Tag Archives: primal

Balsamic Glazed Beet Salad

Beet saladThis is our favorite salad.

Cooking the beets and reducing the balsamic vinegar are steps that consume time.  To save a bit of time, you can prepare the beets one day, peel them, store them covered in the fridge, and then use them on another day to make the salad.  Sometimes, I’ll just make up a bunch of beets, eat some sprinkled with salt and pepper for supper, and then a couple of days later, I’ll use up more beets to make the salad.  They peel easiest when they are warm, but I have peeled lots of beets cold from the fridge, and they do fine, too.  We also eat the glazed beets as leftovers.

Life is about legitimate shortcuts.

Beets are very red.  Caution with your clothes, apron, or favorite cutting board.

(For special diets like SCD and GAPS, the balsamic vinegar must not have anything in it at all except vinegar.)

Balsamic Beet Salad


Beets, 2-3 large or 4-6 small
Greens of choice (beet greens, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, endive, kale, a mixture, etc)
3/4-1 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper, a dash or two
1/4 cup of nuts of choice, coarsely chopped (almonds or walnuts are great), more or less
1/4 cup of raisins, more or less depending on how many people you are serving
Optional:  Chevre cheese, if you’re not on dietary restrictions.  You could also toss in some cut grapes, blueberries, or sliced strawberries.  Sauerkraut on top tastes great!

Prepare Beets:
Either roast them in the oven or boil them covered in water.  Both are good methods.  Roasting provides a more complex, sweet flavor and nice texture to the beets, but they are more difficult to peel due to the “caramel” layer that forms just under the skin.  Boiling allows the skins to be slipped off very easily, but the flavor and texture is not as fine as roasting.  However, both methods work well, and we like both of them fine.  Often, it depends on which is easier that day, the oven or the stove.  If your beets are huge, they take a long time to cook.  That’s why I often make them ahead of time.

  • Roasting:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Cut off leaves and root end of beet.  Rinse.  Pat dry.  Place on baking sheet.  You may wrap them in foil if you’d like.  You may even place all of them together in one foil wrapping.  I don’t because it’s one more step, but you can.  Bake until they are fork tender, about an hour, depending on size.  Large beets may take much longer!  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool.  Use your hands/fingers to rub/peel off the beet skin and any stem you didn’t get off.  Use a knife if you prefer.
  • Boiling:  Cut off leaves and root end of beet.  Rinse.  Place in a pot of water, enough to cover all beets.  Bring water to a boil.  Boil the beets until they are fork tender, about 40 minutes to an hour, or longer if they are huge.  Remove from heat.  Pour off water.  Allow beets to cool.  You may run cold water over them if you want.  Use your hands/fingers to rub/peel off the beet skin and remaining stem.

wpid-IMAG0665.jpg wpid-IMAG0667-1-1.jpg

Slice beets as thick as you want.  Or make into wedges.  Or dice into medium, half-inch sized cubes.  Set aside in a bowl that will tolerate heat.

Prepare Greens:

Rinse desired greens and dry as well as you can.   Place in a bowl that will tolerate heat.  Use kitchen shears to cut greens into small, bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

You can clean, remove stems, and use the beet greens at the top of the beet, too!  Very nutrient dense!wpid-IMAG0671.jpg

Prepare Dressing:

In a large skillet, pour balsamic vinegar and honey together.  Whisk together well.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Continue heating until the mixture thickens up, to about the consistency of a syrup.  Depending on your brand of balsamic, this can take some extra wpid-IMAG0668.jpgtime.  When reduced, add in the olive oil and whisk well.  Add salt and some pepper shakes.  Whisk well.  Add beets carefully to the hot mixture.  Allow the beets to heat through and be thoroughly covered in dressing.  Remove beets to a bowl that tolerates heat and set aside.

Use some of the still very hot leftover dressing to pour over the greens to wilt them just a little, if you’d like.  You may not need all of it, depending on how many greens you had or how many beets you had.  You sure don’t want your greens swimming!!!

Toss well to coat.

Put Salad Together:

Add beets to top of salad.  Add some raisins and chopped nuts on top.  Add other items as you enjoy them–fruit or sauerkraut.

Family “gustar” report:

My husband and I love this salad!  My kids pick at it.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law liked it so much, my MIL asked me to write down the recipe for her.
Here is the GAPS page which lists balsamic:  http://gapsdiet.com/The_Diet.html

Have a great day!


In the draft bin:  More Metametrix, GAPS Intro Stage 2 update

Give Us Your Zucchini! We Actually Want It!

Don’t turn down those zucchini and summer squashes you’re offered anymore!  Here are six zucchini ideas to use those logs all up.  And I haven’t even touched on salads yet!  Psssst.  Pick them small, please.

Pile chicken salad on top of fresh-cut zucchini slice into coins.


Dip coin-sized slices into your favorite dip.  Much crisper than cucumber!


Zucchini bread never fails.  The recipe I use is from “Against All Grain”:  Almond Flour Zucchini Bread.


Grilled zucchini.  Mix  your favorite olive oil and your favorite vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.  Add a couple pinches of salt and a teaspoonful of thyme.  Toss diagonal sliced zucchini and the marinade together in a plastic bag.  Allow to sit as long as possible, overnight is best.


Zucchini pizza boats.  I show some squash a neighbor gave me, but it works the same!

wpid-IMAG1006.jpgZucchini chips.  Slice a zucchini very thin, as thin as you can, using a mandolin slicer.  Fry over medium-high in a single layer until golden brown.  Transfer when done to a paper-towel lined plate.


And I still have lots more zucchini!  So I’ll be coming up with more ideas!  Do you have any ideas to share?

Related Post:  The Best Ever Zucchini

A Real Food Story


Inappropriate weight is a SIGN from the body that it is struggling with our food choices.

Our bodies function best on whole foods.

Thank you to my mother-in-law for sharing her whole-foods conversion story.  Yesterday’s post contains the introduction to her story.  Choosing nutrient-dense foods is allowing her body to start functioning like it should, and she deserves that.  We all do.  You do:

Terri, here it is.  For better or worse.

My name is Mary and I’m overweight.  My cholesterol number is 11 points above the desirable number and I have an irregular heartbeat (supraventricular tachycardia).  [Allow me, Terri, to mention the time we were walking and her irregular heart beat acted up and her blood pressure dropped.  I had to leave her supine on a park bench while I sprinted 1 and 1/2 miles home to get the car.]  I walk 2 miles a day, 4-5 days a week and spend summers in Indiana and winters in South Carolina.

I never meant for it to happen, but over the years I’d added a pound here and a pound there until I was 20 pounds overweight on my 71st birthday.  [At some point in life, we get to forget about weight!  I don’t care about my mother-in-law’s “weight”, but I do care about her “function.”]  It was then that I decided to do something about it.  Doctors on TV had said that one way to reduce cholesterol was to lose weight.  And I remember back in the 60s my husband attended a science convention in Atlantic City where the keynote speaker presented information about his topic:  “Man is getting too big for his heart.”  I reasoned that maybe I could improve my cholesterol number and improve my heart condition by losing a little weight.

So I began my daily diet regime:  a bowl of cereal with skim milk for breakfast and then a little meat, chicken, or fish, a serving of fruit, and 3 servings of vegetables divided between the other two meals.  I did allow myself a little grain (bread or pasta).  By November I had lost 5 pounds.  But then came Thanksgiving and my weight spiked up again.  Before I could lose the weight again, along came Christmas and a repeat of Thanksgiving.  Then there was New Year’s Eve.  I just could not seem to move ahead with my weight-loss goals.

Then in late February, my daughter-in-law told me about the success her family was having with whole foods and eliminating grains and dairy from their diets.  [Our success came in “function”:  Energy levels, coughs, headaches, stomach aches, constipation, inability to concentrate, sleep, runny noses, stuffy noses, etc.  Weight did follow.]  I decided to give “no grains” a try.  I wasn’t ready to give up ice cream altogether, but I would try to give up grains.  That in itself seemed a daunting task – goodbye pie, cake, pasta, yeast rolls, corn, even cereal.  Was there anything left to eat??!!  What I was expected to live on was a little meat or fish, a little fruit, and lots of vegetables.  I took it a step further and eliminated white potatoes; and although I did not eliminate dairy altogether, I did significantly decrease my intake of milk, cheese, and butter (choosing olive oil instead).  And, yes, I decreased the frequency of ice cream treats.  To be sure I didn’t fudge the results, I kept a daily log of my weight.

The Results

Although I kept a daily log, I will present only the weight on the first day of the new diet and each month after, as close to the anniversary date as possible.

Date                                                      Weight

March 3                                                114.0

April 2                                                   111.6

May 3                                                    108.6

June 10                                                 106.0

July 3                                                     104.8

Health Benefits

I have noticed a number of health benefits as a result of losing 10 pounds, some of them hoped for, some expected, and some a complete surprise.

  • My waist size has decreased 2-3 inches
  • I can bend more easily to tie my shoes
  • I can walk all the way up the hill without stopping to rest midway
  • My heartbeat is more regular during exercise
  • My blood pressure has decreased about 10 points
  • I have more energy and really notice I have sluggishness with increased grain and/or sugar intake

You May Wonder:

1.  What do you eat for breakfast?  Normally I have a smoothie for breakfast made with ½ c. coconut water, a banana, ¼ apple, some cinnamon and/or nutmeg and then another fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and mangos are favorites).  Ice is optional.  If I am traveling, I will opt for egg, sausage, and fruit.

[I, Terri, have a whole list of breakfast ideas if you click here.  Although I like smoothies, they don’t stick to my ribs.  Protein and fat last me longer and don’t give me a post-breakfast sugar drop, which may be what she’s experiencing.  Real fats, if we remove processed sugars, excessive sweet consumption, and carbohydrates from grains should not scare us anymore.  However, convincing somebody who has been trained to be afraid of animal fats for 40 years is very tough.]

2.  Do you ever get hungry between meals?  Yes, especially after the breakfast smoothie.  Usually I walk 2 miles after breakfast, and after that walk I am very hungry.  The trick is to get very busy and stay that way until lunchtime.  If hunger is too overwhelming, a handful of nuts helps.

[Here I, Terri, would again point out “the smoothie crash” I mentioned above.  I would also add that any whole foods snack will work:  a banana, an avocado, olives, apple slices with almond butter, a leftover hamburger patty, a boiled egg, a can of tuna in olive oil.  Something with protein and fat will curb true hunger.]

3.  When is it hardest for you to resist grains?  When the person across the table from me is eating a warm, fluffy, yeasty-smelling, buttery-topped pan roll, or a piece of warm rhubarb custard pie topped with ice cream, or a stack of pancakes with maple syrup dripping, or a piece of hot pizza.  You name it.  It’s a struggle. 

[She mentioned to me once that she knew exactly what an alcoholic must go through.]

4.  Do you ever fall off the wagon?  Oh, yes!  But I just climb back on again.  And to compensate, I may adjust by eating only vegetables for the next meal, or a small piece of fruit and a handful of nuts.  Or I may exercise a little more.

[For myself, I focus on how poor my energy level is,  how irritable I feel, how bloated I am, how my constipation flares up, or my headache.  Reminding myself that I like to feel good helps me start renewed the next morning.]


This life style change for me seems to be working, although I seem to have reached a plateau at around 105 pounds.  Maybe there have been simply too many graduation parties, holidays, and family picnics.  But when I fall off the wagon, I get right back on.  I’ve come too far to turn back now.  The prize is just around the bend – 5 pounds to my optimum weight and whatever health perks come with it. 

[Here I would encourage people to focus on the “health perks” and not the weight.  IT IS NOT YOUR WEIGHT THAT DETERMINES HOW GOOD YOU FEEL.  IT IS THE REMOVAL OF EXCESS FOOD/EXCESS CARBOHYDRATE-FOODS AND THE INSULIN EXTREMES THAT ACCOMPANIES THOSE FOODS.  THE REMOVAL OF CHEMICALS.  THE ADDITION OF MICRONUTRIENTS ABSENT FROM GRAINS.  The feeling better is the key that something good is happening.  The weight will come.  Focusing on weight will bring failure.  Focusing on that horrible sluggish feeling grains often gives some people is a much better incentive.  Or the supraventricular tachycardia symptoms that are so uncomfortable and now going away.]

Thank You For Reading

My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman!  She deserves to feel good, have great energy, desirable cholesterol, and be able to walk without a racing heart.  For me to hear that her irregular heart beat (which is under the great management of her cardiologists) and stamina seem to be improving is joy to my ears.  She is losing about an average of 2 pounds per month, a perfectly sustainable weight-loss.

wpid-IMAG0924.jpgI didn’t hand her a book to read on any particular diet.  Although I am self-experimenting by following GAPS diet, the word “diet” sets my teeth on edge. We would all function (and therefore feel) much better if we could simply choose foods in a more whole state.  (After achieving that wonderful feat, discerning individual food intolerances and adding in a few tweaks will complete “The I Feel Good Conversion.”)

Free to do what she chooses, I laid down these ideas (I’m sorry if you follow along that you have to see these again.):

  • No processed foods or drinks.
  • Nothing with artificial colors and preservatives (including drinks).
  • Nothing with added sugar, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.
  • No grains except for special occasions, hopefully not more than a couple of times a month.
  • No dairy with anything added to it (sugar, colors, carrageenan).  Read labels.
  • Added fats in the form of olive oil, butter, coconut oil, and animal-sources are fine and do not need regulated.
  • Eggs are not bad.
  • Most calories need to come in the form of fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats.

I hope you feel good today.  I hope, if you don’t, you can find what it is that will help you.  Whole food is the perfect start.  (And a check-up with a doctor will help define any serious problems!)


You Have to Lose Weight

You go to the doctor’s office. The doctor says, “You have to lose weight.” It’s a 1 minute conversation, if that.  So what do you do?  Count calories?  Eat less?  Exercise more?  Skip dessert?  Eat low-fat?  Lose five pounds only to regain it all before the next doctor’s visit?

Research and medicine are stumbling on to the knowledge that how we’ve been telling you to eat is a set-up for disaster.  (You can almost hear me say it, “It’s not your fault.”)  Carbohydrates and dairy, in most of us, cannot be the foundation of a well-functioning body.  Foods full of preservatives and sugars are detrimental to the balance of beneficial gut bacteria so underappreciated in the 20th century, but slowly gaining respect in the 21st.  Chronically elevated insulin as a result of constant carbohydrate introduction (cereal, granola bar, milkshake, sandwich bread, pasta, pizza, crackers, soda pop, juice) is Inflammatory Monster 1.   High omega-6 intake from processed oils, touted as healthy, is Inflammatory Monster 2.  Inflammatory Monsters abound in today’s processed food.

My Mother-in-Law and Her Weight

Tomorrow I am going to share my mother-in-law’s nutritional intervention story, but today I will set up the background information.  Her story is an “everyday story.”  She didn’t drop 100 pounds.  She didn’t cure something like ulcerative colitis  in herself.  She isn’t a famous person.  She wasn’t falling on the floor sick, but she was overweight, like many.  Her stamina was deteriorating, like many.  She could be your mom.  Or you.  Or your wife.  And now she feels better…

My mother-in-law is a saint; she has immense treasure waiting for her up in heaven.  As one of the nicest, most patient people who ever walked the earth, she kindly puts up with her son and I, both strong-headed mules (you are allowed to take the analogy one step further and not be too far off from the truth).

She has always been a tiny, 62-inch woman (1.6 meters), until recent years, when she started blossoming OUT.  She usually respectfully heeds my medical advice when it is needed regarding her health.  Over the last several years, as she struggled with her weight slowly creeping up and up, I had no wise medical words to offer this diligent, conscientious-to-a-fault, woman.   So, you’re gaining weight?  Welcome to the real world.  Move more.  Eat less.  Calorie in.  Calorie out.  Next.

wpid-IMAG1004.jpgFinally, her cholesterol sadly followed her weight.  Never one to break rules, she studied the food pyramid and made every effort to do just what it said, posting lists of “healthy” foods and appropriate serving sizes on cupboard doors.  Ever trying, trying to shed creeping pounds and cholesterol numbers. When her cholesterol went up, her doctor told her to eat more oatmeal.    So EVERY morning it was oatmeal for breakfast.  Still her weight and cholesterol trended up.  Her doctor wanted to put her on a statin for cholesterol.  She has VERY few other risk factors, if any.

By now, I had stumbled across GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Primal, Terry Wahl’s (M.D.) and Whole30 type diets.  (They each have their own unique, important spins, but they preach a very similar message which I believe is crucial for a healthy functioning body.)  My whole family was feeling better.  We had even lost some weight.  My husband lost 30 pounds eating this new way. I lost 10. (The man always loses more. No biggie. HE had more to lose anyway.)

We focus(ed) on:

  • nutritional density (whole fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats)
  • removing foods and drinks known, or suspected, to treat the human body badly (like things with artificial colors, preservatives, and sugars)
  • eliminating foods that seemed to treat our own individual bodies badly (grains, dairy, eggs, nuts)

What started as a search for a cure for my severe, chronic constipation problem via the GAPS diet has turned into a wonderful journey of just feeling so much better overall:  fewer headaches, less asthma symptoms, less allergic rhinitis, better bowel movements, more energy, alleviation of common female problems, and identification of SIDE EFFECTS of food.

As we experienced astounding success, I watched my mother-in-law continue to struggle to get that weight down, internally fretting and bemoaning her poor results.  She was in NO way obese by somewhat distorted American standards, and most people in America would have called her normal size.  However, by medical standards, her assessment of herself was correct; she was overweight.

One morning when my in-laws and my family was vacationing together in Grand Cayman, we sat around the breakfast table conversing, and diet and weight control came up.  (Who knows?  Maybe my id brought it up.)  I couldn’t control my intensity as I looked at my mother-in-law:  “You really want to know how to lose this weight?  Get your cholesterol numbers better?”

Due to my intensity, she looked like a deer in headlights: “Of course I do!”

With much vehemence, I said, “Well, the oatmeal has to go.  So do ALL the grains:  wheat, rice, corn, soy, quinoa, you name it.  Wheat is a treat and only for birthdays and holidays.  No crackers.  No bread.  No bagels.  No added sugars.  No preservatives.  Nothing with added colors.  If you eat dairy, it can’t have anything added to it by the manufacturer.  None of this pink yogurt crap.”

Being so good–she wouldn’t argue with the devil–her gray, purple eyes met mine and I saw that jaw of hers clamp down with this challenge.  She thought I had read one too many diet book on this vacation:  “Okay.  I’ll try it.”

wpid-IMAG0939.jpgAgreeing to Share

Changing my diet a year and few months ago for some health reasons was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I really didn’t think a change in my diet would really do all that much–but I wanted to prove it to myself.  I was at my ideal weight (albeit the upper end), exercised daily, ate “healthy food” (along with my cinnamon rolls and cookies), and just looked to be the epitome of health.  Diet change really sucked at first; somewhere along the line, though, I started feeling good.  And I liked it.  I now know this dietary intervention has been the best thing I did for myself, my husband, and my children.  And if I can share that as an inspiration to others, great.

I have been slowly, painfully, letting it be known that I have a blog to people I know.  I figure I love them best, and if it’s that important to me, they ought to get a piece of the carrot.  I let my mother-in-law know about my blog a month ago, and I asked her hopefully if I could share her “nutritional rehabilitation” success story.  She is a profoundly private person, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Surprisingly, she said “yes.”  I think it’s because she senses my urgency and desperation in this matter.  It’s that important to me.

Doctors haven’t sold their souls to the devil. They’re not in a conspiracy. We don’t want you in misery so we can make more money. We aren’t in cahoots with drug companies. We want you to be healthy. We want you to feel good. We just, for so long, haven’t been properly trained on nutrition–the cornerstone of health.

For too long in medicine we’ve sided with moderation talks. We’ve dealt in “diet and exercise.” Calorie in. Calorie out. It’s not effective. It’s not working. It’s not working. It’s not working. QUIT BANGING YOUR HEAD INTO A WALL!

Goodness, no wonder I was having headaches.

Tomorrow I will share my mother-in-law’s words.  Thank you for reading this far, if you did!




Awesome side dishes for the grill, and they just about couldn’t be easier!  Happy Fourth of July!  The pineapple, if you like pineapple, is an absolute MUST TRY!  Try it!  Try it!

Great Grilled Veggies

2 zucchini, sliced in long, diagonal slices that won’t fall through your grill grid
2 yellow squash, sliced in long, diagonal slices that won’t fall through your grill grid
1 bunch of asparagus with the woody ends cut, off, leaving the crisp, tender tops.

4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 pinches of salt
2 twists of cracked pepper from the grinder
2 large pinches of dried thyme
2 large clove of garlic, minced

1.  Slice vegetables.wpid-IMAG0909-1.jpg
2.  Mix together marinade ingredients in a small bowl and place in a Ziplock baggie or any vessel you use to marinade food in.  Reserve 2 tablespoonsful of marinade and set aside.
3.  Add vegetables to marinade and store in refrigerator; overnight gives superb flavor.
4.  Grill vegetables directly on the grill until browned.  Remove prior to burning and let the ones that fall into the flames–let them go!
5.  Place surviving grilled veggies on a serving dish and splash with reserved marinade.
6.  Enjoy!

wpid-IMAG0921-1.jpgGrilled Pineapple

Pineapple that has been peeled and cored in one whole piece wpid-IMAG0934.jpg
Honey if desired

1.  If desired, use your hands and spread about 1 tablespoonful of honey on exterior of pineapple.
2.  Dust with ground cinnamon on all sides.
3.  Place directly on grill, turning every few minutes, until grilled on all sides.
4.  Slice as desired and serve.
5.  Absolutely fabulous.  We fight over the last piece.


Easy Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken with 1-2-3 collard greens, spaghetti squash, and garden onion.

Roasted chicken with 1-2-3 collard greens, spaghetti squash, and garden onion.

A sure-fire winner and super easy. A family favorite.

Easy Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken
Olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tablespoon ground pepper
1-2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp onion powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl.
3. Rinse chicken and pat chicken very dry with paper towels. If there is twine, you may leave it in place while baking. Check the chicken cavity for any parts the butcher put in there and remove them if included.
4. Rub chicken liberally with olive oil with your bare hands.
5. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture all over the chicken and rub in, legs, breasts, wings, and all.
6. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish, a 9X13 glass dish works well, with the BREAST side up.
7. Bake chicken about 45 minutes, depending on how hot your oven cooks.
8. Check with a meat thermometer. You want the internal temperature to be at least 165 degrees. Caution: check the densest part of the chicken. I actually like to cook it to 170 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, err on overbaking without burning the skin. Take out the chicken if the skin begins to burn. However, you want the skin nice, brown, and crispy.
9. We start by carving the breast on top first. The skin is edible, despite the common practice in the 80s and 90s of removing it. We didn’t know what we were doing back then. I have senior photos with big hair to prove it. Then we drizzle the drippings over the meat like a gravy. The legs and wings may be gently manipulated and cut through with a knife.

Free-range chickens have the best fatty acid profile (more omega-3s) to benefit you. Look for those if you can find them.

Everyone in my family, all three kids included, love this chicken. Super easy and delicious.

I’m trying to get people interested in cutting out processed foods from their diets and cutting back on grain products.  On Facebook, I am posting what we eat all day for a week.  Check out our grain-free, GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Primal, whole food-friendly meals…The Homeschooling Doctor.

Chicken, breast side up, ready to be roasted.

Chicken, breast side up, ready to be roasted.

Chicken after roasting.

Chicken after roasting.

GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Primal, and Whole 30

If you gain nothing else from this post, please gain this– eliminate processed grain products.

“Fad.  It’s all just a fad.”

You calling my diet a fad?

You call relying on fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, eggs,  nuts, and minimally processed oils/fats a fad?  Very interesting.  Very discouraging, actually.

Gluten-free, dairy-free processed food products?  Yes.  Fads.  They’ll pass the same way as all the low-fat products we used to buy.

The “diets” I’m about to discuss today bring REAL food to the forefront:  Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Paleolithic (Paleo), Primal and Whole30 (not presented in that order).  There may be other “diets” out there with these same underlying principles, but I, as of yet, have only tackled reading about these.

Please don’t confuse these diets with low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets; these diets are not meant to be the Atkin’s diet.  Beets, butternut squash, carrots, nuts, and fruits provide plenty of carbohydrates.

Sadly, but necessarily for some of us, grains aren’t invited to the party.  Neither are things like food dyes, food preservatives, MSG, carrageenan, agar, sugar, artificial sweeteners, legumes, potatoes, and highly processed oils/fats.  Substances like coffee, tea, and alcohol are asked to be eliminated or highly scrutinized.  Dairy is just a lovable troublemaker for all concerned:  do you or don’t you?

Explaining each diet thoroughly in one post is not possible.  All I hope to do is lay out some of the big grain-free movements out there with some of their slants.

Whole30/Whole9 (It Starts with Food :  Discover the Whole 30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways):  I find this book and program the most approachable.  Very common sense.  Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s writing is upbeat, very informative, humorous, and honest. They want you to give this a try because they KNOW you’ll feel better.  There’s enough science to prove their points, but it’s provided in an understandable manner.

“Whole 30” refers to the 30 day challenge the Hartwigs ask you to undertake after reading their book (or website).  Whole9 refers to the holistic 9 factors Dallas and Melissa believe promote optimal health–not just food.  Hopefully after trying the plan for 30 days, you’ll choose it for a lifetime.

For the person who wants to lose weight, get “healthier”, and see food in a whole new way, this book can’t be beat.  For people with deeper health issues or significant food intolerances, the book only touches briefly on an autoimmune protocol.  If you are sensitive to eggs, nuts, or even clarified butter, you may not find the relief you need.

On the dairy issue:  Everything dairy is removed for the initial 30 days except clarified butter (ghee—the stuff they serve you with your seafood).  After that, they ask you to honestly assess whether your body processes dairy well and benefits your body.

Paleolithic/Paleo (several versions exist): A Paleo diet arrives at the door saying that its included foods have been consumed by humans since, well, the dawn of humans–before the advent of agriculturally induced chronic health issues like osteoporosis, cavities, diabetes, and heart disease.  Since we “grew up” on these foods, we are adapted really well to eat them.  Paleo’s strict definition is going to vary from expert to expert, but the underlying food groundwork remains the same, including the foods I’ve already outlined above.  Opinions differ on salt intake, fat intake, protein intake, and even dairy, but a wise, discerning individual won’t get hung up on the details.

Dairy is usually not considered “Paleo”, but sometimes butter, ghee, and cream are encouraged.  Sometimes not.  Depends on who you ask.

Paleo seems to be a good all-around program for many, those seeking weight reduction, a cure, or just to be “healthier.”  There is a protocol, called Autoimmune Paleo, which removes even more foods with known allergenic/inflammatory-producing properties (eggs, nuts/seed, nightshades—obviously grains and dairy have already been removed by going “Paleo.”).  If a person is tackling a health issue that doesn’t respond to Paleo, they may step it up to Autoimmune Paleo.

Here is Robb Wolf’s Paleo website.

Primal (The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson):  Although all of these “interventions” I describe here encourage complete lifestyle evaluation, The Primal Blueprint really explores incorporating “Paleolithic” type ideas into everyday life (sleep, exercise, etc.), not just food.  It’s a lifestyle, not a “diet.”

As a lifestyle, keeping things “do-able” is condoned, so Sisson comes up with an 80%/20% philosophy, allowing some deviation from the recommendations, including the diet.  This is great for someone looking for weight loss, health guidance, and taking life to the next level, but if you have a refractory health problem, strict dietary adherence to diet will be mandatory.  Primal Blueprint has a nicely done website:  Mark’s Daily Apple.

SCD (Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall):  Although mostly designed to “heal”/treat gastrointestinal issues, the SCD is beginning to appeal to people with other issues as well (autism, chronic fatigue, and more).  It doesn’t take an evolutionary approach, but SCD still comes up with basically the same foods to include and exclude as Paleo does, by evaluating the carbohydrate composition and removing processed food substances.  There is a detailed list of foods which are legal and illegal on the diet.

SCD has an introduction diet, but it was not in my book.  I don’ t know if it’s in later editions or not!  The introduction diet can be found on-line.  If I remember right, it introduces eggs right away–so if you’re like me and have issues with eggs–you may say, “Hey!  This diet doesn’t work for me!”  Really, it would have worked had the egg intolerance been known.

Dairy is allowed, but only in certain forms.  Particularly encouraged is homemade yogurt.  Other unique features off the top of my head include exclusion of sweet potatoes.  And exclusion of chocolate.  Wonder why I remember that.

SCD is not meant to be a “forever diet.”  It is meant to “heal the gut” by putting in nutrient-dense stuff the body needs and taking out detrimental stuff it suffers from. Maybe a couple of years, more or less.

GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride):  GAPS was built on the SCD.  Except it includes chocolate.

Campbell-McBride feels lots and lots and lots of health issues can be treated with her approach (from inflammatory bowel disease to depression).  I do GAPS for my constipation issues, but I fixed a whole lot of other stuff.  In addition to most of the Paleo foods, GAPS mandates homemade broths and some source of probiotic, whether it be from a supplement or from homemade sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles, etc.  Organ meats are stressed, and certain supplements are recommended to be phased in, if needed, as you progress along.

There is a very strict introduction diet which conveniently functions as an elimination diet (to uncover food intolerances) if you follow it as stated.  It is difficult to follow as stated, although one can always do the introduction later after getting familiar with the full diet.

GAPS also intends to “heal and seal the gut” so a person may introduce food categories that had been excluded while on the diet.  A person may need 6 months to 2-3 years supposedly.

Dairy is excluded initially and then allowed in the form of ghee, progressing from there, if the person tolerates it.


Aside from keeping it whole, I don’t believe there is a “best diet” for anybody.  However, lots and lots of people are experiencing myriad symptom relief from the grain-free diets listed above, but there may need to be tweaks.  Remove eggs.  Remove dairy.  Eliminate FODMAP or oxalate foods.  Add in a potato.  Add in quinoa.  Nip and tuck.

Personally, I’d like to be able to have a piece of refined flour birthday cake every now and then, kind of Primal like–so I’m bettin’ on the GAPS/SCD right now!

Heal and seal, I say!

If that doesn’t work out, I may just have to call it Paleo.

Whole foods equal whole health.  Have a good day.


Grain-Free Diets

Dear Google,
I am a medical doctor, and I want to know …can you live without grains?

wpid-IMAG1311-1.jpgAbout one year ago, I started aggressively searching for ways to get my once or twice monthly bowel routine to step it up.  I really was just hoping one of those natural supplements would do it for me:  aloe vera, magnesium, milk thistle, chia seeds, Saccharomyces boulardi probiotic…but fate wanted me to work a little, no–a lot, harder than that.

I stumbled across unreasonable people declaring that I had to give up gluten and dairy.  Tried it.  No good for me; took care of my daughter’s problem.

Then I stumbled across loonies saying I needed to give up grains altogether.  No way.  A human being can’t live without grains.  It’s the bottom of the food pyramid.  The rock-bottom foundation.  My dad’s a farmer.  I can’t give up grains.

Not only  did I give up grains, I picked a crazy diet called GAPS to stick to for a year.  I wanted to give it all my effort and prove to myself that food really does not make a difference, so I could eat my cake and cookies in peace.

Since the word diet makes me cringe and want to eat more bad stuff, I prefer to call what I’m doing “nutritional intervention”–even “nutritional rehabilitation,” if you will.  Because really, that’s what it is.  Problem identified.  Intervention being undertaken.

Can a human being live without grains?

Yes.  Before agriculture, humans lived on hunting and gathering:  meats, fruits, and vegetables.  Seeds (grains) would have comprised exceptionally little of their diets.  Think wild grass weeds growing in the back field or along your favorite hiking trail.

Inuits (Eskimos) did great on a no-grain diet, before the violation of their food-culture with the American diet.

By the way, have you ever eaten wheat grains?  I grew up on a farm.  I have.  I scooped a small handful out of the grain truck, chewed a few bites, and called that good enough for me–running off to go grab a red popsicle from the deep freeze.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, you get from grains that you cannot obtain from another food source.  Let me repeat.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, you get from grains that you cannot obtain from another food source.

Why would anyone suggest cutting grains?

  • Anti-nutrients in grains prevent absorption of vital minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
  • Carbohydrates in grains (and starches and sugars) raise glucose levels and therefore insulin levels.  The way America eats grains (and sugars and starches), insulin is high “all the time.”  Insulin’s job is to store fat for you.  Also, high levels of glucose and insulin are inflammatory.  When I say inflammatory, I want you to think of all kinds of things, like blocked heart arteries, dementia, and diabetes.
  • Lectins in grains are exceptionally difficult for our precious first barrier, the gastrointestinal tract.  They bind to our gut cells and can damage it, gaining access to our bloodstream to cause further distress in other cellular processes.
  • Gluten in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale are very difficult to digest, and even if you don’t have celiac disease, it’s estimated 7% of the population still reacts to gluten:  headaches, rashes, joint aches, and gastrointestinal effects.

Last Words

My blog is not about getting you to go grain-free.  In fact, my blog is only to encourage you.  Encourage you to seek ways to make food work for you and your family, not against you.  Grains can be troublesome to many people, and aside from gluten, maybe you’ve never heard that.  I didn’t even touch on gluten’s “morphine-type” effect, which some of us are likely very sensitive to (think carbohydrate cravings and morphine-type effect on bowels).

Food matters.  It’s not just about your weight, but I almost promise your weight will follow if you cut out all processed foods and eat only fruits/vegetables/meats.  It’s about how you and your loved ones feel.  Those crazy nagging health problems the doctor just ignores or can’t seem to help.  Our family changed our eating and ditched lots of those problems.

I’m still waiting for my wings so I can fly.  I’m thinking two years eating this way ought to about do it.  Watch for me flying in the sky over your area soon.  (My blog.  My humor.  Sorry.)

Post on SCD, GAPS, Paleo, Primal, and Whole 30 diets/nutritional intervention programs to follow soon.

Can I Cook with Olive Oil?


Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You shouldn’t cook with olive oil.”

Well, isn’t that just an invitation to cook with olive oil?

Is olive oil really a ticking time bomb under cooking heat?  The taste  is divine and the liquidity super convenient.  Do I need to feel remiss for blogging the recipes I cook and bake with olive oil?

I took a look.

(I’m talking about virgin or extra-virgin olive oil in this post.  See here for help in differentiating types of olive oil.  It can be overwhelming.)

Bottom line first:  Baking and cooking at fairly short, typical kitchen temperatures minimally changes olive oil, but not enough to stress me out.

It’s no longer in my mind, “Can I cook with it?” but instead, “Which brand should I be cooking with?”

Most importantly with olive oil, you get what you start with.

Many (maybe most) olive oils are well-degraded before you ever open the bottle, and cooking only intensifies that.  Start with good quality, fresh olive oil.  If you don’t, you may as well catch it on fire.  Oxidation at its finest!  Opa!

Oh, yeah.  And to get the full benefits of olive oil, make sure and use some uncooked every now and then (I opt for 2-3 times daily)!  Since you get what you pay for and you want to get your nickel’s worth–lick the plate.  Yum.  A quality extra-virgin olive oil–it’s that good.

If you want a little more detail on the “can I cook with olive oil” question–keep reading.  If you want a lot more, read the sources listed at the end.

Can I feel comfortable using olive oil for cooking and baking?

Yes.  I can.

Doesn’t olive oil degrade with heat?

Yes.  It does.  And also with exposure to light and oxygen.  In fact, there’s a good chance your store-bought olive oil is rancid before it has even gotten to you.

Ideally your olive oil would come in a glass or stainless steel container  from a well-stored supply that was properly shipped and wouldn’t be sitting under bright fluorescent grocery lights.

Quotes below elaborate on what keeps olive oil from oxidizing.

“Pérez Cerezal et al. reported that olive oil stored in iron tanks can be oxidised rapidly if they are not coated internally with epoxy resins. They also compared the differences in oxidative deterioration between virgin olive oils stored in an iron tank and those stored in a polyesterglass fiber tank. After 10 months, the former had undergone a significant oxidative deterioration while the oxidation extent of the latter was as low as that found for the control oil stored in glass bottles at 4 °C.” (1)

Really?   How do I know if Bertolli’s olive oil is stored in iron, epoxy resin-coated tanks?  DO YOU KNOW?  And to go on…

“In this respect, stainless steel is considered the most appropriate material for tanks in order to avoid the presence of detrimental factors during storage, i.e., light and metal, contamination.  Additional protection with inert gas to decrease oxygen concentration would be the complementary measure to maintain a high oil stability.  The influence of packing materials on olive oil stability was also studied in detail under different commercial conditions. As expected, results from long-term storage studies indicate that impermeability to air and protection from light increase the oil shelf life significantly.” (1)

And finally, are you that consumer?

“At present, virgin olive oil is usually commercialised in glass transparent bottles since consumers like to see the oil that they purchase.  Consequently, the lack of protection from light is the predominant factor that can accelerate oxidation by catalysis of radical initiation or, in the presence of photosensitisers, by formation of singlet oxygen.”  (1)

Okay, but you’re pretty sure you’re buying “FRESH pressed olive oil”, nearly off the tree!  So it’s good when you pour it (you think)!  What about cooking?  Can you cook with it?  Doesn’t it ruin it?  Make it DANGEROUS?

Nah.  It doesn’t magically form wicked trans fats or sorely picked on, probably unjustly, saturated fats.  However, its beneficial compounds will degrade with cooking heat, just like when it sits next to your hot stove in a clear, plastic bottle on a sunny day.  Just like it could in that iron vat mentioned above–perhaps long before it ever reached you.  Way back in Italy or Spain.

I feel comfortable cooking and baking with olive oil at my typical ranges of about 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit (149-204 degrees Celsius).  And my typical times of about 10-30 minutes.

Why?  What makes me say that?

“Effects of Conventional Heating on the Stability of Major Olive Oil Phenolic Compounds by Tandem Mass Spectrometry and Isotope Dilution Assay” has a nice table (Table 1) looking at olive oil’s phenolic compounds’ breakdown at typical cooking temperatures.  There are other components that make olive oil beneficial, but phenols are some of the most labile ones.  I feel pretty comfortable that my usual 375 degree Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius), 20 minute roasting of vegetables does not allow enough time for much degradation of the beneficial compounds in olive oil.

Table 1 in the article (I couldn’t copy it and paste it.  Sorry.) lists eight phenolic compounds.  Three of the compounds get diminished by about 50% at  30 minutes of 338 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rest have fairly negligible deterioration.

So I figure I’m losing even less on my five-minute pancakes. If I could cool my jets to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius), I’d save about all of those glorified compounds! (2)

(To get your bearings, for nice, golden brown pancakes, I run my skillet at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Medium-low on my stove burner–but they all vary immensely!)

About nothing I cook with olive oil exceeds 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius) for longer than 20-30 minutes.  So if I’m starting with a great oil, I shouldn’t be oxidizing the poor stuff beyond its beneficial use.

Last Asides: 

  • Mark’s Daily Apple has some studies quoted defending use of olive oil in typical kitchen cooking, but I could only pull up the abstracts:  “Defending Olive Oil’s Reputation.”
  • Smoke point of virgin olive oil is about 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius), but it will vary from brand to brand, year to year, location to location.
  • I like to find a fresh, peppery extra-virgin olive oil for a needed robust flavor and a milder one for things like mayonnaise or baking.  But if I’m out of one or the other, I just use what I have.
  • I like coconut oil, which is great for cooking because it tolerates heat better than olive oil, but it gives me a yucky feeling in my head, let’s call it a headache for convenience sake.  And some other untoward side effects.  (Early on in GAPS, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel tops sometimes.  I later linked it to liberal use of coconut oil.)
  • Cloudy olive oil actually suggests an oil with more stability; oxidation occurs more slowly.

I really help this helped you!  Have a great day (or night)!


(1) Velasco et al.  Oxidative Stability of Olive Oil.  Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 2002; 104: 661–676

(2)  Attya M, Benabdelkamel H, Perri E, Russo A, Sindona G.  Effects of Conventional Heating on the Stability of Major Olive Oil Phenolic Compounds by Tandem Mass Spectrometry and Isotope Dilution Assay. Molecules. 2010; 15(12):8734-8746.

Eating Out

We just finished a ten day vacation.

Vacation=eating out.

You call it “eating out”?  Mmph.  For those of us on nutritional intervention, it’s more like eating “without.”

Although I suppose…

“Yes, waiter, well, I–uh–brought my $20 glass bottle of cold-pressed extra virgin organic olive oil here–I’m sure the chef won’t mind using it, will he?  Along with some of these chopped organic vegetables and this lovely filet of grass-fed beef –and this is some Celtic sea salt…I can’t have gluten, dairy, soy, any of those “naughty oils,” artificial colors, artificial preservatives, sugar, and I’m trying to avoid eggs and nuts, too.”  All spoken as you pull a couple of skillets out of your stylish backpack to make sure there’s no dairy or gluten cross-contamination when your food is cooked.

…then maybe, just maybe, dinner could be escaped unscathed.  But as it is, eating out can be a real headache and stomach ache.  Literally.  Is it worth it?  Sometimes.  But mostly I’ve found I’d rather clean the kitchen than eat out.  (Sad, considering eating out used to be one of our most favorite things to do.)

I’ve been following this diet called GAPS for just about a year now.  It has helped A LOT.  I’ve had to take out certain GAPS-allowed foods which brings me pretty much in-line with Paleo.  Sometimes I try to take it a bit further by combining autoimmune Paleo with GAPS (emphasis on homemade broths, fermented foods, certain supplements, and some hate stares at “toxins”) to see if I can achieve complete success.  If you know what in the heck I’m talking about, good for you.  If you don’t, well, let’s trade places, please.  Anyhow, eating out is challenging to navigate with dietary restrictions.

On eating (with) out:

First Question: “How am I doing?” or “What am I on this diet for?”

  • If I’m in the clutches of a cloudy head, headache, bloating, and diarrhea, I don’t eat out–my anniversary, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, or God’s birthday.  I stick close to home and re-establish a safe zone.
  • If I’m feeling great and have been for a while, maybe it’s time to rock the boat and take that chance.
  • Bottom line here is–I’m working very hard to see if I can get rid of some health issues I have.  I work very hard to keep moving forward, and I don’t want to destroy that progress.  However, I have found that I can now go out to eat with few, if any, setbacks, as long as I am cautious.

Second Question:  “Where am I at in this food journey?”

  • GAPS and SCD have introduction diets, and really, there’s just not anything from a restaurant allowed in that interval.  I didn’t chance it on stage 1 and 2 of GAPS.  Once I got to roasted meats, I felt more secure with a steak and steamed veggies.
  •  On the initiation of Paleo, Primal, Whole 30 or any other dietary overhaul, it really is not the time to eat out unless you have the will-power of Helen Keller and the stamina of Job.  You deserve success on these nutritional undertakings, and to eat out early on may be more than you can handle.  “Know thyself.”  Maybe you can do it.  I couldn’t back then.

Third Question:  “How strict do I want to be?”

  • If you’re an absolutist regarding oil, grass-fed, organic, preservatives, sugar, and “spices”–best stay home awhile longer until/if you can branch out a bit.  It is YOUR HEALTH and you know best how compromising you should be.  Listen to yourself.

Fourth Question:  “Where do you want to go?”

  • Not even a question.  Steak.  Next choice, seafood and sushi.  Third choice, Thai food with its use of coconut milk and minimal gluten.
    • I found Indian food very challenging because they use so much dairy, but I did manage to get a chicken and tomato based sauce at an Indian food once after a long discussion with our waitress.  Tandoori chicken is marinated in yoghurt.
    • At a Mexican restaurant, I ordered steak and grilled fajita vegetables topped with guacamole.  I avoid all sauces except guacamole and salsa, which I ask about.
    • At a local favorite pizza joint, after a conversation with the owner, I ordered 3 sides (totalling 6) of Harvey's dinnermeatballs (only composed of ground beef, onion, and “spices”–no breadcrumbs or eggs) covered with tomato sauce (which unfortunately had soybean oil and “spices”) and toppings of my choice.  Delicious.
    • For breakfast, I go for the bacon (3 sides of 2 pieces), knowing it has trace sugar and some preservatives.  A cheat.  I used to do eggs before I cut them out.
    • Up-scale, eclectic restaurants are great.  But they cost about two weeks worth of groceries.  However, they always make things exactly to order and very safe.  Plus delicious and exotic.  An absolute, real treat.
    • We’ve found some great things at a Spanish tapas bar and also at genuine Italian restaurants.
  • Many “finer” restaurants are beginning to appeal to nutritional rehabbers like us.  Charleston, SC had several.  They key on advertising as gluten-free/dairy-free.  If I can get a restaurant to guarantee “gluten-free/dairy-free”, I’m usually pretty comfortable ordering after a few questions.
  • Fast food and chains are troublesome.  Whip out your phone and pull up the allergen/nutrition pages for the restaurants.  Here’s a few to get you started.
    • Qdoba (Applesauce, guacamole, fajita vegetables–marginal due to “spice”, and pico de gallo are my go-to foods here.)
    • Subway (I didn’t do well with Subway.)
    • Chipotle
    • McDonald’s  (I guess if I have to eat here, it’ll be the 100% beef patty from a quarter pounder with lettuce and a side of apple slices.  Make sure the burger never touches a bun.  Better than starvation.  Maybe.)
    • Ruby Tuesday  I have read good reviews on other blogs regarding this restaurant for nutritional rehab people.  I looked at the allergen listings, and you have to go through it according to each “allergen.”  Kind of painstaking.
    • Outback  They have their menu marked with gluten-free items, and they also offer sides prepared seasoned as desired.
    • Red Robin I read to ask for it “protein style.”
    • Panera’s hidden menu

Fifth Question:  “What are you going to eat?”

  • In addition to the choices I mention above, steak, chicken or fish that looks as if you can request them made by themselves with no risky seasonings are ideal.  Even Italian restaurants usually offer grilled chicken or seafood.
  • Don’t just look at the entrees.  Peruse the whole menu, from appetizers to salads to entrees, looking for fresh cuts of meat.  MIX AND MATCH!!  At some restaurants, I see salmon on a salad but not as an entree.  If I ask, they never seem to mind serving me a plain salmon filet with a couple of sides of vegetables.  Or I see a meatball sandwich, which has meatballs just made out of ground beef and onion–so I ask if I can get some meatballs as a meal.
  • If a salad looks good, order double the offered meat to fill you up.  Request necessary changes to the salad (no cheese, croutons, nuts, etc).
  • Ask for a “double order” of vegetables.  Sometimes the waiter may look confused–just explain you want a side order of extra vegetables.
  • Most places will usually swap out the starch (rice or potato) for vegetables.

Sixth Question:  “Where are the hidden pitfalls?”

  • Make it very clear you can’t have gluten, dairy, soy, and whatever else you think is a priority for you this time out.  I hate to say I’m “allergic” (because I’m not), but I do say, “I have some questions…I can’t eat dairy, gluten, or soy because it makes me sick…I don’t want to get sick…I was thinking about the salmon filet–can it be made plain for me so I don’t have any reactions?”  I want the waiter to make sure to ask questions back in the kitchen and to communicate with the cook staff.  Often before they verify my order, they’ll go back and check things out.  I always appreciate that if there seems to be a dot of uncertainty.  And top words out of my mouth are usually, “Thank you, and I’m so sorry to be a pain.  I just don’t want to get sick.  Thank you so much for your help.”
  • Steaks are often grilled with butter.  Make sure and request no butter and no seasonings.
  • Cheap chicken can be injected with all kinds of reaction-forming stuff.  Try to verify it is a fresh breast, not frozen.
  • Make sure meats are not breaded and not made with fillers (sometimes ground beef is made with fillers).  Also, make sure eggs are only eggs–not a mix.
  • Vegetables, even steamed ones, are often made with butter.  Make it clear you can’t have butter.  JUST OIL, preferably olive oil.  No seasonings–unless they know exactly what they are.
  • Many seasoning mixes (such as pre-mixed taco seasonings) may have whey (dairy), maltodextrin (gluten potential), cornstarch, sugar, and many other negative items.  Here’s where you take the biggest gamble, I think.  I do the best I can to tell them, “No seasonings.  Just give it to me plain and boring.”
  • Salad dressings–ask them to bring you vinegar/lemons to juice and oil.  Better yet, bring your own mixture of favorite salad dressing or oil that you keep in a baby jar at home.  It’s great over salad, veggies, and meats.
  • Consider keeping/bringing your own baggie of sea salt, since the restaurant’s salt will likely contain dextrose.
  • Sauces such as gaucomole and salsa are not always safe.  Sometimes mixes (think–MSG, whey, sugar, and gums) are used to make these.
  • Watch sautéed mushrooms and onions if you can’t do dairy.  Always yummy if you can convince them to cook them up for you in olive oil!
  • Ask lots of questions.  This helps me to know how trusting I want to be.  If it gets too scary when I ask questions (and sometimes it does), I just ask for a glass of wine and leave it at that.
  • Skip gravy and sauces.

Last statement.  If none of these will work and you don’t want to risk it:

  1.  Eat well before you go.
  2.  Order a drink:  coffee, tea, or a glass of wine.  Sip it and enjoy the conversation.  Smile and laugh.  Have a good time.  That’s the most important thing anyway.
  3. Watch others eat and take pleasure in their enjoyment of foods that you know taste good–but will chew you up and spit you out without a casual glance backwards.  Think of it like a Rick Steves or Anthony Bourdain travel episode.  You can’t really partake in what they’re doing–but you like to watch it anyway.  Does this sound strange?  I really enjoy seeing how the food is plated.  How it smells.  And asking my dinner companion to tell me how it tastes.

Best wishes to you!  Hope your health is moving to where you want it to be!  Keep it up!  You can do it!–Terri