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The Official Blog of The GEM.

Diamonds on your inside. That’s what we want. Don’t you? This blog is a place to visit for guidance, humor and wit about healthy, happy lives. We only have one life. Make it count!

Category Archives: Food Secrets


Best Healthy Seasonings and Condiments

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Getting bored with your veggies? Do your entrees leave you wanting more?

Spice. It. Up.

So many seasonings are loaded with chemicals: MSG, anti-caking agents. Secretly added gluten with wheat flour. There are probably 20 ingredients you cannot begin to pronounce. That spells disaster for our systems–just say no to the chemicals.

Here are some of the best healthy seasonings and condiments that can change the course of your dinners forever!

  1. Tommy’s Coffee Rub. This is not just for beef! Use it on thickly sliced tomatoes on toast–like a BLT sans the swine. Mash it with an avocado and lemon juice for a new twist on guacamole. P.S. It doesn’t taste like coffee. P.P.S. Tommy is a cute, local Texan. All of his products are yummy, especially the Salsa Roja.
  2. Jalapeno Lime Pepper from Alamo City Pepper Products. Sprinkle on artichokes, add it on wild salmon or halibut with a touch of olive oil, broil for 12 minutes. (See this recipe.) The best fish you will ever eat. They also have a great fajita seasoning.
  3. Casa Fiesta Taco Seasoning. To beans, grass-fed ground beef, Mexican rice. Taco Tuesdays will be awesome again.
  4. Simply Organic Spicy Chili Seasoning. Follow the directions, adding an extra can of rinsed beans. Or better yet, delete the grass-fed beef for a vegan alternative. Your kids may never notice. Add it on top of an organic baked potato. Sooo good.
  5. Simply Organic Ranch Powder Packet. Certainly not perfect, but a great way to wean yourself and your family off of other favs/go-tos. If you wonder why HVR is so bad, take a moment to read the bottle in your fridge. Yikes.
  6. Krazy Ketchup. A truly healthy alternative and it is really tasty. Plus, the owner is a super cool college sorority bud. It can be ordered by the case.
  7. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. Add two tablespoons to your soups for a tangy kick. This is the perfect base for homemade salad dressing. Oh … and lots of great benefits:
    • Rich in enzymes & potassium
    • Support a healthy immune system
    • Helps control weight
    • Promotes digestion & ph Balance
    • Helps remove body sludge toxins
  8. Organic Dijon Mustard. Adds zing to your salad dressings, zip to your turkey roll-ups. Look for brands that only have a couple of ingredients. We like the 365 Whole Foods Brand.
  9. And while we are at it, really good, fresh pickles are really hard to find.  Take a look at the ingredients in the ones you have in your fridge.  Probably have food coloring and polysorbate 80, and some other science experiments.  Try Bubbies. Their pickles and sauerkraut is beyond yummy.
  10. Simple Stuff. Really good Sea Salt and a Black Pepper grinder. Changes the way you look at salt and pepper.
  11. Wright’s of Texas Fresh Green Salsa Mild OR Habanero. AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME. On chips, on veggies, as a marinade, on fish tacos, on a spoon. Just the right amount of everything. Super fresh, all-natural.
Bodies (and taste buds) will sing. 


Eat Now, Pay Later.

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Growing up in the South (quick shout out to Sylvester, GA), I ate from Daddy Pait’s garden, I helped my mom can fruits and vegetables, we sealed and froze soups, jarred pickles and everyone spent significant time cooking food. Even though the green beans were cooked for so long they were no longer green, and the squash had the consistency of mashed potatoes, the quality of the food was still whole. Tomatoes were really tomatoes and not some genetically modified monster. Cucumbers were picked just a day or so before we ate them.

Fast forward a quarter century (or more) and our fast-paced lifestyle forces many of us to seek out food that requires little time to prepare. Manufacturers have cashed in on this, marketing every kind of foodstuff you can imagine that is easy and fast–microwave dinners, boxed snacks, and grab and go meals to be slurped, eaten from a stick, popped in a toaster.

Sounds like a dream come true. Not so fast. This convenience comes with a price. Think about it.  Real food isn’t made to sit in a box or bag for long periods of time….so..chemicals, lots of them, are added to keep the food from going bad. Making them, well, bad. And they are filled with empty calories–void of any real nutritional value.

A simple food, yet this list is SO complex. It should be 3 ingredients. Can you guess? Flour tortillas!

Look for these ingredients in the food labels and avoid them at all costs.  Don’t panic, you can still find packaged options without a health risk, but you must read the labels and avoid the following:

  1. Artificial Colorings I was shocked to see that even Kraft Marshmallow Crème has food coloring in it. These are chemicals made from petroleum derivatives and have been linked to cancer, are known to cause allergic reactions, and are linked to ADD in children. AND, most of Europe has banned these in the same foods that have them here in the USA.
  2. Artificial Sweeteners Aspartame (NutraSweet) has been linked to brain tumors and about 90 other really unpleasant side effects. Your body is tricked into thinking it is getting sugar, so your insulin levels rise making your crave more sugar than before. It is is EVERY stick of gum you currently know. Diet drinks, ‘Lite’ Yogurts, ‘sugar-free’ junk should be tossed.  NOW.
  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) It extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar. The main issue now is that HFCS is that we ingest far too much of it, contributing to our obesity epidemic.
  4. Partially Hydrogenated Oil (Trans Fat) is an altered vegetable oil. It promotes heart disease. It’s not just in Crisco anymore.  Goldfish and  peanut butter and Mission tortillas just for starters.
  5. Sodium Nitrates enhance meat products like hot dogs, bacon, sausages, and lunchmeats. Nitrites break down into cancer-causing compounds.  “Lunchables” should be re-named Box O’ Migraines.

These chemicals can have surprising side effects: depression (yes, I swear), fatigue, headaches, and skin irritations to just name a few. Not so convenient now, right?

For everyone trying to lose weight: Empty calories leave us hungry for real food. When we eat real, whole, organic and fresh foods, our bodies become satisfied and thank us accordingly.

Your best bet is to limit or better yet avoid things in packages, wrappers, and cans, and eat most of your food in its simple, natural state. It will make you feel SO much better, look SO much better, and LIVE SO MUCH BETTER. I GUARANTEE IT.


GLORY DAYS.

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Freshman 101 Wellness Tips

Remember your freshman year? All of the new things, new responsibilities, new boundaries, new ways to incorporate freedom into your life?

Remember the summer after your freshman year? Coming home to raised eyebrows at how much MORE of you there was? I came home with 20 more pounds. Forget the Freshman 15…I’ve always tried to be an over-achiever.I was a nice sized 12/14 in pleated shorts. It was a good look.

Recently, we hosted a graduation party at The GEM for 32 graduating seniors and we shared a few ‘tips’ with them. I hope they will incorporate a few of these into their daily life. I tried appealing to their vanity rather than their long-term health. I mean, we were all invincible back then. Good skin, better energy, strength & stamina, and clear thinking seem to be a better draw. Share these with your college bound GEM.

Quite frankly, we all need to follow these rules. They make for a happier, healthier you. One more shout out for DIAMONDS ON YOUR INSIDE.

TOP 3 THINGS TO DO

EXERCISE EVERYDAY—even if it is a walk or a bike ride. It makes you happy, too!

DRINK. LOTS. OF WATER. Water keeps your body and mind hydrated. Sometimes you mistake thirst for hunger. Drink 32 oz of water every morning— first thing. Pretty skin, pretty eyes, better energy.

GO GREEN. Eat something green everyday. PERIOD. More green = better mood, better skin, better chance of not taking home the freshman 15!

TOP 3 THINGS NOT TO DO

DRINK TOO MUCH. Bad for your skin, bad for bloating, and really bad for making good decisions.

LATE NIGHT EATING. Pizza delivery after 8pm is evil. An occasional splurge is fine, but keep it to once a month. There is nothing really hip about a slug eating crap. Cut out junk food. Keep healthy options around like popcorn, apples with almond butter, nuts, hummus & veggies.

SMOKE. ANYTHING. Smoke makes your skin dull, your breath stink and your body lethargic.

INCORPORATE HEALTHY CHOICES:

FRESH GREEN JUICE—perfect nutrients, energy, glowing skin, bright eyes

KOMBUCHA—soda alternative, cleansing, great hangover elixir

SMOOTHIES—as a meal replacement, and make sure there are only fresh, clean ingredients. No Jamba Juice imposters!

I can still see myself in my freshman year spring break photos.  My face was so puffy it barely fit into the 8×10 frame. If I’d only known The GEM!!


Weed of Wonder: Cilantro, the Great De-toxifier.

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Don’t take this SUPER LEAF for granted. This herb is not just a random garnish found next to the salsa on the condiment bar at Taco Cabana.

It’s a powerful natural detoxifier.

There are many well-documented benefits of organic cilantro. One super cool fact is that Cilantro might just be one of nature’s best chelation agents.

The chemical compounds in cilantro actually bind to heavy metals, loosening them from the tissues, blood and organs. Cilantro’s chemical compounds then help move these harmful substances out of the body. Mercury excess is a common problem that may be the result of metallic teeth fillings or over-consumption of predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish.

But wait, there’s MORE!  Cilantro also …

  • Eases symptoms of arthritis due to its powerful anti-inflammatory capacities
  • Maintains healthy cholesterol levels
  • Brings relief for stomach gas, prevention of flatulence (your friends and family will thank you) and an overall digestive aid
  • Wards off urinary tract infections
  • Helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • Eases hormonal mood swings
  • Helps promote healthy liver function
  • Loads of anti-oxidants that eat up those nasty free radicals in our body…things that make us old and creaky.

STATS for this humble backyard herb: 

15% of folates (recommended daily allowance per 100g)
11% of vitamin B-6
45% of vitamin C
225% of vitamin A
258% of vitamin K, one of the richest herbal sources
22% of iron
18% of manganese

This weed has flown under the radar for too long. Cilantro deserves a bowl full of respect!

So how can you get more of this super green? Add it to soups, sprinkle it on salads, douse it on dips. Too much to think about?

Have someone do it for you! Get a double dose of cilantro love when you hang out at The GEM. You can find cilantro in the soon-to-be famous GEM Quinoa Salad and Jalapeno Pesto. Hustle down and get you some cilantro!


Crown me Kale.

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Learn to love it. It will love you back.

Kale is the leafy green everyone really cool is talking about.  This emerald beauty has found it’s way into the nutrition spotlight and is even referred to as “the new beef.”

WHY should I jump on this VEGGIE HUGGER bandwagon?” Kale here to stay. No longer the garnish on the Denny’s breakfast plate so get used to it.

Nine SUPER FINE reasons to eat more KALE:

1.Immunity Booster. “Super Kale” super charges your immune system with high levels of vitamin C, A and manganese.

2. Bones. Strong ones. Kale is loaded with calcium, it actually has more calcium per serving than milk. The calcium in kale is also absorbed more easily by the body than from dairy products making it the better choice for strong bones. And your skin will glow.

3. Anti-Inflammatory. Kale is strongly anti-inflammatory as it has an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, over 45 different flavonoids. Trust me, this means good stuff.

4. Vitamin K. Contains tons of it. (1300%of your RDA in just 1 cup). K helps reduce the body’s inflammatory response and supports the nervous system. Prevents calcium buildup in our tissue. How much of my RDA?

5. Alkalinity. Kale helps the body maintain an alkaline ph. When your system is alkaline, diseased cells cannot survive. Uhh, thats all you had to say for me!

6. Kicks cancer’s ass. Anti-cancer properties of kale are off the chain. Glucosinates help prevent many different cancers.  So do alkalinity and anti-inflammatory characteristics above.

7. Smooth Operator. Fiber: it keeps our digestive system running smoothly so we can absorb the maximum number of nutrients. Fiber also acts like little scrub brushes cleaning out toxins from out body.

8. Iron. Where’s the beef?? Per calorie kale has more iron than beef making it an iron-rich super star. Kale burger anyone?

9. Detox. High sulphur content is essential for the body’s detoxification process.

Dino Kale Rocks The House.

So how do you get this super food into your diet? Here are a few easy ways:

  • Soups: De-stem and cut a few kale leaves before adding them to soups in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  • Sneak some in your salad – Massage (yes, massage) the kale with a little sea salt. Add the kale into your regular salad for a nutrient dense kick. OR, come get a life-changing, fabulously yummy kale salad at The GEM.
  • Kale Chips: Yes you heard me, chips! Fall head over heels for them with a little olive oil and salt, bake at 350.
  • Smoothies – disguise a kale leaf at a time into your smoothie. You can’t even taste it!
  • DRINK IT! A Green Glow Juice from The GEM is the perfect starter kit to add more kale in your day.


To Juice or Not to Juice

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What an amazing week! The GEM is opened and it is, I must say, FABULOUS. It’s interesting how clean, vibrant things attract bright-eyed, vibrant  people. It is SO much fun being there serving raw juice and smoothies to these SHINY, HAPPY PEOPLE.

So the question arises, “Should I juice, or should I smoothie? What is the difference?

GET JUICED UP! Juices provide nutrients at top speed.  The lack of fiber means our body can assimilate the nutrients in a matter of minutes. Your body has time to heal itself rather that having to work at digestion.  My afternoon green juice during chemo was the shot in the arm I needed to keep going after 3pm.

By doing this daily, you provide your body with a high dose of naturally-derived nutrients that boosts your health, support your body’s natural cleansing processes, and helps keep you well-protected against toxins and disease. A fresh juice stands in a league of its own.  It is simply the best energy drink on the market! Take that, Red Bull.


BE A SMOOTH OPERATOR
….Smoothies are a vibrant man’s comfort food. There is nothing better than a rich, yummy smoothie. They can be fruit based, raw chocolate or coconut. It doesn’t matter. They all can offer great benefits for skin, digestion, weight control.

Smoothies contain a good deal of fiber, something that is an important nutrient in itself (see Emerald City Smoothie at The GEM). Fiber is an essential and all-too-often lacking ingredient in our diet; it keeps our gut moving and helps it to stay healthy with the right levels of good bacteria. Smoothies, when done right, can be an excellent meal replacement too–with veggies, fruit and protein mixed happily together in a party cup. BUT, don’t be fooled by that creepy, fake crap served at fast food joints or even at the self-acclaimed healthy smoothie chains. So much of that is processed and sugar laden. You might as well eat some Ben & Jerry’s. Or…the famed BACON SMOOTHIE from Jack in the Box. A bit of a bellwether for the state of America’s health. Smoothies gone wrong. Watch out for it.  Juice over Smoothie?  We need both.

SEE YOU AT THE GEM!


Twinkie and Wonder Bread workers unite!

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Late night convenience store raids may never be the same. It was announced this week that the folks that bring us Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread filed for bankruptcy. Hold your tears.

You wanna know why? Could it be Americans are making smarter diet and snack food choices? Be real. Probably not. The reason cited is their production model is too costly, due to legacy pensions and union restrictions. They simply cannot keep up with customer needs because of the excess weight it has to carry and the inability to change quickly.

So. Let me get this straight. The company that provides products that make Americans fat, lethargic and generally unhealthy is being destroyed by people who have made the company fat, lethargic and generally unhealthy? That is almost too ironic to be true.

2 Fun Twinkie Facts:

There are 39, yes, THIRTY NINE ingredients in Hostess Twinkie.

The Twinkie defense. The man who fatally shot Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1979 obtained a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder after arguing he was not fully responsible for his actions because he sunk into a deep depression. This was evidenced by his newfound love of junk food. A noted psychiatrist testified that on the night before the murders, the defendant “just sat there in front of the TV set, bingeing on Twinkies.” Could it be that the innocent-seeming blond Twinkie is not merely bad for your health, but could be an accessory to murder?

I guess one way or another, those things will kill you. I rest my case.


Don’t Dig On Swine…part 1.

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Pork+Meat Glue+Cult following=McRib

Now you know the equation. But do you know what the hell ‘McRib’ is?

If you knew, you might think twice about bee-lining it to the drive thru to get you some piggie love. First off, it includes “restructured meat product” and a flour-bleaching agent used to make the soles of shoes. Delectable? You ready for this?

How many ingredients does it take to make a McRib? Holy Cow! Er, Pig.

At first glance, the sandwich contains just pork, onions, and pickles doused in BBQ sauce and laid out on a harmless bun. But the truth is, there are roughly 70 ingredients. The bun alone contains 34.  In addition to chemicals like ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80, the most frightening may be azodicarbonamide — “a flour-bleaching agent most commonly used in the manufacturing of foamed plastics like gym mats and the soles of shoes.” According to McDonald’s own ingredient list the bun also includes calcium sulfate and ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, among other chemicals. Whaa? I’ve never seen those ingredients in my recipe books AND they are banned in Europe.

You know what they make those things out of, Chet? You know? Lips and assholes! (The Great Outdoors,1988) Or, as it’s called, this “restructured meat product” includes pig bits like tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, says Whet Moser at Chicago Magazine. (Scalded stomach???) These parts are cooked and blended with salt and water to extract proteins, which act as a “glue” that helps bind the reshaped meat together. (There’s that famous meat glue again!)

Is it really that bad for you? Need you ask? Though “slightly trimmer than the Big Mac,” the McRib, still packs in 500 calories and 26 grams of fat. And despite its name, one thing you won’t find inside a McRib is bones. The absence of any detectable “rib” is what gives the unnutritious mush its “quirky sense of humor,” says McDonald’s U.S. marketing director.

Is that really humorous?


Color Me Badd

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Families that eat together, stay together.

Tis the season to hop up the kids on candy, iced cookies, and brightly colored punch. Quick trips to the McD’s drive thru. Beware.  I am learning more and more about the negative effects of processed food on our children.  Like serious ones. Ones that we are currently treating with medications. ADHD, depression, anxiety, aggression, even poor hand writing (yes, hand writing. I will ‘write’ about that one soon.)

New research has found that delayed food sensitivities caused attention deficit disorder and removing these food sensitivities could reverse attention deficit disorder in 75 percent of children.HOLY COW. Aggression, violence and bullying are on the rise in schools. A study in England found that supplementing prisoners with multi-vitamin and fish oil could reduce violent crime in prisons by 37 percent.

But I can’t deprive my kids of the fun stuff…..WAAAAAA. Stop whining.  Did you really just say that?

Small changes can have a big impact on your family’s and your children’s health and happiness. Starting with what you bring home.

  • Eat at home and Eat together.  You complain of not having enough time to cook, but you spend hours watching The Food Network. Create a special place to sit down together, and set the table with care. You’ve all heard the research that family meals are basically the cure for every problem in America.Well, just try it and see.  At the very least, you have a chance to find out what your children are up to.  Taking back our family dinners will help us learn how to find and prepare real food quickly and simply, teach our children how to connect, and build security, safety, and social skills, meal after meal, day after day.
  • Eat a real breakfast. This is a critical life skill we must reclaim and teach our children. Kids (and adults) who eat breakfast are thinner and smarter. Think REAL, whole protein-rich food to power up the brain for the day. Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies. BUT NOT CEREAL, which has more sugar than a twinkie–and has essentially no nutritional value.
  • CLEAN your kitchen. Throw out foods with ARTIFICIAL FOOD COLORS, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and sugars or fat as the first or second ingredient on the label. Fill your kitchen with real, fresh, whole, local foods whenever possible. Shop at nearby farmer’s markets.Have fresh fruit and veggies always available for your kids to snack on.
  • Take your vitamins.  A multi-vitamin and  Omega-3 Fish Oils are a MUST. Our kids have different needs at different times and supplements can fill some of these gaps. Deficits in magnesium can cause insomnia and constipation.  DHA deficits cause diminished brain function and inflammation.
  • JUST STAY AWAY FROM ARTIFICIAL FOOD COLORINGS. 

PEACE.


Sunny D(isgusting)

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Sunny Delight–Sunshine in a Bottle they say. It has been marketed to us kids since the seventies. Today it is all over kid programming–offering a refreshing, healthy beverage. Seemingly happy kids bouncing around in the sunshine, playing, laughing, unwittingly consuming crap. They serve it in schools, they serve it in Lunchables (that’s another post).  It all seems benign.

Take a moment. What do you think are the ingredients in that seemingly harmless orange bottle? My first guess was water, orange juice and obviously sugar. Well, that is partly correct. Real orange juice comprises less than 2% of this concoction. Get out your dictionary and call your doctor. You are poisoning your children. I have bolded the dangerous ingredients.

Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Concentrated Juices (Orange, Tangerine, Apple, Lime, Grapefruit). Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Beta-Carotene, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Natural Flavors, Food Starch-Modified, Canola Oil, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate To Protect Flavor, Yellow #5, Yellow #6

In addition to the HFCS which is linked to obesity and insulin issues, there is CANOLA OIL in your juice.  Say what? WHY is there equal parts of juice as there is inflammatory building, artery blocking CANOLA OIL? If that oil wasn’t enough, they’ve added artificial coloring–which is made from petroleum.  Do I need to explain why petroleum is harmful to consume? I won’t even go into the sodium hexametaphosphate, mainly because I can’t even spell it much less know what it does.  Oh, and why does juice needstarch?

Our lives are busy.  We know that.  But don’t err on the side of processed convenience if the label screams UNHEALTHY.  Don’t allow your children to control the choices at home.  When you explain WHY, they usually get the message.  They don’t want to consume poison either.  If you educate your children on these hidden dangers, they will eventually make better choices for themselves–even when you aren’t around.