Gut Check: Confessions of a Burnt-out Blogger

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been holding up my end of the wellbeing bargain. For the last year and a half or so, things in my corner of the world have been BANANAS, and I’ve let all the frenzy and urgency inch out some of what’s most important to me.

Simply put, I haven’t been taking care of myself in the ways I know I should — in the ways I want YOU to take care of YOURSELF. And I can feel it. I can feel it in my energy levels and in my digestion. I can see it on my face and in my midsection. I can feel it in my tight shoulders and clenched jaw. And it was all confirmed when I went to get a routine teeth cleaning and my dentist discovered my first cavity in like 15 years. I was shocked.

So today, I’m delving back into my long-lost love here at Cultivated Wellbeing — gut health. This first long post in quite a while will be part confessional, part educational, and part excitement to share what’s helped me get out of my rut. 

Consider it a life lesson in listening to your gut — or a gut check, in the literal and figurative sense. 

gut check ultimate gut health super bundle


Because I know myself and my body pretty well, I’ve known for a good 6 months or so that something needed to change. But for some reason, until these last few weeks, I just couldn’t get myself to make even the smallest adjustments to get back on track.

Whether it was the winter blues, this election cycle, the full-on burnout I was feeling from work, or all the rain we’ve been getting, I just couldn’t motivate. And every day I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be the day I’d turn it all around — and then it wouldn’t happen.

Here are some of the things I’d been battling:

  • Craving sweets after every. single. meal. and giving in to the cravings 90% of the time
  • Skipping work outs regularly
  • Hitting snooze 4 and 5 times every morning before rolling out of bed exhausted
  • Getting to work late every day and still managing to work way too much
  • Finding myself constantly distracted and on edge
  • Making frequent concessions to food rules I’d had firmly in place for myself for years — too much dairy, too many fried foods, too many white, processed carbohydrates, meals with no vegetables (or not enough), and lots of dessert

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t been keeping up with the things I love to do. I hadn’t been blogging. I hadn’t been making kombucha or bone broth consistently. I hadn’t been feeling inventive in the kitchen or cooking as often. I wasn’t writing much of anything. I was down to climbing only a few times a month, whereas before I was going a few times a week. And even my succulent obsession was on hold — something I almost never stop doing, regardless of how busy I get. (I’ll blame that at least partially on the incessant rain, but it was all adding up to misery.)

This doesn’t sound like me, does it? Something had to give.

Gut Check: Literally

Because some of what I’ve been feeling has danced on the edge of actual depression, I’ve taken two steps to ease myself back into the groove of self-care:

  1. I made an appointment to talk to a therapist (more on that in another post)
  2. I decided to relaunch my crusade to spread the word about gut health (and include myself in the audience — I need to revisit all this info too!)

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen some of the second step in action. I shared the multi-part series I created on gut health. My “Why Gut Health Matters” series draws connections between gut health and other systems and functions of our bodies and offer suggestions for how you can take charge of your health by sealing your gut and fortifying it with healthy bacteria. 

The key to addressing the whole mashup of symptoms — from IBS to acne, from depression to auto-immune diseases — is in finding and stopping chronic inflammation. If you followed along in that series the first time, you might remember this infographic:

Why Gut Health Matters

Chronic inflammation manifests in so many bodily and emotionally felt symptoms, as you can see from the illustration. And cooling it down can feel impossible if you’re stuck in a rut (as I’ve been). I revisited this series because I needed to jump-start the healing process for myself after going on a “health hiatus.” But I also found another comprehensive resource that I’m pumped to share with you right now.

The Gut Health Super Bundle

If you’d like to ensure that The little note in my inbox from the folks at Ultimate Bundle sharing this amazing collection of eBooks, classes, tutorials, guides, and freebies couldn’t have come at a better time. It was actually exactly what I needed to see. It offered a gentle reminder of what I’d been neglecting and provided the tools I needed to get myself back on track.

I’ve had the opportunity to comb through everything in this bundle already, and it’s definitely safe to say that there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are on your health journey. And I really mean that. I say that because sometimes you see these types of bundled products online, and they’re either so basic that a simple google search could get you there for free, or they’re so esoteric that they’re not useful unless you have a PhD in the topic. This bundle hits that “Goldilocks” sweet spot — it’s just right.

What’s Inside?

If you’re a gut health newbie (or you want a refresher), you can start with the Foundations of Gut Health and Getting Started sections, where you’ll have access to 4 eCourses and 2 eBooks.

If you have (or suspect you have) a gut-related health condition, such as hormonal imbalance (like me), IBS, candida problems, or gluten sensitivity (also like me), you can learn about how to address your concerns with the help of 6 eBooks and 3 eCourses. 

If you’re already on-board and ready to dive in and start making changes in your life and yummies in your kitchen, the Gut-Healing Foods and More Recipes sections of this bundle are right up your alley. There you’ll find 8 eBooks and 2 eCourses to help you get started making bone broth, fermenting your veggies, making kombucha, learning about cooking for special diets, and much, much more.

And then there are the bonuses, which I’ll be telling you about next week! I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because the bonuses happen to be my favorite part of the whole bundle!

The bundle isn’t quite for sale YET, but it will be really, REALLY soon. I can’t tell you enough how much these resources have helped me dig myself out of the rut I’ve been in. I know they’ll help you too. 

Set a reminder for yourself now by clicking the button below so that you’ll get a little note when it’s time to buy. And stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you all about those bonuses really soon. 

Note: This offer is no longer available. If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out on the next offer like this, join my newsletter here.

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin [INFOGRAPHIC]

I’m excited to share a guest post today, featuring an infographic that focuses on nutrients for healthy skin created by Samantha Thayer. Samantha is a Health Educator and blogger in the health and wellness space, and we met on the interwebs because of a shared passion for holistic health and wellness.

Acne Cure

CWB covers a wide swath of topics (because I have a wide swath of interests) but one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to this site is for skin health information — specifically acne remedies. I had some seriously miraculous luck in clearing up my lifelong acne a couple of years ago, and since sharing my experience and some science behind why it worked, I’ve made connections with readers and bloggers across the globe who have either experienced similar results or are looking for answers for themselves. From time to time, I come across someone like Samantha who has a simple, easy-to-implement message that I think would be helpful to my readers in their quest for healthy, clear skin.

Heal from the Inside Out

The most important message I want those of you suffering with skin issues to receive is that healing starts from within. No amount of creams or potions will work topically if you aren’t providing your body with the right nutrients for healthy skin. What you eat matters, and this infographic is a great depiction of how to take care of your skin by feeding yourself properly.* 

*If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I’m not a big fan of low-fat dairy. I still chose to share this infographic instead of asking Samantha to redo it for my audience, so I’m making this brief caveat and offering a suggestion in its place. You can find my personal views on low-fat or skim milk in my post 7 Foods you Think Are Healthy But Aren’t.

I wouldn’t be sharing this post from Samantha if I didn’t stand behind the claims she makes.

Samantha shares vitamin A as one of the key nutrients for healthy skin. I agree with her on the importance of vitamin A; but there are other, more ideal food sources of vitamin A than dairy of any kind (which frankly I think shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have acne), such as fermented cod liver oil and organ meats.

If you want to consume dairy, I recommend full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised animals, preferably raw. Even then, if you have acne, something as insulinogenic as dairy should be limited if not totally avoided until you get your skin under control, and from there I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Eat Healthy Look Healthy: 5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin

– Samantha Thayer, B.S, CHES

nutrients for healthy skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use topically when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nourishing nutrients we need in order to look and feel our best.  

So, what are the most vital nutrients for healthy skin? And how do we find them in the foods we eat? 

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots, organ meats, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon! 
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

It’s also very important to have a healthy digestive tract to keep your skin looking great. (Learn about the connection between gut health and skin health.) Here are some additional nutrients to include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste and cleanse from within. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria living in your gut that protect your gut lining, preventing the skin and other health issues caused by leaky gut.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance the flora your digestive tract, keeping less helpful bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are also helpful in supporting a healthy immune system and keeping inflammation in check. 

Digestive Enzymes – Enzymes assist in the breakdown of the foods you’re eating. While the human body is capable of producing its own enzymes, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement if you find you’re having particular absorption issues that could be manifesting in your skin. 

Check out the infographic below that illustrates the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy gut to help keep your skin healthy!

nutrients for healthy skin   

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, B.S., CHES, who is an online education and outreach specialist for USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design is by Taylor Romney and used with permission.  For more information on health and wellness, feel free to visit us at her blog, What’s Up, USANA?.

4 Ways to Stay Hydrated for Weight Loss

I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away. 

I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).

I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water. 

Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.   

stay hydrated for weight loss

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking

Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.

First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.

Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal

Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”

So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings

I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.hydration for weight loss

Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.

For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded 

Track Your Daily Water Intake

While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.

You can’t change what you don’t track.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed. 

And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.

hydration for weight loss

Drink Water

Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.

I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)

We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.) 

As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.

The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.

Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies

If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake. 

Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.

Here are a few fun suggestions:hydration for weight loss

  • ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
  • strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
  • blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
  • cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole

Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.

Water for Weight Loss

So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles [RECIPE]

Today’s spaghetti squash waffles recipe was born out of a need to use an incredible surplus of spaghetti squash, which landed in my kitchen after my first experiment with a grocery delivery service. It’s the kind of service where you go online and select your items and then someone goes to the grocery store of your choice and shops for you. I had never done this before. It was fun going through the online list of items and picking out the foods I wanted delivered. It took surprisingly longer than I thought it would, but most definitely less time than going to the store myself would have. So I was excited at this new-found extra time I’d have because of this convenient service …

Womp Womp 

While I won’t say that I was entirely satisfied with the service (or that it’s worth the up-charge on every item, the tip for the shopper, AND the delivery fee), I will say that it was definitely a learning experience as far as “being specific” is concerned. There are elements of grocery shopping that you take for granted when you do it for yourself — things you don’t necessarily think about, because they’re inherent to you and your family. You know what you’re shopping for. You know how many people you’re shopping for, and how quickly these people will eat the food you buy/cook.

I have two people in my household, and I added one spaghetti squash to the list. When I saw my bags of groceries sitting on my doorstep, I was shocked to see that one of the grocery bags was almost entirely filled with one.gigantic.spaghetti squash. It was literally the biggest spaghetti squash I’ve ever seen. As an aside, I also ordered a few root veggies, thinking I’d do a nice roasted root side for dinner one day that week. I ordered one parsnip as part of that combo, and got the saddest, tiniest little parsnip I’ve ever seen. Here’s a size comparison:

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to be a bashing of home-shopping services. I know many people find them useful. And if it weren’t for this incredibly sized spaghetti squash, I never would have thought to come up with this kitchen hack or recipe. So there’s a silver lining, per usual.

Leftovers + Waffle Iron = New Creative Meal! It works for a lot more than just squash. In fact, I saw some pretty cool ideas right after Thanksgiving using leftover cornbread stuffing, veggies, and all kinds of other goodies. Start experimenting!

Size Matters

Apparently, in the world of spaghetti squash, size really does matter. I baked this thing using my favorite, super simple method for making winter squash. Stick it in the oven whole. I’ve done this many times with many different types of winter squash, and spaghetti squash in particular has come out great in the past. I could use a fork to fluff out the “spaghetti” strands and top it with my favorite paleo sauces. This time, with this gargantuan, the fluff yielded big chunks rather than “spaghetti.” I thought maybe I hadn’t cooked it long enough, but the flesh was definitely cooked.

Still as delicious as any other spaghetti squash would be, I decided to get creative with my chunky squash, as I knew we’d be eating it for days. And these beautiful waffles were born!

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles

I have slight variations on this waffle to make one sweet and one savory. Neither has a particularly strong leaning either way, but one is perfect for savory toppings (like avocado, some homemade salad dressing or even as the bottom of an open-faced sandwich), while the other is better suited for a sweeter topping like almond butter and bananas, pumpkin butter, or maple syrup and butter. Basically all butters!

All the other ingredients are the same. 
sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

A Word on Maca Powder

I’ve added maca powder to this recipe for my own personal reasons, not because it adds much in the way of flavor to these recipes. But I wanted to include it here, because I thought it’d be a good chance to tell you about this awesome super food.

“What are my personal reasons?” you might be wondering. I’ve been feeling somewhat drained lately, and I’m concerned that my adrenals are taking a hit from all the work I’m doing (three jobs right now). As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve also recently decided to go off of birth control after 11+ years of use, and as a result, I’m experiencing some wonky hormonal side-effects. 

While I don’t think I’ve reached the point of full-on adrenal fatigue, I’d like to prevent it before I get there, so I’m taking precautions. If you’re unfamiliar with adrenal fatigue and are curious to learn more, this is a great place to start for some basic info and links to more in-depth explanations. I haven’t yet been tested, but I’ve been super burnt out and exhausted lately, so I’d like to get ahead of my energy to avoid hitting the bottom.

After all, this blog is all about self-care, so I sure as heck better be taking care of myself, right?! My course of action so far has been to supplement with maca powder and another potent adaptogen formula (affiliate link) every day, and I can say with certainty that I’ve noticed a positive difference in my energy levels and ability to focus. I’ll share more about adaptogens in a future post. 

What’s Maca Powder?

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

click to purchase through my affiliate link

Straight from WebMD: “Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in Peru for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine. 

Maca is used for “tired blood” (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, memory, and fertility. Women use maca for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause. Maca is also used for weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.”

I’ve used maca on and off for years but this is the first time I’ve included it in a consistent daily routine. An occasional teaspoon added to a smoothie here and there never yielded any noticeable changes, but daily use has benefited me these last few weeks. The caveat, of course, is that I didn’t go about my change very scientifically. Desperate to feel better, I added my adaptogen formula and the maca at the same time, so I can’t say for sure if my better state of health is due to one, the other, or both. I plan to keep using the maca when the adaptogen formula runs out and see how I feel after a few weeks. On with the recipe!

  —> Pin this Recipe <—

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles
Yields 6
Season one way for sweet and one way for savory, and use these waffles for any meal of the day! This recipe yields 6 regular, square waffles.
Write a review
Prep Time
6 min
Prep Time
6 min
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 1.5 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  3. 1/2 cup almond meal
  4. 3 tbs coconut flour
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  7. OPTIONAL: 2 tsp maca powder
  8. For savory waffles: 1 tsp lemon pepper
  9. For sweet waffles: 1 tsp cinnamon
  10. Avocado spray for the waffle iron
  1. Heat your waffle iron before you start mixing
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well-incorporated
  3. Spray waffle iron with avocado spray
  4. Pour mixture over waffle iron
  5. Cook in waffle iron until browned and crispy (or less crispy if that's how you like them!)
  1. I included the time to cook the spaghetti squash in the "cook time" area above. If you've already cooked and scooped the spaghetti squash, this recipe takes only as long as it takes you to mix the ingredients and cook in the waffle iron. These waffles keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven when you're ready to use them.
Cultivated Wellbeing


Heal Your Gut with a Free bottle of Get Kombucha PRO

Here’s the thing. I’ve harped about gut health a lot. Maybe even too much, but it’s only because I count it among the most important things you can do for your overall health. At the top of this page, you see a whole section of that main menu dedicated to a series I wrote called “Why Gut Health Matters.” It’s a 6-part series in which I take various health challenges, talk about them from the perspective of gut health, and offer various solutions including probiotics (of which kombucha is a great option), bone broth, and dietary changes, just to name a few.

I actually made a pretty awesome infographic for that series. Here it is again, just in case you forgot (pretty proud of myself) 🙂 If you want to check out the full series after you’re done reading this post, just click the image and a new page will open up and be waiting for you:

Get Kombucha Pro

Heal Your Gut and the Rest Will Follow

Anyway, to put it mildly, I happen to think that gut health is the pretty-much the end-all, be-all of health and wellbeing — fix your gut, and you’re about 90% the way there. Whether you’re talking about diabetes, heart disease, immune system support, allergies, stress, anxiety, depression, skin issues, insomnia, weight loss, bloating, food sensitivities, and/or quite possibly even dementia (research is still being done), by reducing inflammation, healing your gut lining, and balancing your gut flora, you’re sure to improve your physical (and very likely mental/emotional) state. 

I’ve shared with you my unbelievable acne story (I’d never have believed it if it had happened to anyone else), and 100% of my success is attributed to healing my gut. How I did that was a multi-step process, with the final step being a daily practice of consuming warm bone broth. I did that for two weeks straight, and twenty years of acne nearly vanished. 

The Good Bugs (Probiotics like those found in Get Kombucha PRO)

One thing I do pretty consistently in conjunction with my daily bone broth is include probiotics in my diet. Probiotics are the “good bugs” that live in your large intestine. They help ward off excessive inflammation and sugar cravings (both caused by the bad bugs), they aid in the assimilation of key nutrients from our food that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to absorb, they regulate our mood and our cravings, and can even have an effect on our sleep. To put it as simply as possible, the good bugs keep us healthy.

Whether it’s with my homemade kombucha recipe, kim chee at my favorite Korean restaurants, raw sauerkraut, or some of my awesome wild pickles, I like to incorporate some beneficial bacteria into my diet every day. But sometimes it’s just not feasible, which is when a supplement comes in. It’s also nice just to mix it up every once in a while.

Get Kombucha PRO

Because when it comes to creating a healthy colony of good bacteria in the belly, variety and quantity are your two best friends, I like to take a supplement from time to time. I will often take different ones to ensure that I’m getting a good variety, and I recently added another super cool product to my probiotic arsenal. Get Kombucha PRO is a pretty remarkable product. It takes all the good stuff from kombucha and concentrates it down into an intensely potent tincture supplement. They do it through a cold-pressing process that presses 5 lbs of the actual SCOBY, not the brewed kombucha, into one tincture. Pretty neat technology if you ask me — especially if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like the taste of kombucha but still wants all the health benefits.

How to Get a FREE bottle of Get Kombucha PRO

So why am I telling you about this product? Besides it being AWESOME, it’s also a FREE GIFT in this, the very last day of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle Flash Sale. Now is your very last chance to get in on this amazing opportunity to get $1900 worth of eBooks and resources from the best health bloggers in the blogosphere (including me!) at a steep 97% discount.

The collection is really something, and it covers just about anything you could possibly imagine in the way of healthy living, homesteading, parenting, natural remedies, essential oils, whole food diets, homemade body care and cleaning products … and the list goes on and on. I used this eBook as the inspiration to some of my homemade Christmas crafts this year, and I’ve checked out quite a few more too, for guidance in a personal health challenge, recipe ideas, and chemical-free cleaning products. Here’s the full picture of what you get in this bundle. It’s pretty mind-blowing!

Get Kombucha Pro

We as authors and bloggers offer our products at such a deep discount for a tiny amount of time because we know that, when packaged together, our collective knowledge will spread farther and reach more people than we could ever reach alone. And we want to help as many people as possible!

I’m really proud to be a part of this bundle (you can see my Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-Free Living tucked in there on the second row!), and I’m eager for you to check it out and benefit from the priceless resources inside. 


So about that bonus thing. Not only is the Get Kombucha PRO offered to you absolutely free (a $39.99 value — you just have to pay shipping), but you also get bonuses from five other UHLB partners, totaling a $175 value!

  • ePantry – FREE hand soap + $8 credit on one shipment, FREE dish soap + $8 credit on the next shipment, AND 60-day VIP access with FREE shipping ($30 value)
  • Bloom Naturals – FREE SPOT treatment for acne & eczema OR a $15 gift certificate toward Bloom Naturals products ($15 value)
  • Perfect Supplements – $15 gift certificate toward any Perfect Brand product ($15 value)
  • Strawesome – $15 gift certificate toward the straws and accessories of your choice ($15 value)
  • TriLight Health – FREE 2-oz liquid herbal formula or $15 off larger bottles ($15 value)
  • Craftsy – 1 FREE online class ($44.99 value)

Get Kombucha Pro

Don’t miss your chance to get in on this amazing deal. It goes until 11:59pm TONIGHT, that’s 12/29/15. And of course, there’s a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so there’s zero risk to try out this amazing bundle. Once the sale is over, this bundle is gone forever. 

Get Kombucha Pro

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Partnering with Bone Broths Co to Bring You the Best Bone Broth on the Market

Editor’s Note (3/20/16): Since writing this post, Bone Broths Co. has changed names to Kettle and Fire. This post has been updated to reflect the changes. The product is still the same top quality.

The questions I get most often at CWB are about my Bone Broth Acne Cure — how to make it, how it works, and will it work for this or that type of skin condition, allergy, or gut problem. I also hear a lot of reservations about actually taking the time to make the bone broth itself.

Over the course of the last two years since sharing my own gut-healing story, I’ve learned that asking people to spend time in the kitchen when they’re not used to it; to leave their stove on low all night or all day while they’re fast asleep or away at work; to buy a bunch of jars and clear space in their freezer — these requests can be pretty uncomfortable for some.

As someone who loves to cook (and someone who suffered long and hard for years with gut and skin problems), it never occurred to me just how big these barriers to entry might be. To those of you who love making your own bone broth, by all means, keep on keeping on; but if you have been curious about bone broth but haven’t tried it because it seemed like a hassle or too much work, I’m talking directly to you for the remainder of this post. 

Shortcut to success with the Bone Broth Acne Cure

Today, I’m offering the ultimate shortcut to getting this nourishing, gut-healing elixir into your belly, so that it can do the important work of sealing your gut lining and clearing your skin. 

I’ve hinted at this collaboration for long enough, and it’s finally time for me to announce that I’ve officially found a pre-made, slow-cooked bone broth that’s up to my quality standards and nutritional snuff — one that I can stand behind and feel good about offering to you with a full vote of confidence. 

bone broth acne cure kettle and fire
Believe it or not, there is a lot of high-quality bone broth companies to choose from, and I’ve tried quite a few. But a big problem lies in the packaging and the shelf life. Not a single one of the high-quality brands I’ve tried comes shelf-stable.

Kettle & Fire reduces waste with minimal packaging (and no ice packs, which saves you money on shipping) and uses only top quality bones from grass-fed cows and organic veggies, and they slow-cook the broth just like I do at home. 

Bone Broths Co partnership acne cure

The box on the left shipped two cartons of Kettle & Fire product. The box on the left shipped two freezer bags of the same size from a competitor.

Does it gel?

This is an important question. It might be THE question in fact. 

For the past 6 months, I’ve been on a mission to find the right company to work with in my quest to offer YOU, my readers, an excellent pre-made bone broth solution. Upon gently turning down one of the frozen brands I’d sampled, they responded back to me that I’d be sacrificing quality by choosing a shelf-stable bone broth. They said that the broths you find in tetra-packs aren’t cooked long enough, use fewer bones, and don’t gel. While that’s true for one brand I’ve tried that shall remain nameless — and flavorless — it’s patently false about Kettle & Fire

Their product is the absolute exception to this rule. They cook their broth for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the important healing constituents in the bone matrix make it into the liquid. Otherwise, it would be a bland, watery mess like some of their competitors.

Does it gel? YES it gels. Here’s proof: 
Bone Broths Gel

Bone Broth for Travel

The box in the picture above was pulled out of my suitcase, not out of the refrigerator. One of the beauties of having a shelf-stable product (in addition to sparing the environment, skipping the waste, and saving on shipping costs), is that you can now travel with your bone broth. This summer on my 10-day vacation, I packed two of these little boxes in my luggage so that I could enjoy my morning ritual away from home.

And honestly, traveling could be when you need bone broth most — the immune-boosting qualities can protect you when you’re on an airplane breathing recycled air and touching everything that everyone else is touching. 

I’ve tried a number of the pre-made bone broths on the market right now, and I can honestly say that this one not only tastes the best, but is of the absolute highest quality. And the portability is basically priceless — especially for someone like me who likes to escape to the van from time to time and go adventuring. 

Bone Broths Co partnership acne cure

photo credit: Loren Rothman

The CWB/Kettle & Fire Affiliate Partnership

If you’ve been struggling with gut issues or skin problems and haven’t found the time to make homemade bone broth yet, this is your chance to try it without spending more than 1 minute in the kitchen to warm up the mug. 

The Bone Broth Acne Cure

I won’t pretend to know how every individual will react to adding this healing liquid gold into their diet, but as most of you have read, it took just two weeks of drinking the stuff for 20 years of acne to disappear from my face

curing acne naturally

These little boxes make two servings each, so if you want to guarantee that you’ll have enough for two weeks straight, I suggest you start with 7 boxes. Your other option is to get the subscription package (which I happen to see as more of a maintenance plan). Either way, you save 15% by using my affiliate link, and you get free shipping too!

bone broth acne cure kettle and fire
If you have any questions before you purchase, feel free to hit me up. I love helping you guys out, so don’t hesitate to ask!

I can’t wait to hear how you like this bone broth! I love it and have already placed my order for my Thanksgiving travels and a few recipes I plan to feature right here between now and the end of the year.

Addendum #1: Two weeks ago, in an effort to answer the flood of questions that come in about the BBAC, I announced the launch of my new YouTube Channel: Bone Broth Acne Cure: Question and Answer, where I address your burning questions about this amazing remedy. New episodes drop every Thursday at 2pm PST. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss anything, and if you have a question of your own, please reach out to me directly so I can get it answered on a future show. 

Addendum #2: If you haven’t already subscribed to my newsletter, it’s high time you did. You’ll get a free eBook just in time for the fall season. It’s filled with amazing pumpkin recipes that range from sweet to savory, even spicy — and they’re all simple to make! You’ll also have your pick of some of my other clear skin resources, including how to take your skin to the next level: Vibrantly Healthy Skin. Just reply to your welcome email to let me know you want my Bone Broth Acne Cure Resources and I’ll shoot them right over to you as soon as humanly possible.   Subscribe Now

FTC DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post but I will receive compensation if you use the links in this post to purchase Bone Broths Co. bone broth. I’m proud to call this company a partner and work with them to bring bone broth to as many people as possible. All opinions are my own.

Beer Belly vs Muffin Top: A Healthy Debate

fit fat TOFI

What’s the difference between a beer belly and a muffin top? No, that’s not the first line of a bad joke. It’s a real (and important) question that I’m planning to answer today. Although both are slang for some extra body bulge, the difference between extra inches on the waist and padding on your backside is actually a lot more critical than you might think. Have you ever noticed that beer bellies are actually hard, rather than cushiony like muffin tops, junk in the trunk, or even thunder thighs? 

Ok, enough with all these euphemisms. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m not a fan of fat shaming — I’ve had my fair share of struggles in the body image department and don’t wish to perpetuate any of the hype that “thin is in.” But the truth is, not all fat is created equal. There’s the kind of fat that makes us a bit softer in certain places, but then there’s this other kind — a more insidious kind — that can be nearly invisible in some people. And because it doesn’t come in the form of a little extra padding, it’s not taken as seriously as it should be. I’m talking about visceral fat — the kind of fat that inhabits organ tissue beneath the outer layers of our bodies; the kind that leads to all sorts of health problems and needs to be addressed far more urgently than junk in the trunk.

Let’s talk TOFI 

TOFI? Is this a new hair product? No. TOFI is an acronym: Thin Outside Fat Inside. I did not come up with this term. Professor Jimmy Bell, head of the molecular imaging group at the Medical Research Council’s centre at Imperial College, London did. It’s in reference to exactly what it sounds like — thin individuals with fat in their internal cavity. The location and type of fat that defines TOFI individuals is of particular concern when it comes to health risks like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In the picture below, you see two cross-sections of human torsos. The white areas are fat. You can see on the left, there’s a thicker layer of fat around the perimeter of the body but there’s not much fat in the center. The opposite is true on the right. The white (fatty) area in the middle is much larger on the right, which means this person has fat deposited in and around the organs. The person on the right might have less “flab” but is actually the less healthy of the two. Individuals with a normal BMI but greater than normal amount of middle body fat (typically the visceral fat that you can’t necessarily see) are considered TOFI.

fit fat TOFI

Image by “ImagingFat” sourced through Creative Commons

What’s visceral fat?

Visceral fat is found in the midsection of the body, and it lives in the organs and internal tissue, rather than on the outside (like love handles or junk in the trunk). Visceral fat is a hard beer belly. While TOFI people almost certainly don’t have a beer belly, they have a miniature version of it right under their tiny tummies, and they possess the same health risks as the person with the beer belly.

This means that they could likely be on their way to Metabolic Syndrome and all the accompanying health challenges that come with it, all the while thinking that their diet of gummy bears and candy corn are doing their bodies good. (If you recognize that movie reference and put it in the comments at the end of this post, you are my new best friend.)

Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that tend to lead to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease if no intervention is undertaken (namely lifestyle change). Symptoms include a large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high fasting blood sugar. 

While most of those symptoms I just rattled off require blood tests to find out, the one that doesn’t is the waistline measurement. And a good way to know if you’re TOFI — or even FOFI — is to measure your waist AND your hips to find out if the ratio is within healthy guidelines. 

The World Health Organization states that abdominal obesity is defined as a waist-to-hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females, or a BMI (Body Mass Index) above 30.0.  

TOFI Thin outside fat inside

image sourced through Creative Commons by Mikael Häggström, from original works by SuicideGirls and FatM1ke

Can you be Overweight or Obese and Healthy?

The short answer is yes. Everything has its opposite, right? The flip side of TOFI is FOTI (Fat Outside Thin Inside). It’s possible to have a little extra padding without putting your health at risk — as long as the padding is in the right place. (Not in the middle of your body in and around your organs.)

Rest easy on your big beautiful booty. 

Trim Down the Waistline: Reducing Visceral Fat

Chronic Illnesses like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are all preventable with behavior change. If you’re worried about visceral fat, what you eat and the quality of the food is just as, if not more important than how much you eat. And the way you live your life day-to-day is actually pretty important too. 


fit fat TOFIWhen it comes to food, mitigating inflammation and insulin spikes with your diet is the best course of action for reducing your risk. What that means is eating a whole food diet rich in alkalizing foods and low in sugar and processed junk. Think organic fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and dairy, organic or wild sources of protein, and healthy fats like coconut oil and avocados.

In fact, if you’re not already diabetic (and are free from liver disease), replacing most (or all) of your cooking oil with coconut oil could actually help you achieve your weight loss goals! Coconut oil consists of medium chain triglycerides which go straight to your liver to either burn as energy or get stored as ketones — compounds that can reduce appetite and stimulate the metabolism. (Ask your doctor before making any dramatic changes.)


As for how we live our lives, this is where the mental/emotional/spiritual piece comes in. I’m sure you’ve heard of that pesky hormone cortisol. If not, think stress. Cortisol is activated when we’re under stress. It’s part of a cascade of effects the body sets off in the stress response, and once we start seeing cortisol in the blood stream, insulin isn’t far behind.

If you haven’t yet made the connection between cortisol, insulin, and middle body weight, start now. 

Here’s how it works: You experience stress, which begins the fight or flight response in the body. Fight or flight shuts down digestion and prepares the body to use its biggest and most important muscle groups (arms and legs) for fighting off or running from life-threatening stress. But for the most part, traffic, screaming children, and work deadlines aren’t life-threatening. Cortisol lingers in the body after the stress subsides, causing increased appetite, increased glucose production, and increased insulin release. The latter two promote fat storage around the midsection.

Relax and Enjoy Life

Sometimes the best way to slim down (specifically in the midsection) is to make big shifts in how much stress we take on and how much sleep we get. Find ways to enjoy your life. Get outside and bask in the sun, swim in a lake, or hug a tree. Bury your feet in the sand. Play with your pet or call your best friend for a walk around the park. Do something to get yourself connected. You might be surprised at what this can accomplish.

fit fat TOFI

Get Started Now

Are you looking for a way to get started on your journey to health? Need some simple recipes chock full of veggies and healthy ingredients to get you going each morning? Download my latest eBook 23 Healthy Smoothie Recipes and never eat another greasy breakfast again.
Click Here to Download

Debunking PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

My PCOS Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) back in the late 90s, and the doctor told me that I should go on the South Beach Diet for the rest of my life. I was in my late teens, an athlete, very muscular, and a voracious eater, and I was most definitely not going to do that. I loved my pasta and my sweets. Plus I was in no way mature enough to stick to a diet like that for a week, much less consider the prospect of doing it for a lifetime.

The doctor prescribed me a testosterone blocker (Spironilactone), which I took on and off for years, along with Metformin, which is a drug for diabetes (which I didn’t have) that made me feel absolutely terrible — didn’t take that one for long. She also tried to get me to go on birth control, which I refused for a long time but eventually conceded. Although I’ve stopped the testosterone blocker, I’ve been on BC ever since. 

Debunking PCOS

image sourced through Creative Commons by Ceridwen~commonswiki

What’s PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance often detected through the occurrence of a collection of symptoms. In my case, I had terrible acne (which got far worse after this diagnosis), male patterned body hair (jaw line, chest, happy trail), and extra weight in my midsection. Other symptoms include not having a period, thinning hair, and mood problems. Admittedly, I was a teenager/early adult at this time, so the mood problems were never discussed as anything abnormal in my case. Poor gut health is also connected to PCOS, but my own bowel issues were never discusses at any point during my doctor’s visits. 

A Life Sentence

Being a very young adult in the late 90s, I wasn’t quite ready to hear a doctor tell me that I was going to have to take medication for my PCOS for “the rest of my life.” I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready to hear that, and I don’t feel any differently about the prospects of having to be on birth control forever either. While I’m not ready to think about having children, I am ready to step back and examine if it’s time to consider getting off the pill (or Nuva Ring in my case). 

Debunking PCOS

Years ago, my naturopathic doctor (ND) who helped pave the way for my eventual decision to go gluten-free told me that she didn’t think women should be on hormonal contraception for more than 10 years. I have no idea what the scientific reasoning behind that 10 year rule is, but it stuck in my mind — and this year is my 11th year. I’ve been very seriously considering making a change.

What the Doctors Say

What the doctors have told me over the years has varied. The first doctor who diagnosed me was a fertility specialist. She said that I would need to be on meds for the rest of my life and that I might have trouble conceiving one day. The second doctor was the ND. She told me that after our work together, I was showing no blood markers of having PCOS (including insulin resistance) — but I was on the pill when we did all those tests. My current OBGYN has told me that once a woman is diagnosed with PCOS, she will always have it, and that the pill is the only reason my blood work came back normal.

She didn’t take any of the positive changes that I’ve made over the years into account when she made this statement. She didn’t seem to notice the dramatic changes in my skin or care that I went from having violent, emergent “bathroom situations” to having none at all. She didn’t consider the fact that after years of having low-level candida overgrowth, I haven’t asked for a Diflucan prescription in close to 3 years.

Debunking PCOS

She said that if I ever want to get pregnant, I should stay on the pill until the very moment I decide I’m ready, and then start trying right away, because the further I get away from having “regular” periods like the ones I have on the pill, the harder it will be to conceive. So I’ve begrudgingly stayed on it into my 11th year, even though I don’t even know for sure I want to get pregnant at all.

Debunking PCOS: The Book

I have spoken to a few acupuncturists about the idea of “easing” my way off of birth control, and they’ve all told me that they could help me or knew someone who could whenever I’m ready. I’ve explored the idea on and off for about a year, and when I found this book tucked inside this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, I knew it would be the first one I cracked open. I read the whole thing in one sitting and regained my resolve to find a gentle way to get off BC for good.debunking PCOS

Nat Kringoudis is a Doctor of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and in this book, she lays out the symptoms, the causes, and the steps to cure PCOS naturally. She shares both Eastern and Western perspectives on the disease and debunks some of the myths I was told by my doctors.

Importantly for me, she also validates the parts of my journey in which I’ve successfully healed myself. She doesn’t say that once you have PCOS, it never goes away. She says that proper self-care and taking measures to heal your gut are key steps to alleviating PCOS. Nat confirms that I’ve been doing the right things to take care of myself and heal my leaky gut. For me, that’s been drinking bone broth, eliminating gluten, and eating probiotic foods. She’s also offered new ideas for supporting my liver that I’ve never done consistently (didn’t stick with it). Her book has motivated me to get consistent with these practices and find an acupuncturist to help me get off the pill. 

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

This short and inspiring book is just one of over 90 resources in this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. It falls into the Natural Remedies category along with 10 other resources. Three of those 10 could be relevant to someone with a PCOS diagnosis.

Heal Your Gut from Lee at Supercharged Food

Conquer Diabetes from Jose at Conquer Diabetes

Inflammation Free Zone from Amy at Bee Happy Life

Those three books alone are a $130 value, but this bundle costs just a fraction of that and comes with so much more. With categories ranging from Homesteading to Paleo, from Essential Oils to Healthy Kids, from Allergy-Free to Natural Home, this bundle is worth $1900 — and that doesn’t include the bonuses that the amazing sponsors throw in for everyone who purchases.  

Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

Bonuses from CWB 

Not only have I contributed my eBook Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-Free Living to this amazing bundle offer, I’ve also decided to give my readers 2 bonus prizes! After you place your order, simply fill out this form and I’ll get your bonuses sent over to you right away! This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

What are my bonuses?

First, there’s my latest eBook, 23 Healthy Smoothie Recipes. I’ve been collecting and testing these recipes for over a year, and they’re finally ready for your blending pleasure! 

Second, there’s your very own CWB bumper sticker! That’s right, I’ll mail you this sticker, my VERY FIRST EVER piece of CWB swag. It could be yours! 


What’s the Catch?

The only catch is the timing. The folks at Ultimate Bundle are able to create such a steeply discounted product simply because the authors agree to a very short sale. This bundle will be available for purchase until MONDAY, 9/14/15 at 11:59pm EST. After that, you’ll have to buy all these wonderful resources separately. 

Find out more about the bundle HERE, and don’t forget to fill out that form to get your CWB stuff! 

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Why Soylent 2.0 is All Hype

Ok folks, I’ve been seeing ads and news stories all over the interwebs for this product Soylent 2.0, and I’m feeling the need to weigh in and set a few things straight about this product. Set up all sleek in a white recyclable plastic bottle, this thing promises to be the ultimate nutrition for Silicon Valley types who don’t want to be inconvenienced with having to stop working to eat real food.

The article that really rubbed me the wrong way was this Forbes piece about the product. It almost seems like whoever wrote this was paid by Soylent to do so, comparing the product to Ensure and McDonald’s salads. These comparisons bother me because Soylent is touting itself as a “health food,” and I would hope that even the least health-savvy among us know that McDonald’s is not a source for health food — even the salads. Ensure is also not the benchmark for meal replacement protein drinks. It’s far from the top of the line, far from anything remotely cutting edge. There are SO many protein powders and pre-mixed protein drinks on the market, it just baffles me that these were the products the Forbes writer chose to compare against Soylent.

But I digress, let’s talk about Soylent.

Admittedly the marketing is brilliant. The website is clean, the product and its packaging are white (connoting purity, cleanliness, and simplicity), and there’s a claim right on the front page of the website that the company has chosen its ingredients and practices with the environment in mind. What could be better? (LOTS of things)

soylent 2.0 is not a health food

Credit: Soylent – I didn’t ask permission, so if you want me to take it down, just let me know and I will

The Catch

First and foremost, there’s absolutely nothing special about Soylent. Health-wise and environmentally, the marketing of Soylent is misleading its consumers. Soy protein isolate, the primary ingredient, is neither a new thing, nor anything to write home about.  In fact, it’s quite possibly the least desirable, lowest quality source of protein you can buy today. It’s processed using extremely high heat to the point of denaturing the protein, stripped of its fiber content, and acid washed in aluminum tanks, rendering the final product high in aluminum

Soy is not only not a health food, it’s a monocrop of agribusiness that has taken over a massive chunk of the American farming landscape, almost entirely in the form of GMO crops. Argue all you want about whether or not GMO crops are safe for human consumption — I’m not here to debate that issue. But I will argue all day that massive expanses of monocrops sweeping the American farming landscape — especially of the GMO variety, which wrecks the soil and the ecosystem of bugs, worms, good bacteria, etc. that live in it — is in no way good for the environment. Soy protein isolate, and therefor Soylent, is not an eco-friendly product.

image sourced through Creative Commons, taken by Don O'Brien

image sourced through Creative Commons, taken by Don O’Brien

The Dangers of Soy

Soylent is marketed as a solution to the tecchy’s time crunch. It’s the food of the future — liquid nutrition high in protein and low in sugar — that you can eat on the go. Great, except that massive amounts of soy protein isolate is TERRIBLE for you. Soy protein isolate is actually the byproduct of other mass-produced soy products and is extremely difficult to digest. Far more importantly, it’s phytoestrogenic and can disrupt the balance of sex hormones in both men and women.

Soy contains endocrine-disrupting isoflavones, genistein, and diadzen, all of which have been implicated in infertility, increased cancer, and infantile leukemia. “In 1991, Japanese researchers reported that consumption of as little as 30 grams or two tablespoons of soybeans per day for only one month resulted in a significant increase in thyroid-stimulating hormone. Diffuse goiter and hypothyroidism appeared in some of the subjects and many complained of constipation, fatigue, and lethargy, even though their intake of iodine was adequate.” (secondary source, primaries listed at the bottom of this article)

Do we really need people who are already sitting in front of a computer all day (a major risk factor in and of itself) to now also be at higher risk of thyroid problems, reproductive dysfunction, and cancer?

If you really want to be convinced of the dangers of soy (and the level to which processed soy protein has inundated our food supply, including infant formula, read the whole article I’ve sited above, written by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig. It really drives it home. 

Awesome, Healthy Alternatives to Soylent

You didn’t think I’d finish this post on such a negative note did you? Don’t worry, I won’t leave you empty-handed if you really do want to drink your lunch to save some time. I’ve compiled a list (yes through my affiliate Amazon link) of products that are excellent alternatives to Soylent. Not only are they soy-free, they also have excellent phytonutrient profiles. Some even contain probiotics, prebiotics, and green foods, all great for gut health. And if you don’t want to take the time to blend them up, you can use this fancy little blender bottle and throw in some almond milk to shake it on the go.

soylent 2.0 is not a health food

image sourced through Creative Commons by Sandstein

Soy-Free Vegan Protein Shakes that are ACTUALLY Good for You:

Non-Vegan Options (whey):

Also, this is hilarious, and a great pre-mixed protein drink alternative:


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Academic Sources:

  • Matrone, G. et al., “Effect of Genistin on Growth and Development of the Male Mouse”, Journal of Nutrition (1956) 235-240.
  • Ishizuki, Y. et al., “The effects on the thyroid gland of soybeans administered experimentally in healthy subjects”, Nippon Naibunpi Gakkai Zasshi (1991) 767:622-629.
  • Divi, R.L. et al., “Anti-thyroid isoflavones from the soybean”, Biochemical Pharmacology (1997) 54:1087-1096.
  • Cassidy, A. et al., “Biological Effects of a Diet of Soy Protein Rich in Isoflavones on the Menstrual Cycle of Premenopausal Women”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1994) 60:333-340.
  • Murphy, P.A., “Phytoestrogen Content of Processed Soybean Foods”, Food Technology, January 1982, pp. 60-64.

Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp [RECIPE VIDEO]

It’s hard to believe, but the beans in this dish started out purple. I’m calling it a green bean dish because it’s much easier to find green beans than purple ones, but I feel compelled to tell you that these beans started out purple! I’d seen online that purple beans do turn green when you cook them, but I think some part of me was in denial until I saw it for myself. 

pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Gardening and Eating for Optimum Health

After reading Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson (affiliate link), I decided that this year’s garden would have as many purple, red, and blue items as possible in it. Red and purple plants possess a markedly high potency of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant shown to promote ‘anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation.’ This year in the garden, we have multiple types of red lettuce, purple pole beans, and red and purple carrots. We also have strawberries, beets, and blueberries, which fall into this category as well. We’ve already committed a bit of real estate to our globe artichoke plant and our green okra, but purple artichokes and okra might be on the list for future seasons if we can find a place to put them. The more the better!pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Pesto-Making [VIDEO] 

A while back I promise that you’d be the first to know if I ever got around to making a how-to video for quick and easy pesto at home, and I finally did! I used the simple formula laid out in this video to make the pesto I included in the recipe below. I hope you enjoy it and try some creative combinations in your own kitchen to make truly unique and flavorful pesto of your own! This recipe included fresh basil and carrot tops (from purple carrots) straight from the garden, so it falls right in line with our goal of eating for optimum health.">
Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp
Serves 3
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Cook Time
20 min">
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 3 cups green beans
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 18 raw shrimp (deveined and peeled)
  4. 4 tbs pesto
  5. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  6. Salt to taste (this is the herb salt I use in the video)
  7. Optional: dash of red pepper flake
  1. Blanch the beans in about 1 inch of water, save the water
  2. Add 1/2 the water to a shallow skillet and heat to a simmer
  3. Add 1 whole sliced red onion and cook until the water evaporates
  4. Once the onions are cooked through and the water has evaporated, add shrimp
  5. Cook shrimp until about 1/2 way done and add in the beans (you can toss the rest of the water
  6. Season with lemon pepper, good salt, and an optional touch of red pepper flake
  7. Turn off the heat when the shrimp are done
  8. Stir in 3 tbsp fresh pesto
  9. Serve hot with a side of sweet roasted potatoes or another whole food starch
Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

The Best “Cheezy” Popcorn [RECIPE]

cheezy popcorn vegan

To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for almost three years and not shared this vegan “Cheezy” Popcorn recipe yet. The nuts and bolts of this recipe take me waaaaay back to my days of doing demos at Whole Foods Market as the Supplement Specialist on the Whole Body team. If you’ve ever shopped at Whole Foods on a demo day, you know that there are tons of tasty treats all over the store waiting to be sampled and then added to your shopping cart right then and there, either by a rep from the company or a Whole Foods team member. One of the treats I used to demo a lot was a simplified version of the recipe I’m about to share with you today. It’s a healthy snack chalk-full of micronutrients and packed with flavor that can be as customized as your fingerprint — or at least as what’s on your spice rack.

A Word on Popcorn

cheezy popcorn vegan

click to purchase (affiliate link)

Popcorn (corn in general) is technically considered a whole grain — a whole kernel unadulterated or processed. While it’s a starchy food, it’s certainly a decent part of a whole foods diet, but the topic of popcorn isn’t cut and dry. We’ve talked recently about GMOs on this blog, and so much of the corn we grow in this country is GMO that it’s important to seek out organic, non-GMO popcorn kernels. This way you know you’re not getting a mouthful of pesticides to go with your whole grains, and you’re doing something good for Mother Nature too. Another important caveat about popcorn is the method used to make it.

There’s a big difference between the microwaveable stuff and the stuff that pops on your stove top or in an air popper, and the difference is in the bag. Literally. The ‘microwave-safe’ bags used to pop popcorn contain what the EPA considers a “likely carcinogen,” perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). There’s also that weird butter powder that microwave popcorn tends to feature. A chemical in that powder diacetyl is so toxic to the respiratory system that there’s an actual disease unofficially called “popcorn worker’s lung.” Why this substance is considered safe by the FDA is beyond me, but I’m going to go out a limb and say you probably shouldn’t breathe it in — or eat it. 

So, in conclusion, air-pop or do some old-school stove top action, and choose organic, if you plan to make popcorn part of your healthy lifestyle. I use this air popper and absolutely love it. (affiliate link)

Fancy Flakes (aka Nutritional Yeast)

CWB Favorite Pick (affiliate link)

The first thing I thought when I learned about the benefits of nutritional yeast was, “wow, I bet more people would try it if it
weren’t called that.” Nutritional Yeast, while possessing a less-than-appetizing name (should we rally for “fancy flakes??”), is a micronutrient powerhouse and a delicious additive into sauces, vegan “cheezes,” and even smoothies if you play your cards right.

Rich in B vitamins (including thiamin, folate, niacin, and B6), minerals (including iron, selenium and zinc), and glutathione (a potent antioxidant), it’s an awesome ingredient to add into your diet whenever you can. It’s also low in sodium but high in flavor, and it contains all the essential amino acids (plus more), making it a complete vegan protein source. For those of us concerned about candida overgrowth, nutritional yeast does not aggravate or feed candida in the body. 

For our purposes today, nutritional yeast brings the cheez too our cheezy popcorn.

Flax Oil

By now you’ve probably heard hundreds of times the importance of including Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet, and that as Americans, we definitely aren’t eating enough of them. I’ve shared my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil, which mentions the importance of Omega 3s, so I won’t go through all of it again, but quickly I’ll share that flax oil is great not just for Omega 3s, but also for the lignans from the hulls of the seeds pressed to make the oil. Lignans are beneficial to cardiovascular health and may play a role in breast cancer prevention. There’s still more research to be done on the potential benefits of lignans, but we also know that they’re a great fiber source as well, and come with all the benefits generally associated with adding fiber to your diet. You can buy the oil with or without the lignans. In addition to their health benefits, they also offer a more nutty flavor to the oil.">
"Cheezy" Popcorn
Serves 4
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  1. 10 cups air-popped popcorn
  2. 2 tbs Organic Flaxseed Oil (with lignans)
  3. 3 tbs Nutritional Yeast (CWB Favorite Pick)
  4. 1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
  5. 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  6. 1/4 tsp Lemon Pepper
  1. While the popcorn is warm, mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl
  2. Toss popcorn with oil first, then toss in dried seasonings
  3. Enjoy fresh
  1. This recipe is versatile and flexible. Try adding in some fresh chopped rosemary, one time, a touch of cayenne or chili powder another time, or even a sprinkle of truffle salt. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!
Cultivated Wellbeing


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie: Busting Myths with Dr. Robert Lustig and the IRN


Pardon me while I gush like a total geek for a second.

I have been on the planning committee for the Wellness Conference put on by the Hospitals Association of Southern California for the last three years. For the last three years I’ve been wanting Dr. Robert Lustig to come to the conference to speak about his work with diabetic children and the research he’s done to convincingly argue that the excess sugar we consume as a society is killing us, one diabetic at a time. He finally made it to the conference this year, and I almost literally jumped for joy when I saw him walk into the room. I think I might have made him a little self-conscious when I asked him to take a picture with me, but he graciously obliged. Yesssssssssssssss!

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

Some of you might have noticed I did a teeny tiny bit of live tweeting (a whopping 3 tweets) during his talk on Thursday of last week at HASC, but since it was just a few tweets they might have passed you by. They featured some of my favorite sound bites, which will guide you through what I consider the most important information Dr. Lustig shared.

Dr. Robert Lustig’s Work

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Lustig’s work, I suggest you start with his book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Diabetes (affiliate link). He’s been working with children at UCSF who are presenting with the diseases of the old — metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension — and in his research, he’s found that the number one problem in our modern diet today is the sheer amount of sugar we consume. He uses the old adage “the dose determines the poison” and asserts that the food industry is dosing us.

“Sugar is the alcohol of the child.”

I’ve heard Dr. Lustig speak a few times before, and each time he not only covers this problem on an individual level, but he also points out the systemic, institutionalized, tacit (but not really) agreement between “the people in charge” (USDA, FDA, lawmakers) and “the big food companies” to keep people uninformed about how much sugar we’re consuming and just how dangerous it is for our health. The most compelling evidence for this little arrangement is the fact that food labels never share the RDA percentage of sugar per serving. 

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

The point stands that if the spot under % Daily Value were filled in with accurate percentages for Recommended Sugar Intake, people would think twice before buying sugary cereal for their kids (or any of the other boxed products in the center aisles of the grocery store). Part of Lustig’s work at the Institute for Responsible Nutrition (IRN) is to move sugar from the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list to the “Food Additive List,” citing it as an addictive substance, a cheap preservative, and not a necessary part of our diet. Doing this would put sugar in the same category as trans fat and create awareness around the health hazards of consuming too much.

“Obesity is not the problem. People Don’t Die from Obesity.”

Myth #1: If we cure obesity, we cure our health crisis. Dr. Lustig spent a long time on debunking this point, sharing obesity and diabetes rates across the globe and arguing that while there’s certainly overlap between obesity and diabetes, there are also plenty of cases where obesity is present and diabetes isn’t, and vice versa. India, Pakistan, and China, for example are not obese countries, but the rates of diabetes are skyrocketing. Mongolia and Iceland are obese but not diabetic. The position of mainstream medicine on this matter is that if you cure obesity, you cure the problem, but Dr. Lustig reveals that 40% of normal weight people (who make up 70% total population) have the exact same chronic diseases as 80% of obese people (who make up 30% of the total population). So the problem is metabolic syndrome, not obesity. Obesity is a potential symptom of the problem, but not the problem itself.

“I don’t believe in common sense. I believe in science.”

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

Click the image to see the full infographic on the IRN website

Myth #2: A calorie is a calorie. We’ve been told our whole lives that a calorie is a calorie — that the law of thermodynamics states that if we take in more energy than we expend, we will gain weight — it’s just common sense. Well no it’s not. The laws of physics don’t trump the laws of nutritional biochemistry, and all calories are not created equal.

Our bodies react differently to different nutrients that accompany each calorie — in fact, some calories (like the ones that come from soda and other sugar-laden drinks and processed foods) are downright poisonous to us when consumed in the quantities that we’re consuming them right now. We do not digest a carrot the same way we digest a soda.

I touched on the calorie myth in my post Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening, where I talked about the difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat, but Dr. Lustig drives the point home with his charts that correlate increased sugar consumption with CVD (cardiovascular disease), diabetes, and liver disease occurrences over time. You can see some of that work at the IRN website.

“Your choice to drink soda is hurting me.”

Myth #3: It’s about personal responsibility. I almost fell on the floor when I learned that the notion of “personal responsibility” was invented by the tobacco industry in 1969. It makes complete sense, and the parallels between big tobacco and big food don’t stop there. (In fact, some of the major players are/were the same!) If one can argue that quitting sugar (or smoking) is just about personal choice, an individual decision that affects no one but the person eating (or smoking), then one can keep regulation away, keep warning labels away, and keep people addicted.

If you can be convinced that your decision to eat junk (or smoke cigarettes) isn’t hurting anyone but yourself, then you can just keep right on doing what you’re doing until you’re ready to change, at which point, it’s your own personal responsibility to do so, and you should just be able to stop on your own. Forget the constant barrage of commercials advertising your substance of choice to you (no longer legal for certain media to advertise smoking). Forget the fact that it’s available at your fingertips everywhere you turn (barriers have been put into place for cigarettes, including age requirements), that nothing is labeled properly (warning labels have been legally mandated for cigarettes), and that there are so many different names for sugar that can all be buried into the ingredients label so that the average consumer is none the wiser (not the case for tobacco or nicotine products). Most importantly for our society, forget that your sugar (or smoking) addiction makes you a more expensive medical patient who’s more likely to get sick and stay sick for longer, and in the end we all bear the brunt of a sicker population. Of course big food wants to make it about personal responsibility, because it keeps them in business!

Dr. Lustig cites the three ingredients needed for the case for “personal responsibility” to be made:

  • Knowledge – of the actual contents of the food we have to eat AND of the real consequences of our current system
  • Access – to real, whole foods AND the information we need to know to make good decisions about these foods
  • Affordability – related to access, real, whole foods need to be available to all socio-economic levels, not reserved for those who can afford to shop at Whole Foods.

Click to download a PDF of this list to take with you to the grocery store!

“I’m for dessert, for dessert. I’m not for dessert for breakfast.”

This one is my favorite — I too, am for dessert! And I too have a rant on the topic of breakfast cereal! This is where the action items come in, and where I don’t leave you empty-handed thinking that the cards are stacked against you and your health. No one is asking for a ban on sugar. No one is saying that it should be considered a controlled substance. What Dr. Lustig, the folks at IRN, and I am saying is that we need to be informed, we need to recognize that we can’t do it alone, and that it IS possible to make lasting change on this issue at the personal and societal level! Here’s what you can do to make a difference:


Indie Chocolatier Gives Willy Wonka a Run for his Money with Gracias Chocolate [GIVEAWAY]

Warning: This is a post about chocolate and I am obsessed with the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Expect random references to and quotes from this movie throughout this post. Sorry, it couldn’t be helped.

Who doesn’t love chocolate? I mean, I suppose there are some people who don’t love chocolate, but there’s something wrong with those people. Maybe that was harsh. If you don’t like chocolate, you probably won’t care to enter the raffle at the end of this post for free chocolate (that’s ok, more for everyone else!), but you might enjoy this story about how Bay Area local chocolatier, Jessica Osterday, got her start, so I should probably stop insulting you now. Plus, you never know — once you find out that chocolate can actually be a health food, you might just jump into that chocolate river after all! (Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination!)

Willy Wonka meets Holistic Health in Jessica Osterday

Healthy Chocolate Gracias Chocolate

Jessica Osterday feeds her artistic fire by creating unique flavor combinations for her budding business Gracias Chocolate.  She uses only the best ingredients, adding nutritive touches like pure maca powder (affiliate link) and unexpected flavors like truffle oil — ingredients that aren’t typically included in your average chocolate bar that ‘give it a little kick.’ She’s passionate about the concept of chocolate as a healing food, as am I, which is why I chose to share her beautiful, hand-made chocolates with you. Also, they’re delicious — scrumdiddlyumptious even!

I asked Jessica a few questions to get the ball rolling on this post, and there were some things I thought just sounded better coming from her, so I’ll start with a quote from her before I share her story and tell you how much I love this chocolate.

“There is no doubt in my mind why my path has led me to create chocolate. I have the privilege of sharing something that makes people happy. Because chocolate has such a dynamic flavor profile, I get to engage my spontaneity and creativity, formulating different flavor experiences by adding interesting taste combinations to each bar. It is truly a pleasure to create and share more beauty with the world through chocolate.”

Gracias Chocolate: Osterday’s Golden Egg

Jessica studied massage and body healing techniques alongside her more traditional undergraduate work, which exposed her to new ideas and ways of exploring the senses — including lickable wallpaper and fizzy lifting drink (just kidding). Learning healing arts allowed her to experience her body and her life more consciously — which led to an active pursuit of creativity in all aspects of life, including food. She worked with amazing chefs and food creators who helped open and develop her palette during her studies, and eventually she caught the bug and decided to enter the world of chocolate-making.

Playing in the kitchen has inspired her unique flavor combinations, including the Citrus-Habanero with Hazelnuts and the Fig Balsamic with Black Salt, which Jessica says “have a way of opening up like time-released flavor bombs in your mouth.” What a delectable way to experience chocolate! And I can vouch for these flavor bomb combinations. This chocolate is a truly unique experience! So far, my favorite flavor is the Pecans and Nibs (pictured below), but of course, these things are subject to change at a moment’s notice — strike that! reverse it! this way please!

“Above all,” Jessica says, “I want to create an incredible taste experience with every bite of chocolate.” And on that front, she’s succeeded — without any help from Oompa Loompas.

Healthy Chocolate Gracias Chocolate

Is Chocolate Really Healthy? 

Chocolate is more than just an indulgence. It’s an actual food stuff. You’ve probably never noticed this, but candy is taxed at the grocery store, while pure chocolate isn’t. That’s because chocolate is a food, while candy is just sugar with no nutritional benefits — put another way, ‘Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.’

Well made dark chocolate retains a rich antioxidant profile, offering the same polyphenols you find in tea, red wine, certain berries, herbs, spices, and veggies. (Check out this chart that ranks foods rich in these potent phytonutrients. Cocoa powder is pretty high on that list!)

Chocolate is also thought to increase the serotonin and dopamine responses in the brain, which means eating it could give us a little boost of “happy chemicals” from time to time. 

Check the Label

Unfortunately, so much chocolate on the market today is made with unnecessary additives that can take away from the benefits of this superfood. Genetically modified soy lecithin, processed sugars, and possibly even waxes and preservatives can find their way into even the pricey chocolates on the shelves of Whole Foods Market and fancy chocolate shops. It’s on this front that Gracias Chocolate is different.

“I wanted to create a product that was pure, so that I can share the PUREST effect and the most good for our bodies through eating chocolate. We deserve to eat good food that makes us happy and helps our bodies feel good.”

Quality Counts

Jessica has chosen to sweeten each of her chocolate bars with coconut sugar and maple sugar — this might be my favorite feature of Gracias Chocolate. It has become easier to find GMO-free/soy-free chocolate chips, but even those are sweetened with processed white sugar. I love that Gracias Chocolate brings whole food sweeteners into the mix, offering a truly pure form of enjoyable chocolate.

Healthy Chocolate Gracias Chocolate

photo used from

Gracias Chocolate is vegan (with the exception of two bars that include local honey), soy-free and gluten-free, and each bar contains 10% Maca, which is a superfood grown in the Andes that helps to heal the adrenals, balance hormones, and increase overall vitality. Gracias Chocolate gets it organic cacao from an heirloom cacao tree called Arriba Nacional, which only grows in Ecuador. All of the ingredients in their base chocolate are organic and fair trade except the maple sugar (which comes from Butternut Mountain Farm in Morrisville, Vermont) and the Himalayan Pink Salt. 

Pairing Gracias Chocolate with Food and Drink

I’ve enjoyed these chocolates after dinner for many a meal, from roasted pork butt to pesto veggie pasta, but mostly I’ve devoured them sitting on my couch doing absolutely nothing else but focusing on the flavors. I love the idea of pairing wine with chocolate, but Jessica has even better ideas in her felt top hat of chocolatey wonder and imagination.

I asked Jessica to offer some food and drink pairings for her unique chocolates, and she graciously offered some absolutely decadent suggestions. Sign up for my newsletter to receive a beautiful eCard that lists Jessica’s pairings, along with an exclusive CWB pairing featuring Gracias Dark Chocolate. (Subscribers will also receive my free eCookbook featuring deliciously unique vegan and vegetarian pumpkin recipes!)

Healthy Chocolate Gracias Chocolate

The Jackpot! The Grand and Glorious Jackpot!

The more entries you have in this raffle, the better your chances are to win, so do them all! We’re giving away two Gracias Gift Packs, which include the following bars:

  • 1 Bar Dark Chocolate
  • 1 Bar Lavender Honey with Almonds
  • 1 Bar Fig Balsamic with Black Salt
  • 1 Bar Truffle Oil and Black Salt

a Rafflecopter giveaway

7 Foods You Think Are Healthy But Aren’t

In helping people find new, nourishing ways to eat, whether it’s for weight loss or overall health improvement, I’m often surprised to learn what people believe to be “healthy choices.” It’s not realistic to expect a layperson to decipher all of the misinformation about health and nutrition swirling around the webosphere, but even folks with medical and health education backgrounds can get stuck on outdated strategies for a healthy lifestyle, following and recommending advice to their patients that is no longer backed up by the research. So I’m going to pick my jaw up off the ground and set straight some of the misconceptions out there about food — what’s healthy, what’s not, and why.  

A major challenge in this whole “good vs. bad” food approach is unlearning old information, so that’s where I’m going to start today. Get ready as I unpack some foods you thought were healthy but aren’t.

Foods You Think Are Healthy But Aren’t

1. Skim Milk 

foods you think are healthy

image sourced through Wikipedia by H. Zell

Remember when I mentioned a potential rant coming about skim milk? Behold! Here it is. Skim milk is the first on my hit list, because it’s my biggest rant. Not only is fat-free dairy flavorless and disgusting, it’s the concentrated byproduct leftover when the best part of milk (the CREAM!) is removed. It’s touted as a health food, and it’s simply the opposite — full of sugar, void of nutrients, and not a joy to eat. (And yes, I believe that a food must be a joy to eat to qualify as a health food!)

The fat-soluble vitamins found in whole milk (namely vitamins A and D) need fat to be absorbed into our bodies, and the protein and calcium found in all milk need the vitamins to be absorbed. When the fat is removed, so are the vitamins, which causes us to have to deplete our own stores of vitamins to absorb the protein and calcium in skim milk. On top of that, the process of creating skim milk includes adding milk solids created through a high-heat process that oxidizes the naturally occurring cholesterol in milk, thus creating a food that’s heart hazardous, rather than heart healthy. (source)

Skim milk also doesn’t promote fat loss — in fact, it promotes fat gain. Farmers give pigs skim milk to fatten them up (source 1source 2), and unfortunately, studies show that the same is true of our children. In a huge study of 10,700 children, those who drank 1% or skim milk had higher BMIs (body mass index) than children who drank whole milk (source). 

What to eat instead:

If your digestion can handle dairy, stick with full-fat. Always choose organic dairy products. Opt for non-homogenized if you can find it, and best of all, if your state allows the sale of raw dairy, give that a try.

2. Diet Drinks and Artificial Sweeteners

foods you think are healthy

image sourced from Wikipedia by Vikramjit Kakati

One of the seemingly obvious strategies people use to watch their sugar and caloric intake is to replace sugary drinks and desserts with diet drinks and artificial sweeteners. Due to the mistaken belief that because these choices are calorie-free, they either “don’t count” or they’ll help with weight loss, this strategy is one I constantly have to debunk.

Artificial sweeteners like saccharine and aspartame are not only implicated in serious diseases (source 1, source 2), they also create disruptions in hormonal and metabolic responses in the body as compared to sucrose or glucose. They disrupt our ability to recognize caloric vs noncaloric sweet foods, which can often result in overconsumption and energy dysregulation in the body. They are implicated in an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, heart disease and metabolic syndrome, not a decrease (source).

Make no mistake, too much real sugar is a major culprit in these diseases as well. I’m not at all saying that it’s preferable to drink a regular Coke over a Diet Coke. I’m saying skip the Coke. This is an instance of ditching the fake and the real thing in order to move closer to a healthy lifestyle. 

What to drink instead:

A great alternative to sugary drinks (real or fake) is to add a squeeze of lemon or mint to soda water, or purchase something like a Soda Stream (affiliate link) and make bubbly water with a splash of 100% fruit juice. Which brings me to my next “health food” …

3. Fruit Juice

foods you think are healthyDid you see how I used the word “splash” up there? A full glass of fruit juice is not a healthy choice. I went to a symposium on the rising rates of diabetes in children, and Dr. Robert Lustig was there presenting on the dangers of too much fructose in the diet. He told is a great little story, which I’ll share with you here:

Two kids were called to the front of the classroom to demonstrate the difference between oranges and orange juice. One kid was given 6 oranges to squeeze into an 8 oz glass of juice. He drank it right down and was ready for more. The other kid was told to eat the 6 oranges. He made it through 3 before he threw up. 

That’s a gross story, but it illustrates the difference between a whole food and a juice. The juice is missing the fiber – the filling part that slows down the naturally-occurring sugars in the fruit. Take away the fiber, and you have a fructose bomb. No one eats 6 oranges, but plenty of people drink far more than 8 oz of juice.

Fruit juice is a high glycemic food. It’s dense in calories but does not satisfy hunger. Skip it.

What to drink instead:

If you really want to drink your fruit, make a smoothie that includes no more than one serving of fruit, and add some veggies in there while you’re at it. Otherwise, just stick with water. If you want something bubbly and sweet, see my recommendations for replacing diet soda – just a splash, not a whole glass.

4. Diet Meals and Snacks

foods you think are healthy

image sourced through flickr bt theimpulsivebuy

Those among us who hate to cook but are watching their weight might opt for frozen or packaged diet foods such as Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers products, “low-carb” powdered peanut butter (yuck!), or 100 calorie snack packs (just to name a few). The problem with these foods is multi-fold, but a big one is quality of ingredients. These packaged products are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients sourced from factory farms and actual factories. I like using one of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules (affiliate link) to illustrate this point:

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Another major issue with these foods is what it takes to make these cheap, processed ingredients taste good. When engineering a diet food — one with low- to no-fat, low- to no-sodium — what are you using to make this product taste good? MSG? Sugar alcohols? High fructose corn syrup? all manner of other unpronounceable ingredients? What’s ungodly chemicals are in these boxes? 

I’ve ranted about products with health claims on the labels before. I shared the front and back label of a product claiming to be healthy, even though the first few ingredients were sugar, sugar, and sugar. The same goes for these diet foods.

What to eat instead:

If you really can’t cook for yourself, consider getting a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and pairing it with a fresh salad. Or try baking a sweet potato and topping it with 1/2 a can of Amy’s Organic Chili(affiliate link). For a snack, try an apple or celery with REAL nut butter (the kind where the ingredients are nuts and salt), or a full-fat greek yogurt with fresh fruit. There are alternatives to boxed meals and snacks that don’t require a lot of fuss. Get creative! 

5. Soy Products

foods you think are healthy

image sourced through Pixababy by 621hjmit

Soy, of pretty-much any kind, is also a “fake health food.” Soy protein isolate is actually the byproduct of other mass-produced soy products and is extremely difficult to digest. It’s also phytoestrogenic and can disrupt the balance of sex hormones in both men and women. Protein powders in the health foods stores with soy protein in the ingredients are absolutely not a healthy choice. 

Tofu is also a processed soy product with the same phytoestrogenic qualities and should not be consumed as a “meat replacement” in the quantities that typical American vegetarians consume. Cultures that include soy in their diets do so in tiny amounts, and it’s almost always fermented — natto and miso in the case of Japan, or tempeh. These are also meant to be consumed in small quantities. The phytates innate in soy beans are antinutrients and prevent the absorption of protein, leach calcium, and can create digestive upset (gas). Additionally, although it’s a controversial topic, it’s worth mentioning that nearly all soy grown in the US is GM (Genetically Modified), which means that it was bred to handle excessive pesticide use and destroys the farmland. Whether or not you believe that GMOs have long-term human health consequences, GMOs are not good for our ecosystem or the health of our soil. They facilitate the use of broad spectrum herbicides like Roundup, which not only kills every living plant present but the GM seeds, it also promotes mutations that lead to herbicide-resistance weeds (think antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a result of too much antibiotic use if that didn’t make sense to you). 

What to eat instead:

There are myriad other protein choices for vegetarians if that’s what you’re looking for. Even broccoli and leafy greens are high in amino acids. Other beans and whole grains are great for a meal, and the choices for soy-free vegan protein powders are plentiful. Here are a few of my favorites (all affiliate links):

6. Whole Wheat Breads and Cereals

foods you think are healthy

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Wheat just isn’t what it used to be. As agriculture has changed over the last few decades, so too has the wheat grain. Preferentially bred to contain more gluten (protein) for greater yield and greater resistance to pests, today’s wheat is more difficult to digest than its ancestors. Some believe these breeding practices are in part responsible for the rise in gluten sensitivity (source). 

You probably already read my cereal rant, but just in case you missed it, most cereal is garbage. Whether it’s made out of wheat, corn, soy, or rice, whether it’s a flake, an “o”, a charm, or a “pop,” extruded cereals are neurotoxic, high-glycemic, high in sugar, and not part of a balanced breakfast.

As far as “whole wheat” bread, bread is made from flour, whether it’s white or wheat. Flour (especially grain flour, which is carbohydrate-dense) is quickly digested and turned to sugar in the body.

What to eat instead:

If you can skip bread, or treat it like a treat rather than an every-day staple, that’s the way to go. There are some pretty great alternatives out there though. Stone-ground whole-grain breads that don’t start with finely milled flours (like this one), paleo breads (like this one), and even paleo options to wrap up your sandwich ingredients (like this one, which I’ve been using a lot lately) are all great options. (all but first links are affiliate links)

7. Low-fat/Fat-free Salad Dressings

foods you think are healthyStore-bought salad dressings in general are full of cheap refined oils, sugar, and other unpronounceable ingredients. And the low-fat/fat-free varieties aren’t any better. In fact, often the low-fat/fat-free version is higher in sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup) than its full-fat counterpart. If you’re eating a salad to be healthy, why not dress it with something healthy?

Low-fat foods need to make up the missing flavor somewhere, and salad dressings are no different. Compare labels next time you’re at the grocery store, and then opt to make your own with ingredients you can feel good about.

What to eat instead:

Check out my video to learn a simple formula for a delicious, quick homemade salad dressing. You can get super creative with it, so don’t be shy! Mix up the mustards, blend in 1/2 an avocado, change up the oils, add in some vinegar. What matters is that you are in control of the quality and what goes into your dressing. Don’t sabotage your salad with a garbage dressing. 

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

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