Why we developed the Menu Planner

I spent all of 2008 developing 12 Steps to Whole Foods, in response to many readers discovering GreenSmoothieGirl.com and asking for a step-by-step plan to learn the lifestyle I was advocating for.

In the 1990’s, my little boy had nearly died of severe asthma and allergies. In eliminating sugar and dairy, and converting to a whole-foods, 60-80% raw diet, we eliminated all-night wheezing and suffering. We eliminated steroids and bronchodilators and antibiotics. In the process, I lost 50 lbs. and regained my deteriorated eyesight. I regained my ability to run and play sports, dropped my cholesterol to 100 and blood pressure to 98/56, and eliminated eczema and allergies. I never again had debilitating migraines or TIA (mini-strokes) that plagued me in my 20’s.

I became preoccupied with wanting others to be able to do what I’d done, but without all the frustrating bumps along the way. I’d made countless recipes that no one in my family liked. I’d bought hundreds of dollars of ingredients that were hard to find and expensive, with limited or one-time uses.

I’d made recipes that took several hours in the kitchen. I’d wasted time chasing down nutritional bunny hills with little or no gain, and I’d read a lot of useless books about food cults. Along the way, I did find many invaluable nuggets of information and good practices that enormously impacted my family’s life for the better, and others’ as well, when I taught them.

I like the free-form nature of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. You can eat whatever salads, whatever dressings, whatever main dishes you want. Feeling free to explore new foods, learn new habits, try new recipes, anytime you want.

However, in working with thousands of people the past few years, we found that many were trained in how to “diet.” I resist the idea that 12 Steps is a diet. The word itself connotes “temporary”  and “restrictive.” What I am teaching here is a lifestyle that I intend to bless your life and minimize your disease risk, forever. It’s about abundance, since the world of plant foods has nearly infinite colors, textures, tastes, and combining potential.

However, there is value to making things simple and easily planned, and as a planner and list-maker myself, I understand the value of living from lists!

Our just-released Menu Planner tool was highly requested, so we’ve spent well over a year developing it!

It is an effort to help your initial foray into the whole-foods lifestyle be as predictable as possible! Many thanks to Desiree Ward and Tina Huntsman, who assisted in developing the menu plans and shopping lists and counted every penny to give you budget predictions. They found that feeding a family of 4 with these menu plans cost $100/week.

According to my research, that’s what families spend who budget very strictly and have to live on a young, single-earner income.

Anything new can be frustrating in the beginning. There are a number of habits to change, and at first, you may feel out of your depth, like you have no idea what to eat. (Especially for the overachievers, who try to do 6 steps at a time!)

Before now, you may have eaten prepared and processed foods, or fast foods, but you had a routine, you knew where to buy everything, and how to get or make it. Now that you’ve committed to a change, of course, you have to re-learn those things. Keep in mind when I suggest Costco as a source, and you don’t have a Costco membership, there are other places to obtain the same item in your hometown. Having a health food store, a buying club, an Asian market, and a regular grocery store with a good produce section, you’ll be just fine. Even if you’re missing one or even two of those, you can definitely do this!

If you stay the course, your new habits will become as easy and habitual as your old ones were. Those new habits have the power to nourish you, energize you, and endow you with health, lovely skin and hair, and ideal weight. Your old habits were likely clogging your digestive system, draining your energy, and causing your weight to gradually creep upwards.

To the end of nourishing you well and providing the benefits you seek, I hope the plans and lists in our new Menu Planner are helpful on your journey to amazing health!

The Rest of the Story with Rich the Pharmacist. Part 2 of 2.

I don’t buy that baloney. (In more ways than one.)

If you eat hot dogs and soda on a regular basis, you’re almost certainly spending lots of money on doctor bills. Or you’re about to, as springs start to break loose in your internal box spring.

Your health insurance company is going broke, too. I may buy bulgur and quinoa and collard greens instead of hot dogs and Mountain Dew, but guess what. Mountain Dew ain’t cheap. And neither is a lot of what my reader claims is all America can afford.

Legumes and whole grains, and many vegetables and fruits, are cheap and don’t hurtle you towards cardiovascular disease and cancer and 100 different auto-immune nightmares. Let’s learn how to use them!

Maybe some aren’t ready to hear this. But what you can’t afford is to have your chest and abdomen weigh so much that it’s crushing vital organs so you can’t breathe all night and are exhausted all day. THAT is what you can’t afford. It’s crushing more than lungs. It’s just crushing, period–literally and figuratively.

It crushes vitality. Hope. Your sex life. (C-pap at night? Your partner loves that. It’s like the scene in the trailer for the recent movie where Tina Fey asks her husband, Steve Carrell, if he’s in the mood, and she then offers to remove her retainer and does so, drool everywhere. Sorry to be blunt, but obesity isn’t pretty in the bedroom, and neither are medical devices, digestive disorders, or immobility.)

Sorry for the tough love. But hot dogs just might be ruining your life.

A friend of mine in his 50’s who owns a runner’s shop and sometimes hosts my lecture saw an obese woman in the crowd as he ran past, running a marathon. He said to her, “YOU SHOULD BE OUT HERE RUNNING WITH US.”

She was shocked. (Who says that?!) They became fast friends as she snapped out of her dream fugue and decided to change her life. Join the race. Show up in his shop. She’s now a normal-weight marathon runner and I read her story in the paper, quoting my friend who said that to her and changed her life.

It can be done. It starts with a tenacious statement like Rich’s, in yesterday’s post. Read his “no holds barred” paragraph and see if it inspires you!

Watch Karen Wilbert when the first GreenSmoothieGirl Makeover film clips come out, as she cries in frustration, telling us how her friends in the neighborhood run races together, while she stares at the trees outside her window, through all four seasons. Like Rich, she’s younger than me. She hates that other people are living life while illness, loss of energy, and depression have drained her own life to a tiny slice of what she once enjoyed.

Eating M&M’s does NOT stand in for a life. What a sorry substitute. Start visualizing the price for eating cancer sticks (hot dogs–also bacon and sausage) being $200 a bite. How does it taste now?

After we completed some filming at Samantha Cornia’s today for GreenSmoothieGirl Makeover, Kels, my filmmaker, was telling me about his mom doing my 12 Steps program, in her second bout of chemotherapy against ovarian cancer. He says she’s sick of the devastation of chemotherapy, and she’s motivated and excited to try something different.

I told him to make sure she gets a juicer (in addition to her new green-smoothie-blending habit) and juice beets, carrots, celery, parsley, apples, and wheat grass in huge quantities. And I told him, “Tell your mom to visualize, as she drinks it, that beautiful, powerful, high-oxygen, high-antioxidant super-powered drink starving EVERY CANCER CELL into oblivion, exploding, obliterating them into nothing. Have her imagine the healthy cells kicking butt and taking names.”

She’ll be blasting the hell out of cancer while strengthening the muscles of her immune system. Rather than nuking everything in sight like chemo and radiation do.

David Wolfe said this, last weekend, about watching animals heal themselves–we could learn a lot from them:

“You can heal almost every condition there is by hiding, sleeping, being quiet, and not eating.”

I totally agree and suggested to Kels that his mom just eat little or nothing for a while after chemo is over, just juice and green smoothies and lots of water. Give cells and organs a chance to rest, repair, rebuild.

You, my friend, reading this:

YOU SHOULD BE OUT HERE RUNNING WITH US.

ideas from readers, part 2 of 3

I often hear about people falling off the wagon, after a period of having tremendous results with their 15 servings of raw greens and fruit daily (what you get in the quart of green smoothie daily that I recommend).

It happens. Shall we problem solve, so it happens less often?

Thursday after tennis I ran to Supersonic to get my car washed. While I was waiting, two women rushed up and said, “GREEN SMOOTHIE GIRL!” (They didn’t know my actual name–this happens a lot, and I think it’s funny!)

Turns out they have a really unique and cool arrangement. They are best friends: Karri is single and lives alone, and Bo is married with kids. Karri has more time but less money, and Bo has more money and less time. Karri makes green smoothies for Bo and her husband every day since she doesn’t need the whole blenderful. I think Bo pays for the ingredients. Win-win for everybody.

I like it. If you’re struggling with something–time, money, whatever–there’s always a way. It’s just about getting creative and being dogged about creating a habit. Don’t give up!

Oh, and I am glad to meet new people in the revolution. The whole-foods revolution, kicking the S.A.D. to the curb. Love it when you come up and make friends with me–I’m going up to Strawberry to look at Bo’s cabin and see about getting land to build a cabin for retreats! Wouldn’t that be fun?

chocolate: friend or foe?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Is chocolate actually good for me? Will you do a good/better/best on all the carob and chocolate options? I’m craving chocolate after having a baby and want to know what’s best.

Answer: It’s a confusing subject because so many products have been made from cacao, the seed of the fruit, the whole food, that is the source for “chocolate.” (Most processed chocolate products manufactured by candy companies have precious little cacao in them, if any–they are often chocolate-FLAVORED products.)

Chocolate has been given a lot of attention lately because of some of its nutritional properties. It’s tempting to WANT to see it as a cure-all. Why?

Because it has compounds in it that make us (myself included) crave it. In fact, just writing this, I had to take a break to find chocolate, because I was daydreaming about it. There’s a built-in desire to call chocolate a health food.

No, I’m not about to tell you to avoid chocolate. (Whew!) Unprocessed dark chocolate is a very complex food with hundreds of chemical compounds, many of which are very beneficial nutritionally.

Those who market it tout its ORAC score (a cumulative antioxidant score) of over 13,000, higher than virtually any other food, even green tea and acai berries. Dark chocolate contains heart-healthy, cancer-preventing nutrients linked to helpful blood thinning, protection against diabetes, mental alertness, even weight loss. It’s high in minerals as well.

(A caveat, however: those same nutrients can be found in other, lower calorie and lower fat, raw plant foods that cost less than $1/lb. And along with the healthy dark chocolate usually comes lots of fat and sugar, and usually quite a bit of processing that loses some of the health benefits.)

If you do eat chocolate, find cacao content at 60% or above. If you’re accustomed to processed “chocolate,” you may barely recognize the dark, bitter, earthy taste of the whole food.

Cacao is the seed of the fruit, the whole food, that chocolate comes from (before it is typically and often processed to a nearly unrecognizable form). Cacao is also called cocoa beans or nuts or seeds. Dried cocoa beans are called cocoa nibs.

A very aggressive network marketing company sells little daily bites of chocolate–not organic, not raw, but high in cacao and sweetened fairly naturally–that calculate to be about $60/lb.

That is correct, $60/lb. And they’re selling it by the UPS truckload–even though superior products cost 1/6th that amount in retail outlets. The only good thing I have to say about that is that they’re feeding you about the right amount, daily: a small nugget of dark chocolate. These products are still very high in fat and some type of concentrated sweetener, so more is not better.

And if you’re eating lots of expensive dark chocolate and can’t afford a whole-foods pantry, please re-evaluate your spending decisions.

If you’re going to eat chocolate, preferably eat organic, fair traded, high cacao-content (60% or higher), naturally sweetened (agave, maple syrup, stevia, etc. rather than cane sugar). I do not really believe any labeling of chocolate products as “raw.”

First, there has to be some processing; and second, since virtually all chocolate is coming out of third-world countries, policing that is difficult at best and impossible at worst. (Same issue we’ve been discussing with agave.)

Carob is a chocolate “wannabe” that does not stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain like chocolate does. It doesn’t contain natural stimulants theobromine and caffeine like chocolate does, which may cause people to feel unwell. If you like the flavor of carob, that’s possibly your “best” option in the good/better/best analysis below.

But most people seek chocolate for a reason: it has the feel-good amino acid tryptophan which makes the brain transmitter serotonin that depressed people lack. In short, chocolate makes us happy.

So here it is:

Good: dark chocolate, naturally sweetened (no HFCS or other refined sugars)

Better: Dark chocolate (60% cacao or better, 80% if that’s not too dark for you). Free traded, organic, naturally sweetened bars are about $10-15/lb. at health food stores. Or make your own recipes using non-alkalized, unsweetened cocoa powder.

Best: make your own recipes (Ch. 11 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods, or other raw-food recipes) with raw cacao nibs.

Use sweeteners like stevia, maple syrup, raw agave. Use virgin coconut oil or avocadoes for the fat. Or skip chocolate altogether and use CAROB if you like the taste of it better.

In terms of the products you can purchase, the ORAC scores tell us this:

Good: non-alkalized (non-Dutched) unsweetened cocoa powder

Better: Dark chocolate, roasted cacao powder

Best: Raw cacao powder or raw cacao nibs

how much does a green smoothie cost?

Jumping the gun . . . drum roll please . . . I just might be opening the first-ever Green Smoothie Bar!

Yep, I have an interested party who already owns the perfect facility to try the concept out here in Utah County (then roll it out in other places if it finds traction). I’ve had SO many people tell me we should open a GreenSmoothieGirl shop. I don’t want to run it, but I want to have a place for people who want to skyrocket their consumption of fresh greens/fruit but don’t want to make GS themselves.

Here’s the OTHER cool announcement that isn’t in my book . . . or anywhere else . . .

In order to gather cost information, I purchased (from Costco and Good Earth) greens and fruit at retail prices, made a blenderful, and broke down the cost per ounce. I think you will be amazed at what I found:

A 96 oz. blenderful (in addition to water/ice):

Organic chard ($.66) 1/3 of a bunch

Organic kale ($1) 1/3 of a bunch

Spinach ($0.85) 22% of a 2.5-lb. bag

2 cups frozen mixed berries ($1.66)

2 oranges ($0.83)

2 bananas ($0.42)

2 Tbsp. raw/organic agave ($0.28)

= $5.70 for 72 oz.

That’s 7.9 cents per ounce.

A quart of green smoothie (my recommendation for adults) is then
$2.53

And to think that the biggest resistance I get from people is, “IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE!” How much is a Starbucks latte? Twice that much? How about a Power Bar? About that much. A Happy Meal? These are things people don’t think twice about spending money on.

For about $2.50 you can get 12-15 servings of RAW GREENS AND FRUIT in your diet. Amazing.

Would you spend $1.25 a day for your child to have a pint of green smoothie, 7 servings of raw greens and fruit? So her only serving of fruits or vegetables isn’t ketchup or French fries like most American kids? The ketchup and fries will cost you that much.

All the excuses just disappeared.

Power foods? Really?

I saw a People Magazine article last week about 10 “power foods.” They listed agave, along with the aggressively marketed, uber-expensive acai and goji berries. Now I’m not going to diss  acai and goji, which are certainly high in antioxidants.

But if you’re trying to adhere to a budget, do you really want to pay $10 to $60 a pound for these “power foods” from thousands of miles away from your home, when you can buy oranges and apples for $0.69/lb.? Their antioxidant levels may not be as high, but they’re wonderful foods grown close to home that won’t break the bank, and IF YOU EAT THEM REGULARLY they can be an important part of an aggressive anti-disease and pro-energy healthy diet.

Not too exotic, I know. And if you have lots of discretionary income, great. Eat interesting little berries from mountain ranges all the way across the world. (I do really like goji, though I justify the cost only now and then.)

But meantime, common sense suggests that if you stick to greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains grown near you, you’ll be JUST FINE.

As for agave being a power food, no way.

WHAT?! You offer agave in the group buy and it’s in your recipes, GreenSmoothieGirl! WHAT. ARE. YOU. SAYING!

My friends, it is much preferable than sugar. If you get a reputable brand that certifies it to be raw and organic, you should use it for treats that are alternatives to junk food.

But no concentrated sweetener is a power food–except maybe honey, because of its pollen content and anti-bacterial properties. (Still really high in calories. Use it sparingly.)

Anyway, I rolled my eyes at the People article, so mainstream and dumbed down. But I guess nobody wants to hear that boring old broccoli, or almonds, or raw sweet potatoes, are power foods. Yawn. We want something NEW!

People are always writing me, “What do you think of Dr. X’s heart-disease preventing supplement?” “What do you think of emu oil?”

I haven’t studied every new, well-marketed product out there. But keep in mind that for every drop of something-or-other you can squeeze out of the poor emu, or every new pill full of “natural” stuff, there’s a bunch of people sitting around a boardroom strategizing on how a study they pay for can “prove” that you simply must have it to heal 30 different maladies.

I don’t mean to sound cynical. Try it if it’s in your budget. But now and then I like to pull everybody who might be listening, back to the straight and narrow road. That is, simple, whole, unadulterated plant foods. Those we KNOW will heal us and prevent all the awful things we’d rather not die of. If you’re reading the Emu Oil ad online while eating your second Hostess Ding Dong of the day, an examination of priorities might be in order.

Just my $0.02.