Sunday, December 15, 2013


What do coconut oil, chia seeds, walnuts, turmeric and sauerkraut juice have in common? They are tremendously healthy and they each fold easily into a smoothie of orange juice and banana.

I love to start the day off making smoothies, green smoothies. It's a great way to pack a huge amount of nutrients and fiber into one glass, and over the three years I've been making them I've learned some new ingredients that make them that much healthier.

I start out with oranges and banana. Instead of juicing my oranges, I peel them, pick out all the seeds, and throw the segments into the blender. This provides a lot more fiber than orange juice, even juice with pulp, plus it's fresher and cheaper than buying juice. I add a banana for sweetness and potassium. Then I continue with the following five ingredients before I add anything green because although my husband and I will drink stuff that looks like sludge,  our teenage daughter would rather die (or so she says). So I keep her smoothie a cheerful orange. But to health it up I add:

Coconut oil -- Besides about a million health benefits (click on link), coconut oil helps make a smoothie more filling and it also, along with the banana, helps disguise the taste of the next ingredient.

Sauerkraut juice -- I love making sauerkraut! I got interested because of its probiotic benefits, then realized it's very easy to do. (I learned everything from this Caroline Barringer video.) I pour in some of the juice or use some of the kraut. Either way, the taste can't be detected (really!), and it gives the smoothie a probiotic boost. (Note: You can buy sauerkraut, but to have probiotic benefits, it must be unpasteurized.)

Turmeric -- I've read a lot about the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric but have felt hard-pressed to incorporate it in enough of the dishes I prepare. Smoothies are the perfect answer! And in an orange-colored smoothie it only warms the color up more. The taste is not detectable.

Chia seeds -- When I read Born to Run four years ago, a book largely about the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico who can all run -- men, women, and children -- 50-100 miles at a time, I took up running (1 mile at a time) at age 54, and I also became fascinated with chia seeds, one of the staples of the Tarahumara diet and a food very cheap and easy to come by here in Mexico. Putting chia in the blender not only thickens the smoothie, making it more filling, but it breaks up the seeds a little making them more bioavailable.

Walnuts -- I learned about putting whole nuts into a blender smoothie from Dr. Mark Hyman who has a great video about his favorite breakfast smoothie made with an almond milk base that I thought was awesome. Turns out my family doesn't like almond milk though. Amazingly, the texture of the nuts is barely discernible, and they add a nice flavor that goes well with the hint of coconut.

At this point, I pour off some of the thick, deep-orange liquid which is Alice's portion of the smoothie, then I continue with green stuff.

Pumpkin seeds (raw) -- I'm a magnesium fanatic. It's the only supplement I take and I recommend it to everyone because it's one of the most necessary minerals there is and yet most people are deficient in it. The foremost authority on magnesium that I know of is Carolyn Dean who wrote The Magnesium Miracle. No matter how I sing magnesium's praises though, my husband is never convinced he should take it. Alright then, I put pumpkin seeds in the smoothie. Pumpkin seeds contain lots of magnesium among other good things.

Fennel -- In my opinion, fennel is key to a good green smoothie. Use either the fronds or chop up some of the bulb or use fennel seeds. Any part of fennel imparts a lot of sweet licorice flavor that totally masks the flavor of ....

Spinach  -- If there's a healthier food than spinach, don't tell Popeye. The only thing I don't like about it is that it cooks down so much, so I like using it raw in smoothies. It does impart quite the green color though, so you have to have the right "customers."

If you bother to look up any of these ingredients using the links provided, you'll see that most of them are antioxidants, cancer fighters, and a host of other good things. But also, this smoothie tastes great and is filling. If it turns out too thick, you can either add more orange halves or serve it with a spoon.

Note: My blender is nothing special. It's got two speeds and is probably one of the cheaper models available at any store. It's serves me very well!

RELATED POST: Green Smoothies

Thursday, December 12, 2013


In September 2013 I reported that I'd given up wheat for 170 days but hadn't lost weight. I did, however, find it very easy to give up a 35-year habit of drinking alcohol (mostly wine) each evening, so that post was really about the wheat-wine connection. I also mentioned how I loved the way stopping wheat stopped my food cravings.

You might wonder how, if I lost my food cravings plus gave up alcohol and wheat, I didn't lose weight. I certainly wondered! I searched all over the Wheat Belly blog and finally found a post called: I lost the wheat, but didn't lose weight: 2. Dr. Davis gave various explanations. The one that attracted me was this:

3) Lose the dairy–The problem with dairy is not fat; it’s the whey fraction of protein. Some people are susceptible to the “insulinotrophic” action of whey–a tripling of insulin output by the pancreas, a situation that stalls weight loss. The solution: Avoid all dairy when trying to lose weight. I know of no other way to confidently identify this as the culprit . . . except a trial of elimination. This approach does, however, make the diet very restrictive, so this may be necessary for only as long as you are trying to lose weight.

So in September of this year I gave up dairy and suddenly it was like someone put a pin in my belly and deflated it. I finally, after three years, started to easily shed pounds (12 of them, to date). But this was not the first time I'd given up dairy.

I had been having an on-again-off-again relationship with dairy since I did a cleanse with my daughter for the first three weeks of January, 2011. The cleanse was: no animal products (meat, fish, eggs, or dairy), no gluten, no sugar, no coffee, and no alcohol. At the end of the 21 days I wrote in my journal: "If I totally leave this cleanse behind, I'll be a fool -- my rosacea is so faded and my sinuses so clear. My mood has been stable too. Haven't had a depression crash or a super-high, full-of-a-million-ideas sensation. I just feel pretty calm. Good sleeping too. Amazing." But I had no idea which ingredients were doing what and I slowly went back to my prior diet which included all of the off-limit foods.

Then in December, 2011 my sister-in-law loaned me The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program by Jane Plant, PhD who attributed the turn-around of her own breast cancer to giving up dairy. In the book she explained it was growth hormones and the casein protein in the milk that caused cancer or at least made cancer cells multiply. Since my mother died of breast cancer when she was sixty, as a precaution, I thought I'd give up dairy again.

I was content being mostly dairy-free until I read another book several months later: Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. (I love this book.) In it Prentice explains how raw milk, besides being healthier than pasteurized and homogenized can have various flavors based on what the cows are eating and the season of the year. I felt robbed that I'd never had that experience! I reconsidered my fear of the raw milk sold door to door here in Morelia. I waved one of the sellers over that I'd seen selling to my neighbors over many years and started buying from him too. It felt so wholesome to buy milk ladled out for me from the metal milk canisters he pedaled around on the cart attached to his bicycle.

At first I was very cautious about trying the milk, but after a few days, all my fear was gone and I became a raw milk devotee. I also started making kefir from it. When I went to New Hampshire in the summer I was delighted to find raw milk being sold in my local grocery store. So my rule became, I only consume raw milk and cheeses made from raw milk. Still I probably consumed less than a cup of milk a day, mostly in my morning coffee and small amounts of cheese occasionally. But that was enough to sabotage my weight loss! So what IS the "insulinotrophic action of whey"? Here's the best explanation I found:

Dairy products produce higher insulin responses (Insulin index, II, 90–98) than expected from their comparatively low glycemic indices (GI 15–30) [1,2]. Insulinogenic effects from dairy products have been observed in healthy subjects, both when ingested as a single meal [1], and when included into a mixed meal [2,3]. The insulin-releasing capacity of dairy products has been attributed to the protein fraction, and both whey and casein have been shown to stimulate insulin secretion in healthy subjects [4,5].

In other words, the glycemic index does not tell the whole story about milk. (Glycemic Index, you've let me down!)

The other thing this proves to me yet again, is that weight loss is NOT dependent on calories but on types of food. A cup of whole raw milk is 156 calories. Taking that away cannot explain the rapid loss of inches from around my middle.

So that's my experience with milk. Another person with a milk story is Mark Bittman. This article from the Times: Got Milk? You Don't Need It  explains how he went all his life suffering from heartburn / acid reflux. Finally he tried giving up milk and the symptoms disappeared within 24 hours. The article has some other good information about milk as well.

For both wheat and dairy -- there's no harm in giving either or both  up in a trial to see how their elimination might effect your health. Remember, modern man has been around for about 200,000 years, and only began eating either grains and dairy about 10,000 years ago, so it's not like those foods are necessary for survival.  Elimination is so easy and it's FREE and the outcome may totally surprise you.


The insulinogenic effect of whey protein is partially mediated by a direct effect of amino acids and GIP on β-cells. Nutrition and Metabolism

Learn about Lactose Intolerance here:

Evolution and Milk articles: Calcium absorption not the cause of evolution of milk digestion in Europeans, Archaeology: The Milk Revolution

And what about the cows who are producing all this milk? Here's an article considering the modern dairy cow in America:

Thursday, December 5, 2013


When I was in high school, my mom started serving me and my sister fresh squeezed orange juice when she came in to wake us up in the mornings. We lived north of Chicago, so it's not like we had an orange tree growing outside the back door. It took some effort on her part.

Often I would wake to the little rumbly noise of the electric juicer as she pressed the orange halves onto the rotating cone. I have a keen memory of her walking in and setting the juice glass on the blue dresser my dad had painted for me. She'd walk across the room and open my drapes and say something cheerful like, "It's a beautiful day for school!" which was equal parts nice and obnoxious.

This was back in the early 70's when Anita Bryant was on TV (before she came out as a gay hater) telling us "that a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine" and, amazingly, that we could drink it for "just pennies a glass."

My mom could've made her own healthy commercials. She was always telling us to eat a piece of fruit when we asked for something sweet. She knew that refined sugar was a monster and she always hid the cookies. She believed in fruit salad, sunshine, and fresh air. Unfortunately none of that saved her. She was obese by today's standards, she had type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and she died of breast cancer at the age of 60. And yet, she was right-on about that orange juice. I'm just not sure she drank it herself.

What my mom didn't know, because it's relatively new information, is that body fat can become inflamed and that orange juice can reverse that inflammation. I just learned this recently watching a 3 minute video clip accompanying  an article at by Moises Valesquez-Manoff wherein he watches a woman eat a 900 calorie McDonald's meal followed by lots of fresh orange juice for researcher Dr. Paresh Dandona who draws the woman's blood for the next five hours.  Dandona has shown in a number of experiments that FRESH orange juice can prevent the inflammation ordinarily caused by high fat, high carbohydrate processed foods.

Cool, right?

Of course, the take-away here is that we shouldn't be eating foods that inflame our fat, and we should definitely be trying to get rid of that fat. However, tis the season, and we probably won't be worrying as much about that as we should over the next few weeks. I, for one, hate to be a Debbie Downer when someone offers me treats for the holidays, particularly homemade ones. BUT I think a treat that's also festive and often very appreciated is a basket or crate of oranges. I particularly like the little crates of mandarin oranges that are in all the grocery stores this time of year. They're good for bringing to a party, to set out at the office, or to give the teachers on the list. Nobody has to know their medicinal purposes.

 1Obesity Makes Fat Cells Act Like They're Infected,
Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?,

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Any time I plan a group dinner these days I have to take into consideration a lot more variables than ever before. Among the people who came for Thanksgiving for example, there was a vegetarian, someone allergic to soy, someone who doesn't eat wheat or dairy, the white-meat-only eaters who fear fat, and the dark-meat-please person who laughs in the face of it, the non-drinkers, and those who view Thanksgiving as a good excuse to start early, those who never met a starch they're not addicted to, and someone who wouldn't put a potato in his mouth if you held a gun to his head.  There was the hand-washers and not-so-much-hand-washers; the medicine takers and the supplement takers; the just-relax-and-eat-it-already folks and the excuse-me-could-I-just-read-the-label-on-the-salad-dressing person. There are those who like to say a prayer of gratitude first and those who would rather dig right in. Someone brought up GMO's after dinner about the time that someone else's teenager showed up to only eat desert.

Anyway, it got me thinking about all the fears/issues associated with foods. Here's a partial list, each linked to an article provided by a Google search. Various authorities/publications have weighed in: State extension services, Universities, Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mercola, Forbes, NPR, to name a few. Think of them as a starting place to resolve or fan your own fears on each topic.

Artificial coloring
Canola Oil
Corporate Greed
Expiration Dates
Farmed Fish
Glycemic Index
Growth hormones
High fructose corn syrup
Labor conditions
Monosodium glutamate
Non-organic food
Organic food
Plastics (BPA-free)
Trans fat

Friday, November 22, 2013


I threw my scale in a dumpster years ago because whenever I lost weight I'd reward myself with something dumb like a donut and if I gained weight it would wreck my morning. So I weigh myself once a year, in the summer, at a family reunion where we use a spa. Same scale each year. That is, unless I have to go to the doctor... And what about going to the doctor? I love how every time I read a book or an article about a different way of eating there's a phrase like, of course be sure to check with your doctor beforehand...

You mean it was okay to eat all the crappy processed foods and other junk I ate without checking with my doctor, but now that I'm going to try to make some healthy change I should call up and make an appointment and say what exactly? "Hi, I'd like to make an appointment with Dr. Thomson about eating more vegetables and less meat..." I'm sure they'd get me right in... like in about 9 weeks... then I'd better have the right condition to warrant seeing the doctor about my diet or my insurance won't pay.

Of course I'm kidding. The real reason I wouldn't ask a doctor is because I don't have health insurance like 48 million other Americans who I bet see that ask your doctor line and also do the eye-roll.*

So since there's 48 million of us who had best figure out our own healthiest diets and since we probably don't know how to order our own blood tests or even take our own blood pressures, we need other biomarkers. Weight is one that lots of people without dumpsters use. But here are a few others:

What is your happiness on a scale of 1-10?
What is your average energy level on a scale of 1-10?
How well do you generally sleep on a scale of 1-10?

How is your waist to height ratio? You can check it here:

And what about your poo? Are you going regularly? How does your standard poo rate on the Bristol Stool Scale?
Here's what I like to do. After a Type 3 or 4 on the Bristol Scale, I take my waist measurement.

My waist hovers around 29 inches. If it goes over 30, I'm like whoa! Taking a waist measurement is something I can do when traveling too. So much easier than dragging a scale along!

But my favorite biomarker of all is how I look to myself naked in the mirror first thing in the morning. No matter what I see, I try to say something positive to myself. But there are days when I just say UGH! and that's when my happiness rating is probably below 8 and I haven't slept well and my energy is off. That's when I need to start writing in my journal or go for a fast walk for at least twenty minutes. Both are ways to clear my head and come up with an idea of how to get back on the road to good health using the things I've learned over the last three years of experimenting. Like eliminating certain foods.

Here are the some foods that are frequently linked to  illness or fat gut: processed foods, sugar, wheat, dairy, alcohol, eggs, soy, peanuts.

The key is to keep track of what you're trying and what your biomarkers tell you. Three weeks is probably the minimum amount of time to give anything a good try although four days is often enough time to see/feel some results.

*I'm in the Mexican healthcare system these days, but that's another story.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


My mom wasn't always fat
You might look at me and think I'm not a person who struggles with a huge appetite. But you'd be oh-so-wrong. I've spent much of my life thinking about what I was going to eat/drink next. The only thing that stopped me from getting really overweight was this: a mother who nagged. She was such a good nag that though she's been dead for 28 years, I can still hear her say, "Cyndie, don't get fat. Don't ever get fat."

My mom died when she was 60. Pretty much from being fat, or so she thought. The exact cause was breast cancer that had metastasized throughout her body, but that was only one of many illnesses she suffered from: bad teeth, migraines, depression, miscarriages, kidney stones, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, and finally cancer. All of these ailments come under the heading bad diet and yet, she knew A LOT about "healthy eating"!

She fed us balanced dinners around the dinner table with a meat, a green vegetable, and a starch. She made us fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Made sure we drank three glasses of milk a day and limited our deserts to three cookies. She didn't keep many sweets around the house.

My mom didn't drink alcohol except on special occasions, one cocktail. She knew bread made you fat and always removed one slice from her sandwich in restaurants. At McDonalds (where she didn't eat often -- but back in the 70's it was a special treat and there was no Super Sizing) she'd remove the top half of the bun and we'd split a small bag of fries.

She loved shopping at farm stands and made a big deal about buying what was in season.

She sat in the sun when the weather permitted (no talk about Vitamin D, but she just knew it was good for her). In the winter, when the sun shone through the living room window of our house outside Chicago, she'd lie in that patch with a book or magazine to brighten her mood. She believed in fresh air and swimming in lakes.

My mom knew being fat was bad for her health, but she didn't have the information to prevent piling on the pounds. Neither did I, until just recently. I'm 58. That's a long time to fight cravings. But I've won. I'm no longer fighting constant hunger. But it took three years of trial and error to finally figure it out.

I get angry when I think how much of what I've learned flies in the face of general medical recommendations and the national guidelines about what's healthy. There are people out there giving good advice, but they are still like voices in the wilderness, like the first scientists who warned us about global warning, they're shoveling against a tide of hard-wired bad habits, addictions, a food industry, and a government that's invested in many of the wrong types of foods.

Here is what I know about appetite and controlling cravings that my mom didn't:

1. Wheat makes you hungry -- more than any other ingredient except maybe sugar. Don't eat either of them, particularly early in the day.

2. High glycemic foods make you hungry. Don't eat them for breakfast or you'll feel hungry an hour and a half later... and you'll continue like that all day. If you want high glycemic foods in your diet, eat them at the last meal of the day.

The Australians have done the most research on the glycemic index (GI) of foods, so use the University of Sidney's website to learn about the glycemic index. That's where I learned: Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. Diets low in GI foods help control appetite and delay hunger. 

Spoiler alert: potatoes, rice, other grains, and everything containing wheat (think: almost all traditional breakfast foods except bacon and eggs) are among the highest GI rated foods. A high GI rating means your body has to put out a lot of insulin to absorb them. When your insulin soars, it crashes more quickly and then you're hungry again...

3. Sweet drinks, whether regular soda, 100% fruit juice, sports drinks, or artificially sweetened drinks make you hungry. That's because your body wasn't made to take in sugar so quickly and so it doesn't respond with a full feeling the way it would if you chewed up and swallowed foods containing sugar. Drink water. Or coffee or tea. Unsweetened.

4. Sweet fruits make you hungry. Save fruit for deserts and since you don't eat desert for breakfast, that means don't eat fruit the first half of the day.

5. Don't eat unless you're hungry. If you're not hungry in the morning, don't eat breakfast. You might not be hungry until 11, or noon... that's great! When you do get hungry, start the day with protein and vegetables. You won't be hungry again for 3-6 hours. If you habitually eat when you're not hungry, you are not listening to your body. Your gut is like a second brain, give it some respect.

6. Fat is not to be feared. Lots of fats are good for you. You need fat to feel full (and your brain needs fat to function well).  So use a lot of butter, olive oil, and coconut oil when you cook, it will help the meal satisfy you longer.

7. All meals should be half vegetables. Vegetables have the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients your body craves. When you get your vitamins and minerals, your body feels satisfied and stops telling you to eat more. Also, vegetables have lots of fiber which keeps your body busy digesting. When you're digesting, you're not feeling hungry.

8. Calorie counting will get you in trouble. If you think about calories first, you're liable to eat high glycemic index foods, artificially sweetened drinks, items made with wheat and you'll be hungry all the time. And you will give in to your hunger. So instead of thinking about calories, think about nutrition. For example, let's say you're famished at an inconvenient time and you have to buy something quick, like in a convenience store. Choose peanuts or tree nuts. Forget about the calories... there's lots of them. But this snack will fill you up and give your body some processing to do -- which is good! (Here's a great video about how nuts don't make you gain weight: When your body is processing food, it's not telling you you're hungry! Our bodies were meant to process food, not to eat it pre-processed, which brings me to #9.

9. Processed food makes you hungry. Avoid it.

Even after 28 years, I still wish my mom was around to hear all this.  I think she'd appreciate it, and I think she'd knock off a lot of that unhealthy weight.



Sunday, November 3, 2013


Today's NYTimes Magazine has a six page story, Broccoli's Extreme Makeover by Michael Moss about how hard it is to get people to eat vegetables. I think that's odd because I crave them. But I didn't always. Not until I started filling half my plate with them at every meal. After just a few weeks of that, vegetables became the part of the meal I'm most interested in.

I believe most people are starving for vegetables and don't realize it until they really start feeling the effects of the vitamins, the minerals, the enzymes, the flavonoids -- or until their gut flora/microbiomes begin to expand in a healthy direction and combat the bad bacteria that's been colonizing their unhealthy guts.

Use the internet to study the diets of populations that produce the most centenarians. They all eat loads of plant foods -- including oodles of greens and other vegetables. And not because somebody begged them to. Those are the foods humans are naturally attracted to.

Want to try cutting out some of the junk food you eat? Here's my advice: Before you start cutting out unhealthy foods, first try adding a lot of vegetables to your diet. The darker colored, the better. Shoot for making half of every meal vegetables. Sound like a lot? It's easier than you think. Once you start regularly eating spinach, carrots, celery, green beans, beets, squash, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, you will crave them. And let's add tomatoes and avocados to that list even though they're technically fruits.

And what about fruits, shouldn't you be adding a lot of those to your diet as well? Not at first. Fruit in general has a high sugar content, so you really want to be using fruit to replace other sources of sugar, not adding it before you start cutting out other sweets.

When I first started adding a lot of vegetables to my diet I got Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. That way I learned a lot about cooking with vegetables even though I continued to eat meat. But actually, the more I started loving vegetables, the smaller the meat portion got. I go days without missing meat, which brings me to another point in the Times article. The point is made that because there are no subsidies, vegetables are quite a bit more expensive than foods made with corn and other grains which are subsidized by the government. But here's a tip, if you stop eating grains (especially wheat), you'll be less hungry, like to the tune of 500 calories less a day. That's a lot of food you won't have to buy. Don't believe me? Try eating more vegetables and giving up grains for a week and get back to me...

As much as I enjoyed the Times article and the gimmick of putting a big advertising firm on the problem of getting folks to buy broccoli, here's the last thing I'd like to see: the Food Industry involved in selling and marketing vegetables. It will increase the cost and damage the product. There's nothing wrong with vegetables just the way they are.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


These are my own guidelines. Some are from my own research. Some are borrowed from my son. Some is advice I've taken from what I consider to be reliable sources.

     Good for your brain: exercise, magnesium, 20-30 minutes of direct sunlight (for vitamin D), meditation, fish oil, fermented foods
     Bad for your brain: wheat and other grains (but absolutely wheat), processed foods, drugs (including most medications), alcohol, sugar, lack of sleep


     Volunteer, help others, join stuff



    You can only fix yourself. If you can do that, you'll set an example for others. Remember, "everyone has their own path."



Here are some links that support these guidelines particularly concerning brain health:

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I was just reading that Michelle Obama addressed food industry leaders at a White House conference last week and asked them to stop undermining the authority of parents with their marketing of sugar-laden, highly-processed foods to children and to please use some of their advertising genius to steer kids towards healthy whole foods (

I've heard Michelle Obama speak live and she's persuasive. (I'd do anything she said!) But even if certain leaders were swayed by her pleas, if you currently have children, you may need to do more than wait for Kelloggs to start urging  your kids to eat cauliflower.

So here's an idea: Next time your kids beg for some awful breakfast cereal or other breakfast fun food,  give in. Let them pick what they want.  Just don't serve it to them for breakfast. Breakfast is the WORST time of day for them to be eating grains and sugar (including juice). Those foods spike blood sugar and begin a cycle of cravings that will dog them all day making it hard for them to concentrate on school or play. Plus it keeps them begging for more grains and sugar all day long. The advertising industry has a name for this begging, it's called pester power. It's what they count on to make you buy stuff for your kids that you don't want them to have.

The way to keep kids satisfied longest and to keep their brains focused in school is a breakfast of protein and vegetables. But if your "tradition" is that everyone grab a bowl of cereal or a pop tart and a glass of juice before heading out the door, you might have to be outrageous to make a change. Try this: announce you're going to have Upside Down Day and serve them stew for breakfast (make it in a crockpot over night). Tell them they'll be having breakfast for dinner.

Letting everyone have a bowl of cereal or its ilk for dinner has two advantages -- it gets tired parents out of having to get a dinner on the table AND  there's no dessert. Nobody eats dessert at breakfast, right? So you've actually cut the amount of sugar from the daily total.

The important thing to remember is that kids like to have a say in what they eat and they are being heavily targeted by a multi-billion dollar industry which got that way by clever advertising. So you could start lecturing them about capitalism and corporate power, OR you can plan strategically on how you're going to give in, and then work like crazy to make the other meals you serve pack in the nutrients. Getting those nutrients in early in the day will have the biggest payoff in terms of energy, health, and behavior.

Let those food companies go nuts trying to undermine your best intentions. Beat them by being outrageous! They certainly are! Your kids will go to school bragging about how wild and crazy you are.
Here's a great video from the Food Hospital about how processed/sugary foods change kids' behaviors:

Find some great, protein and veggie intense crockpot recipes here:

Other posts related to kids and eating:

Sunday, September 22, 2013


It's been four months since I last wrote on this blog. I've learned a lot during that time that I'd like to share, but where to begin...Probably I should start with the most profound thing I'm discovering: the effects of wheatlessness.

My last post was about giving up wheat.... Here's what I have to say about that: After 170 days of no wheat, it has had no effect on my weight, even though it has stopped  food cravings, and it has had no effect on my rosacea.  I had hoped it would help me with both of those things. When you read Wheat Belly or go to the WheatBellyBlog, you discover that giving up wheat has helped people with weight, skin, arthritis... But not for me. For me, it's my brain that has felt the profound effect. 

I have loved the freedom of no food cravings. Now  four or five hours may go by when I don't think about food at all, whereas when I ate wheat I felt hungry all day long. Why? Because wheat protein (gluten), when broken down by the body, creates exorphins -- opioid substances which effect the brain a little like morphine -- producing feelings of euphoria, happiness, pain reduction, relaxation, and a desire for more. This is what wheat does to me. And so does alcohol. Like with wheat, after I have a little alcohol  I immediately want more! But guess what.... Once I'd given up wheat for a couple of months I suddenly felt like giving up alcohol, and whereas I'd wanted to quit my evening wine habit a thousand times before, it was suddenly easy.  I can honestly say that I hardly ever feel like eating wheat OR drinking alcohol any more.

My theory for how this worked is this: once I stopped letting those little devil exorphins into my body, my mind cleared, which was rewarding in itself. I also had  more energy, so I had to move around more to burn the energy. Moving my body more created endorphins -- the body's own opioids. I had always feared that giving up alcohol would mean that I might not  have fun. But guess what? Now I generally feel: Life is Fun.

This may sound crazy, but I think wheat (and sugar -- though I gave that up some time ago) were my gateway drugs  leading to my alcohol habit. Wheat was my morning and mid-day opioid (one my mother, like many mothers, started me using at a very early age). Alcohol was my evening opioid.   They  let my body off the hook from producing its own feel good chemicals -- endorphins. I, like many people, became dependent on using certain foods and drinks to provide what my body would have naturally provided.

Yesterday, I  found this interesting explanation for why humans  went from being hunter gatherers to being dependent on agriculture ( It has to do with humans discovering grains, grains providing exorphins,  humans getting addicted, and this addiction leading to the building of communities to protect  their source of gratification.  In other words, this theory says civilization as we know it today was built around addiction. I believe it!

These days my brain feels sharper and has more feel good thoughts. I'm less likely to be depressed or negative. I conclude that my body actually prefers endorphins to exorphins. I bet a lot of bodies do! Imagine what will happen as more people discover this... For one thing, it won't be good for Kelloggs or Budweiser, just to name a few...


Update: I asked people on the Wheatbelly Facebook page if they had to choose ten foods/drinks to live on for a month, what would they be? I got quite a few answers and hardly anyone chose a beverage (water was a given). So I asked someone: "Nothing to drink besides water?"

His answer:

Nope. Since giving up wheat I've not had any desire to drink anything but water, and this is HUGE for me, as I was a soda addict for many years and even when I'd done a low carb diet before I'd never been able to completely give up flavored drinks, but within a day of giving up wheat I just didn't want anything else. Do I sometimes drink other stuff? Yeah, but then I usually think I should have just had water.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I don't eat very much bread, except when I do eat bread. Then it's hard for me to stop. Eat only half of my bagel? Impossible! Just one cookie? No way.  Now I understand the reason for that: gliadin.

In the 70's concentrated effort went into hybridizing  wheat so it could help "feed the world." This effort led to new forms of wheat that increased  yields per acre by 10 times. By the 1980's over 90% of wheat grown in the world was some form of "improved" high-yielding wheat. This wheat is short, has thick stalks, big seed heads, and it has more gliadin. Gliadin is a protein and it affects the brain like an opiate -- it doesn't make you high, but it makes wheat addictive.

While I was in bed most of two weeks with the flu,  I listened to hours of lectures on YouTube by the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis, MD. His lectures are all quite similar, but some include questions from the audience at the end. You can hear panic in their voices as they consider what giving up wheat will mean to their diets... no more pizza, birthday cake, PASTA!  Here's the thing they can't appreciate until they give wheat up: they're not going to be hungry as much, not nearly as much! Therefore what to eat is going to be of less concern.

On average, people who cut wheat out of their diets consume  400 calories less per day just by virtue of not being hungry. On average, people who cut wheat out of their diets completely, lose 22 lbs. Most of the weight comes off their middles and that happens fairly quickly.

You don't have to commit to a life without wheat to test how it affects your hunger. Do an experiment: Start your day with a breakfast of eggs and veggies or eggs, meat, and veggies and see how soon it is before you're hungry again.  Then have a lunch that doesn't include any wheat  (check labels -- wheat is ubiquitous... it's in soups and salad dressings ... it's in Twizzlers). See how long before you're hungry again.... Do the same at dinner. Notice how well you sleep. Oh, and don't forget, a lot of beers are made from wheat, so drink something else.

I'm not super overweight and I don't eat a lot of wheat, but I gave up wheat completely 16 days ago and have already lost two inches around my middle.

I totally recommend reading Wheat Belly. But if you're not a reader, here's one of the author's lectures (there are many more on YouTube). Check out the Wheat Belly Facebook page to see the different ways cutting out wheat has improved peoples' health.

Monday, March 4, 2013


I'm eating a lot more raw food lately and I'm loving it! LOVING IT!!!! It simply makes me feel great and fills me up for hours.

Here's my favorite go-to raw meal: a chopped salad with a base of chopped celery and chopped carrots. Those two vegetables chopped keep in the fridg for a long time without going soggy or turning color the way lettuce does. Plus having a good quantity chopped up in advance means I can make a nutritious, filling meal REALLY FAST!

Here are various things I might add at the last minute: cucumber, avocado, leafy greens, tomato, corn kernels, chia seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, sesame seeds, hulled pumpkin seeds, apple, raisins, orange sections, cauliflower bits, tuna, chicken... Then I just drizzle on a little olive oil, squeeze on a little lime or a bit of vinegar, a sprinkling of sea salt, then toss with my hands.

Today  my avocado was pretty mushy so I mashed it with salt, oil and lime, and with my hands really got the carrots, celery and leafy greens coated before adding the chia seeds and a little leftover chicken. Took about five minutes to throw together and it was colorful, filling, and tasted fabulous.

Carrots and celery are reasonably priced too -- particularly if you don't buy the already trimmed stuff which is pretty wasteful and shaves off a lot of nutrition. Also, kids love the crunch!

Friday, March 1, 2013


One of the mistakes I made when I permanently began eating healthy was to think that I could eat as many fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts as I wanted just because they weren't junk. I felt so good about never eating anything processed and eating very little meat that I thought anything else should be open game. Wrongo.

So this year for Lent, which started Feb. 13 and goes for 40 days until Easter: NO SNACKING which means I  have to stretch the time between putting the last bite of breakfast and the next morsel into my mouth by 3 hours. That's the minimum. Today I'm meeting friends for  lunch and I estimate it'll be 3:00 before I get my first bite of food, so that will be 5 1/2 hours from the time I finished breakfast. Not that hard really, but before Lent I wouldn't even have considered it.

What's interesting is catching myself reaching for the bag of almonds on the counter or an orange. My hands seem to work directly for my stomach! Snacking is quite the diversion/time waster! It's a lot like smoking that way. Can't think of what you're supposed to do next? Better have a cig. Want to procrastinate a little longer? Have a cig... My life was like that in my late teenage years and early twenties. Then I quit. But somewhere along the way snacking became the substitute. And then healthy snacking. But no more.

The evidence is in that you need to space your food if you want to burn your excess fat. Dr. Mercola has an excellent article about it today. Please read: How Intermittent Fasting Stacks Up Among Obesity-Related Myths, Assumptions, and Evidence-Backed Facts

Even if you aren't worried about your excess fat, snacking is a pretty disruptive habit. Our world is full of snacking options... every store I go into these days, even bookstores and hardware stores, seem to have some little food option to purchase on the counter. If you're a snacker you're always faced with that decision. If you've trained yourself NOT to snack, there's no point in even looking.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


When I first began painting fifteen years ago I looked for advice and guidance everywhere. When a very famous artist told me the most important book I could get was The Artist's Way, I figured everything I needed to know from the proper way to set up a palette and hold a brush to what colors to use would be in that book. When I finally had it in my hands I was so disappointed to learn that it was a book full of self-discovery exercises and that the author Julia Cameron, instead of explaining what type of canvas to buy, insisted that readers start a journal. REALLY? I thought, this is going to help me PAINT? But I began.

I proceeded to journal every day for five years, first thing every morning, I'd write three pages in a college ruled, spiral notebook. It usually took about 45 minutes. No matter where I went, or what was going on in my life, I journaled first thing. This was at a time when I had a baby plus five children ages 9-14 and a garden center that was open seven days a week. My journal was like a best friend who I could call every morning before everyone woke up and  tell ANYTHING to.

I still keep a journal, but I only write in it once a week or so unless something really big is going on. It's a wonderful habit for this reason: it helps me see how I process things.

For years, one of my artist mentors has been Robert Genn who writes a bi-weekly newsletter. One piece of his advice that stands out above all is: fall in love with your process. I find that's true in creating art as well as in creating a lifestyle. Makes sense, right? After all, a well lived life is a work of art.

To fall in love with our process, we must first understand it.

Through years of journaling I've learned some things about myself that I've come to accept. One of the big ones is, I'm not consistent. I have ups and downs and times of inspiration and times where my well is dead dry. Sometimes everything I have ever produced looks great to me, sometimes it all looks like shit. Sometimes I make all my own meals, eat healthy, and feel noble for weeks on end, other times I fall back into drinking each evening and eating chocolate chips straight from a bag.

Each time I fall into a hole I wonder if I'll crawl out again, but having journals to look back on is helpful. I see trends, I see hope, I see improvement! My journals are like a  friend who can say, "Remember how you worried that you'd never have an original painting idea; that you couldn't afford to send even one kid to college; that you'd get fat and sick like your mother? Well notice how all those issues are long solved and in the past."

A  friend is someone you might not believe because she's too nice or has a faulty memory, but when your friend is your own words written down, you know her word is gospel.

I believe a journal must be written by hand and not on a computer. That way it isn't corrected as much and is harder to lose. Plus you really can take it anywhere.

Note: If you make yourself journal every day you'll often find yourself sitting down thinking you have nothing to say. That's what makes it more like a therapy session... things DO come up.

And with that, I'm off to find my notebook....

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."  -- Genesis I.29
Food is love. Or it was. Now we call lots of things food that are created in laboratories from substances non-plant and non-animal. That type of food is not love. That type of food is at best without intent, at worst it is greed and disdain for human health and dignity.

In my life I've had two businesses related to food. The first was a bakery that specialized in whole grain breads. We bought organic wheat and ground it ourselves into flour. Every loaf was shaped by hand. When you shape a loaf of bread, you can't help think about who might eat it. If it burns or is under-cooked, you feel like you've let someone down. If it's perfect, you feel proud. People who came to the bakery would discuss the bread, ask what was in it, make special requests. This was a business that didn't do well financially but was rewarding nonetheless because it involved love and health and it smelled great. I lasted in it for three years.

Later my husband and I had a farmer's market where we sold the apple and peach crops that grew in our area as well as other produce from local farmers. We also sold pies and bread made by local bakers and we were one of the first vendors of Stoneyfield yogurt when it was just a startup.  This business also had a lot of love -- the growers loved growing and the bakers and yogurt makers loved baking and making. Everyone was so proud of what they produced. This was the 1990's, in a small town in New Hampshire. Unfortunately there weren't enough people there who cared about home-grown or home-baked or even about eating produce at all. The vast majority of residents shopped at the chain grocery stores. So after too many years of trying, that business failed.
Mujer de San Juan Mercado, 2002, oil on board
Now in the US there's regained interest in home-grown fruits and vegetables, in homemade foods of all kinds. Our small NH town has a farmer's market on summer Saturdays and I'm happy to see that it's well attended.

But these days I live most of the year in Morelia, a city in Mexico. I'm four blocks from an enormous fresh food market -- a city block filled with vendors of fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. And here the trend seems like the US of the 90's.

I so relate to the vendors with their artistically piled produce. I know what it is to display fresh food. It's a joy. It's a joy to display it, and then as you sit and watch people pass it without noticing, your heart sinks. Really! Your heart! Because fresh food = love. You can't help but love it when you handle it. Meanwhile Walmart, Costco, and Sam's Club continue to expand around the rim of Morelia selling US processed foods and I worry about the vendors who inhabit San Juan.  I also worry about Mexicans who have started making their meals from boxes and jars, who think their souls and bodies can thrive without real food. By the time they figure out their mistake, San Juan mercado may be gone!

I now have a collection of the recent paintings I've done to illustrate and promote the loving connection I feel to food. Some of the imagery is holy, some is mystical, but all of it is supposed to be cheerful and fun.  I'm posting my foodee paintings in a new blog called Foodeeart, and exhibiting them at the Tikva Cafe in Morelia.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Do you have a relatively big waist? Could be (probably is) a sign of metabolic syndrome. According to Dr. Robert Lustig your waist tells more about your health than your weight. His new book is out: Fat Chance. He's got an article in last weeks SF Chronicle. AND if you have time to listen, there's a great interview with him by Diane Rehm.

Note: Metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs:
  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
  • Large waist circumference (length around the waist):
    • Men - 40 inches or more
    • Women - 35 inches or more
  • Low HDL cholesterol:
    • Men - under 40 mg/dL
    • Women - under 50 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL