Give Your Food A Face

give your food a face

Give your food a face

Give your food a face.

“We love dogs, and eat cows not because dogs and cows are fundamentally different – cows, like dogs, have feelings, preferences, and consciousness – but because our perception of them is different.” —Melanie Joy, 2010, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”

Why do we eat what we eat?  There are biological reasons – we eat for hunger.  But in our culture of plenty eating is not often driven by biology, it is driven by habits, seeing, smelling, reading, or even thinking about food (are you hungry now??) Recent studies show that our physical levels of hunger shows little correlation with how much hunger we say that we feel or how much food we then go onto eat.  This is because we are surrounded by food which is cheap, widely available, delicious and easy to obtain.  We are disconnected from where we get our food.  That is why we seek out, select, and consume foods that may or may not be healthful, and may actually harm us.  We even consume foods that harm the environment.

Take the lovely cow, for example.  We know from experts that eating animals is a leading cause of many of the most serious diseases in the Western World today, including cardiac disease, diabetes, and cancer.  Even the ultra conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has stated that eating a plant based diet is sound nutrition and more healthful than an animal protein diet.  In addition to the high saturated fat levels in animal protein we face other issues – contamination with dangerous chemicals including arsenic, ammonia and mercury; drugs such as antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones which may lead to drug resistant infections and growth of breasts in boys; pesticides, and even high levels of fecal matter.

CAFO’s and Animal Welfare

Learn the truth about our American food supply, and how animal protein is produced in this country by big production methods.  Learn that our meat is far from the idyllic family farms.  99% of the meat, eggs, and dairy that we eat come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Not only is eating animal protein harmful to our health and the environment, animals are raised in factories for us under extraordinarily inhumane and dangerous conditions.  Eating animals for food goes beyond our own and the environment’s health, and takes us, if we awaken to the information to our own empathy, compassion, and humanity.

Animals that are raised in CAFO’s live and die in misery.  They are born into gigantic, filthy, overcrowded, windowless factories.  Taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, they are castrated, debeaked, dehorned, and branded without anesthesia.  Female cows are forcibly impregnated over and over in a process where they are confined an unable to lay down or turn around.  When they are no longer productive, they are slaughtered.

Nearly every animal-based meal comes from a sentient being, who lived and died in agony.

Mindfulness and change

Take a pause for a mindful moment.  What do you notice as you contemplate your own practices and beliefs about animal protein? Notice your body.  Do you feel tightness, tension, or other holding? Notice your breath.  Breathe into any tightness or tension you feel, allowing your body to soften and expand.  Notice your judgments.  Allow thoughts to come and go like clouds floating through the sky.  Go deeper.  Do you sense any emotions, such as sadness, sorrow, or compassion?  Allow the feelings of compassion toward yourself, as you courageously face your own beliefs, practices, and habits regarding the food you eat.

Give your Food a Face

As humans, we possess an incredible capacity to look the other way when things are inconvenient or dissonant.  In one respect, it is part of our humanness.  Ancient wisdom might suggest that looking the other way is a hindrance to mindfulness.  A mindfulness practice gives us the capacity to change, by examining with curiosity and compassion our habits of mind and body.  As we develop compassion toward others, we develop compassion for ourselves, and for all living things. It is up to each one of us to decide for ourselves whether the actions we take are wholesome or unwholesome.  We can recognize our connection to all living things.

And when we give our food a face, when it moves beyond a shrink wrapped pink sanitized package in a grocery store into a beautiful, majestic creature we can choose whether or not our habits of eating have room for a more compassionate choice.

Protection from Colon Cancer

Kale - The Best Health Food!

Kale: cancer fighting, filled with antioxidants, helps you heal

March is Colon Cancer Awareness & Prevention Month, dedicated to helping people of all ages learn about their risks and how to improve the odds in favor of a cancer-free life.

According to the National Cancer Institute, for the great majority of people, the major factor that increases a person’s risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) is increasing age. Risk increases dramatically after age 50 years; 90% of all CRCs are diagnosed after this age. Incidence and mortality rates are higher in African Americans compared with other races. The history of CRC in a first-degree relative, especially if before the age of 55 years, roughly doubles the risk. A personal history of CRC, high-risk adenomas, or ovarian cancer also increases the risk. Other risk factors are weaker than age and family history. People with an inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease, have a much higher risk of CRC starting about 8 years after disease onset and are recommended to have frequent colonoscopic surveillance.  A small percentage (<5%) of CRCs occur in people with a genetic predisposition, including familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis coli.

Increased risk factors include obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, limited physical activity, and a diet high in saturated fats and low in fiber.  Not all fats should be avoided, and the “essential” unsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3 and omega-6 appear to be helpful in ensuring optimal health.  It is relatively easy with our modern diets high in processed foods to get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids, which are abundant in seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers and sweets in the North American diet as well as in fast food. Soybean oil alone is now so common in fast foods and processed foods that an astounding 20 percent of the calories in the American diet are estimated to come from this single source.

Optimal health comes from balancing your consumption of essential fatty acids by minimizing processed food consumption and increasing your consumption of foods high in omega-3 found in oily fish or fish oil supplements, walnuts, flax seeds and omega-3 fortified eggs. Combine balancing omega-3 and omega-6 with decreasing your intake of saturated fats from red meat and dairy products and you have a nutrition prescription for optimal health!

There is evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk for colon cancer.  In one large study, men who ate at least 10 servings a week of tomato-based foods reduced their risk for the disease by 45 percent, with experts suspecting that the protective agent is lycopene, a carotenoid and antioxidant found mostly in tomatoes and tomato products. Men following this type of eating plan, known as the Southern Mediterranean diet, eat high amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic, tomatoes, red wine, olive oil and fish.

A second diet known to be associated with longevity and reduced risks for cancer is the traditional Japanese diet, which is high in green tea, soy, vegetables and fish, and low in calories and fat.  Both of these diets are low in red meat. Incorporating powerful anticancer nutrients found in colorful fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries and seeds are recommendations that make sense for both good health, and great taste.

The Green Goddess Breakfast Drink
Start your day with this nutrition-packed green drink that is easy to prepare, delicious and filled with cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables. Add 1 tablespoon of Chia seeds to increase your omega-3 intake at breakfast. This green drink also is great later in the day as a snack.  Enjoy!

Serves 1 to 3
1 ripe banana, peeled and broken into pieces
1 medium apple, cored and cut into chunks
1 ripe pear, cored and cut into chunks
1 lemon, juiced
2 to 3 cups water (I use 2 cups)
3 to 4 lettuce or spinach leaves, rinsed
3 to 4 kale leaves, rinsed and torn
1/4-cup fresh parsley leaves
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
Remove the tough stems from the kale and break the kale into pieces.  Place the banana pieces, apple chunks, pear chunks, lemon juice and water into a blender.  Blend on high, stopping as needed to push the fruit down.

Then add the lettuce leaves, kale pieces, parsley, and mint leaves; blend again until very smooth.  Add more water if needed and blend until completely smooth and brilliant green.

Nutrition information: Calories (per serving) 158; Total Fat 1.1 g; Sodium 26.3 g; Potassium 626.9 mg; Total Carbohydrates 39.5 g; Protein 2.3 g; Dietary Fiber 6.4 g; Sugars 7.8 g

The Business of Thin

The Business of Thin is everywhere.  Its strategy is to keep us fearful and confused.   The “Queen” of commercialized thin is Weight Watchers, the “mother” of all weight loss services.  If we succumb to her siren call, we will buy and eat highly processed food that makes us fat, and scramble for weight loss services to make us –only temporarily- thin.  Processed foods, limited exercise, and mindless eating keeps us enslaved.

Is there something better in life than losing and gaining the same forty pounds twenty times?  There is!  Lifelong weight maintenance is possible through adopting a personal practice of weekly weighing, gentle calorie counting, and a whole foods based diet with self-monitoring guided by mindfulness.

Locations moving to supermarkets

Weight Watchers – Now OPRAH owns 10% of the company, so you can lighten your wallet and make her richer!!

The “collateral damage” related to the business of thin has resulted in food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination and poor health.  Few of us are at peace with our bodies.  We’re no closer to solving the obesity crisis in this country since it has multi-factorial causes and conditions.  If we focus on “going on a diet”, we shortcut the dialog needed to permanently change our disordered eating culture.

Learning the truth about food marketing helps us understand that Weight Watchers – formerly a food company subsidiary of HJ Heinz – is only interested in our money, not our well-being.  Weight Watchers knows that few Americans can resist the seduction of fat, salt, and sugar –the key ingredients in their food products.  Food marketers can only survive by getting us to eat more food; how can a commercial weight loss organization that acts like a food company help us?  Here’s the truth about the business of thin:

Food and Nutrition Gifts 2016

Happy Holidays!  If you’re like me, finding great food and nutrition tools is something special. Food and nutrition gifts are great for friends, family members, and for yourself!  Here are FIVE ideas to help make your healthy gift giving effortless! (disclaimer:  I receive no compensation from any of these products or services).

  1. A Great Cookbook.  Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair is my favorite cookbook!  I make dishes for myself, my family, even as gifts for clients.  Recently redone, it is full of great recipes, gorgeous pictures, and useful information to support your healthy eating goals.  You can purchase a copy on Amazon.
  2. A Great Meditation App. Mindfulness practices help with weight loss, and promote weight management.  This is because stress releases glucose into our bloodstream, making cravings for sugar and “comfort” foods irresistible. That is why all of my clients have a stress management plan along with a food plan.  My favorite app: Headspace. They call it “a gym membership for your mind.”  Oh, yes, it is! Again, I use it myself, recommend it to my clients, and share it with my students at Arizona State University. http://headspace.com.  Want some free guided practices?  Here you go – password is mindful.  Have fun!
  3. A Great Yoga Training Opportunity. Yes, it’s out of town (for Arizonans) and yes, it’s winter, but I can’t think of a better treat than a workshop in Seattle at my home yoga studio, Taj Yoga. Under the direction of the amazing Theresa Elliott, who trained teachers (including myself) for over fifteen years, before it became cool to be a yoga teacher.  Theresa is offering a special four day workshop for yoga teachers and serious students on how to access the Parasympathetic nervous system through “slow motion vinyasa, wide-brain stationary balance poses, and seated kinetic meditation.” So cool!  I’ll be there, and I’m gifting the workshop to my son, Melvin.  Come join us – late January in Seattle? Not to be missed! Check out this video of a Yoga Dance performance, under Theresa’s direction which I promise will knock your socks off! You’re welcome!!
  4. A Great Kitchen Gadget. So all my clients love Zoodles – those zucchini noodles that you can eat a pile of and not consume more than 20 calories.  I’m not convinced, since I’d rather have no pasta than substitute pasta.  But hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!  This spiralizer kit is on my list for Santa.  I think you’ll like it, too!
  5. A Great Small, Safe, Yoga Class.  For the bendy and not so bendy alike, I offer a small, safe, therapeutic yoga class on Saturday mornings from 9AM-10:15AM.  We work with the nervous system in ways that promote relaxation and ease.  Perfect for those with no or limited yoga experience, injuries, or trauma histories.  Do you know that yoga is medically indicated for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as 100 other medical conditions? Join us!

Need a great dietitian?  Contact me for a complimentary consultation.  With nearly 30 years experience helping people of all ages lose weight, improve medical conditions, and reduce stress, I’m looking forward to working with you.  It matters to me that you feel better.  And, Happy New Year 2017!!

Four Steps to Weight Loss

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It's likely a learned behavior.

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It’s likely a learned behavior.

My holiday gift to you is support for your weight loss goals. Here are four steps to weight loss: Awareness, Rules, Structure, and Peacefulness.

Eating, and liking certain foods are learned behaviors.  As omnivores, we eat different foods based on our learning.  This means that our preferences for certain kinds of foods developed over time and become habits.  Some of us think we are “addicted” to different foods like sugar, or even fatty foods.  Research tells us that we may have preferences for sugary foods (and who doesn’t??) but these preferences are actually learned behaviors.  Since they are learned behaviors, we actually can end overeating in four steps.  

Feeding the Holiday Blues

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The holiday blues are common.  Did you know you can actually change your mental state through the right combination of healthful foods? Follow these tips to feed the holiday blues.

Depression and anxiety are complex conditions that must be diagnosed by a qualified health care practitioner. Often, however, the dietary component of mental illness is overlooked. Food sensitivities, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies may worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Following a few dietary guidelines, in combination with other prescribed treatments, may help to relieve symptoms.

Dietary guidelines that may help to relieve depression:

  • Follow a diet plan that prevents hypoglycemia (e.g. eliminate refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco; eat 4 – 6 small meals throughout the day; eat plenty of dietary fiber.
  • An elimination or rotation diet will help to decide whether or not you have sensitivities to particular foods.

Helpful Foods:

  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids for growth and repair of nervous tissue: nut, seed, cold water fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel) and vegetable oils (safflower, walnut, sunflower, flax seed), evening primrose oil (500 mg/3 times per day).
  • Foods rich in vitamin B6 – needed for normal brain function: Brewer’s yeast, bok choy, spinach, banana, potato, whole grains.
  • Foods rich in tryptophan – precursor to neurotransmitter serotonin: white turkey meat, milk, nuts, eggs, fish.
  • Liver cleansing foods – proper liver function helps to regulate blood sugar: garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussell sprouts, beets, carrots, artichokes, lemons, parsnips, dandelion greens, watercress, burdock root.
  • Magnesium rich foods – important for nerve conduction: seeds, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, soy products, almonds, pecans, cashews, wheat bran, meats.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners
  • Refined sugar and processed foods
  • Be aware of your specific food sensitivities

Try a meal or snack with fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and low-fat protein!

Tofu Salad

with Cajun Spice Dressing

6 tablespoons Cajun Spice seasoning blend 1 pound firm- style tofu or Tempeh*
1/2 cup vinaigrette dressing
4 cups organic salad greens including:
dandelion greens, watercress, arugula, baby kale, romaine, spinach 1/2 cup organic shredded carrot
1/3 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1-2 tablespoons canola oil

  1. Drain tofu, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, press briefly with paper towel to absorb excess water. If using tempeh, simply slice tempeh into 1/2-inch strips.
  2. Measure 5 tablespoons of spice mixture into shallow bowl; dip tofu/tempeh in spice mixture to evenly coat; transfer to a dry plate. Cover and chill 30 minutes.
  3. Combine remaining spice mixture with vinaigrette dressing. Blend well; let stand 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat heavy skillet. Lightly coat with vegetable oil. Pan fry tofu/tempeh for 4 – 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
  5. Arrange salad greens on serving plate. Arrange tofu/tempeh evenly over greens. Garnish each salad with carrot, fennel, and red onion. Top each with two tablespoons dressing.

*Tofu and tempeh are good sources of magnesium. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to depression, irritability and confusion.

For Assistance with your own personalized nutrition program, contact THE Mindful Nutritionist, Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN. Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Virtual appointments available. (P) 480.675.4568  (email) lisa@lisaschmidtcounseling.com.

Healthy Holiday Swaps

Have a healthy holiday season this year! The holiday season is all about family and food – and Photo-2-centerall too often, adding a few extra pounds to our waistlines. Try these healthy holiday swaps for your favorite meals.

Stay active! Increase your physical activity during the holiday season by going for a walk after each meal or gathering. Shooting hoops, jumping rope or playing catch are also good family/group activities.

Baking Swaps

  • Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.  You can also swap for any plant based milk (no cholesterol or saturated fat).
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor instead of sugar or butter.

Cooking Swaps

  • Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter.
  • Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
  • Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk or any plant based (soy, almond, rice, hemp) milk.


  • Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
  • Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice, like lime.
  • Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.

Healthy and Mindful Holiday Baking

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also

Use fresh fruit to "healthify" your holiday baked goods

Use fresh fruit to “healthify” your holiday baked goods

becomes a time for over-eating and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year, which can really add up over a lifetime. The holidays don’t have to be equated with weight gain if we focus on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun to stay healthy through the holiday season.

Traditions that define most family celebrations include food, drink, and sweets. If keeping your waistline in check has become a goal, indulging your sweet tooth without drowning in calories is possible. By using seasonal and fresh ingredients, minimizing butter, reducing sugar, upgrading recipes with fiber-rich whole grain flour, and using nuts creatively for added crunch and healthy fat, you can cook like a pro and please even the most discriminating family member or guest.

Here are some tips for making favorite recipes healthier:

Your Healthy Microbiome

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Choose these foods to keep healthy and encourage the development of a robust microbiome

Have you heard about your microbiome? The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are called the microbiome. These helpful bugs are key to our overall health.  They help us digest our food, and provide critical nutrients , train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, help protect us from diabetes, and even cancer.  Other studies show that they play a role in obesity, atherosclerosis, autimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

Sugar Is The New Smoking

Sugar is an amazing substance.

Sugar Like Smoking?

Sugar Like Smoking?

It is pure sensation, pleasure in a crystalline form.  We share as humans a desire for its innate sweetness, which begins at mother’s breast.  This taste of milk sugars is the fuel that energizes all of life – white gold – pure carbohydrate energy that moves our bodies.  The calories in a cup of breast milk are nearly 40% from sugar in the form of lactose. The deep and primal appeal of sugar is one of the reasons that sugar and sugar-filled foods are now among the most popular and commonly chosen edibles.  In the past, sugar was expensive and rare, and consumption was limited to the wealthy and was reserved for the end of a meal.  Now sugar is cheap and abundant, with manufactured sugars infused in nearly every packaged product sold in supermarkets.

Good in Moderation?

Like many dietitians and nutrition experts, I used to recommend that sugar be eaten in moderation.  Now, I’ve changed my tune.  Due to the ever present presence of sugar in our lives, and because of the insidious way Big Sugar (The National Sugar Association, a sugar lobbying organization) conspired to manipulate scientific studies about sugar’s harmful effects, I now say avoid added sugars.  PERIOD.

Sugar is in everything

Added to nearly every packaged product and deliberately concealed by food manufacturers through its 56 different names, one cannot avoid eating added sugars.  We have a long love affair with sugar, which is one reason why it is so hard to resist.  The other reason is because it is hidden.  In food as well as through deliberate concealment.  More than 75% of the added sugar we eat is in food products, meaning that packaged food is by far and above the problem with our excessive sugar intake.

The National Sugar Association and Deliberate Concealment

Beginning in the 1960’s, the National Sugar Association made sure that consumers wouldn’t learn about the harm that excess sugar caused.  They paid off prominent scientific researchers from Harvard University to turn attention away from sugar causing health problems, pointing the finger in many instances towards fat.  You can read the scientific study here.  For a brilliant editorial from one of my heroes, Marion Nestle, you can read her post from Food Politics. Dr. Nestle is an expert on the politics that affect some of the more unhealthy foods like soda, and how our own health interests are routinely thwarted by Big Food.  I share her conclusion:  “we would all be better eating less sugary foods and fatty meats.”  Simple nutrition, expert advice.

Here is the Truth About Sugar

A recent study in a prominent scientific journal concluded that a high intake of added sugars increases the risk of weight gain, excess body weight and obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus; higher serum triglycerides and high blood cholesterol; higher blood pressure and hypertension; stroke; coronary heart disease; cancer; and dental caries. Foods higher in added sugars are often a source of empty calories with minimum essential nutrients or dietary fiber which displaces more healthful foods and lead, in turn, to simultaneously overfed and undernourished individuals.  Meaning, we are fatter and less healthy.

The Worst Offenders With Added Sugar

We all know that sugar is in soda, fizzy drinks, and cakes and cookies.  But do you know about the worst offenders?

  • Salad Dressings
  • Soups and Sauces
  • Breakfast Smoothies
  • Breakfast Bars and Yogurt
  • Bread
  • Alcohol

If you want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other considerable health risks, stop blaming your genetics, and take charge of your eating.  Once you know the truth about sugar, you can make a choice to change.  It truly is up to each one of us to act as our own health advocate.  Remember, Big Sugar is not your friend.  In fact, the food industry acts just like Big Tobacco, and they market to us in just the same way.  I think we all know how this story will end – in perhaps 10 or 20 years, following innumerable suffering and death, added sugars will be banned, or at least revealed for the health problem they are – and sugar will be considered as unhealthy as smoking.