Jan 23, 2014

Sample Week Menu Plan

Here are some of my favorites placed in a week format, so you have a sample eating well plan (assuming not using processed foods/versions...)

Every day
Typically I drink lemon water as soon as I wake up, to kick start my digestive system at least 30 minutes before eating. And after dinner I sneak in some dark chocolate or a few dates or prunes. Otherwise, below are other full meal and snack ideas for a healthy week.
Beakfast: quiche (start crockpot chicken--leftovers to be use other meals)
Lunch: tuna salad
Snack: apple slices, rice cakes, granola bar
Dinner: whole chicken, 1/2 mashed potatoes (red with peel, water, butter, salt and garlic), broccoli (braised with splash of water, lemon pepper at end)

Breakfast: crockpot oatmeal (apples, craisins....started night before)
Lunch salmon salad (patties with garlic seasoned kidney beans, spinach and mustard)
Snack: fruit and nuts (trail mix), cucumber sticks, pieces of chicken
Dinner: chicken noodle soup (gluten free noodles, or brown rice dumplings instead)

Breakfastegg muffins (egg, bacon, toast), and oj/orange slices
Lunchchicken salad lettuce wraps (using leftover chicken and homemade mayo)
Snack: power balls and guacamole dip with gluten-free crackers (these are not gluten-free)
Dinnersalmon, apple wild rice and green beans

Breakfastparfait (with berries or other fruit, and homemade yogurt and granola)
Lunch: stackers (red peppers, chicken sausage links, cheese?, olives, etc. with toothpick--kids love!)
Snack: fruit leather and carrot sticks

Breakfast: scrambled egg omelette with oat smoothie
Lunch: leftover lettuce wrap salad
Snack: hummus and flax crackers, cucumber sticks, apple
Dinner: quinoa stuffed peppers with steak

Breakfast: pb and banana toast with power drink
Lunch: leftover soup
Snack: power balls, edamame
Dinner: taco salad

Breakfast: Pancakes (lemon, poppyseed; 1/2 white, 1/2 gluten-free)
Lunch: burritos (from taco salad left overs)
Snack: fruit and nuts, red pepper strips
Dinner: mustardy beans (white beans cooked with mustard, ketchup, onion, salt) and cornbread with sautéed greens

Easy Guacamole

If you want guacamole without all the other "stuff" in it...it tastes really good just plain, with some salt and water...for a more spreadable, fluffy dip-type texture. This is all I do to make a dip or a salad dressing.

If you want more complex, add some salsa and other ingredients. But simple is good.

Jan 21, 2014

One Pot Wonder: Pasta

This is a great and versatile way to cook pasta dishes all in one move, mostly. It is a variation of the way I make my kale and sausage pasta without pre-prepared sauce. Basically throw everything into a pot and cook it all until the liquid evaporates, thereby preserving some of the nutrients from the vegetables you cooked in it. It's also great if you don't have tomato or alfredo sauce and don't just want to add plain oil.
(You can google "one pot wonder" and get other variations.)
12 oz pasta noodles (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
5-6 c liquid (broth; optional to sub 1 cup of tomato juice, etc)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
--dry seasonings or big vegetables----------
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes (include juice if desired....see above)
1 medium sweet onion, cut in 1/4 inch julienne strips (use an onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
---extra options----
  • fresh herbs: 1 bunch (about 10 to 12 leaves) basil, diced (or fresh herbs)
  • light vegetables: 2 handfuls spinach or kale, sliced thinly
  • cheese: parmesan, feta, romano, etc.

1. Place main ingredients in pot: pasta, broth, and oil.
2. Add dry seasonings and big vegetables:  tomatoes, onion (I like to sautee as the first ingredient), garlic, etc. 
3. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated except half-inch or so, so their is a minimal amount of "sauce."
4. Remove from heat and add extra ingredients: including fresh herbs and greens (spinach). And season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with cheese, or stir it in to make the "sauce" creamier (do not add while liquid is bubbling!).
Serves 4 to 6 as an entree
-the other option is to cook the noodles regularly and then drain most the liquid, but reserve a little bit, and then add the cheese to make it a light cheesy sauce.
----VARIATIONS --endless!
  • sausage, kale and parmesan
  • tomatoes, basil or Italian seasonings, olives and parmesan
  • bottled artichoke hearts with juice, Chicken, mushrooms and feta, lemon pepper
  • bacon, peas, parmesan

Jan 16, 2014

Kid's Lunch Ideas

Back to School mode...need some healthy lunch ideas? Charise and I got some inspiration from a few classes we went to last month on healthy lunch and snack ideas...

Sandwiches (try open-faced, toasted, tortillas, bagels/buns, english muffins, etc. for variety)
PB&J or PB&H (honey
Tuna (with pickles?) or chicken Salad (with curry powder and grapes?)
Egg Salad
Grilled Cheese (ham/pesto/swiss, Cheese melt with cucumbers; pizza-style )
Typical Meat and Cheese (lettuce or not)
Quesadilla (cheese and cucumber; chicken, bean, zucchini, corn; )

Stackers (cut up everything into little circles/squares and have a dip/sauce--toothpicks for some)
Veggies: red pepper, cucumber, olives, peas (frozen will thaw fast), edamame, cherry tomato, pickle
Fruits: grapes, apples, raisins/craisins, dried fruit pieces
Meat: sandwich meat, ham, hotdogs, maple chicken sausages
Cheese: cheddar, mozerella, mini babybell wedges (cheese sticks work great)
Grain: bread, crackers, french toast, pancakes
Dips/Sauces: ranch, hummus, peanut butter (whipped with water so it's not hard), ketchup, yogurt, honey

1. Apple Cheddar Bites (bread or crackers)
2. Pepper Ranch Dogs (red pepper, babybel cheese, maple Chicken sausage links, ranch)
3. Cucumber Castles (cucumber, cheese, bread, meat-optional)
4. Pickle Rolls (pickles, meat/ham, cheese--we slice these long and roll in sandwich meat)
5. Breakfast Bites: french toast or pancakes, maple chicken sausage links, strawberries
6. Italian Stacks: olives, meat, cheese

Fruit & Nuts
Granola Bars (basic chewy choc. chip)
Power Bars/Lara Bars
Trail-Mix Bars
Fruit Leather (just puree fruit and dehydrate very thin...add sweetener as desired, or lemon juice to retain color. Bake on lowest setting on parchment paper/silpat for a few hours if no dehydrator)
Fruit Snacks
Honeyed Almonds

Other Ideas
Homemade Beef Jerky

Jan 4, 2014

Balancing Body pH: Acid vs. Alkaline Foods

Here is a short blurb about why we need to eat the right foods, from an acid-alkaline perspective.
(Article for rense.com)

Tip: try using a Tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider in your water every so often to help alkalize an acidic body. Also, raw milk is less acidic than pasteurized--interesting, huh?


Human blood pH should be slightly alkaline ( 7.35 - 7.45 ).  Below or above this range means symptoms and disease.  A pH of 7.0 is neutral.  A pH below 7.0 is acidic.  A pH above 7.0 is alkaline.
An acidic pH can occur from, an acid forming diet, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients.  The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals.  If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate, a build up of acids in the cells will occur.
An acidic balance will:  decrease the body's ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease it's ability to repair damaged cells, decrease it's ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.  A blood pH of 6.9, which is only slightly acidic, can induce coma and death.
The reason acidosis is more common in our society is mostly due to the typical American diet, which is far too high in acid producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, and far too low in alkaline producing foods like fresh vegetables.  Additionally, we eat acid producing processed foods like white flour and sugar and drink acid producing beverages like coffee and soft drinks.  We use too many drugs, which are acid forming; and we use artificial chemical sweetners like NutraSweet, Spoonful, Sweet 'N Low, Equal, or Aspartame, which are poison and extremely acid forming.  One of the best things we can do to correct an overly acid body is to clean up the diet and lifestyle.
To maintain health, the diet should consist of 60% alkaline forming foods and 40% acid forming foods.  To restore health, the diet should consist of 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods.
Generally, alkaline forming foods include: most fruits, green vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, spices, herbs and seasonings, and seeds and nuts.
Generally, acid forming foods include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, grains, and legumes.

7 Worst Ingredients in Processed Foods

Here is an interesting article from Mercola.com highlighting the seven worst ingredients in processed foods. So after reading this, just remember to check labels on the foods you buy.

1. Artificial Sweeteners
Experiments have found that sweet taste, regardless of its caloric content, enhances your appetite, and consuming artificial sweeteners has been shown to lead to even greater weight gain than consuming sugar.Aspartame has been found to have the most pronounced effect, but the same applies for other artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, sucralose and saccharin.
Yet, weight gain is only the beginning of why artificial sweeteners should generally be avoided. Aspartame, for instance, is a sweet-tasting neurotoxin. As a result of its unnatural structure, your body processes the amino acids found in aspartame very differently from a steak or a piece of fish.
The amino acids in aspartame literally attack your cells, even crossing the blood-brain barrier to attack your brain cells, creating a toxic cellular overstimulation, called excitotoxicity, similar to MSG.
Further, inflammatory bowel disease may be caused or exacerbated by the regular consumption of the popular artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose), as it inactivates digestive enzymes and alters gut barrier function.2
Previous research also found that sucralose can destroy up to 50 percent of your beneficial gut flora.3 While you certainly don’t want to overdo it on sugar, there's little doubt in my mind that artificial sweeteners can be evenworse for your health than sugar and even fructose.
2. Synthetic Trans Fats
These are common in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as crackers, chips, most store-bought baked goods, and any fried foods, just to name a few examples. Synthetic trans fats are known to promote inflammation, which is a hallmark of most chronic and/or serious diseases.
For instance, in one 2010 study, post-menopausal women who consumed the most daily synthetic trans fat had a 30 percent higher incidence of ischemic strokes.4 Synthetic trans fats have also been linked to:
  • Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer.
  • Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes.
  • Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response.
  • Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones.
  • Heart disease
Your intake of trans fats should be as low as possible; no “safe upper limit” has even been established because, quite simply, there is none.
3. Artificial Flavors
What’s particularly alarming when you see a word like “artificial flavor” on an ingredients label is that there’s no way to know what it actually means. It could mean that one unnatural additive is included, or it could be a blend of hundreds of additives. Strawberry artificial flavor can contain nearly 50 chemical ingredients, for example.5
Or take the artificial flavoring called diacetyl, which is often used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. Research shows diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain health and may trigger Alzheimer’s diseaseGenetically engineered flavor enhancers can also be listed under the artificial flavor (or natural flavor) label.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
This flavor enhancer is most often associated with Chinese food, but it's actually in countless processed food products ranging from frozen dinners and salad dressing to snack chips and meats. MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain dysfunction and damage to varying degrees -- and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and more.
Part of the problem is that free glutamic acid (MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid) is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.
5. Artificial Colors
Every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into U.S. foods -- and that amount only factors in eight different varieties.6 As of July 2010, most foods in the European Union that contain artificial food dyes were labeled with warning labels stating the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." The British government also asked that food manufacturers remove most artificial colors from foods back in 2009 due to health concerns.
Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions -- and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.7For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity in children.
Blue # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it's also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity and other behavioral effects in children.
6. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
It’s often claimed that HFCS is no worse for you than sugar, but this is not the case. Because high-fructose corn syrup contains free-form monosaccharides of fructose and glucose, it cannot be considered biologically equivalent to sucrose (sugar), which has a glycosidic bond that links the fructose and glucose together, and which slows its break down in the body.
Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – it just gets stored in your fat cells, which leads to mitochondrial malfunction, obesity and obesity-related diseases.
The more fructose or HFCS a food contains, and the more total fructose you consume, the worse it is for your health. As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.
Fifteen grams of fructose is not much -- it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or two Medjool dates. Remember, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda alone would exceed your daily allotment.
7. Preservatives
Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of foods, increasing manufacturers’ profits – at your expense, since most are linked to health problems such as cancer, allergic reactions and more. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives that affect the neurological system of your brain, alter behavior and have the potential to cause cancer. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you.
The preservative sodium benzoate -- found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – has been found to cause children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. Sodium nitrite, a commonly used preservative in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, has been linked to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. And the list goes on and on…

US Processed Foods May Be Even Worse Than Those in Other Countries

Many of the food additives that are perfectly legal to use in US foods are banned in other countries. The banned ingredients include various food dyes, the fat substitute Olestra, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate (aka brominanted flour), Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST and arsenic.
When foods are processed, not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the textures and natural variation and flavors are also lost. After processing, what's left behind is a bland, uninteresting "pseudo-food" that most people wouldn’t want to eat. So at this point, food manufacturers must add back in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives. If you live in Europe, you may have more options than Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain any synthetic additives.
Still, swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on fresh whole foods is a necessity if you value your health. Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented.
If you want to eat (and be) healthy, I suggest you follow the 1950s (and before) model and spend quality time in the kitchen preparing high-quality meals for yourself and your family. If you rely on processed inexpensive foods, you exchange convenience for long-term health problems and mounting medical bills. For a step-by-step guide to make this a reality in your own life, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan along with these seven steps to wean yourself off processed foods.