Monthly Archives: September 2014

Grain Brain - a Great Resource to help you go gluten free easily

Gluten Free Easily, Thanks to Grain Brain

I’ve been gluten free for about seven years now and it’s made a tremendous difference in my life, but I can’t really say it was easy – especially at first.  Honestly, I really just wish I’d had Kristen Loberg and David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain. Not so much for the information about gluten and your brain – honestly at that point in my life I didn’t care what it was doing to my brain, I just wanted my joints to stop hurting (great success, by the way). But the problem was, that it wasn’t easy at all to find the gluten hiding in things. Because due to some inconvenient labeling, they don’t just say “gluten” – in fact they work really really hard NOT to say “gluten” so thanks so much to grain brain for these great tools to make gluten free easy.

I am sharing this information from Grain Brain, simply because I so wish it had been around in such a clear way when I was starting out. This will help you to go gluten free easily. Or at least with fewer accidental gluten episodes.

Grains and starches which contain gluten:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Matzo
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheat
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat grass (I’m including it here because although there is some debate about whether or not it contains enough gluten to trigger a reaction, it most certainly triggers a reaction in me – so count this one as a just-in-case)

Gluten-Free Grains and Starches (Stick to This List and You’ll be Fine!)

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat (Best. Pancakes. Ever.)
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

These Prepared Foods Often Contain Hidden Gluten:

  • Canned baked beans (sigh. Camp food.)
  • Beer
  • Blue cheese
  • Bouillons/broths that are premade
  • Breaded foods
  • Cereals (not so hidden in this one – but even the ones that claim to be “rice” or “corn” are often a mix)
  • Chocolate milk (store bought, not home-made)
  • Cold cuts (weird that those aren’t just meat.)
  • Communion wafers
  • Egg substitute (sigh)
  • Energy bars
  • Flavored coffees and teas
  • French fries (apparently often dusted with flour before freezing, but it usually isn’t listed on the label)
  • Fried vegetables/tempura
  • Fruit fillings and puddings
  • Gravy
  • Hot dogs
  • Ice cream (eek!!! Thank god Hagen Daz makes some really clean ones.)
  • Imitation crabmeat, bacon, etc…
  • Instant hot drinks
  • Ketchup
  • Malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar, hydrolized malt extract
  • Marinades or pre-marinated meat
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pre-made meatballs or meatloaf
  • Non-dairy creamer
  • Oatmeal, oat bran or oats unless certified gluten free
  • Processed cheese (easy-melt, velveeta – this means queso! Arg!!)
  • Roasted nuts (why? why?)
  • Root beer
  • Salad dressings
  • Sausage
  • Seitan
  • Soups (store bought – no worries if you’re cooking at home)
  • Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Bragg’s liquid aminos  (try coconut aminos – they’re delicious)
  • Syrups
  • Tabbouleh
  • Trail mix
  • Veggie burgers
  • Vodka (blarg. The good news is that there are several great gluten free vodkas – one of which is Texas’ own Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which is 100% corn. Also Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka, which is 100% from grapes, and Smironff Vodka, which is also 100% corn.)
  • Wheatgrass
  • Wine coolers

    Grain Brain - a Great Resource to help you go gluten free easily

    Grain Brain – a Great Resource to help you go gluten free easily

Non-Food Sources of Gluten

  • Makeup
  • Lipstick and lip balm
  • Medications (sigh. Check the package insert)
  • Play-Doh
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Vitamins and supplements (also check the label – the good ones don’t have it.)
  • Volumizing hair products
  • Dog biscuits (hopefully you’re not eating these, but for some people – one dear friend included – even handling them is enough to trigger a reaction)

Secret Names for Gluten (Hidden Gluten in Food)

  • Amino peptide complex
  • Avena sativa (this should be wild oats, but sometimes it’s wild whatever-grass-they-happen-to-grab)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Caramel color (often made from barley)
  • Cyclodextrin, dextrin, maltodextrin (could also be from corn)
  • Fermented grain extract
  • Hordeum distichon or Hordeum vulgare (I’ve never stumbled across these words, but apparently they’re types of grasses).
  • Hydrolysate
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, vegetable protein, HVP, TVP.
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural flavoring (this is in everything)
  • Phytosphingosine extract
  • Secale cereale
  • Soy protein (!!)
  • Triticum aestivum and Triticum vulgare
  • Yeast extract

The Biggest Tip to Going Gluten Free Easily

The biggest thing you can do to make sure you’re gluten free is to only shop on the outer edge of the grocery store – fruits, veggies, meats, and most dairy are typically pretty gluten-free.  I head into the aisle part for things like nuts, cleaning products, pickles and pickled veggies, the occasional GF baking mix, and paper products and that’s about it. Of course this means I cook at home a lot, but it also means that my body feels better every day because I’m not getting the gluten that causes so much inflammation.

Going gluten free is always a big change, because as you can see there are a shocking number of things that we come in contact with every day that have gluten in them outside of the obvious bread, cookies, cakes, crackers and pasta. Hopefully thanks to Grain Brain you can do gluten free easily and start out with fewer accidental gluten-ings.

Chocolate really does make you smarter! Image courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Chocolate Makes you Smarter. Even Nobel Prize Smart.

Okay, so maybe not a guaranteed Nobel prize, but according to new research there is a link between chocolate and smarts – that is to say, eating more chocolate makes you smarter and actually increases the likelihood that you will win a Nobel prize. Honestly, just the health benefits were enough to encourage me, but the Nobel prize thing isn’t bad either! I’m not 100% sure what actually triggered this research because it seems like a kind of bizarre association between things, but somebody thought this was important enough to fund (and I like chocolate enough to feel like it’s important enough to pass on!). Not only that, it was important enough to publish in the New England Journal of Medicine, which is considered one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world.

Chocolate Makes You Smarter – Maybe Even Nobel Prize Worthy

The overarching theory is that eating chocolate could make you smarter by improving cognitive function, which we can measure by the number of Nobel laureates per capita.  The study shows a very strong association in that direction, and that association is mathematically and statistically highly significant – meaning that it probably is an accurate description of reality.  So today’s excuse to treat yourself? It’s because you’re working towards the Peace Prize.

Chocolate makes you smarter! Image courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Chocolate makes you smarter! Image courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In this graph you can clearly see that the countries in which people eat more chocolate, also win more Nobel Prizes. Coincidence? I think not. Previous research from the University of Nottingham showed that dark chocolate improves brain function and cognition. Flavenols from dark chocolate were shown to increase blood flow to key brain areas for two to three hours after consumption. This increased blood flow then led to increased alertness and performance. There must be a god, and that god must love us because CHOCOLATE MAKES YOU SMARTER.

Chocolate makes you smarter, healthier and happier. Thank you god! Lovely image by Andre Karwath

Chocolate makes you smarter, healthier and happier. Thank you god! Lovely image by Andre Karwath

Other Health Benefits of Chocolate

Of course, smarts isn’t the only thing you get from chocolate. Here are some others:

  • Endorphins – those happy, happy little brain chemicals
  • Heart healthy – one to two servings of 70% dark chocolate (or greater) per week cuts your risk of heart failure by a third.
  • High in flavenols, antioxidants, and fiber
  • A German study concluded that regular chocolate consumption reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke by 39%
  • Chocolate has five times the health-boosting flavenols of an apple.
  • Dark chocolate is filling and according to a Swedish study (you’ll notice the Sweds are big chocolate eaters in the Nobel Prize study), meaning it reduces your cravings for sugary, salty and fatty foods.
  • Eating chocolate daily during pregnancy leads to less-stressed moms and happier babies who smile more according to a Finnish study (Finns also big chocolate eaters)
  • It tastes AWESOME (this is my favorite reason).

The bottom line is that chocolate makes you smarter, happier and healthier – just remember to get 70% dark or better. You’re welcome.

It's candy cleverly disguised so you won't notice this unhealthy choice.

The Reason We’re So Unhealthy: Choices

Sure sure, lifespans are longer but humans are pretty darn unhealthy right now and honestly I think it all boils down to one thing, and that is unhealthy choices.  Which sounds pretty much like a no-brainer, right? But here’s the thing – it’s not that we are newly weak willed and our ancestors would have made better choices, it’s that we’re really in the first few generations to even have to think about it – so it’s not so much that we’re bad at making healthy choices, it’s that we’re FIRST at having to make choices about this at all.

Think about your grandparents for a minute.  If your grandparents were anything like mine they didn’t own one piece of exercise equipment and had never set foot in a gym (but were pretty darn fit, all things considered). They ate meat and potatoes and bread and about a mountain of ice cream, but weren’t obese.  Pleasantly plump maybe but not even close to obese.  So – why was their self-care so much more relaxed than ours is today with our obsessive avoidance of carbs and pedometer-measured steps and constantly monitored states of health? And why were their outcomes better?

Here’s the thing – they didn’t have a choice about health for the first several decades of their life.  They couldn’t choose the snack cakes from the convenience store or the freezer dinners or the gallons of soda and late-night ice cream bars. They couldn’t because for the most part they didn’t have access to any of that – it wasn’t invented yet.  The food they had access to was milk fresh from farms, veggies either fresh from the garden or canned at home, meat from local farms, their own back yard or from a hunting trip.  That’s pretty much it. Sure there was penny candy as a rare treat and far more home-baked goodies like pies and cookies, but they were made at home with real ingredients. Life involved more activity because things like walking, horseback riding, chopping wood and gardening were activities of daily living -not just things they did on the weekend to “get their exercise” or “connect with nature.”  In short, life didn’t actually give our grandparents and great-grandparents the unhealthy choices we have now.

If I wanted to I could probably walk less than 500 steps a day.  I could drive to my mailbox (you laugh, but most people have done it at least once), have groceries delivered, shop online, stay at the desk at work and move only to get back into the car.  I could also choose to eat only processed food for weeks or to go on a sugar binge or to consume my entire caloric needs in soda. I have all of those decisions to make and a lot of times it’s cheaper and easier to choose the unhealthy way. The generations coming before you and I didn’t ever have to think about this because the unhealthy way was either not available, or such a luxury item as to be prohibitive to most.

It’s really easy to beat yourself up over “making unhealthy choices,” “falling off the diet wagon,” or “cheating” but I actually think that a pat on the back is more appropriate.  Evolutionarily speaking we are designed to always want food . Plus, we want sweet, fatty and salty food the most because those would have been the most rare in our wild state.  You are literally programmed to seek those things constantly and you’re facing a staggering array of unhealthy choices constantly.  I think you should get an award for working at it.  You are amazing and awe-inspiring and wonderful for choosing health more often than you give in to unhealthy choices.  You and I, we’re really in one of the first generations to have to make any of these choices at all and I think we’re doing amazingly well.

Just in case you're thinking that's actually fruit, let me assure you it's not. It's candy cleverly disguised so you won't notice these unhealthy choices.

Just in case you’re thinking that’s actually fruit, let me assure you it’s not. It’s candy cleverly disguised so you won’t notice these unhealthy choices.

So keep up the great work and give yourself a pat on the back because frankly, you have earned it.  Every time you go to a store you walk past racks of candy bars on your way out that cost almost nothing.  You are constantly confronted with friends eating processed food, the enormous never-ending bowl of corn chips at the Mexican restaurant and bucket of popcorn at the movies.  Today there is a constant, ever-present option to make unhealthy choices.  If you are only making unhealthy choices some of the time then my friend you are ahead of the curve. So congratulations! You are paving the way for future generations to get more balance and to be a little more moderate about all of this – right now we’re just wallowing in the unhealthy possibilities.

Start feeling this good. Create your own happy now.

Nine Practices to create Happiness

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create happiness – if happiness was a simple goal you could achieve? As it turns out, it is exactly that.  It is a process of doing – it isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you chose to be, and part of that choice is acting in a way that leads towards happiness. Here are nine practices, developed by Don Richard Riso, to help you on your journey:

Treat Others With Kindness and Integrity

One of the simplest ways to help others be kind and helpful to you and to treat you like an independent worthwhile human is to do the same for them. And god knows kindness goes a long way towards happiness.

Love Yourself and Others Equally

Love your neighbor as yourself – but also remember to love yourself as your neighbor.  Many of you (women especially) tend to care for others, for the needs of the kids, the spouse, the parents and forget about your own needs. Don’t forget to add yourself to the list of cherished loved ones and to make your needs count for as much as those of everyone else.  There is no way to create happiness if you don’t factor yourself into your own life.

Be Authentic And Truthful in All Matters

Research has verified that lying, no matter how much you have convinced yourself it doesn’t matter to you, actually raises the levels of your stress hormones and contributes to anxiety, stress and the aging process.  The same might be true for the soft lies – the moments where you go along with what is going on just so you don’t make waves, even if it isn’t something you want in your life. To create happiness be true to you – your body always knows the difference.

Joy! Create happiness in your life today.

Joy! Create happiness in your life today.

Discover Beauty and Pleasure Everywhere

It’s out there. Beauty is out there all over the place and it is so easy to walk by and not notice because you’re caught up in the latest drama at work or your to-do list or that tiff you had with your partner.  Don’t miss it – if you don’t see the beauty and enjoy the little moments now, then when will you? The only time you can change is right now so if you want to be joyful then live into what is happening RIGHT NOW.

Learn from Everyone and Everything

It is so hard to remember to truly appreciate every situation and so easy to pop up the defenses. Of course you can approach every situation like the expert – you already know it, you’ve done it before, you know how this goes. The basic problem with that is that you only leave room then for one possible outcome, and that is that you come away from that situation with nothing new. In short, you don’t grow or change, you just stay stagnant. Try for one day approaching every situation as though you are new to it and as though you can learn something and I promise, you will learn something. You will grow and evolve – how wonderful is that?

Trust Your Ability to Face Challenges and Contribute Willingly

It’s so easy to worry and it feeds into so many basic states of pathology. Worry is a way of creating drama and tension, of pretending you might have control over the uncontrollable and also it’s one of the biggest ways of doubting yourself or your loved ones that you can engage in. By worrying constantly you are sending the signal that you don’t trust your (or your loved ones, if you worry only for other people) ability to cope with life, to deal with the challenges that arise. But here is the thing – if you or the people you worry about are still alive then you are entirely capable of facing everything that life has thrown at you so far. That is kind of a powerful thought – you have effectively dealt with every challenge that has come at you. That is one hell of an awesome track record. Boosting your trust in yourself and the universe is a great way to boost happiness.

Start feeling this good. Create your own happy now.

Pure Freaking Joy. Create your own happy now.

Be Attached to Nothing and Experience Real Freedom

This doesn’t mean don’t attach to anything therefore don’t love anything. Love with your whole heart, but let that love grow, evolve and change.  Let everything grow, evolve and change.  It’s so easy to get into a place where you try to keep things the same, keep them stable and predictable and uniform but life isn’t like that.  Everything grows and develops and ultimately might even fade, but none of that is bad.  By allowing your relationships, your life, your patterns to evolve you also allow yourself to find deeper joy, greater authenticity and more freedom.  In other words don’t try to control or be attached to life being a certain way, because then you don’t allow it to ever get any better.

Let Go of Willfulness and Empower Others

This one can be a challenge to see because society trains you to learn to get your own way. It’s actually one of the biggest skills you learn as an infant or toddler because at that stage of development it is important to be able to get what you need from the people around you.  As an adult, however, it can be helpful to notice the behaviors that you have adopted that might push people to behave a certain way around you or give in to you.  Guilt, shame, blame and judgement can be subtle (or not so subtle) ways of bullying people and using those tools can be entirely unconscious.  To create happiness isn’t it time to examine the ways you might manipulate those around you?

 Value Yourself and Engage with the Tumult of the World

This is the hardest one for me – both to understand and to follow.  You might, like me, notice the internal tendency to being the peacekeeper, to trying to keep things smooth and even and to keep everyone around you happy. Peacekeeping is a strong gift and can be of great value in your life, but it can also slip over into a form of self-denial.  The small ways you don’t speak your truth because you want to keep the peace.  Again, there are degrees of health here.  Sometimes engaging with the turmoil and allowing there to be bumps in the road can be the most authentic path forward and can allow you to experience real happiness and to be absolutely true to yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you should cause problems just to stir the pot, but you should be able to give true expression to problems that are already there and not try to dismiss them.

Dog smile - thanks for the picture to Pixel blue eyes (smiling) and her person Jenny.

Dog smile – thanks for the picture to Pixel blue eyes (smiling) and her person Jenny.

Create Happiness Now

Waiting for someone, something, some circumstance to make you happy is common, but it’s also a dead end. If you’re waiting to be happy and don’t do something to change your mind, you will always be waiting to be happy. Start today – take a simple step to create happiness. There is no reason to wait.  It might not happen overnight, it might not happen in a month, but it will happen and you have the power to control it.

Best Gluten Free Quick Cookies Ever.

Okay – so first disclaimer is that I’m not advocating huge amounts of cookie-eating, but there are times when you really just want a cookie and it has to be gluten free and quick. Frankly, who can eat gluten these days and who has actual time for baking? The reality is we all want food that fits with our basic nutritional philosophy, tastes good and is quick and easy to make – essentially we want perfect food. Like these perfect gluten free quick cookies from my dear friend Hallie, whom I will forever blame for getting me hooked on these.


  • 1/2 package of Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix
  • Lots of walnuts and pecans (unsalted)
  • 6 tablespoons of Kerrigold butter from grass-fed cows
  • 1-2 egg yolks
  • Gluten free love

So – this is a cheat on the recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix package that adds some awesome health benefits as well as all the fun addictive properties of cocaine (sorry about that – once you start eating these it’s hard to stop). Here’s what you do:

Bob's Red Mill GF Shortbread Cookie Mix - this is where the magic starts...

Bob’s Red Mill GF Shortbread Cookie Mix – this is where the magic starts…

Steps to Make the Perfect Gluten Free Quick Cookie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*
  2. Put 1/2 the package of Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix in a bowl
  3. Grind the walnuts and pecans so that you have about an equal amount of this nut mix. I use a Vitamix and do kind of a rough chop so that some of it is finely ground like a nut powder and some of it is more like crushed nut pieces. It’s about 2 cups of whole nuts to grind down to the right amount, but there is a lot of flexibility here so don’t worry about measuring.  Just eyeball enough nuts to equal the amount of the cookie mix you used.
  4. Add 6 tablespoons of butter (I pre-melt it so that it mixes easily) and 1-2 egg yolks.  1 yolk makes the cookies drier and more crumbly like shortbread and 2 makes them stay together a little more than that.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Shape into little balls and then flatten onto baking sheets.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes, give or take, until the edges start to turn a light golden-brown.

These are delicious and have 1/2 the sugar of the original recipe along with all of the additional benefits from the pecans and walnuts including fiber, protein, the cardiovascular protective effects from nuts and good healthy fats.  Did I mention they’re delicious?  Yeah – that’s an understatement. Plus you don’t really have to measure or be good at baking – it all kind of works out in the end no matter what. My first batch was seriously nut-heavy. I totally overestimated how much I would need and just dumped it in. They were awesome.  The second batch was lighter on the nuts and I tried two egg yolks instead of one because they were small eggs. Still awesome. I’m thinking they’re fool-proof.

These really are the best gluten free quick cookies ever. They even have a little bit of healthy in them.

These really are the best gluten free quick cookies ever. They even have a little bit of healthy in them.

Of course it’s still a cookie and not exactly health food, but it is so much better for you than regular cookies, and it’s made of real food, and start to finish it takes maybe 20 – 25 minutes including clean up.  How’s that for gluten free quick cookie perfection???