Monthly Archives: April 2011


On occasion I will saunter into Starbucks for a Grande Decaf Soy Latte because they taste so darn good.  The last time my hubby and I had a date night we stopped in for a coffee between dinner and a movie.  I noticed their pamphlet, “Nutrition by the Cup” and grabbed it on my way out.  We arrived at the movie a bit early, so I pulled out the pamphlet and took a look.  My drink wasn’t awful weighing in at 170 calories, 4.5 grams fat, and 17 sugars (a bit high), but is definitely categorized as a treat.

I instinctively knew that a lot of their blended drinks were akin to milkshakes, however I was still SHOCKED by how much sugar they contain.  A Venti Green Tea Frappuccino Blended Crème (WITHOUT WHIPPED CREAM…and how many people do you see walking out of Starbucks WITHOUT the whipped cream???) weighs in at 440 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 86 grams of sugar!!!  Say what?!??!?!?!?

This pamphlet provided for great conversation with my husband.  We zeroed in on the Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème.  In his infinite wisdom my husband suggested I compare the nutrition of real strawberries with the Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème drinks.  How many strawberries would it take to meet the sugar equivalent of a Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème


Calories Fat (g) Sugars (g) Fiber (g)
250 2 52 1


Calories Fat (g) Sugars (g) Fiber (g)
4 <0.1 0.6 O.2

Based on this information, for the same sugars amount of sugar in the Starbucks drink I can eat 87 strawberries!!!  If I were to eat those 87 strawberries I would have given my body countless phytonutrients and over 17 grams of fiber.  Yes, I would have eaten 348 strawberry calories vs. the 250 Frappuccino calories, but studies have also shown that your body burns up to 50% more calories when eating WHOLE versus processed foods due to the extra workload created when breaking them down.  If this is true, the net calories you are truly consuming are 174…76 calories LESS than the Frappuccino.  I personally would much rather consume real strawberries or make my own blended Frappuccino at home with vegan vanilla protein powder and real strawberries.  Yikes!

image of Starbucks courtesy of

image of Strawberry Frappuccino courtesy of

image of strawberry sign courtesy of

Nutritional information for strawberries from Calorie King.


Filed under Education, Investigations, Junk Food, Product Reviews, Specific Food, Sugar, Vegan, Vegetarian


Snacks don’t need to be complicated.  One day last week my kids came home from school and were greeted by the snack you see pictured above.  Both my son and daughter loved it!  They were so excited by how “fancy” these PB Banana Bites were and I was so excited about how easy it was to prepare.

Simply spoon some peanut butter (approx 2 Tbs. per large banana) into a piping bag and pipe away.  I find that this is a less messy and much less time consuming way to make this snack than my old method…spooning PB onto each piece of banana.

My kids also love to eat this snack with almond and cashew butter.  A super special decadent treat for them is to make this snack with Justin’s line of chocolate nut butters…yum!  I love to use their Chocolate Hazelnut Butter as a vegan Nutella substitute.

For more info on Justin’s product line click here.

Justin’s image courtesy of


Filed under Gluten Free, Kid Friendly, Nuts, Product Reviews, Raw, Recipes, Snacks, Vegan, Vegetarian




Posted by Made Just Right on Apr 26, 2011

Almost half of the meat and poultry in U.S. grocery stores – 47 percent –  is contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria, according to a new study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).  

The study also found that 52 percent of those bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.

“For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial,” said Lance B. Price, the study’s senior author and head of TGen’s Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health.

Staph is a dangerous bacteria linked to skin infections, pneumonia, sepsis, endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), blood poisoning and sometimes fatal infections. It is killed when the meat is properly cooked but the fact that it is present on so much meat and poultry raises concerns about handling and cross-contamination. The USDA surveys meat for four types of drug resistant bacteria but Staph is not one of them.

The research involved 136 samples out of 80 brands of beef, turkey pork and chicken, collected from 26 grocery stores in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Flagstaff.

“The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” Dr. Price said.

In industrial and factory farm situations, animals are routinely fed antibiotics to combat the rampant spread of disease caused by overcrowded and unhealthy conditions. When animals are slaughtered for consumption, they still contain residues of antibiotics that humans become exposed to when they eat animal products. This has contributed to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, Staph being one of them.

“Skipping meat is perhaps the best way to reduce your risk of exposure to these bugs,” said Mindy Pennbacker in the Huffington Post.

Even if you are 100 percent vegan, there’s a still a chance you can come into contact with dangerous bacteria, so take care to wash everything – counter surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, produce – with hot water and soap and buy organic whenever possible.

Are you concerned about bacteria, pesticides and other harmful chemicals in your food? How do you avoid ingesting harmful substances or keep your food safe?

Photo Courtesy of Wonderlane on Flickr


Filed under Education, General Vegan, Investigations, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian


I am always trying to think of ways to get my family out the door in the morning (on time) without sacrificing a healthy breakfast.  That goal is what inspired this recipe.  My daughter is an oatmeal addict, so on the weekends I make a batch of these and then during the week when we are running late (which is often lately…she must be growing because she keeps sleeping-in!) I grab a few of these and she eats them on the way to school.

As you can see from the picture above, the texture of these muffins is the same as thick oatmeal and not like a typical muffin. 


1 cup old fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats)

2 ½ cups water

½ cup applesauce (I used my crock pot applesauce)

1 tsp  Frontier Natural Products Vanilla

½ tsp almond extract

4 stevia packets

1/3 cup oat bran

10 dried apricots, finely diced

3 dates, chopped

2/3 cup almond flour

coconut or grapeseed oil


Preheat oven to 325°.

Place the oats, water, applesauce, vanilla, almond extract, stevia, and oat bran in a pot and cook until thick (about 5-10 minutes).

Add the apricots, dates, and almond flour.  Mix well. 

Turn off the heat and place the lid on the pot.  Let sit covered for 10 minutes to thicken even more.  

*** If you want the dates and apricots to be more firm, add them now vs. earlier ***

Grease muffin tins with oil.  Scoop the oatmeal mixture into the muffin tins.  Push down the top of the oatmeal so it is flat.

Bake for 40 minutes (turning half-way through bake time).  Cool for 10 minutes and then place on racks to cool to room temperature.


Store the oatmeal in the fridge once cooled.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.


Filed under Breakfast, Gluten Free, Grains, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – How Healthy Is Gardein?

This is my latest column for Chic Vegan

I was recently contacted with a question about Gardein meat substitutes.  The reader (who is currently a meat eater, but trying to eat less) was out at a restaurant called the Yard House and saw that they offered vegetarian meals prepared with Gardein.  This experience prompted her to ask me what my opinion was about Gardein and whether or not it was a better choice nutritionally than eating meat.

Overall I am not a big fan on meat substitutes.  Processed food is processed food whether it is animal based or vegan.  As with most processed foods, Gardein tends to be very high in sodium and can do a number on your blood pressure.

I do see the value of vegan meat substitutes in that I see them as stepping stones for those who can’t envision a life without meat (or as an occasional “treat” for those who are already vegans).  Transitioning to a vegan diet can be difficult for many people who are used to eating the texture of meat at nearly every meal.  In this instance I give the reader the green light to try the Gardein meal as a means to see that it is very possible to eat a vegetarian meal and not miss the meat!

According to the Gardein website, their meat substitutes are made from soy, wheat and pea proteins, vegetables and ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet and kamut®).  For someone who wants to introduce vegetarian meals into their menu plan, some good points about Gardein are that the product is cholesterol free as well as trans and saturated fat free, which is something that meat can never claim to be.  Gardein also provides all of the essential amino acids.

I am glad to know that Gardein tries to use mostly non-gmo (genetically modified) foods.  There have been some studies that indicate gmo soybeans are potentially detrimental to our health.  When asked the question about gmo soybeans, Gardein states, “[W]e only use ‘identity-preserved’ soy protein (which basically means, it helps to ensure us that our soy protein is not genetically modified).”

I do want to re-emphasize that overall I am not a big fan of meat substitutes.  Personally I would love it if each and every one of you strove towards a “whole foods plant based diet.”  Your body will thank you!

**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at .**


Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, General Vegan, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian

HAPPY EARTH DAY – Buy a Shirt!

Farm Sanctuary: Rescue, Education, Advocacy

Happy Earth Day!  I am a supporter of Farm Sanctuary and all that they do to rescue animals and give them a peaceful  life.  Most of you are aware of the environmental benefits a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle (For more information click here).  In support of Earth Day and as a means of helping support Farm Sanctuary, why not buy their EAT GRN VEG FOR LIFE shirt?  I bought one and can’t wait to wear it with pride.  I hope it arrives in time for Earth Day!

To purchase click here.

*NEW* Eat Grn Fitted Tee

UPDATE – I just received my shirt and they run REALLY small.  I ordered a medium and probably should have ordered a large…as a point of referrence I am normally between a 4-6.


Filed under Education, General Vegan, Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian


I firmly believe that sugar is toxic…and addictive.  Gary Taubes has done an amazing job with this article.   It is LONG, but well worth the read.  I have given you exerpts from it below.  To read the article in full click here.  I also suggest you watch Robert Lustig’s lecture.  To do so click here.




April 13, 2011

On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”

It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?

If I didn’t buy this argument myself, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. And I also have a disclaimer to acknowledge. I’ve spent much of the last decade doing journalistic research on diet and chronic disease — some of the more contrarian findings, on dietary fat, appeared in this magazine —– and I have come to conclusions similar to Lustig’s.

Lustig’s argument, however, is not about the consumption of empty calories — and biochemists have made the same case previously, though not so publicly. It is that sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.

The phrase Lustig uses when he describes this concept is “isocaloric but not isometabolic.” This means we can eat 100 calories of glucose (from a potato or bread or other starch) or 100 calories of sugar (half glucose and half fructose), and they will be metabolized differently and have a different effect on the body. The calories are the same, but the metabolic consequences are quite different.

The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

If what happens in laboratory rodents also happens in humans, and if we are eating enough sugar to make it happen, then we are in trouble.

Th[e] correlation between sugar consumption and diabetes is what defense attorneys call circumstantial evidence. It’s more compelling than it otherwise might be, though, because the last time sugar consumption jumped markedly in this country, it was also associated with a diabetes epidemic.

In the early 20th century, many of the leading authorities on diabetes in North America and Europe (including Frederick Banting, who shared the 1923 Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin) suspected that sugar causes diabetes based on the observation that the disease was rare in populations that didn’t consume refined sugar and widespread in those that did. In 1924, Haven Emerson, director of the institute of public health at Columbia University, reported that diabetes deaths in New York City had increased as much as 15-fold since the Civil War years, and that deaths increased as much as fourfold in some U.S. cities between 1900 and 1920 alone. This coincided, he noted, with an equally significant increase in sugar consumption — almost doubling from 1890 to the early 1920s — with the birth and subsequent growth of the candy and soft-drink industries.

Emerson’s argument was countered by Elliott Joslin, a leading authority on diabetes, and Joslin won out. But his argument was fundamentally flawed. Simply put, it went like this: The Japanese eat lots of rice, and Japanese diabetics are few and far between; rice is mostly carbohydrate, which suggests that sugar, also a carbohydrate, does not cause diabetes. But sugar and rice are not identical merely because they’re both carbohydrates. Joslin could not know at the time that the fructose content of sugar affects how we metabolize it.

Joslin was also unaware that the Japanese ate little sugar. In the early 1960s, the Japanese were eating as little sugar as Americans were a century earlier, maybe less, which means that the Japanese experience could have been used to support the idea that sugar causes diabetes. Still, with Joslin arguing in edition after edition of his seminal textbook that sugar played no role in diabetes, it eventually took on the aura of undisputed truth.

Until Lustig came along, the last time an academic forcefully put forward the sugar-as-toxin thesis was in the 1970s, when John Yudkin, a leading authority on nutrition in the United Kingdom, published a polemic on sugar called “Sweet and Dangerous.” Through the 1960s Yudkin did a series of experiments feeding sugar and starch to rodents, chickens, rabbits, pigs and college students. He found that the sugar invariably raised blood levels of triglycerides (a technical term for fat), which was then, as now, considered a risk factor for heart disease. Sugar also raised insulin levels in Yudkin’s experiments, which linked sugar directly to type 2 diabetes. Few in the medical community took Yudkin’s ideas seriously, largely because he was also arguing that dietary fat and saturated fat were harmless. This set Yudkin’s sugar hypothesis directly against the growing acceptance of the idea, prominent to this day, that dietary fat was the cause of heart disease, a notion championed by the University of Minnesota nutritionist Ancel Keys.

A common assumption at the time was that if one hypothesis was right, then the other was most likely wrong. Either fat caused heart disease by raising cholesterol, or sugar did by raising triglycerides. “The theory that diets high in sugar are an important cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease does not have wide support among experts in the field, who say that fats and cholesterol are the more likely culprits,” as Jane E. Brody wrote in The Times in 1977.

At the time, many of the key observations cited to argue that dietary fat caused heart disease actually support the sugar theory as well. During the Korean War, pathologists doing autopsies on American soldiers killed in battle noticed that many had significant plaques in their arteries, even those who were still teenagers, while the Koreans killed in battle did not. The atherosclerotic plaques in the Americans were attributed to the fact that they ate high-fat diets and the Koreans ate low-fat. But the Americans were also eating high-sugar diets, while the Koreans, like the Japanese, were not.

Another question still needs to be asked…[W]hat are the chances that sugar is actually worse than Lustig says it is?

One of the diseases that increases in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer. This is why I said earlier that insulin resistance may be a fundamental underlying defect in many cancers, as it is in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial. What it means is that you are more likely to get cancer if you’re obese or diabetic than if you’re not, and you’re more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you don’t.

This goes along with two other observations that have led to the well-accepted idea that some large percentage of cancers are caused by our Western diets and lifestyles. This means they could actually be prevented if we could pinpoint exactly what the problem is and prevent or avoid that.

One observation is that death rates from cancer, like those from diabetes, increased significantly in the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. As with diabetes, this observation was accompanied by a vigorous debate about whether those increases could be explained solely by the aging of the population and the use of new diagnostic techniques or whether it was really the incidence of cancer itself that was increasing. “By the 1930s,” as a 1997 report by the World Cancer Research Fund International and the American Institute for Cancer Research explained, “it was apparent that age-adjusted death rates from cancer were rising in the U.S.A.,” which meant that the likelihood of any particular 60-year-old, for instance, dying from cancer was increasing, even if there were indeed more 60-years-olds with each passing year.

The second observation was that malignant cancer, like diabetes, was a relatively rare disease in populations that didn’t eat Western diets, and in some of these populations it appeared to be virtually nonexistent. In the 1950s, malignant cancer among the Inuit, for instance, was still deemed sufficiently rare that physicians working in northern Canada would publish case reports in medical journals when they did diagnose a case.

So how does it work? Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) actually promotes tumor growth.

As it was explained to me by Craig Thompson, who has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it. The more insulin, the better they do. Some cancers develop mutations that serve the purpose of increasing the influence of insulin on the cell; others take advantage of the elevated insulin levels that are common to metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some do both. Thompson believes that many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren’t being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it.

But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.

“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”

Sugar scares me too, obviously. I’d like to eat it in moderation. I’d certainly like my two sons to be able to eat it in moderation, to not overconsume it, but I don’t actually know what that means, and I’ve been reporting on this subject and studying it for more than a decade. If sugar just makes us fatter, that’s one thing. We start gaining weight, we eat less of it. But we are also talking about things we can’t see — fatty liver, insulin resistance and all that follows. Officially I’m not supposed to worry because the evidence isn’t conclusive, but I do.

Gary Taubes ( is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy and the author of “Why We Get Fat.” Editor: Vera Titunik (

Image courtesy

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Filed under Cancer, Diabetes, Education, Metabolic Syndrome, Sugar, Vegan, Vegetarian


This weekend I bought the most amazing tri-color corn at our local organic farm stand…our first fresh corn of the season.  I immediately knew how I wanted to prepare it.  Grilled.  Grilling corn imparts a slightly smokey taste, but what I love about it is the fact that the corn husk protects the corn from direct contact with the grill.

At dinner I think we all would have eaten two ears of corn each (If I had been smart enough to buy that much!).  Instead I bought 5 ears and we were all left fighting over the last ear…



Corn on the cob (As many ears as you would like)

Earth Balance® Natural Buttery Spread – Soy Free

Seasoning (i.e. Celtic sea salt, pepper, OR Chili con Limon)

Trim the corn and make sure there is not excess husk or stem.

Soak the corn (in its husk) in water for 30 minutes (My in-laws bought me the tub below from an Asian market and I use it ALL THE TIME for soaking produce). 

Preheat the barbeque to medium heat.

Place the soaked corn in its husk on the barbeque.  Turn the corn every 3-5 minutes for a total of 15-20 minutes.

Remove the corn from the barbeque and allow it to cool until it is cool enough to shuck. 

Once shucked spread the Earth Balance® Natural Buttery Spread over each ear of corn.

Season immediately.  The Earth Balance® Natural Buttery Spread will add wonderful flavor and will also help the seasoning stick to the corn.

Chile Con Limon NET WT. 4 oz.

My favorite seasoning for grilled corn is Chile Con Limon by Via Nueva…so good!  For more information about this seasoning click here.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.


Filed under Gluten Free, Recipes, Sides, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian




I am sure by now all or most of you have heard of Groupon and Screaming Deals.  The other day I was introduced to Blissmo (which is eco-friendly) by a fellow blogger,  ABCs and Garden Peas

The first day that I signed-up for a Blissmo account they were having a deal on a fun mushroom growing kit, which I purchased.  I can’t wait to try it…so fun!

40% off Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Gardens

Here is a description of Blissmo from their “About” page:

Welcome! Discover exceptional organic & eco-friendly products & services at up to 70% with blissmo.

How it works: Our team works to cut through the “green washing” out there and find high quality, well-loved products & services that are either certified as organic or eco-friendly, or that have a people & planet positive approach in the DNA of the business. We then negotiate compelling discounts and offer these products & services to you via email.

Why do we do this? We represent a growing community of consumers like you who want products & services that are better for our bodies, our families, our communities, our planet — and our wallets. We all love the feeling of eating food that is better for our bodies and sourced in harmony with the environment. We only buy toxin-free baby gifts made in ways that ensure our planet will be beautiful when the babies grow up. We only use chemical-free skin care that’s truly good for our skin. Basically, we enjoy buying good & feeling great — and hope you will too.

blissmowas started by social entrepreneurs with backgrounds from the following companies:

For more on us meet the team, learn about our mission & get involved, visit our FAQ, or contact us.

Photos courtesy of


Filed under Coupon, Vegan, Vegetarian


The Veggie Grill

This Wednesday April 20th after 4pm bring in a friend who hasn’t been into Veggie Grill yet, let the cashier know, and they will comp the friend’s entree!

This is Veggie Grill’s way of celebrating Earth Week.

One Veggie Virgin per experiences Veggie Griller.  No solo VG virgins.


Filed under Coupon, Restaurants, Vegan, Vegetarian