year's Day. All across America, people are dusting off and lacing up their running shoes, vowing to get in shape, lose weight, and eat better. This will be the year they'll get healthy. THIS will be the time they'll be successful.

Or not.

The best piece of advice I've ever heard about New Year's Resolutions - or any kind of resolution - is that in order to be successful, they need to be specific. A general pronouncement of "eating better and getting healthier", while surely a worthwhile and noble goal, is so vague as to be almost unattainable. Choosing a resolution without a specific and clear-cut intent can mean setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. How do you even know if you've achieved it? Who decides what "healthier" means anyway?

A small, specific goal (or lots of them!) is easier to focus on, easier to reach, and easier to pave the path to what is truly greater health and long-term success.

A few examples:

1. Pick one unhealthy vice (soda, pizza, the sugar in your morning coffee, etc) and go without it for one month. After a month, you won't miss it.

2. Go through your cabinets and give away everything with high fructose corn syrup. Start reading labels and stop buying anything that contains this ingredient.

3. Switch your cow's milk with rice or almond milk

4. When you go shopping, try a green vegetable you've never tried before. Pick a new one the next time.

5. Start taking a multi-vitamin

6. If you're not a breakfast eater, begin starting your day with a piece of fruit

7. Make a date with yourself to exercise at least three times a week, and show up!

8. Take some time every day, even if it's just 5 minutes, to meditate, do yoga or tai chi, or pray

9. Stop buying foods with ingredients you can't pronounce

10. Throw away anything with artificial sweeteners or colors

11. Pick a hobby you've always wanted to try, or a class you've always wanted to take, and do it

12. Forgive someone

Have a blessed, happy, and HEALTHY 2011.