Monday, July 26, 2021

We value what we grow

Everyone should try to grow food - fresh fruit or vegetables to stay top of mind about what it takes to raise our food. Growing food helps us learn or remind ourselves of how challenging it can be and the work it takes so we don't take food for granted. It helps us appreciate the value of all food we are so fortunate to have access to and the work and sacrifice of many who help to bring it to us. 

In our society, many of us are so unaware and detached from what it takes for food to get to our table. We see the grocery worker or the delivery person and focus on them because we see them. We are focused on convenience and price and likely do not realize the tradeoffs that are made to deliver those attributes to us. Often when we remain unaware, we blame others for not telling us as if they could make us care and listen. We blame others for not magically creating the impossible and for not getting through to us when we don't want to take the time to know the details. As if it's not important enough to us to know what we put in our own body because we say we don't have the time. Yet, we know the further away we are from knowing someone or something, the less basis we have for trust. We are blind to what is happening behind the scenes. 

Growing food is a laborious process. Yes, it's hard. It reminds us of life's fragility. It reminds us that what is happy and healthy grows expansively and brings joy. 

Even if it's not your hobby, try growing a plant or garden to experience the process as you might try other new things for a period of time during the summertime. Make a commitment to learning the process. You will have to spend your time, attention, with a supportive growth environment - soil, water, and nutrients. All life needs love and care to survive and thrive. 

Growing a plant or garden is analogous to how we grow as we go through life. We devote time, may not succeed but we will learn and that is the goal. We devote time to what we love and, also what is important to us. Those who at least try will value food more - its taste, texture - the wonder of growing life. Yes, food is life itself. 

Gardening is a favorite pastime for so many because it's nurturing. It has many benefits that you only experience by practicing it. It has a calming effect on our nervous system raising our oxytocin. Especially in this world of a pandemic, it helps us feel less isolated and provides a new daily sense of purpose. 

I hope you will savor the experience and have a reminder of the effort involved leading you to a greater appreciation and understanding of food in a new way - with new respect and admiration for life that we often only think about as serving us. Food is life as we are living. We need to remember to say our thanks for that life and all of those who make food available to us. We embody life every day by consuming food. Do what you can to embrace its journey and not take it for granted. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Food is the message

Food is life itself. We honor that life by not wasting it and recognizing that food is not only for enjoyment and satiety but importantly, for information delivered to every cell of our being. When you choose what you eat in advance with mindfulness, you choose what messages you send to your body for your short term and long term health.

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has slowed the pace of everyday life. Based on availability and perhaps eating more meals at home than before, we have the time and need (due to less food availability and rising prices) to plan our food choices more wisely. No longer can we say that we are bombarded with food all around us everywhere, anywhere at any time without some additional planning and preparation. Typically, I hear, "I don't have time so I just....") but really, we don't make time for an act that is so important to our personal nourishment and health. We want the convenience of someone else preparing and making our food because we can but the question is to what extent is to our benefit.

The consequences of not honoring other life and not knowing what we are putting in our bodies are steep. We are often trusting others we don't know so we don't need to think about it.

Think about it.

Why would you not want to know what you are putting in your body?
Why do we disconnect with the fact that we consume life for nourishment that sends messages to us for our health?
Why do we say we care about the environment but don't know more about the path of the packaging we toss into our oceans and easy solutions available to us?
Why do we say we respect life and nature and yet waste 40% of the food that is harvested?
Why do we stay away from refined and altered food ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, resist GMO crops but are willing to eat biologically and chemically altered ingredients in plant-based meat?

Most often the answer is not far away. We want choices and they are available. We act like we have no control when we do. We are proud of our humanity yet more often than not feel compelled because we are hungry, stressed, tired, or simply need to treat ourselves yet don't take the time to break out of these damaging cycles.

Let's be real about our choices, have a conversation, and be open to solutions that are there for the asking. 

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 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 famous 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 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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Is it soup yet? The skill of nutricycling.

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 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 remainder 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 shopping 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 broader 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!


About Me

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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, I'm 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. If they buy impulsively, that's what they will see more of. 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 and stick to better food choices that you enjoy. You'll gain a deeper appreciation of food not only from farm to table but farm to health. My vision is to promote solutions for healthful food and food practices you can happily embody and embrace!