8 Tips on Becoming Plant-Strong by Ann Esselstyn

June 10, 2012

This information was just too good not to share.

Here are some of her tips for becoming plant-strong.

“I am not a chef. I don’t peel anything and if it looks even a little bit complicated, I don’t make it. What we have found is that eating plant based WITHOUT OIL is delicious, easy and above all magical.
Follow 8 principles and you may well find yourself becoming PLANT PERFECT!

1. Eat oats (Old Fashioned) for breakfast, any way you can as oatmeal, as a cold cereal as we do with alternative milk and fruit or in waffles or pancakes or just put your cereal bowl with oats, banana and alternative milk and a table spoon of flax seed into your waffle iron and you have your oat breakfast in waffle form. There are delicious ways to use steel cut oats too. Oats help lower cholesterol and also reduce artery inflammation. Find the breakfast with oats you love then eat it EVERY DAY!

2. Eat GREENS especially leafy greens as well as all the symphony of rainbow colored vegetables. Cooked or raw vegetables are king! Make leafy greens like Kale, collards and Swiss chard the nest on which you put your food, mix greens into your food or pile greens on the side of your plate. Make kale sandwiches, mix greens into soup, cook kale, etc. cut in small pieces into pasta 4 minutes before it is done, then drain and you have a meal in one or mix a bunch of greens into pasta sauce and spread on your whole wheat, no oil pizza crust and top with vegetables of your choice. Never cheese.

3. Eat Beans and Lentils instead of meat and dairy. All lentils are delicious. Try red lentils in soup. They cook quickly and make the soup a nice colour. Put beans in salads.  Hummus made without tahini or oil has become our mayonnaise as a sandwich spread or dip for vegetables and crackers and even part of our favorite salad dressing. Our main party dish is brown rice and black beans piled high with chopped tomatoes, thawed frozen corn, chopped green onions, water chestnuts, chopped cilantro, chopped arugula/rocket, chopped peppers, etc. and topped with salsa, low sodium tamari or if you don’t have heart disease with guacamole. AVOID all the highly processed fake soy meats and any of the vegan cheeses, which have lots of oil in them.

4. Eat WHOLE Grains. Be sure that the word WHOLE is in front of wheat or rye in the ingredient list. If not then it is just white flour fancied up to sound impressive. Check also to be sure that there is no added oil in the bread.  Tortilla wraps are excellent and useful for everyday or parties. Fill them with your choice and then roll them up and bake them for 10 minutes in a 200°C/450°F oven. Delicious! Use whole wheat pastry flour or barley flour in baking instead of white flour.

5. Eliminate oil! Empty all oil, even virgin olive oil out of your cupboards then you CAN’T use it. Instead any liquid works. Vegetable broth (no sodium), water, wine, beer, orange juice, carrot juice, vinegar all work in stir -frying. Instead of oil in baking, use applesauce, baby food prunes, bananas.  Finding a salad dressing you love is a challenge at first but there are so many possibilities out there you will soon never miss the oil filled ones.

6. Drink WATER! You can’t go wrong with water. You can flavour it with a splash of orange or apple, etc. juice occasionally. Never drink juices! And absolutely never drink pop, with or without added sugar.

7. Avoid sugar and salt as much as possible. Save sugar for birthdays or special holiday treats. Instead put grapes in your freezer for an amazing sweet treat or freeze bananas or mangoes and blend them in a strong blender for delicious “ice creams”. Look at the labels for the amount of salt in a product. No added salt is ideal or aim for the salt content being equal to the calorie content. Instead of salt add vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice or hot sauces. You will lose your taste for salt before you know it.

8. Read Labels, especially the ingredients (see the post on how to read food labels for more info – link). You will be surprised that often proclaimed zero fat products have oil listed in the ingredients.  Governments allows anything under .5 grams of fat to be called FAT FREE.
Fill up with all the great plant based food. Life is GOOD!”

Thanks Ann for the great tips!


Understanding Food Labels

May 24, 2012

Whenever I do grocery shopping I notice how misleading and sneaky food producers can be to promote their products.

Jeff Novick, MS, RD has produced a very informative movie clip to explain how to read and understand food labels.  The video clip is a very informative and entertaining way to understand the nutritional facts that is displayed on food packaging. This will really help make more informed choices when shopping for healthier options.  Any/All of Jeff Novick’s YouTube clips are really entertaining.  Clip

Jeff Novick also wrote an article to document how to make sense of the food label/nutrition facts on food – it is definitely worth the read.

How to make sense of the food label
Here are the basics of deciphering food labels, consolidated into ten quick-reference tips.

1. Never believe the claims on the front of the box.

What many think are health claims are actually just marketing pitches and advertisements. And government approved claims, like “low-fat” and “light,” often don’t tell you the whole story. These products may be high in fat as well as sugar, salt, and/or calories.

“Light” ice cream, for example, may still pack in 4 to 5 grams of fat per serving. And “light” and “regular” varieties of ice cream may not differ much calorically.

Never evaluate a product based on one item, such as its fat, cholesterol, sugar, carbohydrate, or salt content. Attempting to cash in on the latest diet or nutrition craze, many companies promote their products based on a single item despite other unhealthy aspects. (Remember “fat-free” foods that were full of sugar and calories?) To be truly healthy, a product must pass several criteria.

2. Always read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list.

They contain information that can really help you determine how healthy a food is. Crackers, for example, may advertise on the front of the box that they’re “trans fat free”, but in the ingredient list you may find fats, like palm oil and coconut oil, that are just as artery-clogging as the trans fats they replaced.

(Tips 3 through 7 show you how to read the Nutrition Facts label.)

3. Check the serving size.

Though the government standardised most serving sizes years ago, many products still post unrealistically small sizes. A serving of oil spray, for instance, is .25 grams. That’s about 120th of an ounce — far less than most people could, or would, spray on a pan with even just one squirt.

4. Check the amount of servings per package.

Decades ago, many products were in fact single servings. A bottle of cola was one serving. One small candy bar was one serving. Today, many products are “super-sized” and contain multiple servings. A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 2.5 servings, at 110 calories each. Now, in the real world, who’s going to drink just one serving of that bottle? Is it any surprise that many of us are super-sized ourselves?

5. Check the calories per serving.

All too many people think the “110 calories” posted on that 20-ounce bottle of cola means they’re drinking 110 calories. Hardly. You’ve got to multiply the 110 calories by the total number of servings, 2.5, to realise that you’re actually downing a whopping 275 calories. Don’t get too comfortable with “0s” either. Because some manufacturers use ridiculously small serving sizes (remember that 120th of an ounce of cooking spray?) and because the FDA states that manufacturers can “round down” to zero, some products advertised as calorie-free or fat-free are not. If you eat multiple servings — if, say, you coat an entire skillet with oil spray — you may be tallying up quite a few calories.

6. Check the calories from fat.

It’s on the Nutrition Facts label. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you “percent of calories from fat”, which is how all health guidelines direct us to limit fat. You’ve got to do a little math. Divide the number of calories from fat by the total calories. (If the serving’s 150 calories, 50 of which are fat, your product is 33 percent calories from fat.) If division trips you up, go by grams. Use this easy rule. If a product has 2 grams of fat or less per 100 calories, its fat content is within these guidelines for processed foods: the fat, per serving, is 20 percent or less of total calories. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that 4 grams of fat per 100 calories is double the fat I recommend. Don’t be fooled by claims like “99 percent fat-free” soup or “2 percent fat” milk. They’re based on percent of weight, not percent of calories. So that can of 99 percent fat-free soup may actually have 77 percent of its calories from fat, or more. And 2 percent fat milk actually has about 34 percent of total calories from fat; 1 percent milk has about 23 percent calories from fat.

7. Check the sodium.

Don’t bother with the percentage of Daily Value (DV) of sodium. Don’t bother with Daily Value percentages, period. They’re based on government standards, which are generally not the healthiest guidelines to strive for. Instead, look at the number of milligrams of sodium the serving contains. A great rule of thumb: Limit the sodium in milligrams to no more than the number of calories in each serving. Your daily goal: less than 1,500mg of sodium.

(Tips 8, 9, and 10 show you how to read the ingredient list.)

8. Check the types of fat.

Make sure there are no saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, or tropical oils in the ingredient list, including lard, butter, coconut, cocoa butter, palm oils, shortening, margarine, chocolate, and whole and part-skim dairy products. Polyunsaturated fats (like safflower, soybean, corn, and sesame) and monounsaturated fats (such as olive and canola) are less harmful and would be acceptable, but make sure the percentage of calories from fat are still in line — 20 percent calories from fat or less — or your waistline may start getting out of line. All oils, even “good” oils, are dense with calories.

9. Check the sugar.

Limit caloric sweeteners. Watch out for sugars and other caloric sweeteners that don’t say “sugar” but in fact are, such as corn syrup, rice and maple syrup, molasses, honey, malted barley, barley malt, or any term that ends in “ol,” such as sorbitol or maltitol, or “ose,” such as dextrose or fructose. Try to limit all these added, refined, concentrated sugars to no more than 5 percent of total calories (essentially, no more than 2 tablespoons daily for most folks). Don’t be concerned about naturally occurring sugars in fruit and some non-fat dairy products. However, on the Nutrition Facts label, added sugars and naturally occurring sugars are all lumped together as “sugar.” Your best bet: Look at the ingredient list. Try to avoid foods with added, refined caloric sweeteners in the first three to five ingredients. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, the lower down the label you find added sugars, the better.

10. Make sure that any grain is WHOLE grain.

Many bread and pasta products claim to be whole wheat, but the first ingredient in the ingredient list is often wheat flour, which sounds healthy, but it’s really refined flour. Further down the list will be whole-wheat flour or bran. Scout out products that contain only whole grains. Also look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, which often ensures the product is mostly, if not all, whole grain.

If the product sounds too good to be true, it may be. Thousands of new products come out every year, many trying to cash in on the latest diet craze. As we’ve seen with the low-carb craze, many may not be carefully regulated (if at all). In 2001 the Florida FDA evaluated 67 diet products and found all 67 were inaccurately labelled; they contained more sugar and carbs than their labels stated. And recently, consumer laboratories evaluated 30 low-carb nutrition bars and found that 60 percent were inaccurately labelled. Most had more carbs, sugars, and salt than their labels claimed.

During your first few trips to the market, give yourself extra time to evaluate products. You’ll soon speed up! Once you’ve found products that you enjoy and that meet these healthy guidelines, shopping becomes quick and easy. Your health is worth it!

Remember, WHOLE, natural, unadulterated foods, not packaged and manufactured foods, are those foods that pack the nutrient punch. Even when you pick from the “acceptable” processed foods, it should be only a minor part of your diet.

Nutrition and children (2)

May 6, 2012

“the weight gain as a child is more closely associated with heart disease and diabetes later in life than weight gain in middle age – large impact on metabolism – impact on genetic expression and causes one to be more susceptible later on in life. “ – Dr John Kelly

When kids do not follow an optimal diet they are frequently ill.  They suffer from recurring ear infections, runny noses, asthma, allergic reactions, stomach aches and headaches. We note their symptoms and haul them in to the doctor, who prescribes yet another round of antibiotics.  When parents and children learn more about nutritional excellence and how to eat for optimal health the benefits are huge.

Great site for kids health info (includes recipes, helpful tips and hints, many links/resources to additional information):  Link

Children are actually very adventurous and willing to try things

  • Here are some great ideas of how some people got kids to try different fruits and vegetables:  Link
  • Food is elementary – Students, teachers, parents, and staff demonstrate the benefits of in-school food education program:  Link
  • Dr Antonia Demas has done huge projects getting children interested in plant-based foods:  Link

Mitch Spinach

Mitch Spinach solves the age-old mystery of how to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies!  Link

The previous post also relating to nutrition and children – Link

Chocolate – the good and the bad

April 9, 2012

I found a new brand of chocolate that is dairy free and delicious.  What I also liked about it is that it is a fair trade product and the product is also produced in the country of origin.  (Link)

I was so excited about it that I decided to take some to work with me so that I can expose some of my colleagues to really good quality chocolate that is dairy free and not the cheap and nasty commercial “chocolate-like” product that most people consume by the bucket load, without ever considering the impact of supporting the chocolate industry.

They liked it, however, they made statements, like “but how much did it cost”.  That made me realise that most people don’t really want to know what their money is contributing to in the world.  When I briefly mentioned how the chocolate industry is linked to child slavery and general exploitation of people, animals and natural resources, they seem to shrug and disregard that they are part of the problem.

When you purchase cheap, commercial chocolate, you are contributing to the issues as documented below:

CNN documentary

John Robbins – Slavery in chocolate

International Labor Rights Forum

The dark side of the chocolate industry

There are many more sites with information linked to this issue, you just need to look for it (ask the questions).

Quick facts (full details and references included in the above links):

  • children as young as 7 years start working as harvesters on the cacao farms
  • most of the children working on the farms never get to taste the end product – chocolate
  • child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in the chocolate industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands
  • these children are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again

If everyone only supported companies that were ethical and responsible, it will make a difference.  It all starts with you.

Nutrition and Chrohn’s disease

January 3, 2012

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Nutritional Considerations

Nutritional factors may be important in IBD.  The factors currently believed to help prevent or treat IBD…



November 1, 2011

A brilliant clip by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau about excuses people use to not changing their diets


Nutrition and children

April 10, 2011

More and more children are overweight or obese, the numbers are rising in all countries where we eat a Westernised diet.  Children as young as 12 years old are developing early stages of heart disease.  More children are developing diabetes.  These diseases are nutritionally controllable.

  • Nutrition 101:  Link

Information about the NY Coalition for healthy school food.  This article includes some hard facts and information on how you can disease-proof your family.

“One of the major findings from this fascinating study was that higher levels of childhood fruit intake had dramatic effect at reducing incidence of all adult cancers, such as cancer of the breast, prostate and colon.”

  • Association between multiple cardiovascular risk factors and Atherosclerosis in children and young adults:  Link