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



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.

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