About Drinking Water

I found this on Pinterest of all places and thought it was an interesting visual display with key data about why we need to drink water.

My own viewpoint is that I should drink when I’m thirsty. That’s fine unless you don’t realize what you’re feeling or experiencing is actually thirst. A few years ago I went on a regimen of drinking more water because I’d moved to such a dry climate. I found out that I was a lot more “thirsty” than I’d realized. Once I started to get enough water, thirst became more easily apparent to me. As a result, I actually do drink when I’m thirsty and am far more aware of when I need more water.

I’m not vouching for the absolute correctness of everything here, but most of it does make sense to me. I do not recommend trying to drink a lot of water before eating so you can feel more full and lose weight. Drinking water before or during a meal can dilute your digestive juices.  Better to include more vegetables, which naturally contain more water, and it is also a good idea to take soup as part of a meal. Also avoid too much hard, dry baked flour products.

Another thing I’ve learned is that your body responds to water like nothing else you drink. Plain water doesn’t stimulate digestion and your body doesn’t have to work much to absorb and use water. Add a slice of lemon, a powdered drink mix or anything else and now you’ve got something that your body treats as something to be digested and that’s a whole different ball game. Not saying to never add anything to water, but just pointing out that there is nothing as beneficial as plain, clean water for drinking. Likewise, teas, coffee, sodas and other beverages are just not the same or equal to drinking water.

I have also learned that your body can only absorb so much water at one time. Four to six ounces or so throughout the day works well and your body can use that efficiently. But don’t try to take gulp down a whole pint or more at a time. It’s just too much to use all at once.

Hope you enjoy looking this over!

About Water

Ain’t What It Used To Be

In my recent travels a message keeps coming through to me:  Our food—even the organic— is not what it used to be.

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...
Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP standards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day I was talking to the produce manager at my store and we were talking about organic farming. He was telling me that he knows for a fact that some of the local farmers do not use pesticides on their produce but they cannot afford to leave acres of land dormant for five to seven years and do all the other things that are required of organic farmers in order to be certified organic.

I can see how this would be both challenging and expensive.  I was reminded that being certified “organic” involves a lot more than just not using pesticides and chemicals.  It also has to do with replenishing the soil so it becomes nutrient rich and many other factors. That makes me want to kiss the ground those organic farmers walk on because they do go to the expense and they do take the time to be truly organic.

We have to replenish and safeguard our natural resources because they are not physically infinite on this planet.  They can run out or be destroyed.  And good, mineral rich, life-sustaining top soil is definitely a vital resource.

I have known for some time that even organically farmed food is no longer as nutrient rich as it used to be.  How do I know?  The main way I know is by eating it and realizing that there is something missing. The food doesn’t provide all the power it used to.  The other way I know is common sense.

Have you ever read about how we began using chemicals on our crops and why? And what happened once we started down that very slippery slope?  The chemicals were put on the crops to boost growth, the chemicals made the soil weak which invited more pests, chemical pest control came into play, the animals on those farms were affected by the chemicals and got sick, animals were routinely given antibiotics and also hormones since they were also having trouble reproducing. That is the short version and there are many detailed explanations to be found online.

So here we are in 2013 protesting GMOs (genetically modified foods).  I say to my produce manager, “Unfortunately, even if we start labeling GMO foods, lots of people will still buy them.” Money talks here just like everywhere else.

But the fact that we’re talking about it is a plus. Another plus: the growing popularity of diets and diet books and diet gurus promoting whole food, plant-based diets.  That’s a big plus! And there are others.

But we stil have the problem of depleted soils and many foods that have long since been altered to suit a better bottom line.  Here’s a good example a friend just told me about regarding wheat. This is not simply about gluten-free, wheat-sensitive issues. This is about wheat period. All wheat, apparently.  It was another delivery of the same message: Our food—even the organic— is not what it used to be.  It’s a May 2013 article called, “Modern Wheat Is The ‘Perfect Chronic Poison’ Says Expert.”

I’m not trying to make a point about wheat and I remain undecided about the information in the article.  But what I do know is that wheat is definitely not the same as it was before. It is weaker and offers us less than we think we’re buying.  Just like other foods.

If you’re like me and interested in healthy, life-giving whole foods then you probably do what I do. You look for the best sources of the cleanest, untouched, unaltered food. Heirloom fruits and veggies, organic–of course, locally grown where you know the farmer, and growing it yourself even though you probably don’t have any better soil than anyone else because think how many years it would take to bring soil back to where it was in the 1940’s?  We don’t give up though, because we know that doing these things is far better than not doing them. And we are focused on creating our future, not destroying it.

And even if you’re not particularly gung ho about organic foods and GMOs, who hasn’t become interested in one or more so-called super foods?  Marketers dissect food into categories making a particular fruit, seed or vegetable a “super food” because it has some phytonutrient in it that is good for you. No doubt it is good for you, but there’s only one problem.

The problem is that for all the known, scientifically tested and proven micronutrients, there are a myriad of those that haven’t been discovered. And how are we to know on any given day at any given meal what exactly we need to supplement?

We can’t.  That pretty much brings us full circle to the question, what are the natural, whole food, truly super  no, spectacularly super foods?  The ones that not only have what we need, but are in an organic, whole form that our bodies can assimilate—using what it needs at that moment and safely, naturally discarding the rest?

Mother Nature has been shackled and tortured all over the planet, but she is not so easy to conquer!  She has her resources of sustainable, life-giving nourishment that has not been degraded by “modern” agriculture. That is what we are looking for and it does exist.

Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon (Photo credit: Lance and Erin)
Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon (Photo credit: Lance and Erin)

Guest Post: Healthy Traveling — It Can Be Done!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for this blog (besides the chocolate mousse quest) was to make the blog more interactive by having six guest posts.  I had one guest earlier and it is now time for another, Cole Millen!

Cole Millen
Cole Millen

He introduced himself and offered me a post on eating well while traveling. Perfect for vacationers or business travelers!  Cole describes himself as an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.” Follow his blog at Cole’s Mill.

Thank you, Cole, for your contribution!

HEALTHY TRAVELING — IT CAN BE DONE!

The horizon is looking sunnier for the health-conscious traveler. Hotels and resorts are always looking for revenue-boosting schemes, especially as the traveling dollar of the average tourist becomes harder to get. They are designing more nutritious business banquets, restaurant fare, room service menus and min-bar options. The popularity of special diets is pushing much of this change as more people go paleo, gluten free and vegetarian. Smaller portions are becoming the norm on more hotel menus, and some hotel chains brand themselves around using locally sourced or organic foods.

When Flying

Flying has always been tricky for travelers watching their weight. The food options in airport terminals relied on coffee, pastries and chain burgers. Flyers trapped in the terminal faced few good options. Experienced travelers learned to eat a healthy meal prior to going to the airport, and packed their own healthy snacks for when they get a craving. Airports are doing a better job at offering healthy food options but it is still important to find the grilled chicken and salads whenever possible. Travelers intent on maintaining their weight and health should stay active during delays and layovers. Walk in the terminal, do some stair climbing or otherwise burn some calories. Avoiding alcohol in-flight is a good way to avoid calories. Drink water throughout the flight rather than soda or juices to curb hunger and dehydration. Skip the in-flight meal and pack a healthy meal of a sandwich, fresh veggies and a bottle of water instead.

Finding a healthy Hotel

Stay at a health friendly hotel if possible. A little online research during the trip planning stage saves calories and pounds. Read the hotel description on-line before booking a room. Usually the restaurant menus and other items are available on the website. Some also list nearby restaurants, so research the dining options that will be available. Often time’s hotels are misleading in their services and offerings. I recently found a great and informative site that made finding the right hotel easy. I was looking for hotels and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels called Gogobot. The site listed reviews regarding not only the hotels amenities and services, but also regarding the restaurants in the surrounding area as well as things to do. This made is so simple to not only find the right hotel but also to plan out the restaurants and things we could do and maintain our healthy lifestyle while away.

At your Hotel

Once at the hotel, travelers have the option of refusing the mini-bar key. This will help prevent those late night raids that are costly to the wallet and the waistline. Bring along packages of instant soup or oatmeal and plastic spoons. These meals can be made by heating water in the coffee maker and mixing the meal in a coffee cup.

If ordering room service, specify low fat or healthy cooking methods, and order the healthiest meal available on the menu. Select fruit, yogurt and whole grain cereal or toast at breakfast rather than a raspberry cheese Danish. Stay away from vending machines, unless they contain healthy food choices. Most hotels are surrounded by restaurants ranging from fast food to gourmet fare. Avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet and the fast food places. Pick somewhere with a varied menu to get a healthy meal. Utilize the hotel’s booklet of nearby restaurants and peruse the menus before leaving the room. Have healthy snacks such as fruit in the hotel room to take the edge off pre-meal hunger.

Finally, use the exercise room provided at the hotel. Take the stairs if it is reasonable to do so. Swim some laps in the hotel pool before taking a dip in the hot tub. Find the in-room yoga channel and complete a routine between the business meetings and the banquet meal. Take advantage of the exercise opportunities offered rather than using business or vacation travel as an excuse to leave the diet and exercise regimen behind.

Eating Out

At a restaurant, look for healthy words such as baked, boiled, broiled, fat free, fresh, grilled, high fiber, light, marinated, multi grain, roasted, steamed, stir fried, vegetarian, vinaigrette, and whole wheat in the menu descriptions. Avoid any food listed as stuffed, smothered, loaded, breaded or fried. Choose leaner cuts of meat and eat vegetables instead of simple carbohydrate side dishes. Use basic dieting and weight management knowledge at a restaurant and at home.

Like Fine Wine

What is your favorite staple ingredient?

NAMA SHOYU BOTTLE

This could be difficult for you to choose but for me, the answer is my Nama® Shoyu! I use shoyu in nearly every meal I make. I strive to get full and satisfying flavors out of my meals without using too much salt and Nama® Shoyu is the best by far. “Nama” means “raw” and “Shoyu” means “soy sauce.”

You will know this is great stuff the moment you break open the seal on the bottle. Remove the lid and savor the deep and complex aroma wafting from the bottle! Opening a new bottle of Nama® Shoyu is one of my favorite pleasure moments in the kitchen! It is like opening a bottle of fine wine.

There are many brands of naturally-brewed soy sauce available in most health food stores but I find none of them come anywhere close to the deep, rich flavors and aroma of Nama® Shoyu. This is hands down the absolute best! With other soy sauces, I find you cannot get all the flavor without using too much of the soy sauce and that makes the food too salty. Not so with Nama® Shoyu—just add a little and you get all the great flavor and your food will not be too salty.

NAMA SHOYU INGREDIENTS

Nama® Shoyu is made by Ohsawa®—an organic food company well-known for providing the highest possible quality of traditional Japanese condiments.  It is 100% organic, unpasturized soy sauce that is traditionally aged in barrels for two years and retains its live enzymes and friendly bacteria.  This is a truly fermented food that benefits the body and the digestive system in many ways that other more processed soy sauces do not.  In fact, many raw food enthusiasts use this particular soy sauce because of its “aliveness.”

Nama® Shoyu is higher-priced than other brands but you will use less of it and get much greater flavor and health benefits. If you do not see Nama® Shoyu in your natural foods store, you can order it from Gold Mine, the exclusive importer of Ohsawa® products.

Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’

I’m not one to be super critical of products and companies on this blog and I’m going to put as positive a spin on it as I possibly can. But I ran into something recently that was quite a wake-up call for me and I’m going to share this with you.

It used to be that if you were vegetarian or macrobiotic or into eating whole grains, rice cakes were the standby snack food. Plain, slathered with peanut butter or apple butter, or perhaps with hummus, rice cakes made an extremely innocent little snack that didn’t harm anything or anybody.

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Today there are many brands of rice cakes. Most notably in my supermarket I see Quaker brand. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Aren’t they the oatmeal people? Rice cakes have been a natural expansion of their product line for years.

Fine. They are an industrial food manufacturer, very mainstream and it is not surprising to find that several of their rice cakes have sugar and a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn’t feed to a dog. No surprise there.

What about a well-respected organic food company that has been farming high-quality organic brown rice for us since 1937? This is a company I have relied on for the mainstay of my diet for decades. I’m talking about Lundberg Farms. When my kids were young and I had a house full of students and recipients of my homecooked meals, I bought Lundberg Organic Short Grain Brown Rice by the 50-pound bag—just about every other week! (Yes, I did a ridiculous amount of cooking back then and I loved it.)

I also bought their rice cakes. My favorite is the Mochi Sweet Rice but I also like several of the others. These make very substantial snacks. In fact, the bags are surprisingly heavy because, as the company brags, they are made with twice as much rice as other brands. And sure, I know that “caramel” and “cinnamon toast” rice cakes and some others are likely to have sugar in them and I never bought those.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, I used to be able to pick my flavor of rice cake and just toss it into my cart. I didn’t have to give it a second thought. These were Lundberg’s after all. I could count on them to be high quality, fine products.

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping and I saw two flavors of Lundberg Rice Cakes that were new to me: Organic Hemp-a-licious and Organic koku seaweed. I picked the sea weed one because I have been conscienciously adding more sea vegetables to my diet lately.

The Lundberg line-up including Hemp-a-licious, which I thought I might try.

The Lundberg line-up at Whole Foods Market.

“Hmm.” I thought, “these are pretty sweet. How come?”

How come. HOW COME? Hello! . . .  Because they have cane sugar in them!

If this doesn’t shock you, believe me I understand. The quality of food in our so-called healthy foods stores is rapidly spiralling in the wrong direction. I read food labels no matter where I’m shopping. I just didn’t think I had to read this one on the Lundberg Rice Cakes.

But I sure should have. I threw the seaweed rice cakes out. Actually, seaweed can help your body get rid of things like excess dairy and can help you re-balance your body when you have been eating sugar. BUT NOT IF THERE IS SUGAR RIGHT THERE IN IT!

Cane sugar in seaweed rice cakes!  Are you kidding me?  Eldon and Harlan Lundberg must be rolling in their graves!

I checked out some other flavors in the Lundberg lineup to see if they had sugar, too. Several did—such as the Organic Hemp-A-Licious. Guess I won’t be trying that one after all, boys. Organic Sesame Tamari? It has sugar and it didn’t used to. Organic Sweet Chile Rice Cakes? Yup, it has sugar and brown rice syrup. (What is the point of that? Can someone please explain?)

There are also some flavors that still do not have any cane syrup in them, but they are in the minority these days down on ol’ Lundberg Farms.

I’m disappointed in the Lundbergs, no doubt about it. But I am also going to continue to buy their excellent products that I consider worth eating like their organic rice, their organic brown rice syrup and their rice cakes that don’t have sugar in them. Ultimately, I can do without the rice cake and stick with the whole grain brown rice.

After all, Lundberg Farms has played a very big role in promoting organic, sustainable farming and they still do. They have done as much for the expansion of the natural food industry as most any other company. They take a stand against GMO’s and I applaud them for that. Perhaps they figure a little sugar in some of the rice cakes to keep the bottom line from crashing is a price worth paying in order to continue holding the line against powerful enemies like Monsanto.

Well I don’t agree. Tell the Lundberg boys they are sliding down a slippery slope—the slope that places profit over quality. But actually, WHO is sliding down that slope?

Is it Lundberg Farms? Or is it us? Would it be a good idea to boycott this company for putting cane syrup in their rice cakes? Or would it be better to not buy those particular products and continue buying their fine, organic, sugarless, rice products? Should we “pick our battles” as they say? Or have we underestimated the hold the sugar industry has on us and our economy?

You tell me. I, for one, will continue to vote with my dollars. But it is a tricky business. I go in my Whole Foods store and week after week they have discontinued items I bought regularly and they have filled the shelf space with new products, many of which I will never buy because of what’s in them. They do this because these products are “what sell,” explains the Customer Service representative. I get it. There’s only so much space on the shelf and they have got to move their inventory and make a profit.

I wouldn’t want a company like Lundberg Farms or Whole Foods to go out of business. Then where would we be? I have been putting in more time to shop at the smaller health food chains and a local co-op that often have some of those hard-to-find products and I try to find time to go to local grower’s markets when they’re open. My voting dollar has a little more power in these smaller arenas, I feel.

But I do have the ability to do more than vote with my dollar and so do you! I also “vote” with my voice, my blog and any other appropriate communication channel. I talk to someone at Whole Foods customer service frequently. I tell them what the problem is and sometimes they bring something back onto the shelf that is of far better quality than what they had. Sometimes I talk to other shoppers. Most of them are in there because they do want to eat healthier food and they simply don’t know their way around yet.  I’ve helped a few and have learned a lot myself from doing that.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much difference my actions will make. But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. Been doing this since my childhood days as a member of the United Farm Workers Union.

I am putting my shoulders to the wheel with a lot of other individuals who have already made a big difference and we are going to just keep going! The question I first asked was, Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’  Yes, if enough of us get busy telling the story so we have lots of votes.

And, I am going to write a letter to those wayward Lundberg brothers.

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

Not Just Brown

Did you ever look back on what you’ve been cooking and notice there’s an awful lot of brown food going on? Brown rice. Toasted almonds. Roasted cauliflower. Soy sauce. Apple pie. Barley. Whole wheat bread and pasta. Nut butters.

All of the above are things I recently cooked and they were really, really delicious and eaten with plenty of lightly cooked greens or salads. But I need C O L O R! My mama always said that one way to ensure good nutrition is to make sure you have a colorful plate of food. She didn’t mean the Fiesta Ware! (Although colorful serving dishes do help with the aesthetics.)  I think she was wise to tell me that.

I don’t go in for specially hybridized food such as the purple and orange cauliflower that I saw in Whole Foods last week. Too unnatural! So what can be done to put some vibrant, natural color into that whole food, plant-based diet? Plenty!!!

Wild rice salad with celery, carrots and peas.  Dressed with a white miso, walnut oil, lemon dressing.

Wild rice salad with celery, carrots and peas. Dressed with a white miso, walnut oil, lemon dressing.

Very lightly boiled kale and yellow squash. I eat greens every day! If you don't overcook them, they will put out this incredible "Alive Vibe!"

Very lightly boiled kale and yellow squash. I eat greens every day.  If you don’t overcook them, they will put out this incredible “Alive Vibe!”

The strawberries make the difference on this bowl of oatmeal with toasted almonds, don't they?

The strawberries make the difference in this bowl of oatmeal with toasted almonds, don’t they?

Colorful Pico Di Gallo could put some zing in your bowl!

Colorful Pico Di Gallo could put some zing in your bowl!

What could you do with these beauties to brighten up a meal?

What could you do with these beauties to brighten up a meal?

How about some red beans? They do wonders for this quinoa dish.

How about some red beans? They do wonders for this quinoa dish.

Sometime try this: walk through the produce aisle of your natural food store and just look for colors you like. I learned this technique from clothes shopping, by the way, because I walk up and down those racks and when I see a color I like then I’ll take a closer look at the clothing item. Maybe you’ll find something you haven’t considered using before.

As growing season is upon us here in the northern hemisphere, we can look forward to an abundance of vibrant colors to choose from!  What is your favorite way to infuse your menu with color?

I digress. (An Enormous Understatement)

Growing up eating the Standard American Diet of meat, dairy and sugar was probably at least a little better than the way kids eat today what with all the chemicalized and fake foods, although I did my best to go to the farthest extremes possible such as the Saturday morning ritual of eating as many Aunt Jemima pancakes with not-real-maple syrup as my little tummy (which was getting to be a big tummy) could hold. Never got past eight.

I loved cooking from a young age and I have always described my foray into cooking as being the first meal I ever made at the tender age of ten when I cooked my Daddy a lovely meatloaf with instant mashed potatoes and frozen peas. But that isn’t when I started “cooking.” Much earlier, I would climb up on a kitchen chair to reach the top of the refrigerator where the Arnold’s Bakery bread was kept and I would pull that down and make myself numerous butter and sugar sandwiches and stuff them down. At night while my parents were asleep.

Meanwhile my Daddy was worried about how chubby I was getting but I was not the least concerned. He would make sure I got plenty of good, solid protein in the form of charcoal-grilled steaks and baloney sandwiches while Mom made sure I got plenty of vegetables in the form of canned green beans and frozen vegetable medley. She was fascinated by food inventions and food trends one of which was the “cannibal sandwich.” Sorry to have to tell you this, but it was raw ground beef with a lot of raw onions and hot mustard on deli rye bread. I loved it.

Somehow I made it through my teen years without becoming a poster child for obesity though I was big enough that I felt more comfortable making my own clothing instead of shopping. I made all my important clothes such as prom dresses. I had plenty of friends and boyfriends and even though I did wish I could be thinner, there was something that seemed to make up for it all. I was voluptuous.

I continued on through college during which I ate like a lumber jack (interspersed with crash dieting) and continued my culinary experimentation every weekend making the most incredible foods I could imagine and after college, when I started making money, I indulged in finding the highest quality ingredients available. Back then “highest quality” meant going to a little local butcher shop and buying their most expensive item which was milk-fed veal to make veal piccante. By this time I was also old enough to drink alcohol which amazingly I had never tried until I was actually of legal age—21—but if I thought cooking was an infinite adventure, let me tell you there is a whole world of cocktail making that I discovered, especially the mixed, blended, creamy, sweet ones, but also the aged, imported and specially brewed liquors and beers. And there was cheap, sweet Scuppernong wine. Interesting yes, but not an endless adventure for me. I lost my interest in mixology and alcohol. It was just a short-term digression.

Then one day I was sauteeing my milk-fed veal and thought, “I’m not too happy and I think my life would be better if I changed how I ate.” Honest-to-god I hadn’t read anything, heard anything on TV and I didn’t know anybody who was into health food. I just had the thought and once I had that consideration—that I might feel happier if I changed my food—I took a complete 180. I have written about this before.

When I say I took a complete 180, I probably should say I moved to another planet as far as food was concerned because I found my way into a macrobiotic study house where I lived with other students of macrobiotics and the teachers who owned the house provided 100% fabulous meals made with whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that were all organic, whole and had not one milligram of chemicals or sugar. If you lived there, you didn’t just wander into the kitchen in the middle of the night and make yourself something. You ate what they served and it was an honor to be allowed or even invited to help cook—which I eventually was invited and from there helped teach the cooking classes and became a cooking teacher in my own right for the next 25 years or so.

What’s macrobiotics? The word, coined by Georges Ohsawa, literally means Great Life. As a food philosophy, it could be said that one lives a greater or fuller life by looking at the whole picture to achieve balance and health. Whole foods are a big part of this and how to achieve the right balance is a big part of this. For much more information, look here.

This is where I really got my balance back or more accurately, got it for the first time. I knew how to choose and prepare foods to create the effect I desired within myself and for my family. I was also exposed to a spiritual philosophy that was my first entrance into understanding my own spirituality. This is another major layer of digression. From these beginnings, I realized I was looking for answers to the “big questions of life” and I kept looking until I found them in my current religious practice.

By the time I met my Hubbin’, I had been 100% macrobiotic for thirty years. He was a meat ‘n potatoes guy but he had earlier dated someone who was macrobiotic and he was familiar with the food and liked it quite a bit.

I’ll never forget the first meal I made for him hoping that he would not be turned off and we would have future dates! I made a deep-fried tofu stew with brown rice and some vegetable side dishes and some kind of dessert. Pie, I believe.

He did like it! We continued eating grains and beans and veggies at home and he would get his “fix” of meats and other things whenever he ate in a restaurant. Which was mostly all the time since Hubbin’ didn’t cook or even heat up leftovers. A bachelor for many years before me—cooking and reheating just weren’t domestic activities he’d pursued. But God Bless ‘im! At home he continued to love whatever I made and he bravely tried all kinds of things that he’d never eaten before. One of his favorite things was (and still is) freshly cooked brown rice with chopped roasted almonds on top.

We were hummin’ along just fine until I had to go to Los Angeles for training for my job and my meals were included in the program. The food served was one specific menu for each meal and most all of it was excellent in quality, and included lots of fresh vegetables, but it was by no means what I was used to. At first I tried to compromise as little as possible and eat what I could, but I was there for four very busy months and I got hungry! So I ate whatever was served.

Needless to say, that was quite a regression for me. When I returned home I was still craving meat and dairy food and even though I continued making brown rice and vegetables, I was also making the other stuff. My kids just about died of shock when they heard I’d come home and served Swedish Meatballs for dinner. As time passed the organic version of the Standard American Diet reared its ugly head more often and whole grains were no longer the stars of the show.

Both my husband and I were very busy with work and activities and it became more and more convenient to buy food out somewhere much of the time. This cannot be done on a regular basis and still eat very well unless you have a boatload of organic, health-conscious restaurants around which we did not. And even if we did have those—such as the deli and prepared food sections of large “healthy” grocery stores, you are at the mercy of “what sells.” And “what sells” in today’s health food store is largely not what I would characterize as “very healthy food.” And that subject, my friends, is another major digression I shall not take up here.

Hubbin’ had several moderately alarming health issues. I got fat. But I could also see the decline of my own health which I conveniently chalked up to “aging” until I was willing to confront what really happened. I lost 25 pounds on my own and then I digressed (again) into a very personalized, specifically prescribed dietary program and lost another 70 pounds. To be sure, there were lots of benefits to doing this program. Then Hubbin’ did it too and I did it some more. It was like a little respite from having to make any decisions at all about food. We just ate what we were supposed to and lost weight.

Does this sound appealing to you? Are you enticed by the idea of a workable weight loss program that uses only real food and no pills or potions? I understand. I was too. I had digressed so very far from “balance.” And you may be tempted to ask what the program was and where can you find out especially when I tell you that it did entail some very well-researched data on how to naturally balance hormones with just food.

What I got out of it was that I was again eating a lot of fresh vegetables daily–more than I had for some time. And I learned exactly what types of foods will cause me to gain weight. All of that was useful not to mention that I did lose weight and so did Hubbin’. But the program had no grains in it except for a few certain types of crackers. All the carbohydrates came from vegetables and fruits and the rest of the menu was low-fat dairy, meat, fish and poultry. This is not a sustainable way to eat long-term. No it isn’t.

I began noticing some health deficits that I didn’t like. The day I finished the program and began eating a tiny amount of whole grains or bread, the bad symptoms went away. The day I went back on the program to do it with my husband the bad symptoms came back. I knew I was not going to go down this road any further.

So once again, I digressed. And what do you know? I knew what to do exactly. I knew what type of “vegetarian or vegan” food would cause me to gain weight and have problems and I knew what it was about the no-carb meaty program that helped me to lose weight. (It wasn’t the meat and it wasn’t the “no grains”. And I knew that I could easily return to whole, plant-based foods and get it right and have it fit into my busy life and regain all the benefits and lose all the deficits. I knew I could cook my little heart out and keep on creating amazing food that I enjoy more than any restaurant and that Hubbin’ will also love and benefit from.

I also don’t have to worry about how much food I am eating. I find I have returned to “balance” very quickly despite the long and winding digressions. The transformation, particularly in how I feel every day, is nothing short of spectacular. And all that cooking each step of the way no matter what I was making is all part of the package that I call my “expertise.” Today I do not consider I have problems related to aging. Today I am grateful for every food experience I ever had because all of it contributed to the know-how I have acquired.

If you actually read the whole thing, I hope it was worth it. I’ve been wanting to write it for some time. And the funny thing is, as much as I love cooking and love eating and love sharing what I know about these subjects, my life is not all about food. Not in the least. I would describe it this way: I am happily and creatively complying with the fact that I have a body which requires certain things to remain healthy and alive. And having the know-how about this frees me up for the much broader, wide-reaching endeavors that I pursue.

Choosing healthy food and good nutrition is very therapeutic, but it is not the main event of living life. Cooking for me is a creative outlet more than anything else. Understanding what can be created—now there’s a fruitful digression!

Thanks for listening!

It was a long story! That’s what can happen when one digresses. And no pictures, either. So here’s one for you. Thanks for listening!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...

(Wikipedia)

In most major newspapers, Wednesday’s edition includes a food section and recipes and coupons and how-to’s on cooking etc.This was a really bizarre day in “Food News” at the Albuquerque Journal.  I mean really . . .it was the good, the bad and the ugly.

I was glancing over the newspaper and the first piece of “food news” was really great:

“Elementary School Goes All-Vegetarian”

“NEW YORK – A New York City elementary school has adopted an all-vegetarian menu, serving kids tofu wraps and veggie chili.

“Public School 244 is the first public school in the city to go all-veggie. The animal-welfaregroup People for the Ethcal Treatment of Animals says it might be the first all-veggie public elementary school in the nation.”

That’s pretty cool! It said later in the article that the kids gravitated toward veggie offerings. Three cheers for PS 244!

Encouraged to keep reading, I saw another article called, “Acclaimed chef and dad Bill Telepan takes on lunch in New York City public schools” about a non-profit group started by Moms called, “Wellness in the Schools,” dedicated to bringing better food and fitness to public schools in NYC. A Manhattan chef was working with 47 of the schools to incorporate more organic and made-from-scratch menus.

Not vegetarian or vegan, but still that’s pretty good news. “Two stories about school lunches in one day!” I thought.

That was the good. But there was even more food news in today’s paper. There was the bad:

“USDA ready to OK horse slaughtering in Roswell” (that’s in New Mexico.) Subtitle: “Unless Congress intervenes, Valley Meat will get to open.” Remind me PLEASE if I ever decide to eat meat again not to buy anything from them!

And in the very same day’s paper, it went from bad to worse:

“Murder charge in juice poisoning.” Perhaps you heard about this one. A lady in San Jose, California who allegedly poisoned two bottles of orange juice and placed them at a Starbucks has been booked on suspicion of attempted murder. Poisoning by rubbing alcohol. Sheesh!

And then there was the very ugly which you probably don’t want to hear about—but . . . food related once again—“Meat-plant worker killed in blender.”

I am reminded why I like packing my own lunch so much!

Lunch boxes

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Beautifully restored 1950's kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona
Beautifully restored 1950’s kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the time, I am looking forward. I’m looking at what future I will create and how I will create it. I’m looking at what I will do to improve conditions in my own life and in the lives of others. I am looking at what is needed in order to make things better on this planet. I am helped and inspired by the man whose home I had the opportunity to visit in Phoenix, Arizona—L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr. Hubbard lived in Phoenix in the 50’s and his home is meticulously restored down to every last detail.

I didn’t visit there just to see the kitchen, but when I did see it, I wanted to take a picture of it! My husband teased, “I see a blog post coming!” Does he know me or what?  How often would I see perfectly restored fifties kitchen stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry? Imagine a 64 year-old stove with not one scratch, stain or stubborn burned spot on it! (The entire house was fantastic and I recommend you see it.)

Looking at this picture I began thinking about the food/cooking/health scene in that period of time. It was post WWII, so farmers were already being sold on the idea that chemicals left over from making bombs could be put into the soil to produce bumper crops. We won’t go down this road in detail right now. Let’s just say this led to weakened soil, the necessity for more chemicals, problems with livestock which then required antibiotics and hormones, more weakened soil attacked by more pests, more chemicals . . . .and look where we’re at now. Genetically modified foods created so they won’t die when huge amounts of pesticides–more toxic than ever before–are applied to them.

In decades past, you could not buy foods from across the globe so readily because shipping was slower and much less efficient. It was easier to maintain a diet that followed the seasons of the year and it encouraged us to eat the foods that were indigenous to our own climate—at least somewhat. Why would we want to do that? It promotes natural balance and harmony with our environment.

For some time now, we’ve been able to get just about any food from anywhere. Many of the so-called “miracle foods” come from environments far outside of my own, such as coconut products that are so popular now.

What were some of the new health and diet developments in the fifties?

  • The four food groups including dairy food were promoted in the early fifties (an idea forwarded by, you guessed it, the dairy industry!)
  • TV dinners and a myriad of other frozen foods were touted as convenient
  • White Castle and A&W fast food had already existed for decades, but in the fifties “Insta-Burger King” later to be renamed as Burger King showed up.
  • Nutritionist and author Adelle Davis was becoming popular. She was known as much for her anti-processing stand on foods and her criticizm of the food industry as much as she was for her ideas on vitamins and diet.
  • Jack LaLanne became America’s first fitness and exercise guru.
  • Microwave ovens—one of the worst, health-destroying inventions in my opinion—came out.

I grew up in the fifties and I well remember many of these things. I watched Jack La Lanne on television doing his isometrics. We ate TV dinners and just about any other new thing that came out. My mother was facinated by all the new food products. I learned the four food groups in school and I remember the first Burger King that opened in our town.

My own history regarding food is likely only interesting to just me so we can skip the details and list out: heavy meat and dairy as a child, learning about the problems being confronted by the United Farm Workers Union and joining the organization as a kid, getting totally hooked on “working out” at the gym coupled with a LOT of protein supplementation, taking a complete 180 and going all vegetarian. Staying vegetarian for thirty plus years and then temporarily going back to animal foods while still eating all the grains and veggies. Gaining a LOT of weight. Losing the weight with a very individualized diet. Realizing I paid a price health-wise while “dieting,” and now, coming to my own conclusions about what I need to eat and what I don’t want to consume any more which pretty much brought me back full circle to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

And cooking, cooking, cooking all the while!

I’ve learned so very much over the years!

  • You don’t need to eat meat, eggs and dairy food in order to have protein.
  • Children can thrive wonderfully well on a vegetarian diet as long as it is balanced.
  • You cannot leave out an entire category of foods, such as “carbohydrates,” for very long and stay healthy.
  • You gain weight by indulging in too many refined foods, whether they are vegetarian or not, and eating more food than you can easily use.
  • The body requires daily exercise.
  • You do not need to focus on individual vitamins or nutrients if you are eating organic, mineral-rich food.
  • By the same token, even the best organic-quality food today is weakened and you can assist yourself without “losing balance” with something like wild-harvested whole  micoalgae such as Super Blue Green Algae.

And here’s the most important point, which is difficult to totally define but vital for each of us to strive to understand:

  • The way I have learned what “balanced diet” means, is by studying the effects of various foods, observing these effects, and getting into and maintaining a dietary balance for a long period of time. I used the eastern viewpoint of balance (yin and yang) to understand this. Now, no matter how far and wide I’ve gone food-wise, I definitely know when I’ve lost my balance and I know how to regain it quickly. Further, we can be very much at cause over our environment food-wise by how we choose to eat. Cooking is a beautiful example of that because there is a myriad of food preparations and techniques with which we can change our foods into what we want and need. 

Where does this all lead? It leads to my own phraseology, “Free Eating.” It means that when one has a basic understanding of foods and their effects, of how to prepare foods in order to change them and create the effects you want, you have less rules, not more. Less intense focus on diet and food, not more. Less living to eat and much much more eating to live!

My own approach is that I want to eat real food, not fake, chemicalized food. Naturally occuring food is what I want. Whole food is what I want. And I want my food to be colorful, beautiful and the most delicious in the world.

Where have you been and what have you learned? Where are you headed and what do you want?

Parking Lot Tuna

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt asks: How are you more likely to make an important decision — by reasoning through it, or by going with your gut?

Tuna Sandwich

(Photo credit: Dave Lifson)

It took no reasoning whatsoever to decide now is a good time to tell the “Tuna Fish Sandwich in the Parking Lot” story. It is pure gut. (pun intended!)

One of my boys was in the Scouts. One Friday after school, we got him all packed up for a weekend camping trip somewhere and he asked me to make him a tuna fish sandwich for dinner on the road that night. I did that, packed it in a little lunch cooler and off we went to the designated church parking lot where his troop and the vans were waiting. We wrestled with all his equipment and got it all stashed into a van and off they went.

It was a lovely warm Georgia evening and a very hot, sunny weekend was predicted.

The weekend passed and Sunday afternoon I got a call from my son who was all excited when he told me, “Mom! You’ll never guess what happened! I forgot my dinner Friday and when we got back it was still there in the parking lot and it still tasted okay.”

Instant panic mode! It had been in the mid-90’s all weekend. I picked him up and was relieved to see he wasn’t vomitting all over the church parking lot. Instead, he was just so darned excited that the sandwich was still there when he got back. Me, all I could think about was rushing to the hospital to treat his severe food poisoning.

I took immediate action and I had great certainty in what I was doing. I grabbed my Super Blue Green Acidophilus and started emptying the capsules into water. He drank ten to a glass every half hour for two hours. Then we went to his soccer game and he was just fine.

I knew that live acidophilus produces a very strong antibiotic called “acidophilin.” This is a natural antibiotic and just one of the benefits of eating acidophilus. I also knew that Super Blue Green acidophilus was of a quality I could count on—that it had real acidophilus and the acidophilus would be live. And each capsule also has some Super Blue Green algae in it. These little live good bacteria carried their own lunch box of wild edible microalgae packed full of minerals and protein so they tended to be strong and powerful bacteria.

I have used this acidophilus and the other Super Blue Green Algae products for thirty years and I know what they can accomplish for one’s health and nutrition. If you would like to know more, read my page, “My Secret Weapon.

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