Archive | July, 2012

Minnesota Grown

29 Jul

Well folks, I warned you about the potential swarm of blog crickets now that summer is here.  Ignoring the beckoning sun while settling into a computer chair just feels downright sinful.  However,  the time has come to update!

I wrapped up my Wilson’s disease (low copper) diet last Monday, so I could move on to my 1 week mini locavore phase.  Here’s the synopsis of my American low copper lifestyle:

Cravings experienced: None that I couldn’t satisfy.  I’m actually really surprised I didn’t miss hummus more.  (Though when others ate it in front of me, I was green with envy.)

Sins to confess:  No need for sinning.  I was basically granted a free pass to indulge in a typical American diet.  Doughnuts are low in copper you say?  Sign me up!

Here’s what I ate my last day on the Wilson’s disease (low copper) diet:

Breakfast: Muesli (overnight soaked oats) with blueberries, peanut butter, & cinnamon + 1/2 frozen banana dipped in carob powder (Frozen bananas are officially my new favorite non-indulgent treat!  Frozen watermelon and grapes are run-up contenders, however.)

Lunch: Turkey sandwich on white “peasant” bread with butter, lettuce, & spinach + corn chips with hot & chunky salsa + 1 banana with peanut butter

Supper: Grilled (cheddar) cheese with tomatoes & cucumber sandwich on spelt/brown rice bread + tater tots + corn on the cob + yogurt with strawberries and carob powder (this stuff is really starting to grow on me!  I still prefer chocolate though…)

Late night snack: Salted popcorn popped in coconut oil + carob coconut milk (Mmmm…fat.)

Lessons Learned:  I have to admit that this diet was kind of a nice break for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I missed chocolate on my s’mores and beans in my rice, and I wouldn’t want to have to follow these restrictions long term.  Similar to the fructose malabsorption diet, I had to keep a constant mental tally as to how many servings of moderate copper-containing foods I had eaten on any given day.  Let’s see…I had peanut butter with my breakfast and spinach & potatoes during lunch, so I can have how many peas with my dinner?  Ugh!  On the other hand: most meat, dairy, sugar, and refined grains were allowed in unlimited amounts.  I don’t enjoy feeling like garbage, and generally a diet high in all of these things can help guarantee such a fate.  However, because I’ve been so restricted for so long, eating (almost) whatever the hell I wanted (without reading ingredient labels!) was just the release I needed to carry me through the rest of the experiment.  I got to gorge myself at the annual summer Street Fair with the masses.  I had my first ever funnel cake while on a “special” diet.  Some people could never wrap their brains around such a concept.  Even though it’s irrelevant to the premise of the experiment, I know some of you are just dying to know if I gained weight this month.  My response?…

Well duh! :-p

And now for something entirely different…

The Locavore Diet:

During WWII, families were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens” in an effort to offset labor & transportation shortages.  Growing your own produce was considered a patriotic tribute.  My grandparents still have a pantry in their basement where old jars of canned pickles and beets reside.  Unfortunately, during these modern times, the distance food travels from farm to plate is steadily escalating.  Estimates suggest most processed food travels an average of 1300 miles while produce may be lugged about 1500 miles before that lettuce makes it to your salad.  Eating locally makes sense for a number of reasons:

#1.  Locally produced food tends to be healthier – The moment a fruit or vegetable is severed from its vine, it starts losing vitamins and minerals.  Generally speaking,  there’s no contest between the nutritional density of a ripe fresh picked tomato versus one that has been picked while still green, shipped hundreds of miles, & then stored in the refrigerator.  Some studies have even found well-traveled supermarket oranges to be completely VOID of vitamin C!  Yikes!

#2.  Locally produced food TASTES AMAZING!  The first time I ate spinach out of my garden, I was flabbergasted.  Baby spinach has flavor?!  I had no idea.  This calls to mind my attitude towards the vegetables at Subway.  If you stuff your Subway sammies full of processed cheese, meat, and dressings (which most people do), you might never have noticed that THE VEGETABLES TASTE LIKE NOTHING…refrigerated water at best, cardboard at worst.

#3.  I’m going to assume you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade and simply pronounce the insane amount of fossil fuel required to grow, process, and ship food to be BAD NEWS BEARS.  If you need a refresher course as to how bad the problem is and why it matters, check this out:

#4.  Purchasing locally produced food helps support your local economy.

In 2007,  “locavore” was the word of the year in the Oxford American Dictionary.  Defined as: “a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food”.  The exact definition of “local” however is an area of debate.  Many self-proclaimed locavores stick to a 100-mile radius.  Others extend this to 250 miles or make special exceptions for certain exotic items, such as coffee and spices.  I’ve been following my own self-designed approach:

Off the Menu – Most things found at the grocery store! 

Here are the rules I am sticking to:

1.  If it’s grown in Minnesota (the state in which I reside), I can eat it.

2.  No spices, chocolate, coffee, bananas, or any other specialty items are allowed.  I’m only doing this for one week.  At this point in the experiment, it’d be pretty pathetic if I couldn’t live without these few items for such a short period of time.

2 exceptions I am succumbing to, however…

*Dairy source – I originally planned on aiming for that 250 mile radius, but then I discovered the Wisconsin organic dairy I like supporting is 268 miles away.  Close enough!

*Salt – I am not allowing myself to add my own salt to anything (even soup – which is uber weird for me).  However, the only local butter and peanut butters I could find have added salt.

What I ate my first day as a locavore:

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with tomato, spinach, kale, basil, cheddar cheese, & ground flax seed + strawberries

Lunch: Wild rice with peanut butter (stop judging: grains + nut butters = deliciousness whether or not bread is involved!), boiled red potatoes with butter, steamed green beans, salad made with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and strawberries

Supper: Pretty much the same thing as lunch, but I used Sunbutter instead of peanut butter and added cheese to my salad & potatoes

Upcoming August diet: Gluten-free diet for Celiac’s Disease.  Stay tuned!



Redefining the Enemy

15 Jul

Remember that grand declaration about shunning sugar for life?

So here’s the thing…

I lied…

but not on purpose!  When I wrote that I was in a depression rut.  I recognized the connection between sugar and mood.  It seemed as though extreme measures were necessary for my mental health at that time.  Announcing my commitment to others made the promise more concrete.  I stuck to the anti-sugar crusade for the first few weeks, and it made me feel empowered.  It helped me through that particular rough patch.

The truth is, however, that sugar is not the enemy.  The enemy is self-medicating with food.  There was an occasion during this brief sans sugar lifestyle in which I ate almost an entire bag of corn chips in one sitting.  This just drives the point home even further.  Excluding certain foods has not gotten me anywhere in reestablishing normal eating behaviors.  Taking out sugar only means that I will set my sights on a new food to binge on.

I broke the sugar fast with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie on the 4th of July.  Since then, I have eaten sugar on occasion in reasonable (by my standards) amounts. I have also reincorporated dairy into my meals due to the imposed restrictions of the Wilson’s disease diet.  I didn’t want to have to eat meat all the time, and without beans or nuts, I wanted more protein options.

Currently, I’m feeling pretty good.  I think the reintroduction of meat has played a major role in this regeneration.  It breaks my heart a little to admit it, but I don’t think a vegan diet is right for me.  All of a sudden, I have enough energy to get through the day, and my BRAIN WORKS normally again (well as normally as my brain can function that is ;-)).  During my vegan/semi-vegetarian stints, I regularly suffered from brain fog.  I struggled to think clearly or conjure up the right words to say in standard conversations.  Now my neurotransmitters seem to be shaking hands instead of shooting dirty looks at their neighbors.  Since my mental health has stabilized, I don’t have as much of a need to keep shoveling the sweets in.

Sometimes I eat just because it’s fun.  I know I’m not solely guilty for such actions, but it’s worth sharing.  Boredom, along with self-medication, definitely play a role in the current obesity crisis.  People already know they SHOULD be eating blueberries instead of blueberry pie, but what they should really focus on is reestablishing habits.  Once you get into the routine of shunning snacks before bed, you probably won’t miss them.  I’ve also found distraction to be an indispensable tool.  If you can find a  hobby you enjoy more than making and/or eating food, you may find yourself just going through the motions of a meal, so you can go out and play.

Survey Says!

7 Jul

First of all, I feel I should mention that the noted copper content of my city’s water supply was wrong in the previous post.  A coworker of mine pointed out that I am a dum-dum. 🙂 She put it more tactfully of course, mentioning a suspicion that I read the chart wrong.  Sure did!  It turns out the copper content of my city’s water is only 0.08 ppm!  Since it’s less than 0.1 ppm (the recommended upper tolerable level), I’m good to go without the help of my water filter.  This should make things a tad easier.  Prior to this revelation, I was being conscientious about carrying filtered water with me, questioning whether or not I could drink from water fountains.


Even though I know more than 2 people read this blog, only 2 decided to offer their 2 cents in regards to my posted survey. (Thanks Dad and Abby :))  As for the rest of you, if you had an opinion you should have shared it, because the polls have closed!  Here’s how the remainder of the diets are going to go down…

I have decided to stretch the allergy diet over 2 months time.  However, I will have 2 slips of paper with the allergy notation on it, so that the months may be split up.  I will draw 1 plant food and 1 animal food to be allergic to per 2 week block.   For example, the first 2 weeks of the first month I may avoid all soy and shellfish.  The first 2 weeks of the second month I may avoid all wheat and egg products.

I have also decided to add the standard diabetic diet to my experiment roster.  Originally, I was avoiding this for two reasons.  #1 – I have been focusing on diets that specifically exclude certain foods.  No foods have to be excluded on a diabetic diet, just moderated & accounted for.  #2 – I am lazy!  It seemed easier to just avoid certain foods than to take the active approach of carb counting.  However, I feel as though it must be done!  Diabetes is increasingly common among all age groups, and the exchange list program (which includes carb counting) is what dietitians use to help diabetic clients.  If we expect these folks to implement such lifestyle changes,  it seems necessary that I undertake this challenge!  The mini paleo diet experiment will take place the final week of this month.

The locavore and macrobiotic diets are less therapeutic-oriented and are therefore going to be condensed into mini experiments.  I will carry out a 1 week locavore diet at the end of this month (possibly combining the Wilson’s disease criteria into its restrictions).  I will undergo the 1 week macrobiotic approach whenever convenient, perhaps during the gluten-free trial.

An updated summary of these changes can be found under “The Diets” tab.

And We’re Not Having Hot Mush Today…

2 Jul

“We’re having cold mush!”  jk 😉  Are you getting tired of all the Broadway musical references?  Too bad!  I grew up in a theatrical family, so you’ll just have to deal with it! ;-p


Wilson’s disease is a rare genetic disorder.  It follows an autosomal recessive pattern(for those who remember biology class).  A person must inherit a specific mutated gene from each parent for symptoms to exist.  It is a condition characterized by the inability to excrete copper properly.  Copper is a mineral that is abundant in many types of healthy foods.  Everybody requires a certain amount of copper in their diet, much like we require iron or calcium.  However, in Wilson’s disease, copper is allowed to build up to poisonous levels and can lead to organ damage.

The liver and/or neurological system tend to be the first areas of attack.  Kayser-Fleischer rings (Seen here: are often a symptom in those whose neurological systems have been affected.  However, over half of those with liver damage will not experience this tell-tale sign.

Treatment for Wilson’s disease generally includes drugs that help release copper from the organs & zinc tablets to interfere with dietary copper absorption.  A low copper diet is critical during the initial drug treatment and strongly encouraged thereafter.  Still, many are able to incorporate high copper foods  into their meals on an occasional basis once they have reached the maintenance phase.

People with Wilson’s disease ought to be wary of their water supply.  I checked out the 2011 water report for my city and discovered that the copper content clocked in at 1.3 ppm.  According to the Wilson Disease Association, the goal is to consume water with less than 0.1 ppm of copper.  Luckily, I already have a water filter that guarantees a 96-99.99% reduction in copper, so I am covered on that front.

Supplements that provide copper are obviously forbidden.  Since I am purposely creating a deficit through diet and do not have Wilson’s Disease, I will be supplementing with a copper-infused multi.

Finally, alcohol is discouraged as it is a hepatotoxin (fancy word for: incurs liver damage).

Off the Menu: (NOTE: ** indicates moderate allowed amounts-no more than 6 total servings from this category per day)

*Dairy: all dairy is permitted

*Grains: millet, barley, wheat germ, quinoa, bran breads & cereals, cereals with > than 0.2 mg copper per serving

**whole wheat bread (1 slice), whole wheat crackers (6), instant oatmeal (1/2 cup), cereals with 0.1-0.2 mg of copper per serving

*Vegetables: mushrooms, veggie juice, & fresh sweet potatoes

**potatoes(1/2 cup), pumpkin (3/4 cup), parsnips (2/3 cup), winter/summer squash (1/2 cup), green peas (1/2 cup), bean sprouts (1 cup), beets (1/2 cup), spinach (1/2 cup cooked/1 cup raw), tomato juice/other tomato products (1/2 cup), broccoli (1/2 cup), asparagus (1/2 cup), olives (2 medium)

*Fruits: nectarines, commercially dried fruits including raisins, dates, & prunes, avocados

**mango (1/2 cup), papaya (1/4 average), pear (1 medium), pineapple (1/2 cup)

*Meat, poultry, eggs & fish: lamb, pork, pheasant quail, duck, goose, squid (well there go my 4th of July plans! ;-)), salmon, organ meats (liver, heart, kidney, brain), shellfish (oysters, scallops, shrimp, lobster, clams, crab) & meat gelatin

**all fish except shellfish & salmon (3 oz), dark meat turkey & chicken (3 oz)

*Nuts/Seeds: all nuts/seeds

*Beans/Legumes: dried beans such as soy beans (soy milk, tempeh, tofu, etc.), lima beans, baked beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, dried peas, lentils, soy flour

**peanut butter (2 Tbsp)

*Food additives/misc: brewer’s yeast

**ketchup (2 Tbsp), dehydrated & canned soups (1 cup)

*Fun Stuff: chocolate!

**syrups (1 oz), licorice (1 oz), carbonated beverages (12 oz), alcohol

The diet for Wilson’s disease is turning my world upside down.  It rejects beans & other legumes along with nuts and seeds.  Jumpin’ Jellyfish!  These have been my staples for the past 6 months!  When I read the list of “allowed foods” for this diet, the pattern sounded familiar.  Unrestricted foods include many types of meat, dairy, and refined grains.  Aha!  It’s the Standard American Diet (SAD)!  I found this slightly amusing as the SAD tends to be deficient in a number of vital nutrients, and copper just happens to be one of them.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  found that copper is less bioavailable on a vegetarian diet.  However, vegetarian diets tend to be higher in copper anyway, so the difference may not be statistically important enough in terms of copper control.  Still, it seems reasonable to conclude that it may be safer to choose a vegetarian item, like tofu, over organ meats for those occasional high copper indulgences.  Some are able to manage a vegetarian diet by medicating properly and avoiding certain higher-copper foods (such as mushrooms & nuts) as much as possible.

What I ate my first day with Wilson’s disease:

Breakfast: Leftover porridge (scottish oats) fried with a scrambled egg, topped with cinnamon & raspberry applesauce

Lunch: Turkey sammich on wheat/brown rice bread with romaine lettuce & a handful of potato chips+ strawberries

Supper: Chicken (breast) curry with swiss chard, collard greens, spring onions (green parts only), & jalapeno over jasmine cilantro rice + cherries (I ❤ summer!)


Please Sir… I Want Some More

1 Jul

On the pureed diet, I was really starting to feel like an orphan.  I’d drool over my next opportunity to shovel hot mush into my mouth.  It was another month of unintentional weight loss.  I lost somewhere between 3-5 pounds.  There’s a definite lack of “meal appeal” when textures and colors follow the same trends day in and day out.  Plus, as noted in the book “Drop Dead Healthy” by A.J. Jacobs, pureed foods have been shown to help people lose weight.  They tend to fill up your stomach the way soup does: liquid heavy and calorically light.  Speaking of A.J. Jacobs, I’m pretty sure he’s my “brotha from anotha motha”, because we seem to have similar ideas toward the world.  If you’ve never read an A.J. Jacobs book, he’s another self-proclaimed “guinea pig”.  A.J. is more diverse in his approach, test driving biblical principles and outsourcing, for example, but he also unsuccessfully tried to get his spouse to go on a juice fast with him in the name of science.  I feel ya, A.J.  I feel ya.

Yesterday, the only liquids I drank were thickened.  If drinking thickened water sounds gross to you, let me assure you…

It is.

It really, really is.

There are 3 standard consistencies that beverages may be thickened to for a person with dysphagia: nectar-thick, honey-thick, and spoon-thick.  You use the same thickener, but add specific quantities to achieve desired results.  I made my water nectar-thick (and that was bad enough).  I made my smoothie “spoon-thick”, creating a sort of globby pudding.

I went back and forth between complaining to my coworkers about how thirsty I was and trying to glug down as much “water” as I could.  The thickener I used is basically modified corn starch.  Therefore, every time I went for a sip, it felt as though I was drinking tepid watery grits.  Just typing that kind of makes me want to puke.  Imagine what drinking it feels like. :-/  It doesn’t quench your thirst at all.  If anything, I think it may have just made me thirstier!

On a typical day, I drink about 4-6 glasses of water.  Yesterday, I choked down about 2!  I decided applesauce could be my saving grace!  On my way home from work, I picked up a jar with the determination and vigor I used to have toward ice cream acquisitions.  The applesauce did help a little, but it was a catch-22, because the fruit sugar made me feel thirsty in a different way.  Luckily, my meals were so water-logged, I didn’t feel too dehydrated by the day’s end.

My mind is made up!  Family members take note: if I am too much of a vegetable to sign the waiver, you will take matters into your own hands if you love me at all.  I’d rather aspirate on thin liquids than glug that garbage for any period of time!  You can take away my chips and solid meats, but thickened water?  Them’s fightin’ words!

Cravings experienced: None!  No lies!  This doesn’t mean I was overly thrilled to eat hot mush three times a day.  I just didn’t have any intense cravings for specific foods.

Sins to confess:  No outright defiance.  The sins were similar to those mentioned previously.  Since pureed foods are an art form all their own, a few mistakes were made.  In general, I tried to focus on an end result that didn’t require ANY chewing.  When I achieved that, I would call it good.

Here’s what I ate my last day on the pureed foods diet: (I ate a lot of ground seeds to force in calories and use up, because they won’t be allowed on my July diet)

Breakfast:White Mush (pureed scottish oats with deseeded kiwi slices, lemon juice, cinnamon, & ground sesame seeds)Mid-morning snack: Brown Mush (Banana, cocoa powder, ground sesame seeds, & coconut milk smoothie turned “pudding” with food thickener) :-/
Lunch: Green Mush (pureed cooked split peas with gluten-free grain blend, premade green veggie blend [can’t even remember what was in it – collard greens & spinach?], nutritional yeast flakes, ground sesame seeds, curry powder, sea salt, & cayenne pepper)
Supper: Gray Mush (pureed black soybean “hummus” with gluten-free grain blend, ground chia, flax, and sesame seeds)Dessert: Pink Mush (Raspberry applesauce + small amount of carob powder)

For the record, I didn’t eat any more pureed eggs or burgers during the remainder of the experiment.  While the taste wasn’t too terrible, the very idea of these foods in a blender makes me ill.  Don’t even get me started on the notion of thickened milk!

Baby Food for Grown-Ups:

Here are 3 recipes I actually enjoyed during my pureed plunge…

Sweet Butternut Squash Sauce (Makes 1 serving):

*1/2 cup cooked butternut squash meat (no skin!)

*1/2 cup cooked sweet potatoes (peeled)

*~1/2 cup water (or just enough for processing)

*1/2 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a blender/food processer and blend away!  It is delicious served hot or cold.

Peas Porridge Hot (Makes 3-4 servings):

*2 cups cooked split peas

To prepare split peas: Soaking overnight is not required, but I prefer to.  Rinse ’em whether or not you choose to soak ’em.  Bring 6 cups of water and 2 pounds of split peas to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until peas are tender.  Warning: this can take a couple of hours.  In my experience, they are resistant little bastards!  P.S.  You will have lots of extra peas!

*2 cups cooked spaghetti squash innards (mashed potatoes would work too if you aren’t feeling too adventurous)

To prepare spaghetti squash: Cut spaghetti squash width-wise, remove seeds, and place on an oiled cookie sheet.  Heat in a 400 degree oven (~30 minutes or until the insides are mushy enough to be extracted).  It’s really that simple!

*1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

*Handful of raw baby spinach leaves

*Water (sufficient for processing)

Blend all ingredients using as much water as necessary.  Once you’ve reached pea pudding, pour desired portion into serving bowl.  I used a microwave to heat the mixture through.  Before eating…  **Stir in the juice of 1 lemon and a dash of salt & cayenne pepper.  Optional additions: some type of smooth delicious fat: guacamole, sour cream, hummus, coconut oil, almond butter, etc.

Chocolate Banana “Ice Cream” Smoothie? (Makes 1-2 servings)

**NOTE: I had to wrestle my results from Derek after letting him taste it. 🙂

*1 banana (frozen is best, but mine wasn’t, so I added ice cubes)

*1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder

*~1/2 cup light coconut milk

*Ground sesame seeds (~2 Tbsp?)

*Ice cubes

*Vanilla extract/powder (optional)

Blend!  I apologize for the lack of direction on this one, but it was created on a whim.  You’ll have to experiment with the addition of milk, seeds, & ice in order to achieve a soft-serve/smoothie-type creation.

Bye Bye Baby (Food) Lessons learned: A regular concern in long term care facilities is resident malnutrition and dehydration.  As people age, they tend to experience more digestive discomfort due to diminishing stomach acid.  This can make eating less pleasant.  Living in a nursing home can cause an overwhelming sense of control loss.  Depression may ensue, dampening the desire to eat.  Certain medications may quell this urge even further.  With age, thirst mechanisms are also compromised.  On top of this, many follow some variation of the dysphagia diet: food texture modifications and/or thickened liquids.

As a dietetic intern at a nursing home, I noted one of the most important jobs of my preceptor.  During lunch, we would always go to the cafeteria.  Observations were made and encouragements were put forth:  “Try to eat all of your potatoes, Evelyn” & “Don’t forget to finish your water, Roy”.

The truth is…

If someone put pureed meatloaf  & thickened water at my fingertips on a daily basis, I’d probably end up malnourished and dehydrated too!  Like the nurses who tell you to cut back on sweets while putting out their cigarettes, dietitians may be the first to admit that many of us would sooner starve than put our meals in a blender and stir modified food starch into our wine glasses.

However, due to the blah nature of my diet, I spent more time pursuing other interests.  A coworker of mine told me that she tends to eat fast, because it is the least important part of her day.  While I have a preference for eating healthy foods in a slow manner, I told her that I sometimes wish I could follow that philosophy as well.  It’s nice to be so busy doing other things that eating becomes just one more thing that needs to be done to keep going.  Destroying the tendency of tying food to emotion can be very liberating.  In fact, as noted by my ally, it can be an indispensable tool for people with food restrictions.

Next diet: Low-copper Diet for Wilson’s Disease.  Update coming soon…