Archive for the ‘Recommended Reads’ 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.


Publishers Weekly Review of The Green Foodprint

The Green Foodprint was recently selected for review by Publishers Weekly, one of the most distinguished and respected sources for book reviews in the industry. For their expert opinion, click here and read the glowing review they gave The Green Foodprint. 

Tomatoes as nature intended them

Tomato lovers rave about the lively, distinct taste of genuine fresh tomatoes, which they say is infinitely superior to the hard round red billiard balls you can get at the supermarket any time of year. I can’t vouch for this, not being a raw tomato fan, but there isn’t much debate that conventional tomatoes are hard and tasteless. Here’s what author Barry Estabook said in his 2011 book Tomatoland:

“Perhaps our taste buds are trying to send us a message. Today’s industrial tomatoes are as bereft of nutrition as they are of flavor. According to analyses conducted by the U.S. Department of Agricul­ture, 100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less Vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than it did in the 1960s. But the modern tomato does shame its 1960s counterpart in one area: It contains fourteen times as much sodium.”

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re blessed to be near the Central Valley, one of the world’s great breadbaskets. We also have lots of small farms and urban farmers, so those juicy red tomatoes are not too hard to find here. Farmers’ markets can be found in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Moraga, San Rafael – go here to find one near you. The newest one opened this week in Lafayette.

You can always GROW tomatoes, as they are very forgiving and brown-thumb-friendly. Even a single potted plant can, with minimal human intervention, provide those tasty red tomatoes that are so prized.

Kitchen gadgets you don’t need

credit  exfordy on flickr








When I was writing The Green Foodprint, I checked out some of the quaint devices you can buy to make cooking “easier.” I located the following:

  •  Microwaveable ice cream scoop
  • Cherry pitting device
  • Home cotton candy maker
  • Oddly shaped pan that bakes brownies with more edges
  • Gadget that cuts up a hot dog to look like an octopus.
  • Microwave s’more maker
  • Avocado knife

While one might applaud the ingenuity, I shook my head over the waste of metal, plastic, packaging, trucking, and electricity that go into manufacturing, distributing, and using these ridiculous toys. But wait! There’s more! You can also get a stainless steel lobster fork, a toaster with a Darth Vader design, a voice-recognition electronic grocery list organizer (for a mere $150), and an espresso machine that (I kid you not) recognizes your fingerprint so it will make your drink just the way you like it, without all that exhausting pushing of buttons on regular espresso machines. This toy will set you back $3,200.

Seems I’m not the only one scratching her head at this technology gone wild. A New York Times reporter also found people who confessed to having purchased an automatic polenta maker, escargot tongs, milk frothing machines, and a panini press. It appears that Rube Goldberg is alive and well in the design department of manufacturers desperate to part you from your money.

Here’s the main advice I give in The Green Foodprint: Use your muscles to chop, stir, peel, and all the rest. You’ll be healthier for it – and so will the earth.

The Green Foodprint: Finalist in Next Generation Indie Book Awards!

The Green Foodprint: Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet was named a Finalist in the Science/Nature/Environment category for the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest Not–for-profit book awards program for indie authors and independent publishers whose purpose is to “recognize and honor the most exceptional independently published books”.

Wondering what The Green Foodprint is all about?

Click below to read the first chapter of The Green Foodprint, and learn how you can help save the earth with your food choices.

 Book Sample: The Green Foodprint



Reducing food waste

You’ve heard that in nature, there’s no such thing as waste. Yet in America, the amount of food that we waste every year is staggering. A study found that we waste millions of tons of food a year — 29% of all we produce – at many points, from farm, to packer, to store, to table.

Given that there are so many hungry people in this country, that’s a tragic loss. But the study pointed out another consequence that I hadn’t thought of before: the entire life cycle of growing, packaging, transporting, and disposing of all this waste produces 2% of our greenhouse gas emissions, over a hundred million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Meanwhile, a staffer for the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the average American family of four loses up to $175 a month in wasted food, and included some interesting charts she gleaned from the report mentioned in the first paragraph.

We can stop this waste and eat healthily and creatively. An article with the provocative title “That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner”  gave several ideas for using those thick broccoli stalks: peel and chop them to make soup, or shred them to put into broccoli slaw, or shave them and top with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.

What you can do:

  • If you buy a new or special ingredient on impulse (and that’s not a bad thing, since diversity in diet is good for us and for the earth), be sure to use it right away.
  • Enjoy leftovers. This is your chance to learn new recipes, or put on your creative hat and invent something original. My own theory is that some of our favorite dishes evolved from the combination of leftovers and necessity.
  • Compost the scraps that aren’t salvageable (heavy cauliflower leaves and stalks, for instance, and the odd bits you scrape off your plate after dining). Once you see the beautiful black rich soil that food scraps turn into in the compost bin, you’ll be amazed you ever thought of food scraps as garbage.

Or you could check out The Green Foodprint, which I published last year (2011).

Healthy recipes for a new year

Do you know what’s even better than resolutions? Tools to make the resolutions come true. It’s a cliché that we all have “lose weight” on our list of New Year’s resolutions, so I approach this topic with some trepidation, especially since I spent 25 years as a therapist helping people overcome eating disorders. Resolutions have a way of backfiring. So in that spirit, I offer ideas for good food that you will want to eat.

America’s Test Kitchen does as its name implies – tests many variations on a theme before putting its stamp of approval on a given recipe. (Rather like Consumer Reports, in that sense). In addition to its dictionary-sized main cookbook, ATK offers a companion volume of “light” versions.

I also love The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Everything in this cookbook that I’ve tried is a winner, such as this one:

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread
Put through a blender or food processor all the following:
2-3 whole roasted red peppers (fresh or from a jar)
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup walnuts
4 large whole garlic clovers
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

This is luscious on bread, crackers, or raw veggies.

Where to buy. If you’ve never been to Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market (also in Berkeley), do yourself a favor and spend an hour there. The glorious smorgasbord of nature’s bounty is displayed in full color. Diablo Foods in Lafayette is another goldmine of delicious produce.