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Monday, August 6, 2018

Imagine the fun of being a kid in the kitchen!

I felt like a kid again, remembering the excitement of cooking with my mom as a child. Under the expert instruction of Chef Gino (ginothechef on Instagram), making pasta with flour flying, and cracking eggs for a dough so strong and thin that it stretched the length of the room, was only surpassed by the sounds of laughter and the taste of the meal that followed. In another room, I could smell the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies waiting for us for dessert. The whiff of aroma triggered childhood memories of enjoying the cookie dough batter left on the mixing beaters.

I was invited to celebrate the grand opening of the new location of The Gourmandise School  just a few steps away from their previous spot but now with more space and an even greater variety of classes.

In 2011, Chef Clemence opened the school just blocks away from the infamous Santa Monica farmers market, recognized as one of the largest and most diverse farmers markets in the nation. With fresh, sustainable food from California farms, everyday chefs were ripe to hone their pastry and culinary skills. The school grew quickly. Watching the growth was as pleasurable as watching as a ball of dough rise as one would with the labor of love in breadmaking.

The expansion of the school enables more students and unique culinary classes taught by the finest instructors offering the best techniques and instruction for all skill levels.  The school offers cooking and baking classes, a professional series, kid’s classes, fascinating food workshops and private events. 

Why is The Gourmandise School so special? Because it embodies the attributes I value in life. Love, fun, authenticity and connection combined with the opportunities for knowledge, competency and expertise.

If you are lucky enough to live near or plan to visit Santa Monica in the future, check out TheGoumandiseSchool.com to find a class. For inspiration anytime, follow
@GourmandiseLA on Instagram.






Monday, July 30, 2018

When it comes to getting essential nutrients, requirements change at every stage of life.

Children are not simply small adults. When an embryo grows in a woman's womb, most of us know that different organs develop at different times. We hear about what to know in each trimester of pregnancy.

But once the baby is born, the focus is often on how long to breast feed or give formula before solid food is introduced. Breast milk comes with the perfect balance of nutrition and formula is formulated to contain essential nutrients. It's all done for us.

When we need to move to new foods, we watch as the baby accepts some foods and rejects others or we continue to rely on what the experts tell us when we buy "baby food". We begin to learn that each baby has his or her own preferences. Often moms worry if the child is eating what he or she needs especially when finnicky.

It's obvious to all of us that children grow quickly until adulthood. We are aware that we do not all grow at the same rate. What we might not think about is that we continue to physically change our shape and characteristics externally. Otherwise, we'd all look like a baby - just larger! It follows that we continue to have different needs as our body changes in different ways and therefore nutritional needs continue to change.

We observe the volume of food that changes but somehow we don't pay much attention to the types of nutritional requirements at different ages. Information is far too confusing and inconsistent. More and more I hear about moms who are on some diet or following other nutritional information they've read about and then feed their children similarly. Often we tell our growing children what they should eat as if they were little versions of ourselves.

While our adult bodies are changing less in our 30's and  40's, our children's bodies are still developing at least as long as they are growing which tends to be in the late teens for girls but well into the 20's for boys. Much research shows that frontal lobes in male brains are still developing in their mid 20's.

Our cells are constantly renewing. As we age, cell renewal slows unless we continue to support the function.

Nutritional requirement change at every lifestage. Our bodies tell us if we know how to listen.

You can learn by contacting me at mindy@foodfitter.com



Monday, March 13, 2017

Myth: Sugar that comes from fruit is healthier than other sugar

Love fresh juices?

Who doesn't? A few days ago, a friend of mine told me about this great refrigerated juice he found in the store with no additives - nothing but fruit juices. I asked him to check the sugar content since he said he had not. When he look did look at the bottle there were 36 grams of sugar in the juice - more sugar than recommended daily allowance for men.  We love juices because they are so high in sugar. So while you get high doses of water-soluble nutrients in juices, nutrients that need to be replenished at least once daily, you also get a sugar load as high or higher than having a Coke or a candy bar!

But isn't juice healthy because it comes from the fruit itself?

Juices are not whole foods. The sugar in fruit is not healthier than other sugar we consume from other sources when it is separated from the whole fruit. When we eat whole fibrous fruits designed in nature for a slower sugar release due to the intact fiber, the food is consumed more slowly and we are still able to digest and absorb nutrients we need. When the fiber is "processed" by a blender or juicer, the fibrous fruit cells are broken down and do not slow sugar absorption. Furthermore, we don't generate the enzymes in saliva by chewing for digestion.

Adding to the confusion is new labeling of "added sugars" for those sugars not in the natural food itself. The intention of the labeling was to call out the addition of sugars for taste in a product. This added sugar is often excessive as we gradually acclimate to higher and higher levels for the same level of satisfaction. Awareness of the sugar that manufacturers add to our products is the first step to help us make changes in our diet for health. The good news here is that if we gradually eat less sugar, our taste buds become more sensitive to lower levels of sugar and we acclimate to these lower levels without detection.

Four ounces, a half of a small juice glass is the daily adult serving. Stick to the recommended serving by watering the juice down and drink it as part of a meal or as a flavoring to yogurt or other foods or dishes.

Juicing is fine for athletes who are rapidly losing fluids, need quick energy to burn right away before exercise and for those who need calories as well as energy because their caloric requirements are high so they sugar is used for energy immediately. For the rest of us, it's just dessert.

Questions? Just leave them in a comment below or contact me at mindy@foodfitter.com.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Is it soup yet? The skill of upcycling.

It's another rainy day in LA. We've had a record year for rain this year. This day is not only rainy but windy, almost blizzard like, yet warm - not cold like most of the snowy blizzards I am familiar with from my east coast upbringing. So I told myself, I'm a trouper and went out to brave the storm it so I wouldn't miss my Toastmasters meeting at UCLA, after all there is no bad weather with the right clothes and preparation. I was raised to believe that weather should never stop you from your plans and from living fully and in fact, it might even help to live more fully.

Now I'm happily home safely and listening to the sound of the rain that is always so comforting. Waving out my window to neighbors who are also looking out at the rain. Warm soup, a book, catch up work even feels better when it's raining outside. Does a fake California fireplace count? The type with burner switch?

It must be soup time. In my no waste, no haste, great taste, whole food kitchen, I always have fresh food that has passed the 3 day mark ready for my soup pot.

Since I aim to get half of my nutrients in fresh form and the remainer in cooked form, the 3 day rule works out well for me to keep the items in my refrigerator or counter circulating. It's a mindset of shoppping my refrigerator or shelf for items I want to use up and selecting ingredients and flavors that will blend well and complete my required nutrient needs.

After a few days, the nutrient advantage of fresh foods is destroyed by oxidation or dehydration. At this point, other forms of preserving these foods typically yield at least similar nutrient levels to fresh food. Cooking which destroys some nutrients makes others more available to the body.

By eating a variety of both fresh and cooked foods, you have now not only utilized nutrients that would have been lost out on but also created a means to get a border range of nutrients.

Valuing the food you have worked hard for to purchase honors yourself and the plant or animal life that is able to nourish you. Instead of wasting what fresh food was not consumed quickly enough, you can stop spoilage, stay safe and release more nutrients for your body.  That respect and gratitude keep you healthy in every way.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Why don't we eat our vegetables?

Mostly because of our taste palates and differing sensitivities to sweetness and bitterness.

We all have different tastebud patterns and sensitivities on our tongues just as our fingerprints differ.

Sweet wins over bitter every time. The choice is clear.

We are hard wired for sweetness for survival because sugar provides the quickest energy particularly for our primal fight or flight reactions. When our diet is high in sugar as in our American often from packaged foods with added sugars, taste buds dull and can't detect the lower levels of sweetness in vegetables which require more taste sensitivity.

Foods that are a little bitter to one can be very bitter to another. Bitterness in nature is a signal of what not to eat too much of so it stops us by tasting badly. However, the bitterness balances the sweetness when consumed in healthful proportions in whole foods. The bitter compounds inhibit the overgrowth of certain cells which is why some bitter foods are desirable to ward off cancer cells.

The fibrous texture of many vegetables is not very appealing compared to other foods that are easier to chew and are smooth textured. Yet, fiber is what is lacking in many of our diets as we alter the palatability of whole foods. Whether prepared in home, a restaurant or purchased in a grocery in a package altering a whole food to increase its appeal is altering the healthfulness of the whole food. There is no way to reconstruct a food to be as healthful as in its original form.

Some manage to drink veggies on the go often masked with sweet juices but unfortunately, this adds sugar which we don't need and macerates the soluble fiber that ultimately speeds sugar into the bloodstream.

We need enough vegetables for our bodies to function well. We don't need or want megadoses of micronutrients which have toxicity symptoms.  We are looking for the balance that whole foods give us.

As an entry point to changing tastes and behaviors, price and convenience are key. Put both great price and convenience together with a great taste and you have success. If any one of these items are missing, it's an uphill battle.

So let's make veggies affordable, accessible, easy to eat and add a dip made from beans or yogurt to add flavor.  Add a savory flavor - fat and protein added to the snack or meal instead of eating alone or with fruits which add more sugar works well. Cook them in a soup to soften their texture but retain the fiber. Stuff them raw or baked. Use vegetables to make a wrap such as lettuce wraps or cucumber wraps. Share some recipes in the comments.

Don't compare vegetables to other foods. Love them at their best for what they offer naturally!







Why don't we eat our vegetables?

Mostly because of our taste palates and differing sensitivities to sweetness and bitterness.

We all have different tastebud patterns and sensitivities on our tongues just as our fingerprints differ.

Sweet wins over bitter every time. The choice is clear.

We are hard wired for sweetness for survival because sugar provides the quickest energy particularly for our primal fight or flight reactions. When our diet is high in sugar as in our American often from packaged foods with added sugars, taste buds dull and can't detect the lower levels of sweetness in vegetables which require more taste sensitivity.

Foods that are a little bitter to one can be very bitter to another. Bitterness in nature is a signal of what not to eat too much of so it stops us by tasting badly. However, the bitterness balances the sweetness when consumed in healthful proportions in whole foods. The bitter compounds inhibit the overgrowth of certain cells which is why some bitter foods are desirable to ward off cancer cells.

The fibrous texture of many vegetables is not very appealing compared to other foods that are easier to chew and are smooth textured. Yet, fiber is what is lacking in many of our diets as we alter the palatability of whole foods. Whether prepared in home, a restaurant or purchased in a grocery in a package altering a whole food to increase its appeal is altering the healthfulness of the whole food. There is no way to reconstruct a food to be as healthful as in its original form.

Some manage to drink veggies on the go often masked with sweet juices but unfortunately, this adds sugar which we don't need and macerates the soluble fiber that ultimately speeds sugar into the bloodstream.

We need enough vegetables for our bodies to function well. We don't need or want megadoses of micronutrients which have toxicity symptoms.  We are looking for the balance that whole foods give us.

As an entry point to changing tastes and behaviors, price and convenience are key. Put both great price and convenience together with a great taste and you have success. If any one of these items are missing, it's an uphill battle.

So let's make veggies affordable, accessible, easy to eat and add a dip made from beans or yogurt to add flavor.  Add a savory flavor - fat and protein added to the snack or meal instead of eating alone or with fruits which add more sugar works well. Cook them in a soup to soften their texture but retain the fiber. Stuff them raw or baked. Use vegetables to make a wrap such as lettuce wraps or cucumber wraps. Share some recipes in the comments.

Don't compare vegetables to other foods. Love them at their best for what they offer naturally!







Monday, April 18, 2016

The Skinny on Fat

Fat is essential in our diet so the no fat trend never made much sense to me. The wisdom for at least the past 50 years to get the essential fat needed is for 30% of your calories to come from fat in your diet (10% unsaturated, 10% polyunsaturated, and 10% saturated). Practically speaking, this means that if an oil is liquid at room temperature, like olive oil, it can be considered mostly unsaturated and if it's solid, like butter or the fat in meat, it can be considered mostly saturated. Fats in foods are a combination of fats that are unsaturated and saturated to different extents. Since fats that are the most saturated are hardest at room temperature, it's easy to know how to get a range in your diet by looking at your food. Just stay away from any packaged foods that have trans fats on the label or are those listed at partially hydrogenated which is the chemical process of saturating a fat to stabilize it for a longer shelf  life, to change the texture or some functional property. Over the next few years (by 2018) these trans fats will be eliminated from all products.

Since the average American diet was traditionally high in meat and cheese (both containing fat solid at room temperature), the government's message from the 80's until recently has been to eat a low fat diet. The erroneous assumption was that fat in food eaten resulted in more solid fat blocking our arteries and everywhere else we don't want it to be. That seemed counter intuitive to me for several reasons. First, body temperature is much higher than room temperature by at least 20 degrees. Second, the body digests fat and has its own regulation system so the amount of body fat stored is regulated by other than the fat amount consumed.

A few more facts to know about the fat we consume are key to understand. Fat has more than twice the calories of either protein or carbohydrates for each gram consumed. Therefore, to eat the 30% of calories as fat, you will consume less than half the amount of a carbohydrate, such as a potato, by weight. The latest "eat more fat" advocates make several assumptions which may or may not apply to your own diet. For starters, they assume that you are currently eating a very low fat diet (much lower than 30%) and a high carbohydrate diet (with a high sugar content). If you were buying lots of no fat and low fat products and we're still eating the same amount of food, you were likely eating a higher carbohydrate diet. They also assume when you do consume 30 or even 40% of your calories as fat in your diet you will be full and won't want to eat more fat or for that matter anything else. That would be great, but people overeat all the time and if they hear the titles of the books as permission to as eat as much fat as they want as the way to get thin, I expect that obesity in this country will continue as people start eating many more calories as a result of increasing fat in their diet.

The best diet is one that is varied and balanced. Eat whole foods you enjoy with others when possible, pay attention to when you are hungry or feel full and most of all, relax. You know when you feel good and how to eat well so listen well to your body. Only then will you get the answers that are right for you.


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First trained as a food chemist and nutritionist, my career began enriching a Twinkie, comparing the nutrition of a Twinkie to an apple and studying the role of sugar in the diet. With an M.B.A. and years in food and pharma understanding consumers and manufacturers led back to where I started - food should taste great and serve to keep us healthy. To do so there needs to be consumer awareness. Consumers need to vote for what they want by buying what they really want. They need to practice balance and responsible choices. That's when change will come. Please engage me with your conversation so that I can help you make better food choices that you enjoy and gain a deeper appreciation of food not only from farm to table but farm to health. My vision is to promote solutions to marketing healthful food and food practices.