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Are GreenSmoothieGirl nutrition standards too high?

Robyn Openshaw, MSW - Jun 24, 2008 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

The interesting controversy over my nutrition quiz prompts this post.

I supported myself in high school and college teaching piano lessons, and I taught again for about 10 years when my kids were  small.   When I quit, I had 33 students and a two-year waiting list.   My big frustration, teaching piano, was that while people brought their kids to me because I had high standards, the parents themselves, ironically, often wanted to pull standards downward.   Practicing six days a week, or three recitals a year, or a requirement to play memorized without mistakes—it’s just too much, they’d complain!

Teachers face constant pressure to lower standards.   I constantly face the exact same thing teaching at a nationally renowned business school (recently ranked #1 with recruiters by Business Week).   If you don’t believe me, I submit Exhibit A, my ratings on the no-holds-barred that every professor learns to dread because it’s so anonymous and every student reads it:

If you read that, you get the sense that I’m super intense, right?   Well, I am ranked against my colleagues once a year, and I am smack in the middle of the GPAs handed out in my department—dead average!

Consider that my nutrition quiz—while some say it’s not fair and some say people eating a  good diet get a D on it—would be considered WAY TOO LENIENT by many nutrition experts.   My bar is lower than Robert O. Young’s, Alyssa Cohen’s, Victoria Boutenko’s, Gabriel Cousins’, and Joel Furhman’s.   The raw foodists, the locavores, the alkalarians?   They’d all say I’ve sold out.

That quiz is by no means the end-all, be-all, and I will revise it based on feedback.   But imagine if I’d put points in there for whether or not you’re eating organic (that would take nearly everyone down).   I have quite a few friends (every one of them incredibly healthy and energetic raw foodists, some of whom beat cancer that way) who call the standards of GreenSmoothieGirl “transitional eating”–in other words, not basic and pure enough, just steps on that path.

So, friends, what I’m saying is that we cannot compare ourselves to averages (or even government standards) when those averages and standards have fallen so low.     I’ve been unpopular before, for holding the bar high (but my students thank me later when they’re in the work force and they realized they actually know how to write).   I’d lower the bar if I believed a lower bar was right and good or would help anybody.   If you want to feel good about your diet, the feel-good folks are the dieticians.   Look up their websites, read their recipes full of cheese and meat and processed ingredients (all they do is count calories and fat/carb grams), and see if that’s what you want to guide your growth and progress.

You’ll read more about why and how the USRDA standards are biased and false very shortly, if you’ve been subscribed to’s free e-letter for a while.   The average diet of Americans is an F, not a C.

Guess what happens to teachers when they respond by lowering standards?   You just have a whole new set of people who think your standards are too high.

I’m listening.   So don’t hold back on what you think.   Controversy is good, and it causes what Aristotle called the “dialectic”: a process of change and improvement through pressure and conflict and discussion.   I value it.

But know that the mission of, and 12 Steps to Whole Foods, is about doing something that might seem hard at the outset, one step at a time so that truly anyone can do it.

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food

17 thoughts on “Are GreenSmoothieGirl nutrition standards too high?”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Setting the standard isn’t the problem. It is important to have a pattern to follow, a guide of where the “best” is so that we have something to aim for. Frankly, I didn’t do well on the quiz. That means I have areas to improve, don’t we all? It is also important to find a balance in life. Some things take center stage at certain times more than others, but that doesn’t mean the pattern is wrong or too unfriendly. It just means that your life might not fit it at the time. I love my professors who have challenged me by the way. I would probably love your class based on your rating. I like to be challenged. Otherwise, what’s the point, like of anything? Being better, growing, learning for me that’s what life is all about. If I didn’t have people like you challenging me and the way I do things, I wouldn’t be able to grow.

  2. I don’t necessarily have a problem with most of the conclusions on the quiz.

    I agree; I don’t want to be average. I just strongly that a person living a “rather average Western lifestyle” would score 70-79. I think that’s inaccurate.

  3. http:// says:

    Point well taken, will change it. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you’re setting a high standard in the all important “hotness” category, Robyn;). But seriously , We should all keep in mind that whatever score we get on your test if we’re drinking GS’s we’re way ahead of the average. The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step…and by next year we should all

    see our grade improve if we just do a bit more everyday.

  5. Robyn, I want to first say how much I appreciate this blog. You are truly an inspiration and I read both of your blogs almost daily as it reaffirms many of my husbands and my food choices.

    I’m known to my friends as the “health nut”. I get mocked routinely for my food choices. And yet I scored a 60 on the quiz.

    So with that in mind, these are some of my thoughts on the quiz.

    I am hypoglycemic. I can’t eat many servings of fruit daily. If the fruits and vegetables were combined in one question, I’d score the highest I could score on that particular question. But with the fruits being separate, I’ll score lower. But it’s whats healthiest for me. I’m also not conviced that eating a lot of fruit is good for most people in general. And as you know there are good, better and best fruits as well. I’ve seen people abuse fruits as “health” food.

    The question on legumes I feel is a really good one for vegetarians. But not so much for carnivors. We usually eat legumes on the days that we don’t have lean meats. I know that you don’t agree with meat eating, but we’ve found that it works well for our family. We’re careful about the amount and type of meat that we eat. This is the choice that we’ve made after much research and what we feel is healthiest for our family. I respect those that do not eat meat, but I do not feel that they are healthier than I am for that choice. 🙂

    Also, if there is going to be a question about meat, shouldn’t it differenciate between those that eat bacon and hotdogs and those of us that eat 1/4 grilled chicken breast with a huge homegrown salad?

    Also on the dairy. The question is so broad. We may sprinkle a teaspoon of cheese on pasta, but isn’t that different than eating 4 slices of greasy cheese pizza from the local pizza place?

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the grain issue. I personally don’t eat much grain at all but what I do eat is whole. Fresh ground and homemade.

    I also agree on the raw question. Both on the total diet and the nuts.

    I have to admit that I agree with you on the sprouted, live foods question though it’s not something that I currently do.

    The water question, I think is too lenient! I’m a believer in an ounce a day per lb. of body weight.

    I do drink coffee, but I do so in moderation. I’m not convinced that it’s unhealthy. I drink nothing else except water and the occasional herbal tea.

    I couldn’t agree more about fast foods and refined oils/sugars and exercise.

    The alkaline water, I’ve read so many conflicting reports. I’m just not sure what to believe. And it’s an awfully lot of money for the filter/ionizer without my being completely sure. I’d love more info on this topic.

    And I’m not really convinced that with as many greens as we eat that we need powdered greens in our water. Though I freely admit that I might be missing the boat on this one.

    The smoking is a no brainer. 🙂

    Having said this, I agree that nutrition certainly can’t be graded on a bell curve. But with a quiz like this, it may need to be more specific in certain areas for the results to be as accurate as possible.

    And I agree with what many people have said about the average person scoring MUCH lower than the quiz indicates. At least the vast, vast majority of people that I know. I truly know people who would score a negative. Seriously. And many, many people who would score less than 20. Including children.

    I love the challenge to eat better and your green smoothie has definitely made a difference in our lives. I suppose that it makes many of us feel a bit defensive to read that we’re failing when were making very healthy choices that are just a teeny bit different that yours. 🙂 And would reflect a different score if the quiz were worded a little differently.

    Again, we really appreciate you. It’s obvious that this is your passion. Nutrition happens to be one of my passions as well. So I can truly relate.

    These are just my thoughts. I hope it’s okay to post them here.

  6. http:// says:

    Good thoughts, and of course I don’t mind. Good point about lean/range fed meats vs. bacon/nitrate processed meats. I think you’re right that many children and some adults would score a 0. I also agree that fewer fruits IF you eat the difference in vegs is actually better (though no one but those with serious blood sugar issues are going to do this, I think, but one should get bonus points for MORE veg consumption).

    As a lifelong hypoglycemic myself, though, I do fine with 4 fruits/day. Studies say that fruit eating does not contribute to diabetes causation, for instance, like refined sugars do. And fruits are all some people feel they can get their kids to eat. I think fruits get abused as a health food, too–like all the junk like juice and fruit snacks that have “5 percent fruit” in it that moms buy, thinking, there’s our fruit servings for the day.

    Thanks for writing this up–I will see if I can address these things (and others’ comments, including making it interactive) in Rev 2 before I unbury it deep in my site and put it as a tab on the home page.

  7. Anonymous says:


    I think Michelle did a good job of pointing out most of the ambiguity in the nutrition quiz.

    There are two things I’d add to her list, First is in regard to the question about legumes. Many people think if they eat refried beans seasoned with lard or baked beans drenched in sugar/HFCS that they are eating healthy. So a bean burrito from Taco Bell is very different than a homemade bean burrito made at home without oil on a whole wheat tortilla.

    The other question is about water. I think the quiz should say plain water. Many people drink water that is laced with Crystal Lite or Gatorade, etc.

    Of course, I do disagree with her about coffee. You knew I would though! 😉 Perhaps you can share some articles about the dangers of coffee drinking. 🙂

    Anyway, I agree with you. Too many people set the bar too low when it comes to nutrition. Some do better than others but we can all do better.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My husband suffers from gout. We dance a very risky dance when I introduce legumes for dinner. His body can’t get rid of the uric acid in his body fast enough! He’s already had 6 attacks of gout this year which is VERY unlike him. 🙁

  9. http:// says:

    Gout is such a drag. It’s one of those awful conditions that I hope to keep others from enduring, by encouraging folks to change their lifestyles before chronic disease occurs. That said, chronic conditions can so often be reversed or dramatically ameliorated, and I hope that happens for your husband, Yvette!

    Sandra, my mom taught me to make refried beans with bacon fat, which I used to do 20 years ago, yuck! I think now even Taco Bell (and most canned refried beans) don’t use lard or even much fat at all; am I wrong? This isn’t to promote Taco Bell, just wondering.


  10. Robyn,

    I tried adding coconut oil to our dinner tonight instead of the butter and olive oil it called for. I can’t be sure if that is what made the difference or not – but when i ate the first bite, my throat got really irritated and forced me to cough it up. I hope this wasn’t because of some allergy that I wasn’t aware of. But it could be. What do you think?

    I was also wondering, because coconut oil comes from the pressing of the milk, does that mean that coconut milk is just as good for you as coconut oil? I have always heard that it has so much fat in it and makes a meal like curry really high in fat.

  11. http:// says:

    The more whole the food, the better nutritionally–so yes, coconut milk is good for you! Coconuts are high in fat, but read about that on the coconut oil pages (see homepage), because abundant evidence suggests that this is not a fat to avoid . . . in moderation, of course. Not sure what caused your reaction, since it was just the first time–try again in some other food?

  12. Anonymous says:


    You have to be very careful about buying canned refried beans. I bought some today because I didn’t have time to make them. I saw a can that had green chilies added to it(I think it was the Old El Paso brand). I thought Yum! I love green chilies! But my skepticism of the food industry prompted me to look at the ingredients – yep, lard. UGH! I always buy the vegetarian refried beans and I always look at the label to make sure they are truly vegetarian.

    According to this information about TB’s refried beans ( they do not contain lard. They do contain partially hydrongenated corn oil, some preservative B?HT, and Calcium Chloride. So they are bad but not as bad as those having lard.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Well I liked the quiz, I guess because I scored high, but I eat raw foods.

  14. Anonymous says:


    I kinda can relate to Tricia’s complaint about the irritation of the throat caused by coconut products. I only eat coconut rarely because of this allergy. My reaction isn’t quite as bad as hers, though.

  15. http:// says:

    Have you seen this? It’s a long documentary on global warming but it’s quite interesting.

  16. Robyn,

    While I was somewhat incensed by getting a high level “c” on this quiz, after thinking about it, I realized that I do have some work to do. I’m with some of the other commenters in certain respects, but had a question. Does the China Study address meats that aren’t red? We eat 2-3 oz of fish a couple times a week and generally ground turkey once. I might eat red meat once a month (if I have bison at Ted’s) at most, but didn’t turn up anything in an admittedly cursory Goodle search. I was a vegetarian for 13 years but really felt like I needed to eat meat somewhat routinely, and feel significantly better as I do.

    I understand where you’re coming from in terms of farm-raised versus wild and mercury content, etc., this is just a personal conviction, and I was wondering if there was data out there.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I wish I’d read this post before I put my comments on the first blog about the quiz! I totally agree that when you read Dr. Fuhrman and others that they would not think that the diet you are recommending is strict enough.

    I think that I agree that it is transitional. The HUGE plus is that I think it is also ACHIEVABLE for many people. I read “Eat to Live,” and while I agree with many of his points I just can’t eat that way right now. In the back of my mind though, I think maybe after a year on the GS diet… I could do it. That is one real strength of your way of eating. It is a move to a higher plane than most of us are on with our diet, and can help build confidence to move up again at some point, to something even healthier if we want to, but it is doable NOW. (Ok – maybe not now, but maybe by tomorrow, lol!)

    I’m learning a lot as I am reading (I’m a compulsive researcher) and I’m so glad!

    Thanks Robyn!


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