Category Archives: drinks

On My Mind Monday 7.09.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

How can a big gulp look so small? – Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban has raised all kinds of backlash across the system.  The biggest misconception put forth is that we “know” how much we are consuming.  Manufacturers keep trotting forth this phrase each time they feel threatened to limited by any type of legislation that may impact their ability to peddle their product.  Frequently it’s the least healthy manufacturers who complain the loudest.  So now another study has been done that once again proves that our brains don’t do geometry very well.  We are not accurately able to gauge how much we are consuming, instead cueing off the size of the container.  This study, to my mind, confirms a study previously done with bottomless bowls of soup.  We do indeed eat with our eyes, frequently over-eating because we rely on visual cues.

Our Daily Bread – a slightly modified take of the work they’ve published in their book Hungry Planet: What The World Eats, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio have an exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston.  It shows a wide variety of people with the food that they plan to eat for that day.  The variety and circumstances are startling.  It gives one definitely pause for thought.  I hope the exhibit is very successful and even more that it will travel around the country, perhaps making it’s way to a museum in Houston so that I can go see it.

Food Companies Concerned About Sustainability – As more consumers become more educated, more companies are beginning to listen.  Realizing that they need to be aware of and involved in this issue as well if they want to sell their products.  As always I propose we start with whole foods, but I do believe that sustainable practices across all parts of the food spectrum are important.

Nutrition Education on Wheels – This looks like an interesting concept.  Using a food truck and providing recipe cards and cooking demonstrations people are getting some ideas for how to use the food they get to make healthy, nutritious meals.  This is an idea that I think could be expanded greatly all across the country.  It seems to me that it would not only help people to eat healthier, but also to help avoid food waste as people often don’t use what they don’t know how to use and it sits until it becomes inedible.  I hope to see more food trucks like this.

EU Organic Label Now Mandatory – Well this just proves that it can be done.  It can’t come to our shores fast enough in my opinion.  I even like the symbol they chose.

I use a LOT of onions in my house.  I’ve tried to grow there but here in my hot, piney woods garden they have not done well.  Out of two onion sets I got one reasonable size onion, yes, one onion.  The others all seemed to melt and disappear into the garden.  I’m still not sure how that happens but I’ve decided that, for now, growing onions is not for me. I continue to use them as they are flavorful and a great, healthy way to punch up your recipes but, for now, I’m still buying instead of growing them.  As a good source of vitamin C onions also provide a lot of phytonutrients.  They are considered to be beneficial for heart health and are also anti-inflammatory.  Using them can be a challenge however as chopping a spherical object into nice tidy dices or even slices isn’t always easy.  Learning the proper way to chop onions is a handy skill.  Here’s a great video demonstrating how to do it.



Make Do Bullet Blender

Recently I was wasting time researching ideas for food preparations on Pinterest and came across a posting that mentioned using regular mouth canning jars as a personal bullet blender device.  According to the pin/link that mentioned it the mouth of a regular pint jar happens to fit the blender blade base which then fits into the blender and can be used to make personal smoothies.

I already own a blender and am not interested in buying another appliance for my kitchen.  But there are times when it would be great to be able to make individual smoothies without having to clean the blender in between each recipe.

This morning, after mulling it over for a bit, I decided to give it a try.  I figured the worst thing that would happen is that it wouldn’t work and I would have to dump it all into the blender and start from scratch.

To make this morning’s smoothie I put the following ingredients into a regular mouth pint canning jar:  Greek style yogurt, organic strawberries, washed and quartered, fresh ground flax seed, greens powder, coconut oil, and a splash of almond milk to make sure there was enough liquid.  I put the blade base on the jar and it fit very well, placed the whole thing on the blender and hit the button.

I didn’t measure very well as I wasn’t sure how it would work but it seemed to have come out okay.   The hardest part was trying to carefully undo the jar and blade base from the without undoing the jar and spilling the contents all over the blender.

It turns out this works very well and I anticipate more personal smoothies in our future.


water with lime | photo: o0o0xmods0o0o
Those of you who read my Facebook Fan Page know that I regularly remind people to start their day with an alkalizing drink.  This invariably brings up the questions, what is an alkalizing drink and why do I need to drink it?

Second question first. Our bodies do better when they are in a more alkaline state.  If you remember from high school biology, a pH of 7.0 is base or neutral.  We should be somewhere between 7.2-7.4 in order to be healthy.  When our bodies are in a more acidic state we can potentially be prone to illness.  Maintaining an acidic body state for a long period of time can cause a wide variety of illnesses such as headaches, inflammation, bloating, acne, and possibly even hair or nails that break easily.  Because the body seeks balance if it is too acidic it will pull minerals from our bones and from muscle tissue.  This is not an appropriate solution as eventually there can be a depletion of minerals.

Our modern diet is very acidic.  Especially if we eat a diet that is high in processed foods and animal products.  This makes it a good idea to include more more alkalizing foods which are primarily vegetables and most fruits (specifically those with less sugars).  In addition to making sure we add alkalizing foods to our diet it is often a good idea to start the day with an alkalizing drink.

So back to question number one…what is an alkalizing drink?  A glass of water with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar is a great choice. Many people may have to work up to 2 tablespoons as it may be too tart if you are not used to it.  Adding greens powder to water or a morning smoothie is another way to get an alkalizing beverage into your day.  Another option would be to drink kombucha or water kefir, another great start to the day and one that has the added benefit of probiotics to further support gut health.

If you want to test to see whether your specific body state is more alkaline or more acidic you can purchase Ph Test Strips.  These strips test either urine or saliva (urine is generally considered to be a better indicator).  If you are interested in changing your diet you could also consider getting a copy of The Acid Alkaline Food Guide.

And to answer the unasked question.  “But vinegar and lemons are acidic so how can they be alkalizing?”  It’s one of the odd properties of acid-alkaline balance.  Yes, we do consider them to be acidic however their ash, or residue after they have been broken down, is alkaline.  That makes them an alkalizing food.  This alkalizing effect is also found with limes and grapefruits however not with oranges.

So start your day with an alkalizing beverage and drink to your health.


Juice Smoothie

juice smoothie

I have just found a new favorite place to stop for a cool drink when I am out running errands.  For years I have been unhappy with the smoothie places that offer various fruit concoctions claiming that they are a healthy drink.  Often these come from containers not from fresh fruit and there are added sugars.  Fruit is so sweet by itself that I’ve never understood the need to add other sweeteners.

And I’ve often wondered, where are the vegetables?  100% fruit isn’t so healthy either.

My new favorite place?  New York Smoothie.  A friend told me about it and I went to check it out today.  I ordered  and then watched as the owner Mr. Hosaini juiced up (in a juicer) carrots, celery, parsley, beets, and a few other veggies, all 100% fresh.  He then transferred the juice to a blender, added some ice and created this delicious smoothie.  I’m hooked and I’m definitely going back.*

If you want to pay him a visit he’s located at:
127 Sawdust Road
Spring, TX  77384

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I paid for my juice smoothie and was not asked or induced in any way to write this, I just love the product.

kefir - fermented beverage

Benefits Of Water Kefir

It’s a good idea to drink fermented beverages – they contain probiotics, or good bacteria, and are great for your digestion! Studies also show that probiotics help when you are depressed or anxious. Beneficial probiotics can be found in a number of foods, but they’re also found in fermented beverages such as kombucha or kefir. The best part is that you can actually make these delicious beverages at home.

Health benefits:

  • Due to the beneficial bacteria, kefir is helpful for the immune system and supports a good bacterial balance in the gut
  • Kefir has been shown in laboratory studies to improve bone mass, helpful to prevent osteoporosis
  • High in probiotics, kefir may be a beneficial beverage for supporting mental wellbeing
  • L. kefiri (one of the active beneficial bacteria in kefir) is antimicrobial and has good probiotic benefits, inhibiting pathogens
  • Appears to be anti-carcinogenic and may have therapeutic benefit for both healthy and ill adults

How to make water kefir:

I have to say water kefir is my favorite when it comes to home-made because it’s so quick and simple.

  1. Dissolve 1/3 cup sugar with filtered warm water in a clean one quart glass jar. I like to use turbinado or rapadura sugars because they are not stripped of all their nutrients.
  2. Add water kefir grains (about 1 to 2 tablespoons).
  3. Place jar out of direct sunlight.
  4. Cover jar with a clean dish towel.
  5. Let sit for 24 to 30 hours or to your taste. )If you aren’t sure how it should taste, try some from someone else’s batch)
  6. Strain the water kefir grains from liquid
  7. Do a secondary fermentation by adding something to provide some flavor – I like ginger so I add 5-10 slices of freshly peeled ginger. Another option is a few mint leaves. Cap and let sit on the counter for 24 hours.
  8. Strain out flavorings, transfer the liquid to another one quart glass jar and save in the fridge to start drinking
  9. Rinse your grains and start over for an unlimited supply of delicious and nourishing water kefir loaded with probiotics or good bacteria!

A few more notes:

  • Don’t worry about the sugar as it’s mostly used up during the fermentation process
  • Your kefir grains will actually start to grow so you can share them with friends – getting from grains from a friend is a good way to get started
  • The grains sort of look like very baby cauliflower florets and should be kept cool when not being used

For those of you who would like to try making water kefir at home Cultures for Health is a great source for your grains.  They also sell a large number of other culture products for yogurt, sourdough, cheese and more.


Carasi P, et al., Safety Characterization and Antimicrobial Properties of Kefir-Isolated Lactobacillus kefiri . BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:208974. doi:10.1155/2014/208974.

Chen, HL, et al., Kefir improves bone mass and microarchitecture in an ovariectomized rat model of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Osteoporos Int. 2015 Feb;26(2):589-99. doi: 10.1007/s00198-014-2908-x. Epub 2014 Oct 3.

Messaoudi, Michael, et al., Beneficial psychological effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in healthy human volunteers. Gut Microbes, 2:4, 256-261, DOI: 10.4161/gmic.2.4.16108

S. Sarkar, (2007) “Potential of kefir as a dietetic beverage – a review”, British Food Journal, Vol. 109 Issue: 4, pp.280-290,


* * * * * * *

This is a guest post from my friend and colleague Trudy Scott (CN).  Trudy is a Certified Nutritionist and the founder of, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Her goal for all her clients (and all women): “You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”  Trudy is also the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution.

stay hydrated for summer

Stay Well-hydrated For Summer

With summer just around the corner and temperatures rising it’s important to stay well-hydrated during the summer months. Most of us don’t drink enough water in the first place, add in the higher temperatures and more outdoor activity, it all adds up to sweating more, leading to more fluid loss and potential dehydration. Dehydration can cause a large number of physical problems from headaches and migraines, to constipation to deep fatigue or loss of energy.

What to drink

Before you reach for that cheap 54-oz Big Gulp think about what your body needs in terms of hydration. It certainly doesn’t need all that sugar. An 8-oz can of Sprite claims that it has 26 g of sugar, multiplied by 6.75 to equal a 54-oz drink, that comes to 175.5 g of sugar, not to mention all those chemicals. If you’re drinking sugar-free, you are taking in even more chemicals. And let’s not forget that caffeinated sodas would deliver a jolting 155 mg of caffeine.
Other popular summer drinks include the thought of a refreshing cold beer on a hot day, or perhaps a wine spritzer or an alcopop.  But it’s important to remember that alcohol is a diuretic; this means you lose more body fluids when you drink it. So even though after spending the day in the hot summer sun that beer, wine cooler, or mixed drink seems cool and refreshing, it won’t help you stay healthy and hydrated.

The hydration factor

To figure out how much hydration you need, calculate your body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid.

For example:

     150 pounds
     divided by 2 = 75
     divided by 8 = 9.4 cups

Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off put your beverage in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again.

Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either as it can dilute your electrolyte balance. Soups, herbal teas, food with lots of liquid (like watermelon), plus water all count towards a daily hydration goal. 

Rehydrate and refresh

Choose drink choices that are actually good for you. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Water – always good, water is exactly what your body needs. For a refreshing change to plain water add a slice of citrus to your water. For a cool and cleansing taste try slices of peeled cucumber or even a sprig of mint.
  • Iced tea – although tea does have caffeine if you make your iced teas with green tea you’ll be getting less caffeine overall. Or you can use herbal teas which have no caffeine and are delicious and enjoyable.
  • Spritzers – adding your favorite juice to cool seltzer water with some ice and perhaps a slice of fresh fruit can be a great way to stay hydrated. The usual proportions are 30% juice 70% seltzer. Just be sure to choose juices that are 100% juice, no additives, no preservatives, no colors.  If you are using concentrated juice you will need to adjust the proportions to your preference.
  • Agua fresca – these cool and tasty drinks, originally from Mexico, are made by taking blended fresh fruit, usually melons, and combining them with water, sugar, and a splash of lime juice. Because there is sugar, with both the fresh fruit and the added sugar, these should be consumed in moderation.  There is a delicious recipe posted below.
  • Lemonade or limeade – made with citrus juice, water and sugar this can be very satisfying and cooling. If you make it yourself you control how much sugar is in it.  There are a wide number of tasty recipes available online.
Agua Fresca
  1. 3 cups of melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, etc), seeded, peeled and diced
  2. 1 1/2 cups cold water
  3. 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice crystals
  4. juice of 1-2 limes
  1. Blend melon to a pulp in the blender
  2. Strain pulp to remove fibers
  3. In a pitcher mix together water and sugar until sugar crystals dissolve
  4. Add melon juice
  5. Add lime juice to taste
  6. Serve over ice
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy


Instead of relying on the availability of drinks on the road, one of the best things you can do to stay hydrated is taking your container with you. Don’t drink from plastic containers if you can at all avoid it due to issues with BPA (to learn more watch my interview with Lara Adler, The Environmental Toxins Nerd). Glass or stainless steel containers are your best bet. My personal favorite is Glasstic, a shatterproof plastic cylinder around a glass center cylinder. Easy to take apart and wash in the dishwasher, the company claims these are the last water bottle you’ll ever need. I bought three over two years ago and they’re still going strong. Get 10% off with this link.

New Healthy Indulgence

Photo credit: Nevit

I’ve only recently returned from California where I spent several days with my Mentor Helayne Waldman, working with her on her upcoming book.  It was truly wonderful to spend the time with her, we got so much accomplished and she is just an amazing person to hang out with.

As a nutrition professional she also pays a lot of attention to food and the holistic concepts of mindful and enjoyable eating.  Liz Lipski, one of my nutrition heroes, says that we frequently fuel our bodies the way we fuel our cars – stop -gas -go.  I think she’s right and I definitely agree with the idea that mealtimes and enjoyment of meals should be more than just refueling.  Helayne and I certainly enjoyed some wonderful meals together, always making time to stop, take a break and enjoy our meals (both the preparation and the eating) in the midst of working.  As a foodie person I think it’s great fun to learn new ideas and new recipes from other foodies.

While I was visiting, Helayne introduced me to a new healthy indulgence; it’s so delicious I just have to share.  I’ve been enjoying it every day since I got home.  It’s a great start to my morning and a satisfying addition to my usual alkalizing water, herbal tea, green tea routine.

As a disclaimer…the links to Amazon are through this blog.  If you purchase them through the link I do make a few pennies via my affiliate account.

The drink?  Equal parts of Capra Mineral When and Dandy Blend mixed together with hot water.  Then topped off with some sort of dairy alternative. Almond milk or coconut milk are great, for a really decadent treat drop a dollop of Coco-Bliss vanilla ice cream in there.

In addition to being tasty there are some other nutritional benefits to using goat whey.  It is alkaline, has a good electrolyte balance and contains over 20 different minerals.  Goat milk, and whey, is much easier on the digestive system than cows milk.  Many people who are lactose intolerant of cows milk are able to take goats milk, and whey, without a problem.

Dandy blend is a gluten-free powder containing water soluble extracts of dandelion, chicory, beets, barley and rye.  While barley and rye contain gluten the way they are processed to obtain the water soluble extracts leaves all of the gluten behind. The company was kind enough to share that they test with Elisa Technologies Laboratory on a regular basis to ensure the gluten free status of their product.  It has good levels of both major and trace minerals plus the liver and blood support provided by dandelion.  The company promotes it a a coffee alternative for those trying to get off coffee.  Having not had coffee for over 12 years that’s not really an issue for me but I will say that it is delicious.

Added together I feel that the Mineral Whey and Dandy Blend drink in the morning provides me with a great mineralizing, alkalizing boost to my day.  While I’m currently drinking it as a warm beverage I can see where it might be a great substitute for iced lattes, added to smoothies or other such drinks.  If you have any ideas or recipes to share please let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

watermelon for agua fresca

Quench Your Thirst With Agua Fresca

Agua fresca is Spanish for fresh waters. It’s a refreshing non-alcoholic summer-y drink with origins in Mexico where it is sold by street vendors.  In South and Central American stores or restaurants you can sometimes you can find it in large containers where it is ladled out by the glassful.  Agua fresca is a great drink for warm weather. It’s a hydrating and satisfying thirst quencher that is much better than soda or over-sugared bottled drinks and fountain drinks.

Agua fresca is usually made with fruit, lime juice, and water.  Watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberry, and pineapple are popular flavors.  When you make them at home the ingredients can be adjusted for personal taste.  Often there’s no need to add sugar, because the fruits are sweet enough on their own.  Because you don’t strain the agua fresca after blending it (unless it’s too thick in which case you can lightly strain to remove larger pieces) you’re also getting some of the healthy fiber.

What fruits to use

Just about any fruit or fruit combination is fair game when it comes to agua fresca. Of course you’ll need water and lime juice.  Substitute lemon if you’re out of limes, but trust me it’s somehow better with lime juice.  Mangos, peaches, pineapple, there’s really no limit to the tasty and refreshing combinations you can make.

One of my personal choices for a great agua fresca is watermelon which is abundantly available in the summertime. Juicy and delicious, watermelon is in vitamin C  and lycopene, as well as being rich in the electrolytes potassium  and sodium.  This makes it a fabulous choice for summer time when we tend to lose a lot of electrolytes through perspiration.  

Luciano Pavarotti once said, “Watermelon, it’s a great fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”  If you’re eating it that’s certainly true.  With an agua fresca you can still enjoy the wonderful flavor and not have to worry about the wash your face part.  Here’s my favorite recipe:


Agua Fresca
  1. 2 C. strawberries, dehulled
  2. 3 C. watermelon, removed from the rind and pitted
  3. juice of 1/2 a lime
  4. 1/3-1/2 C. of ice cold water
  5. mint leaves for garnish
  1. Place berries, watermelon and lime juice in a blender
  2. Blend until well mixed
  3. Add water until you reach a consistency that you prefer
  4. Garnish and enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Carbonated Water

In response to a recent post my Aunt wrote and asked, “What do you advise about carbonated water? I prepare a drink for treats–carbonated water over ice cubes topped off with a splash of home brewed mint extract (made by filling a bottle with sprigs of fresh mint, filling with boiling water, letting it stand until it all cools down, fishing out the then wilted mint leaves, topping off the extract bottle with cool water, covering and keeping it refrigerated), a splash of apple juice and a wedge of sliced lemon.”

This sounds like a really tasty treat and a very healthy beverage choice as long as the apple juice is 100% juice with no high fructose corn syrup. I remember drinking a mint water/water/lemon concoction when I visited which was delicious and the apple juice sounds like a really nice touch. As soon as my mint, currently struggling in the Texas heat, gets big enough I’ll have to start making my own mint extract to have on hand.

I did want to take this opportunity to explain the differences between the different types of carbonated waters out there. This explanation assumes that these are plain, unflavored versions of the different waters.

Seltzer water is simply water to which carbonation has been added. The carbonation is caused by adding pressurized carbon dioxide gas to the water. You can make your own seltzer water, very inexpensively, at home using a soda maker.

Club soda, sometimes also called soda water, is very similar to seltzer but frequently contains added sodium, either in the form of table salt, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or disodium phosphate. Sodium levels vary depending on the manufacturer. For anyone watching sodium intake it is important to read the label when purchasing this product.

Tonic water is also a carbonated beverage and usually has a slightly bitter taste. This is from the quinine used to flavor it. Quinine was believed to to be helpful in treating malaria but was so bitter that it could not be drunk by itself and was put into a “tonic”. Apparently there is not enough quinine in tonic water to be medicinally effective. Most tonic waters are flavored with either lemon or lime and have sugar in them. The labels I saw indicated 80 calories and 21.6 g of sugar per 8 ounces making this not a good beverage choice for regular consumption.

If you have a healthy beverage recipe that you’d like to share please leave a message in the comments. It’s always nice to try new flavors.

photo courtesy of

Fizzy Milk? One Has To Ask…why?

Apparently Coke is at it again. Not content to try to convince the public that their product is an herbal drink or pushing yet another fake chemical sweetener, they have now developed a new drink…fizzy milk. A combination of skim milk, sparkling water, fruit flavor and sugar. I haven’t seen it but supposedly the milk will not curdle even though the product sits on the shelf unrefrigerated. I have to imagine that there are chemicals in there to keep it from spoiling. Add in 26g of sugar per 8oz bottle and it’s not something that anyone should be drinking.

If you want to drink milk, drink milk, not an over-sugared, chemical-laden soft drink. Your best choices for drinks are, as always, water, water with lemon or lime, herbal teas, green tea, and nourishing broths.