Sign up

You deserve to feel great, look great & LOVE your body

Enter your email for your FREE starter kit to get healthy & lose weight without dieting:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A Simple Pasta Rule Helps Ligaya Lose 25 lbs

by | Mar 27, 2016

Foodist_Podcast

In this episode Ligaya makes small tweaks to her eating and exercise habits to reach and discover her ideal weight. As a life-long carb lover, she finds a simple rule to keep eating bread and pasta that works for her and rediscovers her love of real food and exercise.

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Listen on Soundcloud

 

Tags: , , ,

For the Love of Food

by | Nov 6, 2015
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m back! I’ve had a lot of catching up to do after my two weeks off the grid at a silent meditation retreat, but it’s nice to be back in the real world. I’ll write more about my retreat experience next week. In the meantime I’ll say it was amazing and illuminating and really hard.

This week happiness is overrated, low-fat diets are pointless, and red meat may or may not be worse than smoking.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Read the rest of this story »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Ways Eating Out Causes Overeating (And How To Stop It)

by | Apr 22, 2013

Photo by Sebastian Fritzon

Among my health conscious friends, we unanimously agree that eating out is the biggest barrier to weight loss.

San Francisco residents are fortunate that local, high-quality ingredients are the standard in almost every dining establishment (same is true for NYC, LA and other US foodie cities). We have gastropubs serving up grass-fed beef burgers, street carts offering sustainable fish tacos and small neighborhood spots dishing up heirloom vegetables and artisan ingredients.

I know, we’re spoiled rotten. But there’s a downside to all these wonderful options.

Ironically, the problem is that everything tastes amazing and is relatively healthy. Also, the menus tend to change regularly (often daily) depending on what is in season. So there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever be able to enjoy a particular dish more than once.

These things make it really easy to justify overeating.

There are many factors that cause us to overeat when we’re out. Here are the most common, and what to do about them.
Read the rest of this story »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Why Sliced Bread Was Never A Great Invention

by | Aug 13, 2012

Photo by mattburns.co.uk

Food marketers have been at it for nearly a century. They’re saving us time, making it ever easier for us to consume their products, and all they ask in return is to charge us a little extra for the “convenience.” Bless their hearts.

When pressed, most of us will acknowledge that the top priority of food marketers is not to make our lives easier or tastier, but to get us to eat (and spend) more. What’s truly remarkable is that despite knowing this, we still parrot and defend their ideas as ardently as if we’d thought of them ourselves.

Do you really believe Krispy Kreme makes the best doughnuts, Ben & Jerry’s makes the best ice cream or life is impossibly difficult without pre-sliced bread? My guess is you probably do, or at least did at some point.

But the reality is none of these things are true, and that we think they are is just a sign of brilliant marketing.

Food isn’t like other products. There are people who buy every single gadget that Apple creates, and if Apple started making twice as many products per year those people would still buy them all. But humans can only eat so much food, which makes it difficult for food companies to expand their market and be competitive.

Enter “added value.”

Sliced bread, instant oatmeal and single serving Go-gurt are all examples of foods designed to be easier to eat. And companies correctly assume that we are happy to pay more for the free time these conveniences allot us.

But does this freedom really make our lives better?

I would never argue that time doesn’t have value. Though I think there is a strong case for slowing down and taking time to eat mindfully, I certainly see the appeal of fast and portable food. As a PhD student, writer and website owner I know what it means to be busy.

But convenience is not the only thing you get when marketers sell you on their products. You also eat more, and you eat worse.

Because sliced bread is easier to eat, people tend to eat more of it, along with whatever they choose to put on top. Additionally, since real bread quickly becomes stale when cut into smaller pieces food companies have had to find new (non-ecofriendly) packaging and add preservatives, dough conditioners and other chemicals to keep breads soft.

The ingredient list on a loaf of Wonder Bread is truly remarkable:

Wheat Flour, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar, Yeast, Contains 2% or Less of: Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid), Barley Malt, Soybean Oil, Salt, Calcium Carbonate (Ingredient in Excess of Amount Present in Regular Enriched White Bread), Wheat Gluten, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Mono and Diglycerides, Calcium Dioxide, Datem and/or Azodicarbonamide) Vitamin D3. Calcium Sulfate, Vinegar, Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Phosphate and/or Ammonium Chloride) Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Soy Flour, Whey, Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness), Soy Lecithin.

In contrast the bread I buy at Acme, my local bakery, is made of flour, water, yeast and salt. Special loaves may contain olives or herbs, but you get the general idea.

I have to cut it myself and it doesn’t last long if I leave it on the counter (it freezes absolutely beautifully), but the bread at Acme is also some of the best tasting bread I’ve had in my life.

Are you shocked that my Acme loaf costs around $2, while Wonder Bread costs close to $4?

I don’t eat much bread, because it is not particularly healthy. But I enjoy burgers, pizza, sandwiches, naan and other traditional foods way too much to cut it out completely. Reasonable quantities of bread can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet, particularly if you exercise regularly. But bread is not health food and eating as little as you’re comfortable with is generally a good idea.

We do not need unhealthy foods to be more convenient or less expensive. And if you’re going to put health aside and eat them anyway they should also taste absolutely amazing, not good or even pretty good.

Does pre-sliced bread really make the cut? I don’t think so.

Sliced bread was never a great invention, it was great marketing. “The best thing since sliced bread” was derived from an ad campaign claiming it’s invention was “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.”

The phrase may be perfect for describing brilliant marketing (“The best added value campaign since sliced bread”) but do we really need to continue propagating the message that low-quality convenience food is the best invention of the past 100 years?

If we want a true benchmark for greatness, maybe we should change it to “the greatest thing since the iPhone.”

Just for fun, here’s a video of Seth Godin’s TED talk about marketing and the sliced bread campaign.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

How great is your bread?

Originally published September 1, 2010.

Tags: , , , , ,

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012
Photo by basheertome

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why processed foods are so bad, artisan vs grocery store bread, and finding time to cook healthy food – Episode 11 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Aug 17, 2011

This is one of my favorite discussions on health and processed food so far, thanks everyone for your questions. As always, show notes are below.

August 17, 2011 | Episode 11 of Summer Tomato Live will be here tonight at 6pm PST. The format is a little different this week. Instead of covering one topic, I’ll be answering 3 recent subscribers questions. The questions I’ll be answering are:

  1. What’s the deal with processed foods, why are they so bad?
  2. Are artisan breads as bad as grocery store breads?
  3. Cooking healthy food takes me forever. How can I make it quicker and less overwhelming?

Summer Tomato Live normally requires a subscriber password, but since we have so many new readers this week (thank you TIME Magazine!) I’m going to leave this episode open so anyone can participate.

Also to celebrate making TIME’s list of best websites, for the rest of the week I’m offering one free month off a new Tomato Slice subscription. So if you’ve been thinking about signing up, now would be a great time.

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted. I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

See you soon!

Show notes:


Tags: , ,

10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Damaging Your Teeth

by | May 4, 2011

Photo by ♥serendipity

Today’s post is from guest blogger Robert Milton. He blogs for Jollyville Dental, an Austin dentist, who specializes in cosmetic dental procedures and Invisalign braces.

10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Damaging Your Teeth

by Robert Milton

Most people know candy and other sugary foods wreak havoc on their teeth, but how about fruit?

You’ve probably heard brushing and flossing twice a day is the best way to keep your teeth healthy. But some foods cause enough damage to warrant extra cleanings.

How does food damage your teeth?

There are two main elements of food that tarnish your pearly whites: sugar and acid.

Sugars, especially sucrose (table sugar), feed the millions of bacteria already in your mouth. Bacteria feast on your plaque buildup and produce lactic acid, which erodes your tooth enamel. Sucrose is the worst form of sugar because it adheres to teeth very strongly making it (and the bacteria) difficult to remove even when brushing.

Acids naturally occur in many foods, including fruit. In these cases, bacteria aren’t necessary to produce acid and cause tooth decay. Instead, acidic foods eat away at your enamel and break down your teeth directly.

Generally you can wash away natural acids by drinking water. Ironically, brushing soon after consuming acidic foods or beverages can actually cause more damage. Because teeth are porous, brushing softens them and makes them more susceptible to acid. After eating acidic foods, you should wait at least an hour before brushing.

What foods should you worry about?

In addition to the sugar and acid in foods, you should consider the length of time food is left on your teeth. The more time bacteria have to produce acids, the more damage will be done.

While many of these foods are healthy for other reasons, you should try and care for your teeth soon after eating them. Drinking water with your meal, chewing sugar-less gum, rinsing with an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash or flossing and brushing with toothpaste reduces the risk of damage.

Look out for:

  • Sugar and/or acid content
  • Stickiness (how much food remains on teeth)
  • How long the food is in your mouth

10 Foods That Damage Your Teeth

1. Apples

Apples are high in acid, are surprisingly hard on your enamel. While a daily apple may keep the doctor away, the acid might keep your dentist on speed dial. Eating apples is fine, just be sure to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash shortly after.

2. Hard candies

Though you probably know the sugar in candy is a problem, hard candies are especially harmful because we tend to hold them in our mouths longer. Also be aware that cough drops are often made with sugar, so opt for the sugar-free brand if available.

3. Pickled vegetables

Pickles are made with vinegar, which is acidic, and often sugar as well. While the vegetables are healthy, the brine is can damage your teeth. Drinking water with your meal helps wash away acids and sugar, but remember to brush an hour later.

4. Bread

Many breads contain sugar—especially processed white breads. It’s best to check the labels for any added sweeteners that will breed mouth bacteria. Bread is also sticky and gets between and behind your teeth.

5. Popcorn

Popcorn is notorious for getting stuck in your teeth, and the areas between your teeth will cultivate more bacteria for that reason. It’s okay to treat yourself to a bag of popcorn as long as you rinse with water and remember to floss and brush after.

6. Peanut butter

Sticky and often made with sugar, peanut butter not only feeds bacteria but makes it easier for them to adhere to teeth. Look for natural peanut butters with no added sugars to lessen the problem.

7. Jelly

Along with peanut butter, jelly or jam is loaded with sugar and quite sticky. Even the all-fruit brands contain natural sugars and encourage plaque and bacteria if not washed away soon.

8. Meat

Meat tends to get stuck between your teeth, and some meat products contain sugar as a preservative. While the amount may not be very high, any food that sits between your teeth can promote tooth decay. Try chewing sugar-less gum after eating if you can’t brush right away.

9. Diet soda

Just because it doesn’t have sugar doesn’t mean your teeth are safe. The acidity of diet sodas is still extremely high, making it one of the worst products for your teeth.

10. Salad dressing

More of a condiment than a food, salad dressings use vinegar and sugar for flavor. Salads should be a staple in anyone’s diet, but be careful of the dressings that can harm your smile.

What are your tips to reduce tooth decay?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Intact Grains vs. Whole Grains

by | Nov 29, 2010
Photo by Venex_jpb

Photo by Venex_jpb

If there is a single subject that befuddles the health-conscious eater, it is undoubtedly carbohydrates.

Most of us have seen the impressive results of at least temporarily restricting carbs, but studies examining the long-term effects of carbohydrate restriction are often ambiguous. Also, while some experts argue fervently for a low-carb lifestyle, some nutritionists still warn about the dangers of eating too much fat or protein.

So how do we know what to believe?

A full examination of the science behind carbohydrate metabolism is beyond the scope of a single blog post, and is in fact not entirely understood by the scientific community (for a thorough review of this topic read Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I have reviewed here).

However, there are a few things we do know about carbohydrates that are worth pointing out.

Lesson 1: Refined grains contribute to nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

It is universally agreed in the nutrition community that refined, processed carbohydrates are the worst things to eat on the entire planet.

And it is impossible to overstate how remarkable this is.

The nutrition community is one of the most disagreeable bunches in all of science. But across the board–from vegans like Colin Campbell to carnivores like Robert Atkins–not a single one of them considers processed carbs to be nutritionally neutral. They all consider them dangerous.

Without question, refined carbohydrates contribute to poor health.

Lesson 2: Vegetables protect against nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

Where things start to get more complicated is with unrefined carbohydrates, and the various iterations of this definition. There is ample evidence that the carbohydrates contained in vegetables are not harmful, and possibly beneficial.

To call these vegetable carbohydrates “fiber” is to oversimplify the science, but suffice to say that vegetables are good for you and contribute to your good health.

This is also generally agreed upon.

Lesson 3: Whole grains are different from intact grains.

Few people will argue against my first two points. But bring up whole grains and you will unleash a fury of controversy. Some people believe whole grains to be the cornerstone of any healthy diet, while others consider them superfluous and possibly detrimental to good health. You can find dozens of PhDs and MDs to back up your claims no matter what camp you align with.

So why is there so much disagreement? What does the science say?

The problem is that nutrition science conducted in free-living humans is virtually impossible to interpret. This is largely because the studies are so difficult to control and people’s behavior and self-reporting are so unreliable. Another problem is that the definition of “whole grains” has been watered down to a point where it is virtually meaningless.

One reason whole grains are hard to identify is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a definition that is friendly to food companies, but not to consumers.

The FDA requirements for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims) are as follows:

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Get it? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact.

Thus food manufacturers create products using this loose definition to their advantage, demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard.

This is how products like Froot Loops get spiffy health labels claiming they lower heart disease when any unbiased nutrition scientist would agree that, with 41% sugar by weight, Froot Loops almost certainly contribute to heart disease.

On the other hand, there is compelling data that intact whole grains contribute to better health.

Lesson 4: Eating grains is a personal choice, not a nutritional imperative.

The good news is that it is really easy to tell the difference between fake “whole” grains and intact whole grains. If a food actually looks like a grain (i.e., it retains its original form and bran covering), then it is an intact grain. If it looks like a Cheerio, chip, loaf of bread or pasta with a “whole grain” label, then it is a fake whole grain.

People following a primal or paleo diet will argue that this difference is irrelevant and that all grains (and legumes?!) are unnecessary for good health. Personally I disagree, but remain fairly neutral on the personal choice of removing grains from the diet entirely.

Grains do not appear to be necessary for survival (Inuit tribes survive without them), but optimal nutrition may require slightly more effort than would be necessary following a traditional balanced diet.

This is generally how I feel about all healthy, restrictive regimens such as vegetarian, vegan and raw diets. You can make it work for yourself if you are willing to make sacrifices and put in the effort.

However you should be aware that for many people, myself included, cutting whole grains out of your diet completely is extremely difficult and, if you ask me, unnecessarily painful.

Conclusion

When making food choices about grains, the critical question is not whether or not a food is “whole” grain but whether the grain is intact. For this reason, it matters very little if you substitute “whole grain” products for regular refined products such as pasta.

Examples of intact grains are oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa (sort of) and faro. White rice is not a whole grain, and is closer to a refined grain than a whole grain.

For optimal health, processed and refined grains should be eaten very sparingly. Small amounts such as those eaten in traditional cultures can be part of any healthstyle, but including them is a personal choice that will depend on your own goals and preferences.

The irony is that if you are able to remove processed foods from your diet, the way you eat could probably be described as low-carb. But this label really undermines a healthstyle based on real food.

Though I eat relatively few grains compared to most Americans, I cringe when I see the shining example of low-carb living, The Atkins Diet website, with images of fake pancakes and pasta plastered all over it. If that is what low-carb is, I want nothing to do with it.

Processed food is still processed food, whether the carbohydrates have been synthetically removed or not. Stick to eating real food and you’ll never have to worry about carbs.

Do you count your carbohydrates?

Originally published November 25, 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Common Groceries I Never Buy

by | Mar 7, 2009

In general I would say I eat pretty normal food. Admittedly the fruits and vegetables I buy are extraordinary (thank you San Francisco), but they are still just plants that grow out of the dirt in California. I realized recently that what is truly unusual about my diet are the groceries I do not buy.

10 Groceries I Never Buy

(and why I think there are better things to spend my money on)

  1. Sliced bread. Sure my grandparents think it is the greatest invention of all time (literally), but I would argue that the fluffy loaves that come in plastic bags at the market can barely be considered food. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients list. If you don’t fall asleep by the time you get to the bottom, try pronouncing some of those words in the middle. Exthoxylated…wuh?
  2. Fruit yogurts. It is generally accepted without question that yogurt is good for you. That may be the case for old-fashioned plain yogurt (though I am still not convinced), but I guarantee you those sugary yogurts that take up the bulk of the dairy case do not qualify as health food. 15 grams of sugar is my cut off before a food transitions to dessert. Look before you eat.
  3. Iceberg or romaine lettuce. Besides being colorless and flavorless, these boring greens add little (zero?) nutrition to your life. Instead I buy the colorful, loose spring mixes that come in bags, boxes or bulk bins at the grocery store and farmers market. If you prefer to stick with one kind of salad green at a time, try green or red leafed lettuce. Mix it up occasionally with cabbage or radicchio.
  4. Corn-fed beef. As I have explained before, I love beef (even though I don’t eat much of it). When I decide it is worth the indulgence, I go straight for the gourmet grass-fed kind. Why? Cows were never meant to eat corn (industrial cows have been bred to do it), and those that do are sicker and less nutritious than cows that are pastured. Moreover, the factories that process this sub-par beef are likely to be huge, unsanitary and foster E. Coli outbreaks. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
  5. Soda. There was a time in my life when I drank quarts of Diet Coke a day. But since I started focusing on my health I gave it up and never looked back. Even natural sodas add very little to your quality of life. And if they contain full sugar, your life may even be shortened. When I’m thirsty I drink water.
  6. Pancake or brownie mixes. I am not immune from the occasional pancake or brownie craving (and sometimes my friends demand these of me!). So if it is a special occasion, why bother with the boxed stuff? Both these goodies are easy to make from scratch and worth a little extra time in the kitchen to make them spectacular! Isn’t that what indulgence is all about?
  7. Winter tomatoes. Need I say more? There is no room in my life (usually) for an inadequate tomato. Canned tomatoes are a better option during the spring and winter.
  8. Juice. Even 100% fresh squeezed juice is dangerous for your blood sugar and insulin levels (not to mention your BMI). If I decide to try some, I consume less than 8 oz. You can probably guess what I think about the phony 10% juice products from concentrate (see point #5).
  9. Deli meats. On the surface these purportedly lean meats seem to be healthy. But under the surface they are packed with salts, sugars and nitrates. For a quick protein fix, try canned salmon (boneless, skinless), sardines or lox.
  10. Cheese that comes in plastic. Similar to beef, I indulge in cheese so infrequently that I prefer to go straight to Cowgirl Creamery for the good stuff! My recent favorite is called Midnight Moon.
  • What popular items don’t you buy?
  • Have any questions about other common items in your shopping cart?
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,