Supply Side Expo: my reactions to ingredients in “health food” products

Supplyside2012_west_exhibitorI went to Supply Side West in Vegas in November. It was the same night that my family, the Romney clan, was SUPPOSED to be having a Mitt Romney victory party at the Venetian. That’s where I was staying and where the trade show was being held. As you know, the party didn’t exactly work out. My parents and siblings were in town volunteering on the campaign last-minute.

I was attending the show to learn more about suppliers of natural-product ingredients. Specifically the things that GreenSmoothieGirl is now making:

Our own line of protein powders. My favorite minerals product I call Ultimate Minerals. Sprouted superfoods to add to your smoothies. Our drink mixes.

I left educated about, and dismayed by, what goes into 99 percent of products being sold to consumers. Even stuff flying under the banners of “healthy” or “natural.” What’s done to a natural “food” to get it into a pourable, packageable form.

dance bananaThere are complex processes to mill a food, deodorize it, purify it, “mask” tastes (like any bitterness), enhance “mouth feel,” prevent caking, improve pourability and viscosity, change the color, make it sparkle, twirl, and sing an aria.

All of these require chemicals, processes, heat, altered states.

The more standardized our tastes become, the more processed our food supply becomes. And vice versa. It’s the classic “vicious cycle.”

I wanted to talk to less than 1 percent of the companies there. Companies bragging about their “pharmaceutical-grade purity.” The fact that it has “pharmaceutical” in the title just makes me wonder if a drug company owns it. Did you know that drug companies own more than 70 percent of the vitamins on the market? So it’s sterile and standardized (pharmaceutical grade). But is it good for me?

cornyrxI want my food to be…..FOOD. Out of the dirt. Where tiny organisms live that give us Vitamin B12. Food with fiber. Food that fed my ancestors.

Seeing what processed food looks like from a manufacturer’s view, made me that much more committed to eating real, whole foods.

Down the hall from the Supply Side convention, the Burger King convention was sponsored by Pepsi and Del Monte. An incestuous relationship of fast food and processed food industries.

A guy on the elevator with me in the Venetian struck up a conversation and told me he was a BK franchise owner. I confessed I’d never eaten at BK in my life. He said, “WHAT?” Just to make it simple, I said, “Well, I’m a vegetarian, not my thing.” He invited me to come on in for their veggie burger.

It’s a start, Burger King offering a vegetarian sandwich. Too bad I don’t even have to try one to know that everything ELSE about it will be bad. Don’t fall for the idea that “vegetarian” means “good for you. Here’s what I predict: lots of preservatives, white-flour hybridized wheat bun, bad fats in the goo they put on it, lots of refined salt, maybe even some GMO soy product as the “meat” replacement.

Maybe someone reading this will chime in telling me if I nailed that guess? I have other research I want to do, more than finding something edible on the Burger King menu.

grow_your_own_article_A1More than ever, after spending a day looking at food manufacturing…..I want to grow and make my own food! And never have anything on this site that is less than outstanding.

Does the media control YOUR food education?

dietfoodI have two employees who are now trained to travel with me on my never-ending lecture circuit. Shari is one of them. She’s my long-time friend and tennis coach, and she loves the energy at the GSG show.

On our recent trip to St. Louis, she was telling me a story about her roommate, whom I have heard sweet, hilarious stories about for years. Shari is always compassionate in the telling. Brittany is a developmentally delayed 26-year old, a college student for 8 years now, who is at least 100 pounds overweight.

One day Brittany, who has been on just one date in her life, said to Shari, “I am going to go on a diet. Because then boys will like me and ask me out.”

So Brittany comes home from the grocery store and excitedly shows Shari her “diet foods” as she unloads them. She crows as she removes each from the bag, to put it away:

  1. LOW FAT chocolate milk!
  2. Diet Mountain Dew!
  3. Low fat ice cream!
  4. Strawberry Oreo Cookies! (“It’s fruit!” Brittany exclaims.)
  5. Mini donuts! (“They aren’t the BIG ones, see?”)

The crazy thing about this story? Brittany actually lost some weight. The calories, at least, were lower than what she WAS eating previously.

The story is funny. It’s also horribly tragic.

helpAfter my initial jaw-drop, I was preoccupied with Brittany’s triumphant shopping trip story, because it reminded me how ill-educated most of us are about food. What kinds help us, what kinds hurt us. We get mixed up about what causes weight loss, versus what builds healthy cells. This is what happens when all our info comes from the mass media.

MARKETING and ADVERTISING have substituted in the modern age, for EDUCATION. For example, the “MILK: IT DOES A BODY GOOD!” slogan. Most Americans buy that hook, line, and sinker. I had a holistic doctor I think highly of tell me recently, “Sixty percent of pediatric problems would DISAPPEAR if we just got all the babies off dairy products.”

A dangerous new trend is that purveyors of trash foods are sitting around their boardrooms planning ads that sell the junk food’s “healthy benefits.” Even diet soda is touted as healthy, because it has a freshness date! A processed cereal, with white flour and white sugar as the main ingredients, has fiber and whole grains in it! A chewy roll of corn-syrup candy is touted as “servings of fruit.” Pork is “the other white meat.” Nestle Quik is a way to build your child’s bones.

Too many Americans view nutrition as relative. They’re golden because they eat LESS fast food than their neighbor.

(As if cancer and heart disease can’t possibly affect you, as long as  your co-worker eats more junk than you do. It isn’t relative. Not to your neighbors, anyway—it’s only relative to your own genetic weaknesses, stress factors, body burden, and environmental exposure.)

People are always telling me the sins they AREN’T committing. Do we congratulate ourselves that we don’t eat chips and fried foods–while we eat a ton of sugar? Do we pat ourselves on the back because we don’t eat soda–when we eat everything ELSE served at the Golden Arches?

tvfoodPeople will stand in line for an hour to tell me what their sister-in-law eats. Or their co-worker.

These are all mental accountability-avoiding shenanigans that do nothing to further our health. The only thing that matters is the food WE choose every day. The habits we develop. The recipes we shop for and make.

A handful of great habits that “stick” in your life? That’s your simple, inexpensive insurance against the damage of a lifetime of Strawberry Oreos and Diet Pepsi.

There’s something very wrong when our entire education about food comes from a television set.

Nutrition for pregnant moms, babies, toddlers…..part 5 of 5

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: My little boy is so picky! He won’t eat healthy food! What do I do?

The first time a child is presented with a healthy food, he often will not like it. We have CREATED “pickiness” in our culture, because we introduce babies to refined sugar. Once you’ve had it, nothing else tastes good. We then bombard our child with ads, and opportunities to eat sugary and salty foods, everywhere they go in a day.

They aren’t defective kids. They’re little addicts.

(My least favorite question at green smoothie demo classes—and it comes from middle-aged and elderly adults, mostly—is, with nose crinkled as if they’re dealing with something very distasteful, “Does the green smoothie TASTE good?”)

The answer is, “If refined sugar and corn syrup are staples of your diet, NO, it doesn’t.”

When you eliminate those, everything tastes better. Get rid of refined salt, aspartame, and MSG too—those are the addictive substances that change your tastes.

Some significant research with kids shows that they need 10 exposures  to a food, to fully embrace it. That’s why I constantly talk about staying the course and being consistent and persistent.

Getting the junk food out of the house. When carrots and cucumbers are competing with Cheezits and Cheetohs? The Cheetohs are gonna win.

They’re easier to chew than carrots. They don’t oxidize or go bad. They taste salty and they melt in your mouth.

Of course, they’re also going to cause inflammation for every part of the body exposed to them.

Ten exposures mean that you COMMIT to a lifestyle where your home is stocked with real foods that nourish and build, protect and detoxify. Not a plastic, fake-orange, bright-yellow-drinks-in-a-can, caffeine-propped, processed hell.

Don’t be a parent who brings home a veggie, gets rejected, and quits. You don’t go to the store and bring home pretty bell peppers and split peas, instead of last week’s Oreos and Spagheti-O’s, and expect everyone to be jumping for joy, and then just quit already when you meet with some resistance. Steel yourself. Educate the kids. Plan and prepare for the long-term, not just this shopping trip. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel (vibrance, health, the weight you love to be at)…..not the initial resistance.

It doesn’t work like a charm, overnight. Obviously, 10 exposures to a healthy food takes some time. It requires some patience.

And don’t underestimate the way eating corn syrup and cane sugar undermine your goals to raise a whole-foods family.

It takes a little time to find enough food you like, to replace all the junk habits. But you can really starve out all the bad habits over time. I know this because I did it.

Growing a garden puts your kids in touch with where food comes from, too. Far too many of America’s kids would have no clue how to explain to you what is in Chips Ahoy, and where it came from. (For that matter, I can’t explain some of those ingredients either!)

When kids participate in growing “real” foods, they are more interested in eating them. Most of America’s kids know nothing about the sources of their foods beyond the fact that apples grow on trees. Some urban kids don’t even know that.

Many kids love animals and have no understanding that the “chicken nuggets” on their dinner plate means that somebody trapped a bird in a tiny cage its entire life, hacked its head off, ripped its skin off, ground the rest of it up, mixed it with some chemicals, fried it in a giant vat of months-old grease (filtered once a week, whether it needs it or not), formed it into shapes in a factory and froze it for your child to eat months later.

My oldest two kids ate everything I gave them, no problem. The last two gave me a run for my money. They tried to be “picky kids.” Fortunately by then I had my nutritional “core values” firmly in place. I don’t indulge “picky.” Both of those kids eat giant plates of salad, daily green smoothies, and one of them even enjoys vegetable juices and wheat grass shots. Both have told me thank you for having a kitchen full of whole foods. Both have complained that there are often no healthy foods to eat at Dad’s house. I know they don’t want everything I serve. But I also know that I’m sending them into the world with good tastes for real nutrition, an awareness of which foods maintain health, and a knowledge of how to prepare them.

About once a year, I write about picky kids. Here are some previous posts on this topic for anyone who wants to conquer this tough situation facing America’s parents, which is almost entirely our own fault, and within our control if we’re patient and persistent:

Nutrition for pregnant moms, babies, toddlers…..part 4 of 5


Remember, what you’re eating when you’re pregnant is also contributing to healthy blood, bones, tissues, and organs—or not.

It’s so painful for me to remember back to eating 7-11 nachos, Diet Coke, a Special Burger and fries (extra fry sauce!) at lunch, and Ben & Jerry’s after dinner, throughout my first pregnancy. I didn’t know any better. I assumed my body was making good fuel for my baby, out of the bad fuel I fed myself—as illogical as that is.

I imagine that’s why I not only gained 65 lbs., but it’s also why my baby developed significant auto-immune problems in his first year of life. With my later pregnancies, I was learning and implementing good nutrition strategies, and the babies were FAR healthier.

My last baby was (and still is, at age 12) completely healthy—never once a bacterial infection of any kind, never any antibiotics or meds or even doctor visits. The labor and delivery got easier, too, when I ate the right foods throughout the pregnancy and gained only 35 lbs. instead of 65!

I can’t even count how many times a 12 Steps to Whole Foods young mom has talked to me after a class I teach, and told me this:

“I’m so thrilled that I changed my diet to eat whole foods, because this last pregnancy has been my easiest and healthiest!”

I’ve had many moms tell me about major complications they had during their earlier pregnancies, while they were eating the Standard American Diet, and how all that changed when they embraced whole-foods fuel.

One mother in Texas told me that with her first 4 children, she was on bed rest, with terrible edema, and pre-eclampsia. As she told me this, she was 9 months pregnant, and beaming ear to ear. She said, “This is my first problem-free pregnancy. I’m about to deliver, and I’m so excited I learned all about whole foods from you.”

My diet now is the diet I would eat if I were pregnant again. The “pregnancy diet” is no different than the ideal diet for life.

It’s high in greens, in vegetables, and in fruits—80% of more of them raw. I also eat cooked legumes (beans, split peas, lentils), and whole grains (organic quinoa, whole wheat, rolled oats or oat groats, spelt, Kamut, buckwheat, millet—most of them sprouted before they are baked at low temperatures). I buy sprouted-grain (whole grain only) bread or English muffins or tortillas at the health food store. But I also make my own granola.

I eat nuts and seeds every day, some of them sprouted, many of them rich sources of essential fatty acids. I soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds to add to my granola.

I use coconut oil on my skin and in occasional baking, for medium-chain triglycerides. I always have a quart of green smoothie a day. Most days, I also have a glass of vegetable juice, although at many points in my life, I’ve not had the time to make juice, and now I hire someone to do it.

I choose big salads in restaurants. I don’t eat refined sugar, ever, nor do I ever drink soda, or eat processed meats, or pork or beef. I eat a 95 percent plant-based diet, and I keep refined foods or animal products at 5 percent or less.

While I was having my babies, I was learning how to do all that. It was new to me then—it is habit now. I didn’t give up sugar cold-turkey back then. I had fits and starts in dealing with my addiction.

My changes involved bucking “the system.” Lots of systems, in fact. The medical system. The social system of parties and barbecues and family events and Easter and Halloween and Christmas. The church system of keeping kids quiet in nursery and later, in class, with junk food. The family system of generations of “comfort foods” that contributed to my babies’ health problems. It wasn’t easy. But it was one of the BEST THINGS I’VE EVER DONE. I’ve never looked back, and I have absolutely zero regret.

What I did HAD TO BE DONE.

So, what I’ve just described my diet being now is a great diet for a pregnant or nursing mom. It’s a terrible idea for a pregnant mom to eat a diet high in refined carbs. The baby does need good protein for brain health, and overall for building. There’s plenty of protein in nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and greens.

If you avoid those good food categories, eating a vegan diet, you’re likely to develop dental problems, blood sugar issues, and fatigue-related disorders. If you want more protein, I suggest a scoop of our whole-food, vegan protein powder added to your green smoothies.

Doctors tell women to eat lots of protein, and everyone’s first thought with protein is meat and dairy. Those are “perfect proteins,” to be sure. But “perfect” doesn’t meant “better”—it just mean it is protein the body doesn’t have to assemble from amino acids, because it matches human flesh very closely. Protein from greens, seeds, legumes, grains, and nuts is protein the body has to work harder to build muscle with. But it’s far more durable muscle mass.

Always eat protein when you’re eating sugars. For instance, if you have a green smoothie and yours is high in fruits, eat a handful of almonds, too, or a bowl of lentil or split pea soup. Or add a scoop of protein powder. I make my green smoothies as high in greens, and as low in fruits, as I can tolerate. Slow down and regulate impact on blood sugar, by eating FIBER and QUALITY PROTEIN. This is how you can, with lifelong habits, avoid insulin problems and eventual diabetes, which currently most of our population is heading toward.

Don’t undertake a major, radical detox program while you’re pregnant or in the first year of nursing. As toxins range your body, on their way out, they flush through a developing fetus, and through your breast milk, as well.

Again, don’t take my advice in lieu of competent practitioner care and counsel.

Tomorrow, we talk once again about WHAT TO DO ABOUT PICKY KIDS.


Should I “eat right for my blood type?”

A recent grad from Institute for Integrative Nutrition applied for the GreenSmoothieGirl Health Coaches certification and said this:

“I’ve studied over 100 nutritional plans, and the 12 Steps to Whole Foods program is the most comprehensive, practical, grounded approach I have found.”

(That’s the goal. I think I’ve studied all those nutrition plans, too. Most have a kernel of truth, or lots of truth, along with, usually, some problems. And many of the diet plans appeal to popular tastes – such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, etc. — rather than being supported by evidence.)

One of the more frustrating diet plans, to me, is the blood type diet. The idea is that you have a certain blood type because your ancestors were from a certain place, so they adapted to a specific diet. You are then instructed, based on having O, A, B, or AB blood, to eat according to the prescription. Vegetarian, highly carnivorous, a mix of the two, grains or no grains, etc.

The diet has no real science backing it. Only a very dubious theory. The theory collapses when you consider that every indigenous population of the world has all the blood types: A, B, AB, and O. It’s also highly problematic when you consider how much genetic mixing and nomadism we’ve had in recent centuries. Few people have both parents going back to the same origins.

Peter D’Adamo fathered the first blood typing program (based on the theory of his father James, both naturopaths) that gave rise to a set of nutrition principles. But others have leveraged the same concept, with different recommendations. It’s tempting, financially, to author a new diet, since those books sell well. I know this all too well, since I waged an epic war with my publisher over the name of my bestseller, The Green Smoothies Diet. I hate the word diet because “diets” don’t work. I wanted to teach good principles, towards a sustainable lifestyle, but my publisher said,

“But American love diet books. They fly off the shelves.”

I lost the war and, in so doing, probably gained financially, as my book was instantly a bestseller for my publisher. It wasn’t a hill I was going to die on, because if it gets the same message out, I can “sell out” on the fairly minor point of a title. (Mostly, I just wanted, on principle, to name my own book!) And Ulysses Press was right—Americans do, apparently, want to “go on” yet another diet.

The whole idea of blood typing does call legitimate attention to the fact that we are all different, with different needs. This doesn’t obviate the fact that there are certain classes of foods that are nutritious to just about everyone. Just because you feel weak if you try to eat only plants, after a lifetime of eating animals, doesn’t mean that for you, vegetables are bad food.

It could mean you are transitioning and cleansing, and that is uncomfortable in the short- to mid-term. It could mean that because degenerative gut problems are nearly ubiquitous (everyone who has indulged in the S.A.D. suffering from them to one extent or another), many of us have developed sensitivities to specific foods. Some of those sensitivities are to good foods. This doesn’t mean that food X or Y is necessarily “bad” for you personally—it may mean that you have a problem to rectify so your body can accept and utilize nutrition from that food class.

Some people are reading this article and preparing to scream at me that I’m wrong because they went on the blood type diet and feel much better. I believe that! But not because you’re eating “correctly” for your blood type.

You feel better because the author of the nutrition program eliminates gluten from the type O diet. That will make everyone feel better, as grains have been hybridized and are causing many people problems. And he tells all type A’s to eat vegetarian, which is actually a good diet for most, if not all, people.

(As always, I refuse to take a stand on whether a limited amount of animal protein is good or desirable or at least acceptable—but it’s clear that more plants, and less animals, is across the board, more environmentally sustainable and more health-promoting.)

You feel better because regardless of your blood type, you’re told to eliminate processed foods such as white flour.

D’Adamo’s theory gets really silly when he tells Type A’s to meditate, Type O’s to do aerobics, etc. (Does this mean Type O’s shouldn’t meditate, and Type A’s shouldn’t exercise their hearts?) He delves into stereotyping personality and character based on blood type, too. It’s really nonsense but can “look” true because some true principles are involved.

Many other experts have soundly debunked D’Adamo’s reasoning and recommendations. He claims type O is the oldest blood type, but in fact, A is. This decimates the crux of his theory. Also, agriculture developed in different parts of the world independently, and his theory is based on unilateral development worldwide and positive outcomes for that development, neither of which is fact.

Most of his theory rests on lectins, proteins on the surfaces of foods that can cause cells or molecules to stick together. But a number of doctors object to the hypotheses the D’Adamos make, saying that there is no documentation of the health effects they predict if you eat “wrong” for your blood type, which virtually everyone does, of course. Michael Klaper, M.D. said that the effects he describes would be fatal for millions of people, if D’Adamo were correct in his theory.

The diets D’Adamo advocates for are not particularly harmful or out-of-the-ordinary, and all of them eliminate the worst of the bad in the Standard American Diet. (He isn’t telling any of the blood types to eat Twinkies or Cocoa Puffs. He is just making certain recommendations within whole-foods groups and macronutrients. Most Americans, of course, are eating Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs! Any  involves less processed food is likely to result in health improvement.)

As a culture, we need better critical thinking skills. We have a long love affair with personality testing and typing, horoscopes, and other ways to try to categorize and make sense of our world. But blood-typing theory is flawed on so many levels. I believe that individuals have specific dietary needs that may fall slightly – not massively — outside a prescribed set of guidelines.

Looking to blood type does not provide those answers. As logic might suggest to you, only experimentation and intuition do.