Snack Hacks That Work

Snacks seem to confuse and elude us. One of the most popular questions I get is, “What do I eat for snack?” We seem to have these unwritten rules about snacks, and most of them just don’t serve us.

Snacks are small meals, or maybe even the same size portion as your meal. (They can even be a leftover from your meal…more on that later!) There is no specific type of food that denotes a snack – unless you are in the food manufacturing industry. The goal of a snack is to nourish your body with vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients needed for good health throughout the day, to help increase absorption, stabilize blood sugars and decrease the chance of becoming too hungry overeating or making an unnecessary choice at days end.

I will agree that snacks may require some thought for children at school, shuttling from school to sport, anyone on the go, air travel, lack of refrigeration, or anyone accustomed to grabbing something in a package or box to eat in between meals. Sure, there are some times when a self contained snack in a bag is ideal, but that should really be the exception, not the norm, and for THAT, we can have some rules.

HEALTHY, ACCESSIBLE SNACKS include:

  • Bell Pepper sliced into sticks – red, green and yellow
  • Sliced Cucumber, or cucumber salad
  • Piece of fruit like an apple, orange or grapefruit -there are many varietals for experiment!
  • Sliced apple or pear with nut butter
  • Chopped apple with cinnamon
  • Nut and berry “cereal”
  • Trail mix -pre-measured amount to avoid overeating
  • Leftover portion from breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • Sliced hard boiled egg, chicken salad, sweet potato fries (leftover from meals…)
  • Almond milk smoothie with nut butter, cocoa and more…

If you are a growing teenager, or someone who needs a larger snack, choose two from the above list.

NOT THE GO TO, BUT THE WILL DO:

I recently ran into Trader Joe’s to scope out some packaged snacks. I find that while not always ideal, Trader Joe’s has some better options available.

Coconut Crispy Rolls wafer cookies – A small and tasty tube cookie, the ingredients are simple, and seemingly preserved with sugar and salt. The remaining ingredients are coconut milk, tapioca starch, eggs and sesame seeds. There are some health claims to the ingredients (but don’t consider this a health food – still a cookie) B+ (points deducted for minimal processing)

Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snacks

These are, interestingly enough, a fan favorite at my house, and pack and travel well. The ingredients are sea salt and seaweed. Not knowing much about the source of the seaweed, I’ll go with it’s fine until I read otherwise 🙂 Seaweed snacks get an A.

These are, interestingly enough, a fan favorite at my house, and pack and travel well. The ingredients are sea salt and seaweed. Not knowing much about the source of the seaweed, I’ll go with it’s fine until I read otherwise 🙂 Seaweed snacks get an

TJ’s Seasoned Kale Chips

These tasted ok to me, but the kids thought these lacked flavor. Slightly processed and some sugars lands this snack on the go in the B range.

TJ’s Blueberry Almond Peanut Date & Nut Bites

These mini bites were a big hit for taste and the ingredient list consists of ground nuts, seeds, fruits. Minimally processed, but wholesome ingredients earn this an A.

TJ’s Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets

Puffed broccoli, rice bran oil and salt combine to make this snack an interesting choice. The broccoli flavor is absolutely present and very strange in dried form. Once ou are over that, this tastes pretty good. Still reviewing rice bran oil, so until further notice this snacks gets a B+ for minimal processing and the unknown possibilities of rice bran oil.

TJ’s Savory Banana & Nuts Trek Mix

The indgredients are pretty solid here, and do not include any major preservatives. Apple cider vinegar and sea salt likely keep this shelf stable. The taste is fine, but we all decided that creating our own banana and chip mix was more flavorful. This is a reasonable choice that comes in at A-, points off for minimal processing.

Hu Chocolates

Not at Trader Joe’s, but worthy of a mention, the Hu choclates are well sourced, vegan non dairy dark chocolates. I’ve had a few different, and my favorite remains Cashew Butter with Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate. I love them not only for their tag line of “IT’S TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WAY HUMAN’S ATE BEFORE INDUSTRY RUINED THE FOOD”, but also their practices. The products are made with organic ingredients wherever possible, fair trade chocolate, and do NOT include refined sugars, dairy, soy lecithin, palm oil, cane sugar, sugar alcohols, vanilla extract or emulsifiers. Wow! But, what does it taste like?? I haven’t eaten them all, but I can vouch for the cashew butter! This is a chocolate and not a healthy snack , but considering the category A- (points deducted as there is no way a dairy free chocolate can measure against say a European handcrafted chocolate!)

Remember that wholesome foods are always the best choices, but in a pinch, you can still make better choices than your average processed snack!

Happy snacking!

Stress and Weight Loss

I seriously ate one cookie and gained weight! Whats up?!

The holiday season can be hectic, overscheduled and ruled by deadlines, all things that cause our stress levels to soar. Fear not, we are fueled by hot chocolate, candy canes, fancy hors d’oeuvres, that once a year cheesecake, that once a year brownie cake a la mode, that once a year whipped caramel mousse parfait, that…you get the point. Everywhere we turn, stress and sugar.

Stress is not measured by events, but rather the impact on your physical, emotional and mental state.  The source of the stress is irrelevant.  Our brains do have a cool reaction in a stressful situation, though.  To preserve precious moments that may save your life, we instantly increase stress hormones, and those hormones send us into action.  There is no time for thinking, only reaction.  This fantastic off switch can be instrumental in getting us out of harms way, but in the event we experience stress AND we need to think, we may make a less than well thought out decision.  The major stress hormone, cortisol, becomes increased, interferes with weight loss and is associated with weight gain. The holidays are the perfect storm for weight gain in most adults. Our stress hormones kick up and stay up, signaling the body to store fat, and treats are everywhere.

Stress will be ever present, and so we should early on develop skills to help manage the situation.  The old adage of counting to 10 makes good sense, allowing the fight or flight to dissipate, and think about options in a particular circumstance.

Lose weight, Focus on Stress….

Research says we can manage our stress and lower cortisol, and that we can manage weight with lower cortisol levels. Pretty cool! Research also shows that mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises lower cortisol, improve our health and can help manage weight.

Try a few of these, and remember that this skills take practice and time to develop!

  • Count to 10 with a mantra. 1. I need to remain calm. 2 i need to remain calm. 3 I need to remain….
  • Focus on breath – Inhale on 4, exhale on 8.
  • Visualize a calm place – the ocean, favorite vacation spot, calm meadow
  • Give yourself a hug (get a hug) – compression signals our parasympathetic nervous system and helps to calm us. Hug away!

Other samples of cortisol lowering activities:

  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Breathing
  • Aerobic activities
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Being Mindful in any setting
  • Play with animals
  • Give generously
  • Express yourself creatively
  • Dance
  • Sex
  • Pray or join a spiritual community
  • Participate in a social group and decrease loneliness
  • Regulation of circadian rhythm

Surely, you can’t meditate away poor nutrition, but incorporating some mindfulness into your holiday season can help lessen stress, and maybe even your weight!

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast?

The evolution of cereal is fascinating. There is an entire aisle in a 10 aisle supermarket dedicated to nothing but cereal. People refer to “my” cereal like my mom watched “her” show. Cereal is personal, and Kellogg, the inventor of the mother cereal, the cornflake, had some interesting ideas about why we all needed to eat cereal.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was the Director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan opening in 1866, welcoming guests from all walks of life, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart, who may have been looking for a “health tune-up”. The San, as it was called, offered holistic spa treatments from medical doctors to mineral baths. Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist, promoted well-being through a multi-faceted approach that involved nutrition, digestion, exercise, cleanliness, bath soaks, surgical interventions, electrotherapeutics, massage therapists, bakers, waiters, mental well being and a host of other practices and guidelines to help people become healthier versions of themselves. Many beliefs of The Seventh Day Adventists became part of his practice including nutrition, spirituality, mental hygiene, community and social interaction and physical movement. One of the inventions of Kellogg was, indeed, the cornflake in 1894, designed to provide maximum nutrients in the blandest form possible for his patients at The San. Kellogg thought the consumption of bland food would decrease masturbation, which he thoroughly frowned upon. Kellogg referred to his lifestyle as biological living, insisting on daily exercise, plenty of fresh air and complete abstinence from sex, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. I’m not certain how he would have mankind stay in business to consume his cornflakes, but seemingly, enough people only followed some of what he recommended.

Kellogg, a vegetarian, consumed many grains and found himself creating the cornflake which is a pretty famous breakfast food found in most all westernized civilizations. He encouraged everyone to chew each bite of food 40 times. (I’m not sure how to pull that off with cornflakes, but i see where he was going. ) Kellogg had lots of great ideas, and others that were a bit extreme, but I think he had the right philosophy to combine many aspects of health to lessen disease.

Unfortunately, I think his cornflake idea has morphed into what he would have seen as debauchery. Comparing The San with todays environment, we have The San with live music, educational health lectures, enough baths to put the Roman Empire to shame, outdoor trails for walking and meditating, sporting fields, bakers, cooks, and a medical staff and today’s health practices where getting a doctors appointment can be dictated by insurance coverage, foods are highly processed and contain many unnatural preservatives and little nutrients, many of us sit and drive for the better part of our day and get very little exercise or exercise is forced (a gym treadmill versus walking to the store), and misinformation and sound bytes regarding health and fitness. Is the cornflake to blame for all of our healthcare woes? Definitely not, but in my opinion, the cornflake was one of the inventions from Kellogg would could have done without.

Why I’m Against the Cornflake…

Kelloggs Cornflakes Ingredients:

Ingredients: Corn (88%), sugar, salt, barley malt extract, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate), minerals (iron, zinc oxide).

2g protein, 24 g carbs per 1 cup serving, and not much else. The vitamins are fortified – added back in, as they were stripped out in the manufacturing process.

The corn of today is definitely not the corn of 1888. I stay clear of corn whenever possible because of the increased potential of genetic modification and Round Up pesticide in the crops, intentionally or unintentionally. Corn, without modifications, contains omega 6 fatty acids, and that makes it an inflammatory food. And, highly processed forms of corn (which are everywhere) break down very rapidly in the gut, spiking blood sugars, wreaking havoc on persons who have diabetes or other blood sugar control issues. Lastly, we should get fiber from vegetable and fruits, not from refined grains.

Most other cereals are in the same boat with the cornflake, offering little nutrition with a lot of simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugars and typically are stored as fat, even the ones that label themselves as healthy. Poor Kellogg, giving him the benefit of the doubt, was beyond well-intentioned, but could not imagine the future offspring of the cornflake. The other products available from Kellogg’s today now include Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes (chocolate or with marshmallows , Frosted Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Special K, Cereal Bars, Pop Tarts and more. None of these are good for you. None. In fact, quite the opposite. The chart below compares the main Kellogg products and a few other seemingly healthy cereal products. Most cereals, including the ones that tell you they are good for you are not the healthiest choices. Review the carbohydrates, sugars and fiber per serving as well as the ingredient list. If you must still choose cereal, avoid BHT, BTA, TBQH and choose cereals preserved with tocopherol (fancy name for vitamin E) The US allows food manufacturers to use these petroleum based and more harmful preservatives, and interestingly, Europe does not. Food manufactures have different recipes for exports to the EU. This is disgusting policy, in my opinion, and should be added to my list of why we should not eat processed cereals.

CerealProteinCarbsFatSugarFiber
Kelloggs
Frosted Flakes126010.5
Froot Loops2260.5103
Frosted mini Wheats (10 biscuits)7621158
Raisin Bran5471177
Rice Krispies229040
Special K7290.550.5
Cereal Bar – Blueberry2243123
Pop Tart2354.515.5
Other Manufacturers
Cheerios – General Mills320223
Puffins – Cinn – Barbara’s Bakery226115.5
Bob’s Red Mill Muesli423334

So, for obvious reason, I am against the cornflake, but taking one or two things from Kellogg, I invented my own cereal. I share most of his beliefs, but bland food treatment is one I definitely don’t wrap my head around – on several levels. This flavorful, nutrient dense cereal provides 11 g protein, 16 g carbs, 27g total fat 16 of which are omega 3’s, and 5 g fiber without any grain and hopefully no harmful ingredients (depending on the source of your berries and other ingredients). The total calories for this meal is 332 and chock full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, healthy fats and lots of flavor!

Nut and Berry Cereal

1/3 cup Walnuts, crushed

1T Flax Seed, ground

1T Hemp Seed

1 tsp coconut, shredded

1/3 cup blueberries

4 strawberries

4 oz Almond Milk

Ah, My Back!!

Lower back injuries are about the most common complaint I hear, and the spring/summer season seems to increase the injuries as people start to garden, clean out garages, pack up cars for vacations and get things down from attics. We find ourselves in awkward positions on ladders, crouching in crawl spaces, trying to reach high shelves, and tend to use and overexert muscles that were not meant for that job. We hired the wrong muscle for the job, and it locks up or becomes strained causing us great discomfort, pain, and/or limited range of motion for a few weeks.
Most of us walk around chronically ready for this injury, and the extra reach, leaning over to pull out a weed, leaning over to wash dishes, picking up a heavy box or bag using your lower back muscles (unsupported forward flexion) is the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.
WHY?This injury is most commonly caused by tight hip flexors that pull on and overstretch the glut and hip girdle muscles. This results in weaker glut and hip muscles. When you go to call on those muscles, they are unable to engage, and the weaker neighboring muscles jump in to help (low back) and that is the definition of having your kicker play on the defensive line – wrong job. Sometimes, people have a nuisance ache in the low back for years and then one wrong movement sends it into injury mode. I see this more and more with the increased hours of sitting in front of computers, increased driving and increased looking down at technology – headinphonitis.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWSBad news is that it doesn’t look like we are going to eliminate technology anytime soon. Good news is we can offset the poor posture and related injuries by stretching our hip flexors, strengthening our core, gluts and hip girdle muscles and being mindful of the way we move especially in forward flexion.
WHAT TO DO?TIPS to reduce low back injury

  • Stand and stretch every 20-30 minutes if working in a seated position
  • Take breaks while driving
  • Avoid letting your feet rotate out when seated, especially the left when driving
  • Intentionally tighten your gluts when standing for long periods of time (waiting in a check out line) to take the pressure off your lower back

STRETCH AND STRENGTHENFlexor Stretch – Runners LungeCore Exercise – PlankGlut Exercise – Banded Glut Bridge

Including the above into your regular routine can stave off back injuries and help keep you moving well. Detailed videos can be found on our new YouTube channel or on our member website. Check in frequently as we add more great videos to help you stay healthy!Search “embodyFitness” on YouTube or follow the link below. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuuezoJSmZwRSzg0RHYzeRA

Is Breakfast Really Important?

The well known phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” makes a blanket statement, but doesn’t tell us why or what some good examples of breakfast may look like. Is breakfast the most important meal? In most scenarios, yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Common answers about eating breakfast…1. I’m not hungry when I wake up.2. I feel nauseous when I eat breakfast.3. I don’t have time to prepare breakfast.4. I’m sick of eggs, and don’t know what else to eat.5. I just eat when I get to the office, whatever they have available in the break room.
When you wake up and begin to move around, you are asking your body to use calories. If no food is introduced relatively soon, the body slows your metabolism (the amount of calories you will use for basic maintenance – blinking eyes, beating heart, breathing, walking to the kitchen for coffee). If this happens regularly, the body decreases or stops the morning production of digestive enzymes – conserving resources. You won’t feel hungry, and if you do eat, you don’t feel well because no enzymes were readily available to digest food causing bloating, uncomfortability, lethargy and even nausea. Take 1-3 bites of an easily digestible food until your body recognizes the routine and starts to increase digestion. Slowly add to your breakfast over a few weeks time.
Breakfast doesn’t need to eggs, and it certainly doesn’t need to be pancakes, waffles, muffins or cereal. Breakfast becomes the hardest meal of the day if we choose chocolate chip pancakes with syrup. This meal, and similar grain based meals, break down very quickly, spike the blood sugar, and can set us up for a day long roller coaster ride of blood sugar and energy dysregulation. Think of balancing. If you can balance well on one leg, and then someone brushes by you disrupting your balance, you are more likely to regain balance if you were well balanced to begin with. If your balance is not great, and while you are on one leg, someone brushes against you, you will probably topple over – hopefully not getting hurt. Many systems in your body work like this – if you have a good foot hold, your body can better hold itself in healthier ranges – blood sugar, energy, etc. If not, these systems are more likely to get out of control quickly. Breakfast is your first lesson of balance. Eat a nutrient dense, non-sugary breakfast to start your day. No time to prepare? This is probably the most common issue I hear about breakfast. I have a gazillion breakfast dishes that can be prepared the night before or that take 1-4 minutes to prepare. Eating breakfast doesn’t need to look like a hot feast that turns your morning into a hot mess every day, so don’t let your perceptions of what a healthy breakfast is turn you away from making it happen.
Eggs are quick and simple, and if you are trying to get a system in place, can be an easy go to meal. However, many more foods in the world to eat besides eggs! Food can be eaten any time of day, so expand your breakfast palette to include foods you may only think of for snacks, lunch or dinners.
There are very few offices that have anything healthy kicking around. Perhaps, you are one of the lucky few with healthy mindful options, but I like to have a bit more understanding of my food and not leave it to chance. Always be prepared with your food, and only use office snack areas as emergencies – maybe like zombie apocalypse and there’s nothing else left.
Egg Crepe

1 egg1 T tapioca flour1 T water1 T coconut oil or ghee (depending on taste or filling)
Heat oil over medium heat in a saute pan.Mix all other ingredients in a bowl (use a fork-the more you whip an egg, the fluffier the product becomes)Pour batter in pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, testing the edges. The edges should pull away from the pan easily when cooked. Flip crepe over with a spatula or practice your fancy one handed flipping move, and cook another 30 seconds.Select a filling that adds nutrients and keeps the sugar content low. Today, I used diced avocado. I also love baby arugula with lime juice (and a little Franks or other hot sauce if you’re spicy)This is a great snack, too. Experiment with your fillings.
Non Egg BreakfastsBreakfast HashChia Seed PuddingNut and Berry “Cereal”Fresh Strawberries w Nut Butter and Cocoa Bullet CoffeeRoasted VeggiesAlmond/Coconut Milk SmoothiesThere’s a gazillion more…
Start your day off well! In a world of things we can’t control, control what you can, starting with breakfast!

A Gluten Free Donut is Still a Donut

Yesterday, another beautiful photo of a doughnut came across my FB feed promoting a multitude of gluten free products – doughnuts, a variety of baked goods, and crunchy snacks. I’m annoyed and over the gluten free market. Of course, I am sympathetic to the challenges people face with Celiac’s Disease, (a condition that ranges from mild to severe disruption of digestion and inflammation of the digestive tract resulting in discomfort and malabsorption of nutrients), but do we need to make these people even sicker but promoting a plethora of baked goods?? I’m all for the occasional piece of gluten containing baked good, and think that gluten free options for people with celiac eloquently fill this need. However, gluten free does not mean calorie free, sugar free, or healthy – just means no gluten.
Let’s take a step back. Gluten is the most famous lectin, found in wheat. Any product that contains wheat will contain gluten, and not all of the items we eat are that straightforward. Pastas, breads, crackers and baked goods are usually easy to identify, but gluten can also be found in sauces that have used a roux to thicken, soy sauces, beer, tortillas, energy bars, foods with breading, soups and many others. Oats, a naturally gluten free food, is typically a contaminated crop and manufacturers must certify their product has been found to be free of trace gluten from neighboring crops. Gluten free is certainly hard to navigate in an environment that depends on processed and manufactured foods.
Marketing, as such, has capitalized on the new craze. Many people decide to eat gluten free even if they aren’t compelled by medical necessity, viewing this as a healthier lifestyle. Great! But, let’s define a gluten free lifestyle. Food manufacturing doesn’t make money if you choose to grill a piece of chicken and serve it with a fresh salad (a naturally gluten free meal), but let’s circle back and remember the gluten free doughnut.
There’s nothing wrong with following a gluten free lifestyle without celiac, but be mindful of your choices. Gluten free chips, cookies, doughnuts, protein bars, pea snaps, rice crisps are everywhere and advertised as a gluten free snack. An apple is also gluten free. Add some nut butter. Gluten free. Berries are chock full of fiber, antioxidants and are gluten free. Sautéed or steamed string beans with sea salt are gluten free.
I made a snack yesterday for myself (and for teens!). Preparation was about 5 minutes and our fresh snack was full of nutrients, fiber and gluten free. No highly processed snack. Everyone ate it.

Sesame Broccoli Crowns
In a skillet, melt 2 T coconut oil over medium heat. Add 2 T sesame seeds and cook until golden brown – about 1-2 minutes. Chop broccoli into bit sized crowns and place crown side down in pan. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. As the oil absorbs into your broccoli, you may see the pan get dry. Add 2 T coconut aminos. If you don’t notice your pan get dry, wait about 1-2 minutes before adding the coconut aminos. Cook until the tenderness you like.
This crunchy snack is robust in flavor and a great source of fiber, vitamin A, B6 and C. Way better than a gluten free doughnut.
I heard you say that there’s no way that your child will eat broccoli for a snack (or you!). Hm. I disagree. Vehemently. If your child has been eating chips, cookies, dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets other salty, sugary snacks for years and then you realize it’s time to offer broccoli – yeah, that may not go smoothly. At first. Think of all those children out there without access to chips and dinonuggets. They survive. Our culture has made snack foods easy and comfortable, but in the long run, may not be a healthy path. There’s no judgement regarding a dinonuggets or doughnuts, but I encourage you to make that a part of your healthy lifestyle, not the foundation.

Cookout Season Is here!

The sun is starting to peak out from behind rain clouds, bringing warmer weather and drawing us to the beautiful outside. Memorial Day weekend will be here calling us to cookouts and BBQ’s, but what to bring? Abandon the staple pasta and potato salads, and venture into more flavorful recipes. Win over the party with a sensational side dish, and you won’t have to tell anyone how simple the dish is to create! If you can chop, you got this!
(Helpful tip when chopping – use the appropriate knife and make sure it is sharp. For example, chopping large vegetables with a pairing knife will be a gruesome chore. Use your large knife for big chopping jobs, and a small pairing knife for smaller, more detailed needs. Use no slip cutting boards, and remember the more you chop, the better chopper you become!)
One of my favorite dishes for cookout season is my versatile Mango Salsa. This can be eaten as a main or a side, or used to top grilled chicken, sausage or other grilled meats. Both vegetarians and meat eaters can enjoy this fresh punch of flavor, and know that they are eating a nutrient dense and delicious food while enjoying friends and family. You can add or leave off certain ingredients based on preference. My last experiment lead to a Chopped Chicken Sausage and Mango Salsa – also incredibly delicious!
Basic Mango Salsa
Mango – 1Avocado – 1Scallion – 4Tomato – 1, medium, no seedsRed Onion – 1/2Green Pepper – 1 Red Pepper – 1Cilantro – about 1/2 cup finely choppedLime – juice of 1 (more if you like)Sea Salt – 1 tsp
Chop all ingredients and place in a bowl. Squeeze lime juice, add salt and toss mixture together. Serve immediately or chilled.

Sausage option – Cook any type of sausage you like and cut into wagon wheels, then quarters. Toss with your salsa.

Obesity Is Not About Weight Part 2. (Toxins are Bad! Except when they are in our food? Let’s Wake Up!)

I had a few conversations this week that led me to my place of rage against the man.  Most people know that there are egregious toxins in our environment and we should avoid them at all costs; radiation, asbestos, carbon monoxide, heavy metal exposure, the list goes on.  Coming in contact with these toxins can cause serious health complications, including death.  Toxins are bad! However, when the unpronounceable compound is on a food ingredient label, many people assume that it’s fine to consume.  What?! That’s the LAST place you want these compounds. THE LAST.  I won’t bash the FDA, the governing agency for food, drugs and cosmetics.  They do the best they can to regulate and oversee a load beyond their workday, and the legislation in place often times does not entirely protect consumers.  This system is not entirely functionally, but it’s also not entirely to blame.  Back to why the hell is this poison in our food, and why is everyone so OK with it.  
When processed foods came on the scene, the role was small, and part of an existing wholesome diet, albeit high in meat and potatoes, but home cooked. Behind the scenes, the perfect storm was brewing.  As women were going back into the workforce in higher numbers and wanting to provide a meal for the family to prove they could do it all in a never let them see you sweat world, food manufacturers stepped up to the plate.  Some may say a pre-calculated slow trickle of sugar was simultaneously introduced to the American population. (A great conspiracy theory we should all look into – the sugar plan in the vault) And, when the government warned of heart disease from saturated fats, the food manufacturers jumped on the low fat trend.  Removing fats from foods makes them taste like you took the flavor out, because you did, and so insert sugar and salt.  Our taste buds went crazy for the stuff.  We wanted more. We are wired to love both, and together, forget it!  US agencies still warned of heart disease as the leading killer and recommended cutting back on sodium to help tackle the blood pressure issues. Food manufacturing again pulling through for us.  Low sodium.  No problem.  Then, diabetes.  Low sugar.  You got it. (Years later, we now have a functional MRI of the brain to show us a comparison of a brain exposed to cocaine and a brain exposed to sugar.  Identical response.)  In a scientists dream scramble, a whole population wanted their low fat, sugarless cake to be sweet and taste good.  Off to work for the food scientist, who undoubtedly had a blast figuring out how to preserve, stabilize, extend and create new foods that tasted good from…not food.
Fast forward to the present day.  No one cares that there is BHT in their gum that they chew every day, or sodium benzoate in their lemonade.  The manufacturers aren hiding it – it’s right on the label.  Less than 2%.  The FDA recognizes the low concentration of most of these preservatives, extenders and food stuffs, and typically determines a level for low dose exposure  using a term Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).  The consumer agrees, and happily chews and sips away.  While accurate,  what happens when the concentration is magnified by sheer user design.  What happens when I choose :

  • a low fat, frozen egg breakfast sandwich with only a handful of preservatives so must be better than the others with the long list, and an iced coffee with flavored creamer (sugars and chemicals) for breakfast 
  • grilled chicken (marinated in a dressing with BHT and high fructose corn syrup) salad for lunch and a cocktail of other chemicals on the other salad ingredients
  • afternoon snack of a soda and a few pieces of chocolate since I’ve been good all day
  • healthy dinner of take out with questionable sourced oils, sauces, flavors, proteins – not even entertaining whether or not the crops where GMO  or antibiotic free or what my chicken ate or was injected with
  • and then just a 1/2 scoop of low fat slow churned ice cream with

– oh good grief, I just googled the ingredients of one of the more popular slow churns and found more offenders than I can actually list without boring everyone to tears. The highlights: corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup, coconut oil, cream, high fructose corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, (NEW WAY TO SAY TRANS FAT) baking soda, (WHY) propylene glycol (COMMONLY FOUND IN LIPSTICK), monostearate, guar gum, natural flavor, (THIS COULD BE ANYTHING FROM MSG TO BUG SHELLS) monoglycerides, xanathan gum, carrageenan, polysorbate 80…  So I don’t bore with details on each compound, let’s just assume that if you see the above on an ingredient list, try to avoid eating that food 
A confused and misguided population tries to eat well, slowly poisons itself…My gruesome point here, is that nearly 60% of Americans are overweight and almost 40% obese.  There are so few people at their ideal body weight that they are typically outnumbered.  Being overweight does not stand out as often or as soon, creating a devastating environment.  Confusing discrimination for health concerns has also led us a stray in managing this massive problem.  Americans are getting heavier and sicker in an environment where no one wants to offend anyone.  Overweight and obesity are clinical markers that something is not ok in our body – just like a cholesterol panel gives you data, so does your weight. There are many reasons that people overeat, and we have now created an environment where it’s ok, don’t talk about it what’s the point, just medicate it and continue to let food chemicals increase our rates of auto immune disease, allergies, spectrum disorders, cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hashimotos disease, the list goes on, AGAIN.  The consumer will always get what they ask for – remember low fat, sodium and sugars.  Unfortunately, at our weakest and sickest, we have to find the strength and power to demand better.  We have to be the ones to ask for a healthier food supply free of toxins, pesticides, and sugars.  Pharma, fitness, supplements and weight loss industries work together in a perfect symphony of dysfunction of failing health.  Demand better.
Assignment: Observe people around you.  Notice what they eat and drink, if they are sedentary or active, and at what level of stress they run. Notice the health concerns, injuries and chronic diseases and see if you can find a pattern. You likely won’t take long to find that people who eat wholesome, home cooked meals mostly with family, who are relatively active and who manage stress well have a lower incidence of chronic illness, joint problems requiring surgical interventions and live a better quality of life than their counterparts who are sedentary, eat mostly processed foods and who always seem to have an unmanaged drama.
While many of us are carrying extra pounds, remember that this is a signal from your body.  Judgement free.  The point is NOT to point out that you are a few pounds overweight, and you need to change.  You are probably amazing, as is.  The point IS, the habits that typically leave you overweight are the same ones that lead to chronic diseases and injuries.  Lets wake up and boycott foods that contain known toxins, and focus on wholesome foods.  The changes can be challenging, but you are worth it!

No Dairy? But where do I get Calcium?

Between lactose intolerance, dairy protein allergies and anti inflammatory diets, dairy is slowly being consumed less and less.  
Our nutrition programs begin, in part, by eliminating dairy and gluten.  Some folks choose to put it back in their life, while others feel so good they can’t imagine returning to either on a regular basis.  
Most often, people accept no gluten.  Our cultural norm accepts that gluten is bad for you, and I don’t get too many questions about why we should avoid gluten (although a few).  Dairy, on the other hand, gets people fired up.  Why no dairy? I don’t have lactose issues.  Where will I get my calcium??  All good questions and points.
As we age, we produce less of the necessary enzyme, lactase, that will break the lactose.  This can result in bigger particles moving through your digestive tract resulting in gas, bloating, cramps or diarrhea.  Not pleasant.  Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose and so some people can tolerate some dairy products.  Phew, I can still eat my cheese.  Not so fast.  The main protein in dairy products, casein, has been shown to be inflammatory to our digestive tract and disruptive to several other systems in the body.  A quick point about inflammation in your gut.  Make no mistake, the immediate bloating or discomfort you feel may subside within a few hours, but the lining of your gut which is the delivery port for all your vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and all other necessary nutrients, remains compromised absorbing less, and in some cases letting through big particles that then get where they don’t belong. Your gut is also involved in serotonin production, and if it is not healthy, your serotonin production is out of whack. (low serotonin has been connected to anxiety, irritability, insomnia, impulsivity, aggression and low self esteem- interestingly enough, an overlapping list of ADHD among other diagnosis on the rise).  This is the tip of the iceberg with inflammation, and while anti inflammatory diets may seem extreme and an over reaction, our guts our often neglected with what we ingest.  The gut gets injured slowly over time and can lead to a host of bowel and digestive disorders.
While I’m not Tom Brady level of anti-inflammatory diets, I avoid dairy primarily because it is inflammatory.  The source of the dairy is questionable, the products can be highly processed, and I’m not getting a whole bunch of nutrients.  If I do choose dairy infrequently, I am sure to source my dairy from a local farm where I can see the cows roaming freely and eating grass, or I get imported cheese from a country with good cattle practices.  Much of the US dairy is sourced from cows in feed lots that are given a grain based feed (not healthy for their guts) and other practices that can create an unhealthy product.  We were never meant to drink cow’s milk, but we do.
If I can’t have dairy, where I am going to get all my calcium?  Good question. Calcium is a mineral that is found in soil.  Plants bioaccumulate calcium, and we eat them.  Some of the best sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, swiss chard and collards.  Most vegetables and legumes are an excellent source of calcium. Another way to ingest calcium is through smaller fish, as we ingest the small calcium containing bones. Some of these well known fish have a powerful and distinct taste, sardines and anchovies, and can turn people away with their pungent tastes, but canned salmon packed as a whole  fish also fits the bill.  Canned foods are subjected to high heat upon canning, and this helps to soften the small bones.  We easily chew these most often without realizing.
I used to make a very flavorful and delicious salmon burger that called for a host of different herbs and ingredients.  My kids loved them, but the measuring, mixing and pan searing made them a dinner choice that took some significant prep.  I recently tweaked (eliminated some herbs and ingredients) to make a quick salmon burger, and no one really knew the difference.  Hats off to Nicole and her inclusion of Greek Seasoning from Penzeys – a real time saver!
Quick Salmon Burger
Sockeye Salmon – 1 can (14.5 ounces)Egg – 1Greek Seasoning – 1 TTapioca Flour – about 1/4 cupCoconut Oil – 2 T
Begin by heating coconut oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  Drain and rinse salmon while in the can, then strain.  Combine salmon, egg and Greek seasoning in a bowl and mix well crunching up any visible bones.  Add about 1/8 cup of the flour to the mixture and place the other 1/8 cup on a plate.  Form 4 balls and then flatten into patties.  Use the flour on the plate to coat the patties in tapioca flour, and then add to the hot oil. Pan sear the burgers for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Remove and serve.  I like to serve this over a bed of greens.
HELPFUL TIP: Double or triple the recipe and freeze for later.

Redefine Your Snacks

Snacks, in general, leave people struggling.  Eating frequently through the day is a great way to keep your metabolism moving and keep blood sugars stable, but finding a healthy snack can be overwhelming.  Just because we call it a snack, doesn’t mean it comes in a wrapper.  A snack is a smaller meal, and might consist of anything – even a leftover bit of your lunch! Don’t let the word snack (or your hanger!) stress you out when it’s time for some nutrition!
SLXLM

​​Kids usually like hand to mouth food, especially after school when appetites are occasionally out of control. Unfortunately, that makes chips, cookies and candy a go-to for many.  The other day I thought I would try to throw down some snow peas for a snack.  I wasn’t sure if anyone would bite.  They did. Flavorful, crunchy and a hand to mouth food, the snow peas worked.  The main complaint was that hands were greasy, and that was an easy fix.

Sesame Snow Peas
Coconut Oil – 2 TSesame Seeds – 2 TGarlic – 1 cloveSnow Peas –  about 3 cupsSea Salt – 1 tsp
Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and allow to become fragrant (1-2 minutes).  Add the sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until golden brown.  Add the peas, tossing until all peas are coated with oil and cooked through (3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the skillet). Remove from heat and serve!