Archive for the ‘Good News’ Category

Even better nutrition advice, this time from Harvard

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate smTwo years ago, the USDA issued a nutrition guideline called MyPlate, which I wrote about here with cautious optimism. It was certainly an improvement over the old food pyramid, but according to the folks at Harvard, it still had flaws. Harvard School of Public Health has now issued its own guide to healthy eating, called Healthy Eating Plate. It, too, uses the visual image of a plate with colored quadrants, but a close look reveals some really valuable improvements.

Perhaps the most important is the emphasis on whole grains (as opposed to the refined ones we’ve become used to). Refining removes many important nutrients and fiber and contributes to metabolic disorders and other diseases, including diabetes. (So why did we start doing it, you may ask…..). I found it interesting that potatoes aren’t on the chart at all!

Dairy is mentioned only following the word “limit”:  Limit milk/dairy, limit cheese, limit butter. This certainly coincides with the environmental reasons for reducing or eliminating dairy, which may be second only to beef as an earth-damaging food source.

The Harvard School of Public Health is more courageous than the captive USDA in saying directly: “Avoid sugary drinks. Avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.”

And the good stuff? I thought you’d never ask. You are invited to eat copious amounts of fruits and vegetables. And with the wonderful array of these available and tasty, that’s the best advice of all.

For a longer summary, go here. This website is a goldmine of information, definitions, recipes, and other information about nutrition.


Amazing, creative idea to save world’s fish


So you’ve been wondering how to save the world’s sea life from being fished to extinction. And maybe you’ve been wondering where to invest some money, what with interests rates practically underwater.

Do I have an answer for you!

Some investors have launched a contest – with real cash prizes – to encourage people in the global fishing industry (which, by the way, annually amounts to some $390 billion) to create ways to make the industry sustainable. Translation: how not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Personally, my contribution to this problem is simply not to eat fish (or any other seafood or landfood animals), but since millions of people do eat fish, I think the story is worth sharing.

The contest is called Fish 2.0 and those who enter get to rub elbows with venture capitalists looking to fund creative ideas at a two-day event this coming November. I’ve been to a similar event held by Slow Money, where creative food entrepreneurs got to pitch their ideas to moneyed folks, and it was inspiring to see ideas that could help the environment develop in front of my eyes.

David Bank, one of the organizers, explains it in more detail in this Huffington Post blog.  Fish 2.0 isn’t the only such initiative: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation offers Future of Fish, which also helps entrepreneurs, such as Robert Terry of Palo Alto, whose startup is developing fishing gear that could reduce bycatch (killing sea creatures –including dolphins and turtles –that the fishers don’t want and throw back into the sea dead or dying).

Dolphins Jumping

It’s encouraging that some people are seeing the danger and making (and investing in) long-term plans to save the sea life of the world.

Good news about BVO

bromine water large

Right after I told you about the untested and possibly harmful brominated vegetable oil (yesterday!) I got a press release from Center for Science in the Public Interest saying that PepsiCo has decided to take BVO out of its popular drink Gatorade. Wonder if  Susan Kavanagh’s petition had anything to do with it? Congratulations to her, either way.

Farming as a career

olive tree lg











In a well-deserved cultural change, the work of farming has (re)gained the respect we owe to those who literally keep us alive. And farming doesn’t seem as distant as it once did. Urban farming has been catching on for a decade or more, in cities and towns across the country. Rooftops, back yards, and patches of public land are now producing fruits and vegetables. Having made small attempts to grow tomatoes and legumes, I can attest that there’s a wealth of knowledge required, as well as patience and resilience.

The consistent boom in the organic food marketplace has been another source of interest in farming. Unlike the huge industrial growing establishments that douse land with pesticides (and all those other chemicals you know about), organic fruits and vegetables are often grown in small family farms, and journalists have in the last decade profiled numerous creative individuals and couples who are growing organically. The local food movement is a third ray in the spotlight of attention farmers are now getting, as we meet growers at farmers’ markets and roadside stands.

If you want to become a farmer, there are many helpful resources, for instance on the USDA website. Go here to read about what Christopher Weber calls “farm incubators” – university extensions, government programs, and non-profit organizations that train and support young people and also immigrants who were farmers in their countries of origin.

Weber calls his article “Boot Camp for Farmers” and the wordplay is quite appropriate. As I’ve reported before, returning war veterans are finding that farming is an open economic niche – quite a welcome change from the difficulty many of them have in finding post-military jobs. Beth Buczynski  highlights a program called Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT), where vets can learn a new career and find healing in the rhythm of the land. It’s no accident that the ancient term for peace-making is ”turning swords into plowshares.”

Wonderful recipe

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Dear friends,

Please accept this as a belated holiday gift! My niece forwarded this recipe to me, which was very thoughtful, since she is a carnivore. Surely one of the best ways we can welcome our carnivore friends and family to the world of compassionate eating is to tempt them with such delicious and versatile dishes.

Quinoa patties

Cook 1 1/2 cups quinoa in 3 cups water with 1/2 tsp salt for 25 -30 minutes.

Place in a large bowl and add:
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (whole grain if you have them)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
4 large organic genuinely free-range eggs (or ½ cup mashed silken tofu)
1 medium onion very finely minced
1-2 cloves garlic minced (optional)
1/3 cup chopped chives (chopped green onions also work)

Mix together well.  In a non-stick skillet heat 1 tbsp olive oil to low medium heat.

With wet hand place, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mix in pan and lightly flatten into cake to about 1/2 inch thick.   Fry till golden brown, then flip and do the same on second side. Heat may need to be turned down as pan gets hot. Take off heat while adding additional patties to avoid burning.

These can be refrigerated and microwaved when needed. At room temperature, they make good snacking, too, as my carnivore husband showed me.

If you know the author of this recipe, please let the rest of us know, so we can send to him or her some appreciation and fame!

How sustainable can a restaurant get?







A friend treated me to dinner at a restaurant she loves in Santa Rosa, enticing me with praise of all the things the owner was doing to meet the highest standards of health for person and planet. So after my author appearance at the Sonoma County Book Festival, we went to a place called Goji Kitchen. On the menu you can find a wide range of offerings, including meat dishes, but best of all, lots of vegetarian and vegan options. So there was gold star number one – going meatless is the best thing you can do for the planet.

The owner is named Kim Chi (not to be confused with the spicy Korean sauerkraut), who described one unusual and surprising cooking choice. She never uses a microwave, believing that microwaves damage the nutritional qualities of foods heated in them. This decision to forego one of modernity’s handiest inventions is impressive, given the complexities of serving numerous dishes hot over a meal time that might last hours. Instead, she uses a steaming chamber.

Another innovation was something called Nordaq Fresh, a device that purifies water on site to a high standard. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant uses it, too. I personally couldn’t tell a taste difference, but these days we need all the purity we can get!  Kim Chi also spoke knowledgeably about gluten sensitivities, the aflatoxin in peanuts (which is why she uses almonds for a garnish), and more.

So if you’re looking for a restaurant where you can trust that the owner/chef is committed to health of people and planet, here is one in Santa Rosa I recommend that you visit.  Goji Kitchen, 1965 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, 95401  (707) 523 3888.

Play with your food – creative sustainability





Not long ago (March 13), I praised the possibility of eating one’s packaging – namely, the natural kind, such as the skin of apples and other fruits, or the created kind, like ice cream cones. Created edible packaging (in the form of plastic-like films made from tomatoes and what not) has been in the pipeline for years, but this week on a Grist post I found that someone had taken this to a delightful extreme and invented an espresso coffee cup made out of a cookie. Go here for the photo.

There’s also a wonderful book called Play With Your Food by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers that shows you how to turn fresh fruits and vegetables into marvelous little sculptures.    I loved this book so much that I got a friend to use this inspiration to make centerpieces at my wedding. You can see one in this post. This isn’t exactly sustainable eating, but let’s stretch a point and call it good food anyway. Nine years later, my friends and family still mention those centerpieces!

Happily, the book has a sequel, Food Play, with even more vegetable magic. Food is often a serious topic (I plead guilty) but there’s nothing wrong with letting out the innocence and playfulness of childhood sometimes. In a future post, I’ll share some of the other neat foodplay ideas and websites I’ve come across.