Monthly Archives: March 2015

Exactly what do I eat?

The majority of the emails I have received in the last week have asked me the same question, “What exactly do I eat? I have read your recommendation for a Mediterranean or DASH diet, but what do I eat?” This is a fair question.

Even if you have read “Mary’s Nutrition Guidelines” in our Topic section you would be asking me the same thing. Simple question, complicated answer. What you eat is dependent upon on so many factors but most importantly, how you feel at the momentAre you preparing a meal and don’t know where to start? Are you laid out on the couch just returning from chemotherapy? Did you just come from a Zumba class with Alessandra?  Do you live alone and you are preparing a meal just for one person or do you have a family of 5 picky eaters. Lots of scenarios to work with. I will try to help sort this out. Lets start with a food pyramid.

I was on Dr. Low Dog’s Facebook page and saw her version of the food pyramid. This is the most practical pyramid that I have ever seen. This is what your day should look like. When you look at your day this way then you can make choices that will fit every lifestyle. Click on the picture to make it larger.

Dr. Low Dog Food Pyramid

To use myself as an example, here is what we ate on Sunday. My husband worked and I worked outside in the garden. We wanted something quick & easy for our meals. Breakfast; poached eggs on sprouted bread toasted and a banana. Coffee with a splash of 1/2 & 1/2. Lunch; homemade Waldorf Salad (I add grated carrots, celery, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, red cabbage & Vegenaise; a vegan mayonnaise) and a few potato chips ( I was craving them so limited myself to 1 serving = 14 chips) and water. Snack at 3pm; A big naval orange & later a cup of herbal tea. Dinner; Whole grain vegetarian patty (I love Hilary’s Adzuki Bean Patties), sprouted bread with slices of tomato & onion, Veganaise, mustard, and spinach made into a sandwich. Waldorf salad, water. Evening snack; herbal tea with one square of 85% dark chocolate. If you look at the pyramid, even this simple day hit each level. Maybe we fret too much that we aren’t eating a balanced diet. I think if we put together what we consider a healthy meal it will end up being balanced by the end of the day and that is what counts.

Our NUT Elf, Suzi, sent me links to 2 books she bought on Amazon for her Kindle. I looked at them and ended up buying both for my iPad. They are also available in paperback.

The first book, The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide – 40 Delicious Recipes, 7-Day Diet Meal Plan, and 10 Tips for Success  This is a lovely book with good information. Here is what Amazon has to say about it.

“The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners offers a complete guide to the Mediterranean lifestyle, which emphasizes healthful living through delicious, fresh foods prepared with total well-being in mind. 

The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners is the complete guide to a new way of living: 

  • Wake up on the Spanish coast with a Mediterranean Omelet, or take a trip to Tuscany for lunch with a Fresh Tomato Pasta Bowl–40 delicious recipes will whisk your palate away. 
  • The 10 Tips for Success ease your transition to a Mediterranean diet by presenting simple, attainable techniques that help you learn how to eat as much as what to eat. 
  • The 7-Day Diet Meal Plan is about enjoying food, not depriving yourself. Planning a week’s worth of meals is easy with not only helpful hints for buying the freshest ingredients to prepare at home but also tips for ordering Mediterranean-diet-friendly dishes while dining out. 
  • The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners also helps you understand why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you. Its nutritious, low-fat foods are rich in disease-fighting, heart-healthful antioxidants and omega-3s. 

The Mayo Clinic calls the Mediterranean diet the “heart-healthy diet,” and it’s considered among the healthiest ways to eat on the planet. Through the 10 Tips for Success, a 7-Day Diet Meal Plan, and 40 delicious recipes, The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners takes you step-by-step into this transformative way of eating and living.”

The only “con” that Suzi & I shared about this book is its heavy use of dairy products. That is easily remedied. Don’t use them or use them in moderation.

The second book is: The Dash Diet for Beginners: Essentials to Get Started by John Chatham. A great book for those of you who would like to follow the DASH diet. Here is what Amazon says about this one.

“It’s simple: The DASH diet is an easy and sustainable tool for creating a healthful lifestyle. 

Based on research by the National Institutes of Health, and chosen by U.S. News & World Report as its #1 choice in Best Diets Overall, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, and Best Diabetes Diets, the DASH diet rises above the noise of other gimmicky weight-loss plans. The DASH diet was created as a way for people with high blood pressure to enjoy the foods they love while working to reduce or correct their hypertension. With a DASH diet, finally you’ll be able to get healthy and lose weight, while still eating the foods you enjoy most.

The DASH Diet for Beginners will show you how to use a DASH diet to effectively lose weight, improve your health, and reduce your risk of heart disease, with:

  • 40 delicious DASH diet recipes including low-sodium versions of your favorite foods, from Creamy Spinach Dip to Beef Tostadas and Blackened Salmon Fillets. 
  • DASH diet guidelines with detailed explanations of the health benefits and scientific studies surrounding the DASH diet 
  • DASH diet food list featuring all of the top foods recommended on a DASH diet
  • 7-Day DASH Diet Meal Plan, an easy guide to jump-start your health and weight loss

I prefer the Mediterranean Diet as a healthy all around way of eating. But that is my choice. The Dash diet is very healthy too and the guidelines in this book are easy to follow. Both meal plans are what my grandsons call “no brainers”. 

What about those of you who are in treatment and having side effects from the chemo/radiation therapy. The bottom line for you is to maintain your weight and a healthy immune system. Eating what you can get down and keep down is important at this point. Here are some ideas.

Eating small meals/snacks 8 to 10 times a day helps get those calories in. Make each one nutrient dense and high in calories and protein. The pyramid and books above can be used as a resource for you or your caregiver to get ideas for these healthy small meals. Put together several “grab & go” snack bags to carry with you to appointments or for that long chemo day.

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grain crackers
  • String cheese in one serving packages
  • Baby Bell cheese in one serving packages
  • Cut up veggies: carrots, celery, avocado; high in fiber and nutrient dense.
  • Fruits: apples, oranges, pears, berries; all are high in antioxidants, fiber & are nutrient dense.
  • Whole grain cereal: remember doing this for small children when on an errand?
  • Nut butter that comes in small one serving packages for those crackers & veggies.
  • Stay Hydrated!!! Very important. Bring water with you, always have it on hand. Coconut water, vegetable juices, herbal teas are great. No fruit juice as it is high in sugar without the fiber.

Under Topics on this website, I have written an article “Nutrition Tips During Chemotherapy”, which will be helpful. It is organized by side effects for easy reference.

Now you should have many options & resources to answer that question “EXACTLY what do I eat!” Click on our Recipe page for a new recipe I added; Quinoa Enchilada Casserole. I am planning to make this soon! …..Mary


Omega 3’s & Omega 6’s

We hear about the importance of eating fish for Omega 3’s and to stay away from Omega 6’s. What are they and why are they important?

Omega-3’s & 6’s are a form of polyunsaturated fat that the body gets from food. They are called essential fatty acids because the body needs them to maintain health. The body can’t manufacture either of these essential fatty acids (EFA’s).

Omega-3’s come primarily from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna, as well as from walnuts, hemp, chia and flax seed. You get Omega-6’s as linoleic acid from plant oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, as well as from nuts and seeds.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that “Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be beneficial for the heart. Positive effects include anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting actions, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reducing blood pressure. These fatty acids may also reduce the risks and symptoms for other disorders including diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, some cancers, and mental decline.”

The debate over the ratio of Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s is still ongoing. Some scientists insist that Omega 3’s are protective of the heart and Omega 6’s are actually a risk when consumed in higher amounts. The American Heart Association recommends that at least 5% to 10% of calories come from omega-6 fatty acids.

In an article I read on WebMD, the author, Peter Jaret, quotes Dr. Simopolus; “The ideal ratio is one to one or two to one, omega-6 to omega-3,” says Artemis Simopolous, MD, who directs the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, in Washington, D.C., and is widely regarded as an expert in fatty acids. “Unfortunately, the American diet has been flooded with omega-6 fatty acids, mostly in the form of vegetable oils such as corn oil and safflower oil.”

Here is an excerpt from an article by Dr. Hyman. If you want to read the entire article click here: Are You Fat Enough?

Recognizing Which Fats to Eat and Which to Avoid

Most processed foods are made with poor-quality omega-6 fats from refined processed vegetable oils because they are abundant and cheap. Plus, fat makes food taste good and improves its texture. Take a look at the ingredients of your favorite packaged food.

If the list includes oils made from corn, soy, cottonseed or safflower you are getting a sub-par fat. When the body puts these cheap fats to work, the cell walls also become sub-par. That means instead of being flexible and responsive to inter-cellular communication, cell walls are stiff and rigid. The more rigid the walls, the slower the cell functions and the more vulnerable it is to inflammation.

To ensure your body has the fats it needs to construct high-quality cell walls, you need to eat more omega-3 fats. For starters, cell walls made from omega-3 fats are flexible allowing cells to respond more quickly to messages.

Secondly, these “good” fats help the body churn out prostaglandins, hormones that cool off inflammation. The best places to find omega-3 fats include small cold-water fish – such as wild salmon, sardines and herring, organic flax and hemp seed oils, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and sea vegetables.

Your body is designed to run on high-quality fats. Scientists suspect that early humans ate almost equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Hunter-gatherer humans got their omega-6 fats from seeds and nuts. And their omega 3’s came from eating wild game and fish and foraging for wild plants.

But, as people began to refine oils from plants, the ratio became skewed more toward omega-6. As a result of fats being out of balance in the modern diet, our bodies are more vulnerable to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

When the human diet contained a balanced number of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, heart disease was almost nonexistent. Cardiovascular disease is now the number one cause of death in the world.

Dr. Hyman says it quite well. What is the bottom line? Don’t worry about the ratio between Omega 3’s & 6’s. Eating a balanced, plant based diet, eating fish once a week, adding nuts & seeds to your diet and avoiding processed foods will give you a balance of natural sources for both Omega’s. It is that easy.

Don’t fall for marketing either. An example are eggs. Organic &/or cage free eggs have a natural, healthy balance of Omegas. Regular eggs do not because of the way the chickens are raised & fed. Rather than paying an exorbitant price for eggs with added Omega 3’s, buy Organic &/or cage free eggs; much cheaper.

Should you take a fish oil supplement? This is another ongoing debate in the cancer community. Some Oncologists ask you to stop taking any Omega 3 supplements while undergoing treatment. There has been some evidense that fish oil supplements can interfere with CERTAIN types of chemo & radiation treatments. You should discuss this with your health team. Switching from fish oil supplements to eating fish at least once a week will give you the Omega’s you need through diet, which is always preferable.

As a reminder; Frequently when you are in treatment your health team asks you to stop all supplements, especially antioxidants & Fish Oil. This does not mean what is in your normal day to day diet. If you eat a diet rich in antioxidants and you eat fish twice a week that is fine, you should continue the practice.

Here are three links to Fish guides to help you make healthy choices; avoiding mercury & eating fish that are sustainable.

National Geographic Seafood Decision Guide: This is a new guide I found. Very easy to use and comprehensive.

Monteray Bay Aqaurium Seafood Watch: This is the best site to keep an eye on the seafood that you eat.

 Good Fish Guide: Great information about specific fish you may eat. This site is out of the United Kingdom but is relevant information. Lots to learn about fish!

In honor of Spring I have added three new recipes: Carrot Salads (2) & a Portobello Mushroom Sandwich. Go to the Recipe page and take a look!

Until next week…..Mary

Technology: Blessing, Curse or Both?

Technology can be a blessing as well as a curse. I love technology because of the extraordinary amount of information that is at our fingertips! It is also a curse because of the extraordinary amount of information that is at our fingertips! Yet, we can use the technology to our advantage.

Apple and Android apps are a good example. I started thinking about this because of an email from our NUT Elf, Deborah P. She sent me a link to a new idea for an app for breast cancer patients and thrivers. It is called Share the Journey and it is designed to be a research app. The idea is for people to share information regarding their cancer journey with a non-profit research organization. This has incredible possibilities for the future of post breast cancer care. I learned a great deal from patients in SDCRI’s pilot  project for cancer survivors. Patients deal with a lot more than just chemo brain and no one is listening! This gives them a forum to talk about their continuing or new challenges after they were “sent home”. Click here for the website: Share the Journey  

Here is the introduction:  “How can we better manage the symptoms after breast cancer treatment together? Sage Bionetworks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization, invites you to volunteer in a new approach to monitor health in women using mobile apps. Share the Journey: Mind, Body and Wellness after breast cancer is a clinical study that aims to understand the symptoms after breast cancer treatment, why these symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve them.” 

Hopefully this will be the start of other apps for different cancers. Check this out and see what you think. I continued to look at other Apple apps that would help cancer patient with nutrition and more. Here is a short list. Click on the name of the link to be taken to a description of the app & how to download it. By the way most of these can be found as Android apps too.

Dirty Dozen by Environmental Working Group   This one is a must have on your iPhone when shopping.

Show Me The Sugar by Lucidity Solutions LLC   Scan a barcode and see how much sugar is in the product. Another good one to have on your iPad or phone.

Food Diary and Calorie Tracker by MyNetDiary HD by MyNetDiary Inc.

Cancer Guide + Tracker by Lance Armstrong Foundation

Cancer.Net Mobile by ASCO 

CURE Magazine for iPad by RR Donnelley   Free magazine

CaringBridge by   Keep the entire family & friends updated on your journey by creating a simple blog through Caring Bridge. I like it when patients give me a link to their Caring Bridge page. 

 Pillboxie by Jared Sinclair    Great way to keep track of all those pills!

Bowls HD – Authentic Tibetan Singing Bowls by Oceanhouse Media  

Insight Timer for iPad – Meditation Timer by Bradley Fullmer  I use this app all the time. You can also get it for your phone. 

Simply Yoga FREE – Personal Trainer for Quick Yoga Workouts by Daily Workout Apps, LLC

Yoga Studio by Modern Lotus

There are many more apps out there. If you have one to share please email the link to me.  Be sure to look under the topics tab; I added Non-Dairy Milks & Mary’s Nutrition Guidelines.   Thanks for visiting… Mary



Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation has been linked to cancer for quite sometime. It was noted that chronic bowel inflammation sometimes led to cancer of the colon. This led to research looking for a link between other cancers and chronic inflammation.

Most chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and auto-immune conditions are now considered inflammatory diseases. This is important for prevention and lowering the risk of recurrence.

We know that inflammation such as local redness, heat, swelling and pain is the body’s healing response. But when inflammation continues and becomes chronic, it damages the body and causes illness. Stress, a sedentary lifestyle, toxins such as smoking and the standard American diet (SAD) contribute to chronic inflammation. Eliminating or even decreasing these triggers can help turn this around. Nutrition plays a big role in this.

Another NUT Elf, Deborah, sent me a link to a wonderful article: Inflammation: Make It More Friend Than Foe  This article gives a great overview of acute and chronic inflammation. The introduction to this article starts with: “There are many health risks — lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and being overweight, to name three. Still, most have one thing in common: They increase inflammation in our bodies. So what is inflammation, exactly? This column will explain the basics about inflammation: how it’s both helpful and harmful, and how to decrease it.”  

The author, Dr. Marisa Weiss , talks about diet and how important it is. “ The best way to reduce inflammation is through healthy eating. Research shows that the right nutrients can help reduce inflammation and protect the body from genetic damage. A healthy diet also helps lowers the risk that you’ll gain extra weight, which also increases inflammation.”  Click on the title of the article above for more….

Another article, from the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Inflammation and cancer: Why your diet is important is also a must read. The discussion revolves around a healthy anti-inflammatory diet; plant based, limiting processed foods, omega 3’s, limiting red meat, and eating more fermented foods. 

 “The good news is you can reduce chronic inflammation and lower your cancer risks. “It starts with your diet,” Maxson says. An anti-inflammatory diet also can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center, shares some anti-inflammatory diet tips.”  Click on the title of the article above for more….

I hope that as you read these articles you see that the Mediterranean & DASH diets are basically anti-inflammatory! What foods should you avoid or limit? Here is MY list:

  • Trans-fats
  • Red meat
  • Processed Foods
  • Refined Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Corn oil

This is another instance when keeping a food diary helps. When you feel bloated, gassy, have joint pain, increased fatigue, even depression; look at what you ate that triggered it. When I have joint pain it is usually because I indulged in nightshade plants; potatoes, all peppers, tomatoes or eggplant. I can eat them but not several days in a row! Because of that I don’t need to eliminate them from my diet, just limit them. You will react to foods differently from the rest of the population. Tune in to your body and write down not only what you ate but how you felt physically & emotionally after eating. You can refer to this when you notice that fatigue or bloat comes up after eating yogurt or bread. Now you know what triggered it. If you use apps on your computer or phone then visit your app store. There are a lot of food diaries available!

Here are a few Scholarly links if you are interested in research on this subject.

Check out the new recipe for Roasted Asparagus Soup !  ……………Mary

Nutrition Guides you need to know about.

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” ~ Hippocrates

Good Day to everyone! Our NUT Elf, Suzi, has been very busy sending me wonderful nutritional guides that you should know about. I want to share them with you.

The first one is the 2015 Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen guide that the Environmental Working Group posts on their website each year. Go to their website (click on their name above) to sign up for the pocket guide. EWG is my favorite “go to site”. Their new Food Scores is also an amazing app. Click here: Food Scores to learn about it.


The next guide our Elf Suzi sent, is for the fish eaters! This guide is to protect you from Mercury in Fish,  


This is just a partial list of the fish with the least amount of Mercury: Anchovies, Butter-fish, Catfish, Clam, Crab (Domestic), Crawfish/Crayfish, Croaker (Atlantic), Flounder*, Haddock (Atlantic)*, Hake and more…..Get the guide!

The last, and my husbands favorite, is the guide from CookSmarts. It is a guide to stir frying. Below is a photo of the first page. This is a must to have in your Recipe File or on your refrigerator. This guide gives you combination ideas for a stir-fry and ideas for sauces to go with it. Add an interesting rice: red, brown, basamati or black and you have a nutritious, balanced meal.

Click here: Stir-Fry Guide

 Before you leave the website, look under Topics. I have added “Protein”.  I want to thank Suzi for the awesome information. See you all here next week!