History in the Making: Dietitians of South Texas Tour Their New 100% Organic Grocery Store

In a city of McDonalds, Whataburger, Wal-Mart, obesity and diabetes, a world saving beacon of health and sustainability opens; fully equipped with the highest quality produce/products, demonstration kitchen, vitamins/herbs/supplements, beauty products, books, and, it’s love!

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Natural Grocers 100% Organic Grocery Opens March 15, 2016

Today, I had the opportunity to get a tour of the store with the Corpus Christi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics group lead by the wonderful dietitian there, Kelsey. I was extremely impressed by this tour. A grocery store tour to dietitians? Please, as if they could learn anything more, but we all did! Like how Kelsey pointed out that the hemp seeds, walnuts, and other unstable fats are kept in the refrigerated section (polyunsaturated fats become rancid very easily, creating free radicals, so they must be kept cool). I have learned this previously but I have never seen a grocery store actually put their nuts and seeds in the refrigerator!

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The sign above us says, “100% organic produce,” yes, I am the obnoxious intern that made everybody get in front of the produce section and asked the cashier to take our picture 🙂

The Tour~

Kristen gave us all a LONG list of things that Natural Grocers will NOT carry.  Including ingredients that I am quite familiar with like GMOs (genetically modified organisms), hydrogenated oils (trans fats), bleached flours, parabens (mimic estrogen and cause reproductive disorders), dairy products from cows given rBGH (recombinant  Bovine Growth Hormone), artificial sweeteners (all of them), and artificial colors and flavors, as well as so many that I have seen before but even (a nutrition nerd grad student studying nutrition) have seen but no clue what they are!

Ingredients like DBP (dibutyl phthalate) which is a fragrance ingredient, plasticizer, and solvent that is a reproductive and developmental toxin, endocrine disruptor, and a known human respiratory toxin.  Also, BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) are preservatives that have been shown to be carcinogenic and cause allergic reactions in humans.  I could go on..This place doesn’t even carry chemical based sunscreens or antibacterial soaps! Amen!

A few more reasons why I’m in love with this place:

  • No bags, you have to bring your own! (or they use a cardboard box)
  • GF (gluten free) items are all marked clearly next to price on shelf
  • Local is emphasized and marked clearly with a Texas flag on shelf
  • Lots of cheap “Health Hotline” sale items
  • Bulk specialty items from mulberries and goji berries to raw buckwheat groats
  • WIDE variety of vegan items
  • Reverse osmosis water filter, only $0.25 to refill a gallon
  • Nutrition experts- these people know their stuff!
  • To reduce waste and cut cost of items: no deli/freshly prepared items (ever wonder where all the fresh baked goods from Whole Foods goes at the end of the day? Yup, in the trash #wasteful. !
  • No self serve bulk bins but still has large packages of items in bulk – reduces contamination and food waste
  • Huge wall of shelves with high quality nutritional reference and cookbooks

They even have cool events like this Saturday they have a gluten free tasting expo and health fair! Aw chocolate avocado pie food demo, and “How to live an alkaline lifestyle” is on Monday April 11th. Check out their website for more info on events.

A little bit about my internship…

I can’t believe it, I completed my food service and community rotations last semester and am now half way through my clinical rotation! Eeek! As a snob from the Boston area who  works at a raw vegan cafe called “Organic Garden Cafe” back home, I was nervous that I wouldn’t get to learn new innovations of nutrition while working as an intern in a program that emphasizes the low income communities of South Texas.

I could not be more pleasantly surprised and excited about my feelings towards this internship right now.  It brings me such joy and power to have worked with the people of this community. Diabetics who do not know what a carbohydrate is, teen mom’s going out for a cigarette, and people who are truly afraid to lose weight because they have (and their family and friends) have always been big, so if they lost weight, what would they think!? Many of these people do not want to change, and even if they did, where to even start? As my sister, the writer, put it, “You need to learn the script before you can re-write a new one.

My clinical preceptor now, Shannon Aguilar, has helped me to not only be a much more confident clinical dietitian, but to take it a step further, too.  It is one thing to study nutrition, it is quite another to actually care enough to reflect on our own lives and practice what we preach.  My preceptor, Mrs. Aguilar, is more than a dietitian, she is also a health coach, and helped me to see how important it is to learn who our audience is before we try to help.

Seeing a grocery store like this open in Boston or Vermont would have been a, yawn. Another natural grocery? But, HERE! I get to see history in the making. These people having access to this kind of world saving expertise is dream come true for me.

There is something really cool about the idea of helping people who really need it AND want it. I could talk coconut oil and kale to the organic junkies back home all day every day, but that doesn’t reverse our obesity epidemic now does it? I may have thought that my second round match was a mistake, but actually, it was the best eye-opening and invigorating experience.  To be able to explain what a carbohydrate is to someone who has no clue? Check. Next: to reverse their disease through diet and lifestyle! No matter where I end up, I hope to make a positive impact and continue to be pleasantly surprised by all that I learn from the experience.

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5 Ways To Lower Cholesterol

Click here to watch my new video: 5 Ways to Lower Cholesterol 

Click here to watch!
Click here to watch!

What’s the number one cause of death in America? According to the CDC, it’s heart disease. The preventable, unnecessary, easily avoidable, heart disease.  Half of men >65 years old are prescribed expensive statin medications that cause obnoxious side effects like muscle pain. Here’s 5 tips to decrease cholesterol naturally.

1. Minimize Dietary Cholesterol and Saturated Fat

Cholesterol and saturated fat stick to our blood vessels and cause them to narrow, leading to erectile dysfunction and heart disease
Cholesterol and saturated fat stick to our blood vessels and cause them to narrow, leading to erectile dysfunction and heart disease

Cholesterol is only found in animal foods like meat, dairy, eggs, butter, and mayonnaise, and products containing animal foods like pastries, ice cream, cakes, and cookies.  Our livers make cholesterol to help fat travel in the blood.  Cholesterol is not a nutrient and it is not necessary to eat it.

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Meat consumption is associated with a 25% greater risk of coronary heart disease

Saturated fat is fat that is solid at room temperature.  Most animal fats are saturated (fish being the exception).  Be sure to avoid processed  and red meats and high fat animal products like cheeses and creams.

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A few years after experiencing erectile dysfunction, one is likely to have a heart attack.

2. Portion Control Healthy Fats

There are lots of benefits to a little bit of healthy fat but be sure to remember the two key words here, LITTLE BIT! Healthy fats would be the fats from plant sources or ones that are liquid at room temperature, like avocado, olives, almonds, sunflower seeds, and olive oil.  The general rule is 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fat is enough per meal.  Think of it as a garnish, not a main event.  Try these 10 tips to help decrease fat intake:

  1. Steam, boil, or bake food instead of frying it.  Be sure to use parchment paper instead of spraying pans with oil. It is super quick clean up and very effective non-stick.
  2. Sautee in water, it tastes the same!
  3. Buy a nonstick pan, I have made perfect pancakes without any oil
  4. Replace some of the oil in recipes with apple sauce
  5. Instead of eggs try making a “flax/chia egg”: 1 to 3 ratio- 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia to 3 tablespoons of water, combine and let sit for about 10 minutes to let it form a gel.  Or, a mashed banana also works as a great egg alternative.
  6. Choose low fat plant based alternatives when it comes to meat, cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, milk
  7. Incorporate more products that are already naturally fat free like salsa, fat free marinara, jelly and jam
  8. Instead of snacking on fatty snack foods like chips, try pretzels, fat free organic popcorn, fat free granola, or rice cakes
  9. Be sure to read ingredients labels and look out for any added fats and oils, especially “hydrogenated oils” because those are trans fats!
  10. When you go out to eat, ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much fat you are eating and let them know you are sensitive to oil so they won’t sprinkle any extra on top of your food.

3. Eat Plenty of Plant Foods

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The American Heart Association did not hold back when recommending plant foods like grains, vegetables, and fruits. 4-5 servings of fruit a day! That could be 5 bananas!

Plant foods like grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are all sources of fiber.  Soluble fiber has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

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4. Exercise!

The American Council of Exercise says most adults could gain substantial health benefits from 2 1/2 hours of weekly moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or gardening.  That’s only 30 minutes a day 5 days a week! Our hearts are muscles too- gotta work those out!

5. Make Stress Your Friend

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal has a great talk about recent research showing if we believe that the stress response is a good thing, the negative effects decrease.  Definitely watch her talk and remember: our stress is good! It makes us perform better, and there is nothing that we can’t handle.

Click here to watch my new video: 5 Ways to Lower Cholesterol 

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Friends? Boyfriends? Superpowers? Do vegans lose all their friends?

It’s funny when people ask me, oh are you still talking to so and so? Because in my head sometimes I hear it as, : Like wait do you have friends anymore?

Recently, I don’t mind this question. I am too inspired. I just want to wake up and accomplish my goals. I am a beast at blowing people off … :-/

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I feel like I am consumed in an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend who takes up all my time so I never see my friends anymore, but I don’t have a boyfriend…

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Funny how I love accomplishing goals and being inspired. In the back of my mind I have always thought things like, “aww I really want to be able to do a backflip before I die” (accomplished with senior year varsity cheerleading OW OW!!! WORKED MY @$$ OFF!!) or “I really want to be able to just run up a tree and do a back flip” here’s a list of the aspirations following my main goal of becoming a superhero:

  • I really want to go to Living Light Culinary School and learn how to “cook” incredible raw vegan healing food
  • I really want to go to Institute of Integrative Nutrition and become a holistic health counselor
  • I really want to go to “Conscious Eating”’s author Gabriel Cousens’s retreat in Arizona, Tree of Life
  • I really want to go to Hippocrates in florida and see them cure cancer
  • I really want to jump off really high cliffs and not be scared
  • Do 3 pull ups

Things like that. Being a strong superhero. Getting better at the activities I enjoy.  Looking fear in the face, loving challenges. Another disease, another challenge for the unstoppable ME.

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I would fall asleep thinking about these aspirations of mine. Getting excited about all the things I would do… once I got my degree. Because that’s what you do after high school. You go to college. So I was excited to study dietetics, nutrition, fitness, and health at Purdue! Where I have been a pretty good wanna-be superhero 🙂 .. anyways..

superpowers

When the superhero goal became a fuzzy glimpse in the distance, the universe sent me the most compassionate lad, halfway through my sophormore year, who has done all of my aspirations. Well, 5 outta 6. Holistic health counselor, raw vegan chef from Living Light, went to Gabriel Cousens, can do well over 3 pull ups, jump off high cliffs, and do fucking back flips off of trees.. and gives food to homeless people.. and is.. ya know.. a fucking angel.

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The universe sent me a superhero, whose time spent with me is always short, (or at least seems short), sweet, and much needed.  Containing all of the superhero qualities I desire, like strength, and the know how to save the world.

All I want to do now is accomplish my goals and inspire others by doing what I love. Because, from dealing frusteratingly with my sister and observing sick people that I care about, a superhero can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, no matter how great their powers.

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We possess the most complex superpower. At my early stages of aspiring to be a superhero, I had no idea how complex our powers really could be.

They mess with peoples culture, their belief system, their comfort zones, and their habits. Though our superpower is extremely effective, it only works if the necessary individual accepts the stages of behavioral change.

I can’t help people. People help people. As my mom says a hundred times over,

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So- that being said- it is very difficult to not be a frusterated crazy person about veganism!

Is that a superpower maybe? Speaking up when necessary? Where’s the line between obnoxious/ anti social and effective and life saving? Where’s the line between being weird because you don’t see your friends as often as you used to, or as you should, or being fucking awesome for being inspired and loving what your doing and having enough passion to enjoy doing you and accomplishing more and more goals everyday?!

I am struggling with this idea, this balance. It seems I have been seeing people who are excited and passionate about the same things as I am lately. I do want to see old friends and have close relationships, but they seem to be slowly fading. At first I was really upset about it, but lately, eh, I suppose people are always changing, and as we grow older new relationships form that resonate more and more with who we grow up to be.  Which is nice 🙂 I met incredible friends at the Thai Fruit Fest! Its weird coming back from school for the summer. And its weird being all of a sudden so fucking inspired and passionate with saving the world and inspiring people and getting stronger and smashing it.

freindss

I don’t mean to be anti social or antisocial seeming. But with veganism, and that weird superpower I was talking about about speaking up, ya know?  I think that a perfect situation can be a perfect opportunity. There are times when it is ok to say true to yourself and be honest (like when asked), and there are times when it is necessary to keep your mouth shut. I will never give anyone a hard time. And I hope nobody gives me a hard time! I am open to eating animal products if I so desire, honestly. (which I haven’t desired in a while! haha) It is the people who need to be saved who I am worried about.

All in all, I am the happiest luckiest girl in the world. A huge shout out to friends ❤ I am so lucky to have many great people in my life.  I have a superhero, not a boyfriend.. but I know he loves to make me laugh. 😉 And I can’t wait to accomplish everything on my list. I’m certainly working on it ❤

Xoxo the aspiring superhero

Lettuce Have Healthcare Tacos!

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Arriving home from Purdue, my father left me a wonderful surprise gift!  A DVD of a Naturopathic Medicine course by Dr. Mimi Guarneri!  I am so inspired and excited watching it!

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It’s funny how much I already know- like I think it is kind of silly how it is such a breakthrough that they are prescribing yoga and the elimination diet to people to heal!  Haha!  I’ve been interning with Christine Lucas who has been doing that for years!  Finally people are catching on- I can’t waaaaiiiiit to get my ND!!

 

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From what I have seen of the DVD so far, they emphasize how health care these days is actually not health care at all- it is sick care!  The system is fantastic at diagnosing and treating issues quickly!  Applause to the sick care system!  But for chronic disease, lifelong issues and truly making people healthy, finding what the cause is and truly 100% curing the issue… not so much… The doctor in the DVD painted a picture:

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If you planted a tree and your tree’s leaves started to wilt and turn brown and dry out, what would you do?  You would give it more water and give it plenty of sunlight, right?  Well if your tree were given to an MD in America, the problem leaves/ branches would be chopped off- not truly healing your tree, just a quick fix.

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😀 So inspired to continue shining my light!  Go vegetarian diets, fun exercise, relaxation, sleep, sunshine, and love ❤ !  Happiness is in your power to change perception!  Take care of your beautiful body!  And enjoy these simple recipes!

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Mango Tomato Corn Tacos:

Serves 1-2, takes 5 minutes prep time

  • 2 organic Haitian mangos, diced
  • about 1 cup of thinly sliced zuccini
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 cups of organic corn
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 2-3 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 heads of romaine lettuce

Measurements are up to you, and you can use any yummy veggies and fruits you like! Maybe chop them different than I did? Whatever!  Just mix em all together and fill your romaine leaves and choww dowwn!

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It’s funny how I loveeee salad so much- people think you need to be super disciplined to enjoy your greens.  Not this girl!  That crispy soft romaine! MMMM!!! Too delish!  Plain as it is- crave worthy fo shoo!

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I also made Black Bean and Corn Burgers for my family for mother’s day.  They are one of my mom’s favorite vegan recipes, and they were pretty good as an addition to my mango corn tomato tacos!  Give it a go!

They are high carb and almost fat free!  Perf for raw till 4-ers!

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T olive oil (optional- could just use a little water to cook the onions)
  • 3 cups (or 2 cans) cooked black beans, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt (I didn’t use any salt)
  • black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2/3 cups quick oats, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 cups fresh (or frozen and thawed) organic NOT GMO PLEASE corn
  1. Sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil for eight to ten minutes, or until golden, soft, and fragrant.
  2. Add 2 cups of the beans, the cumin, the paprika, the chili powder, the sea salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the sauté pan till all is warm.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  4. Add the oats to the bowl of a food processor and pulse them a few times. Add the onion, garlic, and bean mixture. Process everything together, until it’s well combined but still has texture.
  5. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the last cup of black beans and the corn and mix well with your hands. Check for seasoning and season to taste. If the mixture is too mushy to form into patties, add a little more oats or bread crumbs.
  6. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, shape mixture into patties.  I think it made 8? Transfer burgers to a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (or until golden), flipping once through.  No cooking spray or parchment paper needed!  These guys don’t stick!
  7. Enjoy with a deep breath and a smile 🙂 ❤ xoxo Dream big, carb up!!

New Nutrition Facts Label… B.S.

counting calories

 

Although these public policies do mean well- with high hopes of helping people meet their needs and find healthier options- It still seems to me that the Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label are better… but are not making the changes that truly need to be made…

Original vs. Proposed:

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I am the biggest nutrition nerd that anyone will ever meet, and I still will look at that “Protein 3g” or “Iron 45%” and think “Is this enough?” or “Is this good?”  Considering a recommendation that I have learned for protein is .8 grams multiplied by body weight in kilograms is a good amount.  But what percent of calories would that be?  Like don’t I only need 10-35% protein?  And as if Joe Shmoe knows his weight in kilograms.. or that equation..  bottom line this label is still really confusing and if anyone out there would like to comment and explain it in simpler terms- I would greatly appreciate it.

What disgusts me so much about this is that it is so focused on the science and each individual nutrient- the ingredients are completely neglected.  Kale and bananas don’t have nutrition labels… so are they poof cut off the face of the earth and don’t have any nutritional value?  My friend once bought an “antioxidant juice drink” because it had suchandsuch many vitamins in it.. I was concerned because I bet some oranges and grapes would have just as many antioxidants.. but because they weren’t labeled or advertised as such, they were forgotten about.

Maybe the ingredients, calories, and serving size, should be big and bold on the front, and the nutrition facts smaller on the side?  It’s about time people put down the products and started eating whole food.  REAL food.  These products disgust me and are quite far from the nutritents that our bodies need and are bioavailable to us.  It seems to me, if it has one of these stupid labels on it, don’t eat it.  I hope to be able to grow my own food, and buy in bulk and sprout, and get back to trusting my hunger cues.  Calorie counts are helpful, but if we ate real, whole, natural food- it would be hard to comfortably accidentally take in too many calories.  All of this science is silly to me.. lets get back to nature, shall we??