NNMC Toss the Junk: Buy Ingredients, Not Products

As we close out this week of the challenge, we reach my last tip for getting rid of the junk food : buy ingredients, not products. This is a general rule that I follow and is a good thing to have in mind when doing your grocery shopping. When you're buying ingredients, you're most likely going to be buying whole foods. Now why this isn't always true (some would consider Crisco an ingredient, but I would call it a processed vat of trans fats), it should get you moving more in the right direction. This is important because when you are buying and cooking with whole foods, you're eating the same things our bodies have been consuming since the beginning of time, rather than something that was made in a lab a few weeks ago. Giving your body the fuel it was designed to use will result in you feeling better in your every day life and better health overall. So try a new recipe, switch up your routine, and get back in touch with the food you're eating! With love,


NNMC Toss the Junk: Quit Fast Food

This one shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone. Fast food is high in calories and often deep fried or loaded with sugar. Plus, the nature of its delivery method is designed for on the go, mindless eating with little reverence for the actual food. In addition to all of these things, I would argue that fast food isn't really food at all. It's highly processed and based on a broken food system. The beef in the hamburgers comes from cows that were raised on GMO corn (not the grass they are designed to eat) in crowded feed lots up to their ankles in their own excrement (appetizing huh?). Then they are pumped with hormones to increase their growth and antibiotics to fight the bacterial infections that result from these unnatural, inhumane practices. That's just one ingredient. When you add in the buns made from refined grains, french fries, and a sugary drink to wash it all down, you're in trouble. To drive home my point, I'm sure many of you have seen pictures of fast food meals that have been allowed to sit out for months or even years, but show no signs of rotting. Think of those lone french fries you find under the seat when you clean your car. This stuff should not be going in your body. Instead, come up with fast snack and meal options at home. Whether than means making a big batch of soup and freezing the leftovers in individual portions, doing your dinner prep work for the week on Sunday, or simply having a bowl of fruit in full sight on your counter, do what you need to do to make it work.

What tips do you have for a quick homemade dinner or grab-and-go snack?

NNMC Toss the Junk: No Artificial Sweeteners

Many people turn to artificial sweeteners as a way to get healthier or lose weight, but I think this is a huge mistake. For one, it goes against my philosophy of eating whole foods as close to their natural state as possible and avoiding chemical, man-made ingredients, fillers, and add-ins. In addition, no matter what you think about the safety of artificial sweeteners, they send the wrong message about the way we should eat. What I mean by that is, when you turn to an artificial sweetener to "save calories" what you're really doing is continuing to operate within the same frame of mind as before, rather than changing it. You're perpetuating a diet that emphasizes sweet. What really needs to happen is to change your diet to contain less sugar and allow your taste buds to adjust. This does take some time (a couple weeks), but the result is a wholesome diet without being tied down by a sugar obsession. One area I used to be dependent on artificial sweeteners was my yogurt. I always bought the low-calorie, artificially sweetened brands. Giving them up was a struggle because I just didn't see how I could eat yogurt without them. However, once I really got serious and dedicated, I was able to make the switch and I haven't looked back since. Now, I buy bulk tubs of plain yogurt instead. It's much cheaper than individual containers and I can flavor it however I like. Frozen berries and other fruits are a great option, but when I want to make my yogurt my whole breakfast, I use the recipe below.

Apple-Granola Yogurt


1 cup organic plain yogurt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 apple, chopped

1/4 cup homemade granola or your favorite whole grain cereal


1. Measure yogurt and mix with cinnamon in bowl.

2. Mix in chopped apple.

3. Add homemade granola on top.

NNMC: Toss the Junk: Skip Soda

Quitting soda is one of the quickest ways to improve your diet and your health. First off, they are basically sugar-water with a few chemicals thrown in and have no redeeming qualities at all. Second, your body doesn't register liquid calories as well as food calories, so it's not going to fill you up the way an equivalent amount of food would. Third, they push out other healthful beverages in your diet like water and tea. To add insult to injury, they are most often sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup which is highly processed and made from GMO corn.  Also, while diet sodas may be calorie-free, they still are in no way healthy and, in my opinion, are just as dangerous as their full-calorie counterparts. Bottom line: the soda has got to go.

However, getting rid of soda is easier said than done. Many people find themselves gripped by these beverages, especially the caffeinated ones. At one time, I myself was hooked on Diet Coke. It's lack of calories was seductive and it kept me awake at a time in my life when I was getting far too little sleep. I know how it feels, but I want to tell you that you can do it. And, trust me, once you make it to the other side, you'll be so glad you did.

Here is a quick recipe for you that may help if you're trying to get off soda, but are craving something a little more interesting than water. The key is to make sure you get 100% cranberry juice, not cranberry juice cocktail. Pure cranberry juice is low in sugar and calories but just a little bit really packs a tart punch.

Guilt-Free Cranberry Drink


2 tablespoons 100% cranberry juice

8 oz water

Lemon slices


1. Mix cranberry juice and water in a glass.

2. Add lemon slices to taste.

NNMC Toss the Junk: Lose Refined Grains

When I say refined grains what I'm really talking about is white flour. When grains are refined, they are stripped of the bran and germ, which contain most of the protein, fatty acids, fiber, iron and B vitamins, and only the starchy endosperm is left behind. This makes refined grains nutritionally inferior to their whole grain counterparts as well as related to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. However, avoiding refined grains isn't as easy as it may seem. It comes down to knowing the intricacies of food packing and labels. First, we need to look at the front of the box where so many seductive claims often reside. Understanding the phrases you see here will keep you from getting sucked in by seemingly healthy terminology.


This means that several different kinds of grains are present in the product, but it doesn't speak to whether these are whole or refined grains.

Made with Whole Grain

This means just what it says: the product was made with whole grains. However, refined grains are likely included as well. It's like labeling a cookie that has orange zest in the batter "made with oranges."

Whole Grain

This sounds like just what we want, until you find out that in order to be labeled this way a product only needs to be made with 51% whole grains. In my book, that doesn't cut it.

100% Whole Grain

This is exactly what we want. When you see this, all of the grains in the product are whole grains. However, this doesn't get you off the hook from reading the ingredients list.

Now that we understand these front-of-the-box phrases, it's time to move on to the ingredients list on the back. Here is another place they can trip you up. This is what you need to know.

Wheat Flour

Many people think this is whole wheat flour, but it's not. The standard flour we use in cooking is all made from wheat. The only difference is the level of refinement. This is simply white flour in disguise.

Unbleached Wheat Flour

This is the same thing as "wheat flour" except they try to make it sound even better by adding the word "unbleached." While this is better than bleached flour, it's still white flour and that is not what we want.

Enriched Wheat Flour

White flour again, but here they add "enriched" hoping to give an air of health. However, all white flour is enriched by law because of the way refinement removes nearly all of the nutrients. Also, this comes nowhere close to the nutrient content of the original whole grain.

Whole Wheat Flour

Jackpot! When you see this in the ingredients it means that the flour is whole wheat.

So, when you're doing your shopping, look for only whole wheat or whole grain flour in the ingredient list and no white flour. It's also important to note that just because a product has whole grains doesn't make it healthy. For example, many cereals are marketed as having whole grain, but then the second ingredient is sugar. You have to consider the whole product in its entirety to determine whether or not it is a good buy.

NNMC Toss the Junk: Beware Bars

If you go into any grocery store you'll see an extensive selection of bars. From granola to protein, they come in every shape, size, and flavor. It's important to realize that not all bars are created equal. In fact, some of them are more like a candy bar than anything. The key here, as always, is to read your ingredients list and the nutrition facts panel. Something loaded with sugar and trans fats is definitely not a health food. In addition, even if your do find a good bar or decide to make your own, these should not be the corner-stone of your diet. I see lots of people (and I've been guilty of it myself) who use bars as meal replacements daily or snack on them constantly. When you do this, you're pushing out things like fruits, veggies, and other whole foods that are much more nutritious and filling. Instead, use bars as an emergency snack like when you go to a sporting event and aren't allowed to bring in food (I'm the queen of sneaking in food. Yes, I often hide carrot sticks in my purse). In addition, make your own when you can. That way you can control the ingredients and can enjoy your own bars a little more often since they won't have any weird additives.

NNMC Toss the Junk: Ditch Trans Fat

You've likely heard about the danger of trans fats on the news or seen products that proudly display "0 grams of trans fat per serving" on their packaging. But what are trans fats and how bad are they really? First, we need to start with a little chemistry. Fatty acids can either be saturated or unsaturated. These terms refer to the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the fatty acid chain. When a fatty acid is saturated, each carbon in the chain has the maximum number of bonds (4) while unsaturated means that there are less than 4 bonds, resulting in double bonds. So, saturated fats are holding all of the hydrogen they can and unsaturated fats are not. These differences impact the structure of the fat and, therefore, the way it is processed in the body. Trans fats occur when the hydrogens in an unsaturated fat are across from each other rather than next to each other. While this does occur naturally in minimal amounts, the man-made kinds are the ones that have been found to be harmful. In fact, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that a 2% increase in calories from trans fat increases your risk of heart disease by 23%!

Man-made trans fats are created though a process known as hydrogenation. Oils are pumped with hydrogen to create solid fats, resulting in the production of trans fat. This is beneficial to food companies because trans fats are much more stable than other fats. This means that a product can last on the shelf for a longer period of time, reducing waste and saving money. This is, however, at the detriment to our own health.

So how do we avoid these unhealthy fats? Obviously, if you're eating whole foods this shouldn't be much of an issue. However, packaged foods are a whole different story. This is due to labeling regulations that can really mess you up. If a product has less the 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be listed on the label as having 0 grams of trans fat. So, if you eat 2 or 3 servings of one of these foods or eat several different foods throughout the day that fall into this category, you could be getting a significant amount of trans fat in your diet. Scary right? The way to avoid this is reading the ingredients list. This is where the true identity of a product always comes through. If you see the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" this is your sign that trans fats are present and you need to just step away.

Whipped topping that is "cool" and comes in a tub (you know what I'm talking about) is one product that contains trans fat. This is most frustrating because it is often marketed as healthy choice due to it's low calorie content. This is a perfect example of where is is important to remember that calories aren't everything when it comes to health and ingredient reading is important. Instead of using this product, I recommend making your own homemade whipped cream. Yes, it is high in calories, but if you use it as an occasional treat and don't go overboard, you should be fine. Plus, it will fill you up pretty quick due to the high fat content.

Homemade Whipped Cream


1 cup organic heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Add cold whipping cream to a bowl.

2. Whip cream with electric beaters (or by hand if you want a workout!) until it starts to thicken.

3. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat until stiff peaks form.

National Nutrition Month Challenge: Toss the Junk

As we really get into the swing of things, this week of the challenge is all about clearing out the junk to make room for the healthy foods you'll be adding in. I find this is the best place to start, because it helps you start to shift your thinking and perspective when it comes to food. My general rule when it comes to the difference between junk and food is its origin. I have a strong belief in purchasing and eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. This means I'd rather have butter from grass-fed cows than a tub of "buttery spread" made from a mixture of oils and stabilizers. It's about learning to eat real food with limits on the more indulgent items rather than replacing those indulgent items with man-made products. Otherwise, you're not changing your preferences or the way you approach food. You are enabling yourself to operate within the same framework.

This stage of diet change can often times be the most difficult. It's not too hard to try a new food or switch up your lunch, but cutting out something that can be so integral to your daily routine or the way you think about food can be a little trickier. The tips for this upcoming week may be a real challenge for some, so I want to reiterate that if you need more time to adjust to a change, feel free to take your time with it. You might find that just one of the tips could be a month long challenge for you. It's all about committing to the process and understanding that it is just that: a process. Your path might not always be a straight line, but if you keep pushing in the right direction, you'll get where you want be.