A road trip is not a vacation from health

At least it shouldn’t be.

I have been traveling recently, and I’m always fascinated to watch the breakfast habits of fellow travelers.  Other meals are interesting too – but I find breakfast even more interesting since it’s easy identify the travelers; especially so if you are eating in the hotel in the morning before hitting the road or heading out to meetings.

Most people who read this blog have an understanding of the importance of healthy meals – including breakfast.

A breakfast of waffles or muffins or pastries with a big glass of orange juice doesn’t cut it – not if your goal is eat a healthy or at least balanced meal.   Waffles, muffins, pastry, toast (even if you didn’t put the jam or jelly on it) is basically sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar  – and if you had that big glass of orange juice – then you washed it down with sugar.

A healthy lifestyle doesn’t consist of a diet with breakfasts like this, and breakfast when traveling shouldn’t be like this either.

If you want to be healthy, you need to move toward a healthy lifestyle, and that is built on good meals, healthy nutrition, and staying active.  Just like a short term fix like a diet doesn’t fix an unhealthy lifestyle, treating yourself to a breakfast sugary breakfast doesn’t set the stage for a healthy lifestyle.  Aside from negative effects you’ll have on that day, many people find that treating themselves to a “special breakfast” like this to be a slippery slope to returning to unhealthy eating habits.

Try to look for good sources of protein such as eggs or meats, some cheese, a little fresh fruit and perhaps some yogurt or a little salad (if it’s available at breakfast time).  Dont’ forget coffee – it has it’s own health benefits, and it’s delicious. 
I try to avoid pastries, cereals (these are usually loaded with sugar) and other processed items like “breakfast bars”.  Most foods that claim to be a healthy meals that come in a bar, bag or pouch may be meal replacements, but I’d doubt they’ll help you reach a goal of a healthier lifestyle.

If we begin to think of a healthy lifestyle as the sum of consistently making good choices for your health, choices about what to have for a specific meal get easier; they become part of a pattern or plan for a healthy lifestyle rather than just what you happened to eat for that meal.


Questions or comments about this post?   Use the form below to contact me – I’d love to hear from you.


What about supplements –worth it or a waste?

Two of the most frequent questions I get concern vitamins are:

Should I take them, and if so, what should I be taking?

To answer the first question – despite the fact that you can’t make up for bad nutrition with good supplements – most people could probably benefit from vitamin supplements.

When people hear this suggestion – they typical response is – why?

 1.    It’s difficult to always make sure that your diet includes the proper amounts of some of the most important vitamins.  Which ones?  Keep reading – we’ll get to that.  Some nutrients are difficult to get and the correct supplements can help make up for shortcomings in the foods you eat.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the RDA which is often looked at for “how much should I take” is really a recommended amount necessary to avoid the vitamin deficiency diseases – it is not necessarily the optimum amount for excellent health.

2.    As a result of decades of intensive farming, and utilizing methods to shorten the amount of time to harvest, it’s questionable that food have the same nutritional value they once had.  The University of Texas released a study in 2004 concerning this.  That study of 43 garden crops led by a University of Texas Dr. Donald Davis suggests that their nutrient value has declined in recent decades while farmers have been planting crops designed to improve other traits; “Considered as a group, we found that six out of 13 nutrients showed apparently reliable declines between 1950 and 1999,” he said.

The nutrients they identified as declining at least somewhat in measurable value were protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. The declines ranged from 6 percent for protein to 38 percent for riboflavin.

This study is reflective of the kind of nutritional changes in our food supply over the last 50 years.

So – should you supplement your diet with vitamins – my answer is yes.
Make sure you read the next post covering vitamin supplements for more specifics  and for general guidelines concerning what you should take and what to avoid.

Questions about vitamins or supplements?  Contact me using the form below – I’d love to hear from you.

One more reason to dislike GMO – it’s unsustainable

Read some of the previous posts if you want to know more about what GMO is, how it’s made, some of the GMO foods that are already (unlabeled) in the US food supply, and why you should be concerned about GMO products in our food supply.

If these haven’t given you reason enough to be concerned about silent addition of GMO foods to the US diet, my last post pointed out the effects that GMO crops are having on land and farming.  There is yet another reason to dislike and be concerned about GMO products.

GMO products are directly causing even greater harm to the environment and are pushing us further away from sustainable farming and responsible land use.   One of the unintended effects of the introduction of GMO products and the accompanying designer herbicides and pesticides the development of “superbugs” and “superweeds” that are requiring both increased use of toxic herbicides and pesticides, and the use of more potent versions of these chemicals on crops and farmland.

Over five years ago Scientific American reported on the appearance of herbicide resistant weeds that were showing up.  Since then, the problem has continued and even escalated.   According to a recent study released from Washington State University, “…the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops – cotton, soybeans and corn – has actually increased.”  This runs against what most people would think and against what the GMO industry would like to you to believe.   While the idea of GMO crops has been sold to the public as a way to feed the world with fewer resources, while in fact this study has found quite the opposite.  According to this study “Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent….”  Similar reports have emerged from other studies as well.

So not only are farmers having to use more and stronger chemicals to battle the resistant weeds and pests, but they are utilizing more fossil fuels in the process (more frequent and heavier application) and of course the resultant effects on the land and in terms of runoff and contamination are greater than before.   Do your own research and you’ll find even more reasons to say no thank you to any GMO foods or ingredients in your food.

If you have questions or comments, please us the form below to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you!

Unhealthy food grown in unhealthy soil

Previous posts have looked at the definition, manufacture, and a renewed saftey concern with GMO food.

Aside from the innate questions about the safety about GMO foods, there is another concern you may want to consider:

What about pesticide or herbicide residue in the foods you eat?

Think about one specific example  –  the use of glyphosate – the active ingredient found in the herbicide Roundup from Monsanto.

This product is typically used in conjunction with Roundup Ready seed, but is sometimes used with conventiona seed as well.
Some of the Roundup Ready GMO crops currently in use in the US market include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugarbeets. The herbicide is sometimes applied to the soil prior to planting, timing and frequency of application depends upon the specific crop.  Depending upon the crop, it can even be used as close as three days before harvest.

The heart of this concern of mine is that I do not want to be eating food that was raised in soil that has had glyphosate applied to it, food that has been raised having glyphosate applied to it, or eat food that was raised on crops that have had glyphosate applied – perhaps even days before it was consumed as forage.   There are too many concerns in my mind about the effects of long term exposure to herbicide and pesticide residue in my food, and the effect that this has on food that I eat (animals raised on herbicide and pesticide treated crops).

In addition, serious concerns have been raised about the changes to soil resulting from the use of glyphosate.  Both soil biology (natural bacteria) and mineral content is being affected due to the chelating effects of glyphosate – locking up key minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, and zinc while at the same time having a negative effect on the natural occuring beneficial bacteria.  As a result both harmful soil bacteria rise in population and the root structure of plants is impacted in a harmful manner.

Keep in mind that we’ve only looked at one herbicide, and haven’t even touched on the subject of pesticides in this post

Make sure you read the next post on the residual effects of herbicides like Roundup on the environment and the effect on sustainable agriculture and initiatives.   If you have any questions or comments, please use the form below – I would love to hear from you.

Why should you be concerned about eating GMO sourced foods?

We’ve looked at what GMO foods are, and how they are made.

With an understanding in place of what GMO foods are and where they come from, its time to look at some concerns centered around the consumption of GMO foods or products that contain ingredients from GMO sources.  Why should you be concerned?

Based on the release of new studies, several concerns have been raised.   For example, a recent Reuters article referenced a French study done at the University of Caen that states that “Monsanto’s NK603 GM corn or exposed to its top-selling Roundup glyphosate weed killer were at higher risk of suffering tumors, multiple organ damage and premature death.”  One of the results of this particular study is a temporary ban by Russia on the import of NK603 corn.  If other countries are concerned about the safety of these engineered foods, isn’t it worth your time to stop and consider what all the fuss is about?  It’s your life and your body you are caring for.  Do your own research, there are other long term studies with the same findings that should at very least cause you to stop and consider if the potential risk is worth not stopping to question the safety of GMO foods,  or maybe giving them up altogether.

Remember – you only get one body; you have a right to know what you are putting in to it, and a responsibility to take care of it.

Food for thought – watch this video released by Nutiva encouraging labeling of foods containing ingredients from GMO sources. It is a quick look at GMO, GMO labeling worldwide, and an encouragement to Californians to vote for proposition 37 which would require the labeling of GMO foods. This has significance for the rest of the US as well, as it likely would result in the same labeling being used on many products throughout the rest of the country – allowing consumers to make an informed decision about the products they purchase.


Questions or comments?  I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below:

How much GMO have you eaten today?

If you’re not already familiar with the term GMO, or GM food, you’ll want to read the previous post that gives a quick overview of what GMO means and helps explain what GMO food is.  After learning what GMO is, some people are surprised, some don’t care, and some decide that they aren’t going to eat GMO foods.

You might be surprised to learn some of the GMO products already in the US food supply that are routinely consumed by unsuspecting consumers.

Think about the fact that in the US food supply there are GMO products such as:

Corn – LOTS of corn – this ripples down into our food supply in terms of many products too – chips, cornstarch, feed for animals, HFCS, corn oil, and many others

Sweetcorn – yes – unfortunately, that kind too.

Soy – this applies to every product from hydrolyzed vegetable protein to tofu to soymilk, some types of baby formula, etc.

Canola oil – did you know that Canola is a GMO ?

Sugar – more than half of the sugar sold in the US comes from sugar beets, and 95% of that is from GMO beets.   Soon we will also have sugar from Roundup Ready beets – another GMO sugar beet variant.  Unless your bag of sugar says 100% organic or 100% cane sugar, it almost certainly contains sugar from GMO sources.

The list also includes certain varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, rice, much of the Hawaiian grown papaya, and peas.

Other than dairy products that come from cows receiving some form of bovine growth hormone (don’t forget ice cream – most of the ice cream is made from dairy products from cows that receive bovine growth hormone), there are not currently gmo animal products approved for sale in the US.   This refers to animals who’s genetic material or dna have been directly modified – you still may be purchasing animal products from animals who were fed and/or raised on GMO crops such as corn.

The previous post looked at  what GMO products are, and how they are made.
In this post we’ve looked at some of the GMO food products that are sold in the US – and that you are probably already consuming.
Be sure to read the next post where some of the specific concerns about the long term effects of consuming GMO products are reviewed – and how you can minimize your exposure to products containing ingredients from GMO sources.


Have questions or comments?  I’d love to hear from you – use the form below to contact me.

What is GMO food and should you care?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism.  Simply put, these are organisms that have had their genetic material (dna) modified or altered through some form of genetic engineering.

Three important things to understand about the term GMO:

  1. There are various methods that can be used to accomplish this.
  2. The alteration can be done using material from the same or a different species than the one being modified.
  3. GMO is perhaps most concerning when food items are modified.

According to Wikipedia, most genetically modified plants are generated by the use of a particle gun to inject foreign material into the dna of the plant being modified or through a transferal technique using bacteria to inject new material into the plant being modified.  Either way, the resulting dna is something new that has not been seen in nature.

Genetic modification can be made using material from the same species, or from a different species altogether.  When it is from a different species, it is called a transgenic modification.  One example of this is a tomato that was developed (but never commercially marketed) using fish genes.

My biggest concern is that as of October 2012 in the US, there is still no requirement that GMO food products be labeled, and there is no labeling requirement for food products that contain GMO ingredients.  The argument made by the promoters and marketers of GMO products that there is no difference and so things do not need to be labeled.  Consumers should have the right to know which products are GMO so that they can make their own judgment and informed purchasing decisions on the food and food products they eat.  It is interesting to note that there are mandatory labeling requirements in place for GMO products or ingredients in Europe.


Be sure to read the next post about GMO products currently (October 2012) in the US food supply that you are probably already consuming.


Questions – comments?  Use the form below to contact me – I’d love to hear from you.

Are you still drinking diet soda?

This is a tricky subject for many people.  In an attempt to be healthier and lose weight, diet soda seems like a good or at least safe choice.  Many studies would suggest otherwise.  If your goal is to move toward a healthier lifestyle and a sustainable healthy diet, you may want to consider ditching diet soda altogether.

Consider that if you do an internet search on “health benefits of diet soda” that in addition to not finding studies extolling the health benefits of diet soda, you will find many references to the negative impact of drinking diet soda.   About the only benefit that can be pointed out is fewer calories when compared with sugar or HFCS sweetened soda.  In addition, your search will also point you to sites pointing out the negative impact that any soda (diet or not) will have on your health.  Your best bet is to take steps to move from soda to other beverages.  If I gave you a list of things to do to move to a healthier lifestyle, I would put ditching diet soda at the top of the list.

Here are two reasons to stop drinking diet soda now:

1.  Numerous studies associate diet soda consumption with a larger waist circumference.   There are many studies that are finding this link, and there are several possible explanations.  If you are drinking diet soda to lose weight and for a thinner waist, then this is reason enough to give it up.  Many studies point to a connection between diet soda consumption and metabolic syndrome, which will increase further this effect.


2.  There continue to be questions regarding the long-term safety of artificial sweeteners.  Using google.com to search for Aspartame along with terms like long term effects or safety will reveal more than a million results or half a million respectively; a quick review of these links turns up enough troubling information to make me want to skip aspartame altogether – not just in soda or beverages.

As an example, check out these two studies from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health regarding the long term intake of aspartame on antioxidant defense status in liver and the long-term consumption of aspartame and brain antioxidant defense status.   These are just two of many studies that have been done, and these focus only on the antioxidant effects of these two important organs.  It’s your body, you only get one, and you owe it to yourself to do the research to understand the potential risks.

So to answer the question that I always get then:  “what can I drink then?” I provide the following short list of suggestions:
coffee, tea (green or black), water, herb teas or if you really want the fizzy feel of soda, consider plain seltzer water, seltzer water with a fruit essence flavor, or mineral water.  Each of these brings it’s own benefits without the risks and negative impact of diet soda.


Have questions or want to leave a comment about your experience with diet soda?  Use the field below – I’d love to hear from you!





How to make your coffee even healthier

Yes – even healthier!   Our previous post talked about some of the health benefits of coffee.  This post contains tips for making that next cup of coffee even healthier and things you can do to maximize the healthy benefits that coffee can bring to a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s start with the coffee itself – with the methods used for it’s growth and production.  If at all possible, try to go with organic coffee.  While coffee growers may not be the worst offenders in terms of herbicides and pesticides, you still want to avoid these toxins whenever possible.

Always try to get whole bean and grind your own coffee.  Coffee is a complex beverage; the flavor comes from hundreds of volatile compounds and oils found in roasted coffee beans.  Because of the volatile nature of these compounds, they can begin to dissipate quickly once the beans are ground and exposed to air.  It is these compounds that also contribute to the antioxidant qualities of coffee.  Best to grind right before brewing.

Consume shortly after brewing, or carafe quickly once done.  I prefer a method where the coffee is brewed directly in to a thermal carafe.  Many oils and volatile compounds are released from the grounds as the coffee is brewed.  These begin to evaporate or dissipate immediately after brewing.  To minimize this, avoid leaving an open pot or carafe sitting on a burner or warmer for extended periods after brewing.  Coffee that continues to heat or cook after brewing will undergo changes in both the taste and the antioxidant properties.

Use real cream or half and half or milk (organic of course) if you cream your coffee.
Avoid the non-dairy coffee creamers; read the labels and you’ll see a list of things you probably wouldn’t want to ingest on their own – why put them in your coffee.  Choose between milk or cream depending upon your diet and your goals for fat intake.

Finally, if you do need to sweeten your coffee, try stevia or a natural sweetener, or a small amount of sugar (preferably organic).  Avoid the artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame to avoid the toxin issues associated with artificial sweeteners.

Questions or comments – let me know; I’d love to hear from you.


Have some coffee and boost your health!

Go ahead and enjoy some coffee today!

I’ve been meaning to post about coffee for some time now since it is something I enjoy and drink regularly.  While traveling in Kenya recently, I was able to enjoy many cups of excellent coffee.   So while it’s fresh on my mind, lets look at why you should go ahead and enjoy that cup of coffee and a few suggestions on how to help make it a bit healthier.


It may comes as a relief to some people that coffee can actually be a healthy drink.  Coffee is naturally full of antioxidants, and several studies have recently been released pointing out natural benefits and protection that comes from these antioxidants.  In addition, some studies point to some unique protective effects coffee seems to have on various parts or systems in our body.


According to recent studies, including those cited by a recent Life Extension Magazine article, these protective effects cover many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Other recent studies cited by many media outlets including ABC News also link consumption of 3 or more cups of coffee a day to increased protection from the most common type of skin cancer.  It is interesting to note that the key in this particular study seems to be the caffeine, as drinkers of decaf did not seem to get the same protective benefit.


Coming up – tips for making that next cup of coffee even healthier; things you can do to maximize the healthy benefits that coffee can bring to a healthy lifestyle.