Archive | June, 2012


26 Jun

Dear Fellow Readers,

My July fate has been sealed: Wilson’s Disease (low-copper) diet.  I’ll provide further details during a later post, but let’s take a look at the other remaining diets (in no particular order):


*Low Tyramine

*Locavore (+ mini-Paleo experiment)



I was considering changing it up a bit.  It seems unreasonable to eliminate all of the top 8 food allergens for an entire month.  Most people do not have all 8 of these allergies!  Do you think I should follow the original plan to avoid all 8 OR…

Do I draw one plant food and one animal food per week to be allergic to?  For example, the first week I might avoid eggs and wheat.  The next week it could be fish and soy.  About 30% of children with food allergies have multiple food allergies.  Or…

Do I combine the macrobiotic (1 or 2 weeks), paleo (1 week), and locavore (1 or 2 weeks) diets into one month?  This would allow me to divide the allergic diet up into 2 months.  That way I could spend 1 week dedicated to each allergen.  It may seem easy to avoid peanut butter for a week, but keep in mind that I have to purchase items that are processed on safe equipment as well.  Allergies are serious business, so it involves more detective work than just avoiding a particular food item.

I am indecisive.  Help me!  Please leave a comment to let me know which route you think would be best!

❤ The Hungry Guinea Pig

Eggs? Hamburgers? Since when?

24 Jun

Up until this point, animal products have rarely been seen in my shared meal logs.  For the past 6 months, I have been following a (mostly) vegan diet.  I have decided to start adding more animal products back in to my meals to see what kind of effect it has.  Not to mention, I want my body to be somewhat prepared when I undergo the mini-Paleo experiment still to come.  I have struggled with feeling full on a strictly vegan diet even when incorporating plenty of fat and protein-rich foods (nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, tofu, etc).  I suspect the carbohydrate load is a bit much for me.  I don’t want to make any grand statements or promises at this time, so let’s just leave it at that.  I am still a guinea pig, learning what does and doesn’t work for ME, but that doesn’t mean squat in the way of others’ diet successes and failures.  FructMal can definitely make a vegan diet very challenging (particularly if you have problems with the other FODMAPS as well).  See April posts about Fructose Malabsorption if you are confused by these acronyms. 🙂    I believe that it is possible for SOME to thrive on a vegan diet, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion, I may not be one of them.  The single most important thing anyone can do for their health is to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into their diet as possible (Note the term possible!  If pears make you sick, then don’t eat them if you wish to be well!).  Whether paleo or vegan, your health will suffer if you do not honor this Holy Grail of the diet world!

I NEVER Thought I’d Eat a Pureed Hamburger…

24 Jun

Final phase folks!  Aren’t you excited?  I am (but only because the end is in sight ;-)).

Here’s what I ate my last day on the Mechanically Altered Diet (Level II of the National Dysphagia Diet)

Breakfast: Scottish oats with cinnamon & ground flax seed + 2 scrambled eggs (prepared in coconut oil) with spinach & tsp miso paste

Neato Tip!: I used to think that cooking scrambled eggs without cheese wasn’t worth the effort.  I discovered that by cooking my eggs in a moderate amount of coconut oil and adding miso (fermented soybean paste), the end result was impressive.  The fat + salt combo hits the taste buds nicely.  I would imagine this could be accentuated by adding some nutritional yeast flakes (due to their inherently cheesy flavor).  Newsflash: scrambled eggs without cheese can be just as delicious!  I’m excited about my discovery and wanted to share it with everyone!

Snack:  blueberry soy milk (1 cup of soy milk blended with 1/2 cup blueberries)

Lunch: Bowl of mashed root vegetables: butternut squash, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes + Veggie blend (Avocado, green peas, collard greens, ground black & white sesame seeds, lemon & lime juice), mixed with pumpkin seed butter & 1/2 can tuna [Properly prepared, the tuna should have been cut into smaller pieces before consumption, but I gave myself permission to ignore this step.  Something tells me most people following the dysphagia diet don’t have a full-time job competing with their free time!)

Supper: Bowl of mashed root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi (should have been mashed better), Mayo Coba beans (should have been mashed)

Nighttime Snack: Light Coconut milk mixed with cocoa powder (This mixture should have been blended instead.  It was too chalky.)

Mishaps to confess:  “Sins” don’t seem to be an appropriate label for my mistakes during this phase.  Learning how to properly prepare mechanically altered meals is a work in progress.  I haven’t defiantly shoveled any corn chips into my mouth (amazingly).  I have slowly learned what does and doesn’t work though.  For example, blueberries need to be thoroughly incorporated into smoothies to be an appropriate menu choice for this stage.  Some days when I made blueberry soy milk, there were remnants of the tough skins of the blueberries in my glass.  This is a no-no.  I also ate a black bean burger prepared on the grill.  Even when mashed together with my potatoes, there were a few tough pieces I encountered that I suspect wouldn’t be acceptable.  Other mishaps were mentioned in my food log above.  I will admit that not mashing the beans was out of sheer laziness, and so in that regard, was sinful. 😉

Level 1 (for the truly hardcore) Pureed Diet (I hope my blender is alive and well after this 8-day journey!)

ALL foods must be “pudding-like”, smooth, & free of lumps (Cue the violins – oh wait, I chose this fate…)

Off the Menu:

*Dairy: hard cheeses (unless melted into finished product)

*Grains: coarse, whole grain breads, granola, fried rice, potato skins

*Vegetables: raw or fried vegetables, vegetables with seeds or tough skins (corn, celery, tomatoes) – may not blend well

*Fruits: fruits with seeds, membranes, or tough skins (strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, orange & grapefruit sections, cherries, grapes, dried fruits)

*Meat, poultry, eggs & fish: fried meats, sausages/other tough skinned meats; poultry skin, fish with bones, anchovies, fried eggs

*Nuts/Seeds: all whole nuts/seeds

*Beans/Legumes: crunchy peanut butter (peanut/other nut butters should be avoided in general unless it is used as part of a complete recipe that is easy to swallow)

*Food additives/misc: coconut

*Fun Stuff: chips, granola bars, pies, chewy candy, hard, crunchy cookies, taffy, licorice, caramel, popcorn

The ultimate goal is “pudding-like” meals.  As a result, some of the above foods (such as raw vegetables) may be incorporated as long as they are served in a meal that follows this golden rule!

What I ate my first day on the pureed diet (Be prepared!~Anybody else get that Lion King song in your head when reading this phrase?)

Breakfast:  Coconut milk smoothie with frozen blueberries, ground chia seeds, & strawberry-flavored brown rice protein powder (Barf!  I hate protein powder, but I bought it awhile back and am slowly using it up)

Lunch: After some trial and error, I ended up with green pudding consisting of all of the following ingredients:

butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, 2 scrambled eggs prepared with coconut oil, miso, & spinach, ground black & white sesame seeds, collard greens, avocado, & peas

Pre-supper snack: Frozen blueberries blended with coconut milk, cocoa powder, & water

Supper: Green “soup”? consisting of the following ingredients:

grilled burger (I can’t believe I did it either!), hummus (chickpeas, cumin, coriander, collard greens), spinach, tomato, mashed potatoes & carrots + veggie blend mentioned above (avocado, peas, white & black sesame seeds, collard greens), nutritional yeast flakes.  I topped my “hamburger smoothie” with some mustard and started to force it down.  After heating the entire mixture to hot and adding some cayenne pepper, it actually tasted like a delicous smoky soup that I was HAPPY?! to eat.  Amazing!  The things I’m discovering everyday on this crazy diet journey continue to shock me.

P.S.  I already feel awful for the folks who are expected to LIVE this way!


To Boldly Go Where No Baker Has Gone Before

17 Jun

I know you were hoping for a pureed bread recipe ;-), but this update is actually unrelated to dysphagia.

Yesterday, I did a lot of soul searching about my dietary habits, and I came to a conclusion that will probably shock all of you as much as it shocked me.

I want to stop eating all added sugars for good! (refined sugar, maple & brown rice syrup, honey, molasses, brown sugar, evaporated cane juice…you name it [there are a LOT of names for various types of sugar]

You may not believe me (I’m not even sure I believe me), but if I say it in a blog post, it will be harder for me to fail.  Last night, I even threw out all of my recipe cards with sugar in the ingredients lists (kind of sad :(, I know).  I actually mourned the loss of opportunity to ever make/eat Vegan Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting or Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

I realized that I am a steadfast militant when it comes to making choices regarding the purposes of this experiment but far more negligent in responding to my own body’s requests.  I’ve got digestive issues that I KNOW are caused by eating sugar, blood sugar fluctuations that make me an irritable monster, and mental health issues that are further aggravated every time I shovel that poison into my mouth.

I obsess about sugar the way an alcoholic obsesses about alcohol or the caffeine addict is useless without their morning cup of Joe.  Some people are not troubled by such dependencies.  I am.

I’ve struggled with anxiety (including panic attacks) since about 1st grade.  I’ve dealt with bouts of depression since adolescence (intensifying around junior year of high school and waxing & waning ever since).  Since about 2007, I started turning to sugar more than ever to dull my emotions.  I started eating pints of ice cream to cope with unwanted feelings.  I begged people to help me, but was often responded to with laughs of disbelief.

I know it’s hard for people to accept that sugar is a drug, but I really believe that’s based solely on the culture we have been brought up in.  Poppy seeds are food. Refined poppy seeds are a drug (morphine).  Tobacco is a plant.  Refined tobacco is a drug (nicotine).  Sugar cane is a plant.  Refined sugar cane is sugar.  [“Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy, & Alcohol” – I love that Queens of the Stone Age song!  But I digress…]

It’s time to delve into my other area of expertise: psychology.  I obtained a minor in psychology while going for my dietetics degree.  You can’t separate mental and physical health.  Ice cream is the perfect drug for a person with anxiety and depression.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is thought to play a role in depression.  High-fat foods cause your brain to release dopamine.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is often deficient in anxious folks.  Eating carbohydrates (A.K.A. sugar) temporarily boosts serotonin levels.  Interestingly, more serotonin is found in the digestive tract than the brain!  Check out this recent article connecting neurotransmitter deficiencies with overeating behaviors:

We’ve already explored the many disturbing effects of sugar when I posted during the Candida diet, so I’ll avoid repeating what you should already know.

Let Them Eat Cake!

I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not against the idea of eating sugar in moderation (even * gasp! * high fructose corn syrup- though you’ll never convince me that it is chemically identical to sugar, because it’s just not!).  If you find sugar to be a fun way to unwind, that’s great.  Even the majority of people with FructMal can eat small amounts of certain types of sugar without symptoms.  I can enjoy sipping a glass of sparkling wine, but an alcoholic would find it difficult to stop there.  Similarly, I simply do not possess the luxury of brain chemistry to enjoy “a cookie or two”.  Once I’ve fed the beast (as I refer to my inner sugar demon), that’s all I’m allowed to focus on.  It’s a slippery slope.  Once I’ve got sugar on the brain, it’s a foggy binge until I’m finally too sick or tired to continue.  A few weeks later, the vicious cycle repeats.

I am bringing this up now, because one constant that I’ve found during this experiment is the continual obsession with sugar.  When denied sugar, I wrote down future dessert recipes to try.  My willpower was strong, basking in the comfort of knowledge that I could eat sugar again one day.  Meanwhile, my moods and energy levels were better, I had less headaches, and I was forced to embrace healthier leisurely endeavors.  Since texture is the only limiting factor this month, I have been allowed to go back to my old ways.  The only difference is that instead of shoveling in traditional ice cream, it’s been Soy Dream ice cream and frozen yogurt.  My body refuses to continue on like this, and my brain wishes to surrender from this roller coaster as well.  Six months ago, I gave up dairy.  I’m ready for the next drastic measure to improve my health.

Additional source:

On to the Next Phase…Mechanically Altered Diet

17 Jun

As per usual, I’m behind on my updates.  Let’s back up a little and go over my last day of Level 3 on the NDD (Thursday).

What I ate my last day on the Dysphagia Advanced Diet:

Breakfast: Scottish oats with chopped kiwi slices, chia seeds, & cinnamon

Snack:  Green peas mixed with ground hemp seeds

Lunch: Sweet potato & lentil soup + a (peeled) tomato & (mashed) avocado sandwich (moistened with soup broth)

Supper: Gluten-free ground grain blend (brown rice, corn, & buckwheat) “dumplings” (sticks together in globs like polenta) in broth with mayocoba beans and nutritional yeast flakes

Sins to confess:  I absentmindedly topped my frozen yogurt with sunflower seeds one day.  After realizing my mistake, I tried my best to eat around them, but a few of those suckers snuck by.  Some of the foods I consumed seemed slightly crunchier than what I imagined would be allowed if my meals were served in a controlled environment, such as a nursing home.  It’d be so much easier if I had somebody else preparing appropriate meals for me.  Here’s where the kitchen staff of care facilities are indispensable.  A dietitian may have a list guide, but the folks with the mixers in their hands know how to follow those diet cards!

On to the next phase….Level 2 – Mechanically Altered Diet (My blender got a workout when I prepared staples to get me through this next week!)

This diet consists of foods that are easy to chew and swallow.  Many meal components are blended, chopped, ground, or mashed.

Off the Menu:

*Dairy: hard cheeses

*Grains: rye crisps, whole wheat crackers, popcorn, chow mein noodles, taco shells, pita bread, french/sourdough bread

-In a nutshell, no crispy/crunchy stuff.  Some breads & crackers may be acceptable if they are softened beforehand, such as with soup broth.

*Vegetables: all raw vegetables, hash browns, potato skins, French fries

-Vegetables should be well-cooked & soft, without seeds/skin

*Fruits: citrus fruits, blueberries, cherries, grapes, pineapple, apples, dates, figs, dried prunes, & raisins

-Fruits should be cooked/mashed without seeds/skin

*Meat, poultry, eggs & fish: Dry/tough cuts of meat/poultry, fried fish, fish with bones, hot dogs (big bummer! ;-)), sausage, brats, pork chops, steak

*Nuts/Seeds: all whole nuts/seeds

*Beans/Legumes: chunky peanut butter (peanut/other nut butters should be avoided in general unless it is used as part of a complete recipe that is easy to swallow)

-Legumes should be served in a mashed/moist form

*Food additives/misc: coconut

*Fun Stuff: chips, granola bars, pies, chewy candy, hard, crunchy cookies, taffy, licorice, caramel

What I ate my first day on the mechanically altered diet:

Breakfast: Scottish oats with cinnamon mixed with kiwi-lemon soy “yogurt” (Recipe below :)) with ground flax seed

Snack: Warmed carob peanut butter cookies mixed in with soy yogurt plus an extra dab of maple syrup for added moisture

Lunch: (Blended) Carrot ginger soup with gluten-free ground grain blend “dumplings”; mashed turnips with pea guacamole & black bean dip

Supper: Carrot ginger soup with gluten-free ground grain blend “dumplings”; mashed potatoes with pea guacamole, black bean dip, & bit of BBQ sauce

After supper tummy-ache maker (otherwise known as dessert to some people ;-)): Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt (soy peanut butter banana) topped off with strawberry sorbet & small mango pieces [I payed the price for this one!]

Kiwi-Lemon Soy Yogurt (Original recipe idea from Blissful Bites…cookbook mentioned during FructMal Feast post)

Makes 2-4 servings


*1 package of Mori-Nu silken tofu

*2 Tbsp maple syrup

*1 lemon, juiced

*2 medium kiwis (peeled with seeds removed – only necessary to remove seeds if following mechanically altered/pureed dysphagia diet)

*1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

Method: Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Mix in ground flax seed to incorporate if desired.


NDD [National Dysphagia Diet] Level 3 – Dysphagia Advanced

9 Jun

Here are some basic facts & guidelines provided by the American Dietetic Association regarding Level 3 of the NDD:

This level:
*consists of foods that are soft and easy to chew and swallow (preferably moist “bite-size” pieces – 1/2″/smaller)

*resembles a regular diet but excludes very hard, sticky, or crunchy foods

Some preparation tips for this level include:

• Using moist cooking methods for meat (braising, stewing, or baking in liquid)
• Cooking vegetables until tender enough to mash with a fork.
• Peeling allowed fresh fruits, serving canned fruit, and/or cooking dried fruits until soft.
• Serving soups/broths with small pieces of meat and vegetables or straining them if pieces of meat and vegetables are larger than ½ inch.
• Reheating foods carefully so that a tough outer crust does not form on them.

Off the Menu: (All bold items are those that I currently eat on a regular basis and will be the hardest for me not to eat!)

*Dairy: no dairy products are prohibited unless liquids are restricted. (I’ll only be experimenting with thickened liquids during the pureed diet.  However, liquid modifications can be ordered during any stage of the NDD.)

*Grains: dry bread, toast and crackers that have not been moistened, corn chips, tough, crusty breads (eg. French bread), coarse/dry cereals

*Vegetables: all raw vegetables except shredded lettuce/baby spinach, cooked corn, fried potato skins, other fibrous, tough or stringy cooked vegetables

*Fruits: difficult-to-chew fresh fruits (apples, pears…),stringy, high pulp fruits (papaya, pineapple, mango…), fresh fruits with
difficult-to-chew peels (grapes…), uncooked dried fruits (prunes, apricots…), fruit leathers

*Meat, poultry, eggs & fish: tough dry meats & poultry, dry fish/fish with bones

*Nuts/Seeds: all whole nuts/seeds (I’m calling chia seeds an exception, because they are tiny & form a gel when combined with liquid)

*Beans/Legumes: chunky peanut butter

*Food additives/misc: coconut

*Fun Stuff: dry cakes, chewy/very dry cookies, fruit roll-ups, fruit snacks

What I ate my first day on Level 3 of the NDD:

Breakfast: oatmeal with soymilk, cinnamon, sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, & chia seeds

Snack: Giant heaping spoonful of almond butter (In hindsight, even though smooth nut butters are allowed, eating them by themselves leaves a film in the throat that is probably a bad idea for anyone with dysphagia.  Sins to confess already?!)

Lunch: Victory burrito!  (So named because it was my first meal at a restaurant since becoming a guinea pig!) Soft tortilla with black turtle & pinto beans, rice, pico, guac, and a bit of hot sauce

Supper: Millet with black soy beans, shredded spinach, raw mushrooms, creamy peanut butter & lemon juice

Dessert: Fruit “soup” with blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries, almond butter, and soy milk

(So I’m obsessed with nut butters.  You wanna make something of it?!)


Raw! Raw! Sis-Koom-Bah!

7 Jun

Today was my last day on the raw foods diet.  I decided to cut the week a day early in the interest of keeping the other weeks even (and moving on from this expensive trial).  I will have 8 days to dedicate to each remaining level of dysphagia.

Sins to confess:  None!  For one whole week, I was a saint! 😉  I admitted up front that I wasn’t going the 100%! route, so I’ve nothing to divulge.

What I ate my last day on the raw foods diet:

*Breakfast: ~1/2 lb red seedless grapes, 6 oz container of blueberries eaten on slices of banana (2 bananas total)  Yikes!  Sugar high…

*Snack: 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

*Lunch: 1 peach (or nectarine…I couldn’t tell), ~1 lb strawberries (that’s right folks, almost an entire container!), 2 kiwis

*Supper: Lots ‘o salad! with cucumbers, carrots, chives, romaine lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeneos, bean sprouts, radishes, spinach, leek greens, fresh herbs & greens mix, green peppers, celery, mushrooms, & pea pods.  Woo!  Going wild on my last raw supper! (Derek participates in a bimonthly “cook-off” with friends.  The theme for this week’s gathering was salads, so I was able to attend!  In 2 weeks, it’s pizza.  Mechanically altered pizza?  We’ll see how that one goes… )

*Bedtime snack: 2 giant heaping spoonfuls of almond butter (So nummy!)

Binges: Fruit and fat…but all totally justified and allowed on this diet 😀

Lessons Learned:  Overall, I found the raw foods diet to be less difficult than I expected.  I kept waiting for insatiable hunger to sneak up on me, but it never came.  I can think of a few reasons why this might have been the case.  For one thing, I tended to eat more throughout the day.  I did a lot of snacking.  I prefer to eat 3 squares a day with an occasional mid-morning snack, so constant munching felt a bit out of the ordinary.  I also ate a LOT of water & fiber packed foods and fat.  All of these can help a person feel more satiated.  Finally, I was so worried about not consuming enough calories that I often tracked ’em!

My digestive system wasn’t too impressed by the abundance of sugar, fat, & fiber (surprise, surprise!), but I actually figured out a way to lessen the discomfort.  Among the raw foods community, there’s a lot of talk about proper food combining.  The mentality behind these rules is based on the ways in which different types of foods are digested.  For example, one of the biggest sins is eating fruit for dessert (I thought this was healthy?!  Damn you diet world and your contradictions!)  Fruit is said to digest very quickly (within 30 minutes to 1 hour).  The expectation is that other foods that take longer to digest will block the fruit and allow it to ferment, causing gas and bloating.  In any case, I did find my stomach to be far less bloated when I followed food combining rules by keeping my fruit meals and fat meals separate.  You don’t have to be a raw foodist to benefit.  For more info on food combining, check out the chart on this blog:

Overall, I found the mini-raw foods experiment to be a worthy endeavor.  It was nice to just rinse off a bunch of fruit and call it a meal.  No dishes!  Sometimes, it took half an hour to eat though, and the cost was pretty insane.  Plus, I’m still not on board with the idea that if it it’s raw, it’s amazing for you.  Various toxins and dangerous microbes are destroyed by cooking (and this is a good thing!)  In the book  Coffee is Good for You: The Truth About Diet & Nutrition Claims, the author (Dr. Robert Davis) reports on a woman who was hospitalized for eating lots of raw bok choy.  Bok choy contains compounds that have the potential to harm the thyroid gland in large amounts, but these are denatured by cooking.  This doesn’t mean that a person should never eat raw bok choy.  It’s just an illustration of the potentially ideal nature of a mixed cooked and raw foods diet.  I’m not here to tell you how to eat, so if you find that a raw foods diet suits you, so be it.  A guide that you may find useful is the book Becoming Raw.  It’s written by 2 registered dietitians:  Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina.  For a frank discussion about common pitfalls of a raw foods diet, check out this site:  As for the rest of us, taking on the habit of enjoying a humongous salad or pounds of fruit for a meal (if able to do so) wouldn’t be the worst habit we could incorporate into our daily routine. 😉

Bonus! Recipes!:

There are a lot of really cool raw food recipes out there.  Some of the ideas I find most intriguing include grating a jicama for “rice”, making pie crusts with ground almonds and dates, and using a spiralizer to create squash “pasta”.  During my 6 day experiment, I stuck with whole fruits, vegetables, and a couple of store-bought seed & nut products (mostly out of laziness).  I have tried some fun raw food recipes in the past, however.  Check out the plethora of raw food cookbooks (@ your local library!) and/or raw recipes from the interwebulars (I know that’s not a real word.)  Here are 5 of my favorites to get you started:

#1. (100% Raw) Smoothie from the Black Lagoon (Aren’t I clever? ;-)) – Makes: a bunch!  Share with a friend, save some for later, or be brave and drink it all in one sitting.  If you pace yourself and are used to consuming a decent amount of fiber, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to your system.

Tip: I find smoothies to be more refreshing & enjoyable if they are ice cold.  To achieve this result without ice, use frozen berries and/or prefreeze your banana(s).  Make sure to peel those suckers & store them in a freezer-friendly container.  Trying to remove the peel when the banana is already frozen is not fun (Learn from my mistakes!)

*1-2 medium bananas

*6 oz fresh/frozen blueberries

*1 cup destemmed dinosaur kale (any type will do – I just think dino kale is the coolest sounding and looking 🙂 )

*1-2 cups destemmed collard greens (about 2 large leaves)

*~1 cup water

*1/2 tsp spirulina (optional)

Dump all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  There might be some smaller pieces of greens in your finished product so be weary of the possibility of needing to chew a little as you chug.  This particular recipe is food combining friendly, but feel free to play around with the amounts & types of greens to find a sweetness level you find satisfactory.  If the idea of buying collard greens & kale is foreign and frightening to you, use baby spinach instead (or buck up and give ’em a try! ;-))

#2. Coconut Breakfast Cakes (Makes 4 pancakes/servings)

Last summer, I started getting curious about raw food recipes and came across Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen cookbook.  I found an interesting (& tasty!) gluten-free pancake recipe.

Created by Ani Phyo (raw foods chef):

*3 cups flax seed meal (You can grind whole flax seeds yourself using a coffee/spice grinder.  Grind 2 cups whole flax seeds for proper yield.)

*2 Tbsp liquid coconut oil

*1/2 cup real maple syrup (not technically “raw”)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*1/4 cup water

Mix and form 4 balls.  Flatten into pancake shape.

#3. Cheater’s Almond Milk

I don’t trust big companies who use “natural flavors” in their almond milk.  Plus those versions are not raw.  I prefer to make my own.  To make almond milk at home, you usually have to go through a number of steps: soaking almonds overnight, possibly removing the skins, blending and straining.  Phew!  Hence the need for a “cheater’s” version…

I believe I got this recipe from Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles.

Blend 3 Tbsp raw creamy almond butter with 2 cups of water.  Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to 4 days.  Shake before using.  Voila!

(This milk might still be a bit gritty for drinking but works great as a topping for cereal or as an ingredient in recipes calling for milk/milk alternatives.  Otherwise, for proper straining, use a “nut bag”.  I still haven’t acquired one of these and instead use a clean white dish towel or layers of cheesecloth.  If you want it to be sweet, you can add some raw honey, raw sugar, or dates to the mixture before blending.  You can use this same recipe with pecan, walnut, cashew butters… Mmmmm)

#4. Vegan Melted “Cheese” – From: Eat Smart Eat Raw by Kate Wood (@ least I think that’s where it’s from)

This is tasty on raw and cooked foods alike!

*2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

*2 oz ground flaxseeds

*1 Tbsp raw tahini

*2 Tbsp water

Mix in bowl & add water until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

#5. Pad Thai (Serves 2) From: Raw Food for Real People by Rod Rotondi

This dish was awesome when I made it!  So fresh tasting and delicious!  (Just make sure that your digestive system is up for the job!)

For the “Noodles”:

*2 medium mangoes, julienned (cut into thin strips)

*1 medium bell pepper (not green), thinly sliced

*Meat of 3 medium young coconuts, thinly sliced (I’ve tried working with whole coconuts, and it sucks!  I just used dried coconut and it still turned out delectable.)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*Juice of 1 medium lemon (~1/2 cup)

*1 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil

[Side note: some raw foodists avoid green peppers, because they are unripe by nature.  Green peppers are the prequels to red, orange, and yellow peppers.  Betcha didn’t know that! (Okay, maybe a few of you did.)]

Toss all ingredients together and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make your spicy nut sauce:

*1 cup nut milk (see above)

*2 Tbsp nama shoyu (substitute tamari/1 Tbsp miso paste to make gluten free)

*1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil

*1/4 cup grated dry coconut

*1-1″ piece peeled fresh ginger

*1 medium clove garlic

*1/4 cup chopped dates

*1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (~1/2 cup)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

*Finely chopped walnuts & chopped fresh cilantro for garnishing

Blend until smooth.

Pour any excess liquid off of “noodles” and toss with spicy nut sauce.  Top with garnishes.

Sources are mentioned throughout this post, but if you would like additional information, just let me know 🙂

National Dysphagia Diet Level 4 – Rawsome?

4 Jun

This month might get a bit confusing, but bear with me.

The main focus of June is to follow all 4 levels of the National Dysphagia Diet.  This has been created to serve as the standard treatment protocol for people with notable swallowing difficulty.

One of the most common environments in which you’ll hear this term dysphagia thrown around is long-term care facilities.  It is suspected in a resident when certain characteristics are observed while eating.  A person with an impaired swallow reflex tends to exhibit one or more of the following: gagging, drooling, choking, taking longer than 10 seconds to swallow, &/or pocketing food in cheeks (maybe I should have blended those pellets for my childhood pet hamster, because he used to do this all the time ;-))

Generally, a speech pathologist determines what types of restrictions are necessary based on the severity of struggle.  Sometimes a dietitian is also consulted to help refine recommendations.  Oftentimes, liquids need to be thickened to a certain consistency as well.  It’s no wonder so many elderly folks suffer from dehydration.  Who wants to drink thickened water?

Each week, I will follow 1 level of the National Dysphagia Diet.  I have started with stage 4 (regular) and will work my way to the most restrictive stage 1 (strictly pureed foods).

Level 4 implies that a person is able to eat a regular diet.  Instead of following a normal diet for 1 week (borriinng!), I will be eating a raw foods diet.  So what is this raw foods hooplah and what’s the big fuss about?  There are all kinds of subcategories of the raw food movement, with a few common denominators.  At its core is the belief that raw foods are superior to cooked foods.

Many raw foodists follow a vegan approach.  They eat raw fruits, vegetables (including sea vegetables such as nori sheets), nuts, & seeds.  Others incorporate raw animal products such as seafood (sushi), raw milk products (such as cheese made with unpasteurized milk), & even raw eggs & meat :-/.  Occasionally, soaked and sprouted grains and legumes are eaten.  Not all raw foodists believe the same dogmas (such as the concept that cooked foods are “toxic”) or follow it for the same reasons.  Some people wish for the healthiest diet possible.  Others can’t help themselves from trying the newest weight loss diet trend.

Most raw foodists are not purists.  Certain foods such as “raw” cashews, agave nectar, and nutritional yeast flakes (an acceptable source of B12) are common ingredients in many raw gourmet cookbooks.  None of these items fit the strictly raw definition, however.  Even “raw” almonds are not usually “raw”, because there is a law that all U.S. almonds be pasteurized.  Nothing can be cooked above the temperature of  118 degrees.  Above this temperature, the food’s enzymes are considered denatured.  To be 100% raw, you have to be quite vigilant and possibly seek things out online.

So is it necessary to eat a 100% raw foods diet to achieve optimum health?  Personally, I don’t believe so.  While it’s true that some nutrients are destroyed during cooking (such as vitamin C and B vitamins), other healthful compounds (such as the lycopene in tomatoes) are actually enhanced by heat.

I also have a few concerns about people attempting a raw foods diet without an adequate background in nutritional requirements.  A 100% raw vegan diet may not contain adequate B12.  As mentioned before, B12 is generally obtained through the consumption of animal products or a supplement.  There are raw whole food supplements on the market that claim to contain B12.  The problem is that this B12 comes from a plant source (such as spirulina) and is likely an inactive analogue.  A second concern I have is that a very low-fat raw vegan diet (one containing less than 10% of its calories from fat) might lead to other serious deficiencies over the long run.  Certain minerals, such as zinc, can be obtained on a raw vegan diet through the consumption of raw nuts and seeds.  However, if you are only eating a handful of nuts per day, this may not be sufficient.

Even though many equate a raw foods diet with weight loss, it doesn’t mean one cannot maintain an adequate caloric intake while following such an approach.  Raw vegan foodists tend to obtain their calories from 1 of 2 ways.  You must eat a ridiculous amount of fruit and/or a fairly large amount of raw nuts & seeds.  While raw vegetables should certainly play a part in a raw foods diet, trying to obtain sufficient calories from vegetables would be an exhausting feat.  For someone who enjoys spending an arm and a leg on pounds & pounds of fruit everyday, can stomach all that fructose and/or fat, & isn’t so strict that certain nutrients get abandoned, knock yourself out.  I can’t argue with the notion that everyone could benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables.  However, eating a wide variety of raw and cooked foods seems a more reasonable goal for the general public.

Since large amounts of fruit and fat have both been known to make my stomach feel less than fantastic, I opted to try a mix of the 2.  Because I constantly refuse to accept my limitations (which means I’m either strong-willed or just plain dumb!), I decided to give this fat-heavy (natural) sugar binge a go.  For someone with severe fructmal (shout out to my ally), this list looks like intestinal suicide.

Here’s what I ate my first day as a raw foodist:

There’s no need for me to divide the meals up into proper categories, because I didn’t really eat a standard “breakfast”, “lunch”, or “dinner”.  I pretty much just snacked the day away.  P.S.  I am not going the 100%! route.  The almond butter I purchased was probably made with pasteurized almonds (even if it doesn’t tell me this on the jar).

Green smoothie with 1 banana, 1 6-oz container of blueberries, kale, collard greens, & spirulina

1 banana

1/2 oz raw carrot cake chips (expensive snack found at Sydney’s Health Market)

1/2 oz raw flax & sunflower seed crackers

~1/2 cup shelled peas (I ate these on the way to go camping.  It wasn’t a disappointing replacement for the roasted sunflower seeds I generally snack on during car rides.)

1 banana with walnut butter

Half of a pineapple

Spinach (2-3 cups) salad with 1 tomato, 1 avocado, & 1/4-1/2 cup of sunflower seeds

1 1/2 cups chopped watermelon

2 baby carrots

2 or 3 raw spirulina chips

Banana with almond butter + extra almond butter

As stated earlier, I will only be following this diet for 1 week.  So far, I’m not miserable but I don’t feel super spectacular either.  While doing research, I came across a blog documenting a man’s daily experience with a 30-day low-fat raw vegan diet.  It’s pretty interesting.  Check it out here:

Other sources:

Norris, J. & Messina, V. (2011) Vegan for Life.  (I can’t remember the page number, but this is where I found the info about B12 in raw diets.)

Davis, R. (2012) Coffee is Good for You: The Truth About Diet and Nutrition Claims. Pg. 70.

Feingold Wrap-Up

1 Jun

Today was my last day following the Feingold approach.  Comparatively, this diet was easy peasy.  It would have been even easier if I had bought the program materials, but I’m too frugal & where is the fun in that?  I already felt like I had my work cut out for me only having to avoid certain additives and a few fruits & vegetables.  “Stage One” is generally followed for 4-6 weeks.  “Stage Two” consists of adding salicylate-containing foods back into the diet one at a time to see if behavior worsens.  A life without berries would be sad indeed, but a life without artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors is a worthy goal for anyone.

Sins to confess:  A friend of mine made ginger ale for our housewarming party.  The sugar used may/may not have been bleached, and I’m not entirely sure whether or not this would be acceptable.  Since I didn’t buy the official program, it’s possible (but not very likely) that I consumed some unacceptable foods.    The only processed foods I consumed were simple foods with limited ingredients such as sunflower seeds.

What I ate my last day on the Feingold program:

*Breakfast: Oatmeal with chopped papaya and banana pieces, brazil nuts, chia seeds, unsweetened soy milk & cinnamon

*Snack: Unsweetened soy milk; banana with peanut butter

*Lunch:Wild rice with raw peas, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, nutritional yeast flakes, chives, bean sprouts, navy beans, and salmon (I’ve been having episodes of insatiable hunger lately & have been attempting to quell them with some animal protein)

*Supper: Same as lunch + lemon juice and peanut butter (don’t knock it til ya try it!) +corn on the cob and a sweet potato

*Unnecessary after-supper mini-binge: unsalted blue corn tortilla chips (too many)  I avoid buying snacky type foods, because I tend to eat them in ridiculous quantities when I do.  I can polish off a bag of Pita Chips and container of hummus in 2 days.  Somehow, corn chips keep showing up in my kitchen no matter how many times I tell Derek to hide this garbage from me!  I was stuffed from supper but rationalized the chip binge by reminding myself that crunchy foods would soon be a non-option. (See June diet)

Binges:  CORN CHIPS!!!  Sugary desserts (In Feb. & March, sugar was off the menu.  In April, it was restricted.  Needless to say, I was ready to get my hands on some sweets!  I made a bunch for the party and felt so crummy for days afterwards that I’ve been avoiding sugar (by choice!) since then.

Lessons Learned: believe a person wishing to try the Feingold diet could gauge meaningful results with/without purchasing the official program.  However, I also think that the program would be more practical for anyone who plans to follow the Feingold diet over the long term.  For example, I avoided restaurants and questionable additives due to a lack of info.  The Feingold Association consults with companies to create customized shopping lists that are updated yearly.  It’s worth looking into for anyone who suspects they might benefit from such a dietary approach.

June: Dysphagia diet + 1 week mini-raw foods experiment. Post with details coming soon 🙂 …