Sunday, March 1, 2015

Got truth? An honest look at the dairy industry.

I don't often write heated blog posts on controversial topics. I typically like to play nice and share yummy recipes and tips for raising a happy, healthy family. I'm a generally upbeat person who doesn't like to ruffle any feathers. A recent USA Today article, however, really got me worked up as I was reading it. I felt that if someone were reading this article and not paying attention to all of the details, they may come away from it with an incomplete and inaccurate picture of the dairy industry and the many alternative milks (soy, coconut, almond, etc.) that are now widely available.

The article, titled Coconut milk? Almond? Soy? How alternatives stack up, is all about dairy milk and the many dairy-free alternatives that are vying for space on store shelves. The reason I want to discuss this particular article is to stress the importance of paying close attention to the source of information and where they are receiving their funding. We can't just believe everything we read in the media. We really have to be our own health detectives and make the decisions that are best for our bodies and our families, instead of blindly following what we read.

In the article, Julia Kadison, CEO of the Milk Processor Education Program, says that milk is a "whole food that pretty much comes straight out of the cow". Let me start by saying that the MilkPEP is funded by dairy processors and backed by the USDA. The dairy industry spends millions of dollars every year telling us that milk is our best source of calcium, as well as other vitamins and minerals, so it shouldn't be any surprise that the head of an organization funded by U.S. dairy processors is touting the health benefits of dairy milk, but I am wondering how much time she has spent with dairy producers if she believes that the jugs of milk being sold at the grocery store are a whole food that "pretty much" came straight out of a cow. Let's put on our science hats for a few minutes (I don't know what a science hat looks like, but let's pretend)...

Happy cows?
Unless you are milking your own cows or buying milk straight from the farm, milk is in no way a whole food. They don't milk it directly into two-gallon jugs and ship it off to the grocery store. Far from it, actually. Most commercially sold milk that you buy at the grocery store has spent some time on the factory conveyor belt being pasteurized and homogenized. It is true that these technological advances keep milk fresh longer and make it less likely to transmit disease, but they are processing techniques that actually change the chemical makeup of the milk.

Pasteurization, developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature that all dangerous bacteria are killed or inactivated (Margel, 2005). While beneficial in stopping the transmission of disease through cow's milk, the high heat also destroys healthful enzymes and proteins that are naturally occurring in raw milk (Margel, 2005). These enzymes help the body to assimilate the nutrients in milk, including calcium.

So even though milk is high in calcium, the removal of these beneficial enzymes through the process of pasteurization makes it less bio-available to the body and you don't reap calcium's full bone-building potential. This can also put unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce the missing digestive enzymes (Fallon, Connolly and Enig, 1995). Certain minerals are lost during the process of pasteurization, as well, including vitamin A, B12 and E and biotin. Other vitamins and minerals are altered, making them less bio-available. This is why milk is often fortified with synthetic vitamin A and D (Haas and Levin, 2006).

Homogenization involves pumping milk that is under high pressure through tiny openings - so small that they break up the fat globules into even smaller globules that are surrounded by a film of protein that protects them from joining back together again (Murray, Pizzorno and Pizzorno, 2005). This prevents the fat-rich cream from separating from the rest of the milk and rising to the top as it naturally would. This is done because fat oxidizes and goes rancid easily. Homogenization slows this process, increasing milk's shelf life and improving its consistency (Margel, 2005). Because this process alters milk from its natural state, it is possible homogenization could have adverse health effects. For example, it may interfere with the body's ability to digest and utilize the fat in milk (Haas and Levin, 2006). This makes sense when you think about it. Once the fat in milk has been chemically altered through homogenization, it is no longer in the natural form that our bodies would recognize. Once it enters our system, it makes sense to believe that we may not be able to properly absorb this "unnatural" fat.

Straight from the cow to your local grocery store, right? Not exactly. Luckily, we have a wide range of options available. You can purchase milk that has been given the Certified Organic seal. Organic milk, while still pasteurized and usually homogenized, are free of synthetic hormones, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotic drugs and sometimes has the added benefit of coming from pastured cows.

You can also purchase raw milk, which has neither been pasteurized or homogenized. If you choose to purchase raw milk, I suggest buying from a trusted, reputable source. Know their technique and level of cleanliness. If the animals are clean and live in a healthy environment then their milk should be perfectly safe.

Yogurt contains healthy probiotics

There is also the option of only sticking to cultured and fermented dairy, such as yogurt, kefir and cheese. These can be found raw or pasteurized, but even the pasteurized versions provide beneficial bacteria that help to synthesize enzymes and metabolize lactose, making them easier to consume for some people who have trouble digesting dairy.

I make milk, too!
If you are intolerant to cow's dairy or choose not to drink it for other reasons, there are many options available. Goat's milk contains different proteins than cow's milk and may be better tolerated by those with allergies to cow's milk. It still contains lactose, but in lower levels than cow's dairy. Similarly, sheep's milk protein and lactose content is different than cow's milk and may be better tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant, depending on the severity (Schoenian, 2012).

I tend to discourage the use of soy milk as a milk replacement because of the phytoestrogens, which mimic our own body's estrogen. These pose a potential health danger because they are considered endocrine disruptors. Because of this, plain soy milk (not to be confused with soy formula) is NEVER an advisable milk replacement for babies or children.  The potential dangers vary depending on your age, sex and the amount you consume, but with so many other options available, I see no point in risking it.

Nut milks, such as almond milk, can be a good alternative to dairy milk

Nut milks (almond, cashew, coconut, etc.) can be a good option for those who do not to drink dairy milk because they do not contain the same proteins or sugars present in milk. They do have very different nutrient profiles than milk and also have their own unique health benefits. Coconut milk, for example, is a good source of certain vitamins, minerals and saturated fat (the good kind, not the Big Mac kind) and has antibacterial and antibacterial properties, but it does not provide the protein or calcium that dairy milk provides so you need to make sure you get those from other sources. You can get calcium from foods like salmon or sardines canned with the bones, oranges, broccoli and leafy greens. Meat, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds are all great protein sources. Educate yourself on the nutrients and health benefits of any milk you choose to drink to determine which works best for your individual goals, needs and digestion. Your personal ethics may come into play, as well, because of the treatment of some dairy animals.

Coconut milk is nutrient dense and perfect for cooking
A registered dietitian in the article is quoted as saying "...the choices can also be confusing...You really do need to do some homework and look at the labels." The author points out that this dietitian has no ties to dairy or plant milk makers. Because she isn't receiving funding (directly or indirectly) from either side of the argument, there is no reason to believe her opinion is biased. In fact, I completely agree with what she is saying. I am no friend of the dairy industry, but that doesn't mean I believe plant-based milks are always a healthy option, either.

Unless labeled as "unsweetened" many alternative milks have added sugars. Many also use thickeners and stabilizers that can be gut irritants. Making your own almond or coconut milk (thanks to Wellness Mama for the recipes) at home is a great option if you have time, but we typically err on the side of finding brands that have the shortest possible list of ingredients and try to stay away from added sugars and known irritants like carrageenan. Trader Joe's, for example, sells a canned Lite Coconut Milk that is only coconut milk and water. That is definitely our go-to milk.

I am not trying to vilify dairy milk or become the new spokesperson for Trader Joe's Lite Coconut Milk (unless they are hiring...kidding). What I am really trying to get across here is that you need to take all sides of a story into consideration when you are making decisions about your health. You need to know the health benefits and concerns surrounding a given food or diet plan. You should also be curious about how and where your food was produced and even your own unique nutritional needs so that you can make the best choices for you and your family. Just because you read an article that says eggs are going to kill you as quickly than smoking, doesn't make it so (this has been definitively refuted, see this article from Mark's Daily Apple). Know the source of information and what they may stand to gain by voicing a certain opinion.

Read carefully and make informed decisions. Don't take things at face value. That goes for articles and food labels.

USA Today
Mark's Daily Apple
Fallon, Sally, Connolly, Pat and Enig, Mary G. (1995). Nourishing Traditions. San Diego, CA; ProMotion Publishing.
Haas, Elson and Levin, Buck. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley, CA; Celestial Arts.
Margel, Douglas. (2005). The Nutrient Dense Eating Plan. Laguna Beach, CA; Basic Health Publications.
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY; Atria Books.
Susan Schoenian. (2012) Got Milk? Retrieved from

"Cows" Image Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at
"Cow Milking Facility" Image courtesy of Detanan at
"Yogurt Stock Photo" Image courtesy of Master isolated images at
"Almonds in Glass Mug" Image courtesy of lobster20 at
"Coconut Halves" Image courtesy of zole4 at
"Lamb" Image courtesy of James Barker at
"Pouring Milk" Image courtesy of artur84 at

Sunday, February 22, 2015

6 reasons to join me in Austin, TX for Paleo f(x) 2015!

I have HUGE, HUGE news to share with you today!!! (notice the extra exclamation points) I am headed to Austin, Texas this April 24 - 26, 2015 to participate in Paleo f(x)! Not familiar with Paleo f(x)? Let me tell you more!
It happens to be the world's largest live Paleo event, with world-class speakers, best-selling authors, physicians, nutritionists, scientists, athletes, trainers, sustainability and food activists, biohackers, amazing Paleo vendors and hundreds of like-minded health and nutrition nuts (like me) who want to soak it all in. 


Need a few more reasons to attend? I've got 6 of them for you...

1. Learn all about Paleo in one weekend -- Whether you enjoy learning about the science behind the ancestral lifestyle or you are a Paleo newbie who wants to just figure out what in the world to eat, this even has something for everyone. You can get tips on being more conscious about where your food comes from and hear groundbreaking research on the latest medical benefits of a real food diet, all in one weekend.

2. Get social -- Paleo f(x) isn't about sitting in a lecture hall all weekend...not by a long shot. There is a ton of fun to be had and you won't want to miss a single minute. You'll be able to chat with your favorite Paleo authors, network with others who are passionate about health and wellness and attend delicious Paleo dinner parties. Learn more about all of the fun social events here.

3. Get fit -- Paleo f(x) has an entire stage devoted to strength and conditioning, fitness and natural movement. You'll learn from leaders in the fitness industry and also receive hands on training from top coaches. You can even try out something new like gymnastic movements or primal play. Get more information on how you can get fit at Paleo f(x) here.

4. Meet top leaders in the Paleo community -- This. lineup. is. insane. Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson, Dr. Terry Wahls, Sarah Fragoso, Michelle Tam...need I go on? This is your chance to learn from the best, live and in person.

5.'s Austin -- If it's been hovering just above 0ºF where you live like it has been here, escaping the cold for a warm Texas day in the spring is sounding pretty good right about now. Besides just enjoying the outdoors, there is more live music, art, outdoor activities, food and fun than you can pack into one weekend. Did someone say barbecue? If you need more information on how to get to Austin and where to stay, click here. You can even connect with other attendees to share a ride or a room if you are looking to save some money for all that delicious food you'll be eating.


6. Cook with me -- Other than geeking out at all the Paleo awesomeness, I'll be onstage during the conference presenting a cooking demo of a recipe straight out of The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book

Even if you aren't able to attend this year, you can still take part by voting for the Paleo f(x) first ever Awards Show. Nominate your favorite bloggers (ahem) books (ahem, ahem...just joking), podcasts and more. Click here to fill out the ballot.

I'd love for you to join me for a weekend of Paleo fun in Austin on April 24-26, 2015! Click here to register now. Keep up with the latest news on the Paleo f(x) blog and Facebook page.

Note - Certain links in this post are affiliate links from which I do earn a small commission if you purchase a Paleo f(x) ticket. Thanks for your support and I hope to see you there! :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book for 99 cents (plus 14 other crazy-discounted Paleo books)!!!

NOTE: This Buck Books promotion is over, but there is always another HUGE sale in the works. Sign up here to be notified of future sales.

This is big, big news! For ONE DAY ONLY, on March 17, 2015, you can get 15 amazing Paleo Kindle books for just pennies!! How is this possible, you ask? Two words...Buck Books. Buck Books is a valuable resource for heavily discounted books and it is FREE to sign up. Check out the full lineup below and find out how to sign up AND be entered to win some huge prizes like PaleoFX tickets, Amazon gift cards a
nd more, at the end of this post.

Here is the full lineup:

  1. The Zenbelly Cookbook
  2. Make Ahead Paleo
  3. 52 Healthy Paleo Breakfast Ideas
  4. Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook
  5. The Paleo Slow Cooker
  6. The Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook
  7. Make it Paleo
  8. Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple
  9. Paleo Grilling
  10. Paleo by Season
  11. The Paleo Cure
  12. Merrymaker Paleo
  13. The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book
  14. Paleo Eats
  15. The Primal Connection
That's some lineup, huh? Hundreds upon hundreds of recipes right at your fingertips. If you want to be notified on the day of the event just click here. This isn't a traditional bundle sale.There is no charge to sign up, you'll just receive a reminder on the day of the event and you can pick and choose which books you want to purchase at these deep, deep discounts. 

Check out any of these books on Amazon and you'll see that you are getting a HUGE discount off the cover price. Take The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book, for example. The regular price for the Kindle version is $9.99, but during the one day only Buck Books event on March 17, 2015 you can get it for only $.99! Most books are between $.99 and $2.99, but these prices will go up when the clock strikes midnight on March 18th, 2015. Don't forget about the giveaway, too. There is absolutely no purchase necessary to enter the giveaway. All you have to do is sign up through Buck Books to be notified when the event goes live. That's it. No strings attached. 

Here is a full rundown of the prizes. One winner will win each of the following:

  • Premier Paleo f(x) ticket
  • $200 Amazon gift card
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • Kasandrinos olive oil (3.5 mL)
  • Kasandrinos olive oil lip balm
  • Kasandrinos olive oil soap
  • The Zenbelly Cookbook
  • Make Ahead Paleo
  • Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook
  • The Paleo Slow Cooker
  • The Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook
  • Make it Paleo
  • Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple
  • Paleo Grilling
  • Paleo by Season
  • Paleo Eats
  • The Paleo Cure
  • The Primal Connection
  • The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book
*all books in giveaway are hard copies, not Kindle books

Sign up now so you don't miss out on this once in a lifetime event. Plus, once you are signed up, you'll be notified of future Buck Books events on topics like baking, self love, pregnancy, smoothies, aromatherapy, yoga and more!

Note if you don't have a Kindle:
Don't fret if you don't have a Kindle. You can read Kindle books on ANY device. You can easily download the Kindle app for your computer, phone or tablet. I use the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad to read Kindle books.

Don't forget to signup to be notified HERE.

Monday, February 9, 2015

10 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Paleo Pregnancy

I am still floating along on the happy cloud of the release of The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book so I wanted to share with you some of my favorite tips from the book and from around the web for a happy, healthy Paleo pregnancy! There are so many things you can do during pregnancy that can help to prepare for your new arrival, alleviate symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue, and to just plain enjoy this special time.

1. Don't skimp on protein - During pregnancy, your baby is constantly growing. Your own body is changing, too, as your breasts, uterus and placenta grow to provide for your baby. Proteins provides the building blocks (amino acids) to facilitate this growth, so it is important to get plenty of protein in your diet. Animal proteins are the only complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein to include, too, but they won't provide the full spectrum that you can get from meat and eggs. The key here is variety. Not only will you be getting all of the essential amino acids, each protein source provides other important nutrients, too. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and red meat is high in iron and vitamin B12. Mix it up and include some type of protein with each meal and snack and you won't have any problem getting enough protein in your diet. Think eggs with breakfast, a handful of nuts with your afternoon snack, or a salad with chicken breast for dinner.

Some studies have even shown that eating more protein can alleviate morning sickness. This can be difficult to swallow (yes, I meant to say that) when you can't even stand the smell of bacon frying in the me, I've been there. I can say from personal experience that eating protein and fat throughout the day helped my morning sickness. It helped to keep me full longer, which kept that gurgly, empty stomach feeling at bay. If you are experiencing frequent nausea, focus on protein sources you can stomach. A spoonful of almond butter, plain scrambled eggs, grain-free muffins made with almond flour, or my yummy Paleo Trail Mix Bars from The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book.

2. Know your non-dairy calcium sources - One of the most common Paleo pregnancy questions I get is how to get calcium if you don't consume dairy. We all know that calcium is one of the key players (along with vitamin D) in building strong bones and teeth, and we are basically raised to believe that dairy is our only source of calcium, but it just isn't true. Some of the best sources of calcium are fish canned with the bones. Yes, I'm talking about our good friends sardines and salmon. It really isn't as icky as it sounds. You can easily mix sardines into a salad or even mix with tuna to mask them a bit. Canned salmon also makes a great salad or you can make the Salmon Muffins from The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book. Just be sure they are canned with the skin and bones and you'll be getting all kinds of extra nutrition in that little can. Dark leafy greens like kale and collard greens are also good sources, along with almonds, dried figs, broccoli and even molasses.

3. Eat pregnancy superfoods - During pregnancy, a few foods really stand out as spectacular superfoods. If you can get a few of these in each day, you'll be well on your way to a nutrient-dense Paleo pregnancy diet:

  • Avocado - Not just a delicious source of fat. Avocados also contain fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin K
  • Grass Fed Beef - Contains choline, iron, B vitamins, protein, selenium and zinc
  • Organic Berries - High in fiber, folate, vitamin C and phytonutrients
  • Dark Leafy Greens - Contain calcium, fiber, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and phytonutrients
  • Eggs - Probably my top pregnancy superfood! Eggs are the perfect food all wrapped up in a neat little package. High in choline, iodine, iron, protein, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin B12
  • Salmon - Fresh or canned with skin and bones. It's all good! Contains calcium, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium and vitamin D
  • Sweet Potatoes - Good source of fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and phytonutrients
  • Walnuts - A nutritious snack with copper, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B6 and zinc

4. Smooth skin, naturally - This tip comes from Primally Inspired's Beautiful Skin Fridays with Jenni Raincloud. Her recipe for Anti-Stretch Mark Belly Serum is all-natural and can help to prevent or fade stretch marks. It can even be used all over as a moisturizing body oil. I wish I had found this when I was pregnant. My skin was super-dry and itchy, but I did get a lot of free back scratches from Kevin out of it. :) I actually didn't realize I had stretch marks until after I had Avery because they were on the underside of my belly where I couldn't even see them! I don't mind them, they are definitely a badge of honor for everything I went through to bring my beautiful baby into the world, but I would have been happy to rub this belly serum on to keep my skin nourished and glowing and hopefully prevent stretch marks from forming in the first place.

5. Sip Pregnancy Tea - This recipe for Happy Pregnancy Tea also comes to us from Primally Inspired. This special blend of pregnancy-safe herbs tones the uterus, helps to relax and prepare the body for birth and even contains many vitamins and minerals that are important for mom and baby. It is made with red raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw, alfalfa and rose petals. Pay attention to the guidelines for how much to consume in each trimester. You can drink more as you near your due date and your body is preparing for birth.

6. Stock the Freezer - Before Avery was born, I spent about a week prepping two or three meals a night and throwing them in the freezer so we would have healthy meals in a flash when we came home from the hospital. I made chili, soup, egg muffins and some slow cooker meals. These lasted us a few weeks and came in really handy when we were busy, tired new parents. You can find some of my favorite slow cooker and freezer meals here.

7. Make memories - This tip comes from Trisha of Go Eat Your Beets. She has four beautiful kids and had a photographer at the birth of her youngest son. It really is a wonderful way to capture the special memories of meeting your baby for the first time. I felt like it all went by so fast that a lot of it just seems like a blur. In this post, Birth Photography: 10 Lessons I Learned, her birth photographer, Courtney, shares tips for other photographers who plan on attending a birth. If you choose to have a birth photographer, or even if a friend or family member plans to take pictures, this would be a great post to share with them so they know how to best capture the experience.

8. Get moving - Regular exercise during pregnancy is just as important as proper nutrition. Get moving for at least 30 minutes daily and you'll reduce your risk of common pregnancy complications, find relief from pregnancy symptoms and bounce back more quickly from labor and delivery. Exercise has many benefits, including fewer aches and pains, improved digestion, better sleep quality, increased energy and reduced risk of diabetes and preeclampsia.

Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy, including running, swimming, aerobics, weight training, yoga and pilates. If you are new to exercise, your best bet is to join a prenatal fitness class or find a personal trainer so you can get specialized, one-on-one instruction. If you already have a daily exercise routine, let your coach or trainer know that you are pregnant so they can offer modifications. Even a 30 minute daily walk will provide the benefits listed above. As always, talk with your health care provider about your fitness routine at your first prenatal appointment.

Milk coma!
9. Prepare for successful breastfeeding - This tip is from Kelly Bejelly, the brilliant mind behind A Girl Worth Saving (seriously, have you seen her recipes). As a new mom, Kelly faced many challenges with breastfeeding. The thing is, most of us do not have a perfectly smooth relationship with breastfeeding. There are ups and downs, but if you do choose to breastfeed it is important that you educate yourself so that you can be prepared for the challenges. In this post, Kelly shares her New Mom Tips for Breastfeeding...the most important one being to go easy on yourself!

10. Get comfortable - In The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book I talk a lot about loving your growing, changing body and finding clothes that help you feel comfortable and beautiful. During exercise, for example, you'll probably need a larger, more supportive sports bra and possibly even bigger shoes. During those first few days (or weeks...or months) home from the hospital, you might be more comfortable in pajamas or yoga pants as your body heals and returns to your new normal. Especially if you are nursing, you'll want comfortable nursing bras and nursing tops for easy access to breastfeeding.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Check me out on this week's Paleo Baby Podcast!

Hey there! So, if you are anything like me you listen to a lot of podcasts. When I am on long trips I much prefer podcasts to music in order to pass the time. I even listen to podcasts when I am running or working out. I listen to a ton of health related podcasts, as well as some of my favorite NPR shows like Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me and The Moth. One of my favorites as of late has been the Paleo Baby Podcast.

Hosted by Chris and Julie of Nourish Balanace Thrive, each episode covers various pregnancy and parenting related topics from stress reduction to breast feeding and even transitioning your family to Paleo.

Well, this week I had the awesome opportunity to be a guest on the podcast and talk all things Paleo pregnancy and parenting with Julie! She has her own little Paleo baby and I love chatting with people who feed their baby the same way that we feed Avery...sardines and all!

In this episode, we discussed my journey to Paleo, my Paleo pregnancy, pre-pregnancy nutrition, blood sugar regulation, the most important nutrients for breastfeeding, and so much more. Of course, we also touched on The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book and all it has to offer. We even joked about the strange craving we both had for really cold foods and drinks. Maybe this is a common pregnancy thing that I don't know about?

Head over to the Paleo Baby Podcast page or iTunes to subscribe and listen to my episode. While you are there you can catch up on past episodes and check out their other podcast, Nourish Balance Thrive.