Staying Healthy and Gluten-Free During the Holidays

by Lyn Clark

Holistic Nutritionist and founder of The Health Nut

The holidays should be one of the best times of year, however, many of us lose sight of how to keep our bodies healthy and happy during the holidays. Here are just three simple tips to make sure you survive the holidays!

1.  Maintain good immune health  

With all the holiday preparations that lie ahead, make sure you take care of yourself to stay healthy and strong.  If you start to feel a little run down, you may want to increase your vitamin intake. The best vitamins to incorporate into your daily regime would be the ones that both boost and ensure your immune system is staying strong. I suggest that my clients take vitamin C and D3 this time of year.  A good multi-vitamin that’s gluten-free and made with whole foods is a good choice as well.  It is important to check with your doctor before starting a new supplement routine.  Probiotics are also key to maintain a healthy gut and immune system.

2.  Eat for optimal nutrition.

Focus on eating nutrient dense whole foods, such as green vegetables, gluten-free ancient grains and good fats. Avoid or limit eating processed foods and refined sugars as these will make you sluggish. The most nutritious gluten-free, ancient grain choices are teff, quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown rice and dedicated gluten-free oats. They are filled with higher amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals than processed white and wheat flours, as well as rice flours.

Healthy fats are important to incorporate into your daily diet as they help keep your body satisfied longer and aid in brain function. I recommend using cold-pressed coconut oil when cooking foods at high temperatures and olive oil when making salad dressings or cooking food at temperatures below 250 degrees.  Both can be used for baking as well.

Keep healthy gluten-free snacks with you at all times so that you can keep your blood sugar balanced. Great grab and go snacks are fresh fruits, raw nuts, cut-up vegetables with hummus and a Zemas Madhouse Foods gluten-free, ancient grain muffin. See here for their gluten-free Cinnamon-Oatmeal Apple Muffin mix.

Don’t forget to eat breakfast before you start planning and cooking for your holiday! Eating a healthy, gluten-free breakfast with ancient grains will help supply you with the energy you need to be productive during this hectic time of year.

3.  Love yourself.  While you’re trying to keep your energy up and complete all your holiday errands, don’t forget to love yourself.  Give your body time to recharge and relax. Try meditating, exercising, journaling, or take a relaxing bath. All of these   things will help reset your batteries.Enjoy this family favorite recipe:

Gluten-Free Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Beans and Greens

Serves 4


4 sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup fresh cilantro

1/4-teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups (or 1 can) cooked and drained black beans

6 cups kale, trimmed and sliced into ribbons

Juice of 1/4 lime

Salt (to taste)

Chopped avocado (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Scrub the sweet potatoes and prick them in a few places with a fork. Place them on a baking sheet and bake until soft all the way through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Start to cook the beans, onions, garlic and greens about 15 to 20 minutes before the sweet potatoes are done.

In a wide, deep saucepan with a cover, heat the coconut oil over low-moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the kale, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the kale is soft. Stir in the cilantro, lime juice, and season to taste with salt.

To serve, slice each sweet potato lengthwise and push on the ends to open up the middle. Spoon the beans and greens into the center. Top with diced avocado.

Happy Holidays!

Lyn Clark can be found at



Farmer’s Market Tips & Seasonal Nutrition: By Elyse Wagner

As a nutritionist, summer is one of my favorite times of the year! I love the variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits available at your local farmer’s market! There, you’ll find wonderful ingredients to create and enjoy delicious and nutritious meals for you and your family. It’s a great time of year to experiment with new ingredients. There are so many different ways to eat, but one of the easiest is to eat in season. Let’s break down why eating in season is best. Read more

Healthy Eaters? - See If You Really Eat Healthy by Dr. Dena Mendes

Daily food ingredients that most people eatIt never ceases to amaze me when I talk to clients or prospective clients who profess they are in perfect health, yet they are somehow perplexed at how their bodies are misbehaving. Although they seem to believe that they are eating healthy, these people display all manner of physical manifestations. The evidence points to a person who does not eat healthy. In their defense, there is such an overwhelming amount of nutritional information noise out there. Sadly much of it is misinformation and it becomes very confusing and misleading. Some of our dieting decisions can actually lead to more harm than good when it comes to our personal health. My favorite part of my job is showing up to the scene of the crime, a kitchen. It is there I find out that they are, in fact, not eating as healthy as they think. Here are three types of people who think they are on the right track. When, in fact, they might just be a bit off track:

THE VEGETARIAN. – Of course a plant based diet is optimal for our overall health. However there are some people who suffer from deficiencies when they do not consume enough animal protein. If you happen to be a vegetarian who “secretly fantasizes” about eating meat, listen to your body! Small portions of grass fed organic, high quality meat could actually be healthier for you after all. Many teens proudly announce: “I’m a vegetarian.” However, they are typically on the more inflamed or even chubby side. This tells me they were filling their diets with wheat and gluten meat substitutes such as bread, pasta and or dairy. Be aware of the inflammatory issues that arise from this way of eating.

THE FAT ‘FRAIDY CAT’. – It’s certainly true that consuming large amounts of saturated fat can have distinct health ramifications and make us fat. However, there are actually fats that are good for you and essential to our health. Another problem with “low fat” foods are that they are typically loaded with sugar, salt and other chemicals that store themselves in our adipose (fat). Thus they make us hold on to fat and never let it go! Good healthy fats actually help us to speed the metabolism and lose weight. Good fats also help our skin hair and nails flourish as good oils act as anti-wrinkle and anti-inflammatory substances. So go ahead, load up on coconut, avocado, olive, sesame and grape seed oils!

JUNK FOOD JUNKIE. – Most of us lead busy lifestyles so we grab a bar on the go or packaged “organic” or “gluten free” foods that are quick and easy. However, we thus may be consuming mostly dead energy all day and never incorporating real live enzymes. GMO (genetically modified organism) foods are also a huge problem. Buyer beware – nothing, nothing can ever replace the imperative whole home aide cooked foods that our bodies require to stay alive. You must always keep in mind — there is no simpler equation than “what we put in we get out”!Soda Can


THE CALORIE OBSESSOR – I love these people! They typically eat all manner of crap as long as it is low in calories. Honestly, calories are the last thing I am looking at. I want to know what is in the product I am consuming first and foremost, so I read the ingredients. It is truly not about the quantity of food, it’s all about the quality!!

THE DIET OBSESSOR – My advice is to enjoy eating and make foods that taste good. Try your best to eat organic, grass fed foods that are dairy, gluten and refined sugar-free. But by all means when you are out at a restaurant with friends simply do the best you can and enjoy your meal with no guilt. Then rein in the next day eating a bit cleaner as you will soon see how much better you feel on your own home cooked meals when you have control over the ingredients.

THE GLUTEN FREE GLUTTON - buyer beware!, these people consume everything and anything as long as it says gluten free. But there are chemicals in so many of the gluten free products that are even more unhealthy, even dangerous than simply consuming a good quality sprouted whole grain so make sure you once again choose quality over quantity!

can with a diet label

THE SELF DECEIVER - these are people who want to act as though they have no idea that genetically modified food even exist. These people look at me like I have three heads when I point out the obvious fact that there is MSG (monosodium glutamate) *in their Hidden Valley Ranch dressing or in the bouillon cube they are using to make their “healthy” soup. These are the same people who act shocked when I tell them that their sugar free Yoplait yogurt is loaded with chemicals that could kill a small horse. Their chewing gum is such a shock that I must actually pull up the ingredients on the internet to show them just how bad it is to chomp all day on such a small seemingly harmless piece of gum. How do you think the flavor lasts so long? Those chemicals pack a powerful punch! My motto is that all people are as unique as their finger print and require different foods to sustain their unique body types based on the environment in which they live. For the best results go with what your ancestors ate and what makes you feel great! Go ahead and gain that new sense of yourself, don’t give your power away. You came into this world with all the inner knowing and guidance you will ever need, so simply follow your intuitive prowess. My guru used to say, “eat it today if you feel good tomorrow keep eating that way, if you don’t then stop or enjoy the pain”.



Dena is licensed and certified as a Health Coach, Holistic yoga instructor, Holistic Chef and Pranic healer. Dr. Mendes received her degree in broadcast journalism and public health from Arizona State University, has attended prestigious alternative health programs at Harvard and Northwestern Universities and holds a Doctor of Naturopathy degree.


To learn more about U contact Dena at or call 847.909.3362



Race Day Tips, Lara Field, Certified Pediatric Dietician

As Seen on CBS 2 Chicago!” 

April kicks off the major race season across the country and for many runners heading out to their big race day, what to eat and how to nourish your body and belly should be top of mind.

Board-certified specialist in pediatrics, registered dietitian Lara Field, a runner herself, has some great tips for racers to maximize their race day and fuel up for the long run.


Female Runner1) Hydrate! 

There are many hydration options on the market and keeping your body full of electrolytes is of utmost importance to having a successful race. COMPARE: GATORADE, COCONUT WATER, AND PLAIN WATER

-       Gatorade is actually categorized as a “sugary drink”; scientifically formulated specifically for endurance athletes, its combination of sugars and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) are important to replenish after excessive sweating. Ideal for a long event (1+hrs), but should be removed your everyday pantry due to sugar content.  *Zemas founder, Jill Motew, does not advocate drinking Gatorade due to the color dyes.

-       Coconut water deemed “mother nature’s sports drink” naturally contains potassium and carbohydrates, however unlike Gatorade, the sodium content is sub-optimal which is key during times of excessive sweating.

-       Water is imperative to replace fluid lost through sweat during exercise, however it lacks the proper balance of sodium, potassium, and glucose which are important to replace during long-distance or endurance events.

Drink about 8-16 oz for every 15 minutes of exercise, for those events that EXCEED one hour, consider a sports drink that contains sodium, potassium, and carbohydrates. Keep the sports drinks out of the reach of children due to the sugar content.

coconut water


2) Watch your intake before race day - and during race munchies

Don’t wait until the night before to eat a huge portion of carbs you may not be used to. Complex carbohydrates include millet, amaranth, teff and gluten-free oats (for those needing gluten-free) contain SUSTAINED energy, break down slowly which make them ideal for long events. Try Zemas Black Bean Brownie Bites for all these grains packed into one chocolatey yummy bite!







Instead of artificial energy gels, why not make one at home?


Servings: 5 (slightly less than 1/4 cup each)


1/2 cup frozen tart cherries

1/2 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp honey


1. In a blender or food processor, blend cherries and orange juice. Add in chia seeds and salt. (It will be slightly foamy on top)

2. Let chia mixture sit for 5 minutes, then give a good stir. Let sit for another 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

3. Add honey and thoroughly combine (it should be really thick). Pour slightly less than 1/4 cup of gel into 5 individual snack size plastic baggies.

4. Freeze until the night before a run. Place in fridge to thaw.

To consume: 

You can just rip a hole in the side of the plastic bag and eat the mixture straight up. OR dilute the mixture with water and consume throughout your run in a normal water bottle

Nutrition info per servings: 104 calories,  2 g fat (0 g sat fat), 1.5 g pro, 24 g carb, potassium 55 mg, sodium 60 mg


3) Sleep! 

Make sleep a priority, especially the week before a big race.  You work your body hard and long to train, but rest and sleep are just as important.  Try to AVOID CAFFEINE after noon.  Set a bedtime ritual that allows you to decompress after a long day.  Instead of watching an action packed movie, try reading a book.

Good luck!

Lara Field is the founder of

Earth Day Tips for Going Green and Eating Clean

Every year on Earth Day the world joins together to help make our planet a better place.  Some plant a garden, pick up trash or try to monitor their waste.  Eating healthy, minimally processed foods can really help the environment too. Our global food system can contribute to waste in a big way through production, consumption, and debris.

Barcode Earth day.

Celebrating Earth Day on April 22 is a wonderful way to bring your family together and educate your kids about the importance of going green and eating clean.

Shop Organic and Non-GMO

Make healthy food choices that are good for both you and the environment.  Foods that are non-genetically modified organisms (non-GMO)  mean they are minimally processed and clean. The less food is processed, the less energy is required to make it, and the smaller environmental footprint food takes.

food scientist in field

Our ancient whole grain, gluten-free baking mixes are made using natural ingredients that are non-GMO, minimally processed and nutritious. Our mixes are labeled with the trusted Non-GMO Project Verified so we guarantee our ingredients are wholesome.  Zemas uses only ancient whole grains, including teff, quinoa flakes and millet, which provide a natural source of vitamins and minerals, and are easily digestible. Each mix also contains Zemas superseed trio (chia, hemp and flax meal) with built-in omega-3’s (healthy fats that fight inflammation), fiber, and protein for added nutrition.

Buying organic produce instead of conventional or eating grains like nutrient-rich quinoa instead of rice are other options for organic, non-GMO products.  The best organic produce often comes from local farms, for instance. Shopping local translates to a shorter time in transport and less fuel.

Go Vegan for the Week

Earth Day is the perfect time to try a vegan diet: no milk, cheese, eggs, honey or gelatin. A vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, all which require fewer resources to produce than meat and dairy. Not only are you eating healthy, but you are protecting our water, forests, climate and planet as a whole.

Cooking vegan doesn’t have to be complicated; fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, healthy grains (choose ancient grains for the nutrients), an array of different spices, and nuts are all staples.  Stock your fridge with plenty of vegetables and fruits, and have healthy oils on-hand in your pantry. Veganism is incredibly good for you and your body.  All our mixes are labeled with the trusted Vegan certification.

Send “Environmentally Unfriendly” Packaging Packing

The packaging of food has a huge impact on our environment.  We are committed to to “clean” products and this translates into its new packaging, which is made from recycled paper and we are proud to be Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) Certified. The SFI label means our packaging is made from paper sourced from a certified forest and materials are recycled using socially sound practices. SFI promotes sustainable forestry management, improved forestry practices and responsible purchasing of forest products.

Use Less Energy for the Week

Try and see where you can eliminate the use of unnecessary energy.  Leave your car in the garage for the week to cut down on energy and try walking or biking. Public transportation is also available in many cities, which helps reduce energy.  If this is not an option, save up all your errands for one day and just use your car on one day.  Check your schedule for the week and see where and when you can cut out driving.

Use less electricity and tap into green energy sources like wind or solar if they are available.  Some ways to save electricity can include using natural light, changing your bulbs to LED, unplugging appliances, and turning off the lights when you are away from home.

Community Service

Joining a community service project on Earth Day is a great way to give back to our planet and meet new people in your community. Get your whole family involved in a project., such as cleaning up a local park, beach, or forest preserve.  Check your local park districts or facilities for opportunities.

Separating recyclables from the trash is also something the whole family can do.  Many communities have opportunities to help with this on a large scale. If nothing seems to be available, put together your own Earth Day project.  Decide what YOU think is a great project and get family and friends together to help.

Consider these Earth Day tips to eat more conscientiously while acting more environmentally responsibly.  YOU can make a difference!

To get your kids in the Earth Day spirit, let them “dig in the dirt” in your kitchen by making Zemas Gluten-Free Dirt Dessert.


Zemas Gluten-Free Dirt Dessert

 This is a great recipe to celebrate on Earth Day.  It requires some planning.  You will need 8-10 pre made Zemas Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies (defrosted from freezer works, too).  You will also need 2 cans of full fat coconut milk put in fridge the night before.

Step #1:

Pastry cream:

4 egg yolks

1 ½ T arrowroot/tapioca starch

1/3 c. palm sugar

1 1/3 c. almond milk(or milk of choice)

2 t. pure vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients except for vanilla, in a saucepan.   Over a high heat, bring the ingredients to a boil while stirring constantly with a whisk.  Once it boils, lower the heat and simmer until thickened still stirring, this will keep the pastry cream smooth.  Once thickened, stir in the vanilla.  Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap (the plastic should touch the cream).  Place in refrigerator to cool.

Vegan Pastry Cream (go Vegan for Earth Day!):

Make the pastry cream without the eggs.  Follow the recipe as is, but when you add the vanilla also add in 3 tablespoons dairy free butter.

Step #2:

Whipped Cream:

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

6 T. pure maple syrup

1 t. vanilla

In a mixer fitted with the whip attachment combine all the ingredients and mix on high speed, until peaks form.

Step #3al health food store)

1 bag gluten-free, vegan gummy worms(available on Amazon or in your local health food store)

8 pre-made Zemas Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies, crumbled so it resembles dirt

Step #4:


Fold the whipped cream into the pastry until it is all combined.  Pour this into a deep glass dish(this is the inner Earth’s core).  Spread crumbled brownie crumbs evenly across the pastry layer.  This is your dirt.  Decorate with the gummy worms.  Dig in and enjoy.


Go Wheatless, But Don’t Lose Your Mind by Tara Heath, LA based freelance health writer

Have you recently found out that you have an allergy to gluten? Perhaps you simply want to remove gluten from your diet because it may be causing you to gain unwanted weight and is producing other adverse effects. Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle may sound easy at first, but in truth, it is much harder than most originally think.

Gluten is in so many different products – some that seem harmless – so you really have to pay attention to ingredients lists to make sure you aren’t consuming anything containing gluten. On top of that, it’s probably necessary for you to give up some of your favorite foods in order to support your new lifestyle.

Yes, transitioning into a new diet may be more difficult than you first thought. However, with some tips, you can make the transition as smooth as possible and make living a gluten-free lifestyle a success.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Know what to look for.

Educating yourself is the best way to make the transition into a gluten-free lifestyle a success. It is important that you are aware of what products constitute as gluten. You will not be able to eat anything that contains wheat, barley, rye, or triticale. These are all grains that contain the gluten protein and cause adverse effects on your body, which is why you are giving up gluten products in the first place.

Know where to look.

Don’t just assume that gluten is only in food, or that it is very easy to determine what products contain this protein. Yes, there are some products that you will automatically know not to consume, such as bread, but don’t give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you already know and can easily identity other products that contain gluten. Food is sneaky - sometimes the things you least expect can be your worst enemy.

There are many things that do contain some type of derivative of gluten, and you may never even know it. Common places where this ingredient can be lurking include:

·         Beer

·         Croutons

·         Energy bars

·         Matzo

·         Marinades

·         Medications

·         Salad dressings

·         Lunch meat

·         Imitation seafood

·         Sauces

·         Gravies



Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Always read the labels of all products that you buy to ensure that you are buying gluten-free. If you are unsure of the contents of a product, avoid buying it or do further research before you purchase it to make certain it is gluten-free. There are dozens of sites online that offer great resources to help you in determining what does, and does not, fit your lifestyle.

Cook for yourself.

Eating out at restaurants or even at other people’s houses is sometimes a challenge. You don’t want to put other people out because of your inability to consume gluten. Furthermore, restaurants cannot guarantee that the dishes they prepare you won’t contain gluten. The best way to play it safe is to prepare your own meals, this way you can avoid hassle and stress.

If you do have plans to eat out at a restaurant, do some research before you get there. Take a look at the menu and find out if you’ll be able to make substitutions. More and more restaurants are adapting their menus for those with gluten sensitivities.

Be Patient with Yourself.

Such a strict change in diet is difficult to adjust to. You may feel stressed out, or irritable because you have to give up certain foods that you love. Don’t assume that you are going to breeze through this transition with ease. Know that there will be hurdles and allow yourself some space so you can successfully jump over them. Being too hard on yourself only makes matters more difficult to deal with.

Remember - you are not just talking about a diet change, you are talking about an entire lifestyle change when make the decision to go gluten-free. With these tips, the transition will be as smooth and as painless as possible. It is going to take some effort, but you will be able to succeed.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She enjoys eating healthy and clean foods. You can find more of her work at the blog on


Processed Vegan Foods To Avoid


So, you’ve just gone vegan for your health, for ethical reasons and possibly for the environment. As long as you compensate for the protein loss of animal products, it’s all good, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of products out there that can, in good faith, claim to be vegan, but that can be, in reality, very unhealthy for you.

Here is a rogue’s gallery of nefarious vegan processed foods that are commonly accepted as “health food” and the dangers each poses:

For many people, tofu symbolizes the idea of a healthy, meat-free diet. Unfortunately, it can lead to a whole complex of imbalances and digestive problems. First of all, tofu is made from soy, which means you’re taking in high levels of phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors. These not only make tofu hard to digest, they can also block proper absorption of essential minerals and vitamins.
Furthermore, soy contains phytoestrogens, a chemical that can throw your hormone levels off kilter. This can cause irregular menstrual cycles among women and mood swings in nearly everyone.

To make matters worse, most tofu that is sold in America is highly processed and nearly all of it is genetically modified, therefore, if you can’t part with tofu, make sure it’s organic. Better yet, eat sprouted tofu.
Since soy is best digested when fermented, if you want to rely on it as a protein alternative, consider tempeh or miso. And, though the aroma and consistency are off-putting to some people, the Asian superfood natto is another fermented soy option.
Protein Powders
One of the biggest challenges for vegans and vegetarians is getting adequate protein intake in the absence of meat and dairy. With this in mind, whey, soy or rice additives are a common go-to. The problem is that these staples of protein shakes and smoothies are likely to include artificial flavoring and may present to problems of GMOs in soy.
If you still want a convenient way of getting non-animal proteins into your diet, make sure you buy New Zealand whey protein isolate.
Fake Meats
Many vegans and vegetarians grew up in meat-eating households and find cravings for bacon or sausage hard to bury. In the last twenty years, veggie dinners and freezer aisles have began to offer meat-tooth simulations with names like “Fakin’” or “Tofurky” that seem too good to be true. In fact, they are.

A quick glance at almost any of the many soy-meat substitutes’ ingredient list will disabuse people who think they’re getting a “natural” alternative to meats. The endless list of processed ingredients is enough to make a chemistry major wince. Furthermore, since many vegan/vegetarians adopt their diet for environmental reasons, the fact that these non-animal protein sources are bad for Mother Earth’s health is a double whammy.
Vegetable Oils

The “vegetable” part of the equation can be a smokescreen for vegetarians who think they’re getting a healthful alternative to animal oils and fats. While it’s true that canola or sunflower oils are vegan, there are few food products that can compete with the harmful effects of vegetable oils.

Vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fats—fats our bodies are not meant to digest. On a chemical level, polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and likely to oxidize, which increases cell mutation. As you may guess, mutations increase the likelihood of cancer, reproductive problems and heart issues—a bitter irony, since many vegetable oils are touted as “heart smart.”
For the very same reasons, margarines and butter substitutes are to be avoided. Instead, turn to coconut, olive and palm oils for delicious cooking alternatives.
Maintaining a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet is more difficult than it seems. Always be sure to check out the ingredients listed on all of your food items that claim to be “heart-smart” and when in doubt, go for organic.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in Los Angeles who covers everything from health and wellness to marketing and technology. She currently writes for, which enables her to advocate for healthier lifestyles through vitamins and supplements.

Seasons Say It All!


Back in the very old days our great grandparents ate from what was available in their environment. Today we are lucky we get food from all over the world and our brilliant scientists have figured out a way to make food available to us in the winter that is befitting for the summer.

Are we really that lucky?

Mother Nature naturally and brilliantly offers us bountiful foods that are befitting for the season. Why? Because they are the foods that promote our perfect health for that particular season and that correlate to a specific organ which in turn connects us with a different emotion.

Take fall, for example, which is “lung season” that is connected to the emotion of grief and sadness. This means old stuck reflections of sadness might come up on you during this season.

This is the time to eat white foods such as onions, leaks, cauliflower, almonds, daikon radish, potatoes, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, apple, pear, rice, oats, sesame seeds, garlic, and white peppercorns.

Note that white flour and white sugar are not part of these Lung-strengthening foods! In fact, they can further deplete the immune system.

After lung season we move into kidney season as we dive deeper into the winter months.  Though winter is my least favorite season, I recognize all seasons have their purpose. Winter is the season to pull inward and hibernate to ground and root. Kidneys relate to the emotions of fear and anxiety.  For slender people this is the worst season, we cannot seem to stay warm. People with more adipose are stronger due to insulation.  Food can help us to stay warm and heal through this season.

Root vegetable stew is one of my favorites that incorporate many of the rooting grounding qualities that are essential during the kidney season of winter.  Don’t be afraid to use those interesting roots that you may never have tried, such as rutabaga, turnip, burdock, daikon, parsnip, carrots and squash. To find recipes incorporating these yummy roots download my free cookbook available at

Stay warm, rest, cut back on sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy and cold raw foods. Consume much more warming nourishing foods such as stews and soups along with warming herbs such as ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric.

Health and Light

Dr. Dena Mendes

Dena is a licensed and certified Health Coach, holistic yoga instructor, holistic chef and pranic healer.  Dr. Dena received her degree in broadcast journalism and public health from Arizona State University, has attended prestigious alternative health programs at Harvard and Northwestern Universities and holds a Doctor of Naturopathy degree.  She lives in the North Shore of Chicago with her two children.

Sugar: More Than Just Empty Calories


What do the following conditions have in common?




-Difficulty concentrating


-Memory problems

-Brain fog

-Mood swings



-Joint pain


-Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

-Metabolic syndrome (prediabetes)

-Type II diabetes

-Heart disease


-Alzheimer’s disease

They’re all linked to sugar.

But aren’t sweets ok to enjoy in moderation?  Isn’t sugar merely “empty calories”?   That way of thinking has led to the tsunami of chronic diseases listed above.  The truth is that sugar disrupts metabolism, suppresses the immune system, and causes inflammation. The progression towards disease starts long before a diagnosis is made.  For example, many people have normal fasting blood sugar levels, but may be unaware that their insulin levels spike after eating, as an insulin challenge test is seldom ordered during standard lab work-ups.

Insulin dysregulation leads not only to belly fat, prediabetes and Type II diabetes, but to heart disease, cancer (cancer cells feed on sugar), and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, which is being called Type III Diabetes. Tragically, children as young as four years old are being diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which now affects 90 million Americans.  You don’t have to be overweight to be prediabetic or have a fatty liver.  Visceral fat hugs our vital organs.  The culprit is the 158 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour consumed in a year by the average American.

Hunter-gatherers consumed about 20 teaspoons of sugar per year. That’s because sugar was available either as fruit for only a few months a year during harvest time, or as honey guarded by bees.  But today sugar is added to nearly all processed foods.  So in nature sugar is hard to get, but we’ve made it easy.

Sugar is everywhere.  Walk down an aisle in a supermarket and pick up anything that comes in a bag, a box or a can.  Chances are pretty good that you’ll see some form of sugar on the label.  Don’t be fooled if it’s organic or has a health claim on the front.  Even canned organic corn has sugar added.  Some barbeque sauces have as much sugar as a candy bar.

Sugar may also be hiding under an assumed name.  Look out for barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane juice, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, polydextrose, fructose, or the health food industry’s current favorite: agave nectar.  Processed grains such as bagels, breads, muffins, pastas, cereals, crackers and chips are just another form of sugar as well.  Even those products advertised as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” fall into the sugar category.

More addictive than heroin, cocaine, tobacco or alcohol, sugar acts on the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs, so we crave it.  This behavior served us well, evolutionarily speaking.  Our ancestors gorged themselves on wild berries in the fall, gained belly fat, and thus were able to survive the famine of the coming winter.  We’re doing the same thing: devouring sugar on a daily basis, but the difference is we’re doing this day in, day out, all year round.



If you suffer from sugar cravings, the following tips may be helpful:

-Eat protein and healthy fats, such as avocado or olive oil, with every meal.

-Eat foods with more grams of fiber than grams of sugar.

-Eat every 2-3 hours for blood sugar control.

-Have only 1 serving of fruit per day.

-For those times that call for a sweet food, choose wisely and eat mindfully. Enjoy baked goods made with coconut sugar or raw, unprocessed honey.

-Spend time soothing yourself without sugar.  When a craving hits, thinks of what would really feel good.  Nothing beats the sweetness of meaningful social connections and pleasurable activities.


Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Director, Feed Your Mind Wellness, LLC.


Myths and Facts about the Gluten-Free Diet by Lara Fields


When is choosing a gf diet a good idea, outside of having Celiac Disease or a Wheat/gluten allergy?

Gluten-free foods are simply foods without wheat, rye, and barley. Thus, when asked if anyone can go on a gluten-free diet, the answer is always, yes! Technically speaking, gluten is not necessary for a nutrient-dense, healthful diet. With that said, it is important to always choose the right foods, just as you should on a gluten-containing diet, or else you could create a nutritional nightmare.

In general, too many consumers are eating a large quantity of refined carbohydrates, and most often, these products are made with white flour, rice, or corn. Everything from crackers, to cookies, to cereal bars, most of these products are made from wheat, and contain enriched white flour as the first ingredient.  These foods, when consumed in excess are the source of weight gain for many.  Thus, it is crucial to choose foods that contain nutritionally dense grains/seeds such as quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, flax and chia. And further, it is always important to choose a balanced diet, including a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and calcium-rich dairy or dairy alternatives.

When first going gluten free, what should one look for on product labels?  Just the gf certification logo, manufacturing statements, ingredients, all or just one?

Gluten-free labeling is one of the most confusing topics for consumers. The FDA was mandated to draft and implement a proposed definition for “gluten-free” and how it is used on food labels in the US by 2008.  However, at this time, a final ruling has not been established. Once the final definition is in effect, the term “gluten-free” will be voluntary for use in the labeling of foods. Thus, it will be up to manufacturers discretion whether or not they wish to label their product “gluten-free”.

Currently, there are no universal labeling standards for all food products in terms of the food product’s gluten-free status.  Thus, there is no legal definition for gluten-free.

Thanks to the Gluten Intolerance Group, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) was established to review products and manufacturing facilities for gluten and provide assurance to consumers of the safety of the foods. Until the FDA rule is passed, consumers can rely on the GFCO seal to determine if a product is safe (<10ppm gluten).

The GFCO performs a rigorous ingredient review, on-site inspection, and ongoing testing to ensure a product is safe. Aside from the GFCO “stamp,” there is no other universally recognized, reliable testing method of gluten-free products. Consumers should look for the GFCO stamp on products to ensure their product is free of gluten.

In addition to the GFCO stamp, consumers should read the ingredient listing to determine if a product is gluten-free. The ingredients (on the actual package of food versus the product website, which may be outdated) are the single best way to understand what is contained in the particular food product.

It is also voluntary for food manufacturers to provide information about cross contact or exposure with gluten-containing products.  By definition, ingredients on a package must only reflect what is contained in the package, rather than what the food product may come in contact with during manufacturing.  Thus, a manufacturer need not disclose if a particular food is made on shared equipment with gluten-containing ingredients.

What’s a basic “Toolbox” of pantry items to keep on hand for clean, healthy gf cooking and baking?

The following items are must-haves for every gluten-free pantry.

Gluten-free oats – A fantastic source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, and oats have proven effective in lowering cholesterol. Historically, oats were restricted on a gluten-free diet, however research shows they are safe to include on a gluten-free diet, as long as they are pure, and uncontaminated.

Flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed) – Not only a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but flaxseed also is rich in lignans, which may provide some protection from cancer (specifically breast cancer). Further, flaxseed meal is an excellent source of protein and fiber. Mix 1 TBSP flaxseed meal with 3 TBSP water, let sit for 10 minutes, and you have a nutrient-packed egg substitute that can be used in baking.

Assorted nuts/nut flours (almonds/almond flour, walnuts, pecans, pistachios) – Many gluten or grain-free recipes utilize nuts and nut flours to provide texture in baked goods.  Nuts are an incredible source of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin E, selenium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Chia seeds – As similar to flax, chia seeds contain Omega-3s, and antioxidants, however chia has about twice the dietary fiber. A rich source of calcium and phosphorus, chia is primarily used in recipes as a thickener.  A wonderful additive to everything from pancakes to salad dressings.

Amaranth  -  Amaranth grain has been cultivated for over 8000 years. Once used as a staple food of the Aztecs, it was used as an integral part in Aztec ceremonies.  Now known as gluten-free staple, Amaranth is actually a pseudograin, because it is a seed, used like a grain. Sold as a popular snack in parts of Mexico, Amaranth is sometimes popped like popcorn and mixed with chocolate or puffed rice. Amaranth contains a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.   It only takes 1/4 cup Amaranth to supply about 65% of the RDA of iron. One cup dry Amaranth will be tender when cooked for 20-30 minutes in 2 cups water or other liquid such as chicken broth.  Amaranth is sold as flour or whole grain and is used as an excellent thickener to soups, gravies and casseroles.  Its nutty flavor makes it a great addition to bread mixes when combined with almond, coconut and sorghum flour.

Quinoa  -  Amaranth was to Aztecs as Quinoa was to Incas, and also a pseudograin, Quinoa has been harvested for over 6,000 years. In its natural state, Quinoa has a coating of saponins, which makes it very bitter tasting and unpalatable.  However, most quinoa sold commercially has been processed to remove this coating. When cooked, quinoa has a light, fluffy texture making it a great alternative to rice or couscous. One cup dry quinoa will be tender when cooked for 15-30 minutes in 1 ¾-2 cups water or other liquid.  Fully cooked quinoa is finished when the germ, which looks like a tiny curl, separates from the seed.  Quinoa is rich in protein, dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.  Unlike rice, quinoa contains balanced amino acids making it a complete protein, thus a healthy choice for vegetarians.  Substitute quinoa in cold salad recipes and combine with ingredients such as parsley, garlic, onion, tomato and even feta or goat cheese.

Buckwheat - Completely unrelated to WHEAT, the name buckwheat or “beech wheat” comes from the triangular seeds, which resemble seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree.  Similar to wheat, buckwheat flour is used in traditional soba noodles and in pancake and waffle mixes.  Buckwheat is rich in dietary fiber, iron, zinc and selenium. When 1 cup buckwheat is mixed with 2-2 ½ cups of water, it will be tender in 15-20 minutes.  Another form is buckwheat groats, which are also called kasha and mixed with pasta or used as a filling.

Is there a rule of thumb of what not to buy that’s gf when shopping?  If so, what should one look to stay clear of?

Considering the heightened awareness of the gluten-free diet, new products are popping up daily. Many of these are rich in refined gluten-free flours such as tapioca starch, potato flour, and rice.  All of these refined grains break down quickly in our body, causing a blood glucose spike, and typically result in overconsumption. In general, stick to food products that contain rich sources of whole grains, including quinoa, sorghum, chia, hemp or oats.  As in any grocery trip, limit quantity of “filler foods” such as chips, cookies, and crackers. Fill your cart with fresh produce, lean meats, dairy and dairy alternatives, and whole grains.

Questions about the gluten-free diet? Curious how your grocery cart measures up? Contact Lara at 847-651-4729


FDA – Questions and Answers on the Gluten-Free Labeling Proposed Rule, January 2007