Food Is Not Your Enemy

The Foods I Eat

As a holistic nutrition counselor, I’m often asked, by my clients as well as my friends and acquaintances, what I myself eat every day. Do I do Paleo? Do I start my day with oatmeal or Greek yogurt? Do I mostly eat fish and broccoli for dinner?

So I thought that I would put together a list of typical meals I might have during the week. Here goes …

Breakfast: A smoothie. The recipe template I use is here.

Lunch: I rely a lot on leftovers from dinner the previous night. If there are no leftovers, I will often make two fried eggs and have them on one piece of buttered dark German rye bread, with perhaps half an avocado on the side. Or I’ll do a can of sardines (I know—not a popular choice with most people!) with some buttered whole grain toast, or a turkey sandwich. I always also have fruit with my lunch, and maybe also some nuts, hummus with whole grain crackers, and/or a little cheese. This is often my biggest meal of the day.

Snacks: I choose not to snack, with rare exceptions. Once I start eating snacks, I find it hard to stop! I prefer to just eat a nice large lunch that keeps me full for 6-7 hours until dinnertime.

Dinner: I’m a big fan of variety when it comes to dinner, so I rotate between probably 40-45 different recipes. Some typical dinners might include a quarter of a roast chicken with half my plate full of leafy greens or other vegetables, turkey and bean chili with a side salad, whole wheat pasta made with any number of different sauces or vegetables, homemade soup with salad or whole grain baguette on the side, salmon with vegetables, shrimp and vegetable stir-fry (using brown rice), homemade tacos on soft corn tortillas, BLTs on whole wheat toast with side salad or vegetables, and pork ribs or pork shoulder made in the slow cooker, with vegetables and maybe also a whole grain like black rice or potato on the side.

Dessert: 85% dark chocolate, 1 or 2 rows broken off the bar. I have this a few times a week. Once a week I might have a more decadent dessert, often out at a restaurant. That can be anything from ice cream to crème brulee to pie.

Should You Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked?
August 31, 2015, 11:00 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Eggs, Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Mushrooms | Tags:

Whenever one of my clients tells me that they recently saw their doctor for a general checkup, they also tell me that their blood work indicated they were low in Vitamin D. I’ve just come to expect this.

Vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods: wild salmon, herring, organ meats, egg yolks, mushrooms, and lard are about it. Milk has D added, as do some types of OJ and cereal. But it’s tough to get enough D just from food. The most effective way to get our Vitamin D is actually from the sun: It’s beneficial to expose your legs and arms for five to 10 minutes in mid-day summer sun, two or three times a week. And fortunately, our bodies can make enough vitamin D in the summer to last us all year, which comes in handy in sun-scarce winter when our bodies make virtually none.

There have been a plethora of reports stating that a lack of D can lead to such health problems as depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and increased risk for some cancers and autoimmune diseases. The problem is that the medical community is not clear on exactly how much Vitamin D we need, or what constitutes “low” Vitamin D. For this reason, in the Annals of Internal Medicine the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended against even getting our D routinely tested, unless you have bone-health problems or a condition that can affect fat absorption, such as celiac disease.

According to a report from Harvard Medical School, even if you test low for Vitamin D, there’s little evidence that taking a D supplement will do you any good. And too much D can actually cause calcium to accumulate in your blood, which can damage your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.

Speaking with your own doctor about the D issue and how it affects your body would be a good course of action, as well as getting outside in this glorious summer sun. (And if you happen to like liver, go for it …)

How the “Umami” Taste Affects Appetite
July 28, 2015, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Beans, Dairy, Eggs, Meat, Mushrooms, Restaurants, Vegetables, weight loss | Tags: ,

Growing up, you may remember learning about the four tastes that our tongues can detect: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. But it’s now generally recognized that there is a fifth taste, a taste that’s prevalent in such foods as mushrooms, parmesan cheese, miso, tomatoes, and meat—“umami.” And this umami taste, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found, can actually have an effect on our appetite.

Umami was first recognized in 1908 by a Tokyo researcher, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, who postulated that there exists in many foods a savory, meaty taste that does not really fit into the categorizations of sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. He found that ground zero of this flavor is a compound called glutamate, or glutamic acid, which occurs naturally in the umami-rich foods. His work went mainstream only in the 1980s, and is now lovingly paid homage to by chefs worldwide as well as by the wildly popular burger chain known as Umami Burger (the burgers contain such toppings as truffle cheese, shiitake mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes).

Interestingly, two University of Sussex researchers found that when given umami-rich soup, their study participants initially felt an increase in their appetite as they ate, but eventually experienced greater satiety after the meal compared to the control group. This increased satiety, of course, can lead to eating less later in the day. Helpful if you’re looking to lose weight!

Given that umami flavors are generally delicious, why not seek them out then? Other foods that are considered umami-rich are seaweed, green tea, eggs, shellfish, soybeans, asparagus, and carrots.

Magic Mushrooms
November 20, 2013, 2:17 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Mushrooms | Tags: , , , ,

The more we study mushrooms, the more amazing they become. Mycologists are now finding that such humble varieties  as oyster mushrooms and garden giant mushrooms are capable of everything from cleaning up oil spills to filtering wastewater to possibly even decontaminating the area surrounding Fukushima. And they can do wonders for our health, too.

Mushrooms contain a host of proven disease-fighting chemicals, like polysaccharides, glycoproteins, ergosterols, and triterpenoids, in addition to antimicrobial and antiviral compounds. Some of the best mushrooms with strong medicinal qualities are shiitake, maitake, enoki, and cordyceps. Shiitakes encourage body tissues to absorb cholesterol and lower the amount circulating in the blood, and are also seen as helping to prevent cancer. Maitakes are also anticancer, have  immune-boosting effects, and may help control both high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Enoki are generally great for the immune system. And Cordyceps, often sold dried or in tea form, are believed to be a general tonic for good health.

Mushrooms also have the ability to make vitamin D if you let them sit out in the sun for a few hours before consuming them. Given how few foods contain this essential vitamin, this is great news.

So slice up some shiitakes as part of a side dish. Throw maitake or enoki mushrooms into a stir-fry. Or cook up a mushroom barley soup. It doesn’t matter how you make them—just eat more mushrooms!

Veggie Burgers
May 23, 2012, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Grains, Mushrooms, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: ,

Best veggie burgers ever, courtesy of my friend Barbara.

3/4 cup bulgur wheat

1 grated zucchini

1 onion, chopped

10 oz. mushrooms, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg

2 Tbs tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Form the mixture into 4-5 patties. Bake the patties on a greased baking sheet for 20-25 minutes.

What Self-Respecting New York Woman Cooks?
January 29, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Beans, Eggs, Fruits, Grains, Meat, Mushrooms, Vegetables | Tags: ,

Ten-hour days. Tiny kitchens. And I didn’t go to college to major in home economics, now did I?

When I was in high school and college, I had zero interest in cooking. I was going to be a career woman, not a housewife. Preparing food was something done by women with no ambition. So forget it.

Luckily for me, I married a man who loves to cook, and is great at it. Trout baked in parchment paper with julienned vegetables, veal osso buco, and authentic Hungarian goulash are regular fare in my home. My contributions in the kitchen were generally limited to post-meal clean-up. Until I decided, after 15 years of working in media, I wanted to become a holistic nutrition counselor.

If part of my new job was going to be teaching other people how to prepare healthy, simple meals at home, then, I reasoned, I better learn how to do it myself, and quick. I do have some fear around preparing meat (How do you really know when the steak is a perfect medium-rare? Or when the fish is cooked but not overdone?), so I decided I would start trying to cook some vegetarian meals, and leave the beef to my man.

I’m really good at following rules and directions. So I soon discovered that cookbooks work for me. Just do what the recipe says, and wow, cooked food! And now, after preparing hundreds of dishes at home, many of them truly great, I must say, I am a New York woman who cooks.

And I’m finding that I actually love it. I find it relaxing and meditative. I enjoy hearing my husband and two daughters say “Mmm!” after trying their first bite. And it feels good to know that I’m helping to nourish myself and my family with real, wholesome foods, not some salty soup dumped out of a can or a frozen dinner loaded with chemicals.

Home-cooked food is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. My early rebellion against the kitchen left me with stomach problems and low-level depression for years–I was relying on pre-prepared foods that were not making me feel good. Oh what a difference some sauteed fresh food makes.

To see some of my favorite recipes, click here.

Click here to find out how to take part in “Prevention not Prescriptions.”

Cool, Now We Know When Haggis and Mallomars Were Invented

Check this out: Found this “food timeline” online that details when different foods first came into use and/or were invented. Rice and millet, for instance, have been eaten since before 17,000 B.C. (but brown rice didn’t hit the U.S. until the 1960s). Marshmallows have been around since 2,000 B.C. And seedless watermelon first entered the market in 1949. Plus, recipes!

July 8, 2009, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Mushrooms | Tags: , , ,

I’m in Stockholm right now, trying to type on a keyboard that is very similar to the U.S. keyboard, but which also has such keys as “ö” and “ä” where I expect other characters to be, so it’s messing me up a bit.

The highlight of my trip so far has been going into the woods in Ädelsö (I think that’s where the umlauts are supposed to be) to hunt for chanterelle mushrooms. It is a bit early for mushrooms, we were warned, but then my husband’s aunt showed us a good spot to begin our hunt. Sure enough, right next to the trunk of a birch tree, there were our first two chanterelles, which I found after carelessly kicking aside some dead leaves. We were told to look under leaves, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to find anything in this first random place I looked. But there they were, and once you find one, there are almost always a bunch more right nearby.

Chanterelles seem to like to spring up near tree trunks and next to large rocks. In all, we found about 25, a really good haul. We folded them into a giant omelet for dinner. Succulent.

Soba Noodle Soup

Here’s another great recipe from Daphne Miller’s book “The Jungle Effect.” This is a healthy and delicious recipe from Okinawa, where people hardly ever get breast or prostate cancer, and routinely live robust lives into their 90s. I really love this book–and if you sign on as my client, it will likely end up in your hands as one of the 12 gifts I give during your six-month program

Serves 4.

6 cups cold water

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 quarter-sized piece fresh ginger

1/4 cup dried fish flakes (Bonito flakes are the most common)

Option: Either 1 pound meaty pork ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces, OR chopped bone-in chicken parts OR 8 dried shiitake mushrooms (I’ve always used the mushrooms)

1 1/3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sweet sake or mirin

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon if not using sake)

One 8-oz. package soba noodles


2 sheets nori, cut into confetti-sized strips using sharp scissors

4 scallions, sliced in 1/2 inch lengths on a sharp diagonal

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1 small daikon radish, peeled and grated, or 2 tablespoons dried daikon

One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons wasabi powder mixed with enough warm water to form a soft paste

For the broth: Fill a pot with the cold water. Add 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, the ginger, the fish flakes, and the ribs or chicken or mushrooms and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 1-2 hours, occasionally skimming the fat off the top if using meat.

Mix in the brown sugar, sake or mirin, rice vinegar, and the remainder of the soy sauce.

For the noodles: Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba to the desired doneness–about 5 minutes. Drain.

To serve: Evenly distribute the soba in four bowls. Pour the broth over the noodles, and then garnish with the nori, scallions, sesame seeds, daikon, ginger, and meat or mushrooms. Allow each diner to add their own wasabi as desired.

Mushrooms Make Vitamin D?
June 5, 2009, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs, Mushrooms | Tags: , ,

Looking to get more Vitamin D into your diet? It turns out Vitamin D–which helps create strong bones, boosts our immune systems, and helps ward off cancer, autoimmune diseases, and hypertension–is created by mushrooms (even picked or dried ones) that have been exposed to sunlight. Place your mushrooms gills up in the sun for six hours, and they’ll provide you with a megadose of this crucial vitamin.

For more nutrition surprises, visit Dr. Andrew Weil’s site, where, in addition to offering this mushroom advice, he extols the virtues of orange tomatoes, crushed garlic, and more.