Monday, December 5, 2016

5 Best Plant Based Foods for Diabetes [Control & Prevention]

Nutrition science makes it very clear that the more plant-derived foods we eat (as opposed to animal-derived), the healthier we are in every way.  In parts of the world where people live long and thrive – the “Blue Zones,” meat is used as a condiment to flavor food and is used much less often than it is in the standard American diet - SAD.  Instead, beans, whole grains, vegetables and fruits are the mainstays of the diet in these healthy, long-living groups.
Audio/Video version of post here.

“People who eat a plant-based diet have just a small fraction of the rates of diabetes seen in those who regularly eat meat.  By switching to a healthy diet, you can start improving your health within a matter of hours,” according to Dr. Michael Greger, internationally renowned physician.

Inflammation is a major player in diabetes, and diet plays a definite role in the body’s ability to prevent and reduce out of control inflammation as is seen in obesity, cardiovascular disease, premature aging and diabetes.  Adding micronutrient rich plant foods like the ones on this list, plus removing inflammation-causing foods like red meat, trans fat and processed junk food can significantly reduce inflammation.

If you’re just starting to eat a more health-promoting diet, or if you’ve been at it for awhile, this short list will help you focus on getting the best plant-based foods for diabetes control or prevention in your diet every single day.  

Beans and lentils are an excellent source of whole, intact, slowly absorbed carbohydrates.  They help to moderate blood sugar, giving you energy without raising your blood sugar too high too quickly. 

Beans contain soluble fiber, promote healthy digestion, contain prebiotics, and are an excellent source of protein without any saturated fat whatsoever.  Read more about beans here.

In his book “The End of Diabetes,” Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends eating beans as your primary source of starch as part of his “diabetes-reversal program.”

2.    NUTS
Nuts have impressive anti-inflammatory effects that may help prevent insulin resistance, an underlying cause of type 2 diabetes.  In people eating 5 or more servings of nuts each week, risk of diabetes was 27% lower (Nurses’ Health Study). 

And, in individuals already diagnosed with diabetes, 5 servings per week reduced risk of heart disease by an amazing 47%.  This is particularly noteworthy, since cardiovascular disease is a
common, serious and deadly problem for diabetics.

Higher green vegetable consumption is associated with a significantly lower HbA1c levels (measure of average blood sugar over 2-3 months).  For every serving of leafy greens you eat, you may be decreasing your risk of diabetes by 9%! 

Leafy greens are among the most nutrient dense foods we can consume.  They contain very high levels of minerals like iron and magnesium.  They are full of vitamins like beta-carotene.  And, they contain numerous health promoting phytochemicals that allow the body to prevent and correct DNA damage, inflammation and more.

A serving of leafy greens could be 1 cup of raw spinach or kale or ½ cup cooked greens like collards, mustard greens, or kale.  Any dark leafy green vegetable counts in this category, and the more you eat of these the healthier you will be.  For optimal health strive for more than 5 servings of veggies daily, with 2 or more as leafy greens.

On average, American adults eat less than a serving each day of green veggies.  Sadly, average intake is closer to one serving per week.

[If you take a blood thinning medication, you must discuss adding more leafy greens to your diet with your Physician.  Your medication dosage can be adjusted to account for your consistent increased intake of vitamin K rich foods.]

Berries and other low sugar fruits contain fiber and a high level of antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals.  They help to satisfy or prevent cravings for refined sweets and carb rich junk food. 

I highly recommend eating berries or cherries every day with breakfast, at least 1 cup.  When berries are out of season or particularly expensive, frozen berries (no added sugar) are an excellent choice.  Frozen berries, organic baby spinach, chia seeds and a plant-based milk make a delicious, nutrient dense, satisfying smoothie.  You could even add a tablespoon or 2 of beans to up the fiber and protein content!

Strive to get at least 3, but preferably 5, servings of whole fruit each day.  At least 1-2 of these should be berries.  Avoid juice completely.

5.    SEEDS
Seeds are rich in fiber, protein and fat.  Chia, flax and hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fats, which are an important part of an inflammation-reducing diet.  Sesame seeds and chia seeds are rich in calcium, while flax seeds have a high concentration of disease-fighting lignans. 

Each day, eat 1-2 tablespoons of seeds.  You can add ground flaxseed to your oatmeal, put chia seeds in your smoothie or make a delicious sauce for your veggies out of tahini (ground sesame seed paste).  You can download my free meal plan that includes a recipe for a delicious tahini sauce here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thrive Thru the Festivities

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What would it look like for you to thrive through the holidays?  How would your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and mood be?  Would you feel joyful, fearless, fun, slow, sluggish, or regretful?  Sticking with healthy eating and exercise, despite the chaos festivities can bring, can contribute to a Happy Holiday season.

Is it possible to maintain a healthy weight, or even lose weight, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?  The typical American consumes an additional 17,000-42,000 calories during this festive season!  That equates to a body fat gain of 5-12 pounds in just over 1 month. 

Think it’s no big deal? 

It will feel like a big deal in January when the time comes to lose the fat weight by creating a 42,000 calorie deficit!  That takes a lot of effort!  Wouldn’t it be better to skip the whole yo-yo trip and maintain, or possibly lose weight during the winter holiday season?

If you’re wondering how to skip the weight gain this year, I’ve laid out a simple plan to help you thrive thru the holidays.  If you want the worksheet that goes with it, get it here!

get the worksheet!
1.    Decide how you want to feel as you start the New Year.

Remember, Thanksgiving is a meal.  It’s not a month.  The same goes for Christmas.  Why not take a vacation from calorie counting at your Thanksgiving meal?  One super sized meal isn’t going to lead to significant weight gain.  But, if you make it a 4 day Thanksgiving binge weekend or a month full of indulgence, it could really impact the tightness of your belt!  

For many people, a few days of indulgence leads to more ongoing over-consumption of calories and changes the mindset from mindful eating to a no-holds-barred, eat anything anytime policy.   This is how you could end up consuming 42,000 extra calories  before the year is through.

2.    Decide what you want, and make a STRONG COMMITMENT to it.

Be very clear about your goal.  For example, if your goal is that you will weigh the same on January 1st as you weigh right now, there are a few behaviors or actions that will help you reach that goal.  What are they?  What will you do?  What won’t you do?  Here are a few ideas:

Commit to your regular exercise habits, despite the busyness, darkness, etc.  And, come up with a back up plan if your schedule does change.  If you can’t make it to the gym after work for example, maybe you commit to a walk at lunchtime.

Commit to when and how much you will enjoy the tastes of the seasons.  Is there one specific food you really enjoy more than the others? Can you go for it…with in reason?  For me, it’s my take on Aunt Judy’s sweet potato casserole and pumpkin spice coffee creamer.  Most of the other holiday foods I can skip.

3.    Visualize success.

Picture yourself ignoring the extra foods and sweets while navigating the break room at work.  Clearly see yourself sipping fizzy water at parties rather than indulging in more high calorie drinks or alcohol containing drinks.  What will you say?  How will you feel?  How will you feel afterwards?

Visualize yourself engaging in your regular physical activity.  Look at your calendar and see how you will fit it in, even when your schedule becomes full.  Make time for movement!

4.    Create time and space for nurturing and self care without junk food or extra calories.

Research clearly shows that people eat more calories when they are tired or stressed.  So, make it a priority to get adequate sleep and rest.  Protect your quiet down time.

Exercise is a key player in managing weight, and skipping exercise or movement during busy times, vacations, and when you have a runny nose can derail your good habits.  Once you get out of the routine of regular exercise, it can be very challenging to get the routine back.

click here to download
Make time for healthy food prep.  This is even more important during busy times.  Spend a couple of  hours prepping food for the week, then you don’t really have to think about it again!
Get the worksheet here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

5 Reasons You Should Eat Beans Daily

5  Reasons Experts Say You Should Eat Beans Every Day
Diabetes Risk Reduction
According to the best epidemiological research available, individuals consuming beans 2-3 times per week reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 40%.  That is without weight loss or exercise!

Blood Sugar Control
“Results from acute feeding trials suggest that postprandial blood glucose response is significantly attenuated by a single pulse serving of between three-quarters and 1 cup. At lower doses, pulses attenuate postprandial blood glucose response more than similar amounts of starchy foods. Long-term pulse consumption of 5 cups per week appears to result consistently in improvements in glycemic control.” Ramdath 2016

In one 2015 study, a group of patients with type 2 diabetes were asked to either consume a therapeutic lifestyle diet or the same therapeutic lifestyle diet but replace 2 servings of red meat with legumes, 3 days per week.  The group who ate more beans had significantly lower fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. 

These results indicates that in just a short period of 8 weeks, eating more beans and less meat can improve the majority of diabetes and cardiometabolic risk factors including high blood sugar.  This makes a lot of sense.  Beans contain both resistant starch and fiber, which are carbohydrates that make you feel full longer and slow the release of carbs from you meal into the bloodstream.  In other words, they have a low glycemic index.

Less Hunger for a Whole Day

Studies have been done showing that eating beans at one meal lead to a longer period of satiety after a meal and can even lead to lower caloric intake at the next meal or 2!  This is due in part to the high fiber content of beans which allows the stomach to empty more slowly, keeping a person from feeling hungry too soon.

The “Lentil Effect,” also known as the “Second Meal Effect” was discovered when researches dug deeper to find out why people ate less for 10-18 hours after a meal containing beans.  What they found is that when the bean fiber makes it to the end of the digestive tract, the colon, the healthy bacteria that live there and feast on the fiber release butyrate.  Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that gives your stomach a signal of being not empty and makes you feel not hungry!  There may be additional effects on the hunger centers of the brain too.

Healthy Gut Bacteria

Unfortunately, it seems we have an epidemic of imbalanced or unhealthy gut bacteria as a result of widespread and frequent antibiotic use and a low fiber diet. 

It is normal, and interestingly enough, quite healthy to have bacteria living in your lower intestines.  They make vitamin K, a bit of vitamin B12, and are proving to have varied and diverse health effects on things ranging from obesity to mental health.  The balance of bacteria in the gut can affect body weight, depression, immune function and possibly cancer development.

There are 2 major factors that can lead to a healthy gut Microbiome.  One is introducing healthy bacteria – also known as probiotics – which we get from foods and our environment.  The other is making sure to provide a healthy food source.  The bacteria feed upon fiber and certain starches – also known as prebiotics.  Beans are an ideal source of prebiotics.

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Non-Cancer Causing Protein   

It is pretty well established that consumption of animal – derived protein, i.e. meat and dairy, leads to increased levels of IGF-1, a hormone that promote cancer growth.  Consuming plant-derived protein as part of the whole food does not lead to increased IGF-1 levels.

With all of these compelling reasons to eat beans or legumes each day, why not make sure to include them in your daily diet?  If you are worried about flatulence, start by eating just a small amount of beans or lentils each day.  Add a tablespoon of rinsed canned beans to your salad each day.  Have some hummus (made of garbanzo beans) on raw veggies.  Add a few white beans to your morning smoothie…you won’t taste them, but you will still benefit from the natural fiber and protein.

Here is a simple, yet delicious recipe to help you get more beans in your diet.
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
This hearty chili is made with beans, vegetables, and quinoa. Meat lovers and vegetarians will love this chili!
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1 tablespoon broth or water
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2-3 tablespoons chili powder, depending on your taste (we used 3)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Optional toppings: green onions, avocado slices, cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt, chips, crackers, etc.
1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the quinoa and water. Cook over medium heat until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat a large pot, add the  tablespoon of broth and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, jalapeño, carrot, celery, peppers, and zucchini. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add a bit of water or broth as needed to prevent sticking, but allow caramelization.
3. Add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Stir in the cooked quinoa. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Simmer chili on low for about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Note-garnish the chili with green onions, avocado slices, cheese, sour cream/Greek yogurt, chips, crackers, if desired. This chili freezes well.
 Serves 10-12.

Villegas, R. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jan;87(1):162-7.

Hosseinpour-Niazi S, Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;69(5):592-7. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.228. Epub 2014 Oct 29.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Vegan vs Whole Food Plant Based: What's the difference?

November 1st is World Vegan Day, and this is World Vegan Month so the blog will be devoted to all things vegan and plant based for the month!    

And, though I don’t really classify myself as a vegan, it is true that my eating pattern is vegan 98% of the time.  Being vegan can be about much more than just an eating pattern.  Since my main motivation and goals are health-related, I prefer to use the term “whole food plant based” or “plant centric whole food diet” rather than vegan.  All of these terms do mean not eating meat, dairy, eggs, fish or any other animal derived foods.

What’s the difference? 

Usually, individuals who identify themselves as vegan are motivated primarily by animal rights.   Being vegan includes not using animals for footwear, purses, couches, or any other leather/suede products.  Many vegans don’t eat honey or even refined white sugar.  Why?  Bees make honey, and they are living things.  And, a component of the sugar refining process can be “bone ash,” definitely not in line with vegan mores.

A vegan diet does not necessarily avoid refined foods, and there are plenty of vegan junk foods at the grocery store.  For example, Oreos are vegan.  Deep fried things can be vegan.  I think you’ll agree these foods are not health promoting!

By contrast, individuals identifying themselves as following a whole food plant centric diet are probably motivated primarily by health.  This eating pattern excludes animal derived foods, but it also strives to exclude refined foods as well, such as sugar, oil, and refined grains.  This way of eating focuses more on including foods that are nutrient dense, health promoting and whole. 

People who eat WFPB may or may not be vegan for ethical reasons (animal rights).  People who are vegan may or may not be focused on health and nutrition.

Regardless of whether a person is motivated by health or animal rights, eating either vegan or WF plant based both have significant health benefits.  This month, the blog will be devoted to covering topics related to how, why and what to eat to achieve excellent health without eating animal derived foods or junk food!

If you’re interested in giving it a go, I have created a simple 1 week meal plan with recipes that you can download for free by clicking here.

click the box for the free meal plan

Please share your eating style in the comments below…wfpb, vegan, omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, or flexitarian.  ALL are welcome here. 

My goal as a Registered Dietitian and blogger is simply to help people achieve better health with nutrition and without judgment.  I take a weight neutral approach and work with people regardless of where their starting point is.  If you have any questions, or if you’d like some personalized support, please contact me via email anytime at  And, join the private junk food rehab facebook group too.

#veganmofo #vegan #wholefoodsplantbased #vegetarian #worldveganmonth

Monday, October 24, 2016

Top 10 Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

Mutated cells develop in the body on a regular basis.  If this growth continues unchecked, cancer will develop.  A healthy body often kills these cells off before they become anything serious.

Having the right nutrients and phytochemicals (from vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes and grains) in the body can ensure that the body defends against these mutated cells and prevent a cancer from growing and spreading.  These same nutrients can prevent cancer recurrence.

This is not a far-fetched claim.  There is indisputable proof that in populations with higher intake of certain types of foods and nutrients, there is less cancer (and other diseases too).  There is also some pretty strong science showing how actual foods prevent the growth and spread of cancer in general, and more specifically breast cancer.

Here is my top 10 list of foods that fight breast cancer.  
If you want more details and facts about a few more cancer fighting foods, check out the free, live online seminar happening Tuesday, 10/25/16 at 11:00 AM Pacific Time (no sales, just useful info).

1.    Flaxseeds

2.    Broccoli Sprouts

3.    Cruciferous Vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.)

4.    Mushrooms

5.    Soybeans

6.    Garlic & the Allium Family

7.    Green Tea

8.    Grapes

9.    Apples

10. Berries

BONUS:  Citrus!

Soy is a controversial one...I will talk more about the reason it's controversial, and why I recommend eating it in some forms and not others.  
ALSO - did you know that there maybe a virus that causes breast cancer? Bovine Leukemia Virus is found in 100% of farms with over 500 cows.  The virus causes cancer in bovines, and there is preliminary evidence connecting it to human breast cancer too.  It is most likely transmitted via unpasteurized milk and undercooked beef.  Of course, I recommend following a whole foods plant based diet, which eliminates these foods.  If you do continue to consume dairy and beef, please take precautions and cook your meat thoroughly!

Feel free to contact me with questions anytime.  And, comment below if you have anything to add!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Junk Food Rehab's Guide to Meal Planning

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  So true, even when it comes to eating healthy.  In my classes, I hear time and again that people know they need to plan ahead more when it comes to food.  Just last night, one woman shared that she often ends up eating fast food because it is so much faster than planning meals and cooking.

It's a common refrain.  "I don't have time to cook!"  And, I understand.  Our schedules are overbooked as it is.  Who has time for planning, shopping and cooking every meal of the day, 7 days a week?

Well, I have a few tips that will allow you to have your plan and time too!  Think it's not possible?   Check out these steps to success, and get your FREE copy of a Junk Food Rehab weekly meal plan full of plant based whole foods!
  1. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to cook a new fabulous meal every day!  Every time you make a meal, make double.  These planned leftovers can feed you and your family for at least one or 2 more tomorrow's lunch and the next day's too!
  2. Go restaurant style.  Do a bit of prep for the week all at once.  For example, if you eat salads throughout the week, there are a few foods you can clean and cut ahead of time, even though you might not want to assemble the might get soggy.  You can wash and cut tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, onions and most other non-leafy veggies you'll eat.  Store each in it's own container or baggie.  Pre-portion dressing into small containers.  Then assemble the salad when you're ready to eat, or the night before.  Restaurants keep containers of some cut veggies, certain cooked items, sauces, etc. ready to go.  The same ingredients can be used to make tacos one day, Mexicali Salad the next, and Southwestern Soup on the 3rd day.  Many of the same ingredients, assembled in slightly different ways  means variety with less prep work.
  3. Batch it.  Spend a couple of hours once per week prepping 2 or more meals for the week.  Doing all of the chopping, cooking and cleaning at once saves you time and energy.  Then portion out servings for your lunches or dinners for the coming week.  Having these foods already to go ensures that you will eat healthy.  Make the healthy choice the easiest choice!
  4. Organize your fridge or pantry.  One strategy I've used to make it easier for my family to take their lunch to work and school is to arrange the fridge in a way that helps them make quick choices.  I stack up containers of food for my husband's lunches (and sometimes breakfast) and put his name and meal/day on each with a mini post-it.   I place fruit options in one fridge drawer, veggies in another.  Then there is a snack bin in the pantry.  Each person could even have his/her own bin... Everyone knows:  take 1 fruit, take 1 veg and a whatever main "dish" has their name on it!  The first time you do this, it might take 10-15 minutes to organize.  But after that, it's just a matter of putting groceries away according to the plan.
I've already done some of the work for you by creating this whole foods plant based one week meal plan.  Pick a recipe or two that looks good to you, and try it!   Use the planned leftovers for the next day's lunch & enjoy.  Or, cook everything on one day and eat for the whole week.  Instead of spending 15-60 minutes every day thinking about what you'll eat, sitting in the drive through line, etc.  You pool all of that time into one part of one day & get it all done for the week.  It'll be smooth sailing all week with this strategy!  Go ahead and give it a try.  And,'ll get faster the more you do it!

Come on over and let me know when you've tried one of these strategies.
I love to hear your feedback by email or at

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

 In October, we hear all about Breast Cancer "Awareness," mammograms, treatments, etc.  I would like to turn your attention to PREVENTION!  There are things we can do in our daily lives that significantly reduce our risk of developing cancer in the first place.

Every day, our body is fighting oxidative stress, mutated cells and cancer formation.  If you are treating yourself right everyday, you can prevent these from turning into a diagnosable cancer.  Start with these top 5 ways.  Then check out my next blog post where I will outline specific foods known to fight breast cancer.  

1.    Achieve and maintain a healthy weight or body fat percent.
Women at normal weight are less likely to develop breast cancer.  This is especially true for post-menopausal women.  Post menopause, when the ovaries no longer make estrogen, the only source of estrogen is fat tissue.  It contains the enzyme aromatase that converts adrenal hormones into estrogen.  Estrogen promotes breast cancer cell growth, and the more fat tissue there is, the more potential for estrogen production there is.

2.    Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
Consuming just 3 alcoholic drinks per week increases your risk by 15%, and each additional drink increases your risk 10% more.  Research has shown time and again that drinking alcohol increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer, particularly hormone receptor positive breast cancer.

3.   Be active throughout each day.
Dozens of research studies have shown that exercising daily reduces breast cancer risk by 30-40%.  A daily walk, or more vigorous exercise, can play a key role in lowering estrogen levels., thereby reducing risk.

4.    Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, garlic and berries, contain potent phytochemicals that serve to prevent the initiation of cancer, DNA damage, cancer cell growth, and creation of a blood supply for a tumor.

New disease fighting and antioxidant phytochemicals  are discovered each year.  These potent compounds found in plant based foods provide your body with the arsenal of tools necessary for healing the damage that can occur each day.  Your body cannot make these on its own, and they are only found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

5.   Breastfeed your babies.
For individuals in the child-bearing stage of life, choosing to breast feed your babies significantly lowers your risk of developing breast cancer.  The longer you breastfeed, the better as it also lowers your lifetime estrogen exposure.

I hope this information helps you feel empowered to take control of your health.  Start doing something now!  Pick a tip from above and decide what you can improve upon in the coming week.  Move into action and take control of your health destiny!  You are totally worth it.