Changing The World

Food has changed the world many times over and will continue to do so. Food is health, but also culture and tradition.  From the earliest forms of cultivation, to nomadic lifestyles, to crushing poverty, to the obesity and disease epidemic—food is front and center.  We have to eat to live and many of us live to eat.

Food, when championed by people, can change the world.  In my lifetime, Big Ag and food processors changed the world by changing food to amalgamations of food-like products comprised of highly processed chemicals and food parts and pieces.  I am certain history will look back on this period of time with wonder that we could be so gullible and easy to seduce.  Lambs to slaughter. Chemical farming; GMOs; fractionated and overused foods like wheat, dairy, sugar, soy, and corn; and blatant disregard of nutrition and seasonality, have gifted us with a revolution of disease (autoimmune in particular), malnutrition, behavior and mental disorders, environmental degradation, and mind-numbing indifference.

My purpose in life is to use food as a tool for good.  To me, it is THE TOOL.  We have to eat. Doing it well gives us our health, our families, our communities, our humanity, and our planet BACK.

Yep.  I’m that much of a zealot.  I think food is the key to EVERTHING.  Like Margaret Mead, I do think that a small group of committed individuals can change the world.  I think it happens all the time. I know that the groundbreaking work being done on reversing autoimmune disease with diet and lifestyle alone is and will change the world.  Dr. Terry Wahls has reversed her MS with diet and lifestyle.  Really think about that.  Have you ever heard of ANYONE going from a tilt-recline wheelchair to jogging when diagnosed with a progressive and devastating illness like MS?  No, you haven’t, because no one ever believed it could be done. She is not the only one.  Returning to a whole foods lifestlyle and removing inflammatory foods has changed the lives of many, including me.  It’s miraculous.  We seem to be beginning to come out of our fast food collective coma and caring again about what we put in our bodies.

Let’s change the world…and save it too.

Good News About Chocolate


Check out this handout I created about Theobromine–a phytonutrient abundant in chocolate.

Theobromine–The Good News About Chocolate

‘Tis the season to overindulge. Instead of overindulging with coffee and chocolate, I propose a much healthier alternative.   If your body tolerates chocolate well (it can be iffy for some folks with autoimmune diseases,) then here is the good news for you.  I gave up coffee last January to help with my thyroid issues and switched to drinking either brewed cocoa or a combo of dandelion root and chicory root. I will save my recipe for chicory & dandelion root coffee substitute for another post, but I really encourage folks to try brewed cocoa.  Brewed cocoa is a hot beverage made from ground cacao beans.  That’s it.  Nothing added.  Just chocolate in it’s pure unadulterated form. Brewed like coffee, it is best made in a french press.  You simply add enough ground cacao beans to give you the strength you want (I like it strong), let it brew for about 10 minutes, press, and enjoy.  Since this is just ground cacao, you get the health benefits of the cacao without added sugar, dairy, and fats.  The handout goes into depth about the health benefits of cacao and theobromine in particular.

I use the Crio Bru brand, but there are others.  I usually have a cup or two in the afternoon or before bed. It’s warm and indulgent without disrupting my sleep.

Eating a Rainbow With Your Child


I care very much about child nutrition.  It’s a lot of the reason I have gone back to college.  I am getting certified as a Nutrition Consultant by Bauman College

As I go through the program, I will be authoring many client handouts.  I plan to share many of these along the way.  Today I am posting my handout about Eating A Rainbow With Your Child.  I hope you find it useful.  

The 21 Day Sugar Detox—My Review

On August 4th, I started a 21 day sugar detox, otherwise known as the 21dsd.  This 21dsd program is the creation of Diane Sanfilippo, the NY Times Bestselling author of Practical Paleo.  It is an online program with lots of resources as well as a book and companion cookbook.  I highly recommend the program, but keep reading because I had to modify it mid-way to work well for me.

I felt like I needed a reset after a summer of “treats”–even though they were Paleo treats.  I follow a Paleo diet.   I also started an elimination diet last January to find out what other foods were holding me back from completely healing my gut and reversing all my autoimmune disorders.  So, pre-detox and post elimination diet, here is what I did not already eat:

  • Grains and Pseudo Grains–yep, all of them.  wheat, corn, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • White potatoes
  • Processed Foods
  • Conventionally Raised Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nightshades—Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. etc.
  • I also mostly avoid coffee and eat low sugar.

So, you might say I am already pretty hard core.  My diet consists of pastured and grass-fed meats, wild seafood, and lots of fruits and veggies–many of them grown by me.  What else is there to give up on a sugar detox?  Here’s how it affected my diet:

  • One piece of fruit per day (green apple, green-tipped banana, or grapefruit)
  • No sugar–in any form, in any amount—no honey, maple syrup, date sugar, no sweeteners at all–not even a small amount in salad dressing
  • No sweet potato, plantain, or yucca (all regular players in our diet)
  • Limited amounts of beets and butternut squash

Here’s a little Q & A about my experience:

  • Was it hard?  Yes, but not too hard.  When you are already not eating processed foods, you are used to making it all from scratch and it’s not so hard to cut the sugar out.  Make no mistake, sugar is in EVERYTHING.  It all adds up and we are addicted.  It adds nothing to our health and subtracts a lot.
  • Did I have withdrawal symptoms?  I’m not sure, but I think so.  I had several days where I thought I might be coming down with a cold.  My daughter had one at the time.  I had a sore throat and was achy and fatigued.  Who knows?
  • What did I miss the most?  Starchy vegetables like plantain, sweet potato, and yucca.  Also the ability to eat beets with abandon.  They are my favorite vegetable.
  • Did I feel great?  Yes.  For the most part.  In the middle, when I was supposed to be feeling great, I got grumpy and blue.  I will explain below.
  • Did it help control my hunger?  Paleo has already done a lot of that, but yes, I noticed a big difference.  I just felt fueled and energized longer.  My blood sugar was better regulated and I wasn’t on the carbohydrate roller coaster of hunger and craving.
  • Was I daydreaming about all the sweet treats I would eat after I was done?  Nope.
  • Were there any other effects?  Yes, my skin got really smooth. Really smooth. Like it had been polished.  That’s my body saying happy from the inside out.   Also, I fell asleep easy and felt more rested overall.
  • Did I cheat?  Yes, but nothing I’m not willing to own up to.  I went out with some friends, and instead of having a cocktail and an entree like they did, I had prosciutto and melon with iced tea.  I also had watermelon on another occasion.  That time, I was spending my weekend building a greenhouse for my daughter’s school and was working out in the heat all day.  I burned that sugar right off!  (and I grew the watermelon –that counts for something)

So, I give the 21dsd a thumbs up.  However, I am a big believer that every individual is different. The 21dsd does have some modifications.  One of those is for energy.  On days with a hard workout you should bump up your carb intake. I added those in on workout days or days that I did a lot of farm work.

I knew going in that the 21dsd might have that grumpy and blue effect on me.   I had done the program halfway through about 1.5 years ago and stopped because it was making me very grumpy and blue–downright despondent actually.  Since then, I have learned a lot about nutrition and about my own diet needs and I was prepared to modify the program if needed this time.  I knew the glitch for me had to do with my thyroid.  Through nutrition and lifestyle changes over the past 7 years, I have turned around a long list of autoimmune disorders, including out-of-control asthma (haven’t taken an asthma med in 4 years), depression, fibromyalgia, seasonal allergies, and constant illness.  The only autoimmune disorder I have left to slay is Hashimoto’s Thyroidistis. This means my body is attacking my own thyroid gland and destroying it bit by bit. I’m still working on halting the attack.  Follow the link above for Hashimoto’s  to find out all the really crappy things low thyroid hormone comes with.  It isn’t pretty.

So, what does the 21dsd have to do with thyroid?  My hunch was the 21dsd was too low carb for me and my thyroid.  I had read and heard about the potential problems with thyroid and low carb eating. Low thyroid hormone causes depression–among a long list of other things.  I tested my theory that the 21dsd was too low carb for me, by adding in some more carbs this time when I started to slump in my mood and energy level.  I did not start eating cookies!  I just added more already approved (but limited) starches—including a bit of sweet potatoes every now and then and an extra piece of fruit occasionally (like my melon). Then I felt great!!  I had just tipped the low sugar balance a little too far for my body.  Interestingly, when I attempted the 21dsd the first time, it made me VERY depressed.  This time, my body felt much more prepared for it and the depression was grumpiness not despondency. I think this is also proof that I am getting healthier and my thyroid situation is on an upswing.

Right as I was mid detox, I heard about and then watched a presentation from the 2014 Ancestral Health Symposium.  I knew that the thyroid, adrenal, and the ovaries are interwoven glands that affect each other.  Weakness in one means weakness in all.  How carbohydrates are related to this triumvirate was the subject of this presentation by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne and Stacy Toth.   Both of these ladies are bloggers, authors, and podcasters that have turned their entire lives around with the power of nutrition and are very inspiring to me.  Dr. Ballantyne has literally written the book on how to reverse autoimmune disease with nutrition in her NY Times Bestselling The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.  Stacy Toth, along with her husband Matt McCarry, have authored 3 amazing books.  Both women have lost over 100 pounds, reversed autoimmune disease, and much more.  Stacy, in particular, is a great inspiration to me.  You can check out Stacy’s story and Sarah’s if you are interested in the presenters of this great talk.

Here is the official description of the presentation:

Ancestral Health for Women in the Modern World: the HPA Axis Meets the HPT and the HPG Axes

The evolutionary biology perspective has proven to be an invaluable tool in creating dietary guidelines for the optimal human diet. However, we are learning that there may be stark differences between optimal nutrition for women versus men. In particular, the female body responds differently to changes in macronutrient ratio as well as meal timing due to links between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and both the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal and the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axes, in part due to the combined roles of leptin and cortisol. Women may experience adverse health effects, including hypothyroidism and hypothalamic amenorrhea, in response to low carbohydrate diets and intermittent fasting.


Watch the presentation and see why I think the 21dsd did not work perfectly for me.  As I said, I like the 21dsd a lot.  I’m glad I did it and it helped me reset.  It also helped me tweak my diet to the right level of carbs for me to function best.  Many thanks to Diane Sanfilippo, Stacy Toth, and Sarah Ballantyne for the knowledge bombs.




Parent University–Healthy School Lunches

I may be referred to as “the Garden Lady,” but it would be more accurate to call me the “Food Lady.” You may know that I own a restaurant and am a farmer.  That itself might qualify me to talk on the subject, but I’d like to tell you the reasons I know that the decision on school food may have more impact on the lives of our students than any other decision you will ever make for NCS.
By the time our daughter, Lily, was 3, I had a large collection of autoimmune disorders and was getting sicker by the minute.   I routinely was sick from August until April and frequently on antibiotics and steroids.  I took 3 inhaled steroids and 2 different prescription pills to “control” asthma.  When I was mothering a toddler and added on Fibromyalgia (body-wide pain–debilitating at times), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and soul-sucking fatigue, I just got fed up.  I got tired of being handed prescriptions and just feeling worse.   I had always been interested in nutrition and I thought I was doing a pretty good job—-I had no idea what I would learn over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Lily was suffering.  No toddler should have constant stomach aches and be tired. So,  I went looking for answers for both of us.  I learned a TON and found excellent doctors and nutrition gurus. I found out my daughter reacts to a very long list of foods and controlling her diet means everything to her health and mood. Because of her extensive food issues, I was forced to feed my family nearly ZERO processed foods—NO small feat in today’s world.
Everything got better.  I learned A LOT and I still am.  In the past 7 years, I have rid myself of asthma, depression, sinusitis, IBS, fibromyalgia, 65 pounds (and counting), and fatigue.  I feel better now than I ever have and am improving all the time.  I only share this, so that I can tell you that 95% of this has been accomplished with good nutrition.
I follow nutrition info like some people follow sports teams. I read, listen, and experiment all the time. I started my own farm to heal my family.  It is the center of my life.    My bachelor’s is in Russian Civilization and my Master’s in Library Science, but my passion is nutrition and the natural world. Thanks to NCS, I have seen first-hand the power of good food (from seed-to-mouth) for a child. My personal goal is to connect as many children as possible with their food–from seed to plate.
Resources referred to or inspired by my “Building a Better Lunch at NCS” presentation on 4/10/2014:
EWG Good Food on  a Tight Budget—a downloadable guide to healthy eating on a budget
Real Food–Good, Better, Best—doing the best you can with what you have
Better Kid Food: Snack Girl
EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean 15: Guide that tells you what to prioritize buying organic and when it doesn’t matter as much
Food Facts–guide to what’s really in food and what to watch out for
Farm to School USDA site–about the Farm to School lunch program
Food Quality Guide from Balanced Bites
Rich Food, Bad Food — great grocery store guide to making better choices–HIGHLY RECOMMEND


The Amazing Ordinary


I happened along this poem recently and it sums up my philosophy of life.  It certainly is the heart of the farm and the reason why I work so hard to connect children and nature. It’s everything. It’s the joy, the work, and the meaning of life.  It’s everything I want for my daughter.   The magic of life is in the Small Wonders of it–whether they be joyous, ordinary, or tragic.

I am thinking a lot now about the joy and sadness of every life.  We have a dog, an Australian Cattle Dog, that came into our lives 2 1/2 months ago.  We are his permanent foster home and he is a hospice patient.  We are his family.  The family he took 13 years to find.  We call him Spots.  I will write more about him soon.

Now, I am ending a long day of planting seeds and plants, working soil, and finding joys in all the details—from the little garter snake in the greenhouse to Spots napping in the sun, to my daughter squealing with glee as she swings so high that “it makes her tummy feel funny.” It was a perfect day.  I’m bone tired and content. We had a good day. There was nothing extraordinary about it–other than its complete ordinariness.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.

Labor Day

We labored.  We harvested.  We cleaned house.  Then we had a picnic in the park.  We took some sushi and some roast chicken and we spent 3 beautiful hours at Happy Hollow Park.  We sort of live in a park, but a change of scenery was wonderful and sorely needed.