Friday, September 28, 2012

Permaculture in Action

Permaculture.  Perhaps you've heard this word before.  Perhaps you even know what it is and how it works.  For those of us who don't, here's the definition:


The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

 It all sounds good in theory, but how does this actually work in the real world?  Below is a video that does a great job of showing just how permaculture works, and how it can bring beauty and inspiration to a community. 

Watch.  Be inspired.  Enjoy!

Be Well,




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Detox Tips and Tricks

It's that time again! Fall is upon us. With Fall comes apples, pumpkins, and fiery leaves against crisp blue skies.  What else should come with Fall?  Your yearly detox.

A transitional season like the Fall is a great time to cleanse your body, and get ready for the coming months.  Even a small detoxification diet (for ex: 3-5 days of cutting out dairy, meat, and wheat) can dramatically increase your immunity and improve your health and wellness if done right.  That's the key.  Do it right.  Below are some tips and tricks to use to help set you up for success.

1. Choose the right detox program
    What? There’s a wrong one? Ummm…yes. Detoxing should be a personal program that jives with your body, lifestyle, and health. Don’t just follow along with the program that worked for your friend/sister/mother. For example, if you are underweight and have low energy, please don’t go on a fasting diet. This will only leave you more depleted and you will feel terrible! However, if you are an experienced detoxer, are in good health, and have high energy, then fasting just may be what you want/need. The point is that you need to do your research. 

2. Prep
    After you do your research, you need to prep yourself, your house, your friends, etc. Take away any items in the pantry (give them to a friend, donate them to a food bank, etc.) that might cause you to fall off the detox wagon. Stock the fridge with whatever you might need, so you don’t have the excuse of running out. Warn your friends that you don’t want to be invited to coffee next week.  Set yourself up mentally to succeed in your detoxing endeavors.

3. Clear your calendar
    If you’ve never detoxed before, perhaps you haven’t been let in on the secret yet.  Detoxing does not make you feel good for the first few days. You might feel tired, hungry, cranky, have headaches, etc. as your body flushes out all those nasty toxins. Do yourself a favor and clear your calendar the best you can. Give yourself time and space to curl up in a ball and take a nap. It’s what you need. And that will make you feel good.

4. Ease yourself into and out of your program
    You wouldn’t run a triathlon without doing some training would you? No. You would fall on your face in the mud, gasping for breath. Well the same holds true for going on your detox and off your detox program. Slowly ease into it. This means giving up coffee, maybe dairy and sugar a few days before. Lightening your diet. It will allow you to feel so much better those first few days. Then, be sure to slowly integrate those things back into your diet. First introducing grains, then maybe dairy the next day, eventually leading back up to your normal diet. Don’t shock your system by going from Master Cleanse to McDonald’s in 0 to 60.

5. Make time for yourself

    You are amazing for detoxing and honoring your body. You are amazing for going the extra mile for health and wellness.  So thank yourself by giving yourself a little treat. Massage, gentle yoga class, herbal body treatment. will feel so good, and allow yourself to truly appreciate the benefits of detoxing.

And hopefully encourage you to make it a part of a lifelong practice for health and wellness.

Be Well,
Monday, September 24, 2012

Jazz Up Your Kid's Lunch

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty, School of Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness/Nutrition

I don’t have children but I know I sure was a handful when it came to my school lunch. I am not joking here but when I was in elementary school I wrote up a one page “brief” with explicit instructions on what my mom could and could not put in my lunch. Here is an excerpt:

1.       Half of a sandwich (and I gave her 2 choices along with an “ *” - see below for key)
2.       Fruit. No more than two piece, and absolutely no bananas! (I have no clue why I didn’t want bananas – maybe because they were too big)
Don’ts                   Do’s
No chips              Cookies (if fresh baked)
No cupcakes      Crackers (if 1 piece of fruit)
No pie
No surprises

*only when you put in two pieces of fruit, other a whole (4/4) sandwich
One roll = one whole (4/4) sandwich

Wow – is it any wonder I became a registered dietitian?

If you are a mom or dad you might be looking for some new resources or tips, so to make up for some of the trials I put my mom through I put together this list:
1.       Food safety first. Perishable food should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Be certain your child’s lunch box is well insulated and that you include a freezer pack. You should also be certain that if you use plastic containers they are BPA free.
2.       Steer clear of pre-packaged lunchables. Kids may love them but they are loaded with fat, salt and offer very little nutrition. Why not pack some leftovers from that healthy dinner you prepared last night?
3.       Use “fun foods” like pita bread or whole wheat hot dog rolls for sandwiches.
4.       Beware of allergens in the school environment and opt for hummus instead of peanut butter.
5.       Steer clear of “juice drinks” and include 100% fruit and vegetable juices.
6.       Include a portion of fruit, vegetable, lean protein, dairy or alternative.
7.       Check out this fantastic interactive snack chart from Canada:
It has 170 popular snacks and allows you to quickly check the sugar and fat content.
8.       The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a great resource called Kids Eat Right that has articles, recipes and tons of tips:
9.       WebMD also has a great list of 15 lunch ideas:
10.   And let’s not forget after school snacks. The Food Network has a list of over 50 ideas:

If you have some ideas to share, post them here. Happy lunch packing!
Friday, September 21, 2012

The Obesity Epidemic in Pets

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty, School of Health Sciences
Health and Wellness/Nutrition

Did I catch your attention? I just read an article in Science Daily that I just had to share and blog about. Not only are more than half of American overweight or obese, but now according to studies it would appear those numbers run parallel to the obesity numbers in the average American family pet. Yes that is right, up to 60% and perhaps as high as 70% of cats and dogs are overweight.  I am guessing the reasons for this are similar to the reasons that so many Americans are overweight: lack of physical activity and poor diet. Interestingly, the obesity epidemic in pets is opening up an entire new career opportunity as an American College of Veterinary Nutrition board-certified clinical nutritionist. Currently there are only about 100 of these experts in the country three of whom are employed in the first ever obesity clinic for pets at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts in Massachusetts. The clinic has just recently opened and is designed to help owners achieve safe and effective weight loss for their pets.

Studies completed at Cummings have shown that while dogs and cats are not prone to coronary artery disease, they are prone to weight related complications such as diabetes, orthopedic and respiratory problems and a reduced quality of life. An overweight pet is neither happy nor healthy despite the perception many owners have.  You may wonder if it isn’t as simple as feeding your pet one of those “weight management” foods. Well apparently it is not. The researchers at Cummings have found that the amount of calories in these types of foods can vary greatly. Add to that the fact that weight loss is as difficult for an animal as it is for a human.
Hmmm. So what do we make of all of this? I am a big proponent of prevention and speaking as a dog owner myself, I do my best to keep my little cockapoo, Kismet, who is now 9 ½ years old as healthy as possible. I feed him baby carrots instead of dog biscuits and he loves them. They are sweet and crunchy. I know other owners who feed their pets fresh green beans. He doesn’t get any table scraps, although since I am vegan they would be healthy anyway! In general you just want to avoid doing this as scraps can add up to a lot of additional calories.
To assess whether or not your pet is overweight, vets generally say that you should be able to feel but not see its ribs. You should also be able to see a distinct “waist” where the body narrows behind the rib cage and in front of the hindquarters.
So what type of food?  I feed Kismet organic food (dry and wet) because the same laws that keep the meat that people eat free of Mad Cow Disease do not apply to the manufacture of pet food. And while you don’t have to go organic, you should read the ingredient list. The FDA has a whole site dedicated to pets, pet food, etc and has a section on reading the label on pet food
Get active with your pet! Kismet is really active. I walk him about 2+ miles a day. It pains me when I see dogs penned up and never taken for a walk. Owning a pet is a just such an easy way to stay physically active yourself. Pets are so fun and entertaining that I just love watching Kismet bound down the local walking trail on our nightly walks.
So while the obesity epidemic in pets seems to have opened a whole new career field, I think it also serves as a “teachable” moment to all of those loving pet owners out there. Put your pet’s health right up there at the top of the priority list with yours. Now get out that leash and start walking!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cracking the PLU Code

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty School of Health Sciences
Health and Wellness/Nutrition

Do you know how to decipher those little stickers with PLU codes found on fruits and vegetables? According to the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), “price look-up codes” or PLU’s have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make it easier for the cashiers to ring up your produce while at the same time serving as a way to make inventory control easier, faster and more accurate. PLU codes are used for items you buy from bulk bins like bulk grains or nuts as well as for all loose fruits and vegetables. 

Over 1300 codes are in use and they consist of either 4-digits or 5-digits. The numbers indicate what the item is, the price, where it was grown and how it was grown. If it is a 4-digit code then it was grown using conventional practices. If it is a 5-digit code beginning with a 9 then it means the item is organic. For example, a conventional banana might be labeled 4895 while an organic banana would be labeled 94895. Interestingly, the IFPS also created a code for items that are produced using genetic engineering that begins with an 8 (e.g. 84895). Have you ever seen this on a PLU sticker? I know I have not. This is because no one uses it! The general consensus among Americans is that they want to know when they are eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and would avoid them if they were labeled. However, this would hurt the bottom line of the big manufacturers so all efforts at labeling legislation have been blocked by manufacturers and politicians up to this point.

So where does that leave you? If you prefer organic produce you can look for the PLU’s that start with a 9. Organic produce cannot be altered using genetic engineering. But if you can’t afford to buy organic and would like to know if your conventional produce is altered, are there other ways to find out this information? Yes and no. Currently there are only 4 GMO vegetables/fruits in the US: papaya from Hawaii, some zucchini and yellow squash and some corn on the cob. For other non-produce type foods you can look for the non-GMO project seal

 You can also download the non-GMO shopping guide from here:

If you want to be able to recognize a few PLU codes from the produce and bulk food you purchase frequently, then you can use plug the codes directly into a search wizard at the IFPS website to learn more about individual items:

Happy produce sleuthing!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Healthy Back to School Breakfast Ideas

Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM , L. Ac .
I hope you found my last blog with quick and easy lunch ideas helpful. This time we will investigate easy breakfast options.

The key to a seamless breakfast are options especially for the children.

Breakfast tortillas made with whole wheat tortillas allow for many grab and go breakfast options. Trying stuffing a tortilla with string cheese and apple slice.  30 seconds in the microwave and this tasty breakfast is ready to go. You can also try using your favorite nut butter and honey (for children over 2 years old) .

Breakfast “hot dogs”   are another fun option . Take a whole wheat hot dog bun and spread peanut butter on it.  Please one whole peeled banana and you are ready to go! Additions can include strawberries or blueberries.

Greek yogurt “seasoned” with your favorite fruit allows for higher protein and lower sugar content then   yogurt with fruit on the bottom.
Smoothies are a great way to provide quick nutrition for multiple family members. Spinach blended with berries, chia seeds and coconut or soy milk  provides not only a large range of vitamins but fiber as well. I prefer smoothies to juicing as there tends to be less mess and more fiber in the resulting product .

Next time , we will review quick and healthy dinner ideas.
Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to School, Back to Lunch !

By Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM , L. Ac
Welcoming the children to the school year is always a time filled with memories and hopes. For many mothers, ( including myself) , it is also a time to try and keep the lunchbox not only healthy but exciting . This week, we will look at healthy back to school meal options for lunch, breakfast and dinner !

Diversity in the lunchbox not only makes children more likely to eat lunch but sets healthy eating habits for the future.  As with traditional meal planning , the key to nutritional health is of course portion size and inclusion of fruits, veggies and low-fat proteins.

In addition to the traditional sandwiches , Bento box approached to lunch are great for kids . Bento box lunches and their associated storage boxes are a great way to allow children to have fun as they eat. The segmented containers allow space for appropriate portions of not only  fruits and protein but also dips to prevent sogginess!  Most children enjoy snacking  and this approach allows you to quickly and easily “swap” out one or two items during the course of the week to allow for variety.

Some easy items to try out include:

  • Coring and slicing apples and turning them into “bread”, squirt with a bit of apple juice to prevent browning and fill with your favorite nut butter, semi soft cheese or even tuna salad !

  • Fruit kabobs on pretzel sticks . You can either prepare or allow older children to build them themselves. I also include cheese or  curry and cinnamon baked tofu for protein . Fruit yogurt as a ‘dip’ is also an object .

Be sure to involve the children in the decision process ! Next time we will visit easy breakfast ideas.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dietary Supplements

Last UCSF video this week: Medicinal Herbs and Supplements. In this lecture, Dr. Ellen Hughes explores what consumers need to know when considering herbs and supplements.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ayurvedic Medicine

Today I’d like to share another UCSF video. In this fascinating lecture, Dr. Sudha Prathikanti explains the principles of one of the world’s oldest medical practices: Ayurveda.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mind-Body Medicine

As someone who has worked in both conventional medicine and Complementary and Alternative  Medicine (CAM), it is exciting to see the growth of a new field: Integrative medicine.

As the name suggests, Integrative medicine is an approach to healthcare using the combination of conventional medicine and CAM. Many healthcare organizations (such as Stanford, Duke, etc) have opened integrative medical centers. One such program is right here in my own backyard: The UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. This center offers not only treatment – but also education in the form of videos and on-site classes. Treatments draw from a variety of disciplines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Biofeedback, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and more. Classes include Mindfulness Mediation, Tai Chi, yoga, qi gong, guided imagery, and dance.

Here’s a link to their home page:

I especially like their videos series “Mini Medical School for the Public” - and I’d like to share 3 of my favorites from this series this week.

First one up: Mind-body Medicine. In this fun and interesting lecture, Dr. Kevin Barrows explores the concept of mindfulness in healing.

Nancy Silva, ND, RN
Faculty, Health Sciences

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