I feel so healthy when I eat my typical high fiber diet. Fiber is especially good for maintaining a healthy gut bacteria population, and the nutrients in whole foods is the best prevention available. However . . .

I did notice that fibers got caught in my teeth – the hulls from rye flakes,  seeds from blackberries, bits of sesame seeds and pistachios. I asked my dental hygienist how to get rid of that stuff – brushing and flossing twice a day wasn’t doing it.

She recommended a water pic, and I bought one the same day. I’m amazed at how much flushes out with the water pic, even when I’ve already brushed and flossed. It seems like the most debris come from cooked whole grain breakfast cereals (or my homemade granola), raw fruits and vegetables, and nuts.

Before getting the water pic it never occurred to me that the high fiber diet that was so good for the rest of my body was not so healthy in my mouth. Bits of food lodged in the teeth can feed bacteria and increase inflammation. Inflammation starting in the gums can spread to other areas of the body, increasing risk of various chronic diseases.

My hygienist told me that using the water pic does not replace flossing; it is an additional step in oral care. I’m just surprised that I’ve never heard anything about this before – the way the water pic cleans the mouth in ways that brushing and flossing can’t. So that is why I’m passing it on.

To your health!

For years I’ve had the philosophy to not eat sweets often, but when I wanted them to have the real thing. So I’m not sure what made me decide I wanted to start coming up with some healthy alternatives to sweets.

Anyway, I’ve started being interested in seeing what snacks I could make that satisfied my sweet tooth, but that I felt good about eating (in moderation). I got the base recipe for these No-bake granola bars from other food sensitivity dietitians.

Besides being reasonably a healthy treat, these bars are extremely flexible. I do food sensitivity testing, and these bars can be adapted for the sweeteners, grains and nuts that are best tolerated by an individual.

Rye is one of my best tolerated grains, so I made these 50% oat and 50% rye. You don’t taste the rye in this combination (or even when I cook it as a breakfast food).  But if you tolerate oats well, that is an easy grain to use and easily available.

I hope you enjoy these!

No- Bake Oatmeal bars

Heat in saucepan over low heat until well blended:

1/3 cup molasses
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil
1 cup soynut butter (or peanut butter, hazelnut, sunflower butter, tahini)
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl:
3 cups oatmeal (or blend of rye or other flakes)
½ cup each:
Coconut (preferably unsweetened)
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds(or pumpkin seeds)
Pecans (or walnuts, almonds, pistachio, etc)
1 cup dried fruit (like dried cranberries)

Blend together, press into an oiled 9 x 13 in pan and refrigerate. These will keep well in the refrigerator or freezer, but are best cold. They are okay at room temperature – they just don’t hold their shape.

The ingredients are really flexible. This batch came out especially good. The coconut oil is solid at room temperature. It combines with the cocoa powder (and honey) to taste like chocolate! It would probably still be good with a little less honey. I cut back the original recipe here, and it was plenty sweet.

Here is an article with a different twist on keeping your holiday kitchen safe!   This is from the  environmental working group and titled “Jane’s Holiday Kitchen”.

Her three tips are

  • Choose foods low in added chemicals and pollutants
  • Use non-toxic cookware (cast iron, stainless steel  or oven safe glass)
  • Store and reheat leftovers safely (in this case meaning not in plastic)

Read more about it here.

I try to do this as much as possible. I use primarily glass storage in the refrigerator, although I still have plastic bags there too. I  don’t put plastic in the microwave.

I’m still working on getting plastic out of my freezer. One option is to wrap food in wax paper before putting it in a plastic bag. I froze roasted tomatoes again this year in plastic bags – but at least I waited until the tomatoes were cool to put them into the bags.

If it all seems overwhelming, do like I do and just take on a little at a time.

If you are inclined to think it doesn’t matter, think of this: we get far more chemicals in our diet and in our home and work environments than our parents or grandparents ever did. While a little may not be a problem, it all adds up. Even relatively “safe” compounds are hard for your liver to clear when the volume increases.

We can’t control all the chemicals in our world, so it does make sense to control what we can. And voting with your dollars can help change practices over time.

This is a food ode to Foggy River Farms. My bookgroup enjoyed reading Lynda Hopkins book about the first year of farming for her and her husband Emmet. We met at Foggy River Farm for a picnic lunch and to meet the author.

I highly recommend reading Lynda’s book, Wisdom of the Radish. It is humorus, easy to read, and gives you a glimpse into what is involved with growing produce and bringing it to market. I particularly enjoyed her sections on their chickens and goats. I love shopping the Farmers Market and knowing who grew our food. This brings the experience even closer.

Besides offering us space and answering all our questions, they gave us some of the produce left over from the morning’s Farmers Market. I took cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi – and here is what I did with it:

Autumn Slaw
¼ head cabbage, sliced thinly
1 cup broccoli flowerets and stems, chopped finely
1 small kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into small, thin pieces
½ pear, chopped
½ persimmon, thinly sliced (the flat, firm kind)
If you don’t have persimmon, dried cranberries are good
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Toss with your favorite dressing.
My dressing: 1/3 cup walnut oil, 1/3 cup white vinegar (or cider vinegar), 1/3 cup orange juice; optional seasonings:  1 clove minced garlic, sprinkle of celery seeds, sprinkle of ginger, sprinkle of fennel seeds

Last night I added goat feta cheese, because our dinner was light on protein.

For the bookgroup picnic, I cooked up two of the gorgeous winter squash that Lynda and Emmet grow. I had a kabucha squash and a blue hubbard squash.  I baked ½ of each (brush with butter and bake upside down at 350 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes, until soft).

With the rest of the squash, I made the African Pumpkin Stew that I’ve posted before, although this time I added a little peanut butter (2 tablespoons) and had chopped peanuts to sprinkle on. Also, I added a lot more water than the original recipe called for – enough to cover the squash.

Check out Lynda’s book, Wisdom of the Radish, and experiment with seasonal foods! It will help keep you nourished on these dark, cold days.

One of the fun things about being on an elimination diet has been trying different combinations of foods. I hadn’t realized how often I used the same groups of ingredients. Now I’m using new ones.

Hazelnut butter has been one of the particularly interesting finds. It adds a lovely creamy texture to soups and stir-fry’s. The taste is subtle, adding depth but not taking over.

Hazelnut butter can be hard to find. I looked in several stores before I found it. You could also add other nut butters. Peanut butter is a more common addition to foods, but you could also use almond, cashew or walnut butters. One nice thing about Hazelnut is that it blends in so easily.

This recipe is for a soup I made during phase 1 (the strictest phase) of my elimination diet. My foods were very limited, so I had to get creative about what I could use. Of course you could substitute for just about any ingredient.

The surprising thing about this soup is that Bill gave it an A+ – so don’t think that you have to eat poorly on an elimination diet!  I actually made it with leftover beef (since that was a phase 1 food for me and I had so few choices), but I think it would be even better with chicken or tofu.

Hazelnut Chicken (or tofu) Soup

½ package buckwheat soba noodles (or other pasta)
2 onions thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil (or other oil)
1-2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (or other vinegar)
2 tablespoons orange juice (or white wine or broth)
1 cup cubed, cooked, chicken (good for left-overs) – or firm tofu
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small can (6 oz) tomato juice
2 cups water
½ tsp salt
¼ cup hazelnut butter (or other nut butter)
1 cup frozen peas (or other vegetables, I used sugar snap peas)

Start water boiling for pasta – and cook pasta while preparing the rest of the soup. It is okay if it is done slightly ahead of time. Slightly undercook it since it will be cooked a little more in the soup.

Sauté onion over low heat until starts to brown and stick. Add vinegar and continue to sauté. As onions are starting to get very soft, add tomatoes, chicken or tofu and OJ and stir occasionally for 5 more minutes.

Add tomato juice and water, and increase heat a little until simmering.  Add nut butter and salt; stir until well blended. 

Chop pasta a couple times to make more bite-size, and add to soup.
Add peas (or other vegetable) and continue cooking just until barely done.

Find more nutrition information, my Mindful Eating CD, and my monthly newsletter on my website:  http://healthyhabitscoach.com.  Eat well!

I’ve noticed that my clients that stay up late and sleep in tend to eat more and struggle more with developing healthy habits. Here is an article that explains why: People who go to bed late and sleep late eat more fast food and weigh more.

For the record, I haven’t noticed more fast food, just eating more.

As the article explaines “human circadian rhythms in sleep and metabolism are syncronized to the daily rotation of the earth, so that when the sun goes down you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating. When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body’s internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain.”

Often my stay-up-late clients know they should go to bed earlier, but have trouble actually getting to bed earlier. This study could help add the knowledge that staying up late does change how your body functions: it does make a difference.

The other thing that can help is to think about what you get from staying up late. Another way to say that, is what would you have to give up if you went to bed earlier. Often that is quiet or alone time after everyone else has gone to bed. Are there any other ways to get that?

Sometimes it is just a matter of getting hooked in to online activities, whether it is face book, chat rooms, research or games. When that is the case, sometimes it helps to set a time that the computer goes off, no matter what.

Find more nutrition information and newsletters at my website: www.HealthyHabitsCoach.com

I am still on my elimination diet (which is going really well – I have a normal gut again, which I never thought was possible!) That means that I couldn’t eat this myself at the moment, but I wanted to post this recipe that I developed shortly before starting the elimination diet:

Here is a recipe I made when a friend brought me a big, beautiful batch of chard form his garden. I made chard spaghetti. It is a little unusual, but delicious.

Chard Spaghetti
1 T butter & 1 T oil (maybe even a little more, I was generous since it was vegetarian and I wanted it to taste good)
1 onion in slivers
Chard stems, ½ inch slices
½ jalapeño (I would have used more if I had it), seeded and finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
½ turnip, grated
~1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 pear, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
~8 – 10 cups chopped chard (I used the whole bag of the smaller stuff)
1 lemon, both zest and juice
Liquids:  ¼ cup white wine, ¼ cup chicken broth, splashes of cider vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar
Whole Wheat spaghetti
Serve with grated parmesan cheese

Start the water for the pasta.

I started by sautéing the onion. When that was pretty soft (I really love onion that is well cooked), I added the stems.  Then after a few minutes I added the jalapeno, carrot, turnip, ginger and garlic. Then the pear and pine nuts. Somewhere along here as the oil/butter was mostly absorbed into the veggies, I added the wine. I wanted that to have enough time to cook off the alcohol.

Put the pasta on when the water boils. I did most of my chopping while the water was heating, and started cooking before it was fully ready – so the stir fry probably ended up taking about 15 – 20 minutes total to sauté.

I added the chard for the last 5-6 minutes, and added the broth and vinegars and covered it. Right at the end I squeezed on the lemon.

Serve it over the whole wheat pasta.

I used to toss my stir-fry’s and pasta together, but now I mostly use the sauce as a topping. That way we tend to eat less of the pasta and more of the topping (vegetables).

It also seems to be more moist when served this way.

I made it through the first week of my food sensitivity elimination diet! I found the second half of the week a little more challenging as I started getting a little bored with the 25 foods I was allowed. Still, it was interesting to get creative and I’ve had plenty to eat.

The biggest challenge came on Saturday, day 6, when we hosted our book group meeting. Our group focuses on food and eating even more than the book, and everyone brings something to share – so I knew I’d be surrounded by tempting foods.

My strategy was to make enough things I could eat so that I’d be satisfied. It worked very well. Can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but it wasn’t hard to stick to my allowed foods.

For starters, I made a punch blend with pure pineapple and orange juice, mint water and plain sparkling water. The juice was diluted by at least 50%, reducing the sugar content, and the sparkling water made it festive.

I also made myself some corn tortilla chips by soaking plain corn tortillas (only corn and a trace of lime), slicing them and then baking (350 degrees for about 30 minutes). They come out pretty good, and were good to scoop my homemade “hummus” (pinto beans, tahini, cumin, cayenne and onion thinned with a little sesame seed oil and OJ).

Since beef is one of my low reactive foods, we barbequed London broil (marinated in pineapple juice and soy sauce). And I made a buckwheat groat salad, similar to the rye salad I described in the last post. 

So far the buckwheat salad is the only thing that hasn’t turned out very well. I’m just not fond of buckwheat. It is bland and gelatinous. The rye berries make a better salad, but a couple bookgroup members avoid gluten, so buckwheat was the better choice. 

Ironically, I’m sensitive to several gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa (although I think I’ll be able to eat a small portion eventually), millet and amaranth.

I even made a dessert I could eat: 1 cup sesame seeds, 1 cup chopped walnuts and 3-4 tablespoons honey. The ingredients are heated in a saucepan to soften the honey and stirred until well mixed, then pressed into an 8 in square pan. I forgot to cut into squares while warm, but they cut just fine after being refrigerated. They were surprisingly good! Store them in the refrigerator to keep them firm.

One of my friends brought steamed asparagus for me (after reading my last blog post! Thanks Deborah!), and cantaloupe. So I had a good meal, even if I couldn’t eat all the other stuff.
There were two things I found really interesting. I usually eat too much at meals like this, but not this time. I had very normal portion sizes and felt satisfied. Eliminating half the foods available really did help me eat a reasonable amount.

The other thing that amazed me was how energetic I felt at the end of the day. I thoroughly enjoy our group – and I’m usually pretty tired by the time we finish. This time I enjoyed it just as much, but wasn’t tired. I always thought it was the fun and excitement that made me tired, but now I suspect that it is really the wine and overeating.
So now I’ve started into phase 2 of the elimination diet, and I can add one new food each day. Yesterday I added goat milk (which I ate in the form of goat cheese), and today I’m adding potatoes. Tomorrow it will be mushrooms.

The process continues on like this for a month – I’ll keep adding one new food a day, from a list that keeps expanding as I move into phases 3 through 5. After that I can start adding foods that were untested.

The reason for adding things slowly is that if something upsets my gut, I’ll know what it is. So far I’m a little suspicious of fresh pineapple, but it might be too much fresh fruit in general. With such a limited diet, it is easy to eat more of a thing then I normally would.

I’m even drinking some juice – which is normally rare. Mostly I’m using juice (often with sparkling water) as an interesting drink when I can’t have a glass of wine with Bill.

Eventually I’ll get back to a pretty normal diet – with a few exceptions (my reactive foods). I can’t quite picture my long term diet yet. Maybe it’s just as good, because for now my main job is to keep noticing how different foods feel to my gut.

For those of you that have been on elimination diets or special diets, you already know what it’s like. For me this has been a valuable experience getting to see what it is like first hand. Hope you can take some ideas from the post that will work for you!

Find more nutrition information, my Mindful Eating CD, and my monthly newsletter on my website:  http://healthyhabitscoach.com.  Eat well!

I’ve just finished training to work with food sensitivities. I thought it would be helpful to start with myself – so I’ve started an elimination diet for my own food sensitivities.

I’m actually on day four now. Two weeks ago I got my blood tested for 120 foods and 30 chemicals. I got my results a week later, last Friday. I’m sensitive to several foods that I eat on a regular basis, which is not surprising.

I’m not strongly reactive to anything, but have moderate sensitivity to rice, quinoa, eggs, cows milk, watermelon, green pepper, yellow squash, and several other foods. I have sensitivity to several chemicals too, including ibuprophen, potassium nitrates (found naturally in many greens) and sodium sulfites (found in wine and my beloved balsamic vinegar). I’m hoping I can eventually add back in most greens – but time will tell.

It is an odd cluster of foods and chemicals. I suspected I had food sensitivities because my gut bacteria have been out of balance since getting sick 10 years ago in the Himalayas, and even with a healthy diet and probiotics, I’ve not been able to heal my gut.

The way the program works, is that after taking the blood test, I got a printout of all the foods and chemicals tested with the level of reactivity for each one. The first step is “phase 1” of an elimination diet where I only eat 24 foods (the ones with the lowest sensitivity in each food category) for a week.

It has been sort of a fun challenge. I like making up different menus and recipes using the allowed ingredients. And I’ve liked the chance to try some different things that I don’t typically eat. It is hard when I get hungry for something and then remember I can’t have it.

One example of a new food is cream of buckwheat for breakfast. My three allowed grains are buckwheat, corn and rye. So the cream of buckwheat makes a nice cooked cereal. I’ve also been having some cornflakes for breakfast – something I would normally never do due to the low fiber content. But it is a safe food on a limited list, so I’m eating them!

Last night I cooked some rye berries and made a salad with my other allowed ingredients: peas, asparagus, onion, crushed pineapple, walnuts, avocado, mint and sesame seeds. Bill accused me of adding just about all my allowed foods – and he wasn’t far off. I made a dressing with sesame oil, white vinegar and orange juice. It was really good. The rye berries are a lot like wheat berries.

I felt better immediately when I started the diet, but I notice that I am relapsing with some of my symptoms for days 3 and 4. This is typical – people often feel worse before they feel better. The food sensitivities generate compounds that attack the foods as “foreigners” and it is those compounds that cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and migraines. Even once I stop eating the trigger foods, it takes awhile to clear them from my body.

I’ve lost 3 pounds already. This also is common. Bloating and inflammation increase fluid retention, so as that decreases I release the water. I’m told some people drop 10 – 11 pounds of water weight.

Most people feel really good about a week into the program – so I should be doing better in a couple of days.

At the end of the first week, I can start adding foods from “phase 2” – one new food per day. So it will take while before I’m back to a more normal type of diet. Going slow like this gives the gut a chance to heal. By starting with the least reactive foods, it gives me a chance to really tell how individual foods affect me.

This program is something that I’ve been trained and certified to offer. I’m getting the direct experience myself now, so I can really see how it works first hand.

My clients often tell me that something they eat is making them sick, and they don’t know what it is. So here is a way to tell. I’ll be writing more about my own experience and about the program itself. In the meantime, contact me if you’d like to know more: kathy@healthyhabitscoach.com

Note: this program is called LEAP, and does MRT or Mediator Release Testing
Find more nutrition information, my Mindful Eating CD, and my monthly newsletter on my website:  http://healthyhabitscoach.com.  Eat well!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) is not tolerated.

When I learned about celiac disease 30 years ago, we thought it was a childhood disease found in children with “failure to thrive”. Now we know it can show up at any age, and while some people do lose weight, others have trouble losing weight with it.

The symptoms vary, and some people don’t have symptoms at all. Here is a list of the most common types of symptoms associated with celiac:

Bloating, gas and/or abdominal pain
Hard to flush, bulky or loose stools
Diarrhea or constipation
Nausea and vomiting
Indigestion/reflux (heartburn)
Fatigue and weakness
Itchy skin rash
Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
Discolored teeth or loss of enamel
Mouth ulcers (canker sores)
Joint pain
Easy bruising of the skin
Edema (swelling) of the hands and feet
Migraine headaches
Irritability or behavior changes
Significant unexplained weight loss
Missed menstrual periods
Infertility, recurrent miscarriages
Lactose intolerance
Iron, folate and/or vitamin B12 deficiency
Other vitamin and mineral deficiencies (A,D,E,K,calcium)
Fractures or thin bones
Elevated liver enzymes

In children: irritability and behavioral changes
Concentration and learning difficulties
Poor weight gain (and short stature)
Delayed puberty
Dental enamel abnormalities

Many of these symptoms can be caused by other things, but if you have any of them I think it is worth considering the possibility of celiac and testing for it. If nothing else, think of it as at least ruling it out.

There are a number of conditions associated with celiac that also are a good reason to test:

Osteoporosis or osteopenia
Dermatitis herpetiformis
Type 1 diabetes
Thyroid disease
Sjogren’s disease
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Irritable bowel syndrome
Intestinal cancer
Peripheral neuropathy
Down syndrome
Turner syndrome
Williams syndrome

If you have one autoimmune disease, you have a higher risk of having other autoimmune conditions.

My sources for the symptoms and related conditions are the NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) and Gluten Free Diet by Shelley Case.

My newsletter will be coming out soon with more information about celiac disease.

Find more nutrition information, my Mindful Eating CD, and my monthly newsletter on my website:  http://healthyhabitscoach.com.  Eat well!